What’s the “Core” of the Digimon Series? Producers Hiromi Seki and Yousuke Kinoshita’s Most Important Things in LAST EVOLUTION

A translation of this Anime! Anime! article from March 24, 2020, with an interview with producer Yousuke Kinoshita and supervisor Hiromi Seki (original producer for Digimon Adventure) regarding the production behind 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. Today, we’ve interviewed the movie’s supervisor, Hiromi Seki, and producer, Yousuke Kinoshita.
We asked them about various things, such as their enthusiasm for story creation, and the appeal of the Digimon franchise.

The movie Digimon Adventure LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna was released on February 21, 2020.

The story brings back the story of the “Chosen Children”, starting with Taichi Yagami, who has become a college student, and is based around the idea of gathering back the people who were “childhood” Digimon fans.
Continuing the philosophy of “the partnership between humans and Digimon” that started in the prior series, the meaning of making a Digimon work in 2020 is not lost on it.

We at Anime! Anime! have interviewed Hiromi Seki, who was the producer of the original Digimon Adventure series that aired in 1999, and producer Yousuke Kinoshita, who was involved in the series starting with Digimon Adventure tri.

We asked Seki-san about her enthusiasm for creating stories, and what Kinoshita-san thinks is the appeal of the Digimon franchise.
[Interviewer: Yukihiko Yamada and Dai Esaki; Transcript: Yukihiko Yamada]

“Digimon” stories are exactly the kind of dramatic narrative that needs to hit home

–Please tell us about what important aspects you kept in mind while working on this as the supervisor and producer.

Seki: Firstly, I wanted to reintroduce the 02 characters. I very much wanted to depict them alongside the other eight children and what their future looked like.

『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 other thing is that I wanted to properly reflect “what a partner is” in this story. To be honest, there were parts in tri.‘s story that I felt were somewhat unsatisfyingly lacking in this.

Like for instance, there was a scene where Taichi was silent, and Agumon was silent…but if there’s no conversation there, you can’t really get a proper feel for them being “partners”.
Of course, there’s a doctrine behind “having the truth in a silent conversation”, but if they don’t talk at all you can’t get anything out of that to begin with.

I was thinking consciously about those kinds of things while working on the story.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』スーパーバイザー・関弘美さん
Supervisor, Hiromi Seki-san

–The original Digimon Adventure was also a story that had an emphasis on drama that hit close to home.

Seki: In both science fiction and fantasy, the works that become huge hits and last for a long time in memory are the ones that have a proper depiction of human relationship drama.

Kinoshita: I also felt like those aspects we just referred to weren’t coming out well enough, so I asked Seki-san to participate as a supervisor for this work.
Generally the storyboard, the blueprint for the pictures, is considered most important in animation, but I actually think it’s the story.

Many things can change when it comes to storyboard, but as long as the core of the work is properly reflected in the story, those aspects will always be retained.
So this time, we had a discussion about the story between us, Director (Tomohisa) Taguchi and story writer Akatsuki Yamatoya, and shared this information with all of the staff members from the very beginning, and I think it turned out well.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』木下陽介プロデューサー
Producer, Yousuke Kinoshita-san

Seki: We talked a lot together, we ate a lot together (laughs)

Kinoshita: In Seki-san’s era…well, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say this, but I heard from her that after post-recordings and meetings there would be drinking parties, and what they talked about there would be collected and reflected in the work.

So this time, I got to experience it for myself, and the results were incredible.

Seki: It is very important to talk over food. When you face each other while eating, the other person will be able to see you even when you’re gnawing into your chicken wings (laughs), which is something you can’t do without a certain degree of caution.
That kind of circumstance is what allows people to talk freely.

–Apparently, the cast for the 02 members who got to be in this work also became friends after the drinking party.

Kinoshita: When I joined tri. halfway into production, I was impressed at how the new cast for the children were able to establish a partnership with the senior Digimon cast members so well.
I thought it’d be nice if the 02 cast could establish a similar relationship.

『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

So, on that line of thought, after our pre-recording reading, we had a drinking party, and so the 02 cast members and the existing cast were able to solidify a relationship.
It seems like the senior cast members were actively working towards it, too.

Seki: Going back to the topic of the cast, Toshiko Fujita-san, whom we recently lost1, watched tri., and said to us “those young ones are working so hard, aren’t they?” We told Natsuki Hanae-san this after the post-recording closing party, and he was thrilled.

The 02 group cast would often chat with Kinoshita-san until 3:00 AM (laughs).

The tribute paid to the past, and the newer elements

–This time, the original version of “Butter-Fly”, the opening song for the original Digimon Adventure, will be the opening for this series’s latest work, something that we felt was on the part of the staff particularly insisting on this. We would like to hear your thoughts on it.

Kinoshita: We were very internally conflicted on it. Background music is of course very important for a movie, but personally I think songs with words are the most important. But we can’t make a new “Butter-Fly” without (Kouji) Wada2. But then, if someone else sings it, it won’t be the same. After a lot of back and forths like this, we ended up at the present decision.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』木下陽介プロデューサー

The ultimate decisive factor was that Director Taguchi was thinking about the core composition of the work, and said, “I would like the first half to be dedicated to pleasing the fans, and the second half to convey the thoughts and messages that are particularly unique to this work.”
So, we decided to have the original “Butter-Fly” as the opening for the first half.

–Did Seki-san have any particular thoughts on the usage of “Butter-Fly”?

Seki: I know better than anyone else how incredible of a song “Butter-Fly” is, but I decided to leave the decision to Kinoshita-san and Director Taguchi.
As for why, well, it’s like looking at a series or movie from long ago that’s loved now…if you ask me to take responsibility for this work twenty years for now, that’d be a pretty difficult thing for me to do.

But Kinoshita-san will be at the company twenty years from now, so he can take responsibility, right? (laughs)

Since the new staff is largely making the new work, I think they should be the ones to make important decisions like these, and the current producer should be the one to take responsibility for them.

–It seems like this work was made in consideration of the characters’ appearances as adults in the final episode of 02. Were there any difficulties because of the ending already being predetermined?

Seki: There was nothing to worry about at all. I just drew upon my memory of making the TV series all those years ago, and had fun with it.

『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

Kinoshita: I basically asked Seki-san to give her thoughts on how she viewed the characters in 2010, and her response was surprisingly fast.

–The fans were deeply affected by seeing Taichi and the others drinking alcohol. Is there a particular scene you, as staff members, particularly wanted to show off?

Kinoshita: We talked a lot about wanting to show them drinking alcohol from the beginning.

Seki: We also talked about how Taichi’s family isn’t wealthy to the extent that he can easily live alone without taking on a part-time job.

『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

–How did you end up deciding that Taichi would work at a pachinko3 parlor?

Seki: When Yamatoya-kun and I were talking about Taichi’s part-time job, we tossed around things like “being a tutor doesn’t suit him at all, being an izakaya4 clerk feels off,” and after going through various part time jobs, we settled on the pachinko parlor.

Kinoshita: Taichi wasn’t affirmatively able to decide on his future goals by the time he became a university student, and so he started living on his own so he could at least take a step forward for now.
From there, we thought, “if he’s decided to live alone so that he wouldn’t burden his parents, he’d have to find a part-time job that pays well. How about a pachinko parlor?”
Brainstorming those kinds of options was the kind of thing that made even the meetings fun.

Seki: Before that, we were discussing transportation conditions. “Taichi lives in Odaiba, in Tokyo, so he could easily just commute to any university in Tokyo, so why is he living alone?” If you don’t make a believable premise, it’s like you’re lying to the viewer, and I rather enjoy setting up this kind of worldbuilding beforehand.

Kinoshita: This work takes place in 2010, so I also took into account the relevant development of technology and compared it with the real-life timeline.
That said, there are certain parts that don’t quite match up with reality. For example, the Digivice that appears in this movie is in smartphone form, but in 2010 smartphones weren’t all that popular quite yet5.

『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

But since the series depicts a world that’s been having more and more contact with the Digital World, I also figured that civilization probably ended up progressing that much faster.

Seki: According to surveys, it was around 2011 when smartphones started to become popular. Also, the kinds of apps that everyone uses now, such as LINE6, didn’t actually exist yet in 2010, but we did depict it in use for this movie.

Kinoshita: Since smartphones end up becoming popular one step more quickly than they did in real-life history, we figured that group chat apps would also become popular.

–With all of these changes, we got the impression that, among the eight children, Sora’s position was particularly unique.

Kinoshita: The theme of this story is “it can’t always be like this way forever,” and we felt that among the eight children, Sora was the best one to represent that.

『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

Seki: In addition, we understood that viewers would start having doubts if we didn’t answer the question “what happened between her and Taichi and Yamato?”, but this movie is only ninety minutes long, and we worried that if we started on a romance plotline it’d end up half-baked.
So we decided to leave it as a simple movie that brings out all of the good qualities of Digimon as a series.

The fans’ voices are connected to what comes next!

–Have you gotten a chance to hear the reactions of those who watched the movie?

Seki: I watched it with the staff, so I haven’t gotten to hear anything from the fans yet. But the people within the company said things like “ah, this truly is Digimon,” so I was relieved.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』スーパーバイザー・関弘美さん

Kinoshita: “This truly is Digimon!” is an abstract thing to say, but ultimately everyone had different things they wanted out of it, so I was also relieved to hear it.
There were people who got chills just from hearing “Bolero”7, and there were parts where we struck a chord with quite a few people. Seki-san, too (laughs).

Seki: When we drafted the story, there were three parts I intended to have people cry at. But when I watched the preview screening, there were even more and more places that made me want to cry.
I didn’t even realize it’d be this way when I was making it, but somehow I was just ripped to tears…(laughs)

–Do you feel like this work has helped you find the appeal of the Digimon franchise again?

Seki: The moment I read the initial draft of the story, my head switched to “Digimon mode”, and when I finally read the completed script, I thought, yes, I could definitely keep making more. I wonder if the depths of those feelings is what makes Digimon such an attractive franchise.

I’m probably saying this as a producer, but I’m constantly thinking of things like “I’ll do this next,” or “if I did this part differently, could we do something like this?”
You start with only a small idea, and then you think about it more, and then the outline for it emerges.

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』スーパーバイザー・関弘美さん、木下陽介プロデューサー

Kinoshita: I’m glad I could inject the feelings of those who were watching Digimon all those years back then.
I think one of the greatest parts about this is that it’s a franchise that new staff can work on, while people from the original generation like Seki-san can help them.

Seki: GeGeGe no Kitaro8 ended up having seven whole series, meaning that it’s become something that can be enjoyed by parents and children for three generations. I want to make Digimon into that kind of franchise.

To do so, we need to keep up with the times. I’m more of an analog person, but Kinoshita-san and the younger generations are more accustomed to digital things.
Of course, I could do all the research I wanted, but it’s Kinoshita-san’s generation that has intimate familiarity with such digital technologies.

I want to see Digimon in this kind of form, created by these kinds of people, keeping up with the changing of the times.

『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

–Please leave a final message for the fans.

Kinoshita: We made this work to be the culmination of everything that happened in the series. I would like it if people who watched it when they were in elementary school could see it with their old friends and talk about it like they did twenty years ago.
If you like it, I’d be happy if you recommend it to those around you. And of course there are always good and bad things about a movie, so please send us any opinions you have.

Seki: I dragged out this old body and did my best, so I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks of this movie.
Actually, now, I feel like I have a better grasp of what fans are saying, moreso than I did twenty years ago. Maybe, just like Taichi and his friends, I became more of an adult, too? (laughs)

Kinoshita: But that’s a good thing! (laughs)

–It would be good to hear the opinions of all sorts of people again.

Seki: Very much so. Careful analysis of all sorts of opinions is the kind of thing that creates a movie, so even if it’s about something small, we’d appreciate it if you could speak out about your thoughts, because it’ll impact the future of the Digimon franchise. Even if it’s just something like “I wanted to see more of this kind of scene!” We look forward to your thoughts!

『デジモンアドベンチャー LAST EVOLUTION 絆』スーパーバイザー・関弘美さん、木下陽介プロデューサー

Translator's notes
  1. Toshiko Fujita was a veteran voice actress who played Taichi Yagami in the original Adventure and Adventure 02, and continued to reprise the role until Adventure tri., when the role was taken up by Natsuki Hanae. Fujita herself passed away in December 2018, shortly after the final Adventure tri. movie was released. []
  2. Kouji Wada was the singer for the original Digimon Adventure theme song, “Butter-Fly”, and also passed in 2016, midway through Adventure tri.‘s production. []
  3. Pachinko = A popular form of gambling in Japan (very similar to slots). []
  4. An izakaya is a Japanese bar that serves alcohol and snacks, often hosting after-work drink parties (much like the ones described by Producers Seki and Kinoshita earlier in the interview). []
  5. Producers Kinoshita and Seki are correct about smartphones not catching on in 2010 in regards to Japan — smartphones took a very long time to catch on there for various reasons, and flip phones were the standard for quite a while (and still have a lot of hold even today). []
  6. LINE = A popular messaging app created by the Japanese subsidiary of the Korean company Naver, which is to this day still the dominant personal texting/messaging app in Japan. It’s notable for its use of “stickers” that users can buy on its store as greeting messages or emoticons. []
  7. Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” is a famous orchestral piece that was used as a motif multiple times in the Adventure and Adventure 02 movies, most famously the very first Digimon Adventure movie that kicked the series off. []
  8. GeGeGe no Kitaro = Originally a 1960 manga, which has been adapted by Toei Animation into anime no less than seven times (as of this writing), with seven different takes on the source material. Each version takes a different approach in its adaptation in terms of themes and characterization. The seventh version ended in March 2020, and had its timeslot given to the Digimon Adventure: reboot series shortly after this interview was published. []

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