A translation of all of the interviews included in the Digimon Adventure tri. special feature of volume 32 (the December 2015 issue) of hobby magazine Febri, held with the following:
- Character designer Atsuya Uki
- Voice actors Natsuki Hanae (Taichi Yagami) and Mutsumi Tamura (Koushirou Izumi)
- Lead writer Yuuko Kakihara and scriptwriters Mitsutaka Hirota, Yuniko Ayana, Takaaki Suzuki, and Yasuhiro Nakanishi
- Setting researcher Takaaki Suzuki
- Producer Shuuhei Arai
- Director Keitarou Motonaga
Character designer Atsuya Uki
The character designs for Digimon Adventure tri. are by Atsuya Uki, known for singlehandedly directing, writing, and key animating Cencoroll and for designing characters for tsuritama. We asked him about what he did to express the growth of the high school-aged “Chosen Children” with iconic features.
How you applied your own design style to the world of Digimon
–You joined this project on Producer Arai’s request, but what impression did you have of the Digimon series at the time?
Uki: I probably had the strongest impression of it being something that Mamoru Hosoda1 directed.
–For this series, you had to work off of the original designs as a base. How was the process different from working on an original series like tsuritama2?
Uki: I had a harder time with this one because the base designs were already established beforehand. I think I ended up spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to get my art style to fit with Digimon’s world in the first place.
–This series has its main characters in high school, so how did you express their growth from the previous series?
Uki: I already had to make their proportions taller in order to get them to fit with my art style, so I didn’t have to think about it much after that. That said, there wasn’t a right or wrong answer as to how I should express their character development through their design, so I wasn’t sure what to do with that.
–Were you given any specific instructions regarding the overall character modeling?
Uki: I didn’t really get any, but I did discuss with the staff how cartoonish I was supposed to make their body proportions, including the hair.
–We’d like to ask about each individual character. Firstly, what was the process like for Taichi and Yamato?
Uki: Taichi was the hardest one. In particular, I didn’t have any experience that would help me with the sheer volume of his hair, so I submitted a bunch of different attempts. In terms of his character, I tried to imagine a natural progression from Digimon Adventure and 02, so for instance, since he was wearing a school uniform, I figured he’d have his shirt left untucked. That kind of thing had an influence on how I designed the clothing. I wanted to keep Taichi true to whatever intent must have gone behind his design even beforehand. As for Yamato, if you had to ask me which design his is closer to, I’d say probably the one from the first series. Like his partner, his hair makes him come off as a bit of a carnivore3.
–How did you approach the designs for the girls, Sora, Mimi, and Hikari?
Uki: I stuck to Sora’s original Adventure design and drew it in my own style. She came off as a sports girl, so I kept her hair short. Even with her school uniform, I figured she’d be the type to wear it properly and by the rules. Mimi’s style changed drastically between the first series and the second, so I wanted to change it up for this series as well. I thought it’d be fun if she could change her hairstyle every time she appeared, so I gave her semi-long hair so that she could have a bunch of different hairstyles with it. Her hair accessory and short skirt are the result of me thinking she’d be like a gyaru4. As for Hikari, her design was almost the same, so I drew her as a pretty girl who’s as cute as a button.
–What did you do for Koushirou, Jou, and Takeru?
Uki: I think Koushirou’s most identifying feature is his thick eyebrows, so I insisted on keeping that in. Jou is the only one with glasses, so to make him easier to draw, I had his glasses be bottom-rimmed ones.5 I didn’t make any changes to Takeru’s overall image, and I wanted him to come off as a cute young boy. But since he’s wearing a uniform, I got rid of the hat.
–You also had to design new high school uniforms from scratch.
Uki: I did. I tried out a number of different styles, and this was picked as the final one. Personally, I would prefer having the colors be a bit darker, but it’d end up becoming too dark on the screen, and it wouldn’t match the intended feel of the series. So if I had to use bright colors, I wanted to use more neutral colors instead of something like red or yellow, so the end result was blue.
–You also designed Meiko, Nishijima, and Himekawa, who also appeared in Part 1.
Uki: My impression was that Nishijima’s should come off as an “absent-minded person” when he’s at school, so his hair is messy and tussled, but when he’s working as a bureau member he’d suddenly become sharp and neat-looking. As for Meiko, the other girls had brighter hair colors, so I gave her straight black hair. Himekawa is an adult woman, and she also comes off as a bit cold.
–You’ve also worked as a key animator yourself, so is there anything you take into consideration when making designs for animation?
Uki: There are. I’m also an animator, so I naturally have trouble when there’s too many lines. I try to make sure I don’t end up creating too many lines whenever possible. That said, if I take away too many lines, the substance will be gone and that’ll completely defeat the purpose, so I have to strike a thin balance to get it right.
–Is there anything you want to try drawing for future artworks such as posters and other officially licensed material?
Uki: I drew Omegamon and Alphamon for the Part 1 poster, but it was my first time drawing robot-like characters and I had a lot of fun with it. The Part 2 poster has five characters in it, but I wanted it to have similar composition with the Part 1 poster, so I drew it visualizing the idea of ally and enemy sides opposing each other. For future ones, I’d like to keep a theme going with the characters and Digimon.
An animation director and designer from Sapporo. After gaining attention for singlehandedly managing direction, writing, and animation for Cencoroll, he is currently producing its sequel Cencoroll 2. He was also in charge of character designs for tsuritama.
Voice actors Natsuki Hanae (Taichi Yagami) ｘ Mutsumi Tamura (Koushirou Izumi)
Both of them had their hearts touched by watching the Chosen Children’s adventure on the TV screen 15 years ago. Now that both of them have become Chosen Children themselves as voice actors, how do they feel? We barraged them with questions about their memories of Digimon, as well as their passionate feelings towards tri.
–What kinds of memories do you have of Digimon?
Hanae: The toys came out even before the anime, didn’t they? It was before the Digivice, the box-shaped one with a brick pattern.
–That’s the “DIgital Monster Ver. 1”.
Hanae: Yes, that one. I didn’t have one myself, but it was a huge hit among my friends. Then, when I was somewhere around my second year of elementary school, the anime started and I thought, “oh, they made an anime out of that?” and watched it. I really enjoyed it, and that was how I started getting into it for real.
Tamura: I also started with the toys, and just as I was starting to think they were cool, the anime started airing. I have a younger brother, and I think I got really into it when we were watching it together.
–At the time, what did you think was appealing about it?
Hanae: Back then, I just thought the monsters were really cool. Pokémon was also really popular at the time, but whenever a Pokémon evolves, they can’t go back. But I got to watch Digimon evolve again every single time, so I thought that was really cool.
Tamura: The evolution sequences and the guitar riff accompanying tem are really cool.
Hanae: Right? (laughs) Also, the fact they’d yell their attack names. The designs were also a little more adult-oriented, and I particularly remember my kid heart getting struck by how “digital” they came off as. Back then, digital devices weren’t as common, and computers weren’t that popular at all.
Tamura: There weren’t any iPhones or anything like that.
Hanae: That’s why I thought it was really cool that Koushirou got to mess around with a computer all the time.
Tamura: The one with the Pineapple logo (laughs). I think I also started off thinking the monsters were cool. Later, I started getting really into adventure stories. I was an elementary school student, so I couldn’t really do anything that was much of a big deal. They’d tell you “you can’t leave the school grounds,” so I really admired the fact Taichi and his friends could go on an adventure, and I felt like I was accompanying them as I watched.
Hanae: It also had some really good darker aspects to it.
Tamura: Their enemies were super strong, weren’t they?
Hanae: Really strong. The depiction of the Black Gears (items flung by an evil Digimon that turned the hearts of good Digimon to darkness) was really scary.
Tamura: All of their enemies were converging on them together, and if they didn’t fight back they wouldn’t be able to defeat them. That kind of fear was a really attractive part of the series, and it was also satisfying to see the kids overcome those battles and grow.
–In actuality, Digimon was apparently made to be more geared towards adults than most children’s series.
Hanae: I was really into it. Also, I liked the fact I could get things that appeared in the series for myself, like the Digivice. It felt like I was one of the characters.
–Who was your favorite character at the time?
Tamura: I loved MetalGreymon.
Hanae: A very conventional answer.
Tamura: He’s cool, isn’t he? When I was playing with the toy, I wanted to evolve my Digimon into MetalGreymon, but I’d keep neglecting care and ending up with a Numemon (laughs). Also, the dark evolution, SkullGreymon, was scary. What about you, Hanae-kun?
Hanae: My favorite human was Yamato, and my favorite Digimon was Gomamon.
Tamura: Gomamon’s really cute.
Hanae: Really cute. I liked his shape.
Tamura: He’s got cute hands.
Hanae: I know, right? It’s like his center of gravity is right in the perfect spot. I really like that kind of design. As for Yamato, unlike the other kids, he was blonde, and he came off more like an adult and was really cool. But now that I’m watching it from the perspective of an adult, I see things differently. Right now, my favorite is Taichi. When I look at Taichi again, I think he’s really cool. His personality is super attractive. He’s always looking around him, and he’s always pulling everyone forward, and he truly is a main protagonist.
Tamura: My favorite used to be Taichi, but right now it might be Koushirou, because I’m playing him now (laughs).
Hanae: Well, it’s only natural (laughs).
Tamura: I really like Taichi’s high-spirited nature. Like, “well, whatever, let’s just go!” I feel like if it weren’t for that aspect of him, those kids with very difficult personalities wouldn’t have been able to work as a team. In particular, Yamato. Even back when I was a kid, I always thought “that one worries way too much about everything” (laughs). Nowadays, I think that’s cute, but I couldn’t think of it that way back then.
Hanae: The way he pulled out his harmonica out of nowhere was really cool…or so I thought when I was a kid (laughs). Now that I watch it again, it’s actually just funny.
Tamura: Because he just starts doing it all of a sudden (laughs).
–Looking back on the series again, what are your impressions of it?
Hanae: Of course, the Digimon fights are still cool, but the human relationships and the relationships between humans and Digimon are really heartrending. I think that’s probably why it’s so well-loved even now.
Tamura: I think so, too. There’s really a lot of depth to those human relationships. Now that I watch it again, I can really understand the reason Yamato’s so worried about everything. And also, that Taichi’s recklessness really is a force to be reckoned with. In his own childish way, Taichi has a way of forcing his way through things without fear of anything. I admired him back when I was a kid who was stuck in school, and this time I really remembered why.
Hanae: Taichi was a source of inspiration for Digimon-watching kids because he did things we weren’t able to do ourselves. But when you rewatch the series now, you get the feeling he’s going a bit too far.
Tamura: I’m sure the high school-aged Taichi in tri. would feel the same way, too.
Hanae: Absolutely. High school Taichi would definitely have the exact same feelings about his younger self.
–How did you feel when you heard you’d be auditioning for tri.?
Tamura: When I first heard about the fact they were making this series, I thought they’d already finished auditions by that time. I was upset, I was thinking “you should have at least told me!”, and then they actually did call me and I was super relieved (laughs). I was really happy.
Hanae: When they called me in…just, “they called me!” Really, I was honestly just very happy about it.
Tamura: Did they decide you’d be Taichi from the very beginning?
Hanae: They did. Taichi’s role was the only one where they directly scouted out the actor they wanted. But personally, for me, my image of Taichi was the very energetic one played by (Toshiko) Fujita-san, and I didn’t think my voice would fit him very well. So I was actually the one to ask them, I’m willing to take Taichi, but don’t you think I might be better for someone like Koushirou or Takeru? But in the end, they had me play Taichi.
Tamura: You must have been nervous.
Hanae: I was! I was happy, but that came with even more pressure. I know they were the ones to cast me, but I was wondering if I could even pull this off well.
Tamura: Taichi’s a role that naturally comes with a lot of pressure.
Hanae: He’s a really popular character, and his fans all have a very clear image of what “Taichi” is to them.
Tamura: Actually, everyone in the original Digimon voice cast left a very strong impression. We heard their voices when we were kids, so we have very clear images of them, and so when you bring up Koushirou, of course (Umi) Tenjin-san’s voice is going to play in my head. I was happy to get the role, but I was really nervous all the way up to the post-recording. I was glad to be picked, but I was unsure if I could pull off sounding as smart as Koushirou does. And just as I’d thought, the script ended up having a lot of intelligent-sounding lines in it.
–How did you feel when you first saw the story outline?
Tamura: I thought, “Taichi’s so serious!” (laughs). I was really worried.
Hanae: I thought, Taichi’s really become an adult now. But when I read their first conversations with the Digimon, I thought, “ah, this series hasn’t changed at all.”
Tamura: I really liked that scene. That matching conversation of “Taichi, you’ve gotten bigger!” “And you’ve gotten smaller.”
Hanae: That was a really touching scene. Also, even just getting to hear them have a normal conversation like that gets you teary-eyed because so many feelings come from seeing them meet again after so long. But on the other hand, there’s still something new, and there’s a sense of anticipation about the new story that’s coming after this.
–What did you take into consideration when preparing for your role?
Tamura: I feel like Koushirou hasn’t changed that much. He still does his own thing without really minding others, and I felt he came off as even more intelligent than before, so I approached his role that way.
Hanae: He can speak French now, too.
Tamura: I saw that scene and thought, wow, he’s really smart. They told me quite a while earlier that there’d be a scene where he speaks French, so I ran the restaurant conversation with a French person I’d met at my English-speaking class. Because of that, the lines ended up a bit different from the ones actually in the script. There was a lot of fuss about that. Koushirou’s intelligence is still evolving, and it’ll never stop.
Hanae: Without Koushirou, they wouldn’t be able to see the “distortions”>
Tamura: He was very helpful in Part 1, bringing back Taichi’s goggles and all.
–Taichi’s changed quite a lot.
Hanae: At the initial script reading, it was clear that Taichi was energetic as always when it came to his friends he liked, but it also was clear that he became very pensive when things were about himself. It was tricky managing that balance. But Taichi is still Taichi, so I wanted to retain his Taichi-ness. I wouldn’t really be able to pull off trying to completely imitate Fujita-san’s characteristic traits, and it wouldn’t even be right to try and be an imitator in the first place, but I wanted to at least do something to make Taichi still feel like Taichi. I think I passed the audition specifically because they felt I was the only one right for the high school-aged Taichi, so even though I felt the pressure, I had faith in myself and brought Taichi out…or at least I hope I did.
Tamura: You did!
Hanae: Thank you very much. Actually, my stomach was in pain during the post-recording (laughs).
–Did you go back and rewatch the older series?
Hanae: I did. I watched it with the Blu-ray box, from the very first episode. I don’t have Fujita-san’s voice and I can’t be her version of grade school Taichi, but I wanted my performance to do a proper job of at least bringing back the memory of his adventures through the Digital World with Agumon. I wonder if that came across to everyone who saw it…
Tamura: It’s the vibe that makes it very easy to call him “Taichi-san”.
–How did you feel when you met the voice actors for the Digimon?
Tamura: Really nervous.
Hanae: It felt like going to a girlfriend’s parents and asking for their blessing.
Tamura: I think I get what you mean by that.
Hanae: It’s not about getting married, but still, it’s asking to be their new partners. What if they went like “how dare you, never!” or something?
Tamura: Yeah, I was also worrying about them going like “no, that’s not Koushirou!” at me.
hanae: But they were very kind. When we were first greeting each other, (Chika) Sakamoto-san went like “Taichi!? Whoa, his actor’s gotten so young~!” (laughs). She was the one who called out to me first, so that dissolved a ton of the pressure, and I was able to focus on the post-recording well.
–When you hear them say things like that in those exact voices, it really makes you feel like you’re about to cry.
Tamura: At the recording site, whenever the Digimon said their lines, we’d think “oh, that’s the character I remember watching” (laughs).
Hanae: Like, “there really were actual people behind that!” (laughs). And especially with Palmon, it was really a surprise. “Kinoko (Yamada)-san, how did you even get that kind of voice out of you!?”
Tamura: Even when she talks normally, you can feel a bit of Palmon in her, and it doesn’t feel like anything’s changed at all since back then.
–There’s something deeply emotional about being at the recording site for a series you knew as a kid.
Hanae: So I was really happy when the kids and Digimon all get together at the airport during Part 1. I was a total emotional wreck.
Tamura: I thought, “there it is!” Although it wasn’t actually everyone, Jou and Mimi weren’t there, but it felt just right for Palmon to be going “where’s Mimi!?”
–How did you feel when you watched Part 1 after it was finished?
Hanae: It was exciting even from the very beginning. (Hiroaki) Hirata-san’s narration made me think “as it should be!” I also liked how it had a bit of a darker atmosphere. The footage was really pretty, too. Also, the depiction of something from the Digital World intruding into the real world…the traffic lights went haywire, and mobile phones couldn’t connect, and you could see it clearly on the screen and feel that it really was “Digimon” all over again.
Tamura: The Digimon were moving back and forth all over the place, and they looked really cool. It felt like they were actually there. Also, you could really feel how strong the enemies were.
Hanae: The music was also good, of course.
Tamura: The opening gets your heart pounding.
Hanae: It did! And “brave heart”, which played during the evolution sequences, was also seriously cool. I think that’s a song that pierces right through the hearts of anyone who’s loved Digimon. Like little things here and there that reference things, I really like that.
–The way Taichi and Yamato fight really feels a lot like something they’d do.
Hanae: Yamato uses some very harsh words with Taichi, but he’s well aware of what Taichi’s thinking, and Taichi also understands what Yamato’s trying to say to him. They’re both thinking something like, “I’m sorry to have to do this, but this is how I feel…” So it’s not like they’re fighting because they’re on bad terms with each other, it’s actually because of how good their relationship is.
Tamura: It’s nice how it’s not the kind of fight they’d have back in the old days, they’re fighting on more mature terms.
–Yamato really likes Taichi.
Hanae: He does.
Tamura: He trusts him. You can really sense the passion of a friendship between men.
–Is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing happen in Part 2?
Hanae: We already had Omegamon in Part 1, so what’ll come next…?
Tamura: Maybe he’ll fuse with another Digimon?
Hanae: Like Jogress Evolution.
Tamura: I’d be interested in something like that.
Hanae: Maybe we’ll get to see another Digimon like Dukemon. Also, the enemies from the old series. Part 1 already had Kuwagamon in it, right? So maybe Devimon, or Etemon, or Vamdemon. Also, I even really want to see Numemon (laughs).
Tamura: I really like Numemon. I want to see another one chasing after Mimi (laughs).
Hanae: I watched the older series, so I can look forward to things like that. I really hope they can sneak things like that into Part 2 and after.
Tamura: Also, I’m interested in what’ll happen between Koushirou and Mimi. Will something come out of it?
Hanae: And also, is it gonna be Taichi or Yamato?
Tamura: Oh, you mean regarding Sora. Yeah, that’s a big question, isn’t it? I was really surprised about that as a kid (laughs). I’m interested in seeing in how the romance will play out. They’re in high school, after all.
–In closing, please leave a message for the fans.
Hanae: Digimon Adventure tri. is full of nostalgia all the way down to the music, so I think it’ll be something Digimon fans will look forward to if they’ve seen the previous series. There’s nostalgia, but there’s also new things too, and a lot of evolutions, so even I felt Part 1 was a great reminder of what makes Digimon so amazing. Honestly, this series is full of love for Digimon from the people making this. For me, playing Taichi is like a dream, and although I’m feeling a lot of pressure, I’m going to try and grow as much as Taichi does all the way up to Part 6. Please keep cheering us on!
Tamura: Very well said. Taichi was in serious mode during Part 1, and he had a lot of things to worry about, so there’s fun parts as well as a lot of sad parts too. I wonder if we’ll be seeing a bit more of the old reckless Taichi come back in Part 2 or 3. Or maybe instead of just bringing the old Taichi back, he’ll become an even cooler Taichi because of all of the thinking he’s done. I hope the fans will also look forward to it with us. The fun of the old days is still here, so please keep enjoying a more mature Taichi, the kids, and the relationship between them and their Digimon!
From Kanagawa Prefecture. Major works include Aldnoah.Zero (Inaho Kaizuka), Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (Biscuit Griffon), and Nagi-Asu: A Lull in the Sea (Hikari Sakishima).
From Tokyo. Major works include Jormungand (Jonah), Battle Spirits Burning Soul (Ranmaru Shikigami), and Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans (Ride Mass).
Lead writer Yuuko Kakihara ｘ scriptwriters Mitsutaka Hirota, Yuniko Ayana, Takaaki Suzuki, Yasuhiro Nakanishi
The Digimon Adventure series has accumulated a long history. Beyond just its own story and lore, it’s accumulated many passionate feelings from its fans and staff. We spoke with the talented scriptwriters of different generations and backgrounds to brilliantly deliver Digimon Adventure tri. as a masterpiece!
–Firstly, please tell us what kind of experience you had with Digimon Adventure beforehand.
Hirota: To be honest, I didn’t get to really watch it very thoroughly until I started working on this series. But since Atsushi Maekawa-san6 was from the same school where I studied story writing, I did have some vague awareness of Adventure and 02 because he was working on them. I was really surprised at how deep of a story it was.
Kakihara: I’m in around the same boat as Hirota-san. I wasn’t from the generation that watched the original series, so I mainly knew it as a very famous series that was very popular and had a long history. I felt a lot of pressure when I was actually asked to be a part of it.
Suzuki: I followed the first series. I was already an adult by the time it was airing, but I noticed it had a lot of fans. Even now, I’m surrounded by a lot of really passionate fans, so I hear a lot about it.
–What about the other two of you? You were actually part of the target audience’s age range when it aired.
Nakanishi: I was. I got in with the toys, I loved the anime and games, so I’m a total member of the Digimon generation. In particular, I enjoyed watching Digimon Adventure every week, and during the episode Taichi evolved Agumon into SkullGreymon, I remember my little kid heart going “how dare you make something so awful happen!” I think that was the first time I ever really thought about who was actually making an anime. I was thinking, “what kind of people would actually make something as shocking as this?”
Ayana: I’m also from the Digimon generation, but I thought Digimon was for boys, so I was watching my younger brother enjoying the anime and games from the side and thinking “that’s nice.” So I don’t really have detailed memories of it, but when I went to go see Our War Game! at the movie theater, I absolutely and totally loved it. I was in middle school and the movie was a huge shock for me, and I started really liking anime because of that. That’s how much I love that movie.
–How did you end up working on this series?
Suzuki: Director Motonaga contacted me about it.
Ayana: I was talking with Producer Sakurai from Typhoon Graphics about a different topic, but when I heard they were working on something for Digimon I asked if I could join in. The production staff had already been talking about wanting to get someone from the relevant generation, so it seems to have been perfect timing.
Kakihara: I was also contacted by Sakurai-san.
Nakanishi: I was discussing something with Kakihara-san, and when she learned I like Digimon she called me onto the project. I think it was around the time they’d just finished putting together the plot for Part 3.
Hirota: I’d already worked with Kakihara-san several times, so this was just the natural result.
Kakihara: Hirota-san’s worked on a lot of things targeted at young boys. We’re not making Digimon Adventure tri. for children, but if we don’t retain the “soul” of the original Digimon Adventure being a children’s series at its core, it’s still going to feel like too much of an entirely different series. So I thought I really wanted to have someone like him on, since I knew he likes writing things with passion-inducing story developments.
–How did the specifics of the writing process go?
Kakihara: I’m the lead writer7 so my job was to figure out the overall flow of the story, refine with the director and production side, and then distribute the writing jobs. As for the writing assignments, I hear out what everyone’s specialties are and assign them accordingly.
Suzuki: I think I was called in right after the overall story structure was decided on.
Kakihara: We called in Suzuki-san at a pretty early stage, and we asked him for help whenever things got really complicated in regards to setting.
Suzuki: I remember saying something like “I want to write Koushirou’s scenes, since I understand exactly how he’s feeling.”
Ayana: I had a preference for writing things where the kids and Digimon played around a lot. Like in Part 2.
Suzuki: Also, you had a very important job as the litmus tester to see how Digimon fans would feel about something (laughs).
Hirota: There were times when the director and Kakihara-san would approve of something regarding how the characters were depicted, but we couldn’t use it because Ayana-san rejected it (laughs).
Kakihara: Nakanishi-kun was also an actual fan watching it in real time, so we’d hear him out too.
Hirota: Something like “Would you like it if this happened?” “I like it!” (laughs).
Nakanishi: Right (laughs). Also, I only started participating midway into the process, so in a sense, I was probably the closest to having an actual audience member’s point of view when I read the plot summary.
Kakihara: When you’ve been involved as a staff member since the very beginning, your standard for whether the premise is too difficult to understand or not might get blurred, so you need someone with a fresh viewpoint to read it over and give you advice.
Hirota: I was also personally interested less in “does this come off as something for Digimon?” and more “is this something high school-aged characters would do?” Now that the kids aren’t young children anymore but high school students, how would they mature?…I wanted to include that element in the scenes I wrote and in overall parts of the plot. Of course, we still needed to make them feel appropriate to Taichi or Yamato’s characters, but the project planners also wanted us to make Digimon Adventure for a newer generation. So I’d be very firm about saying “I want to depict them doing this kind of thing,” then adjust it to that it would make sense for Digimon’s original generation. I wanted to have that kind of neutral stance during production.
–Part 1 had multiple names credited for scriptwriting. Was the work clearly divided between those who worked on it?
Kakihara: We assigned roles, wrote our parts, and then in the end a single writer would put it all together. For Part 1, that was me, but I plan to have others do it for the other parts.
–So everyone writes their drafts together at first, and then for the final version, a single writer puts it together. What were the different roles for Part 1?
Kakihara: Part 1 was mainly written by me, Hirota-san, and Suzuki-san.
Hirota: Kakihara-san wrote the main core points, and then the individual smaller parts were assigned to me and Suzuki-san. I was primarily in charge of the interactions between Taichi and Yamato. Also, I wrote the first draft of the fight between Omegamon and Alphamon, and Kakihara-san was the one to touch it up after hearing out the director’s opinions.
Suzuki: I wrote about the things related to Koushirou, as well as the depiction of Odaiba in 2005. Also, I was involved with the lore behind the goggles and “distortions” that fueled the background premise of the story.
Kakihara: Whenever we had trouble working with the premise, it felt like we’d just toss it to Suzuki-san (laughs).
Ayana: Right when they were finishing up Part 1, I was called on to help with Part 2.
Kakihara: To be more accurate about it, I really feel like we were less “dividing” up the parts and more “collaborating”. During scenario readings (meetings about the story), we’d often consult with each other and decide on what to include there. Someone might suggest something, and even if someone else were doing the actual writing, they’d incorporate that idea.
–Incidentally, was there anything difficult about making it come off appropriately like a Digimon series?
Kakihara: We were struggling with how drastically we should show Taichi’s growth. We spent a lot of time thinking about that during the process, and I think that’s what makes it a very difficult series to work with. We had people besides longtime Digimon fans watching this, so the hardest part was taking that into consideration and thinking about how to depict that.
–Did Ayana-san and Nakanishi-san, who are the closest to the original audience’s perspective, feel that anything had changed about Taichi and his friends?
Nakanishi: The biggest impression I had at first was that now that Taichi and his friends were older, they really can’t probe into each other’s problems anymore. When they were in grade school, whenever one of them was dealing with trouble, the others would immediately start offering advice. But now, since they’re worried about how much they should barge in, they can’t really say anything anymore.
Ayana: In the original series, the kids would sometimes get into fights, but you don’t see Taichi and Yamato getting into fights anymore in Part 1.
Nakanishi: Well, to be more exact, Yamato’s the only one who starts a fight.
Ayana: Yeah, that’s true (laughs). Yamato’s relatively similar to how he was when he was before, so the difference between him and Taichi feels even wider.
–How did you try to make the kids act like high school students?
Kakihara: At the beginning, a big topic for us was regarding how distant the boys and girls should be with each other. If the high school-aged Yamato or Taichi went to the school cafeteria, which seats would they pick? How much would they talk to each other? What happens if Sora gets involved? We wanted to include the realism of high school student life, but also, how much can you cram in all of the other things people would want to see Taichi and his friends do as high school students? Whenever we started talking about this, our meetings would get really long (laughs).
Ayana: Personally, there were two things I was very particular about…The first is that, since I was born in the same year as Taichi, I would bring up the things I went through in my high school years during the scenario readings and have them be incorporated in the story. For instance, in Part 1, when Jou goes to prep school, they have him move seats depending on his performance. That’s something I actually experienced for myself, so I completely understood his pain there.
Nakanishi: In my case, they’d even do that in our regular classroom.
Kakihara: Kids these days have it hard…
Ayana: The other was that Taichi and the others are not “close friends”, but “teammates”.8
–They have a connection because they went through the same adventure together, but whether they’re actually close during their normal daily affairs is a completely different question.
Ayana: Right. Everyone loves to say that all eight of them are friends, but I wasn’t so sure about that, so I decided to rewatch the original series. As teammates, they needed a common goal to get anything done, so I figured that was also probably why Taichi wasn’t intentionally trying to make himself the leader. I ended up getting very specific about how to strike a balance between making them come off as true-to-life high school students and having them show an appropriately unique sense of being “Chosen Children”.
–What scenes were you particular about when you were working on your own respective assignments?
Suzuki: My focus was on making sure the premise and backdrop came off as realistic, because the director wanted it to be true-to-life. For instance, police radio messages and Self-Defense Force communication lines changed over the years, so I struggled with making them come off as accurate to how they were in 2005. Also, people were using feature phones, not smartphones, so everyone’s lines had to be appropriate for that context, but we also had to make sure that modern audience members wouldn’t think that it felt off. It was tricky balancing the conflict between realistic consistency and fiction.
Hirota: For me, it’s the scene where Yamato and Taichi get in a fight, and Yamato says “Have you forgotten, Taichi? All we experienced in the Digital World, the battles we fought to save the world!” Yamato should know very well that Taichi hasn’t actually forgotten, but the way Taichi is right now, he really seems like he has. So he’s basically saying “what happened to you, Taichi?” It was tricky to construct Taichi’s portrayal by working backwards from dialogue. Taichi’s not really coming off as quite like himself, after all. He hasn’t changed at his core, but now that he’s in high school, we can’t just act like he’s not the protagonist of a Digimon series for the 21st century. So I spent a lot of time wondering what that should mean for Taichi’s position.
–How did you resolve the issue?
Hirota: The director told me “I feel like Taichi should have lost sight of something.” So if Taichi’s lost sight of something, I figured, I just need to make the audience keep thinking about where Taichi will end up after six movies. So I made that sense of “wandering in confusion” be a key phrase, so that even if Taichi wouldn’t necessarily iron out his feelings clearly right away, he also wouldn’t be wandering in the darkness forever…and that was how I decided on his position. I thought that might also be another part of “being like a real high school student”. But even if that’s something you’d expect from a high school student, he’s still a Chosen Child. He’s shouldering that background, so how fiercely should Yamato approach him in this state? I think that ended up being the most difficult scene for me to write.
Kakihara: For me, it was the Ferris wheel scene in Part 1. It’s a scene I put in because I just felt that when they’re in Odaiba, they might as well go on the Ferris wheel, but I also included a discussion about “what does it mean to be an adult?” This was right after I’d had a discussion with the director, and he’d said “Now that Taichi’s gotten older, he’s able to see more of his surroundings.” I thought, it’s just like a Ferris wheel. At first, you can’t see much, but as you get higher, you can see more and more. Just like that, when you get older, you end up seeing more things happening. Taichi’s the kind of person who ends up stopping in his tracks for a bit when the world expands for him. That’s his own way of maturing…I thought that as I wrote, and I think I was finally able to depict the process of how the “Chosen Children” should be maturing. It’s a scene that left some very impressionable memories on me, in the sense that I personally learned a lot from writing it.
–Ayana-san and Nakanishi-san, you primarily worked on parts that haven’t been released yet, but is there anything you can tell us about them?
Ayana: Part 2 has a scene where they go to Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, and I had a lot of fun with that one. I really hope everyone looks forward to seeing the nine kids, including Meiko, and the Digimon playing around.
Nakanishi: I’m working on Part 4, so I don’t really think I’m allowed to say anything (laughs), but the high school-aged Taichi and his friends will be going to a familiar place and meeting some familiar characters, so please look forward to that. Also, I’m in the middle of writing something that I hope will really bring out how the characters deal with new things to worry about.
–Now that Part 1 has been completed, do you have a favorite scene?
Ayana: My super favorite scene is the one where Taichi and Agumon are at the destroyed airport, and they’re having a conversation in the darkness of twilight. They’re looking at each other the same way they would in the series, but Taichi’s gotten older, and Agumon can’t understand what he’s worrying about anymore. But even though he says “I don’t know,” he still hugs Taichi so tightly…Also, I was really happy to see the process of Omegamon’s evolution.
Nakanishi: That one’s so exciting it makes you jump back in surprise.
Ayana: I’m really glad they’re making evolution sequences for pretty much everyone. The director’s commitment to fanservice is really amazing.
–How about the scene with Takeru and Yamato’s backstage conversation? It feels like someone’s personal taste was involved there…
Ayana: (laughs) The interesting thing about that one is how Takeru will call his brother “aniki” when they’re in front of others, but “onii-chan” when they’re alone.9
–What scenes do you like, Nakanishi-san?
Nakanishi: I like the scenes with Jou and Gomamon. Actually, when I was a kid, I didn’t like Jou (laughs). He was one of those kids who was always about studying, and whenever he tried to stop Taichi from doing something, I’d think “man, this guy can’t read the room” (laughs). I was wondering if he’d still be like that despite having gotten older, but it turned out he was dealing with some very real problems in his own way, but he wasn’t opening up to anyone about it and was trying to shoulder it all by himself. But when Gomamon is in front of him, he unconsciously goes back to being like his child self and hugs him tightly. That really touched my heart, and after that I became a hardcore Jou stan. I like how it feels as if he hasn’t changed at all, and yet also like he’s changed a lot.
Hirota: …Also, he’s got a girlfriend.
–Does that girlfriend actually exist?
Kakihara: All I’m going to say is, please look forward to the answer (laughs).
–In closing, please tell us what we should look forward to in future parts.
Kakihara: Part 2 is full of things that really bring out the feeling of youth. I looked at the storyboards for it, and Meiko-chan is really cute in them.
–Would you say Part 2 is the so-called “hot springs episode”?
Kakihara: I would. There’s even a school cultural festival, too. There’s a lot we’ve packed in there.
–What should we look out for in regards to the military aspects?
Suzuki: They’re going to start breaking out “anti-Digimon weapons”. In regards to background lore, I put a lot of work into the narration at the beginning. The lines are based off a book of Hindu teachings, but they made my head spin when I was figuring them out, so I hope you can pay attention to them when you hear them.
–In terms of Digimon lore, is there anything we should look out for in Part 2?
Nakanishi: There’s so many, I can’t list them all (laughs). But as a fan of the original series, when I read the plot summary, I could feel a lot of love in it.
Kakihara: The Ultimate evolutions are also something to look forward to.
Nakanishi: The battle at the end will really surprise a lot of fans. Although they’ll be up against that enemy…
Hirota: Part 2 focuses on Jou and Mimi, but I was in charge of the depiction of Jou’s emotional state in the latter half of it, so in a certain sense, I’ve gotten pretty attached to Part 2’s Jou. Of course, I’d like Jou lovers to watch, but I also really want people like Nakanishi-san who didn’t like Jou before to come and see it.
Nakanishi: It’ll really change your entire opinion of him in one shot.
Hirota: I’m only saying this from where we are right now, but among all of the Chosen Children in tri., I feel like he’s the one who’s confronting his own self the most. I think he’s the one dealing with the most true-to-life worries out of all of them. People who are close to his age might be the ones who are most able to empathize with him.
From Osaka Prefecture. A scriptwriter from Scenario Factory Moonlight. Major works include Jewelpet Sunshine (as lead writer and scriptwriter), Persona 4: The Animation (as lead writer and scriptwriter), and Unbreakable Machine-Doll (as lead writer and scriptwriter).
From Osaka Prefecture. Scriptwriter. Major works include X-Men (as lead writer and scriptwriter), Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL II (as scriptwriter), Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V (as scriptwriter), Gigantor Roar! (as lead writer and scriptwriter), and Bakumatsu Rock (as lead writer and scriptwriter).
Scriptwriter. Major works include Locodol (as lead writer and scriptwriter), Hello!! KINMOZA (as lead writer and scriptwriter), and Pillow Boys (as lead writer and script writer). Her written works include I Found a Little Yuri (Kadokawa) and That’ll Become Normal to the World (3 volumes, art by Shigeyoshi Takagi, Ichijinsha).
Scriptwriter. From Scenario Factory Moonlight. Major works include the video games Divergent Million Arthur, Nisekoi: Marriage!?, THE iDOLM@STER MILLION LIVE!, Tokyo 7th Sisters, and Symphonica: Grand Maestro, and the theatrical movie Mini Hama.
Setting researcher Takaaki Suzuki
The Digimon series stands out for its world’s proximity to reality, and the mysteries of the complex Digital World. tri. digs into these settings even more deeply. The major player behind this is Takaaki Suzuki, who has assisted a large number of anime with setting research. We asked for a deep dive into his work for this series.
–What kind of work is “setting research” in terms of this series?
Suzuki: Up until now, the Digimon Adventure series has primarily been set in the Digital World, but this series is set in 2005 in the real world. What would happen if Digimon started appearing there? — for instance, would the police or Self-Defense Forces get involved? And now that past incidents have firmly established the existence of Digimon, it’s only natural that the government would get involved. What organizations would get involved, and what countermeasures would they put in place? One of my jobs is doing “research” into these things.
–In what way would the police or Self-Defense Forces respond to Digimon?
Suzuki: The new character, Daigo Nishijima, has a high-ranking position in the “Incorporated Administrative Agency, National Data Processing Bureau, Information Strategy Section, Information Management Office” in regards to responding to Digimon incidents, and they’d be the ones to mobilize the police or Self-Defense Forces’ special troops…basically, like that.
–What else do you have to do?
Suzuki: In order to answer the question “what kind of world is the Digital World”, I have to refer to prior Digimon series and arrange everything in order so they can write a plot out of it. So to do that, I run things by the original Digimon creators and modify the lore as needed. To put it simply, I’m here so the other writers can focus more on developing the emotional core of the story, and I take care of considering all the stuff we have to take into account in order to comply with the lore.
–What does that mean more specifically?
Suzuki: Things like “what’s Homeostasis?”, “what’s Yggdrasil?”, and “what are the Chosen Children supposed to be in the first place?” The hardest part was figuring out the lore relevant to the “distortions”, which are the cause of the problems in this series. Also, things like what the Digital World is composed of, or what relationship the Digital World has with ours, need to be checked for consistency through discussions with people from the original Digimon creation side. They have a ton of little things to work with, so a lot of ideas have come from them. As the story’s been going on, Koushirou’s been saying a lot of lines like “I’m glad I thought of this” or “oh, this kind of thing’s secretly been there the whole time?”, but that’s really me putting my words in his mouth and having him reflect how I actually feel (laughs).
–Generally, when it comes to setting research, the director usually also needs lore to match up with what they want to put on screen. Did that happen with this series?
Suzuki: There was a lot of that (laughs). The really hard one was “please make it so they can bring out the Digimon whenever they need to.” I was really fixated on that part with them using the network to move into the LCD monitor. At first, I thought about having them move them around with the Digivices, or maybe having Koushirou move them around with his laptop, but then I thought about the fact “network company” was a major part of the series, so I came up with what we have now. Also, regarding the idea of “have Taichi wear goggles,” I proposed the idea of having them function by allowing him to see things going through networks, and I also distinctly remember receiving the request “I want to have the Self-Defense Forces use anti-Digimon weapons.” Because Digimon are made of data, they’d probably be affected by EMP (electromagnetic pulses). So if there were a small Digimon that didn’t have a stabilized form yet, they could be pushed back by weapons that use EMP to obstruct electronic signals. The US military actually developed EMP weapons like this, so I had the Self-Defense Forces carry successor models that could utilize it as a rifle attachment.
–So do they treat Digimon like strange creatures involved with cyberterrorism?
Suzuki: You could put it that way. But because Digimon themselves are not inherently malicious, there are times where one just happened to fall through a hole and are returned home without incident, or ones that lash out and need to be held down. My guess is, there’s a lot of times when the police have to make finer judgments and deal with them in secret…
–When Digimon cause serious incidents, how bad would it be compared to standard natural disasters? For instance, how much damage would an Ultimate-level cause? Did you take this into consideration?
Suzuki: That was a really hard one. If we just go by the original game lore, it’d really be some unfathomable level of damage (laughs). They can do things like “send out a ton of missiles”, so if we just leave that lore as-is, they’d have power equivalent to an entire aircraft carrier fleet and could just blow up the entire United States Seventh Fleet. But in the end, they’re all digital beings made up of data, so even though bullets or shells or other attacks based on the laws of normal physics wouldn’t work on them, their data can be rewritten, or they can be stopped by electrical means like EMP weapons, which might make them easier to deal with than other physical phenomena. That said, fundamentally speaking, if we have an Ultimate- or Perfect-level Digimon coming in, I think the only thing you can really do is fight a Digimon with another Digimon.
–Incidentally, did you have to do any research into what 2005 was like?
Suzuki: When we did the scenario readings (meetings about the story), we’d all bring in our own little stories, so I had some involvement there.
–It’s nearly exactly ten years ago, so it must have been pretty difficult for you.
Suzuki: The most helpful thing I found was a certain variety TV show that broadcasted at the time, which introduced things going on around town. People who watched it wrote comments about it online, so I found them, used what they wrote to find materials, and expanded my range of information. I went through my own personal documents, looked for photos I took when I was going location scouting myself at the time, and gathered them all together. After bundling those all up, I’d give them to the director and the rest of the art staff, and they’d use that as a reference to go location scouting themselves, find even more information as needed, and use whatever was necessary to get everything properly on the screen.
–As the setting researcher, is there something you’d like to look out for in Parts 2 and after?
Suzuki: We’ve depicted the area as it was in 2005, as well as Ooedo Onsen Monogatari, which had just been established there at the time. Parts 1 and 2 both have a theme of showing “what Odaiba was like back then”, so I hope you’ll be able to enjoy that. Also, I put a lot of work into the little things, like what the Self-Defense Forces do and what code words the police radios and airplanes use, as well as how they manage the chain of command in dealing with Digimon. I think you might be able to find something interesting and new if you look out for those.
Scriptwriter and novelist. Assists with military history research and worldbuilding. Major works include Strike Witches (worldbuilding, military history research, and scriptwriting), Girls und Panzer (research and supervision), and GATE (military supervision in conjunction with Kenichi Kaneko, scriptwriting).
Producer Shuuhei Arai
“Let’s revive Digimon Adventure” — Young producer Shuuhei Arai is the key person behind such a huge project. For this interview, we asked him about different topics related to production, such as how this project came about and future project goalposts.
–Firstly, please tell us about how you came to be involved with Digimon Adventure tri.
Arai: Toei Animation mainly centers its business activities around TV anime, but in recent years, they’ve been trying out other different kinds of business models. For instance, last year’s hit movie Expelled from Paradise was one of those experiments. This project is another attempt at a new release method. Digimon’s been lasting as a franchise through the games, but as far as the anime goes, we ultimately weren’t able to make a new series after Digimon Xros Wars. But we did have a ton of marketing data that demonstrated to the people within the company that Digimon has very strong demand with our audience. So in order to create something that would make people everywhere happy and bring back the sense of excitement they had back then, and to make them more excited about Digimon overall, we thought a good way to do it would be to bring back Digimon Adventure. That was how this project started.
–What’s your impression of Digimon Adventure?
Arai: When I watched it from an adult’s perspective, one thing I really noticed was that the original series staff was very focused on depicting the kids’ family backgrounds in great detail. When you think about it in terms of actual social conditions that were going on in 1999, if you were to put six or seven kids together, at least one or two would be dealing with some very complex family issues. It seems they had actual data to back this up, but depicting this in such detail wasn’t the standard for children’s media. So in order to pay respect to that as much as possible, we’re going to assume that the adults who watched the series as kids back then to be our primary target audience, but it’s very difficult to make the kind of sequel they would like to have.
–So is the primary target audience made up of people who watched Digimon Adventure during its original airing?
Arai: It is. In particular, we’re very aware of the people who’ve continued to be fans of Digimon Adventure even to this day, and of the fans who have been keeping up with new products. But the difficult part here is that we can’t just focus only on those core fans. We have to think about the people who watched Digimon Adventure back then and expand the audience a bit wider. There are people who watched Digimon Adventure as kids and still have memories of it, but haven’t been involved with anime lately…We can’t disregard those people who seem to not be deeply involved on the surface. So we’re lowering the entry gate, but we also want to make something that’ll satisfy core fans too. Our main staff believes this is the right way for this project to proceed. Of course, we’re also hoping to make something for even “general anime fans”, ones who don’t know anything about Digimon, to enjoy. That goes without saying.
–It sounds so simple when you put it in words like that, but it must be very difficult to actually put it in practice. When you were solidifying details for this project, since Digimon Adventure tri. is intended to bring together its projected target audience and its primary supporters, were there any specific works you were keeping in mind? For instance, just a bit earlier, you were saying that even though Digimon hasn’t been able to get any anime projects through for a while, the franchise is still continuing through the games. Did any of those have an impact on this series?
Arai: Before we started this anime project, there was a Digimon game called Digimon World Re:Digitize, for which Suzuhito Yasuda-san was the character designer. It was a huge success, and as we saw that, we were able to get a clear sense that we could get our audience to accept a Digimon work even if it had a very different visual style from before. So when we were just getting this project off the ground, we referenced that game a lot. I think that had a big impact on our decision to ask (Atsuya) Uki-san to design our characters.
–Since this project requires taking departures in various ways, what do you think is specifically necessary to make something come off as “Digimon-like”?
Arai: Hm, that’s a pretty difficult question…Probably the relationship between the Chosen Children and their Digimon partners, where they’re together as one. Digimon evolution is tied to the children’s growth. Even in tri., I made a request to the director and the other staff to have them maintain the connection between Digimon evolution and the growth of the heart. I don’t want to have anything like “I don’t know what just happened, but the story has to keep going, so now they’ve evolved!” But on the other hand, when you’re in high school, it’s not like they’ll be going “yep, I grew from this!” all that clearly (laughs). It was extremely difficult to figure out how to connect a more mature kind of growth to Digimon evolution.
–Did you run into any difficulties from a business perspective?
Arai: Of course, I spent my days really feeling how hard it was to manage sales for both the box office revenue and the package versions.10 But as far as story goes, since it was mostly an original work, I pretty much let them do whatever they wanted with it. Also, we held discussions about holding collaborations with other parties in a way that would match up with things that appeared in the series, and I’m grateful to those who worked with us. They’d cooperate with Bandai to make it happen, and that’s how we ended up with things like BEAMS helping us with clothing merchandise.
–It was fun to see an actual connection between the real world and the world of the series.
Arai: I personally think that nowadays, anime shouldn’t just stop at the media itself, but should also extend to developing merchandise that will let people experience things in real life. It’s fun to watch the anime, and it’s fun to buy merch for it after watching. Of course, there’s also games and apps you can enjoy, too. I think it’d be fun to to increase the number of ways for our audience to interact with the IP within their daily lives…Although I guess saying that might make people think “you’re just thinking of this as a moneymaking venture!” (laughs).
–(laughs) But Digimon is the kind of series where a project like this would make sense. It takes place in around the modern era, where digital devices are such an integral part of life.
Arai: Right!…but I guess I really sound like I’m just saying this for advertising reasons (laughs). But anyway, since this is a series about “digital” things, we want to follow that, so we’re trying out ventures that’ll work with smartphones, and we’re planning out other things that’ll work with the locations you see in the series. So I hope you can enjoy both the series itself and the things around it.
From Toei Animation. Spent time working at a live-action company before entering Toei Animation. This is his first major production job he has been involved with since joining the company.
Director Keitarou Motonaga
Director Keitarou Motonaga, who has been responsible for many wonderful works, is taking on the challenge of creating a “new entry” in the Digimon Adventure series, which has many passionate fans. We pelted him with questions about his goals for Digimon Adventure tri., his personal highlights in Part 1, and his outlook on Parts 2 and after.
–Is there anything you’re particular about when it comes to the series concept or overall composition?
Motonaga: What it needs to “feel like”. For instance, that they need to “feel like” high school students. Now that the Chosen Children from Digimon Adventure are in middle and high school, my first priority is making them feel like they’ve naturally grown into that age, and depict their characterization and personal drama appropriately.
–So that means both staying true to its status as a Digimon Adventure sequel, and depicting them in a way that makes them come off as proper high school students. Incidentally, what do you think makes a high school student come off as one?
Motonaga: If I think back to my own high school days, I remember feeling that I wasn’t quite an adult nor a child. In actuality, you still feel like you’re a child and don’t really feel independent, and you feel like you don’t quite have a firm grasp of things here and there. In a sense, it’s a time of your life when you feel like you’re dangling in a very uncertain place. You’re in the position of both an adult and a child, and you’re not really sure how to feel about everything.
–That issue does seem to be a very huge part of Taichi in the movie.
Motonaga: It is. That’s why we’re paying close attention to how we handle Taichi. When he was a fifth-year in grade school, he was able to pull off some amazing things, and afterwards, in the theatrical movies and 02, he was able to accomplish his goals. So we wanted to depict what happens when Taichi loses sight of his goals after that. The ending of 02 shows that he’ll eventually be a diplomat who brings together the human and Digimon worlds, so since we already know he’ll be ending up there, we really want to show the process leading up to that. In high school, Taichi’s lost his bearings, and he’s feeling torn up about it. He’s still playing soccer, but he doesn’t really see himself playing soccer as a career. He’s going to high school, but it feels like he’s mostly going because that’s what everyone else is doing. So at the beginning of Part 1, Taichi’s feeling a little unsatisfied.
–So by digging into Taichi’s character, you’ll also be structuring the entirety of the series around that.
Motonaga: Right. We’re going to start with that as the core axis for this series, and then we’re going to expand by thinking about how this applies to the other characters.
–On the other hand, what do you think is necessary for the series to “feel like” it’s a Digimon series?
Motonaga: The most obvious one is that the characters can’t come off like they’re completely different people from the ones in the previous series. After that, we need to make sure we still follow all of the necessary traditions. So when they evolve, the Digivice activates and “brave heart” plays as BGM in the background, and since that’s a definitive tradition for this series, we’re going to stick with it. But although we do want to be true to tradition, this series isn’t being animated by Toei Animation but a different studio called Typhoon Graphics, so we decided to have it be done in a different style from Toei’s. But we’re not going to completely go against the previous series, we’re going to pay as much respect to it as we can, so we decided to try going with what we have now.
–What’s your approach to the visual and art style for this series?
Motonaga: When you think of “a story of a single summer”, your first image is probably a piercing blue sky, so we decided on maintaining that at the very first stage. I had a strong impression of (Atsuya) Uki-san drawing blue skies very often, and since the Digimon series itself has used blue as a representative color, I felt his work would be able to bring this series to life. But we had to go out of our way to keep that in check for Part 1. Now that the story’s gotten going again, we ended the first part with the clouds that come from the end of the rainy season, and the sun pokes out from it as if to signify that we’re about to step into the next part of the story. Still, our background artist put a lot of work into that very lovely blue, so you can look forward to more of it in Parts 2 and after.
–We’d like to ask you about more specific aspects of Part 1. Taichi is depicted as being at the core of this part’s emotional drama. What did you think was most important in depicting an older Taichi?
Motonaga: Now that he’s seeing what’s happening to the town around him during battle, he knows he’s doing the right thing, but he’s also aware that he’s causing trouble for tons of other people as a result, and now he sees that with perfect clarity. And now that this fact has been shoved in his face, Taichi’s starting to feel the negative effects of everything he’d been doing up until that point. He’s not just worried about it, he’s completely unsure. He doesn’t know what he should do anymore. In this regard, Yamato is more decisive. He knows that if they don’t do something, much worse will happen. Taichi knows that, too. It’s just that he’s thinking “maybe there’s a better way to go about this?”
–So is Taichi more mature than Yamato?…but that’s probably not what it means, right?
Motonaga: Yamato and Taichi have both come to realize the same things. But Yamato’s line of thinking is a much more clear-cut solution of “if we don’t do something, something worse will happen, and in that case, it’s only inevitable that our fighting will result in there being victims.” It’s a very straightforward answer. Taichi’s more sensitive. It’s a very difficult balance between the two.
–So it’s not a question of which one is more mature, but rather, they’re both right in their own ways.
Motonaga: Right. It may not exactly be the kind of social conditions we’re dealing with right now, but there are definitely people out there who would want to confront an enemy by talking it out, and there are people out there who’d rather use force. Both of them are probably right in some way, and you can’t really say either of them are wrong. Up until now, Taichi and Yamato have been playing it by ear and ending up heading for the same direction. They’d both agreed “well, we just need to take down this enemy.” But for the first time, they’re coming at this from different directions, and they’re out of sync. That’s why Yamato and Taichi are at a loss for what to do. Meanwhile, Sora’s probably the one most worried about both of them. She’s been keeping tabs on their relationship for a long time, and while they’re not necessarily in a fight right now, it feels like they’ve gotten a bit more distant, so she wants to do something, but she doesn’t know what to do. So the only thing Sora can do is just keep watching over them.
–It’s a very mature kind of drama. But even if Yamato’s not quite in sync with Taichi anymore, he does still like Taichi, doesn’t he? He wants Taichi to be their leader again, and he blows up at him in Part 1 because he’s frustrated at how spineless he’s gotten.
Motonaga: Taichi’s probably the damsel in this series (laughs). Taichi’s the protagonist, but I feel like he’s starting to take a bit of a damsel-in-distress position while Yamato’s the secret protagonist. But all of the characters here love Taichi. They all treasure him very closely.
–They saved the world before, but that doesn’t necessarily make them amazing people. They’re normal kids you could find in reality.
Motonaga: Right. And perhaps it’s because they saved the world that they don’t really know what they want to do, and they’re immersed deeply in normal high schoolers’ problems. Now that they’re back in normal life, they’re not going to have people singing their praises. But they are at least somewhat notable people that a few people will see as heroes. So in that case, each of the Chosen Children are all wondering how they themselves feel. In particular, Taichi’s probably the one feeling this the most.
–It’s a very heavy thing to worry about. But that seems to be another thing that “feels like” Digimon Adventure.
Motonaga: We’re using the original Digimon Adventure itself as a basis, and since it had things like family problems as a huge theme, so we’re definitely following up on that and expanding it further.
–How are you thinking about portraying the relationship between the Digimon and human characters?
Motonaga: My personal impression of Digimon was that “even if they evolve, they don’t actually grow”. We wanted to portray them as being like kindergarteners or first or second graders, as characters with lots of curiosity towards everything and are fun to watch. But then, bam! they’ll suddenly seem a bit more mature for a moment. Fundamentally, there’s a gap between the kids who grow and the Digimon who don’t, but even despite that gap, they stay together…That kind of thing.
–There are times when they don’t really understand, but they still love each other anyway.
Motonaga: That’s right. For instance, in Part 1, when Taichi is lamenting his troubles to himself, Agumon is with him, and Taichi absent-mindedly goes “maybe I am wrong…”, but Agumon can’t answer. Back when he was in grade school, Agumon would be able to answer, but now the only thing he can do is stay close to him and embrace him. Gabumon and Yamato, too; Yamato starts muttering “I wonder if we’ll all change?”, and back in the day Gabumon might easily respond “nah, you won’t!”, but now he can’t. We want to depict that difference between humans and Digimon, as well as the change in their relationships.
–It’s a very delicate kind of relationship that you need to portray.
Motonaga: Jou also hugs Gomamon tightly and cries a little. The kids are starting to climb up the stairs to adulthood, and the Digimon are accepting all of them as they are. That’s one very important line running through the story. The Digimon come to understand them in various ways and watch over them. “Even if they can’t answer, they’re still by our side…” We want to make that come through in the footage. When they were kids, the humans and Digimon were around the same height, and it was natural for them to be at eye level, but in tri. the Digimon aren’t tall enough to reach them. We’re composing shots to make sure you can get a strong sense of that difference, but on the other hand, when they do talk, they embrace each other tightly. We want it to really give off the feeling of a parent embracing a child, so that you can sense how close they are.
–Even the little gestures from the Digimon make them come off as really precious.
Motonaga: We do have an immediate priority of making the Digimon cute. They’re like the series idols, right? We’re really intent on making their motions cute, and we want their innocence and cheer to come across. Of course, we’re not going to make them do anything really bad, but they can get away with doing some pretty unthinkable things. And it’s fun to see the huge contrast when they evolve into something really strong. Digimon are not pets. They’re partners and friends. We take that very seriously. I’ve told the staff to never let up on that and to always keep that in mind. They should not be treated as pets, and they should absolutely not be treated as objects. We want it to be clear that the Digimon and humans understand each other, or rather, we want to show the connection between them. Even when we make the footage, we’re always conscious of that. For instance, we want to focus on having Tentomon look at Koushirou in a very warm way, or having Agumon or Gabumon actually feel like they’re intimately snuggling close to their partners instead of just being there. And even during the fight scenes, too. During their fight with Alphamon in Part 1, Agumon was right behind Taichi, and if this were the older series Agumon would say “let me evolve!” or “let me fight!” But this time, Agumon knew Taichi was dealing with his own worries, so he couldn’t call out to him. But it’s also not like he just stood there next to him and didn’t do anything else. The moment Taichi seemed to have gotten a grip on something, Agumon went ahead, running forward and evolving. We’re using that kind of progression so that we can really follow how the Digimon are feeling. We put a lot of thought into how to come up with that kind of production.
–The evolution sequences are a very important part of the Digimon series, after all. How did you plan out the direction for those?
Motonaga: For the evolution sequences to Adult, we’re making it so that they evolve within a single scene. In the previous TV series, they’d just replace cuts when they evolve from Child to Ultimate, probably because of production reasons, but here we want to show them changing within the same scene. So since Digimon all start off as eggs, they temporarily enter an egg-like object and emerge in their next form. The moment they emerge, they’re made up of data numbers, but then they take proper form…We were going for that kind of sense.
–The Digimon are in CGI, and you added electric lightning effects around them.
Motonaga: We wanted to try out a hybrid format of CGI and frame animation, so in that sense we deliberately tried to make it look a little old-timey. During the late 80s and 90s, the golden age of OVAs, you’d see action shots that look like the animators spontaneously put them in as they liked, and I really like the atmosphere of those. I consulted with the animation director, Itou-san11, and he brought out that atmosphere for me. Itou-san’s really good at drawing that kind of thing, so he tried out different approaches and applied them to the art.
–Beyond just the evolution sequences, the action scenes also really do have a full-on 80s or 90s feel.
Motonaga: I really do like that kind of thing, so even from the very beginning, I had that as a rule of thumb when it came to animating the battle sequences. In the prior series, the Digimon surprisingly didn’t really hit each other physically that much. So for this series, we really wanted to get them in actual direct combat. This part was also something I ultimately had Itou-san do almost all the key animation for. He crammed tons of exciting and amazing stuff into the storyboard, resulting in the finished battle scenes you see now. In particular, Omegamon’s action sequences should feel pretty nostalgic. Modern viewers will conversely see it as something new, but from our perspective, it has the feel of the kinds of anime with animation sequences we were personally passionate about back then.
–So you’re trying to give it the kind of strong impression an old OVA would have.
Motonaga: I was deliberately trying to follow the same kind of structure that animators like Masahiro Yamane-san or Masami Ohbari-san12 would use. When we emphasize the parts of the design that have impact, the Digimon look even cooler. The Digimon have very strong silhouettes, so when we animate, we take into account how to maintain that strong silhouette and make it prominent. We figured that might be one way to get the strong impression we wanted. Itou-san was incredibly capable in this respect. But we had problems when Digimon like Kuwagamon and Greymon had small hands. Thanks to that, it was hard to get them to do hand-to-hand combat (laughs). But we figured out ways around it by having them use their tails, or hurl themselves at each other, or bite each other.
–The climactic battle between Alphamon and Omegamon in Part 1 really did have some splendid animation, like what you’d see from an 80s or 90s OVA. The dynamic action was enthralling.
Motonaga: That ended up using not only 2D animation but also CGI, in a hybrid of the two. We used video filming technology to add little things like VFX to the animation. Also, Itou-san would sometimes go out of his way to add little ad-lib flair movements to parts that only had the base cuts in the storyboard, like having something spin around in a full circle. This was Alphamon’s first time getting to really move around in 2D animation, so we wanted to make his movements stand out as much as possible. Typhoon Graphics is a young studio, and they were really passionate about insisting on doing this, so that’s how we ended up with that kind of scene.
–Finally, we’d like to ask about things that’ll be happening in Parts 2 and after. In particular, we’re interested in how the new characters and new Digimon will get involved in the story.
Motonaga: We’re planning to have the new characters and new Digimon get very deeply involved in the story, in their own individual ways. The new Digimon, Meicoomon, is a cat, so take note of that. Also, there are certain people who haven’t shown up yet, but…?
–They came out only as silhouettes in Part 1…
Motonaga: Yes. Please look forward to what’ll happen with them. Also, the Digimon who haven’t reached Ultimate yet will get Ultimate forms. The Part 2 poster has Vikemon and Rosemon in it, and the others will be coming too, so please look forward to that. We’ll have quite a few enemy Digimon too, and Digimon that became popular after the TV series aired via outlets like the game, and Digimon that were very prominent in the TV series, and we want to have them all show up. On top of that, we’re not only going to have them show up, we’re going to have them participate in battles for real, too. I’m asking for some pretty demanding things from the animators, so they get really mad at me at the production site (laughs). And also, we’re not trying to play any tricks with the posters, and anything in there will actually show up. We really do plan to have them get in a hands-on physical fight with Imperialdramon from the Part 2 poster, so look forward to that.
–Part 2’s poster has Jou and Mimi on it, so…
Motonaga: They’re the main characters of Part 2, and there’s “something” they’re going to be overcoming. But it’s not like we’ve forgotten about Taichi and Yamato. Those two are at the core of the series. I’m going to say it again: Taichi’s the damsel here. We are sticking to that, all the way to the very end! (laughs)
Animation director. Major works include Jormungand, Date A Live, Galactic Armored Fleet Majestic Prince, Persona 3 The Movie: #3 Falling Down, and Utawarerumono: The False Faces.
- Mamoru Hosoda = The director of the first Digimon Adventure movie, episode 21 of the Digimon Adventure TV series, and Our War Game!, who would eventually go on to become a renowned anime director in the wider industry.
- tsuritama = An original anime TV series that aired in 2012. At the time Adventure tri. was announced and released, it was the most famous work associated with Uki, to the point where “tsuritama” trended on Twitter immediately after the initial Adventure tri. character design reveal.
- Uki is making a play on words with the slang term “carnivore” (肉食) also referring to a type of person who aggressively pursues what they want and has a confident attitude, in contrast to a “herbivore” type who’s usually more passive and shy. In other words, Yamato has a “carnivore”-like personality, and Gabumon is literally a carnivore.
- Gyaru = Referring to a Japanese fashion subculture trend, with its name derived from the English word “gal”. Uki is likely referring specifically to the kogyaru style based on school uniforms, which would indeed involve accessories and short skirts.
- Bottom-rimmed glasses are easy to work with for artists and animators employing art styles with big eyes, since otherwise the rims are likely to obstruct the eyes and facial expressions. As a result, it’s commonly used in Japanese anime for this reason.
- Atsushi Maekawa = A writer who served as scriptwriter for multiple Adventure episodes, and one of the two lead writers for Adventure 02.
- In literal terms, the role referred to here is series kousei (シリーズ構成, lit. “series composition”).
- Ayana makes a distinction between the words “tomodachi” (友達) and “nakama” (仲間), the former having more of a “close companion” and “social friend” connotation, while the latter is more about being “a fellow member of a group”. In essence, Ayana is implying that they would acknowledge each other as fellow Chosen Children and bond over fighting together as a team, but wouldn’t necessarily be close friends.
- In Adventure and Adventure 02, Takeru used the affectionate “onii-chan” to refer to Yamato, but in Adventure tri., he uses the blunt and abrupt “aniki” to refer to him. Based on context and the rest of Takeru’s speech pattern unique to Adventure tri., the implication of Takeru using “onii-chan” with Yamato when the two are alone implies that the blunt “aniki” usage is an attempt to put on a tough guy front when in public. However, while “onii-chan” isn’t particularly unusual for the elementary school-aged Takeru in Adventure and Adventure 02, it would likely be seen as somewhat abnormally cutesy for a teenage boy of Takeru’s age in Adventure tri., and the context of this interview question implies that it’s also being done as fanservice for people who want to see Takeru with a brother complex.
- Prior to Adventure tri., most Digimon movies were classified as “theatrical” (劇場版, gekijouban) releases, meaning that movies would be made for the theater first and with a priority on box office revenue. However, Adventure tri. is classified as an OVA (original video animation) series, meaning that theater screenings were limited while more emphasis was placed on home video (DVD and Blu-ray) sales. Releasing a multi-part movie series in OVA form is not a very common thing to do in the industry, and especially was not at the time Adventure tri. was released. At the time, the only other well-known series with this format was Sunrise’s 2010-2014 series Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, which itself was considered to be a breakthrough success in light of its unusual format.
- “Itou-san” = Referring to animation director Kouji Itou.
- Masahiro Yamane and Masami Ohbari = Referring to two animators who were particularly known for their work on robot animation in the 80s.