A series of cast and staff interviews from the booklet included with the Digimon Frontier DVD-Box (released August 24, 2007), which featured interviews with the following:
- Voice actress Junko Takeuchi (Takuya Kanbara, Agnimon, Vritramon, Ardhamon, KaiserGreymon, Susanoomon)
- Voice actor Hiroshi Kamiya (Kouji Minamoto, Wolfmon, Garmmon, BeoWolfmon, MagnaGarurumon)
- Voice actor Kenichi Suzumura (Kouichi Kimura, Duskmon, Velgrmon, Löwemon, KaiserLeomon)
- Director Yukio Kaizawa
- Lead writer Sukehiro Tomita
- Producer Hiromi Seki
Voice actress Junko Takeuchi
We spoke with Takeuchi-san about her memories of playing the energetic protagonist, Takuya, with her lively performance.
Playing the protagonist, Takuya Kanbara
Was there anything particularly difficult about playing a young boy like Takuya Kanbara?
Takuya’s the kind of kid who doesn’t hold back on what he’s thinking and says it outright, so I figured that whatever was written on there (the script) was exactly how Takuya felt, and I played him accordingly. If I had to pick one, I’d say he was actually more difficult to play after he evolved into a Digimon. Inside, he’s still the elementary school-aged Takuya, but outside, he’s a Digimon who’s getting involved in fighting. At first, I was really concerned about how I should do it. But, well, while this is just my own personal way of seeing it, Takuya is a pretty adaptable kid. So once he evolves into a Digimon, he immediately thinks that’s fun and amusing. He probably didn’t worry too much about it, so as I was doing it, I realized I shouldn’t be worrying about it either. Besides that, whenever he did another special attack or an evolution sequence, I kept thinking, I have to put even more power into this, so I did. That part was very important, and even with the same attack or the same evolution, I’d do it with a different nuance every time (*1), so I never quite got used to it.
(*1) With a different nuance every time: Even beyond just this series, Takeuchi-san is often presented with the opportunity to perform for works with transformation and fighting scenes, and stated that this is a personal fixation of hers. “For instance, when Takuya would use a new special attack for the first time, he’d definitely start thinking, ‘what do those words even mean?’ Even if he can spit out the words naturally, he still won’t understand what they actually mean. But once he starts to use it more and more, he’ll gradually start to get it. So I felt that I should play it with the exact kinds of feelings he would have on it. After all, if it were acceptable to do (perform) it in the same way every time, they could just reuse the older recording (laughs).”
What kind of atmosphere was there at the post-recording site?
Everyone got along with each other very well. I’d start bickering with Kamiya-kun, who played Kouji, in the same way Takuya and Kouji would (laughs). I really liked the scenes where the two of them got in fights, and I enjoyed chatting with Kamiya-kun myself. Of course, I also enjoyed talking with everyone else, too. It was amusing how Kuu-san (Kumiko Watanabe-san), my senior voice actress, was playing Tomoki, the youngest character. Even now, I’ll be at the recording site playing some female character, and she’ll tease me by calling me “big brother” (laughs). Also, my cat mentor (*2) Kazuko Sugiyama-san (Bokomon) and Masami Kikuchi-san (Neemon) were always watching over us. Whenever I’d get self-conscious and start forcing myself, they’d suddenly step in and steer the atmosphere to break that tension up. They were the most experienced ones who’d done this for the longest amount of time, and I could really feel them working to create a warm aura.
(*2) Cat mentor: Takeuchi-san runs a blog called “The New Daily Life of a Bamboo Shoot1”, where she uploads pictures of her cat almost every single time, and she has this cat thanks to Bokomon’s voice actress, Kazuko Sugiyama-san. During recording for this series, she received the cat, “Denka-kun”, as a kitten from Sugiyama-san, and it seems that the cat has now become her reason for living. “If it hadn’t been for Sugiyama-san telling me about this, I probably would have never started keeping a cat, so I’m super-grateful to her!” To see a list of Sugiyama-san’s major works, see here (footnote *8).
Please tell us if there was an episode or scene that left a particular impression on you.
Episode 1, when Takuya immediately went to protect Tomoki even though they were still strangers back then, made me interested in Takuya’s disposition. He really is a lot like an older brother, I thought. I also was very impressed at how the final episode had them fighting all the way into the B-part (*3). Mainly because I was thinking, shouldn’t things be calming down at some point in the final episode? (laughs)
(*3) B-part: For 30-minute animation works produced in Japan, each episode is customarily divided into two parts, with the first half being called the “A-part” and the second half the “B-part”. Digimon Frontier was also produced under this format. According to Takeuchi-san, “they were really fighting up until the last minute, that was impressive,” and in the final episode, “Transcend Time! The Beginning of a New Legend”, the fervent battle between Susanoomon and Lucemon hit an even greater climax as it went into the B-part.
Episode 16 also featured Gomamon, which was a role you played in prior series.
I feel like it must have been a difficult decision for the staff with a lot to consider, but I’m very good friends with Kaida-san (*4), who played Gomamon in that episode. When I heard Gomamon was going to be in it, I was thinking that I wanted to do it, but I was very happy that someone I was fond of would be playing Gomamon. I was really looking forward to the recording day.
(*4) Kaida-san: Referring to Yuki Kaida-san, who played Gomamon in episode 16, “Being Strong Isn’t Enough! The Beautiful Warrior, Shutumon”. Her major works include Hunter × Hunter (Kurapika), The Prince of Tennis (Shuusuke Fuji), and Shonen Onmyoji: The Young Spirit Master (Abe no Masahiro). Originally from Tokyo. Incidentally, in episode 16, there were many other Gomamon beyond the one that Kaida-san played, and it seems that Takeuchi-san’s own voice is among their “goma~” lines.
Looking back on the year that Frontier spanned
What does the year that you spent playing Takuya Kanbara mean to you?
Just by continuing to play Takuya, I started to get a grasp of what I needed to improve on, so it was like a year of getting a ton of homework. It’s difficult to put in words, but I feel like it was something that made “Junko Takeuchi” into something more. For instance, even though I’m playing Takuya’s role, if I were to make myself too narrow-minded as a human being, Takuya himself would become narrow-minded too. The real Takuya would be much more of an open-minded and freely acting person, but it’d all be for nothing if I were to cover up those aspects of him. Even now, I think about wanting to become more open-minded and more intense of a person, and that’s the homework that Frontier gave me, which I won’t ever be able to forget.
Please leave a message for those who have purchased the DVD-Box.
Even if they have completely differing personalities, it’s possible for members of a team to become unmistakable friends, and that’s not something you’ll see unless you watch the whole year’s worth of the series, so please watch and enjoy the series closely, all the way from beginning to end. On top of that, the characters are all very distinct, and I think the way you see things will change a lot depending on whose perspective you follow. For instance, Takuya’s point of view will be completely different from Kouji’s point of view. I bet it’d be a lot of fun to watch it multiple times and try seeing it from different perspectives.
Voice actor Hiroshi Kamiya
Kamiya-san, who played the cool-headed young boy Kouji, looks back on his year in Frontier.
About playing Kouji, and about Kouji’s friends
Can you tell us the details of how you came to play Kouji and Wolfmon?
It started when I was called in for audition. The idea of playing a fifth-grader was a completely unknown world to me, so I figured it would be difficult, but after the audition, I felt a strong desire to play this role. It was a series on a timeslot where a lot of children would be watching, and on top of that, it was a story about a boy setting off on a journey. Of course, when I was in elementary school, I’d been watching these kinds of shows, so I had a strong admiration for them. So when they decided on me, I was so happy that I accidentally let out a yell (*1).
(*1) So happy that I accidentally let out a yell: Even after a whole five years, Kamiya-san remembered the details of this incident very well, to the extent described here. “I was heading to an otolaryngologist right near my agency when my manager contacted me. I came out of the hospital and checked my cell phone, and there was an incredible amount of missed calls and voice mail messages left behind. After hearing that I got the role of Kouji, I remember yelling out a huge “I did it!!” This happened smack in the middle of the day, right next to Gaienmae Station, so I ended up attracting the attention of a ton of nearby office workers (laughs).”
Kouji is a boy with a very cool-headed type of personality, so what was it like playing him?
Prior to Frontier, I was in a series called Super Gals!, where I played another cool-headed character, but I was fumbling around for it, and there were a lot of times I had to ask “am I doing this right?”…even though that’s not really something you should be doing. So for this one, I decided to put all of my might into this from the very first episode. At first, I was extremely flustered. I’m actually pretty embarrassed when I do cool-headed roles. The role might be the cool type, but I’m personally not that cool (laughs). But it’s thanks to this series that I was able to get proper experience in doing this kind of cool-headed role. I’m truly thankful.
He had a pretty opposite personality to Takuya, who was played by Takeuchi-san.
Takeuchi-san was the perfect Takuya all the way from the very first episode. She played a very straightforward Takuya, and even watching her made you feel good. Takuya and Kouji started off as pretty huge rivals, and in the end, their relationship would become that of working together to defeat the enemy, but when I saw Takuya from episode 1, I started wondering if I’d be able to match up with her as an equal. Still, it was wonderful to have Junko Takeuchi as Takuya. You could say that for all of the other cast members, too, and the recording site had gathered up all of these people that you could say the same about. So I wanted people to be able to think the same of me, too, and did my best. Although, thanks to that, I ended up going around in circles a lot (laughs).
Suzumura-san, who played Kouji’s older brother Kouichi, happens to be the same age as you in real life as well.
Suzu and I don’t pay any mind to who’s the senior and who’s the junior, so we were friends who got along very well, or rather, it’s like we were constantly in the same boat. Oh, that’s still the case now (laughs). So it felt only natural for him to be Kouichi. Suzu and I had roles in Super GALS! Ran Kotobuki that were also like a pair, so when they picked Suzu to be Kouichi, we were saying to each other, oh, this is also fate, isn’t it?
Things in Frontier that left an impression on you
Was there any particular episode or character that left a particular impression on you?
The one that left the strongest impression was episode 7 (*2). At first, Kouji didn’t have a lot of scenes where he talked to anyone, but this one had Takuya and Kouji’s relationship come to the forefront. I managed to get a slightly better grasp on Kouji’s personality. Besides that, I remember the episode when they evolved into Susanoomon (*3). Junko Takeuchi was saying “please have Kamiya-kun do Susanoomon’s voice.” She’d been doing most of the (stock) voice recordings, and she was reaching her limit (laughs). I understood how she felt, but we had to convince her, you’re the protagonist, so it has to be you (laughs). As far as characters go, there’s the Royal Knights, who appeared near the end. Kenta Miyake (voice of Dynasmon” was younger than me, but he can do a really scary roar. While the fight was going on, I kept thinking, there are really humans out there who can do these kinds of scary voices…It didn’t feel like they could win against him like that (laughs). Also, there’s an extremely rare special attack that Wolfmon only uses in one episode. To those who have bought this DVD-Box, please try looking for it (laughs).
(*2) Episode 7: “The Town Floating in the Sky! ToyAgumon’s Toy Country”, in which the trio of Takuya, Kouji, and Tomoki find themselves wandering in the Toy Country’s Toy Town. Takuya looks after the younger Tomoki and treats him kindly, but Kouji insists that there is no reason to give him special treatment just because of his being younger. However, when Tomoki is kidnapped, he goes to save him without hesitation. It is an episode that depicts both Kouji’s cool-headed façade and his awkward kindness, and it is the first time that Takuya and Kouji, who had always been getting in fights, are able to demonstrate a proper ability to communicate in order to take down an enemy.
(*3) When they evolved into Susanoomon: Episode 48, “Bring Light and Darkness into One! Kouichi’s Last Wish”, in which Takuya and Kouji evolve into Susanoomon for the first time. Takeuchi-san sand in an interview that “I’d pushed myself so hard with Takuya’s multitude of stock lines that I couldn’t get anything out anymore, and I kept constantly asking to have Kouji do Susanoomon’s voice (laughs). I even said to Kamiya-kun, you’re a man, so you do it. (laughs)” However, the director had the final say, and it was determined that Susanoomon would have Takeuchi-san’s voice.
(*4) Extremely rare special attack: Referring to Wolfmon’s special attack “Strahl”. When Kamiya-kun received the script for a certain episode, it seems that its sudden appearance gave Kamiya-san a shock. “It said that there were light beams coming out of Wolfmon’s eyes. I’d never seen that before, so I thought that was a mistake all the way up to the post-recording. When I got there, it turned out that there really would be beams coming out of his eyes, and I was shocked (laughs). Later, I found out that this was actually something that had been in the background lore already, but in the series itself, it probably wasn’t the kind of attack that he’d use much unless he’s fighting something like a tengu2.”
In closing, what kind of series is Frontier to you?
I’ve been a voice actor for slightly over ten years, and that year was the most fun of all. We all went to go out to eat quite often, and, as a series, it was extremely worthwhile. I have some regrets about a lot of things I wasn’t able to do, but I got an enormous amount of feedback. So for that exact reason, I consider this series to be my starting point. It’s something incredibly important to me and one that I’ll never forget for the rest of my life, to the point where, if you happen to have children of your own, I’d absolutely like you to show it to them. To those of you who have bought the DVD-Box, I’d be very happy if you could always treasure it and watch it many times. The themes depicted in it are universal ones, so it’s something that you should be able to enjoy throughout your entire life.
Voice actor Kenichi Suzumura
Our final cast interview is with Suzumura-san, who played Kouichi, the shadowy character from the latter half.
About the incident that occurred during your first evolution
Your first appearance was as the villain Duskmon, so how did you feel about that?
I got incredibly excited about it. At the time, I hadn’t done a lot of villain roles, but I always loved that kind of dark hero (*1). And on top of that, he was cool, and super strong. He suddenly appeared, beat the protagonists to a pulp, and then suddenly vanished. The other actors told me “you totally stole the show,” and even I had to agree that I stole the show (laughs).
(*1) Always loved that kind of dark hero: Suzumura-san is known to be a huge fan of tokusatsu3. In particular, a favorite character of his is the the lonely dark hero Hakaider, who appeared in Mechanical Hero Hakaider. He is a member of the evil organization that the protagonist Kikaider fights against, but he disobeys the organization’s orders and chooses to target Kikaider of his own accord, and he is very often said to be a pioneer of dark hero characters. Suzumura-san’s love for Duskmon comes from the fact that he brings Hakaider to mind.
Kouichi was pretty strong when he evolved to Löwemon for the first time, too.
I have pretty strong memories of that episode (*2). Cherubimon was trying to call him back to the dark side again, and for a second you think he might actually do it, but then he says “I won’t lose to the darkness again,” and I really like that series of lines and how it played out. Incidentally, in regards to the scene where Kouichi evolves to Löwemon for the first time, there was a pretty serious incident that happened there. We were doing the test before the proper recording, and when I did my first shout of “Spirit Evolution!”, the moment I’d gotten out “Spirit Evo–“, my back suddenly cracked. I suddenly broke into a sweat all over at once (laughs). I tried to fight it out for another five minutes, but then the moment I sat down, I couldn’t move anymore. Everyone else had been laughing at first (*3), but their faces all suddenly turned serious. The staff had to bring in a wheelchair and take me all the way to the hospital (laughs). I couldn’t get the recording done that way, so I had to record Kouichi’s first Spirit Evolution by myself the next day (laughs).
(*2) Strong memories of that episode: Episode 33, “The New Warrior of Darkness! Löwemon & KaiserLeomon”, where Kouichi, who had once had his memories wiped by Cherubimon and been turned into Duskmon, first evolves into the true Warrior of Darkness, Löwemon, and fights off a shadow image of Cherubimon. The insert song that plays in the first half of this episode, “With Broken Wings”, is a particular favorite of Suzumura-san’s. “When I was recording for this song, I still hadn’t even seen Kouichi’s face yet. But I got really into it as I sang it (laughs).”
(*3) Everyone else had been laughing: This incident seems to have been a memorable one even for the other actors, and when we asked Takeuchi-san about her impressions of Suzumura-san, even she remembered this first before anything else, and said “He couldn’t move at all, and he looked like he was having a really hard time, and while he was in such a miserable state, we’d been laughing at him (laughs).” Suzumura-san returned to regular recording the following week. There were no after-effects or any of the like, so even now, Cherubimon’s voice actor, Ryuuzaburou Ohtomo-san, will sometimes say to him “is your back okay?”
Even after he joined the good guys, he had a lot of anxiety-inducing drama between him and Kouji.
The main story is a conventional one that has Takeuchi-san’s character, Takuya, as its focus, but they always had the story between the twins, with Kamiya and me (*4), continually going on in the meanwhile. On top of that, it became a heartrending story where Kouichi might have died. I myself didn’t know if Kouichi was still alive until we got to the final episode, so I kept on recording lines without knowing what was going to happen. Everyone else was flippantly saying things things like “oh yeah, he’s totally dead” (laughs). So when I got the script for the final episode, I thought, oh, thank goodness. It had been a wonderful story, all the way up to the very end. I truly apologize for saying this, but I think the brothers ended up stealing the entire show. Even Takeuchi-san said “man, you two are real popular, aren’t you?” (laughs).
(*3) The story between the twins, with Kamiya and me: One year prior to Frontier, Suzumura-san and Kamiya-san had also been in a pair of roles that faced off against each other.4 At the time, it seems they often had the chance to go out and eat together, and Suzumura-san told us about this miraculous story. “I had my audition for Kouichi right around after the first cour5 had ended. After I told Kamiya that I’d been picked to play Kouichi, he said “I thought so.” He didn’t even know that I’d auditioned in the first place, but he had a vague feeling that it would be me. Isn’t it fascinating?”
About your passionate feelings for Frontier
Since you only joined midway through the series, did you have any problems fitting in with the atmosphere at the recording site?
Even though I only came in midway, they accepted me very well. I had a lot of fun at the post-recordings every week. After we finished recording, we’d always go out to eat together. We had this ongoing joke about how Neemon kept getting wrapped up in all kinds of inconceivable things, and yet somehow never died. So we came up with this story where Neemon’s actually ridiculously strong. We were saying things like, he must be keeping some really incredible thing in those red tights, and he’ll turn out to actually be the final enemy (laughs).
Considering that you had so much fun with this series, how did you feel when it reached its final episode?
I was really sad that I’d be ending my time with this series and these cast members. The story had reached such a perfect conclusion that I knew a sequel would be impossible, but even though the series finished off with a sense of completion, I felt that I still wanted to do a little more with these cast members. On top of that, it really had been a very intense year for me. It was a time when people from our generation were interacting with people from the generation above me, and, in terms of my own career, it was a time when I was finally starting to land real work. Or, to use a clearer way of expressing it, it was a transition when I was starting to aim even higher, so during that year, I was constantly exercising an approach that’s become the foundation for what I’m doing now. I’m sure that also came out in the role itself. I feel that’s probably not the right way to be doing it, but Kouichi was a character who took all of that in for me.
In closing, please leave a message for those who have purchased this DVD-Box.
It’s a series that I can say, with confidence, will be well worth your time watching. So if you’ve bought this, that was absolutely the correct choice to make (laughs). It has a long-running story like you’d see out of a Taiga drama6, but on top of that, each and every episode has its own highlight scene, and they all come with a proper sense of catharsis. Even a single episode is perfectly capable of holding its own, so I hope you can rewatch it from multiple different perspectives, reaffirm what you know already, and rediscover new things.
Director Yukio Kaizawa
We spoke with Kaizawa-san, who continued on from Digimon Tamers as the series director, about what kind of thoughts he included in the series.
About the difference in world perspective with the prior series, Tamers
Coming from Tamers, what aspects did you particularly focus on for this fourth series?
Tamers portrayed its Digimon and the Digital World with a science fiction atmosphere that was relatively grounded in realism (*1). Since the characters that appeared in it were also made to reflect realism, it made them interesting, but we also wondered if some aspects of it might be a bit too difficult for the children. So for this one, we focused more on portraying the world in a way that would be a little easier for the children to understand. We also aimed to have the characters be more like the conventional kinds you would usually see in anime. We thought it might be fun to have the protagonists also follow the more common pattern, with a combination of a hot-blooded boy, a cool-headed right-hand man, a somewhat more plump child, a small child, and an idol-type character. The person we brought on as our lead writer7, Tomita-san, came up with ideas for our worldbuilding in droves, like emptying out a toy box. He has a huge specialty in making comedy stories, so we wanted to have him on from the very beginning.
(*1) A science fiction atmosphere that was relatively grounded in realism: The prior series, Digimon Tamers, portrayed its Digimon as not being born from another world, but rather as artificial intelligence programs that were developed by human researchers. According to its lore, when the project was put on hold, the programs did not disappear, but, through a series of accidents, a new world called the Digital World was created, and they started to independently pursue evolution. On top of that, the Digital World appears as an endless wasteland, and a huge Real World ball floats above it.
The appearance of the Digital World is quite different from that of Tamers.
We wanted to create visual art that portrayed the kind of digital world that would normally be invisible to the eye, and how it would become directly visible. So we thought of a world that would be created from data being carried by Trailmon (*2) on railway tracks, in place of digital networks (circuits). We imagined that the Digital World would have been created by those railways closing in more and more tightly, like knitting wool coming together in a ball of yarn.
(*2) Trailmon: Referring to the train-like Digimon that run atop the rails around the Digital World. They provide assistance during Takuya and his friends’ adventure. However, there are many different kinds of Trailmon, such as Worm, Franken, and Angler, and since they all have their own individual personalities, there were also Trailmon who caused trouble for Takuya and his friends. Kaizawa-san was the one who came up with them, all the way down to their visual appearances, and the use of only a single track and having only a single wheel side is something done to make the Digital World come off as even more unstable.
The Trailmon play a very important role in terms of establishing this world.
They do. The Trailmon were new Digimon that hadn’t appeared in the series up until then, and we were able to have an incredible amount of fun making them. I think they’re fun in that they’re responsible for carrying data around, but they’re also living beings with their own individual personalities.
It’s not the kind of world that would immediately come to mind when you say the word “digital”.
It’s true that when you hear the word “digital”, you’d think of something like 0-1-0-1, repeating over and over again. But if you keep going from there, errors will probably start appearing. If those errors start increasing and multiplying, it’ll slowly start evolving into something different. And from there, things with different characteristics will sprout forth. I thought that differences between areas, like the Fire Country or Forest Country, would also come from something like ghosts lurking within the digital data.
About the new kind of relationship between humans and Digimon
It was certainly a huge change to have the premise be about human children use the power of the Spirits to evolve into Digimon.
The part about humans taking on Digimon characteristics and evolving into Digimon was an idea suggested by Bandai (*3), as a new possible development for both the story and the product lines. So from there, we started thinking about the story’s approach to evolution.
(*3) Bandai: Referring to major toy company Bandai Co., Ltd. They are responsible for marketing Digital Monster (Digimon) products such as portable raising games, video games, trading card games, and toys. Since the Digimon anime series is not based on another work’s story, Toei Animation produces it as an original work, but the background lore and other aspects of Digimon are based on aspects that came from Bandai’s product development.
The Spirits are particularly interesting in that they aren’t just mere transformation mechanisms, but rather things with souls or will.
They’re the Spirits of the Ten Warriors (*4), so they actually contain something along the lines of the souls of the Ten Warriors. However, thanks to the effect of Lucemon from within his seal, when Takuya and his friends obtained the Spirits, that something had become lost. So when Takuya and the others took on those Spirits and fought together, and when they went on their journey together, the Spirits, which had become empty, started to house something like the children’s own souls. As they’d gotten accustomed to using them as tools, you could say that the children’s own souls were starting to fill them in. It probably isn’t right to call the Spirits tools, but that’s the kind of image we had for it. And so, in the end, the tools that had taken on the children’s souls evolved into Digimon and parted (from the humans), and became much like each person’s own partner (*5). So in that sense, our depiction of having the humans become Digimon added another kind of human-Digimon partner relationship onto the list that had been building up over the prior series. When the series first began, I think we still weren’t fully sure that the Spirits would take on a will and life force of their own by the end. It might have been sometime around the time two cours (26 episodes) had passed when we came up with it.
(*4) Spirits of the Ten Warriors: Referring to the Spirits of the Ten Warriors who saved the Digital World from a crisis in the past and were made dormant, which were entrusted to the Three Great Angels, Ophanimon, Seraphimon, and Cherubimon. Each of them has their own attribute of Fire, Wind, Lightning, Ice, Earth, Water, Wood, Steel, Light, and Darkness, and also have their own variants of the human-like Human Spirits and the beast-like Beast Spirits. However, at the beginning of the story, they were relatively scattered around. Takuya and his friends use their Digivices to draw out the power of the Spirits, and evolve into Digimon.
(*5) Became much like each person’s own partner: Referring to the events of the final episode (episode 50), “Transcend Time! The Start of a New Legend”. All of the Spirits, along with Takuya, Kouji, Izumi, Junpei, and Tomoki, combine into Susanoomon and defeat Lucemon Satan Mode, but are attacked by his true form, Lucemon Larva. At that moment, in order to save Takuya and his friends, the Spirits dissolve the combination and individually materialize in order to completely destroy him. After that, Takuya and his friends entrust the safety of the Digital World to the Ten Warriors, and return to the human world.
What theme did you most want to get across through this series?
The most important theme in this series would probably be the various choices that the protagonists take. The very first choice they made was the one they received from Ophanimon, about whether they would or wouldn’t go on their adventure, and when they chose to go, Takuya and his friends still didn’t understand the importance of that choice. But in the latter half, they slowly started to understand a little of the importance of the destiny they’d accepted through that choice. We wanted to thread that concept into the story. They chose to go on that adventure without really understanding it, feeling drawn to it somehow, because they had feelings of curiosity and a desire to go on an adventure. Their unique traits and personalities came from what they’d built up inside themselves. If it hadn’t been for those unique traits, they wouldn’t have been able to make that choice to face and push on forward.
It’s certainly true that the children protected the Digital World by their own choice.
The children’s choices, made out of their own will and courage, ended up being very important for the Digital World. I wanted to convey that to those who were watching. In the first and second series, the protagonists were called “Chosen Children”, so if we’re to call them that, you could say that the protagonists of the third series, Tamers, were “involved children”. So Takuya and his friends from Frontier could be said to be “choosing children”.8
Episodes that left a particularly strong impression
Of all of the individual episodes that you directed, were there any that left a particularly strong impression on you?
I really love episode 22 (*6), when Takuya returns to the human world. There was a scene where he barely managed to save the Takuya of episode 1 from getting run over by a truck (*7), but in truth, it was (the future version of) himself who was being saved. Perhaps you could call it destiny, but that kind of destiny could only exist thanks to all of the choices he’d made to get to that point. And so, Takuya makes his own choice to return to the Digital World and save his friends. I believe that he’d grown into a person who was capable of making his own choices, instead of merely acting to follow destiny.
(*6) Episode 22: Referring to the episode “To My Own Home! Takuya’s Solitary Return”, which depicts Takuya, having been thoroughly defeated by Duskmon and fallen into despair, running away to the human world, and returning once again to the Digital World to save his friends. It follows the incident that had taken up the first half of the first episode, “The Legendary Warrior! Agnimon of Flame”, along with also depicting the incidents related to a boy with the same face as Kouji (later revealed to be Kouichi), and is one of the most significant key episodes among all 50. The script for the episode was written by the lead writer, Sukehiro Tomita-san.
(*7) Takuya almost getting run over by a truck: Referring to the incident that was depicted in episodes 1 and 22. Having received a message from Ophanimon, while leaving Jiyuugaoka on his own, at one point, he’s almost run over by a truck at an intersection. In episode 1, it initially appears that the truck had simply swerved around Takuya. But in episode 22, it’s revealed that, in actuality, Takuya, who had returned to the past from the Digital World, had jumped and pushed aside his past self right before the truck hit.
Why did Takuya take that half-beast, half-human form when he returned to the human world?
After Takuya had made all his own choices up to that point, once he’d lost to Duskmon, that was the one time when Takuya was unable to make a proper choice. When he returned to the human world, he wasn’t making a choice as much as he was actually just running away. So in that sense, in the same way his heart was burdened with what choice to take, he also ended up taking a poorly-defined form that was neither human nor Digimon, trapped between man and beast. Actually, that character (*8) was one of the initial designs for the Digimon we intended to have Takuya evolve into. Personally, I got very attached to that design and wanted to use it, so I was very happy that we were able to in some way (laughs).
(*8) That character: Referring to the half-beast, half-human character that Takuya becomes when he returned to the human world in episode 22. Although it is not named in the series itself, in the background material, his name is “Flamon”. It is capable of jumping high enough to ride the roof of a train, and can also breathe fire. According to Kaizawa-san’s comments, the design was originally made for Takuya’s initial evolution (Human Spirit Evolution). However, since it was eventually decided that his Human Spirit design would be Agnimon instead, the design was reused for this episode.
The message hidden in this series
Looking back on Frontier now, what kind of series do you think it is?
This goes for both back then and now, but children have all sorts of role models in their lives, and one of those would be superheroes, and another would be the items that symbolize their power. However, this kind of power endemic to heroes will always bring forth a responsibility to go up against enemies that are even more powerful. Thinking back on it, we wanted to use this story to help the children understand this. You could say that it’s a theme that we hid inside this series, or, perhaps, a message coming from us as its creators. It’s not something said outright, but it’s something that I hope we were able to get across to those who were watching this series. That’s the kind of feeling I think any director would have, though.
In closing, please leave a message for those who have bought this DVD-Box.
We’re living in a digitalized society, but we still don’t have perfect artificial intelligence yet, and we’re still far from having machines that can dream like humans do. But nowadays, I wonder if the children aren’t starting to lose sight of their dreams a bit. It’s always a nice thing to have people watch the anime we’ve made and enjoy it. But instead of simply just enjoying the series, I truly hope that you can also try chasing those dreams harder. For instance, try imagining that things like the Digital World or the Digimon truly exist. And since we’ve managed to make our own world of dreams in this series, I hope that everyone will be able to freely make things that depict their own dreams, ones that transcend this.
Lead writer Sukehiro Tomita
We spoke with Sukehiro Tomita-san, who helped bring forth the story of Frontier as its lead writer and scriptwriter.
About your role as the lead writer and the theme of the series
Firstly, could you tell us what your role was as the lead writer?
I consulted with the producer, Seki-san, and the director, Kaizawa-san, and the first thing we did was decide on the theme for the series. After that, I thought about how we would put together the overall structure of the story, and the characteristics of each leading character. Those were the foundations of my job as the lead writer.
Since the first thing you decided on was the theme, what did you decide it would be?
We wanted to include the theme of “what it means to evolve” in the story. The producers had already decided that the humans would be transforming into Digimon (*1), so, working back from that, we wanted to make a theme that fit it, and I believe the word “evolution” as a keyword came from that. So around exactly that time, we put a lot of thought into what it meant to evolve into something completely different.
(*1) That the humans would be transforming into Digimon: In Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02, and Digimon Tamers, the main children are depicted as having a partnership with their Digimon. However, in this series, the protagonists travel from the human world to the Digital World, and use the power of the Spirits of the legendary Digimon “Ten Warriors” to evolve into Digimon and fight evil Digimon. For more details on how this premise of humans transforming into Digimon came about, refer to Producer Hiromi Seki’s interview here.
What kinds of things did you think about in regards to evolution?
Someone named Lecomte du Noüy (*2) wrote a book about evolution, and in it, he said that “when living beings have completely adapted into their society, that is when their evolution will end.” For instance, the dinosaurs were fully thriving because they were fully adapted to their environment during that era, but on the other hand, because they’d completely adapted to that environment, once the climate around them had changed, they weren’t able to adapt to that environment and were completely wiped out. So humans also need to observe the situation around them, develop their own understanding of the crisis around them, and be proactive and resolute in surviving it, otherwise their evolution will end and they’ll be destroyed by society. I felt that I wanted to make that kind of story, using the Digimon world as feedback for it.
(*2) Lecomte du Noüy: A French physiologist. Tomita-san refers to the contents of Lecomte’s iconic book Human Destiny, which was published in 1947. In it, the author writes that “evolution is something that cannot continue without the instability of organs and tissue. Evolution progresses fully from one kind of instability to another, and once something has attained a perfect system that has completely adapted, its evolution will cease.” It is a book that warns about the future of humanity, and is said to have had an enormous impact on intellectuals after World War II.
When you were working on that theme, were you influenced by the state of affairs in the time period the series aired in (2002-2003)?
Very much so. At around that exact time, Japanese society was in an era of having fallen into lethargy for a long while, and everyone’s sense of purpose had started to get scattered around. It was around the time Koizumi-san became Prime Minister and was saying things about dismantling and remaking the Liberal Democratic Party.9 I personally also felt that unless we could have the attitude of looking back at our stagnated society, dismantling all of the things that weren’t working, and remaking our society anew into something more forward-thinking, our society wouldn’t develop further, and humanity wouldn’t be able to evolve, either. But when I was actually writing the story, I wasn’t going out of my way to think “evolution, evolution”, and I didn’t intend to have them say it outright and clearly. It was more that I wanted those who were watching to be able to sense it. But I thought about making the protagonists have a particularly strong feeling of wanting to take challenges on, and depicting them with an attitude of proactively standing up against their difficulties.
About the differences from the prior series
The premise of humans evolving into Digimon was a rather huge change from those of the prior series.
It’s a fairly huge difference from the prior series. We thought this premise would work if we could actually get across the feeling of what it would be like to be a Digimon to the audience. With the prior series, when the children would accompany Digimon as their friends, they could still understand the Digimon’s happiness and sorrow. But in actually becoming Digimon, the humans can actually personally experience it for themselves, and will actually be able to feel the impact of those feelings in their body and heart for real. For that reason, I wanted to put extra emphasis on depicting that point.
The story takes place almost entirely in the Digital World, which is another point in which it differs from the prior series.
I believe it was something deliberately done to differentiate it from the prior series, but it was the producers who all requested that we not have the Digimon appear within daily life in the human world, as much as possible. I feel it would have been easier to make it hit closer to home if we actually set it in the same ordinary world that the kids in the audience were living in, so at first, I was very troubled about it (laughs). But as we pushed forward with the project, since the children in the main cast were having the personal experience of becoming Digimon, I gained a better sense of confidence that they’d be able to relate to the kids in their own way.
The process of raising the main characters
How did you proceed with making Takuya and his friends into the protagonists?
I always do this for everything I work on, but the first thing we did was assign each character a color. It’s a bit of a stereotyped thing, but we had the hot-blooded Takuya be associated with red. The more cynical Kouji would be blue. Izumi-chan, the only girl in the group, would be pink. We roughly associated them with colors on those lines. We then started adding traits to their characters, like their favorite foods or music, trying to define their likes and dislikes. We also thought about things like how many people would make up their families, so even if it didn’t show up in the series itself, we had those defined in the background lore, even down to the small details. We didn’t finish all of that background at the time of the first episode, but as we went further into the second and third and beyond, we slowly started defining more and more of it.
Which characters were easy to visualize, and which were the most difficult?
I always end up having the most trouble with the girl characters. Even though I love them (laughs). In particular, Izumi-chan was the only girl in the group, so at first, I wasn’t able to really tell what kind of character she should be. I ended up getting a lot of ideas from Seki-san and Kaizawa-san in the process of creating her. On the other hand, Takuya was the so-called action-oriented, hot-blooded protagonist, so I was able to get a rough feel for him right away. That said, I still had problems figuring out how to differentiate him from the other hot-blooded protagonists that had existed up until then. To put it concretely, there are a lot of those kinds of characters who decide on things on their own and rush in only to constantly trip over themselves, but I wanted to hold back on that aspect, and so I slipped in clues of him paying more attention to his surroundings, and having kinder and more delicate aspects to him.
He had that aspect to him where he was more than happy to treat Tomoki like a younger brother.
In the human world, Takuya was actually rather cold to his own younger brother, but after he met Tomoki in the Digital World, he started properly feeling what it was like to be an older brother, and returned to the human world. In that sense, we paid very close attention to defining what our protagonists would be learning and bringing back from their journey in the Digital World. Beyond just having them fight and save the Digital World and the world as a whole, we wanted them to gain something else in the process as well.
(*3) What they would be learning and bringing back: Beyond just Takuya, who wasn’t able to be kind enough to his younger brother, and Tomoki, who had been a victim of bullying, Kouji, Izumi, Junpei, and Kouichi had all harbored their own troubles in their own daily lives. However, after traveling with their friends in the Digital World and meeting many kinds of Digimon, they were able to grow from there. Episode 50, “Transcend Time! The Beginning of a New Legend” depicts an epilogue after their return to the human world, where the children are shown ready to take on and resolve those troubles. Tomita-san was in charge of the script for this episode.
Tomoki, who was a victim of bullying, was able to gain courage after coming to the Digital World.
We made Tomoki the weak-hearted one among the main characters because we wanted to show the audience a child without self-confidence going on an adventure, gaining courage, and becoming someone more proactive. We wanted kids who might be lacking in resolve to watch this series and understand the importance of having that courage.
It was impressive how Tomoki changed in such a way that he ended up becoming friends with the children who were bullying him.
This happened in one of the Superman movies, but there’s this one scene that I personally can’t stand (*4). After becoming unable to turn into Superman again, he ends up getting in a fight with a human man, and once he’s able to become Superman again, he goes and gets revenge. I’m sure there were people who thought that was satisfying and enjoyed it, but I absolutely hated it (laughs). I’d have been fine with it if he’d gotten his revenge as a normal person, but the fact he actually turned into Superman and did it was cowardly, and I can’t stand it. So if Tomoki had also turned into a Digimon and gotten revenge on his bullies, that would have crossed the same line, but if he’d gotten his revenge as a weak human, but with courage in his heart, that would be better. But it was even better for him to not get his revenge and befriend them instead (*5), and I believe that’s what it means to really live by understanding the value of courage.
(*4) A scene that I personally can’t stand: Referring to a scene from Superman II, which was first released in 1981 in Japan. Clark Kent, played by Christopher Reeve, gives up his superpowers for the sake of Lois, the woman he loves. Since he’d become a weak, average human being, after getting involved in a fight with a man at a restaurant, he ends up losing easily. However, after regaining his powers in order to protect the Earth from evil aliens, at the end of the movie, Kent meets the same man who had hit him earlier again, and gets his revenge on him using his superhuman strength.
(*5) To not get his revenge and befriend them instead: Referring to the story depicted in episode 40, “The Chosen Ones!? The Children who Control Angemon!”, and episode 41, “We Won’t Let You Scan! The Bean Tree of Friendship”, where Tomoki meets Katsuharu and Teppei, who had bullied him before. Witnessing Tomoki, who had been a crybaby in the human world, having grown, they decide to leave the safety of the Digital World in his hands, and to return to the human world before him. In the final episode, “Transcend Time! The Beginning of a New Legend”, there is a scene of the three of them, having returned to the human world and having a friendly soccer game.
Changes to the story and characters
How much of the full story was decided on at the beginning?
For original works, we usually start off by deciding what the ending will be, so it pretty much becomes a question of what’ll lead up to it. On the way, we tell the individual episode directors “please do it like this,” and the other writers on rotation and I (*6) sometimes end up going “I ended up writing it like this,” and the backbone of the story expands from there. There are also times when we decide on something in the beginning, but revise it along the way. In the case of Frontier, I believe we hadn’t clearly decided that Kouji would have an older brother as one of their enemies (*7) at the time of story planning for the first episode. But when we were following the line of thought for how Kouji turned out to be so cynical, we thought, if he had an older brother who’d been separated from him during their lives, and now that brother was one of their enemies…and, like that, we came to a more clear decision about it.
(*6) The writers on rotation: For this series, beyond the lead writer Tomita-san, there were four other story writers who wrote episode scripts. Hiro Masaki-san and Reiko Yoshida-san wrote scripts continuously for all four series of Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02, Digimon Tamers, and Digimon Frontier. Akatsuki Yamatoya-san participated on both Digimon Adventure and the fifth series, Digimon Savers. For Yoshimi Narita-san, this was her first time writing for the Digimon series.
(*7) That Kouji would have an older brother as one of their enemies: Kouji’s older brother Kouichi, who had been separated from him for their entire lives, is hypnotized by Cherubimon into losing his memories of the human world, and appears before Kouji as Duskmon, the Warrior of Darkness. However, as he fights with Kouji, he slowly starts to recover his memories, and, after regaining the true power of darkness, fights alongside Kouji and their friends as Löwemon. Since their parents had divorced when they were very young, they were separated and raised as if they were only children, and the story between the two of them makes up the centerpiece of the time spanning the latter half of the second cour5 to the third.
Beyond just the story, the characters must have also gone through a lot of changes, too.
Yes, that happens very often. For this series, it happened with Bokomon and Neemon. We decided from the very beginning that they would have major supporting roles and accompany the protagonists, but we weren’t initially thinking of making them play a role in the story to the extent that they actually did. Whenever I’m the lead writer, I try to show up for the post-recordings as much as possible. Whenever I heard the voice actors doing ad-lib, there were many times when I thought “so this character has this kind of aspect to them, huh?” So I’d hear the ad-libs that the sound director had rejected, think, “hm, I see,” and then make use of them in scripts for later episodes (laughs). So Bokomon and Neemon ended up having a bigger role in the story than we’d initially planned, and they were greatly influenced by Sugiyama-san (*8) and Kikuchi-san’s (*9) performances.
(*8) Sugiyama-san: Referring to Kazuko Sugiyama-san, the voice actress who provided a comical performance for Bokomon, who acted as a Digital World guide for Takuya, his friends, and the audience. She has played young girl characters such as Heidi from Heidi of the Alps and Akane Kimidori in Dr. Slump -Arale-, along with a large number of characters with notably peculiar ways of expressing themselves, such as Ganmo in Gu Gu Ganmo, Ten-chan in Urusei Yatsura, and Korosuke (as the second voice actress) in The Great Encyclopedia of Kiteretsu. Originally from Aichi Prefecture.
(*9) Kikuchi-san: Referring to Masami Kikuchi-san, the voice actor for Neemon, who served as Bokomon’s companion (?) and always had a sleepy demeanor. Ever since his role as Jou Kido in Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02, he has been in every Digimon series since10. In Digimon Frontier, he also serves as the narrator. His major roles outside the Digimon series include Kazuhiko Hanawa in Little Maruko-chan, Keiichi Morisato in Oh My Goddess!, and Kaine Wakaba in Metal Armor Dragonar. Originally from Nagano Prefecture.
It feels like the final enemy, Lucemon, was depicted in a way that, in some sense, didn’t portray him as completely evil.
I wanted to do a proper job of depicting someone who believed he was acting in everyone’s best interests, but, practically speaking, ended up doing evil things. For instance, water is a very wonderful thing whenever you’re thirsty, but too much of it creates a flood. Fire is a very important thing in our daily lives, but an excessive amount will burn out of control and become something awful. The love that parents have for their children is a wonderful thing, but too much of that leads to the hell of the child becoming overly clingy and spoiled, and will prevent them from truly growing up. In that sense, since there are many cases of good things piling up to excess and becoming bad things, I considered it an important element of how evil would come forth within the story. This was touched on a bit within the series itself, too.
Looking back on the series again now
Please tell us if, among the fifteen episodes you personally wrote the scripts for, there was one that left a particular impression on you.
Did I really write a whole fifteen of them? I totally forgot that (laughs). Episode 1 (*10) is a particular favorite of mine. It’s the one where they receive a mysterious message on their cell phones. The message presents our protagonist with a binary choice, like the 0 and 1 of a computer. There are other children who end up stopped along the way, but our protagonist, not understanding his role in this, takes an interest in going into an unknown world, and presses on with an unusual desire to take on challenges. We were insistent on making sure that there would be a large number of lines, and I think we did a good job getting across that they were the ones bringing themselves to action and making their own choices. It’s a first episode that feels very different from all of the other first episodes that I’d personally written up until then. Also, I personally love warped, cowardly characters, so I love Junpei-kun (laughs). Tomoki, who was devoid of self-confidence, became a Digimon before him, and I wanted to do a careful job of portraying how Junpei-kun was losing his grip out of frustration, so I love episode 3 (*11).
(*10) Episode 1: “The Legendary Warrior! Agnimon of Flame”, where the protagonist, Takuya, is guided by a mysterious message sent to his cell phone, arrives at the Digital World’s Flame Terminal, obtains the Spirit of Flame, evolves into Agnimon, and defeats the attacking Cerberumon. As Tomita-san stated in this interview, Takuya, as a character with overflowing energy, curiosity, and drive to action, is depicted in an excellent way that sets a good tone and lines up with the intended course for the story. The episode was directed by the series director, Yukio Kaizawa-san.
(*11) Episode 3: “I Won’t Allow Bullying! Chackmon of Ice Evolves”, where Tomoki, a bullied child, sees Agnimon falling into danger, gains the courage and drive to save him, and evolves into Chackmon. There’s an intriguing contrast between Tomoki, who admires Takuya and has a pure-hearted desire to become stronger, and the more warped and scheming Junpei, who claims that it’s impossible for Tomoki. Incidentally, the following episode, “My Kicks are Painful! The Female Warrior, Fairymon” has Izumi evolve for the first time, and Junpei is forced to endure the shock of once again being unable to evolve like the others.
What does Digimon Frontier, as a series, mean to you?
A long time ago, I had my first job as lead writer for the series MOSPEADA (*12), and at the time, I was consciously thinking of “evolution” as a theme. But at the time, I was still limited by my youth and inexperienced…But for this series, Frontier, I feel like I was able to properly bring together a concrete description of what “evolution” is, in my own way.
(*12) MOSPEADA: Referring to the TV anime Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, which was broadcast from October 1983 to March 1984. It is a robot anime that depicts youths fighting to take back and save Earth from aliens who have occupied it. It features a setting of Earth in its colonized state, and characters with strong personalities. It also features creative designs for its primary mecha, which transform from motorbikes to power suits. The character designs were by the famous artist Yoshitaka Amano-san, who worked on the Final Fantasy series of console video games.
After working on MOSPEADA, had you always been thinking about “evolution” as a theme?
Not in particular. I only start thinking about the theme whenever we start work on a given series and need to decide on it. So for instance, when the theme is “courage”, I start thinking about what “courage” is in the first place. By chance, this series had the theme of “evolution” in the same way that MOSPEADA had, so it became a chance for me to resolve what I hadn’t been able to before.
In closing, please leave a message for those who have purchased this DVD-Box.
I say this for any series I work on, but I hope you’ll watch it thinking not only of the protagonists, but also about the enemy characters, and why they all do the bad things they do. A single episode is only 22 minutes, so there were many times when we couldn’t explain everything about each character’s background. I don’t mind if what you guys come up with ends up being completely different from what we, as creators, came up with. Or, perhaps, if you’re thinking something like “Izumi-chan wouldn’t say this kind of thing in this kind of place,” or “if it were me, I’d do this instead,” I think that’s still a good way to see it (laughs).
Speaking of Izumi, I’m interested in which one of the group of boys she’d like…
Actually, we wanted to have more of that kind of romantic story, but this was a series for kids, so we held back on it a bit. I have my own personal impression of how Izumi would feel about it, but, well, let’s leave it there (laughs). As far as that kind of thing goes, I’d like it if everyone watching could freely enjoy coming up with their own answers.
Producer Hiromi Seki
We spoke with Producer Seki, who stands at the core of the production staff responsible for creating the Digimon series.
About Kaizawa-san and Tomita-san
Kaizawa-san was appointed as the director for not only the prior series, but also this one.
Each Digimon series had us start planning for the next one sometime around July or August, and Kaizawa-san came to our initial planning meeting for Frontier. Although Tamers (*1) was actually the one that was the most hectic for us during its planning stages (laughs). Looking back on it now, back during Tamers, Kaizawa-san was thinking about what a Digimon even was in the first place, and I think he’d often been doing things out of trial and error so he could figure out how he wanted to make a Digimon series. At the staff closing party for Tamers, he himself said something to that extent. It was a very wonderful speech that said something like “over the year we spent making this series, I feel like I, too, was also able to become a Digimon Tamer.” So now that the year of Tamers had passed, Frontier was a series that Kaizawa-san was able to develop in his own way, to the fullest extent. Kaizawa-san has a very simple-minded kind of sensitivity, and he has a special skill in worldbuilding, so, in a certain sense, he’s the kind of person who can create something that no one else could even hope to imitate. In particular, I don’t think anyone can match up to him in terms of setting up internal logic for his worldbuilding.
(*1) Tamers: Referring to the third series, Digimon Tamers, which aired from April 2001 to March 2003. In accordance with the word “Tamer”, the protagonists use Digivices and cards in order to provide support for and fight alongside their Digimon. The producer was, naturally, Hiromi Seki-san. Yukio Kaizawa-san made his debut as director for a Digimon series with this work. The lead writer was Chiaki Konaka-san (refer to footnote *2).
The lead writer, Tomita-san, was also taking on the challenge of writing for Digimon for the first time.
Konaka-san (*2), whom we had as the lead writer for Tamers, worked alongside Kaizawa-san on Mysterious Magic Fun Fun Pharmacy. Tomita-san also worked alongside Kaizawa-san, on Bikkuriman (*3). This was my first time working personally with Tomita-san. We’d been saying “let’s work on something together!” for a while, but we weren’t able to make it happen for a long time. I actually called on Tomita-san for the first series, Adventure, but at the time he was buried in a lot of other work, so we weren’t able to make it happen (*4).
(*2) Konaka-san: Referring to scriptwriter Chiaki Konaka. In terms of the Digimon series, beyond acting as the lead writer for Digimon Tamers, he also wrote the script for episode 13 of Digimon Adventure 02, “The Call of Dagomon”. His other major works include serial experiments lain and Mysterious Magic Fun Fun Pharmacy. He has also participated as a lead writer and scriptwriter for many live-action series, such as Ultraman Gaia and Eko Eko Azarak ~Eye~.
(*3) Bikkuriman: Referring to the TV anime Bikkuriman, which aired from October 1987 to April 1989 and was produced by Toei Douga (currently known as Toei Animation). It was based off the characters and lore from the “Bikkuriman Demons vs. Angels Stickers” that were included as a bonus with Lotte’s hugely popular “Bikkuriman Chocolate” products. The series was directed by Yukio Kaizawa-san and had Sukehiro Tomita-san as the lead writer, and they also did the same for the sequel, New Bikkuriman, aired from April 1989 to August 1990.
(*4) We weren’t able to make it happen: When we were collecting information for the interview we held with Sukehiro Tomita-san here, he also left a comment about the details of this incident. “At the time of Digimon Adventure, about four or five days before Seki-san contacted me, Producer (Iriya) Azuma of Toei Animation appointed me as lead writer for Phantom Thief Jeanne. Thanks to that, I didn’t have room for anything else in my schedule. So when Seki-san contacted me again with a request to work on the fourth series, I was very happy.”
What’s the biggest charm point about Tomita-san’s writing?
Tomita-san is someone who does a very good job in writing original things. This was something that also left a very strong impression on me when he was working alongside Kaizawa-san for Bikkuriman. That’s a very complicated series with a ton of characters that appear in it, but he handled all of that without problem. He brought together all of those episodes that featured seven or eight characters all openly acting together at the same time, and the story itself was very fun, so I really wanted him to work on Digimon. Also, he really was a veteran writer, so he’d seen a ton of so-called masterpiece movies. For instance, if we said things like “we want to use the Grand Hotel setup (*5)”, he wouldn’t have to ask what that was and would understand immediately. Thanks to those aspects, it was very easy to work with him.
(*5) Grand Hotel setup11: A phrase from movie lingo, referring to a setup in which many characters are set to be the primary focus of a given scene, and each of them is depicted with their own concurrent subplots. It is named after the movie Grand Hotel, which was released in 1932. The movie was such a hit that it led to an influx of “Grand Hotel setup” movies with star actors. According to Seki-san, since Frontier is set in the Digital World and has many characters featured at the forefront, it is, in a broader sense, an application of the Grand Hotel setup.
About the story’s setting
Was there anything that you actively wanted to change in comparison to the prior series?
Tamers took place almost entirely in the real world, and the Digimon themselves came to the real world as well, so for the next series, we wanted the children to go to the Digital World. In that sense, it might have been closer to the first series, Adventure. We also wanted them to start off their journey via being guided by a higher will. However, unlike Adventure, where, in some sense, the children were dragged in against their will, we wanted the children here to go to the Digital World out of their own will. In the case of Adventure, a handful of children were chosen when they were very young and witnessed Digimon fighting in the middle of the night (*6), and so they were pulled into the Digital World. So there was a sense that it wasn’t entirely by their own choice, but because they were chosen, and because they happened to be living in Hikarigaoka at the time (laughs). But in Frontier, there’s a stronger sense of the kids doing it out of their own will. There were many children who were guided there by Ophanimon, but not all of them (*7) ended up riding the Trailmon from the platform in Shibuya. Takuya and his friends getting on the same train and setting off together initially seems to be something they did by chance, but it was their own choice to be there. When they were working on the story, Kaizawa-san and Tomita-san were discussing how it was even more important that the children make their own choice to follow that path.
(*6) A handful of children were chosen: In the first series, Digimon Adventure, while at summer camp, Taichi Yagami and six other children encounter a mysterious light that rips through an aurora and brings them into another world, the Digital World. According to the story’s lore, on a night four years prior, the children had been chosen out of those who had witnessed a fierce battle between two Digimon (Greymon and Parrotmon) that had suddenly appeared in Hikarigaoka, in Tokyo. The series itself refers to them as “Chosen Children”.
(*7) Not all of them: If you look closely at the scene depicted in episode 1, “The Legendary Warrior! Agnimon of Flame”, you can see that there are many children, much like Takuya and his friends, who received a message and arrived at the underground platform in Shibuya, but did not board a Trailmon and simply stayed at home. On top of that, according to our conversation with the lead writer, Tomita-san, although it was not directly depicted in the series itself, it seems there were also children who received the message but never even made it to the platform.
We wanted to convey the importance of making one’s own choices
Indeed, Takuya and his friends still could have chosen to not go on their adventure.
They could. But when they first made that choice, I don’t think they were very aware of what they were choosing, as you would expect of children in their position. They were sent a very sudden question about whether they would go or not (*8) to their cell phones, and I believe it’s inherently because they were children that they decided to go. Normally, an adult would be suspicious of that kind of thing, wouldn’t they? They’d probably think that saying yes would land them with a sudden bill for a ridiculous amount of money, and most people would definitely say no (laughs). But I think children have the freedom to think of the question “will you do it or not?” like a fun game, and not think too hard about going. So in that sense, it’s not that they were fully determined to make that choice, but rather, even though they weren’t fully aware of it, they ended up making their choice on their own. When you’re young, you’re presented with an infinite amount of choices, and you’re able to make those choices without thinking about them too hard. But when you become an adult and you’re presented with those kinds of crossroads, you start overthinking things, and you get overly self-conscious and start ruling out things even when you hate doing that (laughs).
(*8) A question about whether they would go or not: Referring to a scene in the first episode, “The Legendary Warrior! Agnimon of Flame”. Takuya sees a message that he’d suddenly received on his phone, saying “Will you start? Or not?” After an initial “what’s this?”, he does not hesitate and immediately chooses “start”. After that, he is guided by a voice that tells him “the game to decide your future has started,” and, in following the instructions that were sent to him, he eventually ends up boarding a Trailmon and taking off for an adventure in the Digital World.
But as the story proceeds, Takuya and his friends begin to have conscious awareness of what their choices are.
In episode 22, when Takuya returns to the human world by himself, it’s only natural that, after all of the terrifying things he’d seen during his adventure in the Digital World, he would decide that he couldn’t take it anymore and think “thank goodness, I’m the only one who was saved.” But, feeling that it’s not right for him to be the only one to return, and that his friends are waiting for him, and so on and so forth, he becomes self-conscious about it and goes back to the Digital World again. That was his choice, that he wouldn’t run away or hide. It wasn’t something he did by accident, nor something he did unconsciously, but a choice that he properly made to return to the Digital World. That choice was so important that we really wanted to do a proper job of depicting that. In actuality, when you’re around the age of a fifth-grader in elementary school (*9), there are probably times when you haven’t thought about things too hard and are just following a certain path because your parents told you to, but someday, there will be a time when you need to make your own choices, so it becomes very important to think about what you’ll do. This is a series where making those kinds of choices oneself plays a very large role, so that’s what we wanted to get across.
(*9) Around the age of a fifth-grader in elementary school: In all four series that Seki-san served as producer for, the primary target audience had been elementary school fifth-graders. For that reason, of the main characters in Frontier, four of them, Takuya, Kouji, Izumi, and Kouichi are fifth-graders, Junpei is a sixth-grader, and Tomoki is a third-grader. In the prior series, Tamers, the series ended up having far more characters who were older or younger than that age, so Frontier was made with a stronger focus on producing it in such a way that it would more properly focus on the fifth-grader target age group.
What Digimon are to the children
The relationship between humans and Digimon takes on a very different nature from those of the prior series.
We wanted to tread into new territory from the prior relationship between Digimon and humans as partners, and Bandai suggested that we have the children turn into the Digimon. At first, having the human combine with monster elements gave off a bit of a strange feeling, but the evolution scenes that came with it were able to show off a proper sense of unity between the humans and the Digimon, so I think it managed to get across a very fresh kind of visual image.
You could say that having the children themselves become the Digimon is an even deeper way of portraying a partner relationship.
I feel like we spent that year making Frontier putting a lot of thought into what a monster is to a child. There were really a lot of Digimon in the franchise, and when Adventure first started there were around three hundred, but when Frontier ended, there were more than 600. But the children aren’t really going to be able to remember all of those. We, on the anime production side, may not be able to immediately recall their names, but we remember all of them. This also goes for the youkai12 in GeGeGe no Kitaro or the giant monsters in Ultraman, but it’s much like remembering the names of all of your friends in kindergarten. For instance, if we were to say that only those who are shaped like adult humans can be called humans, children (who are shaped differently from adults) would be considered strange-looking. And, if we conversely did the same for children, human adults would also be treated as living beings much like giant monsters or youkai. But since we’re all living beings in the same world, we’d still remember each other’s names, like we would any other friend. So we were certain that there wouldn’t be any lashbback from the kids about having humans turn into Digimon. We were very much following that line of thought. When you’re a child, you can do all sorts of things like turning into Ultraman13. But when you become an adult, unless you do something like cosplay, you won’t be able to transform into something like that (laughs). I think there’s that kind of difference. So when I thought about it that way, I personally didn’t feel anything strange about the concept.
How each staff member expanded the world
Did you set all of the worldbuilding and story developments in stone at the beginning of development?
We always make sure to never completely set it in stone. The producer, series director, and the lead writer have our own super-secret meetings, so we’re the ones with the deepest understanding of the series, but there’s a limit to how much the three of us can come up with in our heads. There’s always a chance that the range of our thinking will end up too narrow. But when you add on the opinions of the other writers, the world starts to expand. So it’s always good for a series when we leave small gaps open for them to fill in. For instance, episodes like the ones with Toy Country and the elementary school (*10) have a lot of cute characters gathered together in them. This is supposed to be an action-oriented series, so it’s easy to keep thinking of it in terms of fighting, but we’d get episodes like that back from the writers, and after we’d approved them, another writer would bring up a different idea and say “I want to do this kind of episode, then,” and the series would expand in range. We don’t want the audience to get sick of seeing the same thing, and we especially want to bring in new fans as well.
(*10) The episodes with Toy Town and the kindergarten: Referring to episode 7, “The Town Floating in the Sky! ToyAgumon’s Toy Country”, where Tomoki is carried away by WaruMonzaemon in Toy Country and Takuya and Kouji must go to save him, and “Save Everyone! Evolve, Tsuonomon”, where Izumi, Junpei, Bokomon, and Neemon visit a Digimon elementary school. In particular, episode 8 does not feature a battle scene at all, and is a particularly unique one among all 50 in the series. Reiko Yoshida-san was the scriptwriter for both episodes.
Looking back on Digimon as its producer
Among all 50 episodes of Frontier, please tell us if there was one that left a particularly strong impression on you.
Probably episode 1. We (at Toei Animation) have a very famous anime called Galaxy Express 999 (*11) (laughs). The producer who was at the head of that project, Yoshio Takami-san, gave us a lot of praise for the part where the Trailmon leaves the train platform. He told us, “This is what Leiji Matsumoto-san wanted to achieve when he made Galaxy Express 999.” In terms of visual imagery, we wanted to have the train taking off feel like the beginning of a journey, so I was very happy to hear that. Also, for episode 22, when Takuya returned to the real world, and the final episode, when they all worked together, I also remember a lot about how we put proper thought into details like how long it would take to go from Jiyuugaoka to Shibuya (*12).
(*11) Galaxy Express 999: Referring to one of science fiction manga artist Leiji Matsumoto-san’s most famous works, Galaxy Express 999. Toei Douga (currently known as Toei Animation) adapted it into an anime that aired from September 1978 to March 1981. It was also followed by two theatrical movies, Galaxy Express 999 and Adieu Galaxy Express 999, which were both smash hits. Yoshio Takami-san served as the producer for both movies.
(*12) How long it would take to go from Jiyuugaoka to Shibuya: In the first half of episode 1, “The Legendary Warrior! Agnimon of Flame”, as Takuya hurries towards the underground train platform under Shibuya Station, each and every important moment is properly depicted on the clock, and the scene is able to proceed with a sense of high tension. Incidentally, Takuya takes the Tokyu Toyoko Line to depart from Jiyuugaoka Station at 5:45 PM, and boards the Trailmon at 6:00 PM. According to Seki-san, “we wanted to make sure it’d pass the scrutiny of train enthusiasts,” so it was properly calculated out.
Looking back on Frontier, what kind of series do you think it is?
I think you could say that we created the best reflection of how a world of reality and a Digital World would interact with each other. From the world of reality they’re in before they set off, to the Digital World, and back to the world of reality, everyone did a wonderful job bringing that pairing into anime form. And in terms of the world’s art design, I think we also managed to bring together a sense of unity into it.
So then, with all four series that you worked on, what does the Digimon series mean to you?
Bringing all four of them together and looking back on them…if I have to think about them all together, I honestly have no idea (laughs). They’re all tied together under the Digimon name, but we made each and every one of them with their own different characters and different premises, and each of these four feel like they stand on their own. In some sense, that might be what exactly is so great about Digimon. When you think about what kind of relationship Digital Monsters have with humans, I feel like it could end up being anything.
Please leave a message for those who have purchased the DVD-Box.
I think everyone’s going to have their favorite series, or feelings of which monsters or characters feel right to them. But no matter which series it is, there’s always a choice of where to go next, and there’s always a point where the children have to make a choice. That’s something shared between all of Adventure through Frontier. So to those of you who like Digimon, and to those of you who have purchased this DVD-Box, beyond just watching the series and enjoying it, I hope you’ll be able to live your life from here on out, making the best use of your choices whenever you have to make them. When you’re very young, it’s only natural that you’ll be making a lot of those choices without really understanding them, but gradually, you’ll start needing to make those choices with more self-awareness. So I hope this will be a series that you can rewatch during those times.
- Takeuchi’s blog name is a pun on the fact that the word for “bamboo shoot” is “take no ko” (竹の子). Unfortunately, as of this writing, the blog in question is now defunct.
- Tengu = A bird-like youkai (Japanese spirit) that Karatenmon is based off of.
- Tokusatsu: Refers to live-action productions that make use of a combination of practical and special effects. Notable works in the genre include hero shows such as Super Sentai (adapted in the West as Power Rangers) and giant monster shows such as Godzilla.
- The Kamiya and Suzumura roles referred to in this interview are probably Rei Otohata and Yuuya Asou from Super Gals!
- A “cour” is used in descriptions of Japanese TV shows and anime to refer to a 12-14 episode block (i.e. Frontier is a 4-cour anime).
- Taiga drama = An annual historical drama television series broadcast on NHK TV. Much like Frontier, such a series would generally run for a full year.
- In literal terms, the role referred to here is series kousei (シリーズ構成, lit. “series composition”).
- Kaizawa refers to the protagonists of Adventure and Adventure 02 by their usual title of “Chosen Children”, “erabareshi kodomo-tachi” (選ばれし子供たち), and thus follows up on that by calling the protagonists of Tamers “children who became connected [to the incident]”, “musubareshi kodomo-tachi” (結ばれし子供たち). He then follows this logic by referring to the Frontier protagonists as “children who choose”, “erabishi kodomo-tachi” (選びし子供たち).
- Tomita refers to Junichirou Koizumi, who became the Japanese Prime Minister in 2001 and was considered a radical leader of the long-ruling Liberal Democratic Party, taking an infamously combative attitude towards fellow members of his party and bidding to change it to a more populist direction. At the time this interview was published in August 2007, Koizumi had just stepped down as prime minister a year prior, and had been replaced by his successor Shinzou Abe.
- Kikuchi’s streak of being in every Digimon series held at the time of the publishing of this booklet in 2007 (with the most recent series at the time being Savers), but was unfortunately broken later.
- The term “Grand Hotel setup” (グランド形式, “Grand Hotel keishiki“) is a term mostly used in Japanese production lingo for what English speakers would generally refer to as an “ensemble cast”.
- Youkai = Spirits in Japanese folklore. A large number of them appear in the aforementioned GeGeGe no Kitaro, in many different kinds.
- Ultraman = Referring to a long-running tokusatsu TV series that has continuously aired in Japan since 1966, and has a large hold in Japanese pop culture. Considered as part of the “giant monster” sort of genre, the series prominently features humans transforming into giant humanoid alien heroes that carry the Ultraman title in some way or form, usually via becoming human hosts to the Ultramen or simply carrying the natural ability to transform into an Ultraman form.