(Original title: “Interview with the creator of this exclusive Digimon Tamers poster!”)
A translation of an interview posted on the Digimon Partners website on February 7, 2022 with promotional illustration producer Asako Tsukahara and animation producer Yousuke Kinoshita, primarily regarding production behind promotional and merchandise art for Digimon Tamers‘ 20th anniversary.
We’re almost reaching the end of Digimon Tamers‘ 20th anniversary! We’ve developed a lot of collaboration events and products over the last year. The poster we’ve been using was created by a person who oversaw its direction with great passion. Today, we’ve interviewed the person in charge of this illustration, along with animation producer Kinoshita-san!
Asako Tsukahara: Toei Animation Co., Ltd. Design Room member
Yousuke Kinoshita: Toei Animation Co., Ltd. animation producer
Digimon Partners Staff: A person in their 30s who loves Digimon
A bridge between the manufacturer and the artist
DP: Tsukahara-san, what kind of work do you usually do?
Tsukahara: I oversee and manage the process of creating products and collaboration artwork for the entire Digimon series, including the currently airing Digimon Ghost Game and the series celebrating its 20th anniversary, Digimon Tamers. When a manufacturer or an in-house department requests an illustration, I manage the process by checking if the depiction is in-character, whether it’s in line with the original series, all the way up until the artist finishes the illustration. When we request an illustration, I check over the rough draft when it’s finished and when the coloring is complete, and if there isn’t any problem, I deliver it to the manufacturer.
DP: So for instance, when a new movie project gets off the ground, would Tsukhara-san be in charge of the illustrations for it?
Kinoshita: That’s right.
DP: Since it’s all part of the same Digimon series, I thought the same person would draw both the movie promotional illustrations and the merchandise art.
Kinoshita: As far as movie promotional art is concerned, since those are directly related to the content of the movie itself, they’re basically headed by the animation director or the character designer. We ask our Design Room to create things like materials and theater products for overseas expansion, or new arts such as collaboration promotional materials. There are multiple people drawing those, but we have to draw it to fit Nakatsuru-san’s1 character designs. Tsukhara’s adjustments bring out the very cute final finishing touches on each character.
DP: So for example, would you give directions like “do this to make it look more like Nakatsuru-san’s art”?
Tsukahara: Yes. It’s a tricky balance, and I might ask them to make corrections like changing the position of the eyes a little or making the outlines clearer. Our artists are already good to begin with, so I don’t ask for any major adjustments, but I’ll add little comments like “I think it’ll fit better if you do this.”
DP: It’s a very specialized skill. Did you go to an art school?
Tsukahara: No, not at all (laughs). So I’m trying to do what I can from the perspective of a layman, and I hear out the opinions of people in the Design Room who are in the actual art field.
Give each character the best facial expression you can think of
DP: Did Kinoshita-san request that Tsukahara-san make the art for DigiFes 2021?
Kinoshita: DigiFes was held at Yokosuka2 this year, so I held a meeting with Tsukahara-san, and we discussed things like “are there any clothes that would bring Yokosuka to mind?” and “we’ve got a lot of people on stage, so I want to include this character too.”
DP: Someone checking whether the content of the request matches the original series is something you can only do if you have very deep knowledge of said series.
Tsukahara: Right. I watched Digimon as a kid and I’ve always loved it, but since Digimon Tamers in particular was having its anniversary this year, I rewatched it from the beginning. I worked on the request while thinking about how it should come across. “What kind of pose or facial expression would this character have in this scene?”
DP: Isn’t it difficult to convey the concept and feel to the person in charge of drawing the illustration?
Tsukahara: It’s hard to do it with words alone, but in my case, I draw the picture of what I’m going for myself and ask them to do that, so there hasn’t been much discrepancy. Manufacturers might also give us pictures to concretely represent what they want, so I can just hand that over and have them work on that.
DP: How does it feel to be involved with a series you liked since you were a kid as part of your job?
Tsukahara: In the end, I do it knowing that I shouldn’t be too biased. I particularly like Leomon and Terriermon, but each character has their own charms, so I try to give them the best facial expressions I can think of while taking each character’s good points into account. I have to be careful not to be overtaken by the feeling of “I want to do this!” just because I like something, and I have to think about the world the series takes place in, the characters’ relationships with each other, the poses and arrangements that bring out their individual characteristics, all of those things that the fans will like.
A number of carefully crafted illustrations
Kinoshita: Tsukahara-san, if you had to choose, which do you think took the most effort?
Tsukahara: It’s definitely the DigiFes 2021 poster. I drew everything from top to bottom, from the characters’ costumes to their poses to the overall composition, so I have the strongest memories of it. When a manufacturer gives us a request, they give it to us with concrete instructions telling us what kind of art they want, so since I’m there mostly just to “improve it”, I’m generally not that deeply involved with those.
DP: What were you personally picky about?
Tsukahara: The original draft didn’t have Leomon in it. The other characters were lined up with their partners, and I wanted Leomon to be there with Juri, so I added him in.
Kinoshita: She said “it looks lonely without him,” and I thought, “yeah, you’re right!” and gave her the go-ahead.
DP: I was very happy to see them together side-by-side like that. So this was done on Tsukahara-san’s suggestion.
Tsukahara: Also, I want to admit something a little selfish. Ruki’s in a one-piece dress that you wouldn’t normally see her in, rather than her usual pants. That was because we had both girls together in one picture, and I wanted her to wear similar clothes to Juri, so I had them match.
Kinoshita: This goes for any of the pictures she’s in, but the DigiFes art does feel like it has Ruki stand out.
Tsukahara: Right. I think Ruki is picky about her fashion, but also that she’s the kind of person who’ll wear something if Juri suggests they wear it together. That said, she’d feel a bit shy about it or unwilling to pose with it. So I had it drawn with the idea that Juri suggested they wear it together and her mother supported it, so she wore it. Also, all of the other pictures have her smiling, so she’s got an embarrassed expression because I wanted her to look a little different once in a while.
Kinoshita: I think it’s nice that you can see a story behind the illustration with just that one expression. One thing unique about these newly commissioned pictures is that wearing a different outfit from usual can bring up an expression that makes you imagine what kind of story went on behind the scenes. Also, this picture got a lot of people excited about Yamaki-san.
Tsukahara: It did (laughs). Yamaki-san himself didn’t really have any other new art, and I was putting a sailor suit on him, so I was wondering “is it okay to put him in a sailor suit? Is it okay to put him in white pants?” But the fans generally received it favorably and people even bought merch of it, so I was very happy. This was the only art of Yamaki-san I got to draw this year, so I was very glad I could.
DP: This illustration also feels very lavish and fun.
Tsukahara: Natalie Store gave us a picture with their request, so I pretty much went along with it as-is. But when I first received the draft, Culumon looked too quiet, Ruki was frolicking around too much, and Renamon was watching over her. In terms of character relationships, Ruki would enjoy the parade but she wouldn’t be acting so out of line, so I had her look up at the falling flowers instead. Renamon is more of the kind of character who watches over Ruki but also looks in the same direction as her, so I had them pose by looking upwards from the same point of view. I made other adjustments too, like having Culumon look more cheerful.
DP: This collaboration illustration also has them wear something you wouldn’t normally see them in.
Tsukahara: These outfits were drawn on Marui’s request. It’s rare that you see the Digimon dress up, so we wanted to make Terriermon’s cape especially cute. Renamon looks kind of like they’re floating, aren’t they? (laughs) Guilmon is enjoying eating his candy, and the huge scarf looks good on him. Guilmon is bigger than the other series’ main partners, so it’s difficult to have him interact with other characters, but there are some things his size conversely allows us to do.
DP: Can you give us an example?
Tsukahara: For example, when I made the illustration for Tetsujin, I received a request to have Guilmon open his arms and jump. With Agumon, if we had him jump next to Taichi, it’d fit perfectly, but with Guilmon’s size, doing that would take up too much space and put him in a difficult position where he’d be too far from Takato. So I proposed having it set up so that Guilmon would be paired up next to Takato, imitating him as if he doesn’t really know what’s going on but is just singing with him into the microphone. Although there are some tricky parts about drawing Takato and Guilmon due to their similar heights, I think the two of them are different from other protagonists in that we can draw them very closely to each other.
Kinoshita: Right, that makes sense.
DP: This one has more characters than the other art pieces.
Tsukahara: This illustration was based on the one A3 drew for GraffArt. I had it have a pleasant atmosphere so it could really show off the celebratory atmosphere in A3’s GraffArt work. Everyone was in their party hats…I saw people saying “Cyberdramon got a lot friendlier,” I thought, “well, that’s true” (laughs). He’s a very belligerent Digimon, but I thought he could be friendly if you gave him a present. You don’t see a cheerful Cyberdramon very often (laughs).
Kinoshita: You also don’t see Ryou very much in collaboration art.
Tsukahara: Ryou, Kenta, Hirokazu, and Shaochung don’t get to be in new art very much, so I wanted to have them join the party. A3’s GraffArt illustrations are also really cute, aren’t they?
DP: Were you also involved as a supervisor for A3’s illustrations?
Tsukahara: I was. But I didn’t ask them to change very much. It was more in terms of details like what colors they used and how they represented the eyes, and I let A3 do what they wanted with the overall atmosphere. It’s not often you get to see them wear such dramatically different clothing, and it’s especially rare to see Hirokazu without his sun visor. I’m really happy to see Shaochung and Lopmon here. A lot of fans like seeing Lopmon and Terriermon together, so I also had A3’s GraffArt illustration put them together as a pair. Thanks to these GraffArt pieces, we were able to make something for Tokyo Character Street, so I’m glad I could draw Ryou and the others with more realistic proportions.
DP: You can really feel the love from these pictures. Incidentally, do you also decide what approximate part of the story these pictures would come from?
Tsukahara: With each picture, I think about the approximate time they would come from. I pay close attention to the parts that would change depending on what part of the story the picture would be from, such as Takato’s D-Ark and the symbol on Ruki’s shirt.
A series that lets you enjoy the world expanding around you
DP: In closing, please tell us what you think is appealing about Digimon Tamers.
Tsukahara: I thought this when I first watched it, and I thought this when I rewatched it now, but I have a strong impression of it as a story with a very “serious” atmosphere. I think it’s a really deep story with things like science fiction elements and a story about “life”. I also think it stands out with characters like Dukemon and Beelzebumon being cool, while ones like Guilmon and Terriermon are cute. It’s a series I can still enjoy as an adult, and I’d like it if today’s children could also watch it. Its 20th anniversary is about to come to a close, but I think it’s a series that’ll expand the world around anyone who watches it, so I hope you can enjoy it in different ways.
Kinoshita: We’re planning to announce more merchandise with more exclusive art at DIGIMON CON. Please look forward to that, too.
DP: Thank you for your time today!
- “Nakatsuru-san” = Referring to Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, character designer for Adventure through Frontier as well as Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna and Digimon Adventure 02 THE BEGINNING.
- Yokosuka = A city in Kanagawa Prefecture known for its naval military base.