High on the list of "things that will make '90s kids feel old" is the fact that the Digimon franchise celebrated its 20th-anniversary last year. Long known as the great Pokémon imitator, the rival monster-catching property began life as Tamagotchi marketed towards boys, but quickly evolved into the requisite components of an all-consuming media juggernaut: trading cards, toys, video games, manga and, of course, anime. The first Digimon Adventure series premiered in 1999 and though it never quite caught up to Pokémon's inescapable ubiquity, it did differentiate Digimon as the younger, cooler sibling of the two.
Just as The Matrix trilogy was for young adults at the time, Digimon Adventure was the perfect turn-of-the-Millennium story for kids -- a period of time where excitement and anxiety about an increasingly computerized world were at a new peak. Its premise was essentially cyber-Narnia, a digital fantasy world where time almost stood still for its human adventurers. Despite, this, and unlike the arrested development of Ash Ketchum, Digimon's original crop of DigiDestined kids have grown up alongside their fans outside of the digital world, which means that as the franchise hits this significant milestone, Tai, Matt, Izzy, Sora, Mimi, Joe, T.K and Kari have also reached significant milestones in their own lives: childhood's end.
As its title indicates, this idea is writ large upon Digmon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna's story -- the movie that caps off the original DigiDestined's journeys... for good. It's a momentous moment not only for its characters and fans but also for those involved with its production, like Yosuke Kinoshita, Executive Producer for Last Evolution. Ahead of the film's release, CBR spoke to Kinoshita about the franchise's endurance and what he hopes viewers will take away from the film.
CBR: 20 years of Digimon! What do you think it is about the franchise that’s endured for this long?
Yosuke Kinoshita: There are a lot of great titles around the world, but there aren't a lot of films that get a lot of enthusiastic support over the course of 20 years. I attended Anime Expo last year, and I was very happy to feel that there were fans not only in Japan but all over the world.
How does it feel, as a producer, to take on the finale of this era of Digimon?
We have received a heavy baton that has been piling up over 20 years of history, but the original staff, including the first producer Hiromi Seki, has also supported us. The director and many other staff members are from the generation that watched Digimon Adventure at the time, and they are composed of members who love Digimon. There is of course pressure as a producer, but the excitement prevails because I am working with a very dependable staff.
Where did the idea for Last Evolution come from?
The project itself started about three years ago, in the middle of the development of Digimon Adventure tri. The ideas that formed the basis of the storyline were solidified with the participation of director Taguchi. The "final adventure, the final evolution" is what we decided then.
Last Evolution feels like it’s both a celebration and a farewell rolled into one. Would you say that’s a fair description of the film?
As we go through life, I believe that it is not only success and joy that makes you grow as a person but also overcoming failure. Hard and sad realities are what keeps us alive. I'm sure there will be a lot of obstacles in the future, but let’s go live our lives forward strongly! This is the message that we are trying to convey.
One of the things I think fans appreciate about Digimon is that the original DigiDestined have had a chance to grow up in front of our eyes -- from the first Adventure series to tri and now, finally, coming of age in Last Evolution. Do you think that’s help set it apart from other similar properties?
It's clear that the aging of characters is one of the major features of Digimon. I think you can superimpose more of yourself onto a character that has grown with the fans over the last 20 years.
What was it like working with other people who’ve also been working on Digimon since the beginning?
Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru, for instance, who did the original character designs on the very first series. Working with the original staff has brought us "genuine originality." Character designer Nakatsuru, for example, gives the characters an authentic build. This time, since they are adults, we have lengthened their height and their large limbs, which is a characteristic of the original, were made smaller. Even with all those big changes, Tai is especially difficult. The hair, the eyes. Nakatsuru also took the most time with Tai, but I think that the more solid the design was, the more the animators were able to draw "genuine originality" based on it.
What would you want fans to take away from the film?
I hope it will be a work that will inspire you for tomorrow. I hope that when you run into something and stop, you can look back at this film and feel the adventure with them and move forward.
Let's finish on the most important question: Who’s your favorite Digimon? Personally, I’ve always loved Patamon.
Personally, I love Gomamon. I feel like Gomamon is the one who expresses his honest feelings the most to his partner. He's the older one, so he has to be firm, but he's also very supportive, even though he's small-minded. I think that Gomamon is a wonderful Digimon. I also like the mohawk hairstyle on Gomamon.
Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is available for digital download from Sep. 29 on iTunes, Microsoft and Sony PlayStation Network.