The Meaning of Depicting the “Chosen Children” as Adults in Digimon Kizuna: with Director Tomohisa Taguchi

A translation of this Anime! Anime! article from February 21, 2020, featuring an interview with director Tomohisa Taguchi of Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna.

(Director Tomohisa Taguchi interview | Natsuki Hanae and Chika Sakamoto interview02 human cast voice actor interview | 02 Digimon cast voice actor interview | Producer Yousuke Kinoshita and supervisor Hiromi Seki interview)

Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna was released on February 21 (Friday). The story of Taichi Yagami and his other fellow “Chosen Children” returns to the screen. We asked this movie’s director, Tomohisa Taguchi, about the feelings behind the movie and the reason behind using the original TV-length version of “Butter-Fly”.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション

The movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna was released on February 21, 2020. The story of Taichi Yagami, who has now become a university student, and his fellow “Chosen Children”, has now returned to the screen.

This movie, which commemorates the 20th anniversary of the series, was directed by Tomohisa Taguchi, who was part of the generation that watched the original Digimon series.

“If I’m going to be the one to make something for Digimon, this is the best way to do it,” says Taguchi. We asked him about his thoughts on the movie, and his reason for using the original TV-length version of “Butter-Fly”, which became a hot topic when it came with the original announcement PV.
[Interview: Dai Esaki and Roko Hashibi; Transcript: Roko Hashibi]

I felt a lot of pressure being the one to make Taichi and his friends move on the screen

–Firstly, please tell us about your initial experiences with the Digimon series.

Taguchi: When I was in middle school, I watched Digimon Adventure and 02 every week as it was airing. In particular, I was going through puberty at the time of 02, and there were a lot of points in the story where the very realistic depiction of what actual children would go through hit me way too hard.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』田口智久監督
Director Tomohisa Taguchi

I watched tri. after I had already entered the animation industry, so I was watching it from a creator’s perspective rather than a fan’s perspective. They’d taken on a lot of challenging content, like depicting Taichi as a high school student.
In particular, the art by (Atsuya) Uki-san, the character designer, left a huge impression on me. I felt it was the best kind of design you could use for updating Digimon into a 2010s anime.

–At the end of part 6, Agumon said “let’s meet again in the theater room,” and so many fans started to have expectations around that time, but now that the long-awaited Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna has finally arrived, when exactly did the project begin production?

Taguchi: According to the producer, Yousuke Kinoshita, the project had already started production at the same time as part 5 of tri. Before part 6 reached completion, the story writer, Akatsuki Yamatoya-san, and I were asked to join.

–Since the director himself is also a Digimon fan, is this product full of sentiments like “Digimon, in the way the director would have liked to see it”?

Taguchi: Instead of making it the way I would have liked to do it as a fan, I felt that the best kind of story would come out if I did what tri. did and made Digimon the way I would now, as a director.
But still, the fact that I’d be the one to put Taichi and his friends on the screen after twenty years, with my own hands…I don’t think I would have felt this kind of pressure with any other characters.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』田口智久監督

Just putting them in danger doesn’t count as a real “crisis”

–Did your perception of Digimon Adventure change when you looked back on it as a director?

Taguchi: I went through each series looking for all kinds of clues, so I could think about what kind of lives Taichi and his friends would live. After all, these are characters with the weight of these last twenty years on them, and so we have to put care into thinking about the process of how they get to the future that we saw in the final episode of 02.

It was really relieving to have Hiromi Seki-san, the producer of the original Digimon Adventure, as our supervisor. She summarized the characters’ lives to us in incredible detail, saying things like, “when Taichi gets older, he’s got to be like this.”

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション

Still, we did have some difficulties in getting the story together…Before Taichi and his friends are able to fulfill their dreams, there’d naturally be all sorts of things, like getting caught up in all sorts of incidents, and having all sorts of worries.
The problem is, no matter what kind of story we make, the fans will all think back to the final episode of 02, so even if we put Taichi’s life in danger or something, there’s a possibility people aren’t going to feel a sense of crisis at all, and think “eh, we all know he’s going to live, it’s fine.”

It was the same for when I was watching Doraemon movies when I was a kid, because when you know the characters are going to survive anyway, it’s difficult to really make a crisis come off as an actual crisis.
When I was discussing the story with Yamatoya-san, I was always worried about this, like, “no matter what we do, we all know they’re going to be fine in the end…”

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション

That’s why we decided to put more emphasis on things besides just the fights. We thought, if we’re making a movie about Taichi and his friends becoming adults, what aspects of it do we need to emphasize?
If all they do is defeat the bad guys and end the crisis, there won’t be any realistic sense of what they’d be confronting as adults, and there’d be no point to making this movie except just rehashing memories of what they did in elementary school.

So we felt that it’d be more meaningful to tell a story about these people, who have lived their lives with Digimon, having to face themselves, and how they would go from there and walk towards the future. That’s the direction we ended up deciding on.

–There are also some new characters and new Digimon appearing in this movie. Was there anything you had to particularly focus on when setting up their backgrounds?

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション

Taguchi: The new character, Menoa, was made for the purpose of being a foil for Taichi.
Eosmon, the mysterious Digimon, was also made with a certain specific motif, but if I say too much I’ll end up spoiling it, so I hope you can see it for yourself in the actual movie.

The reason for using the original version of “Butter-Fly”

–Speaking of the newer aspects, there’s also a new smartphone-type Digivice design in this movie. What made you decide to make a new Digivice?

Taguchi: This movie takes place in the 2010s, so I wanted them to have a gadget to symbolize this era.
When we were discussing the worldbuilding for the movie, the idea that “Koushirou would definitely make his smartphone work like a Digivice” came up. From there, we made it possible to open the Digital Gate in the same way you’d use a smartphone app.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション

–This work also has a lot of nostalgic aspects to it, like the original version of “Butter-Fly”. Please tell us about how you decided on sticking with the original version.

Taguchi: The core concept of this work was that we wanted to recreate the atmosphere of Digimon in the way that everyone saw it all those years ago.
“A Digimon movie should have this kind of atmosphere.” “A Digimon evolution sequence should be like this scene.” We wanted to do a proper depiction of what fans see as their image of Digimon. From there, using the original version of “Butter-Fly” is only natural.

–There were a lot of scenes that felt like tributes to all of the consecutive series of Digimon Adventure, but were these intentionally put into the movie?

Taguchi: We did. When I was watching tri., I felt that the hurdles for incorporating new elements into any work bearing the name of Digimon Adventure must be very high.
So for things like the evolution sequences, there were parts where I deliberately directed them to have a lot of familiar images.
I wanted to make it something that could be accepted by fans who feel “I wanted Digimon to be like this,” so this was something I’d focused on even from the very beginning.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』(C)本郷あきよし・東映アニメーション
There was special attention paid to Morphomon’s design, too

–In closing, please leave some words for the fans who are looking forward to the release of this movie.

Taguchi: We put in a lot of tributes to the past works, but I think you can still enjoy this as a standalone movie by itself. We paid a lot of particular attention to how the characters interacted.
We also put in a lot of universal themes, like having to part with your friends, and so just because you may not know anything about Digimon doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t understand it at all. Even if this is your first time with Digimon, please rest assured.

Once you’ve seen this movie, I would be very happy if it makes you wonder and imagine “what would probably come next for them”.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』田口智久監督

The original Digimon Adventure movie was shown together with two other movies when it was first released. Since then, however, there haven’t been many opportunities for a Digimon movie to introduce the series to newcomers.1

Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna is made to be fun for fans of the series from twenty years ago, but, naturally, it is also made to be fun for those who are using this movie to learn about Digimon.
In that sense, it can be said that this movie goes full circle to how Digimon movies originally started off.

Please be sure to head to the theater and watch the last adventure of Taichi and his friends, and how they push on towards the future.

Translator's notes
  1. The original Digimon Adventure movie (the one by Director Mamoru Hosoda, which ended up kicking off the TV anime) was initially screened at the 1999 Spring Toei Anime Fair. The Toei Anime Fair was effectively Toei’s way of screening short anime films in theaters, usually tie-ins to their existing TV series; because these films would be very short by themselves, they would be screened in a set, thus making up the “Anime Fair”. The Digimon Adventure movie was screened next to Doctor Slump: Arale’s Surprise Burn and the Yu-Gi-Oh! movie, which naturally meant that people who would see the movie were likely to have actually come for one of the other two instead. The Toei Anime Fair, held twice a year in spring and summer, was Toei’s way of premiering Digimon movies up until the one in summer 2002, which premiered the Digimon Frontier movie. The Toei Anime Fair was never held thereafter due to poor box office revenue. While the Savers movie and some shorts would have similar “grouped screenings” with other franchise films, most Digimon movies thereafter have been (as of this writing) independent screenings. []

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