What’s the Story?
Bizarre occurrences have been happening all across Tokyo, computer systems suddenly going haywire and acting as if they’ve got minds of their own! When Taichi’s mother and little sister become caught on a runaway train it’s the first gambit in an epic adventure that Taichi and his this friends are never likely to forget. Transported to a strange new world, this ‘Digital World’, the chosen human children and their Digimon partners must overcome a reviving evil. If they fail, both the Digital World and ours will be reduced to nothing.
This is not going to be the review I wanted to write for this series. I very much wanted to love this reboot version of the original Digimon Adventure, I want to love every series in the Digimon franchise. True, when I was a kid I was a die hard Pokemon fan and, yes, I was one of those naive fools who thought Digimon was the lesser cousin to the Juggernaut that was Pokemon. Yet as I’ve gotten older the more my interest in Pokeman has faded and my appreciation for Digimon has only grown, heck I dedicated the 5th anniversary year of this blog to reviewing the first three Digimon series, the movie and the Tri films (which you can find HERE). The chance to see the original characters again, but with more modern animation and all the lore that’s been added into the series since it’s inception, just take my money now. And, at first, I was really enjoying this new version of Digmion Adventure. It took things in a very different direction, with a clear focus on the lore and adventure aspect of the series, it felt like an epic quest, which I was totally down for. Unfortunately that didn’t last.
Adventure: 2020 has some pretty big problems as far as I’m concerned, but I can’t quite work out whether those problems are born from the series itself, or my own personal biases. I’ve tried to keep 2020 and the original Adventure separate in my head, they are doing very different things as I mentioned, but there were several points I caught myself thinking, ‘I preferred how that was done in the original’ or ‘I wish they’d included that from the original’. I guess we’ll see how much I bring up the original in this review, but starting from this point I’m going to try to talk about just 2020. So let’s begin with some positives, what did I actually like about Adventure: 2020. Well, as I said the first half of this series is pretty solid. It’s an epic quest that slowly gathers together the characters we all know and love and puts them on a grand journey to save this strange land known as the ‘Digital World’. There’s a clear goal from the offset and it adds some real drive to the episodes. Plus it’s great to see the action and digivolution (yes I’m still calling it digivolution, I’ve been calling it that for nearly three decades now, it’s hard to rewire those parts of my brain) sequences done with an actual budget. True, Agumon and Gabumon get the much flashier sequences, but then don’t they always?
Unfortunately, once we hit the halfway mark of the series, I’d say roughly around the fight with Devimon, things start to falter. The thing with an epic quest and having set goals is, once you reach those that’s kind of the end of the story. There’s so much drive and build up towards the fight with Devimon that once he’s finally defeated it feels like the series has hit it’s climax. Of course then we’ve got to deal with the force behind Devimon, but all the momentum suddenly vanishes from the series. Instead of a clear progressing story, the series feels like its just meandering around, slipping into more episodic content while we all just drum our fingers waiting for the final boss fight. It kinda kills the series for me and then once that evil Digimon is dealt with it it’s revealed there’s an even greater force behind them that we have to deal and arrrgh when is this going to end! This series is too long and I put the fault squarely on the pacing of the second half. There’s no flow to the episodes and it misses opportunity after opportunity to use it’s time effectively and develop these characters.
That’s Adventure: 2020 biggest crime in my book, it’s lacklustre treatment of the characters. To a point I get it, this is a much more plot-driven series that other Digimon series, we’re dealing with lore and story progression more than anything else, but when that starts to meander the deficiencies in the characters really start to show. I barely feel like I know any of these characters and when they do get character-focussed episodes it’s to deal with surface level problems. Izzy/Koshiro is my best example, though I need to bring up the original series to demonstrate what I’m talking about. In the original Adventure series we explored how Izzy’s constant questioning and searching for answers was related to his identity issues after finding out he’s adopted. In 2020? He spends an episode learning to rely on his computer less. Do you see the difference there? One is actual character exploration and develop, one’s an issue for a Saturday morning cartoon. Maybe that’s all Adventure: 2020 was trying to be, a nice breezy kids show, but I expect better from Digimon.
It doesn’t help that Taichi gets so much of the spotlight in this series, even episodes that should naturally be about another Chosen One getting their next digivolution, nope, here comes Taichi riding in to save the day. He even gets an alternate Mega digivolution for Agumon long before most of the other characters have even achieved their first Mega digivolution! What is going on here?! I seriously got to the point in later episodes where I wanted to punch Taichi every time he showed up just to get him off screen and give a chance to the other characters for once. I was honestly surprised that the final battle didn’t just turn into Taichi saving everyone, but everyone got something to do at least. I will end this on a positive note by saying that the final episode of the series was suitably epic with some great animated sequences and an orchestral score that really sold the grandeur of everything. It’s a solid ending, it’s just a shame it took so long to get there.
In the end, Digimon Adventure: 2020 is a disappointment. It starts off well, but the plot begins to meander with constantly shifting end bosses and seriously underdeveloped characters. It doesn’t help that so much time is dedicated to Taichi despite the fact that it never truly explores his character. It is nice to see alternate digivolutions and better quality animation for some sequences, though there’s a noticeable dip as the series goes on. Maybe if you’re not as beholden to the original as I clearly am you can get more enjoyment out of this series, here’s hoping. Until the next trip to the Digital World.
Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.