SPECIAL TALK! with Satoru Nishizono
A special interview that came with the “Digimon Adventure” DVD Box released on December 21, 2007.
Direct interview with series composer Nishizono-san, the head writer who created this moving tale!
|Satoru Nishizono :: Series Composition, Script Writer||Animation script writer. Works where he was in charge of series composition include “Doctor Slump ’90,” “NHK ni Youkoso!,” “NARUTO -Shippuuden-,” etc.|
[ What he wanted to make was a show that could be parodied ]
Did you first hear about the project from the producer, Seki-san?
Satoru Nishizono (abbreviated SN below) Yes. The idea was given to me in the summer of 1998. When the proposal was shown to me for the first time, I think there was a part written in it that said that they wanted the show to be similar to “Deux Ans de Vacances.” They also had very rough descriptions of each character, but I was told that I could forget about them if I came up with something else. Except for the background establishments of the main characters, Taichi and Agumon, I was free to do whatever I wanted with the characters. Also, because the show was meant to target grades 4-6 in elementary school, I was requested to produce in-depth characters who fit in that age range and also carried with them the troubles of all children.
When you first heard about the project, what part about it attracted you to it the most?
SN The fact that it would be an original storyline that ran for a year. Also, there are a lot of television shows these days that depict the computer world, but back then, I don’t believe there were any who made a full-blown approach on it yet. I found that charming. A long time ago, I once read Director Yoshiyuki Tomino’s words to “Always make something that can be parodied into other works,” and that was the sort of story I wanted to make for this show.
Did you ever have trouble coming up with character settings for the main characters?
SN I didn’t have that much trouble with their personalities, but I did have trouble coming up with Jyou’s name. Back in the day, Kakudou-san was obsessed with this software that predicted how fortunate one’s life would be based on how one’s name is written and pronounced, so I also bought that software. The name that we’d already decided for “Taichi Yagami” had unbelievably good luck, so I thought that I should come up with lucky names for the other characters, too. But no matter how many different ways I tried, “Jyou Kido” was the only name that was unlucky. And sure enough, he turned out to be an unlucky guy. (laughs) Also, I’m not sure how aware Kakudou-san was in choosing this name, but I’ve always read “Taichi Yagami” as “The fat one among the eight gods.” [Note: The kanji in Taichi Yagami’s name, when broken down, means “fat-one-eight-gods.” In this case, “fat” is an indication of luck.] Hikari wasn’t planned to appear in the show at the start, so the fact that there ended up being eight Chosen Children was a coincidental result rather than intentional. And yet I was so surprised by how this name could have provided for such a wide outlook.
[ Influenced by their unique designs, he made the children even more unique ]
While each of the children are unique, Taichi’s presence is particularly felt.
SN While not just for this series alone, I think that in order to keep a show running on a straight axis, the series composition must consist of scenario that is written with a good, tight hold on the main character’s own story. I’m greedy, so even if I thought that it would be interesting to dabble in the stories of the other characters, I had to clench my fists and hold back, leaving them for the other writers to handle. For instance, I’d tell Urasawa-san, “I’ve put Mimi-chan under your care, so do what you want with her.” (laughs) Even with Koushiro’s background, Masaki-san thought up a lot of ideas for him so it was pretty much, “Masaki-san, I’ll leave Koushiro to you.” The scenarios were written with the feeling that Taichi was my charge.
While the project was progressing, were there any parts of the characters that were changed?
SN (Katsuyoshi) Nakatsuru-san’s completed character designs were a little different from what I had imagined them as I was writing. For instance, if you only read the first part of the characters’ written information, you’d have thought that Koushiro was the sort who wore glasses — and yet, it wasn’t Koushiro he had put glasses on, but Jyou. I believe it was Nakatsuru-san and Kakudou-san who made the decisions, but there were many designs like that which were surprising to me in a good way. Mimi and Sora’s hats as well, whatever design you see looks interesting, don’t you think? Speaking of which, I’m not sure what Sora’s hat is made out of… since Urasawa-san used it for a ritual drum. (laughs) I think the character whose image was the most different from what I’d pictured while writing is Mimi. I imagined her as more of a princess. I thought that with her sort of character design, it would be easy to forgive her no matter what sort of stupid thing she did, so she grew even more and more peculiar. (laughs)
Is there any episode among the ones you had written the scenario for that left a particularly strong impression on you?
SN All of them are memorable to me, of course, but what I personally liked was episode 29. I wonder if I was able to describe well the revealing of the mysteries in the show as the children approached closer and closer to Hikarigaoka. This sort of story where you gradually explain secrets one by one is actually surprisingly hard. Not only did I have to clarify it with words, but I also had to match it with past and present events, their movements, and the characters’ expressions in order to make it at least a decent unveiling episode. I often wonder how well I managed it.
In that case, was there an episode written by the other writers that left an impression on you?
SN Urasawa-san’s Cockatrimon episode, I suppose. It has young girls in it screaming and even a fanservice scene, isn’t that fun? (laughs) Making an episode that adheres to my orders while also inserting his own style — that’s Urasawa-san for you.
Were the moving events of the last episode decided very early on?
SN It’s the same for both short and long series: without a clear vision of what the last episode would be like, your story won’t have much focus. That’s why, even if we didn’t know what sort of developments would occur in the middle, it was decided early on that at the last scene, the children and their Digimon would separate. It was in the middle of the series that the decision for it to have a continuation came, so the mystery of the narrator was carried over to the ending of “02.” Other than that, there were no huge changes. There was a lot of discussion about it, but just like we had decided in the beginning, the series would show the growth of 7 children + 1 extra, and end with their goodbyes.
What does “Digimon Adventure” mean to you, Nishizono-san?
SN It is a series in which I wished to write fully about real children at that age group and it came to pass. Fifth graders are at that extremely delicate age where they take on the role of an adult if adults aren’t around, but they’ll content themselves with following an adult if there are. Children’s books and anime that existed up to that point would often impose the adult’s ideal image of children onto its child audience, and I wasn’t happy about that. I mean, when I was a fifth-grader, I was even more of an idiot. (laughs) But while I was in Boy Scout camp and pulling along those who were younger than me, I became an adult. Now that I think about it, I had some trivial worries too, but they were still worries. I wanted to make this show have real children like that.
[ He wants to take another stab at working with Digimon again ]
What did you want to teach the kids through this series?
SN Basically, it’s a story about courage and friendship. Also, no matter what series I’m working on, I always want them to learn to “Act based on your own decisions”. After all, that was the whole purpose of why these children were thrown into this unbelievable world. (laughs) It irritates me when I see children who can’t act unless they’re being ordered by someone higher-up. If they learn at a young age to do something based on their own judgment, then that ability would stay with them even when they become adults. Of course, I understand that it can be hard. But because I believe it is important to make their own choices and accumulate both their failures and their successes from that, I wrote with the wish that they become that sort of child.
Please give us a message to those who have bought this DVD box.
SN “Thank you so much for continuing to love this series even after 7 years had passed!” I say. I feel very lucky to have been one of its creators. All I can say is to please love it forever.
There were voices even among the cast who have appeared in these interviews for a new “Digimon” series.
SN I often go out drinking with “Frontier’s” series composer, (Sukehiro) Tomita-san, and I frequently meet up with “Savers” series composer (Ryouta) Yamaguchi-san and Masaki-san. Even in those times, we’d talk about how we’d like to do something involving Digimon again if the opportunity came up. If it does come into realization, I’m sure that the fans will also rejoice, so I’m really looking forward to it.
N1) Hikari wasn’t planned to appear in the show at the start — The decision that Hikari be added as a main character, when she was staying at home instead of at camp, was apparently made after the show began to broadcast. “During the first cour, there was no pre-established decision that Hikari be the eighth child. It was when I wanted a new character that she was chosen to appear… I think I was also influenced by how cute the movie version of Hikari was, the one that Hosoda-san had directed.” (Nishizono-san)
N2) The other writers — There are six additional scenario writers besides Nishizono-san who wrote for “Adventure”: Hiro Masaki-san, Atsushi Maekawa-san, Genki Yoshimura-san, Yoshio Urasawa-san, Akatsuki Yamatoya-san, and Reiko Yoshida-san. Maekawa-san and Yoshimura-san took over as series compositors for the “02” sequel. “I don’t think anyone back then, except for Urasawa-san, had experience doing series composition. But as time passed, everyone was able to chug out ideas. Seeing their activities as we produced a single story together made me very happy.” (Nishizono-san)
N3) What Sora’s hat is made out of — The episode 11 (“The Dancing Ghosts! Bakemon”) that Urasawa-san wrote the screenplay for. In order to defeat Bakemon the ghost Digimon, Jyou begins to chant a “sutra of good fortune” that his grandmother had taught him, and shouts at Sora, who was also with him, to bring him a temple drum to go along with it. Without thinking, Sora handed him her hat, which was solid for some reason and produced a hollow sound very much like a temple drum when hit, weakening the Bakemon.
N4) Episode 29 — The episode “Clash with Mammon in Hikarigaoka!”, when Taichi and the others arrive back in the camping grounds in the real world and head for Hikarigaoka. The mystery behind why only Taichi and seven others were chosen among the multitude of children as the “Chosen Children” grows clear. This episode also acts as a link to the first movie, further embellishing on its story.
N5) Cockatrimon episode — Meaning episode 17 (“The Illusionary Ship’s Captain, Cockatrimon!”). A cruise ship suddenly appears in the middle of the desert, and the children get on with the greatest of joys. However, it was a trap laid by Cockatrimon, and everyone except for the girls who were bathing were caught… It is the episode where we can see a sexy shot (?) of Sora and Mimi as they run around while wrapped only in a bath towel.
N6) The mystery behind the narrator — In the closing of the last episode, it was supposed to be revealed that the story was actually the reflections of an adult Takeru. This was also the reason why Hirata-san, who voiced the narrator, also performs the role of Yamato and Takeru’s father. This ending version was taken out to be used for the last episode of “02”. Incidentally, there was apparently a possibility that Taichi and the others could have stayed as the main characters for the continuation series. “I think there was a time when we were discussing that Yamato be completely broken off with the group and had joined the enemy’s side.” (Nishizono-san)
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