The Digimon Games Community website posted a series of interviews with Digimon creators between August and December 2017, held by Digimon game producer Kazumasa Habu. The following is a translation of an interview with Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 artist Tenya Yabuno and Digimon creator Kenji Watanabe, posted on December 11, 2017.
For the sake of reading ease, redundant informational text between interview portions has been omitted.
Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 was serialized in V-Jump from 1999 to 2003.
It’s significant as the first ever first Digimon manga series. Set in the Digital World’s Folder Continent, the story depicts the interactions between Taichi Yagami and V-dramon, as well as their growth and achievements.
Arkadimon, who was created for this series as the partner of Taichi’s rival Neo Saiba, will also appear in Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory, which is set for release on December 14, 2017.
Arkadimon evolves into a “Super Ultimate”, a level that surpasses even the series’ “Ultimate”, and drives Taichi and V-dramon into a corner.
What led to the creation of this terrifying enemy? Along with Kenji Watanabe, one of the creators of the Digimon franchise, producer Kazumasa Habu is here to directly ask these questions to Tenya Yabuno-sensei.
● Another “Digimon Adventure” that depicts Taichi and V-dramon’s achievements
Habu: I’d like to start off by asking Yabuno-san about what led to Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 being serialized in V-Jump.
Yabuno: My first time being involved with Digimon wasn’t a manga, but illustrations for the strategy guide. I’d been doing illustrations for V-Jump for quite a while now, so I imagine that’s what led to me working on Digimon manga.
Habu: The second volume of Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 also includes the C’mon Digimon oneshot. Before the Digimon Adventure project had gotten off the ground, Digimon still didn’t have a set-in-stone concept, so the Digimon in that manga story feels very different from what we have now.
Watanabe: The Digimon characters were also very different (laughs).
Habu: Was Yabuno-san the one to come up with them?
Yabuno: They were based on Watanabe-san’s illustrations, but I was told that I could change the designs as I liked (laughs).
Habu: So they’re basically your own.
Yabuno: They are. They had names and characteristics set beforehand, but I was told “you can change it if you want,” so I thought, “okay, I’ll do that.”
Habu: There are Digimon like DeathAeromon and DeathMeramon in this oneshot, but in later appearances DeathMeramon is a completely different Digimon (laughs).
Watanabe: Back then, we couldn’t verify anything by email, so the only thing I could do was look at the finished product and go “oh, so that’s what it became.” The oneshot was published in Akamaru Jump, so I remember I was just excited to hear Digimon would be made into a manga in the first place.
Habu: Did serialization for Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 start shortly after you finished the oneshot?
Yabuno: I worked on something else for a while, but after that, I started drawing for Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01. Actually, I have an interesting story regarding me and Izawa-san (Hiroshi Izawa, writer and manga creator), who was the writer for the manga. Izawa-san and I have been friends since we were in our early twenties, and we were working our jobs separately, but when the time came for us to work on this manga, I was nervously waiting in the editorial department room for the person they’d told me would be the writer, and then Izawa-san appeared (laughs).
Habu: It really feels like destiny (laughs). So that’s how the manga serialization began. I also heard that Yabuno-san was the one who came up with the base concept when designing the protagonist, Taichi Yagami.
Yabuno: Nakatsuru-san (Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, animator and character designer for Digimon Adventure) was the one who drew the concept board, but since the manga was going to be serialized first, they decided to defer to me and use the character I’d designed.
Watanabe: I believe it was something like, they didn’t have a very strong idea for the anime’s protagonist, so they decided to talk to Yabuno-san and have him decide because the manga would come first.
Habu: Yabuno-san was also the one who suggested putting goggles on Taichi, right?
Yabuno: The early rough sketches have been published in the third volume of the ebook version, but I was thinking of having aerial battles as part of the manga’s climactic scenes. Taichi wears goggles because they’d be necessary for those kinds of aerial battles.
Habu: The tradition of having Digimon protagonists wear goggles started from here. Up until Digimon Savers‘ Masaru Daimon, all of the protagonists wear goggles. Incidentally, was Yabuno-san the one who came up with Taichi’s name?
Yabuno: I believe Izawa-san attended a meeting with Toei and discussed the name with the staff there.
Watanabe: I think Seki-san (Hiromi Seki, an animation producer affiliated with Toei Animation) was the one who decided on it. She was looking over all of the given names and surnames and deciding on if they would work.
Yabuno: The fact the protagonist has “-ichi” (“one”) in his name was a lucky coincidence, but since I wanted to give his partner the image of a fighter aircraft, I wanted him to have “zero” in his name. So as a result, the protagonist duo had “0” and “1” in their names, which was perfectly fitting for the digital theme. But since we couldn’t acquire a trademark for “Zero”, we changed the partner’s name to “Zeromaru”, and working from the protagonist’s “1” and the partner’s “00”1, they became the “100% duo”.
Habu: It really did work out perfectly. On that note, Yabuno-san was also the one who came up with V-dramon’s design, right?
Yabuno: I was.
Watanabe: Yabuno-san’s the one who came up with the V-dramon series. His V-dramon was so cute that when Digimon Adventure 02 came around, I felt I had to draw an even cuter version of that, so that’s how V-mon came to be.
Habu: I see. But the manga’s Zeromaru starts off at Adult level, right? Was there any particular reason you didn’t show his Child form?
Watanabe: There weren’t a lot of Child-level Digimon that could fight very well at the time. Besides, the manga only had Taichi and Zeromaru, while the TV anime was the one with lots of characters. I think they’d done what they did because they had a problem where if they didn’t revert to Child form, they wouldn’t be able to fit on the screen.
Habu: Even if it didn’t appear in the manga, did Yabuno-san have an idea of what Zeromaru’s Child form would be like, like V-mon?
Yabuno: I didn’t come up with anything for his Child form. But because it’s based off C’mon Digimon, there’s the aspect of “a pet dog” involved in it. Also, Taichi wears a black wristband, and that comes from the oneshot as well.
Habu: When did Kenji-san learn about V-dramon?
Watanabe: We had a meeting prior to the start of manga serialization, and that’s where I learned about V-dramon. I also got to see the rough draft, and I’m pretty sure I also got to see Izawa-san’s plot outline at that time. That was also when the TV anime had been confirmed, so I was looking over quite a lot of things.
Habu: On that note, I’d like to use this opportunity to ask about V-dramon’s design concept.
Yabuno: Kenji-san’s Digimon usually have pretty tough legs, but I drew him with the idea of a small carnivorous dinosaur in mind. There was also a fluffy dog as part of the original idea.
Watanabe: Right. I remember thinking he was like a cross between a dog and a dinosaur.
Habu: Did Yabuno-san consult Kenji-san when working on V-dramon’s design?
Watanabe: I gave him a little advice here in here, like suggesting adding a belt, but not that much in the end. Unless I have a very specific, clear image in mind, I generally don’t interfere with other people’s Digimon designs. Also, at the time, there weren’t any rules about what Digimon were supposed to look like, so I thought it’d be better to bring out more individuality from each artist who drew them.
Yabuno: I’m really grateful to have been allowed to draw the way I liked. I forgot whether it was from Watanabe-san’s advice or not, but I think was working from the idea that it’d be better to use a dog as a base in order to make it more Digimon-like, and it turned out this way after adding dinosaur-like traits.
Watanabe: You drew some other Digimon too, right? I’m the one who drew Angemon, but you’re the one who drew his later evolution, HolyAngemon.
Yabuno: Right, there was HolyAngemon, too.
Watanabe: We came up with that design together.
Habu: The manga was where HolyAngemon made his first appearance, right?
Yabuno: There were so few Digimon at the time, so I was given much more freedom to draw new Digimon back then.
Watanabe: Back in those early days, there weren’t a lot of orthodox evolution lines like Angemon to HolyAngemon.
Habu: Demon was also created by Yabuno-san, right?
Yabuno: In terms of design, yes. Izawa-san and I both wanted to create a final boss character together, so we decided to make Demon in such a way that it would be very easy to tell.
Habu: I imagine it’s easy to understand for fans who were following everything as it released in real life, but those who came in from the TV anime only probably wouldn’t know what’s going on as well.
Yabuno: Right. In fact, just the other day, I saw some interesting comments on the Internet. People who were reading the commentary part of the manga’s first chapter were confused and wondering “why is Taichi defeating a Greymon?” I saw those comments and thought, ah, I see.
Habu: Because in the TV anime, Greymon is the evolution of Taichi’s partner Agumon. It was also surprising to see that enemies that were treated as strong in the TV anime were basically so-called starter enemies in the manga.
Watanabe: Taichi’s partner, Zeromaru, was an Adult-level, so we felt we needed to make his opponents stronger than they were in the TV anime that had the characters at Child level.
Yabuno: Right. The manga has the premise that someone who raised a Digimon via an LCD toy goes to the Digital World as a Tamer, so even though it has the same Digimon Adventure name as the anime, it starts from a somewhat different base. So in order to highlight how they fight higher-leveled opponents as a duo, the manga has them fight opponents that are a rank higher than those of the TV anime.
Habu: The manga also has the Etemon known as Etemonkey show up from the very beginning. Was the manga also where his character originally came from?
Yabuno: Etemonkey was made to be “a Digimon who actually wants to be friends with the kids”, but there was already a character (?) named Digimonkey beforehand…
Watanabe: Weekly Jump had a character named Digimonkey in its Digimon corner. He’d participate in events wearing a costume, travel around the country, and get people hyped up about Digimon. Afterwards, Shueisha started this trend of making their staff officials into Digimon.
Yabuno: It was total chaos back then (laughs).
Watanabe: But that’s because we creators were having fun making them. We weren’t thinking about whether they’d be in an anime or manga, they just wanted to make something fun. We took Oyajitchi from Tamagotchi and made him into Nanimon, and because I thought Mojyamon kind of looked like Hongou-san, who was the head of the department at the time, his special attack name “Hang on Death” comes from “this is Hongou” (“Hongou desu“).
● A story distinct from that of the anime, one that focuses on battles between Tamers
Habu: I’d like to move on to asking about the story. Digimon overall lore wasn’t very thoroughly developed at the time, right?
Watanabe: We had some things we were sharing with Digimon World for the PlayStation, but conversely, that was probably the only thing that was that level of consistent.
Habu: How did you manage to expand the lore from there?
Yabuno: I met up with the editor in charge and Izawa-sensei for meetings about two or three times a month. We used the ideas we came up with as a base for the story, but the visuals were based on File Island from the game. At the time, I was young and didn’t have a lot of ideas to pull from in my head yet, but I remember going through what I did have for ideas.
Habu: How did you come up with the story?
Yabuno: I think I’d talk to Izawa-san and say something like, there’s this short story I like and I’d like make something like this, and then Izawa-san would come up with something in that direction. Izawa-san also worked on game narratives at the time, and RPGs were even more popular than they are now.
Habu: It definitely did feel like a video game. They went on an adventure in another world, defeating strong enemies, and they’d run into their human rival Neo Saiba while on their journey.
Yabuno: Right. Gomamon’s story was like that of a hero who saves a village in trouble, and Vamdemon’s story was like an escape game with the goal of getting out of a castle.
Habu: The story changed a lot in tone around the time Neo appeared. A lot more human characters started showing up.
Yabuno: During the battle with Neo in Volume 3, we reached the climax with an aerial battle using AeroV-dramon, which was what we’d initially wanted to do. Since the manga was going to continue, we were thinking about what to do next, and Izawa-san came up with the idea of the Alias III (three Tamers who agree with Neo’s ideals).
Habu: The TV anime still had them fighting against Digimon at the time, so it was refereshing to see a story about fighting against human Tamers. What made you decide to add more human characters?
Yabuno: We wanted to delve more into Tamer battles. When we started serializing the manga, we were particularly big on capturing the essence of the LCD toys. That meant nurturing Digimon by feeding them and taking care of them, and having battles between Tamers who fought with the Digimon they raised. We especially took care not to deviate from that essence, so I think it was only natural for us to end up going into Tamer battles.
Habu: Please tell us about any particular anecdotes you remember.
Yabuno: (after giving it some thought) I think the most memorable incident was regarding Chapter 22, “Butter-Fly”, from Volume 3. Unlike the TV anime, Taichi’s partner doesn’t revert to a lower form, so we had to be careful about when Zeromaru evolved, and this part is where he finally evolves. It was going to be a huge highlight of the story, so we had a difficult time figuring out how to link the story and the design together. But it was also the scene where we got to accomplish our goal of having Taichi put on his goggles and take part in an aerial battle, so I was mostly just glad that I was finally able to get to this point. Also, I remember I was drawing it with the idea that they’d be growing and evolving with the anime theme song “Butter-Fly” playing when he evolved. I think a lot of people have already noticed, but Zero’s silhouette is like that of a butterfly.
Habu: (going back through the manga) It really is a butterfly silhouette! I didn’t notice at all…
Yabuno: The way we show the evolution process is also very important, so even with Arkadimon, I designed the Ultimate form’s feelers in such a way that the evolution scene makes it look like a skull. The same goes for when it evolves into Super Ultimate.
Habu: I’m so sorry, I didn’t notice at all…
Yabuno: I put all of that into the evolution scene, so I was wondering what it would look like when Arkadimon evolves in the game, but…(laughs).
Habu: Regardless of which Digimon it is, it’s based on the same cutscene…We focused more on the movements in the special attacks, but the evolution scenes…I see…
Watanabe: Hey, but isn’t that just going to put more burden on what the game has to load? (laughs)
Yabuno: (laughs) But I haven’t been able to say anything about the evolution scenes for all these years, so I’m glad I could use this opportunity to say it in public.
Habu: It’d probably be difficult to pull off because evolving your ally Digimon naturally requires drawing from the same pool of effects, but it might be fun to consider future games having special versions of evolution scenes based on the story or if you meet certain conditions! I’m going to take this into account for the future. Anyway, returning to the topic, when you drew Zeromaru’s evolution scene in Chapter 22, the series had already been running for around two years, right?
Yabuno: When you put it that way, we really did hold back for a long time (laughs).
Habu: The TV anime has them evolve right away (laughs). Incidentally, was it decided from the very beginning that the series would be running for around two years?
Yabuno: There wasn’t a clear decision on how long it would run.
Watanabe: Back then, we didn’t know when the TV anime would start airing or how long it would run. Of course, we didn’t think the manga would end right away or anything.
Yabuno: But the TV anime got popular, so we saw that Digimon was in a comfortable enough position for me to put out Neo as a Tamer, and by the time of Chapter 22 we were taking our time with what we needed to do.
Habu: And so the series continued, but it was surprising to see Alias III member Hideto with an Omegamon. Omegamon is a symbol of the Digimon franchise, but in the manga, he’s an enemy character.
Yabuno: Hideto is a character who wavers between the sides of good and evil, so we picked Omegamon because we thought that would be a suitable choice for that kind of Tamer.
Watanabe: Oh, I remember that. They asked if they could use Omegamon as an enemy, so I said “please, go ahead.” Because Hideto wasn’t completely malicious and had a reason for his actions, and we were also discussing how we needed to have a character who was on equal footing with Zeromaru.
Habu: This came up in what Yabuno-san said earlier, but for the younger fans who didn’t know this happened in the manga, the idea of Omegamon and Taichi fighting is a pretty shocking thing. To all Digimon fans who haven’t read Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, you should take this opportunity to read the ebook version!
Yabuno: Thank you for promoting it (laughs). I would be very happy if people do.
Watanabe: I think this was also the first time we started using the word “Tamer” in something. Digimon World didn’t call the protagonist a Tamer, right?
Habu: It’s not in Digimon World, but it does show up in Digital Monster Ver. S ~Digimon Tamers~, which was released for the Sega Saturn in 1998. Chronologically, that was around the same time the manga began serialization, but do you remember how you decided on the word “Tamer’?
Yabuno: I’m pretty sure it was the Weekly Jump staff who used that word in their articles. I was a little hesitant to use the word at first, because it has a strong nuance of a master-servant relationship or an animal trainer, but I ended up developing an attachment to how cool it sounded, or perhaps more accurately the feel of originality it had.
Habu: Was Yabuno-san the one who came up with the “Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01” title?
Yabuno: Izawa-san and I came up with the title together.
Watanabe: But either way, I’m pretty sure Yabuno-san’s manga was the one that firmly established the word “Tamer” as a staple. The director of Digimon Tamers2 said that the name came from the manga, right?
Yabuno: Right. He did say that.
Habu: What did you think about the different Digimon anime series running in succession while the manga was still running?
Yabuno: Hmm, well, I’m the kind of person who’d rather stick to the original lore and concept without budging, and we were sticking with the LCD Digimon toys at the root, so I think I felt a sense of security, or rather, a sense that I wasn’t going to be wavering around too much.
Watanabe: It was a very enviable position from our perspective. The TV anime kept changing every year, and we had a hard time coming up with completely different lore each time (laughs). And when we came up with a new gimmick, it’d turn out to be clashing with someone else’s IP. It’d have been nice to be able to continue with the lore we originally conceived of to begin with.
Yabuno: I think there was also the fact that V-Jump had a very good working environment, so I could draw without worrying too much.
Habu: So you had a good dynamic with the editorial department. By the way, were there any Digimon you had particular fun drawing?
Yabuno: Rather than necessarily a Digimon, I like the part where Zeromaru gets his wings skewered by Omegamon and Gabo (Gabumon) and Igamon desperately run around trying to help him. I liked this duo of characters, especially as a Digimon duo.
Habu: Gabo had been following Taichi’s party from the beginning, and Igamon had also showed up here and there as well. Because he was Yabuno-san’s favorite, right? (laughs)
Yabuno: It was easy to fit him in different situations, and easy to make him go places, so I was very attached to him.
Watanabe: Was there a particular reason you picked Gabumon to join Taichi’s party on their adventure?
Yabuno: Among the early lineup of Digimon, Gabumon stood out with that fur pelt. And he was cute in appearance, too.
Habu: He really is (laughs). Also, can you please tell us about any anecdotes involving difficulties during serialization?
Yabuno: If I had to pick one, I think it’d be the time the Digivice 01 appeared in the manga. The deputy editor-in-chief at the time kept saying “it doesn’t feel digital enough.” I was told to make it an object that comes off as more digital. The deadline was approaching, I threw out all the rough drafts I’d made, and I was going between coffee shops with Izawa-san and the person in charge and talking with them all day long. It was a short time I had to pull it off, and I had to cram a lot of thigns in and the hurdles were pretty high, but I’m glad I was able to make good use of it in the story later and enhance the feeling that Taichi was fighting alongside Zeromaru3.
● The newest Digimon game features the Super Ultimate-level Arkadimon!
Habu: Now, I’d like to finally ask about Arkadimon, who’ll be appearing in Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth: Hacker’s Memory! Arkadimon plays a particularly important role in the manga, but was that something you’d decided on from the very beginning?
Yabuno: Hmm. I think Watanabe-san and the others were initially confused about the concept of Arkadimon’s “Super Ultimate” level, but since Ultiamte was officially treated as the strongest level at the top, we wanted to depict how Taichi and Zeromaru would fight something that was “Super Ultimate”. It was named Arkadimon when Neo appeared, and it comes from the fact it’s meant to be a Digimon that embodies Neo’s desire for a utopia (Arkadia).
Habu: I think Arkadimon is the first ever Super Ultimate. Who came up with this concept?
Yabuno: Izawa-san did. I mentioned earlier that Izawa-san was good at coming up with stories that felt like video games, so I think he came up with the idea of a story about defeating a Super Ultimate based on the line of thinking about what we’d do about the “true final boss”.
Watanabe: When they asked me if it’d be okay to make a Super Ultimate, I told them that it’d be fine to use it as a way to have an even stronger Digimon, but since the official lore only goes up to Ultimate, only particularly strong Digimon are treated as Super Ultimate.
Habu: Arkadimon also has a very unique design. Did you also have that planned out from the beginning?
Yabuno: No, I did initially think about building up suspense by having it slowly evolve little by little until it reached “Super Ultimate”, but I only thought about how to design it each time it made its appearance, starting from the Child form.
Watanabe: Yabuno-san drew a lot of Digimon with very unique designs. Even with the Child form, I thought, “how did he come up with this?” I really just think he’s amazing.
Yabuno: For the Child form, I put together the concept of a crustation with a slimy, gross feeling. Then, I used those two elements as a base to design the stronger forms.
Habu: Arkadimon’s Super Ultimate form looks a lot like a jellyfish, but is it really…?
Yabuno: It really is a jellyfish. I was fussing about how to design the Super Ultimate form until the very last minute. At first, I thought about making it a cool-looking humanoid form like UlforceV-dramon, but I saw a news program about a Nomura’s jellyfish on TV and suddenly thought “that’s perfect!” So I drew two sketches, one with a more humanoid design and one with a turtle shell-like rugged body with lots of jellyfish-like tentacles coming out of it. When I submitted the proposal, I was told “either would be fine,” so then I thought, “I’ll just mash them together, then,” and that’s how Arkadimon’s Super Ultimate design was finalized.
Watanabe: A lot of antagonist Digimon come from mashing things together.
Habu: I think it’d be pretty scary if you saw a giant enemy with a simple but eerie design, like the Super Ultimate Arkadimon, coming your way. I wanted Arkadimon to be in this game because the Super Ultimate design was very cool, and I wanted to show how terrifying it’d be if it appeared in the real world and you could see its size compared to things like buildings around it.
Yabuno: I got to see how it actually showed up in the game, and it really was amazing.
Habu: I think there’s a very special kind of thrill that comes from the terror when a giant Digimon apepars in the city, so in that sense I was very proud of being able to bring that side out of Arkadimon within the game, but hearing that from Yabuno-san himself makes me feel even more confident about it (laughs).
Yabuno: Also, in regards to Arkadimon, every time I reread the story, I remember how amazing Izawa-san is as a writer. Arkadimon and UlforceV-dramon are meant to be foils in the story. Arkadimon uses a special move called Dot Matrix, which disassembles things into 0s and 1s, while UlforceV-dramon uses a power called Ulforce, which regenerates things from the 0s and 1s. V-dramon starts off with the lore that he’s an ancient species with a short lifespan, but then it turned out the short lifespan was because of his emotional ups and downs resulting in lots of overwriting (rewriting the 0s and 1s), and thanks to his bond with his Tamer, he overcomes that and obtains the power of Ulforce (regeneration). And so the two powers of “disassemble” and “regenerate” become the core of the latter half of the story…Very excellent job, Izawa-san.
Watanabe: That was really exciting, wasn’t it? The manga had been going for a long time, and things were happening with the characters. I was reading it, looking forward to seeing how they would execute each part. Back then everyone was basically doing their own thing, or more accurately making every part from scratch. At the time, we weren’t that much of a multimedia franchise yet. So it was a lot of fun to see the synergistic effect each work had on another.
Habu: Manga has its own special advantages in being able to use this kind of lore in such a good way. Speaking of which, Yabuno-san also designed Parallelmon, right?
Yabuno: I did.
Habu: I’d like to have Parallelmon in a game someday. Also, I’d like to have Callismon show up as an evolved version of Grizzmon as part of the Bearmon line.
Yabuno: Please do if you get the chance (laughs).
Habu: Absolutely! So, in closing, please leave a message for the fans!
Yabuno: I’m very happy that Arkadimon’s being featured in a video game. I was shown video footage, and it reproduces most of it with great detail, so I could tell how committed the development staff was to this. I really want the fans to get to see it too. Arkadimon is tightly linked to Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01‘s themes, so if you’ve played the game or have read this interview and are interested, please do go and read it!!
Tenya Yabuno-sensei’s Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, 9 volumes in total
A must-see masterpiece for Digimon fans! Now on sale as an e-book!!
Please take this opportunity to check it out! ↓↓↓
- Since “maru“, literally meaning “circle”, can also be used to represent “0”, “Zeromaru” can be rendered as “00”.
- “The director of Digimon Tamers” = Most likely referring to series director Yukio Kaizawa.
- The original text seems to have a typo here, referring to Zeromaru as the “01” (like the Digivice) instead of with his name.
- Most likely another typo here in the original text, rendering this as “Override”.