A series of cast and staff interviews from the booklet included with the Digimon Tamers DVD-Box (released April 25, 2007), which featured interviews with the following:
- Voice actors Makoto Tsumura (Takato Matsuda), Mayumi Yamaguchi (Jianliang Lee), and Fumiko Orikasa (Ruki Makino)
- CGI designer Shinji Aramaki
- Director Yukio Kaizawa
- Lead writer Chiaki J. Konaka
- Producer Hiromi Seki
Voice actors Makoto Tsumura, Mayumi Yamaguchi, and Fumiko Orikasa
Main Character Memorial Chat
Makoto Tsumura (voice of Takato Matsuda), Mayumi Yamaguchi (voice of Jianliang Lee), and Fumiko Orikasa (voice of Ruki Makino)
We asked the voice actresses who played the three main characters of Tamers about their memories of the series back when it was airing.
The characters’ growth and the Digimon evolving!?
What was the atmosphere like at the recording site back then?
Fumiko Orikasa-san (hereinafter, Orikasa): How many years ago was it again?
Mayumi Yamaguchi-san (hereinafter, Yamaguchi): It was something like five years, wasn’t it?
Makoto Tsumura-san (hereinafter, Tsumura): Something like that~
Yamaguchi: Oh, my…That’s incredible. It’s really been such a long time.
Tsumura: Yeah. Guilmon was so cute~. At first, he was so innocent, like he didn’t understand anything, and it was really nice. But then he gradually got smarter and smarter (laughs).
Yamaguchi: So you’re saying he stopped being as cute? (laughs). But I also remember more of the fuzzy and warm parts from the beginning. Once they got to the second half, things got really heavy…
Tsumura: Right, right. When they got to the Digital World, they were getting barraged with fights, and the story got really difficult…Now that you mention it, at the beginning, Jian kept refusing to let Terriermon evolve, didn’t he? (*1)
Yamaguchi: He did. I also thought Terriermon was cute, and wanted him to stay that way. I wouldn’t say I didn’t want him to evolve, but it was more like, I wanted him to stay cute…
Orikasa: Wasn’t that also why Jian didn’t want him to evolve~? (laughs)
Yamaguchi: Yeah, yeah (laughs).
Tsumura: Of all the Digimon, he was the one with the most extreme change in appearance.
(*1) Kept refusing to let Terriermon evolve: Jian, who was the most staunchly against having the Digimon fight each other, kept trying to prevent Terriermon from evolving, because allowing him to evolve would have meant allowing him to fight. His way of thinking put him in particular contrast to Ruki, who considered fighting to be a Digimon’s reason for existence, while the Digimon themselves had the desire to evolve. Jian’s interactions with not only Takato and Ruki, but also other Digimon such as Guilmon and Renamon, cause him to reconsider his feelings on his partner’s evolution and involvement in the fight.
On that note, did the cast members have any particular reaction to that during the recording?
Yamaguchi: There was a lot of that. Like “Huuuuuuh?”, and we even had some booing. Even the person who was actually playing him (*2) let out a yelp of shock (laughs). She was saying things in shock like “when they cast me, they told me I could be cute, and yet somehow it turned out like this!” (laughs).
(*2) The person who was actually playing him: Referring to Aoi Tada-san, the voice actress for Terriermon, and the same person whom Yamaguchi-san later refers to as “Aoi-chan”. She played both his usual form as a Digimon partner and his more evolved forms, such as Galgomon. Terriermon made his first appearance in the Digimon Adventure 02 theatrical movie Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!!/Transcendent Evolution!! The Golden Digimentals, and was also played by the same Tada-san. On top of that, she also played Lopmon, the partner of Jian’s sister Shaochung.
She had to play him differently after he evolved, too.
Tsumura: It was like that for everyone who had to play a Digimon. The more forms they started evolving into, the more ways they had to change their performances, too.
Yamaguchi: Hiroki-kun (*3) was actually sweating (laughs). He did a great job.
Orikasa: Hiroki-kun was the one who seemed to have a harder time with the lower form (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Impmon, right? Yeah, that might have actually been the hardest one. Although, if Culumon had gotten all big and tough, that would have definitely been pretty amusing (laughs).
Tsumura: Culumon and Juri got along really well, didn’t they?
Yamaguchi: But in the end, they got brought through the wringer (laughs).
Orikasa: I just really felt so bad for Juri-chan. Especially with her family situation…
(*3) Hiroki-kun: Referring to Hiroki Takahashi-san, the voice actor for Beelzebumon/Impmon. A famous voice actor who has voiced a variety of male characters ranging from handsome men to comic relief, including Parco Folgore in Zatch Bell!, Eiji Kikumaru in The Prince of Tennis, and Kenji Harima in School Rumble. Yamaguchi-san told us that he performed his role as Impmon and Beelzebumon with such incredible enthusiasm that he was always “sweating like he’d been under a waterfall”.
About each character’s background
The Digimon series stands out in that it defines family backgrounds for each character.
Tsumura: Takato’s family ran a bakery (*4), didn’t they? There was a scene where Tokyo was in trouble, and they were baking their own bread. What was Ruki-chan’s family doing again? She lived in that really luxurious house.
Orikasa: Her mom was working as a model, but…her grandmother was usually the only one at home.
Tsumura: What about her dad?
Orikasa: Her father wasn’t there anymore. Although we saw some of her memories of him during the theatrical movie…I remember thinking it was incredible how Imai-san (*5) played everyone around Ruki, meaning her grandmother, her mom, and Renamon, all of them.
Yamaguchi: It felt like the two of you were basically the entire family.
Tsumura: I was also really impressed!
Yamaguchi: Speaking of which, Renamon didn’t really change all that much when they evolved, did they? Unlike Terriermon…(laughs).
Tsumura: Ah, I remember Kyuubimon really well. They were a nine-tailed fox (*6), so I have a very strong impression of them.
(*4) Bakery: Referring to the “Matsuda Bakery” where Takato lives. It is a small bakery around the outskirts of Nishi-Shinjuku, and Takato often helps out in the store. In epsiode 43, “Connected Hearts, the Resurrected Beelzebumon”, after the city has been evacuated, it is indicated that Takato knows how to bake bread, and he and his friends head to the bakery, where they bake and eat bread. In the second half of the story, Takato’s father also begins to make bread shaped like Guilmon’s head.
(*5) Imai-san: Referring to Yuka Imai-san, the voice actress for Renamon. On top of also playing Kyuubimon, she also played Ruki’s mother and grandmother. According to Chiaki Konaka-san, who explained the circumstances behind the casting on his personal website, it was Producer Hiromi Seki-san’s idea. In addition to singing the song that Sakuyamon sings during her first evolution, Imai-san also composed it. Beyond her role in Digimon Tamers, she also played Yuki-sensei in Magical DoReMi, among others.
(*6) Nine-tailed fox: Renamon’s evolved form, Kyuubimon, is based on the “nine-tailed fox” youkai1. It is a fictional creature that originally came from Chinese tales, but “The Tale of Tamamo”, a story set in the Heian period from the Otogi-zoshi2 short story collection, popularized it in Japan as a spirit who transforms into a beautiful woman. They are notable for attracting a particularly large amount of fascination, even among other youkai, and many characters in different movies, live-action TV shows, novels, manga, games, and other kinds of media have been based on them.
It’s hard playing a Digimon!? And guess what happened at the audition…
When you were playing your character, did you ever feel like you wanted to try playing a Digimon?
Tsumura: I did! I thought, I want to play a cute one like Terriermon~. I kept thinking, I want to try it~, but I didn’t get a single opportunity to do it, and then the series ended (laughs).
Yamaguchi: I was in the first series, and I played a Digimon there (*7). They picked me as Jian through audition, but at the time I didn’t think they’d possibly accept my audition, so I was looking at the character outlines as if it were someone else’s problem, and going “Terriermon’s so cute~” (laughs).
Orikasa: They had me try out for a number of different roles at the audition, one of which was Ruki. They also had me do Impmon while I was there. I still had absolutely no idea how the story was going to play out at the time, so I remember wondering whom they’d gotten for Impmon, and it turned out to be Hiroki-kun! (laughs)
Tsumura: Yeah, Impmon probably could have had a female voice actress.
Yamaguchi: But if that’d actually happened, it would have been pretty scary (laughs).
Orikasa: I had no idea the story was going to turn out like this. So looking back on it now, it would have been pretty scary (laughs).
Tsumura: In my case, my audition tape didn’t even get sent over at first, and they only picked me when they’d heard it afterwards.
Yamaguchi: If nobody had realized hers was missing back then, we wouldn’t have had Tsumura-san’s Takato, and that’s kind of incredible to think about (laughs).
(*7) Played a Digimon: Referring to Gabumon, Yamato Ishida’s Digimon partner in Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02. With a shy personality, he is usually seen wearing a Garurumon pelt. His true appearance underneath the pelt is actually supposed to be that of a “Reptilian Digimon”, but it was not depicted in the anime itself. Yamaguchi still often passes by the Omekaido Overbridge in Shinjuku, and says that it reminds her of Digimon Tamers whenever she does.
Was there anything particularly difficult about playing Takato?
Tsumura: Takato was a pretty normal young boy, so I had an easy time playing him.
Yamaguchi: You just had to be natural about it~ (laughs). I think you did a wonderful job expressing him as a natural-sounding, pure-hearted elementary school kid.
How about Jian?
Yamaguchi: I didn’t have to focus on anything in particular with him, but somehow, people kept genuinely insisting that I made him sound sexy. Aoi-chan (*2) kept saying that, and I kept telling her that Terriermon shouldn’t be saying things like that (laughs).
Tsumura: We even started calling him “naked” instead of by his actual name3 (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Well, they all went completely naked for their Ultimate evolutions. That was really embarrassing (laughs).
How about Ruki?
Orikasa: I think I had a relatively easy time playing her. Although she was pretty obviously cool-headed, and didn’t seem like the type to have many friends (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Ruki was a tsundere (*8), wasn’t she?
Orikasa: Ah, yeah, she might have been! At the time we didn’t have that kind of word for it, though.
Yamaguchi: A pioneer example of a tsundere. How nice.
Orikasa: Of the characters I’ve played, Ruki was the first to have stock phrases. So when I had to say things like “Card Slash!”, I’d watch how you two would do it, and take that into consideration for how I should do it.
(*8) Tsundere: A word often used to refer to a type of female character in games, anime, and other media. While she has feelings for someone, such as the protagonist, she refuses to express their true feelings honestly and will display a grouchy attitude. However, when the two of them are alone together, her attitude changes to a more lovey-dovey one, and so, from the words “tsunken” (grouchy) and “deredere” (lovey-dovey), such a character became known as a “tsundere“. There are various theories as to the origin of this term, but it initially came into use starting from 2002, and it eventually became so popular that it was nominated for the 2006 Neologism/Buzzword Award.
Is there something you’d want to see your character do?
Tsumura: I want him to get involved in a romance story, regardless of whether it involves Juri-chan or not. I want to see him try seducing someone. With the exact same voice (laughs).
Yamaguchi: There’s no way he’d ever be able to get beyond “um” or “excuse me”. I’d like to see more of Jian’s daily life. Like him doing nothing but sit in front of the computer, or “Jian goes to Akihabara4” (laughs). Maybe he’d sneak into a maid cafe5, or maybe he wouldn’t enter any shops and would just scrounge up things in bulk from the streets.
Orikasa: In that case, Ruki would probably get dragged along for a tour of Akihabara. And then she’d hear people calling attention to her and going “it’s the Digimon Queen!” at her from behind (laughs).
Please leave a message for all of the fans who were watching the series back then.
Tsumura: Now that it’s been five years, you’ll probably have a completely different impression of the series now than you did back then. So much time has passed, and I’m sure the take-homes you’ll get from it will have changed, so I hope you’ll be able to have fun with that.
Yamaguchi: If you buy it right now with your New Year’s money or something, you’ll be able to watch it anytime, and I hope your children or even your grandchildren can enjoy it. I think this story is a very nice piece of property to have, so please go ahead and show it to them.
Orikasa: I imagine those who’ve gone as far as to buy DVDs of this series must be pretty huge fans of it, so now that five years have passed, I hope everyone can look back on it and see how much of the scenery around the town has changed, and get to enjoy this story of friendship and youth once again.
CGI designer Shinji Aramaki
We held an interview with Aramaki-san, who supported Tamers’s visuals with innovative ideas and fashionable sense.
On how you were brought on to work on the artwork
Aramaki-san, you were connected through the lead writer6, Chiaki Konaka-san, right?
We’d been working on a number of things prior to this, so for instance on a TV anime as a scenario writer and a episode director, or as a designer. Through various circumstances, thanks to Konaka-san, I ended up working on this series of Digimon, and things proceeded with him inviting me to draw some rough drafts for his ideas. At the time, I still wasn’t doing it as work, so the idea just hit me and I used the idea to draw something and deliver it to him. I think it was something like the draft images for when they were absorbed into the Digimon during Ultimate evolution (*1). It was pretty much something I drew in something like 10 or 20 minutes, but Konaka-san took a huge interest in it. After that, some time had passed, and I think it was after the broadcast for Tamers had started, but he called on me again, this time to do it as a proper paid job. They’d solidified the part of the story where they would be going to the Digital World, so they started off by asking me to make an imageboard for it.
(*1) Absorbed during Ultimate evolution: Referring to when the forms of Takato with Guilmon, Ruki with Renamon, and Jian with Terriermon are overlapped on each other, and how they are depicted in what one would call a space within a Digimon. This space is called a Tamer Ball, and they are surrounded by the same belts of digital data that enclose the orb of the Real World floating in the sky. Since they’ve been converted into digital data, Takato and his friends are not wearing any clothes or accessories, and float within the Tamer Ball.
(*2) Entering the Digital World: Referring to the eighteen episodes between episode 24, “To the Digital World…The Day of Departure” to episode 41, “Return, to the Real World!”, when Takato and his friends go to the Digital World, or, so to speak, the Digital World arc. The story for this period was determined after the first cour (episodes 1 through 13) had ended. Aramaki-san decided on the general framework for this Digital World arc, and, starting from the point of doing production for the Digital World itself, he was formalized as a proper member of staff for the series.
What was it like working on the CGI design?
First, I made an imageboard, or rather, the design for the Digital World. I then added on things like the Digital Gate that they used to get to the Digital World. After that, I worked on what we’d talked about earlier in passing, the storyboards and production for the final Ultimate evolution sequences for Dukemon, Sakuyamon, and SaintGalgomon. After that, I made an imageboard for the D-Reaper’s design (*3), and I think that was the gist of all of it.
(*3) The D-Reaper’s design: The D-Reaper has various forms, which were designed by Aramaki-san, character designer Nakatsuru-san, and Bandai’s Digital Monster designer Kenji Watanabe-san. Aramaki-san designed one named “Bubbles”, which is a small D-Reaper unit connected entirely by a cord, and one named “Creep Hands”, a mid-sized D-Reaper that can perform hand-to-hand combat with large retractable arms.
In terms of the Digital World, what kind of image were you asked to make?
I believe I got all different sorts of requests at first, but the truth is, I feel like they didn’t actually ask me for much…(laughs). There were times where I just made it the way I wanted and asked whether it was okay. When I showed it to them, I’d get a response like “Huh?! Is this how it came out?”, but then it’d be a relief when they added “well, it’s fine that way.”
Was the floating sphere your idea?
Yes, it was. They went underground (*4) and entered the Digital World, but since it’s a Digital World, I felt I needed to do something to make it actually come off as digital, and that if I didn’t do that, it wouldn’t work. I had to make sure that it gave off a proper sense of disparity from the Real World, but when you’re going underground, your field of vision is cramped. Then, I thought of being able to see the actual Real World. It would be the actual Earth, or rather, a reversal of the Real World. It would be always floating over everyone’s heads, and it made the visuals look interesting, so that was my proposal.
(*4) Went underground: At the beginning of the story, Takato could not bring Guilmon to live with him due to his large body, and instead hid him in a park in Shinjuku. Guilmon’s hiding place went further underground as you went further in, and led to a gate connecting to the Digital World. In episode 24, “To the Digital World…The day of Departure”, Takato and his friends used that gate to set off into the Digital World, in order to rescue Culumon, who had been captured by the Devas.
How did you conceive of those kinds of ideas?
Generally, I come up with those kinds of ideas without thinking too hard about it. If I actively think about it instead of letting it come to me, it usually doesn’t turn out very good (laughs). I’m asked about this kind of thing a lot, but I have a very hard time putting what I think about into words. It’s in the sense of “my hand just moved by itself as I was drawing it.” I keep thinking, if I’d actually gotten a proper image to solidify in my head, and done a proper job in drawing it with focus, I wouldn’t be giving people such a hard time (laughs).
What do you do in order to get your focus up whenever you make something?
I play a lot (laughs). I read books or I play video games, and I idle around aimlessly. I don’t know how that increases my focus, but when there’s something I have to do before the day is over, there are a lot of times when I just stare blankly into space until the evening (laughs).
What kinds of requests were made of you for each evolution sequence?
They had me do Dukemon’s with full CGI, and Sakuyamon’s with primarily cel (*5). SaintGalgomon had robotic aspects to him, so I emphasized his mechanical aspects. There was an incredible amount of cuts crammed into short running time (*6), so there are points where I regret how crowded it got, but the staff members all tried their hardest. A sequence that would take place in less than a second would still have everyone investing all of their effort into it, so it was incredibly fun to make. Dukemon comes off as a knight from even just the first glance, so we had his cape flutter. Sakuyamon has a Japanese-style atmosphere, so we used things like ripples on the water surface, and focused on giving off a feminine air. For SaintGalgomon, we made sure to leave some of Terriermon’s cuteness inside the giant robot.
(*5) Primarily cel: Older animation had a common technique of photographing colored drawings on thin, transparent sheets. These transparent sheets were initially made of celluloid, and so the colored sheets were referred to as “cels”. Currently, the same techniques are done with computers, and so the term is used to refer to animation done in the old “cel” style. The colors applied to cels use resin paint commonly known as “anime colors”, and once the paint dries and hardens, it is photographed.
(*6) Running time: Referred to as a “shaku” in Japanese, based off the traditional Japanese shakkanhou unit of measurement; an industry term used to refer to the amount of time encapsulating footage, music, and other elements in animation. In this case, measuring out a single evolution sequence in its entirety still results in only a small number of seconds, and so “there is little running time”. Incidentally, scenes like evolution sequences, which are used multiple times, are called “stock footage”. It is common for stock footage sequences to have significantly more hand-drawn scenes produced for them compared to average scenes, due to how often they are used.
Working with Konaka-san on anime
Was there a reason for having the children be naked during the Ultimate evolutions?
It’s simply because that’s the way it is. Since they’re being converted into digital data, if their clothes were to come with them, but the surrounding air or earth didn’t also come with them, it’d stick out in its own way. But we did bring up “ah, that’s showing a bit too much, so we have to cover them up with light!” (*7) (laughs). During the storyboarding stage, we were working on it and wondering if it’d be okay, but we weren’t told anything in particular, and we thought, “ah, so it really is okay?” (laughs)
(*7) We have to cover them up in light!: Referring to how, during Ultimate evolution, Takato and his friends are actually drawn in detail. During the group talk on the earlier page, Yamaguchi-san’s remark of “it was embarrassing” also involves the reason that the footage provided during recording did not “cover them up in light”. Also, while the belts of light that surround Takato and his friends do have one function of “covering them up”, the belts themselves are also created to be like the ones around the Real World ball in the skies of the Digital World, thus sharing a common element and expressing it as something digital.
Did you hear about any impressions of Tamers from the audience side?
I was watching it myself, but I actually have two daughters, and at the time they were right at the proper age, ten years old and six years old. At the time, it was my first experience having my own children watching an anime that I’d worked on, so it was interesting to watch their reactions. At the beginning, during the scene where Guilmon suddenly went into Takato’s house and caused him to worry, I watched my kids’ reactions, and thought, giving them this kind of feeling really was all according to Konaka-san’s plan. It was interesting to see it happen in real-time, and since we’d never seen a children’s work quite like this before, it had a fresh feeling to it.
What are your impressions of working directly alongside Konaka-san?
Konaka-san is, well, the same Konaka-san that everyone knows him as (laughs). To be frank about it, his peculiarities are so strong that I’ve heard people say “he’s a scary person”, but I don’t have that impression of him. Whenever I read Konaka-san’s stories, images for art just float to mind. It’s the kind of story that makes you get a very strong impression of him having the picture in his head, and it makes you want to draw for them. On top of that, the story itself has very image-like keywords that just pop out at you, and even during footage production, those come out, and you can feel a proper shape coming out of them. With Konaka-san, his starting details for his image are very clear, and it’s easy to understand how to expand them from there. Also, I think Konaka-san himself is very clear about what he wants from me, so I think it’s very easy to respond to him.
In closing, please leave a message for those who have bought the DVD-Box.
I don’t particularly feel up to telling people to only focus all of their attention on the design, but I would like it if you could see the interesting parts of the whole Digital World. You can see the huge ball of the Real World floating right there, and even though you can see it, it actually feels so distant and so far away, so I hope that sensation gets conveyed to those who are watching. You’re looking up at a view you should be used to be seeing by now, and a place you were just at, but it’s not a place you can return to so easily…I hope that feeling will come out of it, and that it’ll come across to you. In actuality, that sphere has a map of the globe that’s converted to digital, turned inside out, and stuck to it. We only used it as a texture (*8), though, so you won’t be able to see it even you go out of your way to look for it. So even if I tell you that, even if you look for it yourself, you probably won’t understand it (laughs).
(*8) Texture: An English word used to refer to the sensation of cloth upon being touched, or the sensation of food. In terms of computer graphics terminology, it primarily refers to the image data that is used to express the texture of the surface of 3D data by “clinging” to it. For instance, when creating an animal such as a lion with CGI, the texture of fur will be placed on the core body data, and will take an appropriate appearance. Within CGI design, it is an important element that determines how the product will look.
Director Yukio Kaizawa
We ask about the job of the series director, who breathes life into the script and brings together the atmosphere of the full product.
The process of finalizing the primary staff members
We would like to ask about the differences between this series and the prior Digimon ones.
I wasn’t involved on the first series nor on 02 at all, so I hadn’t been paying particular attention to them. Producer Seki came to talk to me about the request, saying, “feel free to do whatever you want.” I figured that it’d be fine if I made it without thinking too hard about the prior series, so I went forth with that direction. Or, rather, I was relatively free to make something that went in a completely different direction from what had been done before. During that process, Chiaki Konaka-san, whom I’d worked alongside with for Fun Fun Pharmacy (*1), was appointed to work on the story, and I thought that we could make a good team and create a new world.
(*1) Fun Fun Pharmacy: Referring to Mysterious Magic Fun Fun Pharmacy, a short anime episode series that was included in Weekly Anime DX! Mi-Pha-Pu, which broadcast from 1998 to 1999. Based on a comic that was serialized in Shogakukan’s Sun magazine, it is a story featuring a witch’s apprentice, Popuri, as its protagonist. The series director was Kaizawa-san, and the lead writer and scriptwriter was Konaka-san. Ai Nagano-san, who played Shaochung and Reika Ohtori, and Ikkei Seta-san, who played Cyberdramon, also played roles in this series.
Were you the one who made the request for Konaka-san to join?
No. It was definitely Producer Seki who brought up his name, and since I’d worked with him on Pharmacy, I felt it’d work out and agreed. Konaka-san is the kind of person who can create imagery despite being a writer, or rather, he can come up with images very well using only just text, so I felt that he would be a good fit for making a new Digimon. It was fun to expand the world further and further through Konaka-san’s novel way of thinking.
When you first read Konaka-san’s script, were there any parts that surprised you?
Well…All of it completely surprised me (laughs). In the sense that he could even come up with these kinds of ideas to begin with. I’m the one working on this series, so how should I express these?
The job of the series director
What sort of role do you have as the series director?
Naturally, the base story comes first, so my job was to take the story that Konaka-san put together and think about how to add visuals to it. Things like how they should play out within the narrative, what kind of atmosphere we should invoke and such, and how we should unify everything through consultation with each episode’s director. At first, I didn’t know anything about the Digital World myself, so it felt like Konaka-san was helping me out with his well-defined knowledge and deciding on various things related to Digimon. But it wasn’t just well-defined knowledge; he also thought through other things in that respect, such as how people would take the characters, or how we should establish the narrative drama in relation to the Digimon and the Tamers, or the children.
What were the particular details behind settling on the three main characters?
In practice, Konaka-san was the one who created the characters, but I believe Producer Seki also added things onto our discussions to formulate them more properly. Producer Seki’s specialty is in that sort of character creation. It was the same even for shows like Crayon Kingdom of Dreams (*2) and Magical DoReMi (*3), when she worked on everyone. From there, I work less on the characters and more on the narrative, in that I think through what exactly would make the story interesting, and then make adjustments so we can fully bring that out.
(*2) Crayon Kingdom of Dreams: A TV anime series that aired from 1997 to 1999. Based on the children’s novel series Crayon Kingdom (from Shueisha) by Reizou Fukunaga, it is a story about the spoiled Princess Silver, who travels to various places. Junichi Satou-san, who also worked on series such as Goldfish Warning! and Sailor Moon, served as series director, and Takashi Yamada-san, who also worked on series such as Hime-chan’s Ribbon, Prince Mackaroo, and Magical DoReMi, served as lead writer and scriptwriter.
(*3) Magical DoReMi: A series that aired directly after Crayon Kingdom of Dreams, consisting of four series, Magical DoReMi, Magical DoReMi #, Motto! Magical DoReMi, and Magical DoReMi Dokka~n!, which broadcast from 1999 to 2003, and the OVA Magical DoReMi Hi-mi-tsu, which was produced in 2004. Junichi Satou-san served as series director, along with Takuya Igarashi-san and Shigeyasu Yamauchi-san. Takashi Yamada-san served as lead writer. Genki Yoshimura-san and Atsushi Maekawa-san also participated as scriptwriters.
The feelings placed within Tamers
How did you display the ties between the Tamers and their Digimon?
When children play games, they can make the characters do whatever they want, but they can’t actually touch or feel them. So, we thought, what if if those characters became real, and what if they became tangible and something you could befriend? Guilmon and the others are like monsters, but what would they feel like if you touched them, and what would it be like to be near one as a Tamer? There would be fun times, and painful times. Digimon are, after all, presences with their own senses of self and individuality and such, and so even though Guilmon was created by Takato, he’s still alive. Springing from there, his sense of self comes forth, and he grows. Even from the perspective of Takato, who is the parent who brought him into the world, there’s something that’s a little scary about it.
Was there any influence from the circumstances going on at the time?
At the time, there were all sorts of things going on, such as the synchronized terrorism incident and the Koizumi Cabinet (*4). Whether it was through digital computers or through the TV, it was the time period where it felt as if children’s playtime was starting to involve more and more digital aspects to it, and we felt that we would like this kind of aspect to also be one where you could really feel the atmosphere of getting along with non-digital friends. I have children myself, but there are times when it feels like they only ever play games, so we wanted to show off things that the children wouldn’t otherwise notice.
(*4) The synchronized terrorism incident and the Koizumi Cabinet: The “synchronized terrorism incident” refers to the airplane terrorism incidents that occurred in the United States on September 11, 2001. The targets were the World Trade Center building and the Pentagon. The Koizumi Cabinet refers to the government ministry that was inaugurated on April 26, 2001, serving three successive terms until September 20, 2006, which placed an emphasis on relations with the United States in light of the world affairs consisting of issues such as the synchronized terrorism incident. The yearly Neologism/Buzzword Award contenders for 2001 included words such as “mad cow disease”, “weapons of mass destruction”, and “domestic violence”.
How was the concept behind each pair of partners conceived?
We approached it thinking that with Takato, or Ruki, or Jian, the Digimon themselves would effectively be growing by being alongside their partners. For instance, in Jian’s case, there’s an aspect to him where he studies Tai Chi in order to find himself, but Terriermon is someone who loses self-restraint and starts shooting bam-bam-bam with his machine guns the moment you take your eyes off of him. I think they have that aspect to them, like a parent raising that sort of child. In the case of Ruki, as she thinks about wanting to become stronger in order to hide her weaknesses, Renamon appears in front of her. But on the flip side, something resembling friendship comes forth from there, and they come to understand each other.
The job of episode production
Is there anything that left a particular impression on you when you worked as an episode director?
Episode 14 (*5) is the one where Guilmon evolves into MegaloGrowmon, and during that episode, he fights on the rooftop. What I personally thought was interesting about that one was that his partner was separated from him and in another place, and he had no idea how the fight with his Digimon was going, and had to stand there below. Even with that small bit of separation between the Tamer and the Digimon, he couldn’t convey his intentions anymore, and I wonder if we managed to get that sense across properly.
How were the evolution sequences made?
At first, I was the one who made all of them, but after that they were made by each episode director. For instance, Kakudou-san (*6) also worked on them, and in the latter half Aramaki-san also made them for us. At first, we had the image of the evolution sequences being like something with wrapping paper, like the idea of briefly tearing off wrapping paper, and creating a new exterior by mending new wrapping paper on top of it again. It had a bit of a frightening impact to it, but the result was that we were able to aim for something different and new instead of something of the more conventional sort.
(*5) Episode 14: “Stand, Tamer! MegaloGrowmon’s Super-Evolution”. In order to defeat Mihiramon, who had appeared in the Real World thanks to Yamaki’s Shaggai program, Guilmon evolves to MegaloGrowmon. The episode director was Kaizawa-san, and the scriptwriter was Konaka-san. It is a landmark episode, after which each Digimon partner attains their own super-evolution, and the story changes from the mixture of daily life and one-off battles to a serious fight in the Real World with the Devas.
(*6) Kakudou-san: Referring to Hiroyuki Kakudou-san, the episode director who also served as series director for Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02. He served as episode director for Tamers episodes 7, 15, 21, 29, 35, 42, and 50. Konaka-san, a friend of his, came to be associated with the series via writing the script for Digimon Adventure 02 episode 13, “The Call of Dagomon”. Kakudou-san was particularly knowledgeable about the Hindu gods that were used as a basis for the Digimon that appeared in Tamers.
The feelings within Tamers
Among the characters, which do you have the strongest attachment to?
I feel like the easiest character to work with would be the crybaby Takato. I think, even for me, he’s the character I feel closest to. Beyond the main characters, Culumon was very fun. They’re a Digimon without a partner, one very different from all of the Digimon that had appeared thus far, and they have a special aspect to them where they act as an evolution program. Culumon’s the type to be able to play on their own when you leave them alone and comes to help you out whenever you need them, so I feel like a Digimon like them would be a very reliable partner to have. Actually, Culumon’s voice actress, Kaneda-san (*7), was the first to be casted. We worked together on Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! (*8), and she spoke in such a cute voice like it was nothing, and it was a lot of fun to hear. So when we came up with the character of Culumon, we thought that Kaneda-san would fit them perfectly. In actuality, we did try out other auditions, but we just couldn’t come up with someone better than her, and so we ended up finalizing her even when we hadn’t decided on the other roles yet.
(*7) Kaneda-san: Referring to Culumon’s voice actress, Tomoko Kaneda-san. A voice actress famous for her peculiar voice quality, her major roles include Chiyo Mihama in Azumanga Daioh, and Asu Yamada in Poor Sisters Story, which had Kaizawa-san as series director. She also played Changsha in the Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! OVA series Transmit Heart: Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! and its drama CD, Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! Reunion as Changsha. When Kaizawa-san attended events such as the OVA bonus chat, he was shocked to hear her using a completely different voice from her performance one.
(*8) Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian!: An anime series that broadcast from 1998 to 1999, based on a comic of the same name. An OVA series, Trasmit Heart: Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! was sold in eight parts from 2000 to 2001, and the included bonuses had a chat with the cast in audio form. Kaizawa-san directed Parts 1, 4, 5, and 8. In addition, there were multiple drama CDs produced for the same series, and Kaneda-san played a role in all three parts of Frontier Works’s Protect Me, Heavenly Moon Guardian! Reunion.
In closing, please leave a message for those who have bought the DVD-Box.
A lot of the people who have bought this have probably become adults, and I think many of them might have their own children now. Rather than simply just enjoying the fun of something other people have made, I hope children can enjoy the feeling of what it’s like to have true friends, or the lessons learned from it, and that we were able to get that across. I would be extremely grateful if you could see Tamers as such an opportunity.
Lead writer Chiaki J. Konaka
We asked Chiaki Konaka-san, who built up a new world of Digimon, about what he personally focused on.
About how the origin of Tamers and how it came to be
How was the overall form of the production decided on?
Before anything else, the one thing decided on was the series would be reset from Digimon Adventure. After that, our next immediate thought was that we should start by making something relatable to the children in the real world, who were now surrounded by the Digimon franchise. We wanted to portray it as, if the children already knew what Digimon were, and one were to appear in the real world, what would happen? Prior to this, while working on a certain tokusatsu7 movie (*1) I’d worked on some decades ago, I’d been thinking about wanting to write a story about a child raising a giant monster, and so I’d always been harboring this feeling of wanting to do it.
(*1) Tokusatsu movie: Refers to the 1995 Kadokawa Herald giant monster movie Gamera, which Konaka-san planned alongside his younger brother, movie director Kazuya-san. The two brothers put together a plan for a Gamera with juvenile characters, but in the end, it was cancelled, and made instead as Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (Director: Shuusuke Kaneko; Script: Kazunori Itou). The Konaka brothers’ original plan, involved a giant monster named “Gamera” who would become an ally to young children. You can see those elements in the early parts of Tamers.
How solidified were the characters were at that time?
Everything about them was still tentative. I believe I was the one who said that I wanted to have three characters. I also said that I wanted one of them to be a girl, but I was informed that Digimon partnered to the girl characters didn’t tend to sell products very well, so I had Nakatsuru-san (*2) try out all sorts of things. Then, one day, he came up with Ruki’s pineapple-headed design, and we thought, “we can go with this!” As a result, the development of the characters went alongside the art.
(*1) Nakatsuru-san: Referring to animator Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru-san. Along with the character design for Digimon Adventure through Digimon Frontier, he also worked on character designs for Dragon Ball GT, Dr. Slump (1997 ver.), and Beet the Vandel Buster, and his other work includes the art for the manga The Brief Return of Dr. Slump (Original work and supervision: Akira Toriyama; Script: Takao Koyama), and assistance with design for the manga Beet the Vandel Buster (Original work: Riku Sanjou; Art: Kouji Inada).
The role of the lead writer and the methodology of creating a series
As the lead writer, how much of the series contents do you get to decide?
Whenever I’m the lead writer, I dislike the writing theory of recursively writing it by deciding on the ending and setting up what’ll happen in the last episode beforehand. I just can’t imagine anything interesting coming out of that. A series has many different scriptwriters and directors working on it, and you have the voice actors’ performance and the art on top of that…I have to make them come off like they’re alive, so I want to keep an eye on that while I make it. Even with Tamers, I would fuss about what would happen after this, and I’d take different factors into account, and I was constantly thinking about how I could put it together deductively. Of course, to the very end, I’m only building it as a rough draft. For example, when I’m the writer for an individual episode, I don’t like it when the person appointed as the lead writer tells me “please write it with this plot.” It takes the fun out of creating a story, and it’s something I’d rather share with all of the writers. I’d give something rough like “let’s make this episode about Shaochung,” and I think every episode is a story created by each individual writer in itself.
Was there, perhaps, any time when you watched the voice actors’ performance and decided to change something?
That happened very many times, such as with Yamaki. When the artwork for him first came out, I thought, ah, he’s a pretty young person, so his voice should have more of a higher-pitched feel to it. In the initial planning stages, he was supposed to only ever be an antagonist. But then they ended up putting a CD separately from the main series, and there was Yamaki’s song (*3). They were just trying to do it for the sake of the music, but when I heard him singing with a bunch of complaints, I thought, “did they really have to go as far as giving Yamaki a song?”, I had a lot of fun with it (laughs). I also originally imagined the two operators to have colder personalities, so I wrote them to be more like robots, but they slowly started to gain more character. Maekawa-san (*4) and the other writers were playing around, “ah, they’re starting to feel like ordinary office ladies (laughs)”, and started adding on things, saying, ah, let’s try this and that. That all came from the CD. Yamaki himself, as a character, started off with Hypnos and everything else behind him, and had a self-important air around him, but slowly started to show shades of being incompetent, and it came out very well. That said, I feel like that part came less from me than it did from Maekawa-san and the others having fun with it.
(*3) Yamaki’s song: Referring to the song “Black X’mas ~Yamaki’s Theme~”, included as part of Digimon Tamers Christmas Illusion, which was released by Index Music in November 2001. While the children are playing around during Christmas, Yamaki (voiced by Susumu Chiba) bluntly spits out his opinions in the lyrics, which are naturally sung by himself. The song includes chorals from the two operators Reika Ohtori and Megumi Onodera (voiced by Ai Nagano/Fumiko Miyashita), along with them gossiping about Yamaki in the middle of the song.
(*4) Maekawa-san: Referring to scriptwriter Atsushi Maekawa-san. He participated as a scriptwriter for Digimon Adventure, and, along with Genki Yoshimura-san, served as one of the lead writers for Digimon Adventure 02. On top of writing scripts for Dragon Ball, Sailor Moon, Magical DoReMi, and more, he also worked as a scriptwriter for tokusatsu series such as Magical Sentai Magiranger and Ultraman Cosmos. He also participated as a scriptwriter for the anime series Narutaru, which Konaka-san served as the lead writer for.
Were there likewise any changes in how Ruki developed?
Ruki became a much softer person indeed. I knew this would happen, so I set her up in a very sharp direction. In that sense, Yoshimura-san (*5) brought in her perspective as a woman, saying, “after hearing ‘because you’re a girl’ all of the time, she’d probably be very hardened by that,” and I feel she was truly able to add a sense of realism to it.
(*5) Yoshimura-san: Referring to scriptwriter Genki Yoshimura-san. She participated as a scriptwriter for Digimon Adventure, and, along with Atsushi Maekawa-san, served as one of the lead writers for Digimon Adventure 02. Beyond that, she has worked as a scriptwriter for many other anime, such as serving as the lead writer for Aishiteruze Baby ★★, but has also worked on the scripts for live-action movies, such as Laughing Michael. Like Maekawa, she also participated in the anime series Narutaru, which Konaka-san served as the lead writer for, connecting them to Tamers.
How realistic should an animated series be?
Where did the idea of having Guilmon be born out of Takato’s drawings come from?
I wasn’t consciously intending to reference it, but in Ultraman, there’s a giant monster named Gavadon (*6) that came from pictures that children drew on a clay pipe, and when I was a child, I saw that and thought it would be nice for something like that to happen. I don’t know if the children of today do this, but when I was a kid, drawing giant monsters in my notebook was like a natural thing for me. The following series, Digimon Frontier, went even further with the idea (*7), but I didn’t like the idea of a Tamer and Digimon’s relationship involving them going into battle and the Tamer doing nothing but cheer them on, so that’s why they eventually ended up combining into one. If we’d been told “no, Digimon shouldn’t be like that,” then we’d have dropped it there, but Aramaki-san’s image concepts were a huge help, and they told us that it sounded good.
(*6) Gavadon: The name of a giant monster that first appeared in episode 15 of the 1996 tokusatsu series Ultraman, “The Space Ray of Terror” (Director: Akio Jissouji; Screenplay: Mamoru Sasaki). A boy named Mushiba, who loves giant monsters, draws a picture of Gavadon on a clay pipe, and the picture is made into reality thanks to the effect of a strange ray from space. At first, it was docile and did nothing but sleep, but Mushiba snuck in at night and made additions to the drawing in order to make him into a cooler monster. The episode was a unique one in that even Ultraman himself was troubled about how to deal with with the problem.
(*7) Went even further with the idea: In Digimon Frontier, the children who end up in the Digital World are the ones who evolve into Digimon. Since they hold the Spirits of the Ten Legendary Warriors who had saved the Digital World, there are no Digimon partners in the way that all of the series up until Tamers had. Even compared to the Ultimate evolutions in Tamers, it is a series that can be said to have an even more unusually greater shake-up to the franchise worldview.
Beyond his relationship with Guilmon, there were also many important aspects to Takato’s relationship with Juri as well.
Personally, when I look back on what the story of Tamers was about, my impression is that it really was a story of Takato and Juri. I don’t know if you could call it a story of immature youth, or a bittersweet one, but I really love the part when they return from the Digital World. It’s an animated story, but I feel that it truly got across that these were living humans, with the realism of a live-action work. Takato is an elementary school student, so one would probably be thinking “how far are they actually going to go with this?”, but we were able to create the drama of how something in Juri had broken, and he was able to say how he really felt. But there’s something painful to watch in it, and you also probably felt that he was acting a bit pitiful in front of Juri.
Juri, Leomon, and the significance of life
Juri seemed to have gone through a lot of major changes ever since when she first met Leomon.
To be honest about it, that episode actually gave me a lot of trouble at first. At the time, I’d already been slowly deciding on what would happen with Leomon, and I was wondering if it was okay to go this far considering the actual reason we intended to have Leomon in the story. However, I loved Urasawa-san’s (*8) work in live-action and had watched a lot of it, so I was a passionate fan who wanted to see some of that absurdly nonsensical thing. So, even if it ended up sticking out a little too much in terms of the series, and as much as it’s being a little crude to those involved in this kind of story, I ended up asking him to do it for us. At the time of recording, I had a bit of a conversation with Asada-san (*9) and told her, “this episode is a bit of an oddity, but it’s because we’re not going to get to do this kind of high-tension all of the time.” Also, the part about Juri’s family structure having a bit of a dark side behind it, and her being the daughter of a tavern owner, was set up by the producer, Seki-san.
(*8) Urasawa-san: Referring to scriptwriter Yoshio Urasawa-san. He has worked on the script for many anime, but is also a very famous name who has provided extensive work for highly-praised tokusatsu shows with a greatly absurd atmosphere, such as The Good Little Witch Paipai!, Dokincho! Nemurin, and Pettonton. He has participated in the franchise as a scriptwriter ever since Digimon Adventure, and was in charge of Tamers episodes such as 31, “Juri’s Partner!? My Leomon-sama”, and 35, “A Friendship with Guardromon? I’ll Fight, Too! Tamer Hirokazu”.
(*9) Asada-san: Referring to Juri’s voice actress, Youko Asada-san. She has also played other roles in Konaka’s works, such as Alice Minazuki in the game Alice in Cyberland and Alice Mizuki in serial experiments lain. The character of Juri is, in some sense, created in such a way as to be related to those two in some sense. For more details, you can consult Konaka-san’s website, where he has published a large amount of information related to Digimon Tamers. (URL: http://konaka.com/)
How did you decide on what would happen with Leomon?
I didn’t want to show the children a world where a Digimon could easily return from death because they’re digital. That’s fine when it comes to the games, but for the anime, there are voice actors behind these characters, and if we wanted to present these as living beings, it would be problematic if we presented the idea that “if they die, they’ll just return to being eggs” as something that could be the same in reality. Even if it went against the Digimon lore that had existed up until then, I wanted to show that life had a limit to it. As for Leomon, starting from around the time we’d finished the scripts for the first cour (*10), I started slowly keeping tabs on the process and asking “how are we going to do this part?” The idea of the importance of life being the same even for Digimon was someting that I set up as a major pillar propping up the series, even all the way to the final episode.
(*10) First cour: Referring to how Japanese television programs are described in units known as “cours”. One cour is three months and typically corresponds to 13 episodes, but have sometimes varied by one or two greater or fewer. In particular, animation programs were once generally produced with the assumption that they would run for one year (four cours), but recently, shorter anime running for one or two cours have become more common. There are cases where a single-cour anime has all of its scripts completed before the broadcast even starts, and there are times when there is a reasonable chance for voice actor performances and other factors to impact the final script.
A story that feels alive thanks to the sense of reality
Was the story set in the real world, in Tokyo, because it was easier to depict?
I think that would depend on the person. I’m personally not very good at depicting so-called fantasy worlds. I like superimposing the extraordinary on the ordinary, like ghosts in horror works, or giant monsters in giant monster works, or making something into a comedy by adding strange things. So even though they ended up going to the Digital World, I still had the feeling that I didn’t want it to end there.
Was it your idea to set the story in Shinjuku?
It was. I thought the Odaiba arc (*11) in the prior series was the most interesting, because of its sense of reality. So for this series, I focused on bringing out that atmosphere. I don’t know if it’s still the case now, but back then, although you’d think Shinjuku would be a common setting for works like this, there actually weren’t that many. I walked through there and saw a bakery much like the one Takato’s family has, and I thought it might be interesting to set it in a place like this where you can see the new and old mixed together. Nishi-Shinjuku also has the Tokyo Government Office, which truly stands as quite the iconic building.
(*11) Odaiba arc: Referring to the third cour of Digimon Adventure, spanning from episode 27, “The Castle of Darkness, Vamdemon”, when the gate to the real world is opened, to episode 39, “Two Ultimate Evolutions! Let’s Beat the Darkness Away!!”, when VenomVamdemon is defeated. Since the story also takes place in areas such as Hikarigaoka and Shibaura, not all of it is in Odaiba. Since it is a part of the story that takes place in the real world, it has been praised as depicting the realism of the relationships between children and their parents.
Looking back on the series
Among the specific episodes you worked on, were there any particularly interesting memories that left an impression on you?
I really like episode 41, the one where they go to Matsumoto. Kaizawa-san was the episode director and I was the scriptwriter, and I thought, this arrangement really worked out especially well, didn’t it? As far as Kaizawa-san’s direction goes, episode 1 is also incredible.
When it comes to looking back on the series, your website is a very valuable resource.
I thought it’d be the best way to leave a record of things to understand and things I still remembered. I used to read things like Roman Albums (*12) and go “hmm, okay” at them (laughs). These days, it’s hard to get anime guidebooks to be made, isn’t it? For Tamers, there wasn’t anywhere we could collect all of the smaller details beyond the simplest of things in a neat, organized place. So in that sense, I did my best to at least leave some kind of record on the web. It was something I did in my free time, though, so there are things I could do back then that I can’t do as much now (laughs).
(*12) Roman Album: A series of animation document collection books published by Tokuma Shoten. Preceding the company’s anime magazine Animage beginning its run in 1978, it began in November 1977 as a special issue of its other publication TV Land, with its first book Roman Album: Cyborg 009. The Cyborg 009 covered in the book was its first television series, which broadcast in 1996. Further issues of Roman Album would contain important documents such as production materials and staff member interviews, and was a valuable source of information for many anime fans.
It’s amazing how you even publicly revealed scripts that you’d written for it.
This is something I did for not just this series, but it’s for the sheer sake of “I’m sure nobody will object to me doing this.” I get a lot of emails asking “how do I become a scenario writer?”, but I don’t have anything I could teach them. So the actual reason I did this so I could say “I’ve put a lot of my scripts on my website, so why don’t you take a look at them?” and set up that sort of opportunity.
Things you can see now that you can watch it all at once
In closing, please leave a message for those who have bought the DVD-Box.
Well, the only thing I can do is bow at everyone’s feet and say “thank you very much” (laughs). As a writer, there are a lot of times when what I made wasn’t able to carry out what I’d originally intended, but Tamers was a very blessed series where, in a good sense, the story went in directions that I couldn’t have anticipated, like a very cute child. If you watch it all together at once, I feel you might be able to see it in a way that you couldn’t back when it was first airing. I, personally, would also like to take the opportunity to look over it again.
Is there anything you would like people to look out for as they watch it through again?
There are a lot of points I’d pick, and I don’t know which I’d pick over the others, but personally, I would like you to follow the relationship between Takato and Juri. I think we managed to make a very good story about one’s first love. That said, to the very end, like with Digimon Adventure, we didn’t want to make the character relationships into a question of who likes whom, so I truly apologize to those who prefer that kind of thing. Despite that, I think we managed to make something that would be interesting for people who are even as old as I am. It’s a Toei series that was airing on the Sunday morning timeslot, but it was also a series that relentlessly touched on the concept of AI and portrayed digital concepts in anime form (laughs).
Producer Hiromi Seki
We asked Seki-san, who was able to command the overall series direction with only a single sentence, about various topics, such as each of the staff members.
About Kaizawa-san and Aramaki-san
Please tell us the details of how you decided on Kaizawa-san as the series director.
It started with Kakudou-san, whom I’d appointed as the series director for the first and second series, making the request “I’d like to take a bit of a break.” I figured, it’s probably inevitable for something like this to happen with an original work. He seemed to be completely and thoroughly exhausted. So I consulted with Kakudou-san and the other members of company staff, and asked who might be the right person with the ability to take up the traces of a finished original work, preserve all of the things that had kept Digimon in such exceptionally good form up to this point, inherit all of the good parts about it, and carry it into a third series with even more new developments. So we decided to ask Kaizawa-san, who had made some very satisfactory work on original series prior to this. When we did, Kaizawa-san asked, “is it really okay for someone like me to make a new Digimon series?”, but I told him it was fine. I told him that it wouldn’t be a problem at all, because we didn’t want to carry everything over and do nothing else on top of it, and we wanted Digimon to be something different from DoReMi in that we wanted the main cast of children to change every year (*1), so there would always be different human relationships and different personalities coming from it. But we did tell him, “you can use any kind of style you want, but there are still certain rules, like, for instance, you can’t make the series not have Digimon. That’s forbidden.” (laughs)
(*1) The main cast of children changing every year: Referring to how this was employed in the four series of Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02, Digimon Tamers, and Digimon Frontier. Even Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02, the series that were most substantially connected, had its main characters completely changed out with the exception of Hikari and Takeru, and the main characters of the first series took the role of support characters in Digimon Adventure 02.
What was your impression of Aramaki-san?
I felt that Aramaki-san has an exceptional ability to draw pictorial images in his head, or, rather, that he’s very proficient in giving things a proper form (*2). While everyone else would be absentmindedly throwing things out there, he would create images out of what he’d come up with in his head, and it would involve not only our opinions but also his own thoughts reflected in it, and we would all think “Oh~!” He would take into account other people’s opinions and create images that went above and beyond them, and it touched us all deeply. Aramaki-san’s drawings had that kind of power to them.
(*2) An exceptional ability to draw pictorial images in his head, or, rather, that he’s very proficient in giving things a proper form: We also held an interview with Shinji Aramaki-san himself, and when we asked how he came up with the imageboard for Tamers, he said things such as “my hand just moved by itself.” He also made remarks such as “if I’d actually gotten a proper image to solidify in my head, and done a proper job in drawing it with focus, I wouldn’t be giving people such a hard time.” Shinji Aramaki-san’s interview has also been published here, so please do take a look.
What was your impression of Konaka-san after working with him?
I got the impression that Konaka-san was an incredibly intelligent person. He has a particular specialty in making scary stories (*3), and he has memories of being entranced with tokusatsu and other children’s programs during his own childhood, and, thanks to that, I think we had a common understanding of needing to take certain things into account when making something for children. One way to put it is, we were trying to make it in a way that didn’t treat children like they were idiots, but perhaps it would be better to say, we made it with a common understanding that if we approached it with something like “we’ll do it this way because they’re children,” the children will be sure to understand. Also, when I was reading the story outline, there were a lot of times when I’d just think “ah, Konaka-san really must have been a smart kid.” Besides that, when we were cementing the details of Ruki’s personality, I’d accidentally start thinking things like like “I wonder if this is Konaka-san’s type of girl…” But then, although Ruki was first, Juri appeared after that, so maybe it’s her? That might be Konaka-san’s actual type (*4). I couldn’t say it in front of him, though. If I did, I figured he’d probably get angry at me (laughs).
(*3) A specialty in making scary stories: Although Konaka-san has experience in brighter animated works such as Magic User’s Club and Mysterious Magic Fun Fun Pharmacy, he also worked as the scenario writer for the late-night anime Ayakashi: Samurai Horror Tales, on the well-renowned “Yotsuya Kaidan” part based on Tsuruya Nanboku’s original story of “the pursuit of Oiwa-san”; he also worked alongside director Takashi Shimizu, known for his work on Ju-On, as the scriptwriter for the live-action mystery film Marebito, and has participated on many other horror works.
(*4) Might be his actual type: Konaka-san has said about Tamers that he’d made “a very good story about one’s first love”. Also, the 1998 series serial experiments lain, which Konaka also participated on, has a character with the name of Juri, who is Alice’s friend. Incidentally, Youko Asada-san, the voice actress for Alice in serial experiments lain, came to play Juri in Tamers through Konaka-san’s strong recommendation.
Tamers stands out in that it has a lot of support characters.
It does. I started thinking “they keep adding more and more eccentric old guys (*5)” (laughs). At its core, it’s a story about Digimon and children, but I feel like it also turned into a series where they started getting surrounded by a lot of eccentric adults. While I started thinking about why all of these eccentric adults were appearing, well, I couldn’t say this directly to Konaka-san either, but I figured, well, it’s probably because Konaka-san himself is an eccentric adult (laughs). Back when Konaka-san was a kid, he was a lover of all kinds of fantasy worlds, like the ones in tokusatsu. So once a kid like that became an adult, he naturally became a scriptwriter with some very eccentric peculiarities. A child who loved fictional worlds at his core became someone who created his own fiction. Since he’s that kind of adult, I thought, that’s probably why these kinds of eccentric adults appeared in his story, too.
(*5) Eccentric old guys: The “eccentric old guys” Seki-san refers to are the adults relevant to the roots of the Digimon’s creation, the “Wild Bunch”, including SHIBUMI and Jiangyu Lee. Seki-san has also said that “Konaka-san, in his own way, is making tributes to people with those eccentric old men in Tamers. I was thinking, there’s this person who’s like Konaka-san, and then there’s this person who, according to Konaka-san, ‘is basically just Kaizawa-san, right?’, and they’re all in there.”
It seems like the relationship between the children and the Digimon are of a different nature than those of the prior series.
It’s a relationship where there’s no interdependency, or rather, the humans and the Digimon are connected via the same sense of distance that humans would have with each other. This kind of relationship could be said, in some sense, to be a bit more of a mature kind, but to be frank about it, I think it’s more like Konaka-san’s own way of seeing humanity. Their relationships are not as tight with each other. Like being in Tokyo, or rather, the kind of feeling you’d have by living outside the countryside.8
Tamers in Seki-san’s view
What kind of story is Tamers to you?
To me, it was a series that was like getting new cards. The director changed from Kakudou-san to Kaizawa-san, and the art designer from Iijima-san (*6) to Watanabe-san. Tamers itself involved the toys and the playing cards, and from the producer’s perspective, we had all sorts of staff changes, and although it might be a bit overly blunt to put it this way, it’s like when you get new cards and think “all right, let’s deal these out and keep going.” In that sense, I think “cards” could be said to be like a keyword for this series.
(*6) Iijima-san: Referring to Yukiko Iijima-san. She served as the art designer for Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02. She also served as an artist for Digimon Tamers, including on episode 3, “Renamon vs. Guilmon! Fighting is a Digimon’s Life” and episode 7, “Watch Out, Guilmon! Our Adventure in the City”. She has also worked as an art designer on the 1998 series of The Secrets of Akkochan, Air Gear, Nono-chan, and others.
Tamers seems to have been a story that never really had a final enemy…
The entire staff agreed that it felt strange to have a Digimon be the main enemy for the series. After all, it was a digital world that was originally made by humans. We didn’t think the Digimon would be the only ones trying to evolve on their own, nor that they’d be the only one to have bad guys. There might have been strange monsters that came out of something that didn’t adapt to how a program or how data naturally should. It’s not something I can say well in words, but its approach to evolution even closer to the Darwinian theory (*7). For instance, if a monster evolves, it might initially seem to be something bad, but in another sense, you can think of it as having adapted to the time period and circumstances around it. So even if it seems like it’s doing something bad at first glance, it may not actually be something bad, and simply just a part of the process of evolution. For instance, sometimes you see animals kill themselves in droves, but you can also see it as their way of keeping their species under control after the population had gotten too big. We’d already gone through discussions about evolution quite thoroughly in the prior series, so, really, in talking about things like the science behind the theory of evolution or the human genome or DNA, I think we brought that all back between the second and third series. I remember reading an article saying that I don’t have to think about what to put in the next Digimon series anymore (laughs). So on that note, we really did our best to make the Darwinian theory of evolution into something that worked with Digimon’s monsters.
(*7) Darwinian theory of evolution: The theory that Charles Darwin conceived of and developed after studying the Darwin finches, birds that live only on the Galapagos Islands. In 1858, he published a paper stating that “the species of living beings are not absolute existences created by God, but change over long periods of time.” In 1859, the following year, he published On the Origin of Species, which collected his thoughts regarding evolution. Because his theory, containing concepts such as natural selection and survival of the fittest, challenged the Christian doctrine of creationism, he was harshly criticized by religious groups, but his theory gradually became more widely accepted.
I want the viewers to tell me what they felt
Please leave a message for the fans.
Moreso than the first and second series, I personally sometimes think this third series, Tamers, has an ever so slightly more mature feel to it. As its producer, I truly want to know whether the audience also felt “it’s a bit more mature…” It’s been five years since then, and if I have a question for those who have bought this box, I’d like to ask “back then, what did you think about it, compared to the prior series?” I want to know how much this third series changed in the eyes of the viewers. I would be very happy if they could tell me whether it was a shock to them that things had changed so much, or rather, if they could tell me about things like “I was thinking this, back when it aired.”
- Youkai = A type of spirit in Japanese folklore.
- Otogi-zoshi = A collection of short stories from unknown authors released written between the Japanese Kamakura and Edo periods (around the 12th-19th century). “The Tale of Tamamo” (Tamamo no Soushi, 玉藻の草紙) tells of the famous nine-tailed fox Tamamo-no-Mae, said to have seduced the Emperor Toba and caused him to fall ill.
- Jian’s name “Jianliang” is rendered in Japanese as “Jenrya“, whereas “naked” is “zenra” (全裸).
- Akihabara = A district in Tokyo known for being a shopping district for electronics, as well as being a congregation point for video games, anime, and other media subcultures.
- Maid cafe = A type of specialty restaurants where waitresses dress up in maid cosplay and treat their patrons as masters whom they are serving.
- In literal terms, the role referred to here is series kousei (シリーズ構成, lit. “series composition”).
- Tokusatsu: Refers to live-action productions that make use of a combination of practical and special effects. Notable works in the genre include hero shows such as Super Sentai (adapted in the West as Power Rangers) and giant monster shows such as Godzilla.
- Producer Seki’s analogy about Tokyo and the countryside presumably refers to the lesser feeling of tight-knit community that would be in a highly urbanized city like Tokyo, in contrast to the countryside.