Digimon Ghost Game Animate Times Mutsumi Tamura and Miyuki Sawashiro interview

(Full title: “Interview with Hiro Amanokawa’s voice actress Mutsumi Tamura-san and Gammamon’s voice actress Miyuki Sawashiro-san from TV anime Digimon Ghost Game: What are the innovations and charm points of this series, according to these two?”)

A translation of this Animate Times article from October 2, 2021, featuring an interview with voice actresses Musumi Tamura (Hiro) and Miyuki Sawashiro (Gammamon) about their work in Digimon Ghost Game.

What is the charm of the latest series of "Digimon Ghost Game" by Mutsumi Tamura and Miyuki Sawashiro?

The latest Digimon series Digimon Ghost Game will begin on October 3, 2021! This is a series of interest that brings in innovations to the series, such as mysterious phenomena and an episodic format, in a story where the protagonist, Hiro, is entrusted Gammamon by his father and becomes involved in various mysterious phenomena.

With the broadcast just about to begin, Mutsumi Tamura-san, who plays the protagonist Hiro Amanokawa, and Miyuki Sawashiro-san, who plays Gammamon, have talked with us about what new innovations the series brings, its standout points, their characters, and what to look out for!

The Digimon series stands out for its cuteness, its process of evolution, and its characters overflowing with humanity

–Since both of you have already been involved with the Digimon franchise before1, please tell us your impressions of the Digimon franchise and why it’s been beloved for so long.

Mutsumi Tamura-san, voice of Hiro Amanokawa (hereinafter, Tamura): I like how Digimon has both cool and cute aspects to it.

Miyuki Sawashiro-san, voice of Gammamon (hereinafter, Sawashiro): Did you wish for your own partner as a kid?

Tamura: I did! It was fun to see them fighting together as partners, and I had fun with the Digivices, too. When I was in elementary school, I’d sneak it around and play with all of the Digimon on there. The anime started broadcasting around that time, and I was really happy to see the Digimon I played with in the game showing up in the anime. The characters were also fascinating and overflowing with humanity. They bickered a lot, but they would get along in the end. That childish heart of mine was thinking “ah, how passionate.”

Sawashiro: Digimon are also cool when they evolve. I had a strong impression of the Digimon Adventure opening song, “Butter-Fly”, sung by Kouji Wada-san.

Tamura: Whenever that song plays, you immediately think “oh, it’s Digimon!”

Sawashiro: I feel that the charm of Digimon is encapsulated in “Butter-Fly”, and that it’s a song that supports Digimon’s culture.

Digimon Ghost Game as a combination of Digimon and the mysterious, with a different sense from past works, such as the lack of battling and the episodic format

–Please tell us your impressions after going through the materials and scripts for Digimon Ghost Game.

Tamura: I think it’s managed to have a completely different feel from any of the prior Digimon series. Here, Digimon are fundamentally invisible to humans. I found it interesting to see Digimon making mischief and being humans treat them as unexplained strange phenomena.

Sawashiro: On the cover of our scripts, the Digimon who are supposed to be our allies are depicted as silhouettes. When you see them this way, they seem scary, but then you see them properly in the light and they come when they’re called, so even if you’re surprised, you can’t bring yourself to close the door on them. Somehow, I personally feel that this is actually one of the important messages being told to the kids.

When they’re in the dark, they seem like a menace, but if you get close enough to touch them and hear what they have to say, you may be able to befriend them. I personally like beginning with the theme of the importance of properly understanding the other side. It also makes it feel like GeGeGe no Kitaro2. (laughs)

Digimon Ghost Game also adds new elements to the series, such as ghosts and holograms.

Tamura: The combination of “Digimon” and “strange mysteries” is pretty fresh and new. Up until now, I’d had the impression that the series involved going to the Digital World and fighting against enemies there, but in this series, Digimon come to the human world and cause things to happen. However, it seems that the Digimon aren’t necessarily trying to scare people or do wrong things, so I thought it was new to see that there didn’t seem to be a definitive enemy.

Sawashiro: Up until the time we started recording, it didn’t seem like there was any mastermind behind the scenes…Each Digimon is trying to enjoy itself, but it ends up having some impact on humans, and the humans feel like they’re being tormented. I wonder if they’ll get involved in a grand adventure from this point on?

Tamura: If so, it seems hard to do that and make it a series where each episode is self-contained.3 Up until now, there’d always been a main line of the story that everyone had constantly been on the move progressing towards. So this series might be easier for those who are coming in to watch it for the first time.

A little worried about playing Hiro in such a plain manner!? And Gammamon expressing his emotions with a simple “oh~!”?

–Please tell us about your impressions about the visual designs, such as the ones for the Digimon.

Tamura: Gammamon really is cute. Gammamon is so cute that when I realized “so this little guy is my partner?”, I immediately felt at ease.

Sawashiro: When I looked at the art for the characters, I immediately thought “have kids always been this tall?” because up until this point there’s been a lot of elementary school kids as the main characters4, but here there’s middle school students, and I was surprised and thought, “oh wow, they’re more grown-up kids now.”

–What’s your impression of your character, and is there anything you pay particular attention to when you play them?

Tamura: Hiro is the kind of character who’s not usually the kind you see as a protagonist. He has an inquisitive spirit, but he’s more of a modern kid and very cool-headed. He’s not the kind of person who clearly expresses his emotions, so before recording, I received direction to play him as “fairly restrained”, but when I actually started recording, I started worrying that he really didn’t give off much of a strong impression.

Sawashiro: You were scared he might end up just becoming Student A (laughs).

Tamura: Basically that! I think it should be fine because they gave me the go-ahead, but I’m still a little nervous about whether it’s okay to play him so plainly (laughs).

Sawashiro: Prior to the recording, Chioka-san5 told me that Gammamon is a character who often has an “oh!” at the beginning of his sentences, but because he does it in the sense that he’s a young boy who can’t quite verbalize his feelings yet, I was asked to play a wide range of varied and different emotions in that “oh!” So I play his lines with trial and error, thinking that it’d be nice if I could express him with a different tone each time.

He’s the kind of character who uses his instinct instead of reason, so I try to play him freely and casually so that my performance doesn’t come off as being too bound by logic. As I listen to Hiro-kun’s lines, I’m playing Gammamon’s lines one by one as he gets more and more excited by the world, so I hope that’ll come across.

Gammamon is a shot to the heart when played by Sawashiro-san! Sawashiro-san is looking forward to spending a long time with Hiro

–Please tell us about your impression of each other’s characters, and about their interactions.

Tamura: Gammamon is really cute! He looks cute, and his voice is cute too. Sawashiro-san plays him with a young boy’s voice, and it’s shocking how she can play such a cute little boy who seems to still be learning how to talk.6 “She can do this kind of performance, too!?”

Sawashiro: I hope I’ll be able to get better at this over time.

Tamura: You’re already more than good enough!

Sawashiro: Thank you. Hiro-kun isn’t the hot-blooded kind of character, and if we’re to talk in terms of Sentai colors7, he doesn’t seem to have particularly high aspirations like a blue Ranger would, either…

Tamura: He might be more like yellow or green. But yellow feels more like a gluttonous character, so maybe green?8 He doesn’t seem to know what he really likes himself.

Sawashiro: That might be right. That makes him a character with a fine sense of realism, but it’ll mean Mucchan9 will have to put a lot of effort into playing him. As we were having meetings with Chioka-san and the others, I watched how his character slowly came together in the span of only a single episode, and I thought, “wow, I actually get to spend a whole year with this boy…!”, and I started really looking forward to it.

The surprising topic that got everyone hyped up during the recording break was…?

–Please tell us about any incidents you particularly remember from the recording.

Tamura: I was very nervous because I was working with a lot of senior voice actors, but Sawashiro-san acted as a bridge between me and my seniors, making it easier for us to talk. Although when I asked Sawashiro-san about it, she said she hadn’t particularly intended to do that…

Sawashiro: I personally think it doesn’t really matter whether you’re older or younger, since in the end we’re all eating at the same table.

Tamura: But there were a lot of senior voice actors I’d never gotten to talk to much before.

Sawashiro: I have a ton of respect for Ishida-san (Akira Ishida-san, who plays Kiyoshiro Higashimitarai), but it’s pretty hard to talk to him, isn’t it? (laughs) Like you can’t just go up to him and blurt out “were you into things like po** when you were little?”

Tamura: Yeah, I see. Asking that would make you sound pretty silly.

Sawashiro: We had to do social distancing during the recording break for episode 1, but we still had a lot of fun talking because it’d been a while since we could discuss things like this.

Tamura: Right now there’s a limitation on how many people can be recording together at any one recording site, so it’s pretty hard to have those kinds of conversations.

Sawashiro: Adding onto the topic I was talking about earlier, since Hiro-kun and his friends are in middle school, we’d brought up the question of “what was it like for you in middle school?”, and somehow it went to the topic of “po**”…

Tamura: Gammamon’s basically supposed to be a young boy, so Sawashiro-san wanted to ask him “what’s it like to be a ten-year-old boy?”, and then we talked about how he might be happy to talk about that kind of thing with us. And then we thought, even back when he was a kid, Ishida-san was probably still that Ishida-san, so there’s no way he’d say that kind of thing.

Sawashiro: I wasn’t one of the ones who actively spoke up, but Mucchan was, so I thought, “okay then, let’s listen to what he has to say!” You don’t get to have these kinds of conversations often.

Tamura: Right (laughs).

You might get to see Digimon do all sorts of things!? Also, look out for the relationship between Hiro and Gammamon!

–Please tell us about things to look out for or pay attention to in Digimon Ghost Game.

Sawashiro: Mainly, I’m interested in the “Game” in the title.

Production representative: This series is not a story about fighting, but rather about what happens with the Digimon in the story, which constitutes a “game” in a broader sense.

Tamura: Right. Even being able to live daily life alongside Digimon is like a game.

Sawashiro: I see.

Tamura: Prior Digimon series had a stronger image of going on an adventure and fighting, but here, you can see more of how they do various ordinary things with the Digimon.

Sawashiro: Like going to the convenience store with a Digimon? That seems really fun. The way I see it, the most fascinating parts of this series are the ghost story and horror parts. Kids like things that are a little scary, after all. “I don’t want to see it, yet I end up watching it anyway.” It gets you excited in a different way from before, in the way that it makes you think, if they use those channels and buttons unique to children, they could find a way to befriend them. It makes you tense and excited because they’re not so much enemies as much as they’re like ghosts.

–We’re also interested in seeing how the relationship between Hiro and Gammamon will change.

Tamura: Hiro and Gammamon seem to be like brothers. Hiro’s dad entrusted him with Gammamon and told him “he’s your little brother, so take care of him.” He’s not a human, but he was still told “that’s how it works, so take care of him.” With that as a starting point, I think their bonds will slowly become stronger and they’ll become more like brothers, but what does it mean to be like brothers when they’re a human and a Digimon? It’s interesting how they’re described in ways different from the equal working buddy relationship that partners would usually have.

Sawashiro: There was a part where they were in sync with each other, and I was thinking as I recorded it, “this really is the charm of being working partners!” I’m also interested in what kind of relationships the other characters and their Digimon will have with their partners, too. It seems like some kids won’t even have a working buddy relationship with them in the first place…! On the contrary, Kiyoshiro seems to be more like the subordinate to his own Digimon? (laughs) I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Tamura: I feel like the Digimon franchise has already involved a lot of conversations between partners up until this point, but for this series it’s more like a set of three Digimon and three humans. I heard there’ll be quite a few conversations between pairs that aren’t partners.

Sawashiro: They wrote “we’re going to approach it differently as needed.” I thought, “huh, I’m looking forward to that.”

Tamura: You can feel all sorts of possibilities.

An episodic anime means it’s easy to watch. But first, let’s go watch the first episode “The Sewn-lip Man”!

–Please leave a message for those who are looking forward to the broadcast.

Tamura: Right now, even we’re still at a point where we don’t know how many characters or Digimon will be showing themselves, but even the three we’ve already seen, including Hiro, have their own unique charms to them, and I think it’ll be fun to see how many more kinds of Digimon will be involved in this story. Since it uses an episodic format, it’ll be easy to watch, so I hope both Digimon fans and those who haven’t even touched Digimon for will feel free to come watch and get drawn into it.

Sawashiro: In terms of being part of Digimon’s long-time culture, I’m just taking off running with a sense of nervousness and joy by getting to participate in this series. The character I play, Gammamon, is an energetic and bright character who doesn’t have any of those things we’ve been talking about at all (laughs).

He may not have any of the ghostly elements, but I’m going to play the role as if I’m going to meet the audience every week with Gammamon, and I hope we can make lots of friends in front of the TV or computer monitor. For now, please go and check out the first episode. The first episode’s title is “The Sewn-lip Man”, which really is just a ghost story title (laughs).

Tamura: It’s scary, isn’t it? It’s the kind of title you wouldn’t expect for something from the Digimon series.

Sawashiro: Please look forward to seeing what kind of story it’ll become!

Translator's notes
  1. Tamura had previously played Koushirou Izumi in Digimon Adventure tri. and LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna, while Sawashiro had previously played Yuma Kagura in Digimon Savers Another Mission and Mirei Mikagura in various Digimon video games. []
  2. GeGeGe no Kitaro = An anime originally based a 1960 manga by Shigeru Mizuki named Graveyard Kitaro, featuring a child named Kitaro who goes on a number of strange adventures with ghosts, spirits, and youkai. The story has been adapted by Toei Animation into no less than (as of this writing) seven different anime series, each with different takes on the source material. At the time of this press release, the most recent series had been from 2018, in the same timeslot that Ghost Game would eventually occupy. In this iteration, Sawashiro herself had played its version of the protagonist Kitaro, and the series had received acclaim for its high focus on horror, its in-depth discussion of evils in modern human society, and its portrayal of bridging the gap between humans and youkai. []
  3. Ghost Game is referred to as having an “1話完結” (“ichi-wa kanketsu“) structure, literally meaning “resolved in one episode”, referring to a format in which some major subplot must be introduced and resolved in each episode, making it easier for newcomers to jump in at any time or miss an episode without getting lost or turned off by cliffhangers; ongoing subplots or arcs that span several episodes are possible, but each individual episode’s immediate plot cannot be overly dependent on them to be understandable. Some Digimon series prior to Ghost Game are often said to have used this structure for various portions, but none of them had particularly advertised themselves on having it as a core format. The aforementioned Kitaro was also notable for having this format. []
  4. Of the Digimon TV anime series, Adventure through Frontier had mainly centered around elementary school students, but, with the exception of the Adventure: reboot, all other series between Savers and Ghost Game had centered around middle school students. []
  5. “Chioka-san” = Referring to Masatoshi Chioka, director for Ghost Game. []
  6. Gammamon is a very rare kind of role for Sawashiro, whose career in voice acting is mostly known for characters with a more cool-headed disposition. []
  7. “Sentai colors” = Referring to tokusatsu series Super Sentai, known in the West as the base for Power Rangers. Each member of a Sentai squadron is associated with a color, and, while not fully binding, it is common to have associations between each character’s personality and assigned color. Blue is often associated with a more cool-headed type who holds themself to a high standard. []
  8. While the stereotype has been less common in modern Sentai, older series used to associate yellow with a more gluttonous character, whereas green has historically and currently been associated with a more easygoing type. []
  9. “Mucchan” = Tamura’s common nickname from her coworkers and fans. []

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