An interview from the Digimon Series Memorial Book: Digimon Animation Chronicle (デジモンシリーズ メモリアルブック デジモンアニメーションクロニクル) published on February 10, 2010 (between the airings of Digimon Savers and Digimon Xros Wars).
The book is a comprehensive compilation of Digimon anime series concept art and character/concept details, and is recommended as an extremely valuable resource especially for artists and cosplayers. As there is an incredibly large amount of text in this book, translating the entire thing would be a very difficult and borderline impractical task (although the very wonderful onkei has translated a very large chunk of it on her own blog). However, near the end of the book is a long and comprehensive interview with perennial series staff members Hiromi Seki, Hiroyuki Kakudou, and Yukio Kaizawa, which I felt would be of interest, so I have taken the liberty of translating it below.
From the Toei Animation Planning Department. Formerly a producer. Involved in the series from Adventure to Frontier. Her primary works include The Secrets of Akkochan (1998), Marmalade Boy, Neighborhood Story, Boys Before Flowers, the Magical DoReMi series, Zatch Bell!!, Tomorrow’s Nadja, Workids Meister Hamster Team, and Thriller Restaurant.
Freelance director. Series director for Adventure and 02. Also involved as an individual episode director for Tamers and Frontier. Also wrote the screenplays for various drama CDs, directed the CGI movie X-evolution, and has many other deep ties to the franchise. His other primary works include Bikkuriman, Slam Dunk, Yu-Gi-Oh!, The Secrets of Akkochan (1998), and Zatch Bell!!.
Director from the Toei Animation Production Department. Series director for Tamers and Frontier. Main works include Bikkuriman, New Bikkuriman, Super Bikkuriman, Mysterious Magic Fan Fan Pharmacy, Phantom Thief Jeanne, Zatch Bell!!, Put it All in the Ring! ~The Pacific War Arc~, Poor Sisters Story, and GeGeGe no Kitaro.
The beginnings of the adventure
–Please tell us the details about how the anime project started.
Seki: It started off with Bandai sending a project proposal to Toei Animation. They’d made a portable LCD game, a variant of the Tamagotchi aimed at boys, called “Digital Monsters”, and want to make an animated series for it…and the talks started from there. At the time, the “evolution” aspect had already been firmly established, but no characters had been decided on beyond the monsters that already appeared in the portable games. The monsters hadn’t been established to be able to talk yet, and there wasn’t a particular story set in stone yet.
–So how were things fleshed out from there?
Seki: I’m not much of a gamer, so I had no grasp on what would be interesting or not to that audience (laughs). But when it comes to every story, you have to be able to empathize with it, or you won’t be able to make anything good out of it. And if nobody’s talking, then you won’t be able to empathize with it. So the first thing I figured was that I wanted them to talk. and I wanted them to be side-by-side with humans in the story. We hadn’t decided which Digimon would be the lead one, so we decided to consult with Kakudou-san and ask, “which one?” From there, he singled out Agumon.
Kakudou: We still hadn’t decided whether we wanted to have five or seven humans in it. We hadn’t even particularly decided which Digimon would evolve into what, or what kinds of Digimon to feature. So we decided to start off with how many humans we’d have, and then fill in the gaps with the Digimon later.
Seki: After we came to an agreement about the human characters, we then thought about what kind of story we wanted as the base framework. I recall that the project proposal involved an adventure akin to that of Two Years’ Vacation1.
–How did Kakudou-san end up getting involved in the project?
Seki: The only thing I remember about that is where we were. It was definitely at the Takizawa Annex in Shinjuku (laughs). It was at the end of July or something, definitely in summer. We decided to have Kakudou-san involved mainly because it would be a story about both humans and monsters. We figured he could do this kind of project, probably because of his past work on Bikkuriman2 (where there’s also a lot of characters), and so since he had experience with this kind of thing, we ended up dragging him into this.
Kaizawa: I was on Bikkuriman too, but Kakudou-san’s actually the one who knows the most about it (laughs).
Seki: After seeing Kakudou-san’s work on Bikkuriman: The First Saints/Demons Great War, I saw how he was able to handle all of that action going on between all of those characters, and felt that he had a good way of featuring them all on screen. It’s the sort that leaves a huge impression on you.
–Was it decided early on to have both a movie and a TV series produced at around the same time?
Seki: We hadn’t decided it quite yet, not until after the summer, I believe. Once we started moving on the anime project, we figured that we’d have to have some kind of multimedia franchise. I think it was around autumn when we decided on matching it up with the manga that had just launched in V-Jump.
–Had you decided on anything concrete by that point?
Kakudou: We weren’t able to do that quite yet. I think we had just decided on the number of characters, or something like that? We hadn’t fully decided on the Digimon partners, either.
Seki: We were figuring out the Digimon’s types, like whether this one would be a plant-type or not. We were making an evolution chart and all.
The Chosen Children
–How did you decide on having a whole cast of seven core characters?
Seki: We’d been discussing on whether we wanted three or five or seven. And then we figured, we wanted to have two female characters. For instance, in Super Sentai, if you have five characters, one of them will be a girl.
Kakudou: Nowadays, even five-member teams have been leaning more towards having two girls, but that wasn’t the case back then.3
Seki: So we decided on having seven characters. I think that was the main reason, so we could have five boys and two girls. We used the boy band SMAP4 as our frame of reference for having five boys. So I wrote up the draft, had (Michiyo) Arihara5 (a production assistant) make adjustments, and then Kakudou-san would make more adjustments and return it to me. Little by little, we ended up putting it all together. We also mixed up the children’s ages, for a bit of variety.
Kakudou: The oldest one would be the most unreliable, and the smartest one would be one of the third youngest. Just a little to throw you off the usual, conventional track.
Seki: The youngest one would feel too much like a burden to everyone else, and conversely would actually have himself together. And there would be a girl who would hate getting pigeonholed into the designated role of a girl.
Kakudou: We wanted to put things in that would be interesting to anyone, whether it were a children’s story or a movie, so we scattered the children’s personality traits all over the place. We didn’t want to end up in the situation where one character drags everything down, so we made sure not to let them fall into conventional patterns. We wanted to make it so that everyone had their own unique strengths, so that whenever some crisis came about, they would be able to overcome it.
Seki: So for instance, there might be a time when a third-year student could think as hard as they like, but the “answer” they come up with would be limited by the wisdom of a third-year student, and all you’d have to do is give it to a sixth-year student and they’d be able to answer on the spot. I remember us saying that we absolutely didn’t want this to be that simple of a story.
Kakudou: Between your first and second year, you might change your mind about what rules you think you have to follow, or what’s okay and what’s not, and you start to reevaluate things one by one. If you treat it like something that’s all that easy for them, you’ll lose people and make them think, “well, yeah, but only in fiction.” So instead, we wanted to have every character have their own strong points and weak points, and strike a balance between them.
–Incidentally, did the parts about their family lives tie into this?
Seki: I like working on those kinds of under-the-surface details, even if they never end up getting used (laughs). Especially family backgrounds.
–There was a satisfying feeling that came from getting to see all of the children’s home lives.
Seki: From the perspective of a child, the world is still quite a small place. You go back and forth between your home and school, and maybe you’ll meet your friends at the convenience store or head to cram school. Yet hese kids ended up not going to school, but to the Digital World. But the Digital World is a place unfamiliar to the audience, and while the main characters of this story don’t know anything about it either, if everything around them is unfamiliar, you won’t be able to connect to them emotionally at all. So I felt that we should leave little clues here and there about their home lives.
Enjoying the location scouting
–We got to see the most of their family lives during the Tokyo arc.
Kakudou: We decided from the very beginning that we wanted to have them return to Tokyo at some point. The original plan had it only be around three episodes. But then there were so many things we needed to have happen in it, and we were so intent on getting it all done that it ended up getting bigger and bigger (laughs).
Seki: It ended up filling a whole cour’s worth6 of content, didn’t it?
Kakudou: Yeah, yeah, something like that. More than a cour, at that.
–It was a particularly unique choice to set the story in Odaiba.
Seki: Our company really likes going location scouting. We’re constantly in the mood for location scouting.
Kaizawa: We were constantly going location scouting for Digimon. Anytime we specified a particular location, we went scouting.
–Was it to bring out the contrast between the real world and the Digital World?
Seki: There was that, too. But we also to Kainan for Slam Dunk, so, honestly, we just really like location scouting.
–And you blew up Fuji TV’s brand-new office building, too.
Seki: Well, in movies like Gamera and Godzilla they also blew up some brand-new stuff, too. We actually asked the Fuji TV staff “is it okay if we blow up your building?” and they were like, “please, go ahead” (laughs).
Kaizawa: We blew up the Tokyo Government Office building in Tamers, too. But then the 9/11 attack happened only a week after that…so we weren’t able to do that kind of thing anymore.
Seki: Now we’re not allowed to have any buildings with offices blow up on live television. Although, I guess that means we can still blow up Fuji TV again (laughs).
Kakudou: Digimon 02 takes place in 2002 and has some shots of New York, but we couldn’t have imagined that such an incident would happen, and so the Twin Towers are there…
–Was there anything in particular that left an impression on you when you went location scouting?
Kaizawa: The main scenario writer has to do a lot of detailed observation and note-taking, and it gets pretty difficult (laughs). For instance, Tamers shows the roof of the Tokyo Government Office, but we had no idea how were were going to get up there. And then there was the rainwater storage facility at the Yodobashi Water Purification Site, which they used to get into the Digital World. So how on earth are we supposed to get information about that (laughs)?
Kakudou: Back then it was hard to get information on underground facilities like those, because there was so little information about them.
Seki: At the time, there was still a small shopping street between Okubo and Nishi-Shinjuku, and we were able to take some photos from the shopping street to the Nishi-Shinjuku building street. It would normally be hard to get a view from that angle, so it was a fresh look at it.
Kaizawa: We also had issues reading the short name for the Omekaido Overbridge, “大ガード”.
Seki: We went all the way to post-recording by reading it “dai-guard“, but then Masako Nozawa-san7 pointed out to us that you’re supposed to read it “oh-guard“. If you look carefully at the bridge, they did actually write the reading “oh-guard” on there. Nozawa-san really ended up saving us there.
–Did you end up doing location scouting frequently?
Seki: We did.
Kakudou: We had to do it every time the need for it came up.
Kaizawa: I ended up doing it many times myself.
Kakudou: We went to Odaiba to take photos, and the fog set in that day…and that’s why we ended up submerging Odaiba in fog during the Tokyo arc (laughs). We’d go to Shibuya and Hikarigaoka and Shinjuku and so on whenever we needed to.
Kaizawa: Ruki lives in Yarai-cho, but the day we were scheduled to go location scouting, the snow started piling up…and so we did get some pictures, but in the end they didn’t end up very useful (laughs).
The second year of the story, three years later
–Was it planned from the very beginning that the series would run for a full year?
Seki: We fundamentally planned it as a one-year series.
Kakudou: We started off that way because that’s how these things traditionally go, but the truth is that we didn’t go in entirely sure that it would be a full year. So we went in with a very loose mindset, thinking that it was okay to stop anywhere, even if it were after only two cours.
–When was it decided that the series would go on for another year?
Seki: It was around summer when we decided to have the first preliminary meeting (about going on for another year). The toyline planning was a bit behind, but otherwise everything looked to be in good condition, and in around August or September we started seriously talking about plans for 02.
Kakudou: That’s when we started making all sorts of plans. Like whether to make it a completely different story altogether, or to just pick up where we left off one day after the final episode. After all sorts of deliberations, we came to the decision that resulted in the final product. Of course, we all knew we would be taking a huge risk by doing that, and we expected we’d be met with a lot of opposition.
Seki: We were also talking about potentially swapping out the entire main cast of characters wholesale, right?
Kakudou: We did, but I don’t remember what exactly our reasons for not doing so were. Probably that we couldn’t just swap out the cast for no good reason, and that we wanted to build off our work from the first series and make something new out of it. If we were to swap out the entire cast, we’d end up having to do the same thing we did in the first series all over again. But in 02, we got to show off a lot of the children’s home lives that we couldn’t in the first series, and so we ended up not having to retread the same ground.
–Was that also when you decided to introduce the Digimon Kaiser as a new element?
Seki: That came from an idea I had while reading a newspaper article. I read a story about a nine-year-old boy going to Columbia University, and I thought, “This boy is going to college because he’s considered a genius, and everyone around him will be in their twenties, and he won’t get to have any friends his age. What kind of life would this boy end up having?”
Kakudou: The first series was about an enemy threat coming from within the Digital World, and the second series was about an enemy threat that originated from the human world and caused problems in the Digital World. Fundamentally both plots were supposed to be instigated by the same “underlying power”. If the series were to have gone into a third year, we were going to have the enemy come down from space. Yamato becoming an astronaut in the last episode of 02 is a remnant of that.
–There were bits and pieces of that idea in the drama CDs and novels, too.
Kakudou: We didn’t get to retroactively get those in until much later, though (laughs). But even things that seem like we planned them out from the beginning were often things we had to retroactively fix. Hikari being the eighth child was also something that we didn’t plan from the beginning and had to add in later.
Seki: The truth is that as much as Kakudou-san wanted to do it, personally I thought we already had our hands full with seven (laughs). But in the end we had it picked up by the cat, the one from the movie.
–It does definitely feel like it’s properly connected to the movie.
Kakudou: In actuality, we were able to watch the movie while we were making the initial scenario, so we were able to link the narratives together to some extent. In 02 we weren’t able to have any meetings about it, and we were only barely able to have some degree of consistency with the final movie, Diablomon Strikes Back.
–The relationship between the real world and the Digital World changed quite a bit between the first and second series.
Seki: Adventure was a story about how heroism came from the root of not knowing whether they could go back to their own world or not, but when 02 started, Kakudou-san said that he wanted to make it (the story) a little lighter. For that reason, we had the children be able to come and go freely.
Kakudou: Mind you, we knew it was going to end up becoming a much heavier story later (laughs). When you’re making a story that gradually gets darker and darker, if you don’t start off light, you’re going to turn off newcomers. Of course, there was the possibility that people who enjoyed the feel of the first series would disapprove, but those who came in later would be able to enjoy it.
–There was a special quality about the fact that the time of broadcasting matched up with the time in the story, giving a sense of the changing of the seasons.
Kakudou: Right. Adventure took place in effectively only a few days, but we wanted 02 to be a story of everyday life, where you could feel the passing of the seasons. 02 became a series for which we got to bring to the forefront everything we couldn’t do in the first one.
–Was it decided from the beginning that the story would be a collection of Takeru’s memoirs?
Kakudou: Something like that.
Seki: We did decide on that.
Kakudou: That the narrator, (Hiroaki) Hirata-san, would turn out to actually be Takeru himself. Hirata-san played Takeru’s father, and he played the very fatherly Leomon, and we put him in those roles because in the end it all turned out to be Takeru’s memoirs.
Seki: 25 years later, right?
Kakudou: 25 years after 02. 28 years after Adventure. We calculated that very precisely. In 1999, there was Taichi’s group of eight, and there were also eight other people who didn’t appear in Adventure. Before that there were only eight total, and before that only four, and before that only two, and at the beginning, only one. If they were to double every year, then it would be 28 years until everyone in the world would be able to live alongside a Digimon. Threaded through both Adventure and 02 is a story about humanity’s evolution. For everyone to have their own Digimon partner is the final step of evolution. Because there’s not much left for our actual bodies to change in terms of evolution, it is a story about how the hidden parts of our souls use the powers of digital technology to manifest in the real world, resulting in humanity’s evolution.
From “partners” to “friends”
–And so the third series ended up not being a continuation, but an entirely new series.
Kaizawa: Once they’d made the decision to do something completely different for the third series and to have it be unrelated to the first and second ones, I was chosen to be the director. The truth is, I hadn’t seen anything of the Digimon series yet by that point.
Seki: We felt that we still wanted someone who had experience on Bikkuriman to take the helm. So really, we went back to square one again (laughs).
—Tamers is a series particularly focused on portraying realistic, down-to-earth problems.
Kaizawa: I felt that if you wanted to keep the series interesting, you had to give it a new and different feel. I wanted to bring up a mood that hadn’t been attempted yet in the Digimon series before, leading to Tamers being in-your-face with realism concepts. For instance, “if an average child were to see a Digimon on the street, what would they think?” or “How would Digimon and human children try to ‘befriend’ each other?” As we were laying out those kinds of things, it ended up having to become a story very focused on realism. So, unlike the series from before, the Digimon in this series would not be “partners” but “friends”. Then, moving from there, eventually “family”. That was the sort of dramatic narrative we wanted to depict between humans and Digimon.
Kakudou: The fact that a Digimon Tamer has to build their relationship with their Digimon from scratch is the first major point of distinction. In Adventure and 02, since a Digimon is effectively a part of yourself, from the time you’ve met them, they would never be something that could drift so far away from you.
Kaizawa: Also, what if a Digimon that you had created with your own hands were to gain awareness and to appear in reality? How would that feel? And while battle scenes in the past would involve functionally only the Digimon fighting in practice, in Tamers, the humans do get involved in the fighting alongside them, too. When you see your friend fighting alone, you jump into the fray to help them. That kind of feeling.
–Terriermon had a particularly unique air about him.
Seki: We used the drawings that the director of one of the 02 movies, (Shigeyasu) Yamauchi-san, drew in the storyboards as the basis for Terriermon. We thought they were very cute, and they were very popular among the staff, so we decided to have him appear in the third series.
–The lead writer for Tamers, (Chiaki) Konaka-san, also wrote an episode for 02.
Seki: Kakudou-san was the one who called in Konaka-san for 02. When we consulted Kaizawa-san about who should be the lead writer for Tamers, we figured he and Konaka-san would have a connection from working together on Mysterious Magic Fan Fan Pharmacy. I remember we figured, “all right, let’s get Konaka-san on board” fairly quickly.
Kakudou: When we were asking Wiz about Dagomon, we asked, “is he based on Cthulhu?” and they responded, “yes, he is.” So we thought, okay, we’ve got to get Konaka-san to do this (laughs). We’d actually wanted to do an episode much like “The Call of Dagomon” sometime in the first series, but we never got a good opportunity to do so…After that, Konaka-san continued to keep an eye on Digimon, and when talks about Tamers came into play, he was able to give us a completely new concept for Digimon.
–It was a particularly novel idea to get the humans and Digimon to merge together into one form.
Kaizawa: We did end up having that in the second half. It’s a bit of a bridge to the fourth series, too. Konaka-san was thinking of “a new form of evolution,” and it all progressed from there.
Kakudou: Although that means it ended up going from a giant monster kind of story to a transforming hero kind of story (laughs).
Seki: I still remember the Tamers closing party, where Kaizawa-san made a long speech about “during this one year I’ve been thinking about what Digimon really are, and I feel like I’ve now finally become a Tamer myself,” and it had an odd thing about it that deeply moved me.
The visual depiction of the Digital World
–The concept of the Digital World had been completely done over from scratch.
Kaizawa: It had. We were still trying to go for a sense of realism, after all. A Digital World, built on top of the gradually developing Internet. Konaka-san’s original script had a rapid slew of vocabulary that even we, as adults, had a hard time understanding. We were all in a flurry, wondering how on earth we were going to get that in picture form. And then when it became time for the Digital World to finally appear in the second half, we had pretty much all but given up hope…and then Konaka-san’s friend, (Shinji) Aramaki-san, stepped in and made a very realistically-believable Digital World design for us.
Seki: He also helped us work on the evolution sequences for the second half, and, in collaboration with Watanabe-san from the art team, helped create the world design with CGI.
Kakudou: Actually, the third series had its own CGI budget.
Seki: Yes, yes, we did (laughs).
Kakudou: We didn’t have one for the first and second series (laughs).
Seki: It was all volunteer work (laughs).
–So you mean Kakudou-san made all of those CGI scenes without pay?
Kakudou: I originally made all of them myself. The machines that we used to make them were very slow at the time, and I thought I was going to die (laughs). Up until about two months after broadcasting started, I would get about an hour of sleep on average.
–Did you work on the Armor Evolution sequences, too?
Kakudou: I did it (the CGI portions) for the backgrounds, I think?
Seki: Our company ended up basically setting up our CGI department at around the exact time we started work on Digimon, and they weren’t interested in investing any more than that for the first series. Even though we had operators, there was no way for them to do CGI production independently, and the (anime) production team would have to give instructions to the operators, the operators might not have the skills to work it, or there would be problems with the software, and it would take a lot of time to render…
Kakudou: It wasn’t until Tamers when they finally made an agreement to let us have a proper budget for it.
Kaizawa: By this time the process was already properly laid out for us, so I could ask “we need this kind of evolution scene,” and it would go smoothly.
Seki: From the way I understand it as a producer, the company is the sort where if you can’t get them to give you a budget, they’re very strict with what they lend you, and if you do manage to get it, suddenly everything is flexible. A very extreme company, in that sense.
The fourth series is about “choosing”
–How did you settle on the concept for the fourth series?
Seki: We definitely figured it out sometime around summer. Since we were already on the line of thinking involving humans merging with Digimon, I had this question eating at the back of my mind. I thought, young boys look up to transforming heroes like Ultraman, and transforming heroes like Kamen Riders. But would they be interested in transforming into some kind of monster?…I’m not a boy, so I wouldn’t know, so I ended up asking a lot of people. I didn’t think I’d be able to know for sure by myself.
Kaizawa: I thought, well, I think it (becoming a Digimon) could be pretty popular.
Seki: “Well, if Kai-chan says so, it’ll be fine~” I said (laughs).
Kaizawa: And, in the same way the third series was, I wanted the fourth series to have a different “feel” to it. So if, this time, we had the children become the Digimon, it’d be a pretty interesting “feel”, don’t you think? Plus, there’s a lot of dramatic potential that comes out of looking monstrous and yet looking cool in action. I figured, wouldn’t the idea of someone being able to become that kind of monster be interesting?
Seki: When I heard that, I understood it as being like “Beauty and the Beast”. If you can see the kind heart within the beast, then even a beast can look cool. That “feel” convinced me that, yeah, we can go with this.
Kaizawa: The initial design we came up with was actually the half-Digimon version of Takuya that appears in episode 22. The one where, after returning to the human world from the Digital World, he ends up unable to return to a true human form and ends up in a half-sort of Digimon form. I really wanted to see that kind of form show up from the very beginning, but, naturally…in the end, we had to go with a cooler sort of Digimon.
–The lack of Digimon partners was innovative in its own way, too.
Kaizawa: Of course, we did have our own worries about how it’d play out. But we did manage to get them partners, in a sense, by the end of Frontier. The fact that we ended up at the conclusion of “the partners are alive within them” did, in some sense, go back to the original concept of the relationship between children and Digimon from the first series. We felt that would be pretty interesting, so they became like a sort of mysterious presence in each Digivice along the way.
Seki: When we were devising the scenario for the first episode, that you get off the Toyoko Line at Shibuya and take the elevator to a yet-unseen railroad station, we started to really think things like “We can pull this off, even without Digimon partners!” or “This will be fun.”
–There was a huge emphasis on the fact that the children have to be the ones to “choose”.
Seki: Up until then, the series had certainly been about “chosen” children. This time, the children have many different possible options in their future, but they instead chose to follow that path. If this were a game, it would be like having a choice between the path on the right or the path on the left, and if you choose to take the path on the right, you’ll end up having an encounter with a Digimon.
Kaizawa: The point of making the “choice” is where your life begins.
–Did you decide at the very beginning that their Digimon would not appear until the end?
Kaizawa: We had not decided on that yet at the time.
Seki: We were talking about how, starting from the time they made their choice, they would have to meet their Digimon after a long period of clawing their way there. Of course, I believe Kaizawa-san did bring up the question “doesn’t that mean they’ll end up (meeting them) in the final episode?” at some point. And then I realized “Huh?! Does that mean they’re not going to see them until the final episode?” (laughs)
–Kakudou-san ended up still being involved with the third and fourth series as a director for various individual episodes.
Kakudou: I had fun with the individual episodes. We started this series off with Adventure, but it ended up being more of a human narrative. By the time we got to Frontier, I was thinking that I really wanted to try doing a proper Digimon story for once. From there, I ended up making X-evolution a story that had absolutely no humans appearing at all, and with that, I’d satisfied myself of any lingering regrets.
–Of course, the anime series were still original stories, but DIGITAL MONSTER X-evolution really goes back to being a true Digimon narrative.
Kakudou: Well, Bandai came up with the story, too. They just had me come in for direction once in a while. The process would originally be something like us saying “we’ll come up with the story, so just let us use the characters,” but I also wanted to try something about “‘Digimon’, in the way Bandai conceives of them”, and so it was a good opportunity. It was fun thinking about how I could make this story interesting, and I put my all into it.
Don’t forget about Digimon’s music
–Digimon always leaves a strong impression with its “evolution songs”.
Kakudou: The song that plays for evolution sequences, “brave heart”, was originally one of our candidates for the opening song. Eventually we decided to use “Butter-Fly” as the opening, but we still very much thought “brave heart” was amazing, so we decided to have it play directly onto the evolution sequences. I really, really liked attaching vocal songs onto this (work). When a vocal song starts playing, you get hyped up, and so vocal songs ended up becoming the BGM for evolution and battle scenes, and we ended up needing fewer and fewer orders for actual BGM (laughs).
Seki: On top of our very tight budget, we had to make music for the movies, too, and we ended up having a very limited number of BGM songs. We ended up in the situation of “sorry, but can you make do with only this many songs?”
Kakudou: Battle songs require the most variation, but if you tie them to the evolution songs, you can make them into only one song. And of course, we were able to do that in the first place because the song we’d gotten from the audition was so good.
Seki: That audition was just a block full of good songs.
Kakudou: We took out all of the songs that felt like they’d be better used for other anime instead, and from the remaining ones that I personally liked, we picked out one as the opening. And then I thought to myself, I like this one, but I’d like to use it in a different way than I would the opening, and so it became the evolution song.
–It was a surprise to hear “brave heart” being used again in 02.
Kakudou: We wanted to show off the different kinds of evolution (laughs). Armor evolution would use “Break up!”, and standard evolution would use “brave heart”. And then when we introduced the fusion type of evolution, well, that’s another one, so we thought, “okay, we’re making another song!” (laughs)
Seki: By the time we got to that point, we were all in the mood of “Yep, let’s do it! Let’s go, let’s go!”, like we were all on fire. And now the series has over 100 CDs related to it, which is pretty amazing.
–If you include the maxi singles, you end up with over 130.
Seki: Is it really that many? (laughs) I don’t even think I own all of them.
–They started really piling up around the time of 02.
Kakudou: It was like some kind of Big Bang (laughs).
Kaizawa: You were putting out a lot even after the actual airing ended.
–There was a live concert at Zepp Tokyo, too.
Seki: There was, wasn’t there? He (Matsu-niisan) said they were still planning something like that, too. He’s not here to confirm it, though.
Kakudou: I’m not credited anywhere for it, but I was the one who organized that one. For quite a small amount of money, too (laughs).
–There are some interesting things in the drama CDs worth listening to as well.
Kakudou: The actual anime had everyone recorded together in one room, but we hadn’t gotten to hear any of them recording their own separate stories after that, did we?
Seki: No, we hadn’t.
Kakudou: We packed it with quite a lot of information in relation to Adventure. We wanted to show the relationship between Digimon and the real world.
–There was even a short story about the circumstances around 9/11.
Kakudou: I heard stories about American comic superheroes heading to the site of the disaster and helping with recovery, and I thought, if they (the Digimon) were there, something similar would happen.
Seki: Matsu-niisan (music producer Shintarou Matsui) really wanted Kakudou-san to make another drama CD, so that’s how it started.
Looking back after ten years
–What would you say “Digimon” means to you, in light of these last ten years?
Seki: For me, Digimon is something we started planning in 1998, leading to one of the busiest times in my life. See, someone said to me back then, I think everyone has that one time in their life where they’re so busy they feel like they’re going to die. Once you get older, you realize how good of a memory that was, but at the time you think, ugh, how long do I have to hold out for, and you have to keep telling yourself to be patient, it’ll come. So I was thinking that for the first few months…And then four years passed. I was juggling Magical DoReMi at the same time. And both of them were original stories, and I had to make 100 pieces of work in one year until we reached the final drafts…So I consider Digimon to be a part of the busiest time of my life, and because of that I will never forget it. I’m grateful for the experience.
Kakudou: Ten years have passed, but it doesn’t feel like it’s over (laughs). I feel like the story is still going on somewhere out there. Even for me, the story I made is something that I drew from stories that existed elsewhere. So the story keeps itself going, and, somewhere else, unseen, is still continuing on. That’s how I feel.
Kaizawa: When I was a kid, I used to go out to the mountains and play around there, and at one time I actually disassembled a gear from a bicycle and pretended it was a UFO. No, actually, I feel that “Digimon” is that intangible thing that lies at the core of a child’s playtime. Children making friends with monsters, through the Digivices and handheld game consoles. But surely, there was some time when the children could actually feel the presence of the monsters they were dreaming of, and felt that they had made contact with something truly interesting. Nowadays, people are inundated with information that such things are forgotten, and you get ridiculed for having imaginary friends and ideas. So if you want to bring back “Digimon”, it should be something that resonates with the children, it has to be something that you can say, “when you touch it, it feels like this,” it has to be something that they can truly enjoy that fascination with their friends, or with items, or with monsters. This was a work that lay at the turning point between eras, and it would be good if it could be handed down to the children of the future. That was something I truly felt while I was working on it.
–And so, Seki-san, please close for us and leave a message for the fans.
Seki: I would like to give my utmost gratitude to both the fans and the staff who supported us during the four years I was involved on Digimon. If you’ve bought this book, you probably have remembered Digimon even throughout these last ten years, and still continue to love Digimon. Thank you for remembering, and for not forgetting about it. While I can’t make any promises, I think it would be great if Digimon as a series can also evolve a little more, alongside those who watched it back then. Half of me actually wants to be the one to make it, and half of me wants to just watch everyone else do it and go “ohoho” while enjoying it, but I do sincerely, truly, from the bottom of my heart, hope that a new Digimon series can appear in front of you in a new form8. Thank you very much.
- Two Years’ Vacation (Deux ans de vacances) is a French novel by Jules Verne that holds a high amount of literary and cultural significance in Japan, far more so than it is in the Anglosphere. The novel is described as “Robinson Crusoe with children,” depicting an adventure of a group of boys trying to survive after being marooned on an island. It has been cited multiple times as an inspiration for Digimon Adventure, and the comparison has been drawn quite often by many a Japanese fan. [↩]
- Bikkuriman is a Lotte-produced series of snacks that gained popularity for their collectible stickers. The stickers and characters on it then spawned their own spinoff games and, eventually, its own anime. [↩]
- Director Kakudou is correct; while its American counterpart Power Rangers would beat them to the punch, Super Sentai would not properly solidify having two female characters as a regular aspect of team makeup until Dekaranger in 2004. [↩]
- SMAP was a very, very, very famous five-member boy band that ran from 1988 to 2016. [↩]
- “Michiyo Arihara” may not be the correct reading (there are no sources on how to read this name, only given kanji). [↩]
- A “cour” is used in descriptions of Japanese TV shows and anime to refer to a 12-14 episode block (i.e. Adventure is a 4-cour anime). [↩]
- Masako Nozawa = The voice actress for Guilmon in Tamers. [↩]
- This book was released in February 2010. As if responding to Producer Seki’s last words here, Digimon Xros Wars began airing five months later in July of that year, with Producer Seki being credited as its planner. Director Kaizawa would later be the director for its third part, The Boy Hunters Who Leapt Through Time. [↩]