Digimon Tamers 20th Anniversary Chat: Makoto Tsumura × Hiromi Seki

A translation of an interview posted on the Digimon Partners website on May 21, 2021, held with Takato Matsuda voice actress Makoto Tsumura and series producer Hiromi Seki, commemorating the announcement of various Digimon Tamers voice actors attending the 2021 DigiFes event, and the 20th anniversary of the series.

Digimon Tamers 20th Anniversary Chat: Makoto Tsumura × Hiromi Seki

This year marks 20 years since Digimon Tamers began broadcasting. The event “DigiFes 2021”, scheduled to be held on August 1, 2021, is planned to host the Tamers cast members on stage. With that, we interviewed Hiromi Seki-san, the producer of Tamers, and Makoto Tsumura-san, who played Takato Matsuda! We asked about all sorts of things, such as their memories from recording, or various headcanons!? that couldn’t be discussed at the time.

Makoto Tsumura-san: Voice of Takato Matsuda in Digimon Tamers. Other major roles include Wakame Isono in Sazae-san and Ratchet in the Ratchet & Clank game series.
Hiromi Seki-san: Producer of the first four series starting from Digimon Adventure. Major representative works include the Magical DoReMi series.
Digimon Partners Staff: A person in their 30s who loves Digimon

A reunion after 3 years!

Tsumura: It’s been a while.

Seki: It’s been a while. I think the last time we met was when we were recording for the Blu-ray BOX bonus drama CD, at the place where Studio TAVAC used to be.

Tsumura: I didn’t know the studio had changed, so it was a shock. Back when we used to record at TAVAC, we used to constantly talk about ghosts appearing in the studio (laughs).

Seki: We did~. There were old legends about them often appearing in rooms at the second studio, where they were only doing dubbing.

Tsumura: Right. I was at another studio once and heard a voice “I’m usually the one who sits here.”

Seki: And here, a voice actress with an affinity for the supernatural started her story. The main story writer, Chiaki Konaka-san, was a huge fan of ghost stories, so this might be a rather appropriate way of starting off our Digimon Tamers chat (laughs).

Staff: I was thinking, it really is quite a “suitable” story.

Unexpected events at the audition

Staff: The aforementioned ghost story studio, Studio TAVAC, was where the first four Digimon series were recorded. What sort of impression did you have of the Digimon series at the time, Tsumura-san?

Tsumura: After I heard about the audition, I did some research into the Digimon anime, and emerged with a strong of impression of “so this kind of series is popular nowadays!”

Staff: Please tell us about your impressions when you learned about the basic summary of Digimon Tamers.

Tsumura: The idea of seeing something you came up with actually appear in front of you is the kind of situation you could only dream of, right? So I thought the idea of Guilmon was really wonderful. I read the script and got a hold of the way the story would play out. So instead of thinking “I’m going to play the role this way,” I took the script and played the role by following it.

Staff: So you understood the story by playing along with it until the final episode.

Tsumura: Yes. But the story of Tamers is really quite complex, isn’t it? When you think of it in the way an adult would, you end up fixating too much on “why is this happening this way?”, so I switched my way of thinking to that of a child, and took it as-is. Ultimately, I may not have actually understood all that much…(laughs).

Seki: It’s fine. When they asked me if I, as the producer, was able to understand enough, the ultimate conclusion was that “it’s difficult” (laughs). In the end, Konaka-san knew a great amount about science fiction, and it was difficult to explain, so I did my best to understand the nuances alongside the series director, Kaizawa-san1.

Tsumura: But it really was very fun regardless. I rewatched the first episode, and it was really good. It doesn’t feel like it’s aged at all. I’d really like children to watch it even now.

Seki: Konaka-san suggested, and we very much approved, the idea that, unlike series like Digimon Adventure and 02, the protagonist should not be a hot-blooded one. He should be an ordinary elementary school student who’s very true-to-life, scribbling in the pages of a notebook. We wanted to aim for something with a different form from the usual tried-and-true characterization methods that Toei Animation had refined up to that point, but there weren’t many voice actors who could express the more delicate nature of a young boy, and we couldn’t find one that felt quite right. During the audition, we decided with Konaka-san that Tsumura-san was the one who was most suitable for the direction of Takato’s character. Among all of the voice actors who played the character by applying existing patterns to him, she gave him the natural voice of a young boy that wasn’t influenced by any genre.

Tsumura: Thank you very much.

Seki: Both Konaka-san and I had gone through all of the tryouts from the first audition. Back then, the auditions were managed with tape, but an unexpected event occurred, and when we were listening to all of the voices that we’d reviewed during the initial screening, Tsumura-san’s tape turned out to be missing! It had gone missing thanks to a simple accident from the person who’d been in charge of it at the time. We quickly made a call to TAVAC and requested it.

Tsumura: I’d heard about that. From Konaka-san, back during the closing party!

Seki: That’s how much Tsumura-san impressed us. To the point we even noticed “that person’s voice didn’t get included in there!”

Tsumura: I’m happy to hear that.

Seki: I will never be able to forget that incident in my life.

Staff: Even the auditioning ended up full of drama.

Tsumura: When I heard I’d passed, it was the first time I’d be playing a lead role in a year-long series, so I was shocked, like, “What? Why me?”, but also more objectively thinking “Huh…”

The comfort of having Masako Nozawa-san there

Staff: What was it like working with the other voice actors, Tsumura-san?

Tsumura: I was meeting all of these cast and staff members for the first time, and it made me extremely nervous. And, above all, Masako Nozawa-san2 was there.

Seki: Right (laughs). I understand.

Tsumura: I was nervous, but on the other hand, thanks to Nozawa-san being there, I was able to record at ease. She was a very substantial presence, so I could depend on her as a voice actress. She was a very wonderful person and I’m very grateful to her.

Seki: Whenever a huge veteran is there at the post-recording site, it’s a huge relief for the other members. Back when we were recording for Digimon Adventure, when Toshiko Fujita-san was there3, the area became very lively.

Staff: Nozawa-san was quite the huge presence indeed. Was that why she was put in that role?

Seki: Yes. We wanted her to bring together the Tamers team, or, more accurately, we wanted her to tighten everyone together. But if we were to ask her to play a human voice, the image associated with her would come off too strongly, so we asked her to play Guilmon, who had an important position as a Digimon.

Tsumura: Nozawa-san didn’t have an audition, right?

Seki: Right, we determined her role from the beginning and personally requested her.

Staff: How did the first recording go?

Tsumura: Really, I was just nervous. Guilmon only got to show up a little at the end, so Nozawa-san was watching over me from behind. Rewatching it now, I felt I made him really lively (laughs).

Seki: The first episode of Tamers is an unforgettable one. The recording studio was in Okubo, which is near Shinjuku, where the story is set. We passed some elementary school students on the way back from the recording, and it really felt just like the children in the story.

Tsumura: Takato really is an ordinary boy. Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to say this, but I feel like maybe that weakness of his was what suited my own voice.

Happy and yet sad to see Takato grow

Staff: Tamers is a story about the growth of Takato, an ordinary boy. Did seeing him grow have any influence on you, Tsumura-san?

Tsumura: Of course, I thought, I have to grow alongside Takato! But as he fought and continued to grow further, I started to miss the pure-hearted and straightforward Takato from the early episodes and felt a little sad. It’s a story about the growth of a young boy, and yet I was sad while playing him. Kind of like being his parent? (laughs)

Seki: Takato is the most normal sort of boy, and as the number of action scenes increased, Tsumura-san’s vocalization and tone of voice started getting stronger, so even I was starting to feel a little sad (laughs). Perhaps because I was thinking about the balance between the three protagonists. Ruki and Jian were mature from the get-go, and Takato was the only one who was particularly close to a more realistic child. But I’d been wondering how Takato’s character managed to be there so firmly even all the way to the end of the story. Hearing this now, I understand. It might be because Tsumura-san herself had been thinking about “Takato’s boyishness” that whole time.

Staff: What was it like working alongside Jian’s voice actress, Mayumi Yamaguchi-san, and Ruki’s voice actress, Fumiko Orikasa-san?

Tsumura: It was really encouraging to have them alongside me, and I’m very glad that they were there. Nozawa-san being there was also a huge source of support for me, and I got the sense that it was something we were all making together.

From the perspective of his mother!? sorts of headcanons after Tamers

Staff: Now that it’s been 20 years, is there anything you couldn’t say back then that you can now?

Seki: As I said earlier, we couldn’t conceive of what kind of voice actor we wanted to have play Takato at all, so our encounter with Tsumura-san was like a huge revelation. From that point, Tsumura-san was always thinking about things like how she’d play him years after elementary school. Like if she could play him all the way to university, or as a weak-hearted office worker, or even as a kind father.

Tsumura: I’ve played even boys around 15 years old, but I’ve often had times when I didn’t understand “what would a boy feel in this situation?” It’s difficult to play someone of the opposite gender, but putting aside the feeling of the voice itself, if an opportunity were to ever come up, I’d love to try it out as an actor.

Seki: Beyond that, how would a boy who was the weak-hearted and gentle type back in elementary school grow up after having to part with his Digimon? For example, around three years after the broadcast, I would think things like “if Takato were real, he’d be in his second year of middle school now.”

Tsumura: About Takato’s future.

Seki: I started making headcanons4 like, he’d become a middle school student, and learn that another boy had asked Juri-chan out on a date, and maybe he’d think “I’m so pathetic…”

Tsumura: I thought about that too! But more like, in the end, maybe it wouldn’t work out that well with Juri-chan (laughs). Or maybe he’s going out with a completely different kind of girl.

Seki: Even making headcanon about this is fun.

Staff: Excuse me for barging in (laughs). Konaka-san said in another interview that Tamers is a love story between Takato and Juri.

Tsumura: Huh? Did he!? Well, it really is, yeah.

Staff: Were you particularly conscious of that of when you were recording back then?

Tsumura: Of course, I was well aware that he was working very hard for the sake of a girl he liked. I thought Takato and Juri seemed to have a relationship of mutual interest in each other.

Seki: Konaka-san might have depicted it as a romance story between Takato and Juri. But in my conversations with Tsumura-san, our headcanons kept getting stronger, and while he certainly had been fighting with Juri in mind, the woman Takato eventually goes for wouldn’t be Juri…or, more strictly speaking, I feel that the man Juri would go for wouldn’t be Takato.

Tsumura: Yeah (laughs).

Seki: Remember, this is absolutely just headcanon (laughs). So then, what kind of man would Juri go for, and would Takato continue pulling his feelings for Juri all the way through middle and high school…? I couldn’t say this kind of thing in front of Konaka-san, so I’m happy I could talk about it here with Tsumura-san today (laughs). When I looked at the character relationships from the perspective of someone who was a middle-aged woman at the time, I naturally ended up thinking about that kind of thing.

Tsumura: You mean like things not going well with Juri-chan? (laughs)

Staff: It’s like the mother’s point of view that you mentioned earlier.

Tsumura: Juri-chan’s the kind of person who has herself together, isn’t she? If you know her deep down, you understand that she’s actually a very good girl. If Takato could get with this kind of girl, I think it’d be a huge sense of security for him, but…

Seki: Right, it’s the “but” (laughs). As the two get older, the relationship between the two might change further. Of course, when we were making the story back then, it was important to keep Konaka-san’s thoughts in mind, so we couldn’t talk about it like this.

Staff: The drama CD included as a bonus with the Blu-ray depicted some of the story that happened afterwards.

Tsumura: By the decree of the higher-ups, we only got to see a little of the older Takato, so I wanted to feel more of the substance behind him. The contents haven’t been announced yet, but I’m looking forward to finding out if he ends up playing a major role in the script-reading drama5 at DigiFes. I still haven’t managed to form a proper image of him in my head yet, so I hope it’s a story where you can properly feel the humanity in him.

A series that we hope you can rewatch as an adult

Staff: What kind of series is Digimon Tamers to the two of you?

Tsumura: It’s a very precious series to me, and one I love. I’m very happy to know that it’s still loved by so many people.

Seki: Digimon Tamers was in the works at the same time as the third series of Magical DoReMi. Magical DoReMi introduced a repatriate student6, and Tamers introduced the half-Japanese Jian. I was in a particular mindset of wanting to have characters who grew up in different cultures, but Konaka-san was the one who did a good job bringing it to the forefront. On top of that, I was able to work with people like the art designer Yoshito Watanabe-san and Shinji Aramaki-san, who had talent that I still haven’t met anyone else on the level of. Of the four Digimon series I was involved with, it was the one with the most different nature, and it was a lot of fun to go deeply into its depiction of its world.

Tsumura: Assuming they were growing up with Takato, those who were watching at the time would be in their thirties now. I would like to ask those in their thirties who have rewatched it about their impressions. I think the feelings of all of the members of staff who made it together have reached everyone, and it’s a series that’s still loved so much even now, and I’m full of gratitude. I’m honestly thankful that I was able to be involved with this.

Seki: I hope this series can become something that’ll create communication between people as they share all of their memories of watching. I think it’s a series you can read and look very deeply into, so please rewatch it again from the perspective of an adult.

Tsumura: Right now, I’m looking forward to seeing what it’ll be like interacting with everyone at this year’s DigiFes 2021! I’ll be doing my best with the script-reading drama!

Staff: Thank you very much!

  1. “Kaizawa-san” = Tamers director Yukio Kaizawa. []
  2. “Masako Nozawa-san” = Voice actress for Guilmon in Tamers, who was already considered a legendary voice actress among her peers and fans at the time of recording. []
  3. “Toshiko Fujita-san” = The voice actress for Taichi Yagami in Adventure, and also a veteran at the time of its recording. []
  4. Literally speaking, the word translated as “headcanon” here is actually “delusion” (mousou, 妄想), which is functionally used in the same way as “headcanon” in a large number of cases, but does have a bit of self-deprecation involved. []
  5. “Script-reading drama” = A part of a stage show featuring voice actors, in which the actors are handed scripts and read out the story on stage; the one referred to was held on August 1, 2021 in commemoration of the Tamers 20th anniversary. Previous shows in the same vein had been held at DigiFes for Adventure tri. and LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna. []
  6. “Repatriate student” = A kikokushijo, referring to a student who has had education in a different country for at least a year and has “returned” to Japan. An example is Izumi Orimoto from Frontier, whose experiences in Italy lead to culture shock-induced friction between her and her classmates. []

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