An interview from the Digimon Official Super Encyclopedia (デジモン公式超図鑑) published on April 4, 2003 (one month after Digimon Frontier had finished airing). The interview is with perennial series staff members Hiromi Seki, Hiroyuki Kakudou, and Yukio Kaizawa, covering production behind Digimon Adventure, Adventure 02, Tamers, and Frontier.
From the Toei Animation Planning Department. Producer for the Digimon series. Involved in a number of works including The Secrets of Akkochan, Magical Taluluto, Marmalade Boy, and Magical DoReMi.
Freelance director. Series director for Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02. Also involved as an individual episode director for Tamers and Frontier. Main works as a director include Bikkuriman: The First Saints/Demons Great War, Rokudenashi Blues 1993, and Slam Dunk: Shouhoku’s Greatest Danger! Sakuragi Hanamichi. He also co-authored the Digimon Adventure novel series with Hiro Masaki. (Three parts, from the Shoueisha Super Dash Collection)
Director from the Toei Animation Production Department. Series director for Digimon Tamers and Digimon Frontier. Main works as a director include Hell Teacher Nube (the TV series) and School is Scary!
An interview with the producer and directors of the four Digimon TV series! Packed with behind-the-scenes stories and secret behind production!
The creators who brought forth the Digimon TV series!
The start of something made by a sudden pitch!
–Please tell us how production for Digimon Adventure got started.
Seki: It was something like February or March of 1998 that Bandai called on us and proposed a TV show about their portable game, “Digital Monster”. Bandai had already consulted with V-Jump, and asked if someone could draw the designs for them. In actuality, I think the first one they contacted about this was Toriyama-sensei1. But Toriyama-sensei was tied up with an ongoing series and too busy at the time, and they contacted us knowing we had an artist who could draw similarly to Toriyama-sensei.2 So we brought (Katsuyoshi) Nakatsuru-kun on to do the art, and started talking about making an original story for the TV show.
–Was there a particular request for what kind of series you needed to make?
Seki: There wasn’t anything like that. There were a lot of different kinds of Digimon, and there wasn’t even a particularrequest for what kind of Digimon they wanted to focus on selling. The only thing really established was that the monsters were going to be in it, and that it would be good to have the kids who were watching it be able to empathize with it, so we decided to make it a sort of adventure-style narrative, where human children would also be involved, and that they would be partnered up with Digimon.
–So Taichi was the first character developed, then.
Seki: Actually, that was on V-Jump’s part, since this was meant to be a multimedia franchise. We had talks about having V-Jump running something alongside our TV show, so we consulted with (Tenya) Yabuno-san and (Hiroshi) Izawa-san. Yabuno-san and Nakatsuru-kun started experimenting with things together and ultimately came up with something.
–Was it planned definitively from the start to have eight children?
Seki: No, it was initially seven.
Kakudou: Even before that, we had a dispute over whether we should have five or six. In actuality, back when Yabuno-san and Nakatsuru-kun were working together, we hadn’t even come to a definitive decision on how many characters we were going to have. The only thing particularly determined at the time was the lead protagonist. I believe Yabuno-san was the one who had the idea to give him goggles, so things like the goggles and hairstyle came from Yabuno-san. From there, they started talking about how to make those things work in the design.
–How did you decide on the other characters?
Seki: We decided that we really did want an odd number of characters, and so from there we felt we wanted to have either five or seven characters. But if we had five characters we’d only be able to put in one girl, and having only one girl felt like it wouldn’t be exciting enough of a story, and so I believe we decided on having seven characters because we really wanted to have two of them be girls.
Kakudou: There were many different kinds of Digimon in the portable games, and so we felt we wanted to make the other characters correspond to those types, and worked starting from there.
We wanted them to all have equal prominence
–Naturally, since it was the first series, you weren’t working with anything beforehand, so you had to build the world from scratch, right?
Kakudou: I believe the backdrop of File Island was already there. The games had a loosely-defined map, so we decided to start from there.
Seki: What would happen to kids who end up in another world? It wouldn’t just be an “adventure”, but a whole year where they would become able to do things they couldn’t before, and the way they would grow as humans would be tied to the way the Digimon evolve.
Kakudou: When we were thinking about “why they evolve”, we realized that if we tied it to the respective character’s growth, it’d make the character even more prominent.
Seki: When you first see a monster character, your first thought is to think of it as “scary”, so we had to think about how to get those kinds of “scary” monsters to be likeable. We wondered if maybe they’d be lovable once we tied them to human drama. After that, I requested Kakudou-kun to come on board, because he’d worked on quite a few things as a director, and among them was Bikkuriman in particular.
–Were Taichi and Yamato planned as the primary characters?
Kakudou: Not quite. For instance, in Cyborg 009, 009 is really the only character who gets to do anything, and I personally really hate that kind of thing. I thought, wouldn’t it be nice for the more ordinary characters to get a bit of the spotlight once in a while? So for Digimon Adventure, one of the first things I was careful about was that everyone should get an equal amount of time to shine, and we wanted them to have a mostly equal share of defeating enemies, and that was my fundamental stance on the matter. So we decided to have each character have their own partner Digimon, and made it so they’d all alternate places getting their own featured evolution sequences, and distributed everything evenly among them, so, conversely, please think of it as something that was part of the base composition to begin with.
–Was it decided from the beginning that Hikari would join midway through?
Kakudou: When we were discussing whether to keep the story within the Digital World or not, we eventually came to a discussion about “we have to return to the real world at least once.” Like the episode “The Skies of Tokyo”, from Aura Battler Dunbine. I haven’t actually seen Dunbine myself, but in that episode everyone ends up going home together and realizes that they need to return. But when we were tweaking the balance of characters, we eventually decided to have them all return later, and for the time being have Taichi return by himself first. Once that decision was made, the story from the movie was brought up, along with the fact that Hikari’s existence had already been established. Hikari was naturally tied to Taichi, so we decided to make an episode about her.
Moving on from the traditional series, to the sequel, 02!
–Incidentally, around what time was it decided to start producing 02?
Seki: Around seven months after the first series had started. To put it simply, the first Digivice had come out somewhere between the end of June and July, and the product ended up selling like hotcakes. So the moment it became clear it was selling, it was decided that we were going to go for another year (laughs).
Kakudou: It was around the time we were about to wrap up the Tokyo arc of the story, and it was then we already started talking about what the background behind the second series would be.
–Did you decide from the beginning that it would be a full-on sequel?
Kakudou: We actually had a dispute over it. We considered maybe just making an entirely new story…
Seki: It actually dragged on for quite a bit…
Kakudou: There was a ton of ideas, like making the sequel set the day after the first series’s final episode…
Seki: First, we had to decide on how many people there would be. The first series had already gained a lot of popularity, and we wondered if it’d be okay to just get rid of such popular characters. But if we were going to make a new series, we wanted there to be new characters. And on top of that, all at the same time, we were talking about wanting to make sure it was still an adventure, and that there still had to be growth, and they still needed to gain the power to solve their problems. So we settled into a decision where we took the two youngest children from the first series, Takeru and Hikari, and added them to a group of three new characters, making a group of five for a brand-new series.
Kakudou: And as for our story structure, we were thinking about what kind of stories we could add onto the already-established things from the first series. We already had a lot going on, but we went in with the idea “let’s just be shameless about it and try it out.”
Seki: It was a common understanding that we should just push on with the story, without being ashamed of anything.
–Ken’s recollection scene had a certain character named Ryou appear in it.
Seki: I think it had some kind of relation to one of the second series’s movies. When we were working on the second series’s summer movie with (Director) Yamauchi-san, we actually had a lot of different proposals for the plot. One of the first proposals we came up with had Ryou-kun appear in it, and I’m certain the theme of the movie even had some slogan like “there’s a Digimon waiting for you.” Think of it like some kind of imaginary plot that’s since vanished. So we were planning to go with this until the beginning of February, but then it all eventually fell through. We figured, okay, this is probably too sad for a summer movie. Somewhere along the line there it must have ended up picking up a really sad aura…
The form of the new Digimon series
–The final episode of 02 depicted everyone as adults. How was it decided that the third series would be set in an entirely new universe?
Kakudou: The final episode of 02 was set 25 years after 02, and 28 years after Adventure. We had decided on this all the way back in Adventure.
–And how was Kaizawa-san brought on…?
Kaizawa: I was first brought on as a result of the decision to make a completely different series. They wanted to get someone who had never seen Digimon before at all (laughs). So they got me, since I’d never seen it before. That way, they could get someone who didn’t know anything at all, and tell me “all right, so let’s make something completely different.”
–From the very episode, the atmosphere had changed quite starkly, to something quite solemn…
Kaizawa: I didn’t actually have any particular awareness that the atmosphere had changed so much (laughs). The one who was consciously trying to make it different was probably the lead writer, (Chiaki) Konaka-san. Konaka-san had been watching the prior series for a while, and had even written a single episode for 02, the one about Dagomon.
–On top of completely changing the cast of characters, even the designs for their faces has changed.
Kaizawa: They had. Konaka-san and Nakatsuru-kun were talking about how to make the series’s atmosphere a little different from that of the first and second series, and that they wanted to change the art style for the characters a bit, too. There were quite a few interesting things among all of the rough drafts, and it ended in the current result.
–Did you go in with the intention of having three protagonists?
Kaizawa: We did. Konaka-san is the type who likes to strike off with a smaller number of characters, saying that if you don’t start off with a smaller number it might get hard to follow. So instead, we added more characters and increased our number of Tamers later.
–The Digimon were featured for a large part of the series.
Kaizawa: Of course, this goes for the Tamers too, but there were a number of wonderful Digimon characters, and when we were thinking about how to portray them, we felt it’d be good to depict how they would reflect back on the humans and how the humans would reflect back on them. For instance, if a monster like Guilmon were to appear in front of you, how would that first meeting go, and also how would you hide him from the public? We wanted to get this kind of feel in our Digimon series.
–Like the depiction of daily life, such as having to hide him in a box and smuggle him to school because his parents work at a bakery.
Kaizawa: In the end, the most precious part is the first point of contact between a Digimon and a human. If we do a proper job depicting that point of contact, it becomes something closer to the world of the children…Children don’t generally care about things that are too distant from them, so it’s vital that we keep things within reach of a child’s range of play. So the point of contact has to be somewhere “close”, and we wanted to depict it in that way.
–Was that one of the reasons you involved the actual card game in it?
Kaizawa: The one who wanted the card game in there was actually Bandai (laughs). “Let’s have them go ‘Card Slash!'” But we managed to make Card Slash look really cool, and I think it turned out for the best. It’s a good combination, right?
Seki: Like with all the poses. They make you get really excited.
Kaizawa: The song for Card Slash is also really good, too.
–Terriermon had already appeared in one of the movies, and was quite popular.
Seki: I was saying that we had to get Terriermon in there, no matter what (laughs). It wasn’t actually Bandai who brought him up. He was a monster born from Yamauchi-san’s storyboards. In other words, it wasn’t something that had been that planned in advance. He’d drawn him in the storyboards, and by the time WiZ came to look over the storyboards to supervise the monsters, it was too late to follow the usual procedure. But the monster turned out to be very popular, and although the movie itself ended up being said to be a bit hard to understand, Terriermon’s popularity was incredible. I said earlier that “the plot with Ryou-kun fell through~”, but Terriermon was actually still planned to be in that one too. So Ryou-kun’s partner Digimon might have actually been Terriermon…
–Incidentally, is Ryou Akiyama the same as the Ryou from 02…?
Seki: Of course he is (laughs).
Kakudou: I’ve said this before in some other interview, but I was really shocked. Like, wait, really? (laughs)
Kaizawa: He appeared in 02 based on what was going on at the time, right?
Seki: He did, he did.
Kaizawa: We cast (Junichi) Kanemaru-san as Ryou Akiyama’s voice actor. He had a really bright and refreshing voice, so as soon as we’d casted him, we ended up deciding to give him that kind of personality. Like, “oh, that refreshing guy” (laughs).
Seki: If Ryou-kun had actually been in the 2000 summer movie, he might not have ended up with that kind of refreshing personality.
Kaizawa: We had some kind of trouble with voice acting when it came to Ryou Akiyama. Cyberdramon was voiced by (Ikkei) Seta-san3, so normally, when Cyberdramon evolves into Justimon, Seta-san should be the one to do the voice. But in actuality, Ryou Akiyama’s voice actor, Kanemaru-san, was the one to do it. The reason for this is that when Justimon shows up, he’s a really “cool” character, and he’s kind of like some kind of transforming hero…so we thought, if he’s going to greet them with that refreshing “hey guys!”, that’s more of a thing suited to Kanemaru-san’s voice. Seta-san was like, “why not me?…” It’s a pretty funny story.
The presentation of the Digital World, and the D-Reaper
-The Digital World also had a very different image from the one it had before…
Kaizawa: Well, mainly because I had no concept of what was there before (laughs). We wondered what it’d be like when they first passed through the sea of data. It’s like, the real world looks like a perfect sphere, but there’s a whole wilderness underneath it. The network that we use in the Real World is still being used in a comparatively organized fashion, but the data spilling from it leaks and is wasted. We talked a lot about how data scraps might be collected and homes created, and, if it really were like a wilderness, there’d be dust packets rolling around, and it’d be a pretty desolate place.
Seki: For Adventure, we didn’t actually manage to give off as much of a “digital-esque” atmosphere. Tamers was set in the real world from the beginning, and they knew that there was a Digital World even back then, but in Adventure, they didn’t originally know that it was a Digital World, and were wondering if “going back” meant just going back to Tokyo or Japan. If we’d made it too “digital-esque” from the beginning, the question “are we in some kind of game world?” might come up, and it wouldn’t be as linked to the feeling of wanting to go home, so we couldn’t do that. But in actuality, the Digital World of Tamers and the Digital World of Adventure aren’t that different. Tamers getting to go harder on the digital aspect is a bit enviable…
–Did you decide on the concept of the D-Reaper at the beginning?
Kaizawa: No, it wasn’t one of the first things we came up with.
Seki: No, no, it wasn’t there at all.
Kaizawa: We were conversing with Bandai to make the Four Holy Beasts the final enemies of the series, but ultimately it was Konaka-san who changed the story into its current form. So I was actually quite surprised at how things turned out (laughs).
Seki: We called on (Kenji) Watanabe-san from WIZ, and it was the first time he got to design a monster without considering how it’d be made part of a toyline. Of course, there were still the cards and print products too, but this time he really didn’t have to account for it being made into something three-dimensional at all, and that resulted in the D-Reaper. It ended up difficult to actually draw, but, on the other hand, it ended up having a different aura from any of the other Digimon designs that had existed up to that point…I think it was the kind of taste that WIZ’s Watanabe-san actually had from the very beginning, and his passion for it came out really strongly.
–Was its relation to Juri and Beelzebumon also decided on afterwards?
Seki: It was. Once we’d figured out the D-Reaper, Juri ended up taking that position in the story…where Leomon had died.
Kakudou: Before we’d gotten the D-Reaper involved in the story, we had a lot of concerns about whether we should kill Leomon or not, didn’t we?
Frontier‘s original basis was Sentai!?
–Moving the topic to Frontier, there was another huge swerve in terms of its fundamental concept.
Seki: We were talking about dropping the human and partner relationship for this one. Tamers had already been a huge shift from 02, so I personally felt we should have something even more different. The part we struggled with the most was how the humans would evolve into Digimon…Also, when the humans returned to their human world in the last episode, those Digimon that they evolved into would not be able to remain in this world. We wondered if they wouldn’t be able to remain in the Digital World. But that just felt a bit wrong, and so we wondered how the Digimon would continue to keep living on in a way that felt right, and so we had them remain in the Digital World once it had settled into peace while the humans returned to the human world. So in other words, we established in the final episode that “even though the humans and Digimon were the same being, they really were partners after all,” and that felt much more satisfying.
–How did you decide on the main characters?
Seki: The image I started off in my head with was to have them be like Sentai4 heroes, so that meant we’d naturally have to have five of them, right? And one of them would have to be a girl. The pink one, the pink one (laughs).5 And then there’d be a whole hierarchy system of enemies, and they’d have the ability to grow into giants, and it’d end up being like that (laughs).
Kaizawa: One of the biggest changes happened with Junpei Shibayama, who was the fat character6, but originally he wasn’t supposed to be the fat character all the way to the end, and we were going to make him really cool. Like, by the end of the story he’d end up losing weight and be as cool as Kouji was. We really wanted to do that (laughs).
Seki: But there was no logical way to lead up to it. Like, we were saying, “so how is he going to lose weight!?” Well, there was some talk about having him go on a workout regimen and come out all good-looking, now that I think about it.
Kaizawa: So then his feelings for Izumi-chan…
Seki: She might have returned them. Yeah, she might. Maybe we really should have had him do the workout after all. Sorry, Junpei-kun (laughs).7
Kaizawa: Also, we had to have someone who changes sides from enemy to ally, and if we’re going to do that, it’s gotta be someone’s twin sibling, right?8 We were basically trying to make it into a story with the most conventional tropes.
–Takuya Kanbara is the protagonist, but at one point Kouji gets an evolution earlier than he does.
Kaizawa: He does…But even that’s pretty conventional. If the protagonist doesn’t keep continuously running, if they end up falling behind a bit, the secondary protagonist can push harder and overtake him…
Seki: After getting to show off how cool his rival is, you get to show off how the protagonist overtakes his rivals, and how cool and strong he’s become.
Kaizawa: When Takuya ends up taking a brief stop in the real world in Episode 22, he comes to understand very well what he needs to do, and starts to change as a leader. It’s a turning point, where he finally comes to surpass things. But, although it might be a bit overkill to say it like this, he’s not entirely the leader, and, compared to Takuya, each of them has their own way of proceeding forward…for instance, with Junpei, he’s not necessarily strong in terms of power, but he’s got insight to give the others, he’s got ways to calm the others’ spirits with things like his magic tricks, and he also comes to understand why he came here, why he came to the Digital World. Each one of them comes to understand their own individual role, and they wait for Takuya’s return so he can complete their team as the leader.
Seki: In terms of “ways of thinking”, if you’re to put things in terms of a conventional narrative, Kouichi and Kouji would not be lead protagonists of any sort. After all, their family background is rather different from how an ordinary family lives. A conventional hero has an ordinary home life, and would live in a way that he can take for granted…so we naturally felt that this was the natural response. On the other hand, what could that kind of conventional hero do for Kouichi and Kouji? A protagonist like that might try to meddle in their affairs too much, or he might try to help give them an encouraging push, or he might reach out to them, or he might just stand back and watch over them warmly. I think those kinds of subtle differences would depend on the series. As far as Takuya himself goes, he’s grown up with a younger brother, so having a sibling is something that comes naturally to him, and he can outright say that “having a sibling is like this.” But Kouji’s thought for his entire life that he was an only child, and so even when Kouichi appears right in front of him and he learns “I have an older brother,” he ends up very confused about it…so we thought that it would be good for Takuya’s advice to be what helps bring Kouji back to his feet.
We’ll meet again, someday, somewhere…
–Do you have any particular thoughts upon looking back on these last four years?
Seki: For me, the biggest thing was being blessed with our staff.
Kakudou: When we were working on this for the first series, we wanted to include all of these stories that we thought would be interesting, and we did achieve it to some extent, and we had human relationships that weren’t always bright but had dark sides to them, and how you could fix things that weren’t going right, and I’m glad that we were able to do more than we expected. Also, the insert songs for the evolution scenes weren’t originally in the plan. There were dozens of demos we had for the opening song, but once we’d picked the opening, we thought, this song is also really good, so let’s have it play for the evolution scenes and flow into the battle scene, and that sort of formula that we’d decided on the spot became the traditional formula that’s been used up until now. It was kind of a half-coincidence, but it’s given us a lot of good songs, so things turned out for the best. That said, because we did that, we really had to make those evolution sequences…and then we were told that we didn’t have enough budget to make the stock footage. We had only a tiny number of images to work with, and we had to make even more footage for the intro parts of the evolution sequences. So the only choice left was for me to make it with CGI by myself…but hey, it means I get to brag about making good evolution sequences despite everything (laughs).
Seki: Our CGI department had just gotten off the ground when we were working on Digimon’s first series. We didn’t have a proper system in place yet, so we ended up having to have Kakudou-kun do it.
Kakudou: All of the CGI in the evolution sequences and the opening and the ending and everything else was done by myself. They told us they’d give us a budget if it actually did well (laughs).
–Kaizawa-san, when you were given the job of picking up the series, was it already determined you’d be doing two more years?
Kaizawa: Hm. Well, I’m not allowed to say too much about this, but they decided to go on for a fourth year after things were doing well in the third (laughs). And then they didn’t do well in the fourth year, so they didn’t go for a fifth (laughs).9 And so that was the end.
Kakudou: When Producer Seki first invited me onto the project, she said she wanted someone who had worked on Bikkuriman, and that she absolutely wanted to make it a show like Bikkuriman. There’d be a lot of different characters, and each of them get to do something in the spotlight, and there’d be a lot of variety. We managed to meet that goal that we’d set in the very beginning, and I think everything worked out. Also, I wrote some of the screenplay for some drama CDs that will be coming out at around the same time as this book, so please look forward to that, too (laughs).
Seki: The curtain has closed on the TV series for now, but I hope the world of Digimon can still continue to develop further through other kinds of media. Thank you, to all of you who are continuing to support it.
–Thank you for your time today.
Foot and side notes
Seki: I thought, I don’t think anyone can pull this off besides Kakudou-kun…
The mysteries of the Digimon Kaiser?: The Digimon Kaiser happens to be an enemy who is also a human. Seki-san says that she heard about a nine-year-old genius boy in America who ended up being enrolled in college, and was inspired by that story to make the character. The story is structured in such a way that he joins the protagonists’ side, faces the concept of becoming part of a Digimon and human “pair”, creating a contrast against the time he stood alone and controlled multitudes of Digimon.
Kakudou: The epilogue had been decided on at the very beginning.
About the Digital World: Accompanying the growth of information societies, the Digital World also ends up going through rapid developments. In Adventure, there was a necessity for massive changes to happen in the world in an instant, and all of this would happen in only an instant in the real world, but by the time of 02, things had calmed down. It spans around the same distance as Earth itself. There are various theories about how the world began, but its historical records only seem to go back around half a century…
Kaizawa: I myself didn’t realize that it was so different (laughs).
What’s a Digimon? What’s evolution?: Did you know there’s a pretty incredible development backstory behind the concept of a Digimon?! According to Kakudou, “A Digimon is like another version of yourself. Or, if you were to put it another way, the otherwise poorly-defined “soul” takes on a properly defined form…and such. In Digimon Adventure, a Digimon’s growth is their human’s growth, and a Digimon’s evolution is an expression of mankind’s own evolution.”
Seki: Ryou was part of an imaginary plot that’s since vanished.
02‘s blank space of 25 years: 02 jumped 25 years at the very end, surprising its viewers. What happened to the world in the meantime? According to the background story, there were still many hardships leading up to that point where all of humanity ended up partnered to a Digimon. The fight to discover why outside forces were obstructing evolution ended up not being limited to just Earth, and reached up into space, and it seems that Yamato became an astronaut in order to investigate.
Kaizawa: The D-Reaper’s design was a huge shock.
How are the four worlds related?: Adventure and 02 were set entirely in the same universe. So how do Tamers and Frontier relate to them? Episode 35 of Tamers is of particular interest, since it shows Takato’s room. You can see an Agumon toy in it, so what is it about it that stirs up certain feelings within him and spurs him to action? Frontier, on the other hand, is entirely set in its own individual world, and has no point of contact with the other series whatsoever.
Seki: We were going for very “conventional” story tropes.
Kaizawa-san’s original rough drafts: Kaizawa-san personally drew a large amount of worldbuilding drafts in places like the other side of the storyboard documents. They depict ideas like the Trailmon and the appearances of the villages within the Digital World.
Kaizawa: We’d like it if you could feel how they grow as a team.
Enjoy what happens after the story!: Each series has its own side stories in the form of drama CDs. Each human comes out to tell their own individual story, and how things have been going for them. Kakudou personally participated on all of Two-and-a-Half Year Break (Taichi, Yamato, Jou, Sora, Koushirou, Mimi) and parts of Spring 2003 (Daisuke, Hikari). These CDs are of particular interest, as they tell short stories of what happened after the series ended, and even clarify some things that were obscure in the original series.
Seki: I’m truly grateful to all of our staff.
- “Toriyama-sensei” = Akira Toriyama, character designer for Dragon Quest and creator of the Dragon Ball series (which presumably is the “ongoing series” alluded to here).
- Digimon character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru had previously been known as a “substitute” character designer for Toriyama for Dragon Ball spinoff movies, and allegedly had been praised by Toriyama himself for how closely he was able to match his style.
- The book has a typo of misreading Ikkei Seta’s name as “Kazue Seta”.
- Sentai = Referring to the popular tokusatsu series Super Sentai, a Toei-produced yearly superhero series of transforming hero teams that has been ongoing since 1975. The franchise was localized in the West as Power Rangers.
- While this wasn’t the case for its Western counterpart, Power Rangers, as of this book’s publishing in April 2003, Super Sentai still had yet to have two female characters as a regular part of its roster. Only 9 of the 27 Sentai series to date had two female members (most of them being associated with pink), and the last one (Megaranger) was already five years old. One year after this book was published, Dekaranger would establish a more consistent (although still not guaranteed) precedent of two girls to a five-person Sentai team.
- For those unfamiliar with Sentai, some cultural context: Director Kaizawa and Producer Seki are likely making references to particular tropes within the franchise when it comes to making Frontier “conventional” in relation to it. Early Showa-era Sentai series were associated (especially in pop culture and parody) with “a fat yellow ranger”, often portrayed as a glutton, and mostly influenced by the very first yellow ranger, Goranger‘s Kiranger. The usage of the trope — and especially cultural associations with it and Sentai — has since rather died down with modern Sentai, but it still remains a very strong association for old-time Showa audience members, and was still embedded in the public mindset in 2003 when this book was published.
- The translator’s policy for this blog is to try and minimize personal sentiments and opinions to keep it from impacting how these translations are read (especially when it comes to something like a 17-year-old interview), but in this case it does seem particularly necessary to get on the table that she does not in any way approve of the way Junpei was treated in this question.
- “An enemy becoming an ally” is also a Sentai staple that was started and popularized by Zyuranger‘s DragonRanger, who was also dramatically revealed to be the main character’s hitherto unknown brother (not a twin, though).
- When referring to each individual series, the literal interview text generally discusses them in terms of what “year” it was in (“the first year”, “the second year”, etc.). Normally, these are easily understood to obviously mean their corresponding series (Adventure, Adventure 02, etc.), and I did directly translate it as such on some occasions depending on context, but in some cases they could feasibly apply to any aspect of production or franchise condition in regards to that corresponding year. For instance, Director Kaizawa’s statement in regards to the failure surrounding Frontier doesn’t necessarily apply to just the anime series itself but also presumably involves the corresponding state of the franchise and its financial status (toy and card game sales, Toei Anime Fair revenue, etc.).