Tai X Sora Forever!
What’s the Story?
It’s a few years after the end of the first Digimon season and all is not well in the Digital World. A human calling himself the Digimon Emperor has taken control, enslaving Digimon with his Dark Rings and making them fight for his own pleasure. When the original Digidestined return to the Digital World they find that their Digimon can no longer Digivolve and they’re powerless to stop the Emperor. It’s up to a new trio of Digidestined (as well as Kari and T.K.) to use an ancient form of Digivolution called Armour Digivolution to defeat the Emperor and save the world. However, there are others forces at work, manipulating events behind the scenes and hoping to plunge both the Digital and Human worlds into darkness.
I feel sorry for Adventure 02, it’s not exactly a bad series. It has its convoluted and downright stupid moments, but when its characters and plot are on point then it’s really, really good (even better than the original series in some cases), but those moments are just too few and far between. When I compare this series as a whole to the original Adventure, and Tamers that followed, this series just pales in comparison. I can’t help but feel that if this series had happened at any other time, maybe a few years down the line, then I’d have a bit more fondness for it than I actually do. As it stands it’s a decent series with some good episodes, hampered by the fact that it never knows which direction it wants to go in and just keeps tripping over itself as it stumbles towards its finale.
Let’s talk about some of those ideas though, for starters the set up is actually a very good one and as a sequel to Adventure I can’t really think of a better way to go (okay, maybe one that involved the original cast more, but if we have to have new digidestined than them getting the spotlight instead was the right call, however much that annoys my inner fanboy). The Digimon Emperor is the first human enemy in the Digimon franchise and he is one of the best villains the series has ever produced. He’s cunning and completely evil, laughing manically as he makes Digimon fight one another and constantly coming up with new plans and strategies to challenge the Digidestined. They beat one of his minions, he’ll send an army! His Dark Rings aren’t powerful enough, he’ll invent the Dark Spiral! One of my favourite mini-arcs in this season is when the Emperor captures Tai’s Agumon and takes control of him, forcing the Digidestined to fight their friend and argue over the best way to deal with it.
The Emperor is also the best developed character in the series. He’s a Digidestined gone bad, angry and abusive to his partner Digimon, but the longer the arc goes on the more the cracks start to appear. Even as everything is falling apart he’s still convinced that’s he’s the best and is going to win. It takes the sacrifice of his partner to finally snap him out of his madness, which is also the point where he realises this isn’t just some game and he’s been abusing living creatures all this time. Then we learn about the grief and jealousy that led him down this dark path and his redemption begins. It’s seriously one of the best character arcs in Digimon and has some truly great moments along the way. The only problem is that you have to sit through so much tedium to get to those good parts.
Here’s one of the big problems with the series, the Emperor, Ken, gets more than the majority of the character development this season (some might even say all of it). The new Digidestined, Davis, Yolei and Cody are, well, I like them well enough I just don’t feel like I know them at all. When they get character focused episodes their problems always feel like an issue of the week, rather than something that defines them as a person. Adventure 02 is far more interested in its plot than it is its characters and that’s a shame because one of the strengths of Adventure was the quieter character moments it had. Here it’s just are continual cycle of taking on the Emperor and destroying his Control Spires and that just gets boring after a while.
Adventure 02 on paper should be this grand epic, it certainly has the scale for it and some really dark moments. However 02 just comes out lacking in several areas and it’s the small decisions that are the result of this. There’s less urgency, less sense of adventure, and that I put down to the fact that at the end of the day the kids can come home. In the original the kids were trapped, struggling to find a way home and there was also the mystery of figuring out what exactly the Digital World was. Now we know exactly what the Digital World is and we know what to expect from each adventure. Also I find it kind of heartless that while all the Digimon are suffering under an evil overlord the kids are just like “well it’s almost dinner so we’re all going to head back to our warm, safe homes now. See ya!” There’s a sense of safety to proceedings, like you don’t need to worry because the gang will always make it home at the end of the day so everything will be okay, which dulls a lot of the threat.
It doesn’t help that once the Digimon Emperor arc is over the series has no real idea where its going. I know there was a lot of upheaval behind the scenes, with different creative forces fighting over where to take the show. The show develops a split personality, sometimes being goofy and silly and then at others going dark and creepy. Plotlines will appear and then disappear with no resolution whatsoever or just stumble into a lacklustre conclusion. The best example I think of this is the whole BlackWarGreymon arc where he spends several episodes wandering around, angsting all over the place and having an existential crisis only for it to end when another Digimon tells him to work it out for himself. Then he just wanders off. Sure he gets a bit more resolution in the final arc, but still, that’s how you choose to end a major plot line? Really?
The series becomes so focussed on expanding the lore and connecting everything back to the original Adventure (whether it makes sense or not). Don’t get me wrong I like learning about the Digital World and some of the forces governing it, but there are times where it feels like the show is just reading from a Wikipedia page for twenty minutes to try and explain every little thing. I suppose there’s also the fact that the more that gets explained about the Digital World and the more rules it puts in place, the less surreal it gets. I liked the surrealness of the world at the beginning of Adventure and that has slowly faded away across this series. Also, again going back to character, I can’t help but feel that if the series spent less time explaining then it would have more time to develop its cast.
Okay, I’ve stalled on this long enough, the epilogue. I joke about it, but honestly a lot of my ire has faded over the years. I still think it’s stupid and was a bad idea to begin with, but it doesn’t make me mad anymore, just disappointed. Actually when I think about I can’t think of any series that ended with a ‘and they got married and had kids’ flashforward that I find interesting. I’d be interested in seeing how they got there, but just plonking the adult version of characters on screen doesn’t appeal to me. Then again 02 has possibly the worst of these types of epilogues. Mostly its down to just the random nature of some of these adult versions. Yes seeing how everyone in the world has a Digimon is interesting, but the kids are just carbon copies of their parents, maybe a few hair colour and gender swaps, but the jobs, I mean really? Matt becomes an astronaut, when he has at no point mentioned any interest in space? His main thing throughout the series was that he’s in a band and I’m not saying you can’t go from being a band in high school to being an astronaut, but there’s surely a few steps inbetween. So motivation maybe, a moment of inspiration, anything? No, okay.
There’s also the fact that the epilogue hooks up Matt and Sora and I’m a Tai and Sora shipper so that was bound to annoy me. As far as I’m concerned Tai and Sora were the couple the series was aiming for, it didn’t do a lot with the relationship, but there was chemistry there and then all that gets thrown out by 02. Actually I can feel my ire coming back so I’m going to wrap up.
Digimon Adventure 02 is not a bad series, but it is an uneven one. There are a few great character moments scattered throughout and the Digimon Emperor is one of the best villains the series has ever had. Unfortunately that gets bogged down by tedious and repetitive story elements as well as a confused tone and meandering plot. We never truly get to know the new Digidestined aside from Ken and the old Digidestined are mostly there for moral support and exposition. If you’re going to watch this series I’d do it on fast forward.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.