In a world in which new Pokémon movies are
an annual given and the overall machine of child-centric anime programming rolls on undeterred, it’s unusual for something like new Digimon anime to feel so novel. Maybe it’s the way promotions rolled out, or maybe the timing was just that right, but Digimon Adventure tri. came off as a proper event. As
rich as fans’ memories are of the original Digimon
Adventure series, though, that nostalgia brings high expectations along for the ride. Thankfully, much like
the theatrical feature directed by Mamoru Hosoda
(Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast), there’s more to Digimon Adventure tri. than a bunch of digi-volving monsters simply teaming up with kids to
help protect our world.
Growing Up Together
In many ways Digimon Adventure tri. acts as a bridge between youth and adulthood. Taichi and the rest of
the gang from the Adventure series are all present and
accounted for, but they’re experiencing a transitional phase that isn’t exactly conducive to going on carefree, monster-battling journeys. They have real things to worry about, like, you know, the future. What are they going to do with their lives once high school is over? What kind of people will they be as they gradually approach adulthood?
The answers come easier to some than others. In the case of our main protagonist, Taichi Yagami—known as Tai Kamiya in the English-dubbed version that so many likely remember most vividly—he can feel the group gradually drifting apart. It isn’t going to be that clean of a break, though, because small electrical malfunctions throughout Odaiba soon reveal the presence of a corrupted Kuwagamon. Before it can wreak too much havoc on the city itself, the Digivices of Taichi and the rest of the DigiDestined begin to shine, bringing them together once more with their adorable Digimon partners.
It’s been just three years since they last worked together with Agumon, Gabumon, and the other partner Digimon, but Taichi, Yamato, Sora, and the rest of the Chosen Children have changed much more than their squat digital counterparts. Taichi notes how much smaller Agumon is, but we all know it’s the other way around. Most of these kids have outgrown their toys, but here they are with another opportunity to play.
The pull of nostalgia is strong, even if it isn’t presented as such. The connection the DigiDestined have with their devices and Digimon is the same connection Digimon fans have with the series and, ultimately, Digimon Adventure tri.
The first chapter, “Reunion,” offers both us and the gang one more chance to relive those halcyon days before embracing responsibility. Much like the series’ cast, many of the fans who grew up watching Digimon Adventure are now in or fast approaching adulthood—or, in my case, they were adults the first time around and are now just plain old—and it can be both refreshing and disconcerting to see that some things never change.
Certain DigiDestined are already overwhelmed enough with this new stage of life as it is. Joe Kido, for instance, is feeling the pressure of having to buckle down and study. Even with the fate of the city at stake, even with his friends dealing with this sudden unexpected reunion, Joe is the least eager to take on the task. He may have been down for adventure the first time around, but his resistance to the call at this point can be chalked up to a number of factors. On one hand there’s the very real need to stay home and prepare for adulthood, but there’s something else bubbling under the surface. As we begin to see in the second part, “Determination,” Joe is also wrestling with a palpable fear, which only serves to breed anger within him—anger directed at his own perceived cowardice.
Who can blame him? Life gets a little more precious and you start to feel a little less invincible with age, so Joe’s reaction to the latest Digiventure is about as normal as it gets. That’s what makes Digimon Adventure tri. an intriguing take on what would otherwise be a ploy to mine nostalgia. Most series would be content with bringing back everyone’s favorite characters for one more outing; give the fans more of what they saw before, pull in some money from ticket and home video sales, and call it a day. It’s the drive toward something more interesting that makes Digimon a franchise with the potential to happily pull off a similarly anticipated reunion in another 15 years.
Chill… Til the Next Episode
Digimon Adventure tri. is still unfolding, with the third in a six-part film series, Kokuhaku (Confession), set to premiere in Japan on September 24, 2016. The series is in the very capable hands of director Keitaro Motonaga, who has directed a number of TV anime—including Jormungand and Majestic Prince, as well as episodes of Magic Knight Rayearth, the Shin Getter Robo vs. Neo Getter Robo OVA, and the most dangerous Apocalypse Zero OVA, among others—and recently helmed the Persona 3 the Movie #3 Falling Down feature. Motonaga captures the return of Digimon Adventure nicely with the help of writer Yuuko Kakihara (Persona 4 The Animation, Chihayafuru 2), and tri.’s theatrical status gives the staff at Toei Animation a little more room to expand on the series’ updated designs.
For better or worse, sitting in a theater isn’t the way most of us in the West are likely to ever see Digimon Adventure tri. It may not be “coming to a theater near you,” but each individual film has been split into four parts for streaming on Crunchyroll, essentially making for a new Digimon TV anime. “Reunion” and “Determination” haven’t exactly been split up gracefully—the division of each episode basically seems to hinge on running time, with nothing added other than a title card at the mid-point and a cut to credits at the end—but it gets the job done.
Those with fond memories of the original Digimon Adventure anime can view the return of their favorite characters and creatures in a number of ways. Take it for what it is and enjoy a blast from the past, or look at it as a reflection of your own nostalgia, drumming up questions of whether or not you can really, truly go home again. Either way it should be interesting to see how both the cast and the audience handle the journey.