Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed the name Akiyoshi Hongo pop up in the credits of the Digimon anime series and films ever since the end credits of the original 1999 Digimon Adventure series. In fact, the copyright ‘Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation’ can be found on some of the pages of the Digimon Card Game website. Although this led many to believe that the name belonged to just one person, it is actually the pseudonym for the three most important people in the creation of the Digimon Franchise and all of its products, including the Digimon Card Game.
The Digimon series began as a series of virtual pets created by Bandai and the Wiz company released in 1997, which were designed to be the more ‘masculine’ version of the incredibly popular Tamagochi that were popular with young girls at the time. To achieve this, Aki Maita, who helped develop the original Tamagochi with developer Akihiro Yokoi in 1995, was brought in to develop Bandai’s spin-off product.
When it comes to the concept of the Digimon virtual pet games, they stayed very close to Tamagochi. For example, they chose to use the same keychain devices to emulate a pocket watch. Character design was originally created by Yōko Kuroyanagi, but after she was fired, Kenji Watanabe took over – a name you may recognise from the Digimon Card Game as he is responsible for several fantastic art pieces including the alternate art version of Omnimon that came with Special Booster 1.0. In fact, Kenji was the character designer who created the original concept for the Legendary Warrior. If you would like to learn more about Watanabe and his work, you can check out our article here.
Aki Maita would bring all elements that made Tamagochi a success over to Digimon while introducing a new battle mode to appease the interests of young boys. Aki Maita has since left the Digimon franchise and is managing the career of actress and singer Ikue Sakakibara.
In the Summer of 1997, artist Hiroshi Izawa created the first-ever Digimon manga called ‘C’mon Digimon’ to coincide with the release of the Digimon Virtual Pets. The 42-page comic actually predates all other Digimon stories by quite a lot, with the franchise gaining mainstream attention with the release of the Digimon Adventure anime and the Digimon World video game that were both released in 1999.
In Hiroshi’s original manga, it was Kamon Kentarou who was the first protagonist of the Digimon franchise. Although he looks nothing like any of the Tamers that came after him, there are elements that were borrowed from him for later characters, such as Taichi’s arm support.
The story of ‘C’mon Digimon’ is very different to the stories we later received, as it focuses on Kentarou’s mission to get revenge for his classmate Makoto, whose Greymon, called ‘Hard Armor III’, has been killed by Shin’ichirou and his Deathmon. In this comic, we see a number of Digimon that still exist in the franchise today, only having early concept designs.
The final name that is part of the mysterious pseudonym, Akiyoshi Hongo, is Takeichi Hongo. Hongo was the principal officer of Tamagotchi in the late 90s and went on to become the director of marketing for Bandai. Hongo has been accredited to a large portion of Digimon’s initial success, with clever marketing campaigns that allowed the franchise to compete with Pokemon, the other highly successful fighting monster franchise released around the same time.
Although Takeichi Hongo doesn’t get much credit when it comes to the different Digimon anime series, he has had special mentions on all of the Digimon World games, as well as Digimon Rumble Arena and Digimon Digital Card Battle, which is based on the iconic Hyper Colosseum card game that released exclusively in Japan. To learn more about the predecessor of the current Digimon Card Game, you can read our article here.
It’s hard to believe that Tamagochi played a huge part in the creation of the Digimon franchise which led to the creation of our favourite card game. Looking back on the original comic and virtual pet devices, the evolution of the Digimon artwork is clear, especially when you look at the incredibly diverse illustrations seen within the Digimon Card Game. If you would like to learn more about the artists of the Digimon Card Game or the history behind the TCG, check out our links below –
Mathew Parkes – Ludkins Media
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