A translation of this Movie Log Plus article from February 18, 2020, featuring an interview with director Tomohisa Taguchi of Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna.
Gummymon Is in It, Too! Interview with Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna Director Tomohisa Taguchi
The Digimon TV anime series was originally based on the smash-hit portable game “Digital Monster”, which sold more than eight million units worldwide. The first series, Digimon Adventure, aired in 1999, and depicted Taichi Yagami and seven other children alongside their Digimon partners, going on an adventure across an unfamiliar world called the “Digital World” and crossing into their own, and growing as a result. It became a hugely popular series among children who had been watching it at the time.
And so, in 2020, the movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna will finally be released in commemoration of its 20th anniversary, and is to be “the last story of Taichi Yagami and his friends”.
Today, the well-acclaimed director Tomohisa Taguchi, who acted as director for this movie, spoke with us about his encounter with the Digimon franchise and his favorite character, and the ongoing talks at the production site about things like depicting the children as university students!
–Firstly, please tell us about how you encountered the Digimon franchise.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: My first encounter with Digimon was in elementary school, when “Digital Monster” was the second most popular communication game after “Tamagotchi” (laughs). I was in something like fifth or sixth grade, so I got in from there.
–So how did you feel after entering the animation industry and getting the offer to work on this movie project?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: They’d already been making the Digimon Adventure tri. series before this, so I initially thought that they’d wanted to make a sequel to that. But as we started going into talks about it, I heard from them that they actually wanted to make something that would work as a standalone movie, and so we proceeded with the aim of making it work as a single movie in itself.
–There were comments in the pamphlet about there being a lot of layering and repeating of discussions during the scripting stage.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: There was. This is a series with the weight of twenty years on it, and so how were we going to depict this worldview and the way these characters had grown? This movie is the result of us having fairly extensive discussion about what happens when Taichi and his friends become old enough to graduate from university, and when they start wondering what they can do with their own abilities. Things like what they should do once they become adults, and what kind of conflicts they’d face, and it spread from there.
–There are also two new characters appearing in this movie, and their interactions made the story spread out considerably from there, and it makes you really want to see what will happen next in the series.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: Well, I wonder about that (laughs). Speaking in terms of sentiment, we put in the enthusiasm to reflect the idea that “this is the conclusion to the story of Taichi, Yamato, and their friends.” I was speaking with the producer, Kinoshita-san, about the fact that this was meant to be positioned as the end of their story.
–The sight of them as adults really does feel quite natural. While you were depicting them as adults, were there any points you singled out in particular while trying to bring out the world of Digimon?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: Both the recent series, Digimon Adventure tri., and the original series did a lot to depict locations like Odaiba quite thoroughly. We wanted to put a lot of importance on those kinds of places, so we did location scouting for places like Odaiba, Nakano, and Asagaya so that we could depict the cityscape in a more realistic manner.
Beyond that, Hiromi Seki-san was our supervisor, and she would adjust the dialogue in a fairly detailed manner with things like “Taichi wouldn’t talk like this!”, and those little things ended up really making it work.
–There’s so much attention to detail that it really feels like memories of the old Digimon series have been brought back.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: I hope you can remember everything about it during the movie’s limited running time (laughs).
–When asked about the appealing aspects of the Digimon series, Mayu Matsuoka-san, who was a voice actress for the movie, commented that “I learned kindness, strength, and pain from Digimon.” Could you tell us what you, as a director, consider to be appealing about Digimon as a series that’s been beloved for so long?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: When I looked back at things like the older series, I remembered that it was made with some unusually hard-hitting things for a children’s show, like for instance Yamato’s family structure, and at the time, those kids were probably enduring those things in such a way that even children themselves could understand.
I think the “pain” that Matsuoka-san refers to is tied to those kinds of aspects. We thought that it would be good to have those aspects when making this movie, too, and so we made the character Menoa Bellucci (voiced by Mayu Matsuoka-san) from that sentiment.
–What led to the creation of Menoa, or rather, where did the idea behind her come from?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: The main reason was that they needed something to fight for. Very straightforward (laughs).
When we thought about what Taichi and his friends would fight for in their twenties, and when we were wondering what they’d have to be up against, we figured that it wouldn’t be something evil or something trying to destroy the world. They already did that all the way back in the original series.
For this movie, we had the concept of “separation from their Digimon”, which means being able to completely separate yourself from your past self, or rather, wondering if it might be better to cut yourself entirely from your past adventures in becoming more like an adult.
Menoa is someone who couldn’t separate herself from her past. A person who’s gradually getting more and more twisted. We thought it would be good for them to be put up against that kind of human.
–In Menoa’s words, Taichi and his friends have begun to face adulthood. At the same time, we also get a depiction of Menoa’s own life. The new characters, Menoa Bellucci and Kyoutarou Imura, had a lot of appeal to them!
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: Really? Well, I’ll gladly take the compliment (laughs).
If the guest characters don’t have anything interesting about them, and if they don’t come off as being protagonists in their own way, Taichi and his friends would most certainly end up being the only characters with any prominence, and so, as we were setting up the story and the storyboard, we put conscious thought into the question of “how can we properly establish these characters within this story?”
–In terms of this movie and its definition of facing adulthood, or the difference between children and adults, perhaps the realization that they’re not that different after all is what it actually means to grow up.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: That may be so (laughs).
–What would you personally say would be the difference between an adult and a child?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: The difference between an adult and a child…I think it’s a pretty difficult question, or perhaps I would say that the concept of an “adult” and a “child” is rather abstract.
It was said in the main story, too, but becoming an adult means having to make various choices, and there will naturally be times when you’ll slip and fall, but that process is how you’ll end up deciding your future. But it’ll still be difficult to say definitively that you’re an adult, and you’ll end up lost in thought about it again and again. After all, adults are the ones who can make decisions about themselves…and it really is difficult. There’s also the difference between being accepted in society as an adult and being an adult in spirit, and there may well be no such thing as a decisive answer in the end.
–Thank you very much. Your thoughts as the director have come across quite well.
Incidentally, when it comes to Digimon Adventure, the opening song “Butter-Fly” is indispensable, but was it decided from the beginning that it would be used for this movie?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: For the part before the point the ring appears and the story really starts kicking off, meaning the first half and the part leading up to that point, we wanted to put as much as we could into giving off the atmosphere of the old series, and so even the evolution sequences are like the ones from before.
–The evolution sequences from the beginning go through the succession of Agumon, Greymon, and MetalGreymon, and it’ll really get the fans excited.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: That’s right, they really will! We’re showing something different on the other side, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it (laughs). I really did feel the weight of twenty years with that.
–It’s been twenty years, and it’s a movie that’s commemorating the 20th anniversary, so did that lead to a lot of pressure?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: It felt like trying to put a 20th anniversary crown on it (laughs).
Even from the time we first started talking about it, there was so much pressure from working on a series with so much history…nothing but pressure.
Mainly, I felt that it’d be bad to have too much restraint, but that it’d be bad if I overdid it, and that I had to do something good with this, and so even with all of the looming pressure, I still took the initiative in saying that I wanted to do something, whenever I wanted to do it.
–This is something we’d like you to answer honestly without holding back (laughs), but among the characters and the Chosen Children, please tell us who your favorite character is.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: It’s Terriermon (laughs). He was a character in the Digimon Adventure 02 movie, and was known as Gummymon there.
–For what reason??
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: He…h-he’s cute (laughs).
He even gained a seat as a regular character in Digimon Tamers, and was an adorable little fellow who was always going “moumantai“.
–He’s cute and he’s cool and it’s the best. He doesn’t actually appear in this movie, does he?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: He does actually appear.
Really small, barely there on the screen. But we did have Gummymon and Chocomon properly come out (laughs).
Among all of the Digimon movies, Digimon Adventure 02‘s is my favorite. It’s a wonderful work.
–Hopefully the fans will look out for it!
Were there any parts that were particularly difficult to make, or parts where discussion led to dispute?
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: The way the story would end and the details of the story itself were decided at the very beginning, so we never had a point where it was particularly difficult to work on the story.
That said, it was too easy to figure out “this one’s the culprit, huh?”, so during the storywriting stage, we asked the scriptwriter, Yamatoya-san, to add a character who could misdirect.
But in the end, no matter what we did, the actual culprit looked too suspicious (laughs). We were thinking that we did actually have to depict them in a sort of “hmm, maybe this one could be the one behind this” way, but perhaps in the process of going about that we did actually end up making them come off as too suspicious?
–Once the story turns to “we’re going after them!”, you agree “yeah!”, which leads to “let’s uncover the truth alongside the Chosen Children!”
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: Then it’s fine!
Beyond that, we also wanted to have the 02 cast appear, so how would we make use of them? Since they’re naturally acting on their own as guest characters, we couldn’t have them just pop up in a distracting manner, and we had to do something to make their story properly involved with Taichi and Yamato’s main storyline, but it seemed that the story would get complicated once those lines merged, and since this story was supposed to have Taichi and Yamato as the main characters no matter what, and since it had already been determined that they’d be starring together, we had to decide on whether they’d working in supporting roles, or if they’d be acting on an actual separate subplot, and we had to do a lot of fumbling around to figure out what methods we could use to give them an active role.
–The scene where the lead characters, Taichi and Yamato, drink beer and eat yakiniku1 together is also amazing!
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: That was thanks to the performances of Hanae-san (Natsuki Hanae-san) and Hosoya-san (Yoshimasa Hosoya-san), who were able to make them really come off as university students (laughs).
–In closing, please leave a message to the fans who are thinking of going to see it at the theater for the first time, and to the fans who are looking forward to the release, and also tell them what highlights to look out for.
Director Tomohisa Taguchi: It’s a movie that’s a sequel to the original Digimon Adventure, and so you’ll probably come to resonate with it best if you already know the series when you watch it, but we made it hoping that even if you don’t know the characters yet, you can still understand that “this person is this sort of character” from watching the movie, so I think it’s a movie that even first-time viewers can enjoy. We didn’t put anything that would be there to turn off or alienate anyone who’s coming for the first time.
One of the biggest themes in this movie is “parting”, and I think that’s a universal theme that we all have to deal with, so when you take that into account, I think it’s something you can see quite well coming out of it.
Thank you very much!!
- Yakiniku = grilled meat, usually served with patrons grilling their own meat on a griddle provided at the table (originating from the influence of Korean barbecue in Japan).