(Original title: “Celebrating the completion of YouTube’s screening! An interview looking back on Digimon Frontier ♪”)
A translation of an interview posted on the Digimon Partners website on March 14, 2023 with Toei deputy director/general manager (formerly assistant producer) Atsunari Baba regarding behind-the-scenes production for Digimon Frontier.
The Toei Animation Museum YouTube channel has been streaming Digimon Frontier at one episode a week for a limited time since April 2022! Now that the final episode, “Transcend Time! The Beginning of a New Legend” has been released, we would like to thank everyone who watched it together with us for a year!
We at Digimon Partners have held a surprise interview with Baba-san, who served as an assistant producer who helped support the production site back then ♪ We asked about all sorts of anecdotes so you can learn more about the charm of Frontier.
Atsunari Baba-san: Toei Animation General Affairs Department Deputy Director/Toei Animation Museum General Manager
Digimon Partners Staff: A person in their 30s who loves Digimon
Episode 50: “Transcend Time! The Beginning of a New Legend” (final episode)
▶ Curerntly streaming at the Toei Animation Museum Channel!
* Available until 3/24/2023 (Friday), 11:59 AM
* Restricted to Japan only
DP Staff: Thank you for offering your time today! We’ll just be hopping right into it, but how did you feel watching the final episode for the first time in a while?
Baba: It’s 20 years old, and yet I still remember so many things from back then. The final boss, Lucemon, really is one of the highlights of the final episode, isn’t he? I was involved in another series with his voice actor, Ryuusei Nakao-san, and he played another antagonist with a strong impact, so I remember hearing that and recommending him for Frontier. Everyone was really drawn into that role and was very satisfied with the results, so I have quite an attachment to him as a character.
DP Staff: Lucemon attacks Shibuya Station in the final episode, and that location, along with the town of Jiyuugaoka, could be said to be where Digimon Frontier had its beginnings. What was the reason for selecting those places?
Baba: This went for previous Digimon series as well, but for Digimon Frontier, we wanted to go out of our way to incorporate elements that were a little ahead of the times, so I personally recommended the town of Jiyuugaoka, which I had a personal attachment to, together as a set with the Tokyu Toyoko Line, which was one of Tokyo’s most fashionable train lines. When I first joined the company and arrived in Tokyo, I got to see how nice the Toyoko Line was, and it left a strong first impression on me. Also, at the time, Shibuya Station was small, but it looked like a terminal station from Europe. It’s such a shame that it’s gone now (note: it was moved underground in 2013). Director Yukio Kaizawa-san and I went there for a location scouting trip, and around that time there were reforms going on for accessibility access, and I saw that they’d installed an elevator there. It was an unusual thing to see at the time, so we decided to have it be involved in the first episode.
DP: You served as the producer for the theatrical movie Digimon Tamers: Runaway Digimon Express, and we’ve heard that you’re known for being a train lover. You managed to show that off very well in Frontier!
Baba: I remember the Trailmon actually being Kaizawa-san’s idea, but I’m very happy to know that my knowledge was helpful. In Digimon Frontier, the Trailmon terimal station is in the Shibuya Station basement, so when they actually moved Shibuya Station on the Tokyu Toyoko Line underground, I felt a strange connection there.
Also, now that I’ve seen the series for the first time in a while, it was amazing to feel how “old”, or perhaps I should say “nostalgic”, of a feeling came from things like the old version of Shibuya Station before all of its changes, or the message screen of a feature phone.
DP: You’ve also brought us a script as a memento from back then. The slightly yellowed color of the paper makes me feel its 20 years of age, and it makes me emotional…(laughs). Both the front and back covers are beautiful! It’s exciting to look at.
Baba: As the assistant producer, the script design was my job, so I was very particular about how I did it. Back then, we had production staff names at the beginning of the book, but there would be times things wouldn’t make it on schedule and the book would have to be bound together with blanks, but I remember trying as hard as I could to put as many names of the involved staff in as possible.
DP: It’s definitely very valuable to be able to see the staff’s names clearly written across two pages. And the lyrics for the opening and ending songs are there, too!
Baba: Speaking of the opening song, I remember there was an interesting incident when we decided on going with “FIRE!!”. We were all discussing it and trying to pick a song, but for some reason our staff members kept picking songs that wouldn’t normally be picked…(laughs). From all of the possible demo songs, we were trying to pick something that’d be quirky and unique. But the music producer at the time said, “I can’t imagine going with anything other than this song! Let’s just go with the tried-and-true type!” and brought us all back to our senses (laughs).
DP: And that was “FIRE!!”. I’m curious about the other songs, but I’m very glad you decided to go with “FIRE!!” (laughs).
DP: In closing, please tell us what Digimon Frontier means to you.
Baba: I remember being surrounded by so many friendly staff members and having fun with planning and production. I was working under Director Kaizawa, who’s a man of ideas, and it was a series that challenged a new worldbuilding concept with a high degree of freedom, and like the older Digimon series, it shines with the charm of the characters that Producer Seki1 created. There are probably some scenes that seem heavy and extreme for children, but on the contrary, I think that sense of incongruity was what allowed children to empathize with it and feel drawn into the story.
DP: It’s a series that I’d love to watch again and again. Thank you for your time today!
- “Producer Seki” = Referring to producer Hiromi Seki, who was involved on Adventure through Frontier, and is known for having a large role in creating the human characters and their backgrounds. [↩]