When Digimon Tamers was being developed as a series, Jeri's partner had not been decided on. Because this would be the first digimon introduced after the three main digimon, I had to think very carefully about who it should be.
Up to this point, almost all of the digimon-partner pairs were of the same gender. I thought that it might be best for Jeri to have a male digimon as a partner, and chose Leomon, who had made quite an impact in Digimon Adventures (Season One).
Leomon's first episode was written by Mr. Yoshio Urasawa. Until then, Mr. Urasawa had written Digimon Tamers scripts that had a lyrical mood. But in episode 21 ("Jeri's Quest"), he was able to bring out the slapstick comedy he had perfected on various other anime series. It was an honour and a joy to be able to work with Mr. Urasawa.
I had envisioned that Jeri and Leomon's relationship would take a rather serious turn in the future, so I wrote Episode 24 ("The Journey Begins")with that future in mind.
With all that said, I had not yet decided on such details as Leomon being defeated by Beelzemon.
One of the basic rules of the Digimon series is that even if a Digimon is defeated by an enemy, he or she will return to a Digi-egg and are reborn.
As a game or as a virtual pet toy, that's a reasonable rule. As a special feature of a world within a videogame (the Digital World), it's not unnatural, either.
But the Digimon Tamers story takes place primarily in our real world, and there is an attempt to make digimon themselves more realistic.
As a result, I had a great deal of resistance to introducing the idea that"even if they die, they will be reborn".
Furthermore, given the story structure in which normal school children are risking their lives in the battle (although they may not realize it, the circumstances make it clear that this is the case), I felt that we must not treat death itself lightly. The is something that I think is true not only for Digimon, but all series that are directed at a child audience.
(This was all something that we thought about from the beginning of the series' development, and this is why the digimon in Digimon Tamers battle each other and attempt to devour and load their opponent's data into themselves.)
Just as there is no such thing as a meaningless life, there is no such thing as a meaningless death.
This was something that we had to show our audience through the latter half of the series. In order to communicate this message, it was necessary to portray the shocking event of an actual death.
What troubled me about this was whether it was fair to let Leomon carry this burder once more.
In the first season of Digimon, Leomon lost his life in order to save the Digi-Destined. Even though the situation was completely different, was it a good idea to let Leomon face death once more in the third season?
I discussed this with the script writers who had worked on all three seasons of Digimon, as well as Mr. Kakudou, the Series Director for Digimon Season One. But in the end, I had to come to my own conclusion.
Leomon is played by the same actor who played him in the first season, Mr. Hiroaki Hirata.