An eulogy to a childhood hero.
Born in Fukuchiyama, 29 January 1974, Kouji Wada was a singer and songwriter. His name is well-known by Digimon fans around the world, thanks to his steadfast contribution as a go-to singer of the storied franchise. Seventeen years ago, he made his debut as a fresh-faced youth singing a certain song that would be forever imprinted into the memories of countless kids worldwide. Several Digimon series and a bunch of uplifting songs later, he passed after a battle with cancer, coinciding with the franchise’s latest revival as Digimon Tri.
42 is no age to be dying.
Looking back, I’m pretty sure Butterfly was the one thing that compelled my ten-year old self to start watching Digimon. When I first saw the advert, my first thought was actually “sure looks like a Pokemon rip-off with less cute monsters.” That’s why I didn’t watch the first several episodes, at least until stumbled into the OP on one fine Sunday morning. I was immediately hooked by the song, and watched the episode (it was the factory/Andromon one) to the end.
Butterfly is iconic for a reason. It’s not only a fitting allusion to the concept of constant metamorphosis in Digimon, but also a damn catchy tune in its own right. Throughout the course of Digimon Adventure 01, I also fell for the similarly high-spirited Brave Heart, the insert song for digivolution scenes—sang by Ayumi Miyazaki, and covered numerous times by Wada. I didn’t watch the entirety of Adventure 02, Tamers, or Frontiers, but I always made sure to listen to their respective theme songs (all sung by Wada) whenever I caught them on TV—Tamers’ Biggest Dreamer was another one that, like Butterfly and Brave Heart, left a strong impression on me and something that I’d listen to outside the context of the show.
The franchise kept changing its cast, concept, and thematics on its every iteration, but one thing that stay constant was Wada, belting out energetic tunes that set your mood to an exciting and poignant adventure. He kept on writing and delivering songs even as he started battling cancer for more than a decade, one of them being Re-Fly, a song underlining his resolve to’fly again no matter how many times I fall down’.
My cousin, with whom I spent a significant part of my childhood watching Adventure 01 and playing the Digimon World game, visited me last year and we talked in excitement about the upcoming Tri project. We eventually had a nostalgia trip by watching the videos of old OPs and live Wada concert. At some point during the latter (a concert in Bangkok just a year prior), he turned to me and said, “If the dude ever get here, we must see him whatever it takes.”
I kind of wonder if Wada ever felt tired of being ‘that Digimon singer guy’, or of having his entire musical career practically defined by his involvement with a children cartoon series. If he was, he sure didn’t show it during the concert or any public event –there’s nothing but enthusiasm and earnestness radiating from the man. Whether in Peru, Brazil, Thailand, Mexico, or many others, and even when his physical deterioration had robbed much of his singing flair, he always feed off of the nostalgic joy of audience with a perpetual beautiful smile on his face. At the time of Digimon Tri launch, he even penned a freaking apology letter—brimming with so much love for the franchise, its characters, and the fans—for being unable to attend the event. With the last line directly quoting the opening stanza of Butterfly, no less.
“August 1st is a special day for Digimon Adventure. I was looking forward to enjoying this day with everyone at DIGIMON ADVENTURE FES.2015, but I am sorry to announce the cancellation of my attendance. I tried to do everything in my power to improve my physical condition, but I am sorry to say it is not enough for me to stand on stage and perform.
I apologize to everyone who looked forward to my performance.
It has been 16 years since Digimon Adventure first started in 1999. I could have never imagined then, that I would be able to see the grown up version of Taichi, Agumon, and the digimons. So, inevitably, I was excited from the bottom of my heart when I first heard the news that a sequel, “Digimon Adventure tri.” , was being produced. I was more excited when I heard the main theme would be “Butter-Fly” again.
However, along with the excitement, I also faced the burden of thinking of how I would go about singing a song that was produced 16 years ago as my debut song. Should it reflect on who I am now, or should it be a revival of 16 years ago….tri. is the sequel to Digimon Adventure, and Butter-Fly is once again, its main theme….I remembered when Digimon Adventure first aired 16 years ago, and how excited I was when I heard “Butter-Fly” playing from the TV.
Then, I thought, I should bring back the same excitement. Years have passed, and in the process of overcoming many things, my voice has changed, and it will definitely be difficult to make a complete revival of the song. However, I went into recording with the strong intention of reviving the song. I sincerely wish for this song to act as a continuation of the same excitement, from Digimon Adventure into Digimon Adventure tri. I will do my best to collaborate with the voice actors, music team, and the staff to make Digimon Adventure tri a piece that will continue to touch the hearts of the audience here, as well as to people all around the world.
Please give much love to “Digimon Adventure tri.
Gokigen na cho ninatte, kirameku kaze ninotte, itsuka….Minnna ni ainiikou.”
Fly on, you beautiful butterfly, and thank you for all the memories.