“THE INTERVIEW” 02-1 and 02-2 (DiGiFES interview with Genki Yoshimura)

The Korean Digimon fansite DiGiFES (now defunct; not to be confused with the official yearly Japanese DigiFes events) had a section titled “THE INTERVIEW” that contained interviews with staff involved in Digimon production. The second interview, held with Genki Yoshimura, was posted on July 31 and August 8, 2015.

(01 Ayumi Miyazaki | 02 Genki Yoshimura | 03 Kenji Watanabe)

A screenwriter and film director. Her creative debut was the 1994 work Marmalade Boy, for which she was responsible for the screenplay. She has written screenplays for Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02 (lead writer), and Digimon Tamers. She was also the writer for the special bonus drama CD released with the “Digimon Adventure 15th Anniversary Blu-Ray Box” released on March 3.

–Hello! Thank you for agreeing to the interview. Firstly, please introduce yourself to the fans in Korea.
Genki Yoshimura (hereinafter, Y):
Hello. I’m Genki Yoshimura.
Digimon Adventure has aired not only in Japan but in many other countries, in particular our neighboring country of Korea, and I am very happy that there are fans even now after fifteen years.
Thank you!

–At the end of last year1, we asked you to participate in a brief talk show at the DiGiFES offline event. We had a limited amount of time during last year’s event, so this time we’d be happy to have a more detailed discussion with you in an interview.
How was last year’s DiGiFES? Please tell us your impressions from when you first heard of the event summary and your thoughts from having participated.
Y: Initially, when (Ayumi) Miyazaki-san shared the information on Twitter, I thought, “Huh? They’re doing a Digimon event in Seoul?” It was the first time I’d heard of about an event in another country, and that there had been doujinshi exchange events ever since the time of broadcast. So my first impression was that I was thinking, I’m interested in going abroad, and I want to see this event!

–So you came over as a guest for the talk show. What was your impression of it?
The fan reaction was far more passionate than I had expected, I was overwhelmed, but I was also very happy. It was a lot of fun.

The start of your creative activities

–We would like to ask you about your creative activities. You started your work with a self-produced movie. What made you start getting into creative work?
By the time I became a middle school student, I was already writing things like screenplays. There would be things like the characters all being classmates, and those classmates would have people they liked…that kind of story.

–Were those screenplays something like novels?
Rather than a novel, I feel like they were more along the lines of dialogue, so from the very beginning they were developed as screenplays.

–How amazing. So even during your time as a student, you were writing screenplays. So after that, you were responsible for the screenplays of various works as a professional screenplay writer, and in 1994 you worked predominantly as the screenplay writer for the TV anime Marmalade Boy. Please tell us how you came to write screenplays for TV anime.
Hiromi Seki-san, who was also the producer for the Digimon anime, said at the time “I want to make something that you can call a ‘trendy anime’.” And the sort of drama that was trendy at the time was a sort of wonderful love story that would make your heart pound. So in order to produce that kind of trendy anime, Seki-san looked for female screenwriters who hadn’t written an anime screenplay before, and through an acquaintance who happened to introduce us I came to participate in it.

–So the starting point of your work came from Producer Seki. And in 1999, you came to write screenplays for Digimon Adventure, so was your involvement in the Digimon anime also through Producer Seki?
Yes. I’d written for Marmalade Boy and other shoujo anime like Neighborhood Story and Boys Over Flowers, so for me to be in Digimon was a rather unexpected decision.

–A love story is certainly a different kind of story. Was it initially difficult for you to write an adventure story?
Well, the bottom line for me was that it was, inherently, a screenplay for an anime.
Before then I’d written for Sailor Moon, and because Sailor Moon had battles in it, writing for Digimon afterwards wasn’t that far out of my comfort zone.
In fact, after writing Marmalade Boy, Neighborhood Story, and Boys Over Flowers, I wrote for Ojamajo Doremi, and you could say that Ojamajo Doremi fits that kind of thing even less than Digimon. Despite the fact that it means a shounen anime fits better than a shoujo anime (laughs).

About Digimon’s screenplay

–Generally speaking, what do you think is most important for a screenplay’s work?
The characters. Not just for anime; for all stories, I think the characters are important. When you decide on the characters, they’ll start moving on their own. Other people, like novel writers, often say that as well.

–With that, we would like to ask you honestly about Digimon’s screenplay. Although there were multiple writers who contributed to the screenplay for the Digimon anime, what part were you primarily responsible for?
Initially, there was talk of having a female writer write for Sora, but after a while, rather than the sort of so-called “story that female writers would write”, Director (Hiroyuki) Kakudou thought I was better at writing the boys doing active things like battling, so I didn’t get to write much for Sora (laughs). I did write an episode for Yamato afterwards.
For the second half of Digimon Adventure, I began to write more things for villain characters. It’s like I became a villain expert (laughs).

–Speaking of which, during the second half you wrote an episode for Pinocchimon. The Pinocchimon episode was very good!
Pinocchimon…I was told to make him scary, to make him absolutely scary, and the pressure that was put on me for that was very scary (laughs). When we got to Apocalymon, the pressure was even scarier. Seki-san was scared (laughs).

–At the DiGiFES offline event, you said, “When I was the primary person in charge of a character, I wrote the screenplay for the main episode regarding that character.” When creating the main points of a character, is the screenwriter’s intention reflected in that character?
Yes. Since I was the first one to write for Pinocchimon, after all, I was the first one to write his character’s personality.
Of course, a character is made through everyone talking with each other, but the specific parts are decided on while the screenplay is being written.
Director Kakudou was surprised when I was writing. “Why’d you write it like this?” (laughs) So I’d say “Did we not discuss this at the meeting?”, and it would turn out that Director Kakudou had probably been thinking of it differently. But if the results were interesting, it would all be OK.

–We’d like to hear what Director Kakudou has to say someday (laughs).

–In Digimon Adventure 02, you were active under the title of “lead writer”, so what about your work changed from that of the previous series (Digimon Adventure)?
There were two people with the title of lead writer, but ultimately I ended up becoming the villain specialist. During character creation, I created the personalities of characters such as Ken Ichijouji, Archnemon, Mummymon, and Yukio Oikawa.
For characters like Archnemon and Mummymon, even in episodes where other screenwriters would be writing, I would write just the lines for those characters.

–You really did specialize in them (laughs). You also wrote the short story that was in the booklet for the CD “Digimon Adventure 02 Christmas Fantasy”. Have you been responsible for other side stories aside from the anime’s screenplay?
Huh, was I the one who wrote that one? (laughs)
I wrote a drama CD. I remember I wrote the stories for Ken and Iori in “Digimon Adventure 02 Original Story 2003 -Spring-”. Also, there were stuffed toy shows, and I wrote the screenplays for those. If Pinocchimon were in the show, they’d tell me “you’re the only one who can write Pinocchimon!” (laughs)

–For the Digimon anime that you’ve written the screenplay for, what’s your favorite episode? Or within a specific episode, a specific scene or dialogue portion.
I think it would be Wizarmon’s death scene. Although it was the same even in the screenplay, when it was actually produced it felt like time had stopped. I don’t think it was specifically laid out in the screenplay, so it was all part of the efforts of the production committee.
I was also a specialist on Wizarmon. From the very beginning Director Kakudou said “Genki Yoshimura will be in charge of Wizarmon”, and he often told me to make him cool, but (laughs) I think we were fortunate enough to have the production committee make the death scene like that.
The episode with Pinocchimon impressed me as well, like how Wizarmon’s death scene did. They were directed by (Hiroki) Shibata-san. The production committee is what makes it give off a good impression. The scenes that you remember the most are the ones that the production committee did well.

–Other than that, we’d like to ask you about your work process outside that. While writing screenplays for Digimon, is there a certain incident that remains in your memory?
There’s one about episode 23, “When the Digivice is Tainted by Darkness”, from 02. Even though it a Ken episode, it didn’t take much time to write. I was told that the explanation was insufficient, but I thought that it would be pointless to try explaining it, so I didn’t bother trying to fix it.

–That’s right. The character of Ryou Akiyama makes an appearance, but it’s not explained who he is, and the ocean where Dagomon comes from makes another appearance and there wasn’t any explanation (laughs).
Dagomon’s ocean appeared in episode 13, and Director Kakudou left that to (Chiaki) Konaka-san; nobody was giving any opinion on it, and we were all side-eyeing it (laughs). So when I was writing episode 23, I just went ahead and thought, “why don’t I just borrow that setup for a bit?”
So Ken’s Digivice changes in the ocean. Director Kakudou had been asking me persistently “how does it change? Can you explain it?” So when I was using that setup, he was really surprised (laughs). I asked “it’s okay if we use this setting one more time, right?” and he said “I mean, of course, it’s fine.”
By the way, in regards to Ryou (遼), in the beginning Ken Ichijouji’s name was to be Ryou (量). But because the plot for the game came out after that, we had to change the name to avoid overlap. (*The protagonist of the game Digimon Adventure Anode Tamer/Cathode Tamer, Ryou Akiyama.) Even though the name would have a different nuance, Producer Seki liked to take character names from those of the staff. She thought it might be better if we took the names from Kenji Shimizu-san, who was a producer at Fuji TV at the time, and thus from the name Kenji (賢治) we took the names of the brothers Ken (賢) and Osamu (治).

–How interesting!
Also, we’d like to ask you to say something about Digimon Adventure tri. It seems that with the announcement of tri., Digimon fans are getting very excited. How do you feel about the production of a work that’s a sequel to something you’ve participated in?
I’m very grateful that they think the initial work was interesting enough to make a sequel.

About Korea

–Have you made yourself familiar with Korea?
Ever since I was young I had a sort of obsessiveness about it (laughs). Ordinary girls of the time wanted to go to places like Paris or London. But my friends and I liked things like movies, and rather than Paris or London I was interested in places like Hong Kong and Korea. I love Hong Kong cinema in particular, but Cantonese is frustrating for me (laughs).
Originally, as I was interested in Asian culture, I wanted to study some kind of foreign language, and as Korean movies from around 2000 were becoming really interesting, I started wanting to learn Korean.
So starting from there in regards to Korea, recently I’ve begun working as a Korean representative for the Directors Guild of Japan’s international committee.

–So in acquainting yourself with the country of Korea, it was through movies after all.
There were movies, but…the trigger point was a Japanese magazine back in the day called Hot Dog Press, and at one point they had a feature on Korea. It was around thirty years ago, but time’s gone by so quickly. During that time, when Japan and Korea barely had any cultural exchange at all, they were deciding where to have the Olympics. And because the country would really change when they decided to have the Olympics there, I remember I thought that I should go see the country before the Olympics, and went once.

–So you went before the ‘88 Olympics! What was it like, compared to now?
It’s changed completely since then. It’s become a really beautiful country.

–Do you visit Korea often? What’s your impression of Korea?
Y: It’s really changed in the last thirty years. At the time, I had the feeling that they had the potential for great power, and now I feel that its power has come to the forefront quite well. The TV dramas and the movies are interesting and the K-pop stars are beautiful and cute…
I wonder how things will turn out from now on? I’m looking forward to it.

–If you ever do a screening at a Korean film festival, please tell us. We’ll advertise you (laughs).
Thank you, please do (laughs).

–We hope that we’ll get to see more opportunities to see your work in TV anime.
Finally, please leave a word for the fans in Korea.
Best regards for the Digimon series from now on!
I really wonder how tri. will turn out? Let’s look forward to it together.

–Thank you for treating us to this long interview!

Translator's notes
  1. “The end of last year” = Refers to a Korean event called “DiGiFES 2014″, which included an offline event on December 28 at the Boramae Youth Center in Seoul. The event included video screenings, a merchandise and Kenji Watanabe art exhibition, TCG and creative workshops, a talk with two voice actors from Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02 (titled Power Digimon in Korea)’s Korean dub, a talk with Genki Yoshimura and the revelation of the contents of the drama CD in the Digimon Adventure Blu-Ray Box, and a concert from Ayumi Miyazaki. []

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