[interview] memories of our digimon adventure pt. 5

SPECIAL TALK! with Hiromi Seki & Hiroyuki Kakudou
A special interview that came with the “Digimon Adventure” DVD Box released on December 21, 2007.

Purchase of the DVD Box (Region 2 only) available at: Amazon.JP, CDJapan, YesAsia

Producer Seki and Director Kakudou reveal the inside story on events that led to the creation of Digimon.

Hiromi Seki :: Producer The first female producer in Toei Animation. Among the Digimon series, she was in charge of the first series, “Adventure” to the fourth series, “Frontier.”
Hiroyuki Kakudou :: Series Director Animation episode director. Among the Digimon series, he worked in the chief position as series director for “Adventure” and “02”.

[ A series that all sorts of children could enjoy ]

How did the idea of a “Digimon Adventure” animated series first take shape?

Hiroyuki Kakudou (abbreviated HK below) I believe it was in August 1998 that the idea was brought to me for the first time. Around then, the only decision made about it was that we wanted to make an anime based on the electronic game[1].
Hiromi Seki (abbreviated HS below) I was consulted at a coffee shop in Shinjuku, where I was told about the project and asked whether or not I would be able to handle it. The only thing that was decided within the company at that point was that Digimon was to be animated. In the original game, monsters are the only characters that show up in it, so I had to check to make sure it would be all right to produce human characters too and for the Digimon to speak words. Although I don’t remember if that was before or after I’d met Kakudou-san…
HK I think the idea that there would be human characters was what I heard first. But it was still vague at this time whether the show’s basic factor of one human/one Digimon that you see now would come about. Around the latter part of August, we started thinking about all kinds of settings and establishments. Because File Island[2] already existed in the game, we decided on that spot as our first stage. We pretty much started the whole process off by saying “Okay, this File Island place is where everything will begin,” and we had absolutely no idea on what sort of story to develop from there. When I look back at it now, though, it appears as if we had planned everything from the start. (laughs)

The large number of main characters is a unique trait for this series, but what was your intent behind it?

HK First of all, by creating different types of children, we would be able to increase the variation of the story. Also, I didn’t want to make it into an anime where the main character solved all of the problems by himself in every episode. As a series, the main character is Taichi, but as a story, he isn’t the only main character there.
HS But there were opinions that seven people might be a bit of a crowd. When I think about it, there are series now where a supporting character of one series becomes the main character in a spin-off, but back in those days such an occurrence didn’t exist. Once a supporting character, always a supporting character, it felt like.
HK That’s right. But not every child who watches the show would be the class leader; there would be a few children who preferred to sit at the very back of a classroom. I wanted all types of children to think that the show was interesting, and I wanted them to see that even the child who sits at the back is still a member of the class and therefore just as important. So with that in mind, when we were coming up with characters for the show, I felt that having just five people wasn’t enough.

[ Aiming for a cast filled with both veterans and new voices ]

The Digimon partners, with Palmon being first on the list, look rather one of a kind.

HS What’s most unique about the Digimon’s designs are their eyes, and not all of them are cute. But we had the idea that as long as there was a point in the series where people started to see this particular Digimon as cool, then that was all right.
HK These days there’s a phrase “kimokakkoi” [Note: Meaning “gross but cool at the same time”] used to describe such things, but back then we didn’t have a word for it. (laughs)
HS Right. That’s why, by evolving (from their cute baby selves) or having overpoweringly distinguishing eyes— in other words, by deviating from the “cute route,” we thought we could turn the negative factors into their selling point.

What image did you think up in terms of the relationship between child and their Digimon partner?

HK Putting aside the fact that this is best explained in the show itself, I made the establishment that the Digimon was a part of their human partner’s soul[3], and something like a twin. This was put to practical use in “02,” when Megumi Urawa-san performed both the child and the Digimon role. There was talk in the first series too about whether we should have both the human and their Digimon partner voiced by the same person.

How did you decide on the main casting?

HS We held auditions, but it was only for the main character that I asked Fujita-san to be chosen straightaway[4]. I loved Fujita-san’s young boy roles even before the show, so much that I’m quite the fangirl about it. (laughs)
HK This show was also the first adventure story for boys that Seki-san was involved in, so I think her strong desire to make a story with Fujita-san as the main male protagonist played a part in her decision as well. (laughs)
HS No doubt about that! Besides, my first impression of Fujita-san when I was still new to the company was that she was a very stylish and wonderful person. I think that image of her was still inside of my head.

There were rather a lot of new voices and new faces in comparison. Was that intentional as well?

HK It was pretty intentional. I wanted to have as many different varieties of people as possible.
HS During auditions, Kakudou-san asked to hear all kinds[5] of voices. Every director has their tastes, but there are some who would only like to use the experienced and skilled voice actors if they could. But I felt that Kakudou-san is a man who likes to take adventures. Even when a newbie was awkward about something, he’d compliment them by saying “that awkwardness is what makes it good.”
HK If the show was filled with voices that people are used to hearing, it wouldn’t be refreshing and it would make our viewers think the show wasn’t any different from the others. I wanted to avoid that.
HS We felt that we could relax with veterans like Fujita-san and Chikamoto-san as the main characters, and so we were able to make an adventure of finding the rest of the cast.

[ What is the surprising reason behind why Odaiba was covered in fog? ]

Please tell us if there was any episode among all 54 episodes that left an impression on you.

HS Each of the episodes are memorable in their own way, but the first time the children separated[6] was, I thought, a very interesting scenario when it was made. Each of their individual characteristics was made prominent. As a producer, though, I was worried about the viewer ratings for those episodes…
HK Because the main character wouldn’t be in them.
HS I think the staff at the TV studio was also bothered by that. But Fuji TV’s producer, (Taichiro) Fujiyama-san gave us the go-ahead for it. That left an impression on me as well.
HK Due to the large cast, and because I wanted to make it known right away that each of the characters were important, I wished to have the stories when they were separated to be put out as soon as possible.
HS Also, I loved the scene (in episode 33) that Kakudou-san directed, when Yamato and Takeru were riding a train. While in the Digital World, it felt that they were brothers who were also friends traveling through the Digital World, but in that scene it really hits you that they were brothers living apart from each other. I loved the feeling of distance that you could pick up from those two.

In the episodes that took place in the real world, seeing Tokyo drawn so realistically was impressive.

HK The children were made real by having small flaws in their character, so I thought I would also like to show the real world as realistically as possible[7].
HS All of us even went to Odaiba to go location hunting. We’d go on top of Fuji TV station to see the remains of Odaiba’s batteries, but then the fog came out.
HK Even when we went on the Ferris Wheel to get a better view, we couldn’t see anything because of that fog. That’s why we decided to close off Odaiba with fog[8]. We used our results of location hunting to make it into something positive. (laughs)

What does the show “Digimon Adventure” mean to the two of you?

HS That’s a deep question. (laughs) There were honestly a lot of things about it that gave me trouble, but in the end, it is a beloved piece. Enough to make me want to transfer all of the memories into data and preserve them in a file folder. Including the trouble bits.
HK I had a wish somewhere to make something that wasn’t a copy of anything before it, but a new genre that was only just beginning. For instance, before “Ultraman” began there never was a show exactly like it. I didn’t care if what I made was incomplete, as long as I got to make that “first” piece. There are a lot of different elements in “Adventure,” but I think the most important one is that it is a “partner story.” It isn’t recognized as a genre, but there are a lot of works now where humans face off against something that isn’t human, right? But back then, there was hardly any of that.
HS Instead of “hardly any,” don’t you mean “none at all”? At least, I’ve never heard of any.
HK Perhaps. So, there was making the basic structure of the “partner story.” Also, this show was meant to have a variety of episodes that ran from serious to comical. I wonder if I was able to achieve that somewhat.
HS Each of the Digimon series have different color and taste and yet they’re lovable. But I think it truly is “Adventure” that a majority of people feel a connection with.

[ Their feelings of thanks to the fans who had once been children ]

In closing, please give us a message to those who have bought this DVD box.

HS I’m sure that the people who bought it are the ones who watched it on television all those years ago, right? If so, that means that they met “Adventure” during an important period in their lives. I wish that it was a good influence to them.
HK The generation that first watched it should be in university now. I was actually told by a university student the other day at an event that he’d watched the show.
HS I pray that everyone who is growing up in that generation lives a life of happiness. If someone told me that Adventure made their lives turn for the worse, it would be a shock. (laughs)
HK All I can say is, “Thank you.” Just knowing that there are people out there who still remember the show makes me feel grateful.
HS I feel the same way. Even if there are people only thinking that they’d like to watch the show again, that would be a pleasure.

N1) Based on an electronic game — The anime “Digimon Adventure” is based on Bandai’s handheld nurturing game “Digital Monster,” which was first put on sale in the year 1997. After that, the Playstation game “Digimon World” was released, along with a variety of other types of video games. However, when plans for the anime were being made in the summer of 1998, there was no previous establishment of plot in the games. Because of this, most of what is seen in the anime (beyond its monster characters and certain titles) is original.
N2) “File Island” — The first place in the Digital World that Taichi and the others arrive in after they are enveloped in a mysterious aurora and transported from the campgrounds. It is an island overflowing with prairies, forests, and other natural environments, but for some reason it also has telephone booths and vending machines. In the video game “Digimon World,” the island is also where the adventure takes place.
N3) A part of their human partner’s soul — There was also this strange episode regarding this feature: “There is a novel called ‘The Golden Compass’ that had recently been turned into a movie, portraying our world and that of another world. In this book, a part of the humans’ soul takes animal shape (called Daemons), and as their human grows, the animal also changes form. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? (laughs) It was ‘The Golden Compass’ that was written first (the Japanese translation of it was published in November 1999). I read up to book two after “02” had ended and was surprised by the coincidental similarities.” (Kakudou-san)
N4) To be chosen straightaway — There was also another reason why the role of the main character was not put out for audition. “With a large cast list, you have to decide on the person who will be the supporting pillar of the group and choose the other people based on how they balance with that person’s voice. In this way, casting roles became easier. The show “Hatarakids Maiham-gumi” that I’m working on right now also involves a large cast, which is why I asked Masako Nozawa-san to be chosen without audition as the main character. It was in “Adventure” that I used this sort of selection process for the first time.” (Seki-san)
N5) Asked to hear all kinds — Apparently “about 200 actors” (Seki-san) participated in this audition. “Frankly, I didn’t have a single clue what the Digimon’s voices would be like until we began auditions. We had many people try all kinds of voices and decided on what was suitable by balancing them with the voices of the human side. (Junko) Takeuchi-san, for instance, didn’t originally audition for Gomamon, but I thought her voice would be perfect for him and asked her to take that part.” (Kakudou-san)
N6) The first time the children separated — From the last part of episode 8 (“The Messenger of Darkness, Devimon!”) when the children are forced to separate, to episode 13 (“Angemon Awakens!”) when they join up again. According to Kakudou-san, having a large cast number is also what allowed them to be able to portray such a story development. “They separate again twice more after this. The first time they were physically pulled apart, while the second time, they end up separating because Taichi has left them. In the third time, before they approach the final battle, they decide for themselves to leave each other so they could each find what they were supposed to do. I wanted to show that transformation.” (Kakudou-san)
N7) As realistically as possible — During the Tokyo arc, when Taichi and the others returned to the real world, much of the background scenery of how Tokyo had looked at the time was depicted in a very realistic manner. There were many scenes besides Odaiba’s Fuji TV station where one could tell where the location was just by looking at the screen. For instance, in episode 30 (“The Great Digimon Crossing in Tokyo!”), the hamburger shop that Taichi and the others stopped by despite themselves looks exactly like a shop that currently still exists in Shinjuku. “One of the reasons why we drew Tokyo as real as possible was because we wanted to distinguish it from the Digital World.” (Kakudou-san)
N8) Decided to close off Odaiba with fog — Location hunting resulted in episode 35 (“The Fairy of Odaiba! Lilimon Blooms”). Vamdemon covers Odaiba in a fog barrier that prevents radio waves from going through, isolating it from the rest of the world. Besides being unable to see the ocean due to the fog, their location hunting results also brought about this sort of influence in the show: “While we were scouting locations, the sun started going down faster and faster than we’d expected. So we thought, ‘In that case, maybe we don’t have to make it take place in the afternoon’ which is why when Vamdemon surrounds the place with his fog, it’s nighttime. (laughs)” (Seki-san)

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