Translation of a message left on February 8, 2019 from Digimon Adventure producer Hiromi Seki to original Taichi Yagami voice actress Toshiko Fujita, after her passing in the December prior.
Last year, the voice actress for Taichi Yagami in Digimon Adventure, Toshiko Fujita-san, passed away, and as we are now approaching the 49th day of mourning1 and the beginning of spring, today I would like to once again express my gratitude and farewells to her in this letter.
The first time I ever met Fujita-san in person was at the Studio TAVAC recording site.
Up until then I’d only mostly been doing desk work, and was simply there to deliver something to TAVAC.
Leaning against the door of Studio TAVAC, considered to be the top-grade recording studio, was a beautiful woman. An incredibly slender and cool-looking lady, whom up until then I’d only known the voice of. That was Toshiko Fujita-san, in the flesh.
She had the aura of someone like Marlene Dietrich from the old masterpiece movies, walking the desert with a pair of high heels in her hand.
When I returned to company headquarters and started raving with excitement, one of the veteran producers asked me, “oh, is Toko-chan doing well?” It was (the late) Yoshifumi Hirano, who had known her since working with her on Wolf Boy Ken. He, a veteran producer, had known Fujita-san since she was sixteen years old, to the point of being able to call her “Toko-chan”.
Afterwards, the producer of Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai, (the late) Yoshio Takami, informed me that our company would no longer be auditioning Fujita-san for our works, or, in other words, to have her on, we would need to specifically request her. This was Toei’s way of paying respect to her, as an actress who had helped us so many times with the long-running Ikkyu-san, among so many other shows.
When we started working on Digimon Adventure, I also followed custom and specifically sought out Fujita-san to play its lead protagonist, Taichi Yagami, and then proceeded to hold auditions for the other cast members, with her voice as a basis.
A few years ago, the younger producers for Digimon Adventure tri. naturally called on her to ask if she could take the role. But by that time, her health had already severely deteriorated, and so she had to decline. Her agency had made a promise with her at the time not to disclose the exact name of her illness. It was the kind of personal matter that had to be treated with the utmost delicacy.
But the younger producers had to find a way to make do, and everyone naturally understood that changing the voice actors would be controversial, and that it wouldn’t even be possible to address the criticism by disclosing Fujita-san’s illness. I think the producers ended up doing the best they could, enduring that harsh lesson of what it takes to be a producer, to “never divulge the secrets you’ve learned in the course of your work.” Part of the reason I am bringing my pen to paper now, on this day of spring, is that I would truly like to relieve them of this burden that they willingly brought onto themselves.
She was still struggling against the side effects of her medicine, and was focusing her work on things she could do on her own, such as narration or game audio recording. But for recordings for television shows, where everyone would talk over each other, and she’d be asked to do this and that by anyone, anytime, I believe she probably wanted to retain her dignity as a professional, and thus recused.
Two years ago, in January of 2017, Fujita-san and her manager came and paid a visit to our company.
“I’m sorry for having to turn down the job,” she said. When I was about to say “no, no, we’re the ones who should apologize,” Fujita-san immediately continued with “Those young ones are working really hard, aren’t they?” “I’m looking forward to the rest.” “Toei’s Kitaro is a work of history that has to change all of the time, too2, so don’t worry about it.”
Those were the last words that I ever heard from Toshiko Fujita-san.
According to the traditional lunar calendar, the first day of spring is the day that marks off the new year.
I deliberately named this a “farewell letter” instead of my “condolences”, because I imagine that in the other world she’ll have reunited with those who had worked on the series and had passed away before her3, and would be specifically targeted for some new project again. So I wanted to give her a “send-off” in the same way a student representative at a graduation ceremony would. And if someday there is a “reply”, I would like to be able to listen to it with a clear heart.
To all fans of Digimon Adventure, and to the cast and staff working on the new project4, let us engrave Fujita-san’s words into our heart, and keep pushing on forward.
Blessings for all of us in the new year.
From Hiromi Seki
- Producer Seki refers to the “49th day” because of Japanese (Buddhist) mourning tradition, where mourning spans the first 49 days after the passing.
- “Kitaro” refers to GeGeGe no Kitaro. Toei has adapted the manga into no less than six (as of this writing) anime adaptations, changing it up every time, which has most certainly also involved a lot of voice actor changes.
- When Producer Seki refers to those who worked on the original TV show and have passed, the most prominent known examples at the time were opening and insert song vocalist Kouji Wada (passed April 3, 2016) and Sora Takenouchi voice actress Yuuko Mizutani (passed May 17, 2016).
- The “new project” Producer Seki refers to at the end is most likely Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna (at the time known as “Digimon Adventure movie (Title TBA)“), the Twitter account for which this letter was posted to.