Anime Corner: Digimon the Movie Review

blog Digimon Movie review title

Going Digital One Last Time!

What’s the Story?

Years ago Tai and Kari had a mysterious egg come out of their dad’s computer late one night. This egg hatched into a Digimon and as they bonded with their new friend, they had no idea that this was only the beginning of their greater destiny and lifelong connection to the Digital World. Years later, Tai and the gang are growing up and starting to drift apart, but they need to reunite fast as a virus Digimon has taken over the Internet and is causing havoc, though things are about to go from bad to worse as the Digimon gets its hands on a couple of missiles. Years later still, with the original gang older now, new Digidestined have stepped in to take their place and on a trip to America they come across a kid called Willis who has a very dangerous stalker.

The Review

And at last we are here, the big one, the grand finale, the end of the long, well-trodden road, or, to put it another way, I’ve been writing this blog for five whole years!!! Cue the lights, set off the fireworks, unleash the dancers and pass out the celebratory Colas. Okay, I actually don’t have the budget for any of that, in fact all I can afford is one party popper, which you can’t see because I write these reviews, not record them. Just use your imagination. Anyway I do find it crazy that I’ve been writing this blog for five years now, I certainly never thought about it going on this long. I’ve talked about this before but I started this blog as a confidence builder for my own voice and writing and in that regard it has worked wonders, while I struggle to read some of the earliest posts on this site, that is a testament to how far I feel I’ve come. I am a much better writer than I was five years ago and part of that is down to this blog. So, to anyone who has liked, commented or even just read any of my past reviews you have my heartfelt thanks and I hope you continue to enjoy what I do here. I will keep trying to make myself a better writer and I’ve yet to run out of things to talk about regarding anime and other animated properties, so expect the reviews to keep coming for a while yet.

Enough patting myself on the back though, because it’s time for the pain. At the start of this year I started a look back at a franchise I’ve loved since childhood, Digimon, and while I loved rewatching the original series, I was disappointed by the recent Digimon Adventure Tri films (though they had a few good moments), but now we’re here, the Digimon Movie and I sit here in both anticipation and dread. See the Digimon Movie is, as far as I’m aware, a special case when it comes to feature films for anime franchises over here in the West. Digimon was popular, not as popular as Pokemon unfortunately, but popular enough to gets its own film released in cinemas. Thing is though, Digimon doesn’t have a regular style movie as Western audiences would think of it (by which I mean something of feature length, around 90 minutes). The majority of Digimon movies last between half an hour to an hour in length, so they’re more big budget OVAs than anything else. So, what did Fox Kids do? Did they work with animators in Japan to create a unique, specifically crafted film for Western audiences to show just how much care and understanding they had for the Digimon franchise?

…….

HaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHaHa!

No, no, they didn’t do that. Instead they took three of the films, cut them up and stitched them together as some Frankenstein monstrosity and shoved it into cinemas to make a quick cash grab. Welcome to the treatment of anime in the 90s/Early 2000s!

We start off on a terrible note, quite literally, with the Digi Rap. I call it a rap, someone is clearly trying to rap while sticking ‘Digi’ in front of every other word. It’s as terrifying as it sounds, but you want to know the worst part? It’s an earworm, it worms its way into your brain and you’ll find yourself humming it late one night, only to then go sit in a corner with your shame. It does fit the feel of the film though, cheap, poorly put together and just thrown out there and left to die. That’s not even the greatest crime of this film though, you want to know what is? I’m going to tell you anyway. It’s Kari, or as she shall henceforth be known, the never-ending constantly spewing exposition machine because she will not shut up! In an effort to make this shambling patchwork mess of a film in any way cohesive, the geniuses behind this film decided to have her narrate almost every single thing that happens. Between her and the soundtrack there’s hardly ever any quiet moments in this film and it ruins a lot of what should be tense or awesome scenes.

Of course there’s some things even this movie can’t ruin, such as a dinosaur fighting a giant parrot. That is the one thing in this film’s favour, it is utterly gorgeous, the animation is directed by Mamoru Hosoda (yes, Mamoru ‘Girl-Who-Leaped-Through-Time’ Hosoda, that guy) and Shigeyasu Yamauchi respectively and though its rushed and chopped up in places it is so good to see Digimon animated with a budget. I wish we could get a whole series animated like this. My favourite section of the film is the second section, based on the film ‘Our War Game!’. Even the version in this film manages to capture some of the sense of scale and excitement of the original, it even has some funny lines, as well as some stupid ones (I still don’t get the three bean joke, though the exasperated phone operator always makes me laugh). There’s some great action, plenty of tension, we get to see Ominmon for the first time and there’s some really fun character moments (Tai X Sora is canon, I accept nothing else!).

That brings me to the soundtrack, I should call this film out on this because the songs only have the most tangential connection to the scenes they’re played over and are often jarring, but I can’t help but love it. The soundtrack is the late 90s distilled down to its purest form and it hits me right in the nostalgia centres of my brain. That’s my real problem with this film, I hate it on a conceptual level, but there are parts of it I just adore. The best way I’ve found to watch this film is to just watch it with the sound down while the soundtrack loops in the background. I suppose that’s what this film represents to me, even when something’s bad, even when we’re dredging through the dark ages of anime, when shows were butchered and mistranslated for the sake of profit and making them ‘acceptable’ to Western audiences, there’s still good to be found. No matter what you do, you can’t completely erase the uniqueness and creativity of anime. There is always good to be found, you’ve just got to look for it sometimes.

The same applies to Digimon, I love this franchise and as the years have gone on I’ve only come to love it more and more. Yes the dub is stuffed full of corny jokes and songs that are tonally inappropriate to the scenes, yes the animation is cheap and the story has no right to be as good as it for something that was meant just to sell toys, even when they make poor decisions or get lost in convoluted plots, I love this franchise and will never stop seeing the good in it. I think we’ll wrap this up here, thank you again to whoever’s read this post and any of the other reviews I’ve put out over these five years. Y’all are amazing and I love ya, here’s to another five years! Hit it DJ!

All right Ready to go? I’m ready. Ready? Let’s go.
The digi-valution is up and runin’
did you see, did you hear, did ya know it was comin’?
Our digi-destiny starts today, let me hear you say

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

When digi win, the digi-vice in hand, its a digi dynamic force in digi land
When the digi past and digi present collide time to digi-phy

Digimon. Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions
Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

The digi world is digi safe, and now will meet its digi fate,
Good digimon to protect what’s right, we’ll have to digi-phy

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions

Digimon digital monsters, Digimon are the champions!

 

fish stamp watchable

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Future Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 6 Review Title

“Coming from Kari it’s probably some kind of prophecy.” – Because Kari’s always been the special one.

What’s the Story?

Tai is lost, Gatomon’s mega level has fused with Meicoomon and created a terrifying monster and the real world looks set to be absorbed into the Digital one. Things have never been more hopeless for the Digidestined, but as Matt struggles with the burden of leadership and Kari deals with losing her brother, their going to have to pull themselves together for one final battle. The fate of two worlds rests on their shoulders, but, hey, look! The 02 Digidestined have finally turned up, well, I say turned up, they at least get name checked, which is more than they have been.

The Review

Sigh. That’s my reaction to this last Digimon Tri film. When I started reviewing this series I was nervous, I knew it had a bad reputation, but, honestly, I enjoyed the first couple of movies. They weren’t perfect, but they were fun, it was great to see some of my favourite characters again and the films were taking the characters in some interesting directions. As the series has gone on though the rot has set it. I’ve talk before about the obvious budget issues this series is having, the cheap animation and the terrible pacing. This film is the apex of that. There’s more still shots and reused animation than ever before and the pacing is completely off kilter. This should be a tense, climatic battle, but instead its drawn out to the point of utter boredom as every snippet of action is swallowed up between scene after scene of talking, most of which is either stuff we’ve gone over before or dull exposition.

I should care, there are plenty of heart-rending moments in this film, Matt struggling with being the leader for a change (and maybe realising he shouldn’t be such an arse to Tai for his decisions), Kari grieving over Tai, the Digimon getting their memories back, the last sacrifice of Nishijima. Heck, Meicoomon’s last moments should have had me balling my eyes out, but they didn’t, because I just don’t care, which is really something special when I remember that I usually adore these characters. I keep thinking back to the series finale of Digimon Tamers and how tense and apocalyptic that felt, just like this film we had a giant monster threatening a city in the real world and our dear Digidestined struggling against impossible odds, the bad guy finding a way to overcome everything they tried. Not to mention that fight was stretched across several episodes and there were several scenes of just talking, but I was never bored.

I think the main problem this series has is that it’s not clear on what it wants to do. There are too many extraneous plots that go absolutely nowhere. We’ve got the whole Meicoomon plot with the infected Digimon and King Drasil’s plan for the Digital world to absorb the real one. Then there’s the government agency that is tasked with dealing with Digimon and the original Digidestined, one of whom has gone mad with grief and wants to reboot the Digital World to get her partner back. There’s whole real world being scared of and mistrusting Digimon plot, the main cast dealing with the growing pains of growing up as well as welcoming a new member. The high school hijinks and slice of life stuff, the two factions of the Digital World battling it out over Meicoomon and so on and so on. This story should easily have fill six films, but not way it’s structured.

They tried to give each film it’s own section of the plot, the first film deals with the setup, the second is high school stuff and Joe and Mimi’s development, third deals with infected digimon, fourth is the reboot consequences, fifth is the prelude to the end and the sixth is the final battle. All of that is fine, the problem is that they need to cram more into each film so that’s there’s not so much dead air as we wait for the plot to stop spinning its wheels and get to the point. In my opinion, and these just a couple of suggestions off the top of my head, the fourth film should have had a confrontation Himekawa, while dealing with the memory loss of their partners the Digidestined should have stumbled across her, learnt about the original Digidestined and there should have been a big confrontation between Himekawa and Meiko for all the horrible things she’s put the kids through. Film five should have been a fight with King Drasil so that, one, we actually get to see him, two, we get to learn why he thinks Digimon are so superior. Then the kids can side with Homeostasis, only to learn that she’s not exactly on their side either.

We don’t get any of that though and instead those plot threads are left to fade into obscurity when they should have been some of the meat of the series. They were right there and nothing is done with them! We never even see King Drasil and he’s dealt with off screen by Homeostasis and Himekawa wandered off a long time ago, so instead we’re left with exposition scene after exposition scene and boring platitude after boring platitude while the animators scramble to find enough budget for them to have another two minute fight scene. That’s what annoys me most about this series as a whole, it has so much potential and so many great ideas and it squanders the majority of them.

The Verdict

In the end Digimon Adventure Tri: Future is pretty much on the same level as the films before it. It suffers from the same pacing and budgetary issues that those films had, crippled by the fact that what should be a climatic battle is stretched across an hour and a half with endless talking and exposition stuffed between all the action scenes. This series had potential, a lot of it, there are some great ideas from giving us a peak at the original Digidestined, to showing conflict in the powers of the Digital World and our main characters struggling with growing up. All of that is squandered though, several conflicts and plotlines either crumbling away to nothing or simply reaching an unsatisfactory conclusion (seriously, could no one punch Dark Gennai in the face, even once?). There are moments in these films that have enjoyed, a lot, the aforementioned original Digidestined and I still love the second film for what it does with Mimi, but, overall, unless you’re a hardcore Digimon fan, avoid these films.

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Next month the Digital Year reaches it’s own conclusion with my 5th Anniversary celebration, my review of Digimon the Movie! Somebody please save me!

Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Coexistence Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 5 Review Title

It’s the end of the world as we know it and that means it’s time for one thing and one thing only… ghost stories!

What’s the Story?

The end is coming, with Meicoomon digivolving to protect Meiko, she’s given in to anger and done exactly what Dark Gennai wanted all along. Now digimon are invading the real world and causing havoc. The Digidestined are powerless to stop it as they’re trapped in a Digital World that appears to be rejecting them with every byte of its data. Even when they do make it back home there’s little they can do as the two factions fighting over the Digital World bring their struggle to the city and the kids have no idea whose side their really on, and when tragedy strikes they realise that they’ve done more harm than good.

The Review

This should have been a trilogy. That’s the conclusion I’ve come to with this film series and I know I still have one more film to go, but I have to say, for the majority of this film I was immensely bored and that should not be happening with the penultimate chapter of an epic showdown with two worlds at stake. The ideas are there, the conflict is there, but it all seems so dull. How do you make giant cyborg dinosaurs, armoured knights and a whole host of other monsters battling it out boring? This film found a way! There are layers of problems to this film, but I think it mostly comes down to pacing and focus.

Let’s start with the pacing. The film spends long, long sequences with characters just talking on and on about the same thing over and over again, you can feel the wheels of the story spinning, but we’re getting precisely nowhere. That’s without even mentioning the goofy antics in the middle where any momentum that the story had managed to gather came screeching to a halt. I liked the high school antics early in the series, but that was because, one, the majority of it was character focussed and, two, it was still early in the story, the stakes were lower and there weren’t Digimon blowing up power stations and threatening the whole world yet! We’re in the endgame now, we should be barrelling towards the conclusion, there should be epic clashes, planning out strategies and confronting villains, not telling one another ghost stories! Ugh. A part of me wonders if this a budget issue, the number of still shots has been increasing with each film and I’m convinced the final film is just going to be pencil sketches so maybe they don’t have the money to animate huge battles and can only manage one talking scene after another. Well, if that’s the case, why are the animating six films?! Make it a trilogy and converse your budget! Again, ugh.

Budget can’t be the whole problem though, because if the animators can only afford to do talking scenes, why don’t they at least get to animate interesting talking scenes. There are plenty of good ideas in this film franchise, I like the idea of different factions fighting it out over the Digital World and I like it even more that both sides can be antagonistic to our heroes, King Drasil wanting Digimon supremacy and Homeostasis wanting balance by any means necessary. Then there’re the human antagonists like Himekawa who has gone completely off the deep end to try and get her partner back. All of these are really interesting opponents for the digidestined to go up against, it’s just a shame we spend barely any time with them. Here’s the thing, the conflict is great on paper, but the Digidestined feel like they’re hardly involved with it. They’d had two conversations with Homeostasis, only one of which was arguing against her actions, the other was vague hints and exposition. We’ve never seen King Drasil and I’m not even sure if the Digidestined are even aware of Himekawa’s descent into madness. These should be big things and the main characters should be confronting the bad guys about their part in everything. In the original Digimon Adventure the gang always had multiple interactions with the main villain of the arc, but here they just stand around looking confused and asking who they should be fighting, which could be interesting. Have the Digidestined argue, fight over who they should side with, but instead they just feel like a bunch of onlookers.

Okay, positives, positives, let’s think of some positives. I am starting to like Meiko more and more. I’m not sure how I feel about the film pushing her and Tai together (I’m a Tai x Sora man until I die), but she’s showing more of a personality and being a bit more assertive. I wish she wasn’t such a complete downer so much of the time, but I’m definitely seeing her more as an actual character and not just some walking stereotype. I wish we got to see more of her childhood with Meicoomon as that looked both fun and ominous, with Meicoomon taken away for testing. I want to know what sort of tests they were doing to her and maybe it could have given us more of a peek into how the Government sees Digimon and what measures they’re willing to take against them. Also, wouldn’t it have been an interesting if the experiments were what gave Meicoomon her infection powers in the first place, rather than her just being born as this Libra thing or whatever she is. Also, wouldn’t it have been really interesting if it was made clear to Meiko that Himekawa, someone who Meiko trusted, has been manipulating her to get Meicoomon into the position she’s currently in. Wouldn’t it have been interesting, not to mention dramatic, to see Meiko confront Himekawa over that. Nah, that’s actually interesting, we can’t have that, let’s make some jokes about Matt being scared of ghosts instead.

The Verdict

I won’t say that Digimon Adventure Tri is beyond salvation at this point, but I will say that the final film has a lot to work to do if it wants to me to do anything other than scream at my scream for an hour and a half straight. There are plenty of good ideas in this film, the problem is that it does absolutely nothing with them. This isn’t helped by an endless supply of cyclical conversations and more focus on goofy antics rather than our villains or the conflict with them, we should be barrelling towards our conclusion, but instead there’s a distinct impression of going nowhere fast. Hopefully I’ll feel less ranty with the next, and final, film.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Loss Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 4 Review Title

Izzy, he knows his tea, all tea, apparently.

What’s the Story?

The Digidestined have returned to the Digital World, but while everything may look like it once did, that doesn’t mean that things are the same. For one their partners have no memory of them or their past adventures and, while the Digidestined do their best to reconnect, there are darker machinations at work. The infection, the distortions and even the reboot have been part of a wider plan, and as the architectures of this scheme finally step into the light, the Digidestined find themselves in a desperate situation.

The Review

That was better, I won’t say it was exactly good, but it was a lot better than the last outing for this film franchise. For one we’re finally starting to get some answers and if you’ll permit me a moment to geek out, the original Digidestined! I’d completely forgotten they were a thing since they’re pretty much a one off reference in the first series, not only that, but their partners become the Sovereigns! Honestly I nearly died from the first five minutes of this film and it makes me cry that it managed so much world building and excitement and sheer nostalgic glee than the rest of the film put together.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s the pacing that is killing this series more than anything else. For something that has ‘Adventure’ in the title, there is precious little of that. We’re back in the Digital World, we get to see all the old favourite locales and we’ve even got a couple of Dark Masters dropping by for a fight and what do the cast of this film spend most of their time doing? Sitting around and talking! Don’t get me wrong the original Adventure had plenty of sitting around and talking, but it all felt relevant and kept the sense of apprehension, because these were kids who were lost with no idea where they were or how they were going to fix it. They talked to find a solution to their problems and that kept the story moving forward. Here when the characters have a conversation it all feels far too relaxed. Yes, the characters know more of their situation now and they all chose to come to the Digital world, but they have no way to get back or communicate with the real world. There should be more of a sense of urgency here and there just isn’t. I swear you could take away half this film’s running time and you wouldn’t miss a thing.

In fact it’s only the last act of the film were things really pick up because the villains have finally started doing something (half the fight is spent watching digivolutions cycles, but I’ll complain about that later). Still, it is a positive. We now know more about the villains and what their eventual end goals are, we even get a sense of the greater conflict in the Digital World, though I’m still not entirely sure how exactly Meicoomon fits into everything. I get part of it, she’s still infected and that will somehow lead to her destroying the Digital World and separating humans from Digimon, forever, somehow. Okay so we still need some more explanations on that front, but I guess I’m glad we’re just getting a better idea of what everyone is after here.

Speaking of things to be glad about, Meiko, I mean she’s still kind of boring, but if we can get more of the assertive Meiko and less awkward Meiko then I may just end up accepting her as part of the gang, which honestly sounds harsher than I mean it to. She’s still in the non-character area for me, but she’s slowly edging her way out of it, if we get a few more character moments with her I think she’ll be fine, though that brings up the pacing again. With how low key and relaxed this series, you’d think we’d spend that time on some decent character moments and while Matt gets a nice little moment admitting that everyone’s putting a bit too much pressure on Tai, and Sora gets some good moments dealing with her partner not remembering her and not wanting anything to do with her, but that’s all, moments. Honestly I feel like more time should have been spent on that for all the Digidestined, if you’re not going to ramp up the plot to get us excited, at least ramp up the emotions.

I said I enjoyed this more than last time, right? I think that’s another problem with this series, it’s fine at first, but the more I sit here, writing reviews, the more the think about this series, the more annoyed I get. The high school was fun for a couple of films, but now the series just feels like it’s stuttering, its not hitting me in the feels like it should. Maybe it is the budget, because this series is clearly struggling in the funding department, there’s been a lot of still shots and cheap animation in the previous installments, but we’ve hit a whole new level with this outing. So I have to ask, why is this six films again? I know it was planned out as a, what, twenty-six episode series or something like that, but they’re clearly stretching the series and the budget here. Why couldn’t this have been a trilogy? The plot would move faster, we’d have more money for epic fights and heartbreaking scenes, I just don’t get it.

One last thing to mention, I know the whole Ken running around in his Digimon Emperor get up was solved last film, but it looks like that plot thread has finally run its complete course and all I can ask is, why?! Why did Gennai disguise himself as Ken? What was the point? The Digidestined would have had exactly the same reaction to Gennai turning evil as Ken. ‘Wait, there’s our former friend, why’s he acting like a bad guy!’ ‘I don’t know, let’s send him a message and just shrug when we don’t get a reply.’ It’s not as if Gennai is trying to trick the gang because he pretty quickly drops the disguise right in front of them. So. What. Was. The. Bloody. POINT?! Ken better show up at the end of this series and tell us he’s been on holiday in Bermuda or something or I’m going to be even more annoyed.

The Verdict

All in all, I seem to have ranted more than I was expecting to with this review. There are good parts to Digimon Adventure Tri: Loss, the first five minutes expanded the world so much and I genuinely love them, also I did enjoy the moments with Tai, Matt and Sora and it was great to see all the mega digivolutions again. Those are just moments though and overall, while the story finally feels like its going somewhere, its doing it at too slow a pace for my taste. Maybe next time will be better, we live in hope.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 3 Review Title

The cracks are showing.

What’s the Story?

The infection is spreading and not even the digidestined’s partners are safe. What’s more the disturbances are causing more and more problems in the real world, everything from air traffic control to power systems and after a dire warning from a mysterious entity its clear that unless something is done soon both the real world and the digital one are in grave danger. With so little information though and time quickly running out, the digidestined may be forced to take drastic action. Maybe it’s time for a reboot.

The Review

It had to happen at some point, I guess, but I’ve finally come across one of the Tri films were the good stuff (for me at least) doesn’t outweigh the problems that this series has. I know the high school stuff isn’t for everyone and there’s not so much of the ‘Adventure’ that’s in the title, but overall I really liked the first two films. They were great little character pieces, seeing how our characters have matured and grown over the years and how they’re still struggling with that process. I should love this third film; it’s way more heartbreaking than the first two and this time the focus is back on the Digimon and their connection to their partners, which has always been a strong suit of this franchise. The problem is this film is incredibly uneven, the scenes with the Digidestined and their infected partners (before and after they find out) are beautiful and tragic, but that’s not the entirely of this film and the other stuff is dragged down by problems that have been building since the first film.

Let’s start by talking about Meiko. I don’t what the majority opinion on her is (mostly ‘cause I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers regarding this series, I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve tried), but for me indifference sums it up pretty well. Don’t get me wrong, I have a whole heap of sympathy for her situation and she seems a nice enough person, but none of that makes her interesting. Meiko, to me, comes across as just your typical shy girl stereotype and outside of her being relevant to the plot I see no reason why she has to be included in these films. Even her design is generic and boring, which is a problem when a chunk of this film needs me to be emotionally invested in her plight as she deals with the shock ending of the last film and I just don’t care. Honestly it feels like the film had to infect Patamon, or any of the regular Digimon, just to get a reaction out of me.

Then we come to the government agents, Himekawa and Nishijima. Now I like Nishijima, he has this cool, slacker teacher vibe going on and he seems to genuinely care about the kids and their plight, I like it when not every adult is an arse of one degree or another. My problem is with Himekawa, mostly because I just can’t get a read on her. At times she’s the mysterious, hard-nosed agent who clearly has some sort of emotional problem in her past that has led her to be so closed off, and yet at others she’s genuinely warm and open, helping the kids out. She’s also up to something and not a good something (no one grins that evilly with good intentions at heart). I can’t get a read on a her, none of her personality quirks are meshing together and unless we get some proper explanation as to what’s going on with her I feel like both her and the whole government side of this plot is just going to collapse into nothing. We’re halfway through the film series and I still feel like I know next to nothing about what’s actually going on.

Speaking of plots that have very little explanation and at the going rate are going to implode in disastrous fashion, let’s talk about the 02 digidestined, again. I get that they’re in continuity and you need to say where they are otherwise people will be asking, but if you’re not going to use them, don’t keep bringing them up! Name check them and move on, don’t keep going back to them and then brush it off a second later. It just drives me up the wall, they’ve seen their friend acting all evil and all they do is go knock at his door and then leave two seconds later, apparently happy that they’ve heard nothing from them. Your friends are missing! This should be a bigger deal! It’s not like I care all that much about the 02 digidestined, but if these films aren’t going to do anything with them, then they shouldn’t have brought them up in the first place.

It’s frustrating because, as I said, the stuff with the Digimon being infected is really heartbreaking to watch, but at the same time it’s not enough this time to paper over the cracks. It doesn’t help that the film has a really good emotional climax with the whole reboot, and then goes on for another twenty minutes. I know there was a lot of behind the scenes stuff where this was originally meant to be a TV series and then it got repackaged as films, but this is the first time I’ve really felt that. I mean I can see all the spots in the other two films where I’d cut them up to make three or four episodes, but they still hung together as a cohesive whole. As I said at the beginning, this film is incredibly uneven. I’m hoping we get more explanations in the next film, because the plot feels like its finally starting and for that to be engaging we need a better idea of the stakes and the goals at play.

The Verdict

All in all Digimon Adventure Tri: Confession, for me at least, is the first stumble of the film series. It should have been an emotional gut punch, but the more effective scenes are all weighed down by problems that have plagued the previous installments turned up to eleven. We don’t know much about what’s really going on and there are several new characters who are either boring or poorly executed. Hopefully the next instalment can fix things a little and start giving us some answers.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Determination Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 2 Review Title

Leomon, the Sean Bean of the Digital World.

What’s the Story?

With Tai and Matt still at loggerheads and a new digidestined to welcome, the gang decide to take a trip to a spa. While they manage to integrate their newest member, the boys are still avoiding their problems and they’re not the only ones. Joe is torn between his studies and his role as a digidestined, meanwhile Mimi makes a rash decision that only leads to the public becoming more afraid of Digimon. The digidestined feel like they’re falling apart and the infected Digimon keep on coming, as well as an old friend in an even older costume. Oh, and Leomon shows up too, so who wants to bet on when he’s going to die this time?

The Review

The subtitle for this film feels wrong, it shouldn’t be ‘Determination’, it should be ‘Growing’ because that’s what’s happening to the characters throughout. This second film in the tri series takes a more low key approach, there’s less digimon attacks and more daily life, heck we even squeeze a hot spring trip and a school festival into this outing and, surprisingly, I enjoyed it more than the last film. I’m already invested in these characters and it’s great to see them maturing. Yes watching giant dinosaurs and flower people throw down is exciting, but I’m interested in seeing how these characters struggle with their choices and what their eventual conclusions are going to be. Besides both the hot springs and the festival were really fun, I like to see these characters bounce off of one another (and I’m definitely starting to ship Izzy and Mimi. Honestly you never used to be able to get him away from a computer, now you just show him a picture of Mimi in a cheerleader’s outfit and he’s off).

Speaking of Mimi, she is my favourite character this film and, honestly, she’s gone up several levels in my estimation. That speech she gave to Meiko about never bottling anything up not only perfectly fits her character, but it’s also a prime example of what Mimi does best (as well as being some advice that everyone could do with listening to once in while, myself included). There’s a reason Mimi got the crest of sincerity. This whole film felt designed to give me a deeper understanding of Mimi, which I appreciate as she’s never really been my favourite Digidestined. Here she’s rash to act, but she’s doing it from a good place, it just goes wrong and backfires on her terribly. I’m going to have to watch Adventure again, but I can’t really remember a moment when Mimi ever truly doubted herself and in this film we do get to see that and yet she comes out of the other side. Yes Mimi tends to act before she thinks and sometimes she says and does things without taking into account other people’s feelings, but she’s so open and honest with her feelings that you can’t help but do the same in return. I like that when the girls are whispering about Mimi in class, she looks straight at them and tells them to ‘don’t talk about me behind my back’, which again perfectly encapsulates her. If you’re going to say something to Mimi, say it to her face, ‘cause that’s what she’ll do with you.

Joe on the other hand gets less resolution to his arc from this film and the last, but then I feel that’s the point of his arc. Joe is torn between helping his friends and being a digidestined, and getting on with his studies and his life. He wants to grow up, but he’s caught at a crossroads and no matter how much he questions himself, he just can’t come to a satisfactory answer, but that’s the point. We all struggle with who we are and what we want to do with our lives, heck it’s probably one of the most common questions explored in any young adult media and sometimes there isn’t an easy answer. Sometimes we’re just who we are. People are messy and complicated and contradictory and we have to come to terms with that and Joe is on that path, even if he is putting way too much pressure on himself while he does it. I love both Joe and Mimi in this film, they are without a doubt the best parts of this film and if the other films in the series take a similar look at the other digidestined, then I am really going to love these films.

That aside though, there isn’t really much plot to this film. Oh there’s mystery messages and prophecies and I really am getting curious about those government agents, I like them both, but I want to know what their deal is. This is a very light film, it’s more focussed on the emotions than giving us any concrete plot progression. Infected digimon turn up, but outside of Mimi’s mistake and the climax, they’re just background noise. The rest of the digidestined are also relegated to the sidelines, though they get some cute interactions. The digimon themselves get their own little comedy act going and you realise that they are all just really big kids and it’s a lot of fun to see their antics and listen to their quick-fire banter.

That about brings me to the point where I’m going to have to pull up the plot of this film and that mostly comes down to the climax. Firstly, Ken, is nobody going to ask why he’s suddenly dressed as the Digimon Emperor again or where he’s been? For that matter is nobody going to mention the other 02 digidestined? I mean we see Imperialdramon and you kind of need both Ken and Davis to get him, he is a digivolution of a fusion. Anybody? No? No, okay. Next, the mega digivolutions. While it is great to see the mega levels of Palmon and Gomamon, I can’t help feel its kind of crammed into the ending, but then that’s the whole climax. Rushed. Ken shows up, battle starts, Gomamon and Palmon digivolve and then they digvolve again and then again. It feels like this should be a more momentous occasion, but it’s not. Also if the climax was a bit better paced we might get some time to question Ken, no, I’m not letting that go.

The Verdict

All in all, Digmon Adventure Tri: Determination was an improvement over the first film, if still flawed. There’s less of a focus on action and setting up, and more on the growth of our favourite characters and I am perfectly happy with that. If we could get a less rushed climax, that would be great, as well as some answers about Ken and the infected Digimon, that would be great too. Then again, with the ‘shock’ ending of this one it looks like the plot is kicking back in so maybe I’ll get my wish next time. I wonder what mega digivolutions we’ll get next time?

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion Review

Blog Digimon Adventure Tri 1 Review Title

The Mon are back in town!

What’s the Story?

Life has moved on for the Digidestined. Now in high school the gang are finding themselves drifting apart, torn between commitments, relationships and even just deciding on their futures it doesn’t look like our destined heroes will ever get together again. Then strange disturbances begin to plague to city, signals cutting out and machines going haywire, not to mention the sightings of a very big red bug. Soon Digimon have found their way back into the real world and the Digidestined find themselves caught up in more battles, but is fighting really the answer? Tai isn’t so sure.

The Review

When I first heard about Digimon Adventure Tri, I was excited and I mean really excited (scrap me off the ceiling and lock in a rubber room for a few hours levels of excited). Why wouldn’t I be? I adore the original Digimon Adventure (check out my review HERE) and I’m getting the chance to hang out with all my favourite characters all over again? Sign me up! Then, the trepidation set in. First it was the fact that I couldn’t actually see movies (or even the movies broken up into episodes) as they weren’t being legally streamed in my region, at least nowhere that I had access to. That meant I had to wait to see the first film and by the time I could get it on DVD a couple of things started to happen.

For starters there was the realisation that this was going to be in continuity and that meant one thing, it had to lead up to the Digimon 02 epilogue. That meant hooking Sora and Matt up and I’ve already expressed my feelings about that in my review (check it out HERE, I’m doing a lot of call backs this review, aren’t I?). I wasn’t sure I wanted to see that, I’m much happier in my little bubble with the first series and the movie, where I can pretend that the epilogue never happened. Then came another nail, opinions on the Internet weren’t exactly the most favourable towards tri. I did my best to avoid any spoilers or any detailed reviews, but the vibe I was getting wasn’t good so, in the end, I put off watching any of the tri movies (the price of the DVDs didn’t help either, but then buying physical media for anime is harder and more expensive all over the place, but that’s a topic for another time).

This being my Digital Year though, I decided I’d put things off for long enough. I had to watch tri at some point and after watching the first film what I can say is…it’s good. It didn’t exactly blow me away, but it’s a start, there’s plenty of mystery and plenty of places for the story to go. I’ve not seen any glaring warning signs yet. This first film is going for a very different feel than the original series which, after a little mental adjustment, I’m okay with. As the film is set in the real world there’s less of an adventure feel, there’s no strange and wondrous world for the gang to contend with, no peeling back the layers on the Digital World (though judging by the opening few minutes I think that’s going to change as the series goes on and we’re going to get into some deep mythology for the series, which I’m looking forward to).

Instead this first film is more focused on the kids and their relationships, as they grow older. There’s a bit of romance in the air between certain characters (I’ve never shipped Izzy and Mimi before, but I can go with it) and the triangle developing between Sora, Tai and Matt isn’t as bad as I’d dreaded it would be, mostly because Sora hasn’t decided yet, but for the moment the tension in their relationship feels natural. Actually, feeling natural is a good way to sum up a lot of the relationships in this series, the way that the gang has drifted apart is understandable. People have different responsibilities and have to juggle various portions of their life. I also really like Tai’s arc of him struggling what to do with his future and really being able to decide what action he should take. I was like that for a long time, so I get Tai’s trepidation, even if the movie ends without any real answer to Tai’s problems. The film has a more mature sense to it, the characters dealing with relatable problems and a fair few quiet, contemplative scenes. That being said the whole Tai and Matt butting heads was starting to get on my nerves by the end of the run time since the argument pretty much went in circles and the movies doesn’t offer up a solution so it feels like we haven’t really gotten anywhere.

I definitely enjoyed this film, I like seeing these characters again and seeing what they’d gotten up, but I also have to admit that it hasn’t really blown me away. The plot doesn’t really accomplish much, the whole film just set up. We catch up with the characters, have Digimon return to the real world, have a couple of fights, introduce a secretive government organisation that knows about the Digimon, Tai and Matt have an argument and we get a new Digidestined at the end. That’s pretty much it. There’s definitely plenty to explore in future films, I want to know more about this government group and these ‘infected’ Digimon. Also some mention of the 02 Digidestined would be nice since I’m assuming they died in the beginning (what else am I supposed to take away from the red backgrounds and their silhouettes falling to the ground?), not that anyone in the film cares, no one even mentions them. I find that both hilarious and tragic.

The Verdict

Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion is very much the start of something, rather than a film in its own right. It’s nice to see some of favourite characters again and to have animation with at least a modicum of a budget behind it. It introduces a lot of things that have potential for the future, relationship tension, secretive government organisations and hints at the deeper mythos of Digimon. The film is taking the series down a more mature route and I think it’ll be good to see the characters I grew up with finally grow up themselves. I’m hopeful for the next instalment, but we’ll see how that pans out in a month’s time.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

Anime Corner: Digimon Tamers Review

Blog Digimon Tamers Review Title

What happens when you let the guy who wrote Serial Experiments Lain write for Digimon?

What’s the Story?

Takato is a huge fan of Digimon, he loves the TV show and playing the card game with his friends. He spends his days dreaming about what it would be like to actually have his own Digimon, even going so far as to design his partner. One day he finds a mysterious blue card in amongst his trading cards and after swiping it through his card reader finds that the Digimon he created, Guilmon, has come to life in the real world. However he’s about to find out that being a Digimon Tamer isn’t so easy, between differing views with his fellow tamers, a never ending hoard of Digimon causing havoc in our world and a secret government organisation, life is about to get very complicated for the newest Tamer. And that’s only the start, bring the tissues people, you’ll need them.

The Review

And we’re finally here, my favourite series of Digimon (and the last one I watched as a kid). Don’t get me wrong Adventure will always hold a special place in my heart and I will always adore it, but for me this is the series where Digimon hit its peak. Everything came together, the storytelling and character development reached another level, the villains are a whole new plane of creepy and threatening and my god the trauma this series inflicts on its characters. This series basically takes all the bits I loved about Adventure, the sense of fun, the surreal Digital World, the unfolding sense of mystery and that spirit of, well, adventure and ties it to a dark sci-fi thriller. I love it! Also there’s no tonally inappropriate insert songs and bad puns to deflate the tension (though there’s plenty of bad jokes, but I kind of love those too. A lot of the comments from the teachers and other adults that have obviously been added for the dub are kind of hilarious, if silly).

There are several themes to this season, but personally I think one of the most important is that of consequences. Every act in this series has a consequence, whether that’s a good or a bad thing tends to be up to the character and what they can make of it. For example Takato wishes for a Digimon all this own and like most boys his age he makes it big and powerful, which tends to make Guilmon hard to hide. Also there’s the fact that Guilmon is like a wilful puppy in the beginning and can’t help but get himself into trouble. Now in any other show this would lead to wacky ‘hide the pet from the parent’ style hijinks, but not this series. No we see Takato panic and nearly break down when he worries over what will happen to Guilmon. We get another example later on when Guilmon first digivolves and we spend an entire episode trying to get him to de-digivolve so that they can hide him again. This is something that has never cropped up in a series before (or since to my knowledge), usually whoever’s digivolved for the episode reverts back to their rookie form for narrative convenience by the time the end credits roll, but not here.

This series also likes to explore the question of what if Digimon actually were real. What would it be like to actually own a monster that could take out a tank if it wanted to, which for a kid like me was a brilliant concept (I mean I am so Takato in this scenario, if I dug through some of the boxes at the bottom of my wardrobe I’m sure I’d find my own Digimon designs, as well as Pokemon and Yugioh and the little comic strips I used to do). It adds to the maturity and of the characters as this time have a whole heap of new problems to deal with other than just the usual monster-of-the-week. I also like that the characters all have their own differing moral philosophy, Takato is very much about how awesome it is to have a Digimon and can sometimes get carried away with that, while at the same time not wanting to actually hurt anyone. Rika sees Digimon as just data and is only concerned with being the very best (at first, I’ll come back to this point). Henry on the other hand is a pacifist at heart, he’s seen his partner get hurt in the past and is determined that he will never fight again, but eventually learns that there are times when you have to.

I like the differing perspectives of the cast and how they clash and this even applies to the villains as well. It’s mentioned several times in the show (and yet another sign how the Digimon franchise, and this season in particular, refuses to talk down to its audience), that good and evil are a matter of perspective. Many of the early series villains turn out to be allies later down the line and that is mostly down to changing perspective. Outside of the very last villain of the series it could be argued that none of the early villains are truly evil. Oh none of them are all that nice by any stretch and they definitely do some evil things, but most of that is down to their own prejudices. Yamaki believes that Digimon are abominations and should be wiped from our world, while the Sovereign and the Devas believe that humans are a danger to them and need to be eradicated. Neither are good, but as their viewpoints are proved wrong again and again until eventually they change and provide some invaluable help in defeating the ‘True Enemy’ (the D-Reaper by the way wins the award for creepiest Digimon baddie of all time, especially the Jeri D-Reaper clone. I still have nightmares about that thing).

The only possible complaint I have about this season is that it’s a little slow to start. The series isn’t much concerned with its monster-of-the-week format at the start, especially as it’s having so much fun exploring its concept of ‘what if Digimon were real’. It makes a lot of the first half of the series feel a bit like a slice of life series with occasional monster fights. However where that works in this series’ favour is that it gives us time to actually explore our cast and we get a pretty solid dig into both the Tamers and their Digimon partners (who are more than just compliments/contrasts to their partners and actually have fully formed personalities of their own). The characters, especially the main three develop so much across the series. Rika goes from being closed off and always up for a fight to someone who’s heart is open to everyone and is eager to give up fighting for good. Henry goes from someone who’s controlled and restrained, always carrying the weight of the world and will blame himself for every little thing that goes wrong to someone who’s more willing to accept help from others and knows when he has to fight. Takato goes from a hapless newbie, always worrying and doubting himself to a gallant knight, driven and capable and who will never give up.

Though if we’re talking about arcs, then Impmon’s arc has to be the greatest arc in all of Digimon (and I will fight anyone who says otherwise). He goes from annoying mischief maker and angry tsundere to a power mad psycho and murderer all the way back round to tragic hero begging for forgiveness. Seriously that scene where he begs Jeri to let him save her is just heartbreaking (that may just be my favourite scene in all of Digimon, which probably says something about me). And don’t even get me started on Jeri, what this show puts that poor girl through is nothing short of horrific. Then again so much of the Jeri/D-Reaper part of this season is straight out of a horror anime and credit were credit is due the English dub of this manages to put such a lot of that a cross without being cut or censored in any way (well, not any way that I’d expect from the time this was made).

I still find it amazing that for a season that starts off so happy and joyful, despite its occasional stab at the feels, turns into such an apocalyptic and dark series. The final arc feels like one long gruelling battle, there’s such a sense of dread and just how outmatched our heroes are. A lot of this backed up by the fact that in this series we know that there is actual death, yeah there’s no return to a digiegg and get reborn here, you die you stay dead and we get to see it on screen (poor Leomon). Of course that just makes it all the more epic and joyful when the Tamers finally do win, though even that comes with a bittersweet twist of the knife. At least the series ends on a hopeful note.

The Verdict

I could talk about this series all day and probably a few more besides, but I’ll leave it here for now. Digimon Tamers is my favourite Digimon series, for me every element just clicks into place perfectly. From the deeper character arcs to a story that builds and builds to a dramatic finale and isn’t afraid to throw in tougher and more complex subjects than you’d expect of a show aimed at selling toys to kids. It’s has just the right balance of hope, joy and emotional trauma. I still get sucked into it watching it now and it gets me in the feels every time. If you’re going to watch only one Digimon series, watch this one.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.  

 

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure 02 Review

Blog Digimon Adventure 02 Review Title

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.

The Review

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.

The Verdict

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.

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.

Anime Corner: Digimon Adventure Review

blog digimon adventure review title

Digimon are the Champions!

What’s the Story?

Across the world things are getting weird, sudden floods in areas known for drought and snowstorms in the middle of July. At Summer Camp, Tai and a bunch of other kids have no idea that any of this is happening, until seven glowing devices fall out of the sky and the kids find themselves in a bizarre new world. With nothing but each other and their Digimon partners to rely on the kids have to find a way to survive and, hopefully, get home.

The Review

So this is it, the very beginning, the very first season of Digimon. The show that started it all and it could be argued is the best season of Digimon (though personally Tamers just edges ahead for me). What is it that makes this series so great, especially when looking back at it? For me its the maturity of it. Yes it’s a show about a bunch of kids with colourful monster pets getting into a weekly fight with bigger, scarier monsters, but there’s a depth and intelligence to the writing and characters that goes beyond what this show calls for. I mean this show was created purely to sell toys and games, it could have made its money off of all the cool monster designs alone and just had a story that repeated itself non-stop *cough* Pokemon *cough*. Instead of that we get a smart and heartfelt tale of kids trying to survive in a bizarre and often nonsensical world and if that’s not a metaphor for growing up I don’t know what is.

The first few episodes alone are the best example I can give of how this series approaches its characters and situation. Digmon is an Isekai series (a ‘different world’ series for those unfamiliar with the term) and while it does play into the power fantasy elements that that subgenre is known for, what kid in the 90s didn’t want their own personal monster? However this series also looks at some of the actual consequences of suddenly finding yourself in a completely different world. The kids are often talking about the things they’re missing from home, or the fact that they’re hungry or tired. You know, the things you’d actually talk about if suddenly got transported to some place else without any preparation or supplies. If the kids don’t exactly talk like real kids (Prodigious!), they at least act like real people.

There’s also the fact that all of these kids are smart. Oh sure they’re not all computer geniuses like Izzy, spouting off exposition, but when they discuss their situation they all bring up valid points (you know, except for Izzy and his belief that this is all the fault of aliens). They talk about whether its best to stay where they are or keep moving, how to ration what supplies they have as well as slowly learning about the Digital World. That’s another part of this series, it is actually a really solid sci-fi story. You forget with all the mythology that has been added to the franchise over the years, but back when this all started we had no idea about the Digital World and we’re not told much going into this.

The Digital World is mystery across the first couple of arcs of this series, with Tai and the gang learning the rules as they go along. It does lead to some interesting dilemmas like for example when the kids question whether they’re actually real or not, have they become digital like everything around them and are there real bodies back in the real world? Which leads to Tai thinking he’s invincible because, after all, he’s just a string of ones and zeroes, until Izzy points out that if something happens to him here, it could happen to him in the real world too, which leads to Tai becoming paralyzed with fear when faced with a life or death choice. Again not the kind of dilemmas I was expecting as a kid when I just wanted to see the colourful monsters.

I also love just how surreal the Digital World is, at the beginning at least, admittedly the more we learn about the place and the more accustomed we become to it, the less crazy it gets. However there’s something about the first few episodes with isolated tram cars out in the middle of a lake and random phone booths sat on a beach that just appeals to me. (Talking about the phone booths for a second can I just say how much I love them and the bizarre messages the kids get when they pick up the receivers? My favourite has to be ‘This number only exists in your imagination, please hang up and don’t call back’. I’ll admit I’m so tempted to have that as my voicemail message).

Let’s talk about the characters for a paragraph or two. In the grand scheme of things they didn’t need to be much more than a collection of stereotypes, and on the surface they certainly look like that. We’ve got the leader, the cool one, the cautious one, the nerd, the kid, the tomboy and even the girly girl, that was all they needed to be carry to the series. And yet each character has shades and more depth than was strictly necessary and that’s what makes them so lovable. Every character has there own issues and drama that they have to deal with, and its more than just an issue of the week, its continual evolution of the characters. Whether its Tai dealing with his own impatience and cockiness, Matt learning how to be a big brother, Sora doubting if she has the capacity to love or Izzy continually questioning everything around him because he’s found out that he’s adopted and is struggling to accept that. These are all big and important issues and more than you’d expect to find in a cheap show meant to sell toys.

Unfortunately while the kids gets plenty of characterisation and development, the Digimon themselves don’t. It is understandable, there are fourteen main characters at the start of this series alone, they can’t all get a detailed character sheet to work off of. As such its the Digimon that take the hit and I think that was the right decision. As cool as the Digimon are, its the people that I care about the most and the ones that we’re following on this journey. The Digimon are simply either compliments or contrasts to the partners, helping to highlight both their strengths and their flaws and that’s the way to go with a series like this.

That brings me to a few other flaws with this series and I’m starting with the dub. Now while I love the dub, it is of its time and cheap as you’d expect. All of the main voice actors give solid performances and fill their characters with a lot of warmth and depth, even if they have some weird lines at times. The guest voice actors are hit and miss, I’m still not sure whether the Elvis impersonation they use for Etemon is hilariously good or hilariously bad or somewhere in the middle. There’s also a few dubbing errors as you’d expect, but by far the biggest crime of the dub is the puns. There are so many puns crammed into the scripts that it often derails what could be a tense situation and trust me I love bad puns and some of them are funny, but there are so many times when I just have to hang my head and groan. The best example I have of this is in the fight with the big bad at the end where the villain stops mid mad cackle to question his poorly written motivation, which while funny kind of removes the tension that was making him a credible threat so he just becomes another monster to beat. I’m not even going to get started on the upbeat pop songs that are played over what should be tense action scenes because for the most part the soundtrack is pretty good.

Lastly, let’s talk about the final big bad and the whole of the final arc in general. I am of the opinion that the final arc of this series should have been the Myotismon arc. Myotismon is the coolest and most effective villain of the series (there’s a reason the guy keeps coming back in one form after another throughout the franchise). It actually gives the series a really good send off, but no, we have to move on to the Dark Masters who lack the schemes and raw menace of Myotismon. The only way that they’re better is that they’re more powerful, that’s it and just making the bad guys stronger doesn’t make them more interesting. Also there’s that weird part where Matt goes off on his own to be the brooding loner kid and gets into a fight with Tai because that is required to happen at some point, whether it flies in the face of character development or not.

The Verdict

All in all, despite a lackluster final arc, more bad puns than you can fit in a Tim Vine joke book and some oddly placed upbeat pop songs, this is a fantastic series. It’s characters and situation have a depth and maturity to them that are more than you’d expect from a show meant to sell toys and games to little kids. This show had no budget to speak of and yet it took what it had and made something great out of it. It’s sweet, intelligent and heart-warming, the perfect adventure!

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Chris Joynson, aka the Infallible Fish, is a writer, blogger and lover of animation living in Sheffield. The blog updates every Friday.