Each Digimon Adventure tri. movie’s theatrical screening had a corresponding informational pamphlet sold on-site, which contained informational and art assets and a handful of cast and staff interviews.
This post covers the interviews for the pamphlet for Part 1, Reunion, featuring interviews with the following:
- Voice actors Natsuki Hanae (Taichi Yagami) and Chika Sakamoto (Agumon)
- Director Keitarou Motonaga
- Opening song vocalist Kouji Wada
Natsuki Hanae and Chika Sakamoto
We’ve held a talk with Natsuki Hanae-san, who plays one of the Chosen Children, Taichi Yagami, and Chika Sakamoto-san, who has been playing Agumon since the original Digimon Adventure (hereinafter, Adventure). The two of them talk about seeing the grown Chosen Children and the unchanged Digimon, playing them, and how they both felt about it.
Natsuki Hanae (voice of Taichi Yagami)
From Across Entertainment. Born on June 26, from Kanagawa Prefecture. Has been greatly active in recent years in roles such as Ken Kaneki in Tokyo Ghoul, Elam in The Heroic Legend of Arslan, and Jaco in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’.
Chika Sakamoto (voice of Agumon)
From Arts Vision. Born on August 17, from Tokyo. Has had many major roles, including Hajime-chan in Genius Bakabon, Ashibe in Young Boy Ashibe, and Minoru Enoki in Baby & Me. Active in a great variety of performance types, from young boys to young girls to adults.
I felt his growth from how he’d shouldered his burdens
–What was it like seeing the grown Chosen Children, and the unchanged Digimon?
Sakamoto: I was really shocked to see how they’d become a lot more modern-like, and how they’d all physically grown so much. I wasn’t given any information on what the older Taichi would look like beforehand, so I went to the recording thinking that I really wanted to see what kind of fresh new look he had, and the degree of freshness he had was very surprising.
Hanae: I really was surprised when I first got to see what he looked like now that he was older. Back then he used to be something like four heads tall, but I thought, now he’s gotten all fashionable and stylish (laughs).
Sakamoto: He’s really become a modern kid.
Hanae: The school uniform is like a casual sort of formal. I thought, wow, he’s really started to match with the current times.
Sakamoto: He started to actually have a more mature way of worrying about things, too (laughs).
Hanae: He really did (laughs).
Sakamoto: Back then Taichi did have his own troubles, but I think he was more of the type to take on those worries head-on, in a straightforward manner. This time, it feels like Taichi is dealing with conflicts within himself. I felt that this is what it means for him to become more mature. I think that whole idea of “ah, he’s gotten more mature” was collected into that concept.
Hanae: But from there, Agumon and the other Digimon hadn’t changed, so it was nostalgic, or perhaps I should say, it had that feeling of “yeah, this is it!”, so that made me very happy.
Sakamoto: Yeah. For us Digimon, the passing of time doesn’t really mean anything for us and we’re the same as ever, so when they meet again, it suddenly smacks you in the face. When they face their Digimon partners, none of the Digimon have changed at all, and I think that contrast is really quite good. Naturally, one would have the best intuition regarding their own partner, moreso than they would the other kids. The Digimon feel like they’ve been left behind in the old-school1 era (laughs).
Hanae: But I think the way the shadows reflect on them is really stylish. Speaking in terms of the story, Adventure was a story that mainly took place in the Digital World, but now we have a story where the Digimon come to the real world, and it really is a special feeling. I think it truly did come across that this is a story aimed at the generation that was glued to the television when it aired back then, and I was getting excited just from reading the script. I’m familiar with Adventure, so I kept giggling at certain parts, and they’ve done a good job keeping to the world of the series, and I thought, yeah, this will really make the fans happy.
–Was there a scene that left a particular impression on you?
Hanae: Naturally, the scene where Taichi and Agumon met, but there were a lot of scenes that left an impression. For me, it’s my first time “meeting” Agumon, but for Taichi, this is the partner he’s been going on his journey together with this entire time, so I put everything into those first words. But when Agumon called me “Taichi” in turn, I thought, ah, this is really good. Beyond that…there was the part where Koushirou was mail-ordering clothes (laughs). He’s growing up in a very Koushirou-like way, and I thought it was really cute.
Sakamoto: It’s a sign of him becoming a modern kid (laughs).
Hanae: Yeah. He wouldn’t have been familiar with things like mail order back then.
Sakamoto: Adventure first aired in the era when kids were only just becoming able to work with computers. Even then, I was still like “whoa!” from seeing that. And now kids have their own cell phones, and times really have changed. I was thinking, wow, he really is moving away from the clothes his mom got for him.
Hanae: Tentomon also left a lot of emotions on me. I thought they had a really good relationship.
Just being close by each other is fine
–Was there anything you were particularly conscious of when playing your character?
Sakamoto: I was thinking things like, well, Agumon is Agumon in the end. So I wanted to have people hear Agumon the way he was in Adventure. I heard people saying that they got to hear “the Agumon that they love” even after all this time has passed, so I’m really grateful and very proud of that.
Hanae: Back then I was always getting up early to watch the series, so I was really nervous when I got to the audition. I was grateful to even be accepted into the audition in the first place, and since I was accepted I really wanted to try and pass, and so I gathered up my motivation and went to the audition. But actually, aside from Taichi, I also auditioned for Koushirou and Takeru.
Sakamoto: Really?! I never heard about that before!
Hanae: We initially had it on the table as just being Taichi, but I have my own internal image of Taichi, and I didn’t feel like my own matched up with his…So I was a bit selfish and asked them “please have me audition for two more characters,” and so I did. Once I was given the end results saying “you’ve gotten the role of Taichi,” I was really happy, but on the other hand, I was feeling a huge amount of pressure. I went to the post-recording thinking, I have to do a proper job with this, and to become someone considered worthy of the role. When I read the script, I felt that he was dealing with worries of the sort where he was overthinking things way more than he would when he was a kid, and so I wanted to portray more of that side of Taichi and put behind those more upbeat aspects he had in the past.
Sakamoto: It’s like, you can’t keep living your life doing nothing but push on forward. So when that line of “I can’t do anything by myself” came out, it somehow felt really right. Also, back during Adventure, whenever the Digimon would call on their partners, they would nearly always say their names. So whenever there was even a little space of time, we would call them. It wasn’t just me, it seemed to be like this for everyone who was voicing a Digimon. But the kids weren’t as comparatively attached to us; maybe it was because they were getting older (laughs).
Hanae: It was like they were a little embarrassed (laughs).
Sakamoto: Would that be growth, too? (laughs)
–Was there anything new you came to appreciate about your character as you played them?
Hanae: Taichi’s going through puberty now, so we’re getting a depiction of his relationship with girls. Like being unable to send out an email. It was very different from when he was in grade school, during the events of the movie Digimon Adventure: Our War Game!, and you could really see him struggling under the pain of love, and I really liked that.
Sakamoto: I really like the fact that Agumon hasn’t changed in the slightest.
Hanae: There was that scene with Taichi at the ocean and discussing things with Agumon, and I really liked that one. Agumon hadn’t changed at all, but he was there for him.
Sakamoto: Agumon’s coming from the position where “he doesn’t understand difficult things”, so he couldn’t offer any solution, but then Taichi had this aura of “well, that’s fine,” and I felt that they had that sort of relationship where all they really needed was to be close by each other.
Hanae: Taichi loves Agumon when he hasn’t changed, or more like, it’s hard to imagine Agumon changing (laughs).
Sakamoto: It really is a bit weird to imagine them growing older (laughs). But the Digimon do get to evolve, and you get to see them act cool when they do, so I think it works out.
Closing the gap at events
–What was the atmosphere like at the post-recording site?
Hanae: At first, I was worried about whether I’d be able to communicate well with my senior voice actors who were playing the Digimon. But my fears were completely unfounded, and my seniors were talking with me very positively. It was a huge relief.
Sakamoto: We’re old ladies and old men, after all (laughs).
Hanae: No, no, you’re not (laughs). But everyone was prattling cheerfully, and so it was a very nice atmosphere.
Sakamoto: We aren’t recording every week this time, so I think it’ll be harder for us to get up close and personal, but we’re going to be doing more after this, and I think everyone was feeling that we really do want to make every time we gather really count and deepen our relationships further.
Hanae: There was also that event we were at back during the summer2, and I think we closed the gap between ourselves quite a bit there.
Sakamoto: We took a group picture and all (laughs).
Hanae: The actors playing the other kids and I were trying to take the hit and stand in the back so our seniors could be in front, but they objected, saying “our faces are going to be too big” (laughs).
Sakamoto: Younger kids like you guys have smaller faces, so if old folks like us sit in front, we’re gonna look like the PTA or something, so during events we try to sit in the back. Events also have those T-shirts, and we can’t just put on the T-shirt or else it’ll look bad, so we have to modify them before we put them on. It’s an ordeal of many years (laughs).
Hanae: That makes me feel better to hear.
–Please tell us your feelings about tri. proceeding all the way to the sixth part.
Hanae: There aren’t a lot of roles in modern anime where I’d be playing the same role for such a long time like this, and I’ll probably end up being Taichi for quite a long while from here, and I think that’s amazing. Taichi is growing, and I hope I’ll be able to grow, too, so I’ll be doing my best!
Sakamoto: I’m glad to be here as Agumon, who can watch over Taichi with spirit, and help him run along, and help him find peace. And, since Agumon truly hasn’t changed at all, you can watch him evolve and get stronger!
–In closing, please leave a message for the fans.
Sakamoto: Since we’re going on to a second, and third, and fourth, and fifth, and sixth part (laughs), please look forward to them. I think there’s a special feeling you get from being able to see it on the big screen, so if you go to the theater to go see it, you can have the movie hit you with maximum impact.
Hanae: It’s the return of the Digimon Adventure series after such a long time, and I think the fans can really look forward to it. I’m sure they’ll be satisfied once they’re finished watching it, too. Part 2 and on will have new and different Digimon showing up, and other characters beyond just Taichi will get their own time in the spotlight, so please look forward to all of them, one after another!
Director Keitarou Motonaga
We want to make tri. into a more “realistic” story than ever before
Animation overseer and director. Major works include School Days, Katanagatari, Jormungand, Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince, Date A Live, and Persona 3 The Movie: #3 Falling Down.
–What did you have in mind when portraying the older versions of these characters?
The Chosen Children went on an unbelievable adventure back when they were in grade school, right? We wanted to depict the future that’s in store for them, and what they’d think about and what they’d come to decide on the way to the final episode of Digimon Adventure 02.
In Taichi’s case, he’s the charismatic type, but now that he’s gone through his adventure, there’s a part of him that’s going through a sort of burnout syndrome. He’s still playing soccer, but somewhere in there, he’s lost sight of his goals…that’s how we conceived of Taichi as he is in tri. That’s the origin of how he gets a hold of his path in life.
I feel that Yamato should be continuing his band activities right now. But at the end of 02, he ends up becoming an astronaut…(laughs) I think figuring out how he makes that change will be the greatest accomplishment for us (laughs).
Sora’s in high school, but she’s taken the role of being like everyone’s mom, Jou’s prioritizing his future prospects…We wanted to do a precise job of portraying everyone’s worries. But Takeru and Hikari, who are in middle school, are surprisingly carefree. I think that’s the difference between high schoolers and middle schoolers, so we were very conscious about depicting that.
–Please tell us about what led to the creation of the new characters.
Himekawa and Nishijima are there to carry the role of being “adults”. Although the Chosen Children are growing up, they’re still in high school, so they still have a lot of childish aspects to them. So thanks to that, we wanted to make some characters who would approach things based on their obligations as adults. And if the Digimon were to fight and start destroying the town, political issues would start getting involved, and entities like the Self-Defense Forces and the police would join the fray. We wanted to make tri. a more “realistic” story than it had ever been before, those characters ended up taking the role of establishing that. So they watch over the kids in the way an adult would, and scold them, and we wanted to show an aspect of an adult’s own “flaws”.
As for Meiko, we made her as fanservice. (laughs). We looked at the characters in the series up until now and noticed there hadn’t been any glasses girls3 yet. And we wanted her to speak in some kind of dialect, so we gave her the background of having come from a different region…no, I’m joking (laughs). We really did think that we wanted Digimon Adventure tri. to have some kind of new element, so we made her character as a result. Meicoomon was based off of a cat that I own. At first we were thinking of basing her off a dog, but then we talked about how she’d end up getting in a fight with Tailmon as a result…(laughs). So we decided to make her a similar kind of cat, but long-haired, and from there Kenji Watanabe-san drafted up her original design. Although Tailmon’s actually supposed to be a mouse4 (laughs).
–Was there anything you paid particular attention to while depicting their “reunion”?
During that period of a little over a year that they weren’t able to meet, the Digimon haven’t changed at all, but the kids have grown and even gotten taller. From the Digimon’s perspectives, it’s like they’ve gotten bigger. Not only have their bodies grown, but the circumstances around them have also changed. With even just that exchange between Taichi and Agumon of “you’ve gotten smaller” and “you’ve gotten bigger”, you can tell that the root of trust between them hasn’t changed, but there are also pairings like Jou and Gomamon, where a gap between them has started to form. We had them have little differences in their own relationships, in their own ways.
–Was there any scenes of particular interest?
The scene where Taichi and Agumon were looking at the destroyed airport, and the scene where Yamato was playing his harmonica. Also, all of the battle scenes! We made them to be super exciting. They’re not in CGI! Nowadays, I really feel I should point out how much of a highlight it is to not have them in CGI (laughs). We put them in the sort of direct combat that makes you feel more like the the Digimon really are “alive” than ever. We also followed up on the special attacks from Digimon Adventure, and, on a production and technical level, gave them impact to a never-before-seen degree. In particular, we tried to see how far we could push the amazingness of Tailmon’s “Cat Punch” and “Cat Kick” (laughs). That way you could get a much better feel for how her “level of self-discipline”5 is above all of the others, much more so than before (laughs).
–Since the kids and their Digimon now have a significant height difference between them, were there any changes in how you had to portray them in the picture?
Whenever we did close-ups on the Digimon, you’d only be able to see the kids’ legs, but we actually deliberately framed it to be this way. That way, we could portray the growing sense of distance in mentality between the kids and the Digimon. Some of the kids would lean closer to them while they were talking, while others would keep their distance, and we used their height differences to represent that.
–Please leave a message for the fans!
This is the start of this six-part series, and it’ll be the key to the story. We’ve scattered and hidden mysteries all over the place within the story. With the theme of “reunion”, the way we’ve modeled the characters, and the way we’ve portrayed their battles, we’ve put in all sorts of meanings behind this, and I think you’ll be able to watch it over and over again and enjoy it. And if I can drop a little spoiler for Part 2, there’s going to be some new evolutions for some Digimon partners, and we’re planning to have some of everyone’s favorite Digimon make an appearance. From the huge ones to the tiny ones (laughs). Also, “a certain person” will finally make an appearance! Please look forward to Part 2.
Butter-Fly is the strongest partner
Born on January 29. From Kyoto Prefecture. Made his major label debut in April 1999, with the theme song for the TV anime Digimon Adventure. Since then, he has sung a large number of songs for the Digimon series, including insert songs and ending themes. Since then, the uniqueness of his “singing voice” has never ceased to mesmerize fans of anime songs. He also performed the theme song for the 2000 TV anime series Transformers, “Flame Overdrive”. He has continued to gain passionate fans as an anime song vocalist, and the range of his activities has expanded even outside of the country.
We asked Kouji Wada-san about his feelings about Digimon Adventure, and the theme song he’d sung for it, “Butter-Fly”.
–How did you feel when you heard that Digimon Adventure was going to be revived with a new series?
I was touched, to the point it invigorated my heart.
I couldn’t possibly imagine that, sixteen years later, I’d be able to see a story following up on Digimon Adventure. I get to see Taichi and Yamato and the others again! Maybe I can see how their Digimon partners have grown, too! I was really looking forward to the screening while riding on those feelings.
–What is “Butter-Fly” to you?
Kouji Wada = “Butter-Fly”.
“Butter-Fly” was my debut song, and the first song I ever went into the recording room for. It’s a song that I’ve been walking alongside since my debut, and it’s been guiding me towards all sorts of new stages. No matter where I go, everyone will sing it alongside me, and whenever I see that, whether it’s in Japan or in places all over the world, I’d come to understand the power of “Butter-Fly”‘s strength. Right now, I’m not sure if I can keep up with the strength that “Butter-Fly” has6, but, going forward, if I can just get closer to it, we’ll be able to overlap our energy onto each other, and we’ll create a world of anime songs that has never been seen before. Alongside “Butter-Fly”, our strongest partner, we’ll puff up our chests with pride and move forward onto the next stage!
–Did you have anything particularly in mind while recording for this new version of “Butter-Fly”?
Let’s reproduce the “Butter-Fly” of sixteen years ago!
The months and years have passed, and I’ve grown just a little, and at first I thought that I wanted to reflect a new version of “Butter-Fly” from the current version of myself. But, as a Digimon fan, the feeling of “I want to be moved in the same way I was back then!” was strong, and I decided that I wanted to reproduce the “Butter-Fly” of sixteen years ago. Once I’d come to that answer, I kept listening to the sixteen-year-old version of “Butter-Fly”. It was an odd feeling, trying to copy a song that I’d sung myself (laughs).
–Is there a certain line from “Butter-Fly” that you have a particular attachment to?
“We’ll surely fly, even with these unreliable wings”
These lyrics have a lot of points where they overlap with where I am right now, so they’re particularly notable to me. There’s all sorts of times when I want to spread my wings, or put them to rest, and there are times when they’ve come to feel unreliable, but even then, I’ll surely be able to fly…Along with my impressions of Digimon Adventure tri., it’s a phrase that’s brought comfort to my heart. Rather than giving up before even trying, let’s try it and see how it works out! Maybe you only think you can’t do it, but you actually can? I sung that phrase while loading those feelings into it.
–In closing, please leave a message for all of the Digimon fans.
Digimon has revived once again. I feel that it’s also revived the energy from those Digimon fans who have continued to love the series, and continued to transmit those feelings. I’m really grateful. Speaking as just one fan, I’m honored to be able to participate in a wonderful work like this. Please enjoy Digimon Adventure tri. to your heart’s content! And I hope that this series will reach the hearts of everyone all over the world, and engrave itself in them ☆
Going through the gate that’s opened once again, once more…
Becoming a merry butterfly, and riding on the sparkling wind…
Now, let’s all go to the Digital World together!!
- Sakamoto calls the Digimon “Showa”, referring to the Japanese era name given to the period between 1926 and 1989. Digimon is a series from the “Heisei” era (1989-2019), and so “Showa” and “Heisei” would sometimes be used as a catch-all to refer to the contrast between something old-timey vs. something modern.
- The “summer event” Hanae refers to is DigiFes 2015, a picture of which was included next to the interview in the pamphlet.
- The use of the term “meganekko” (眼鏡っ娘) here is in reference to a character archetype, so, in the context of Meiko being “fanservice”, Director Motonaga is basically referring to the parts of the audience that consider girls with glasses or who speak in dialects to be hot.
- Whether Tailmon is supposed to be a cat or a mouse has been ambiguously treated even by the official franchise itself. Early-franchise documents describe her as originally having the background of being a “mouse pretending to be a cat” named “Hatsukanezumon” (hatsukanezumi = common mouse). The “mouse pretending to be a cat” sentiment was echoed in the Adventure novels (translation by onkei here), and Adventure 02‘s drama CD “Spring 2003” (translation by onkei here) riffs on the ambiguity, but in 2017, Digimon character designer Kenji Watanabe himself stated on Twitter that, original background aside, the species was eventually designed to be a cat (albeit technically neither, since it’s a fictional monster). A 2019 conversation between Adventure director Hiroyuki Kakudou and Kenji Watanabe clarified that Director Kakudou had been under the impression that the “mouse pretending to be a cat” background had applied, while Watanabe doubled down on the final design being that of a cat.
- Tailmon having a “level of self-discipline” above all of the other kids’ Digimon partners was the reason given in episode 38 of the original Digimon Adventure for why she stays in Adult-level form “by default” instead of Child-level.
- It was already well-known by the point of this pamphlet’s publishing in 2015 that Wada was struggling with cancer.