I’m going to be perfectly honest, as children television shows go, particularly anime, Digimon is one of the best examples of going well beyond just selling the audience a silly toy or other apparel. In comparison to the obvious “inspiration” that is Pokemon, it was clear Digimon’s story had far more thought put into it, but there are reasons to why Pokemon is more relevant than Digimon in today’s pop culture, but this isn’t the place to talk about that.
In a “surprising” announcement made over a year ago, Toei animation confirmed another Digimon series in the works. The real surprise, however, was that this new series is to be a direct sequel to Digimon Adventure 02.
I’ll be honest, after the disaster that was both Sailor Moon Crystal and Dragonball Super, my expectations were tempered to lesser extend than what my inner child wanted to be excited about. More and more teasers started to come out, the character designs were revealed, and fans became staved for more. Initially I was a bit disappointed in the new designs (Not the digimon though, they look true to the original and better than they ever did), the human cast was stricken with many called “Same face” syndrome.
It didn’t help that like Sailor Moon Crystal, Digimon Tri was also pushed back and was changed into a different format, to be released as movies instead of a new tv series. More and more I started to doubt this new project, something to be a cash grab on the series’ 15th anniversary.
Then it finally came out yesterday, to most countries thanks to Crunchyroll’s surprise announcement of streaming it on their service.
All of my previous fears were immediately put to rest, the more I watched, the more apparent that unlike Toei’s other failures, this one was indeed something for all of the “digidestined” of the world, something worth the wait and hits squarely right in the childhood with great care and attention.
Set three years after 02, Tri picks up at the cast currently going through their highschool years. (I’m going to refer to the character’s original Japanese names, sorry Foxbox generation, though the names aren’t too radically different) Taichi (Tai) is still playing soccer, Yamato (Matt) broke up; with his band and made a new one with one only a highschool boy would think up, Sora (Sora, see what I mean) is apparently still dating Yamato, Koushiro (Izzy, okay this one was a bit sketchy) is still the computer wiz we all still loved (Who even creates a set of goggles for Taichi that have plot relevance now), Jo (Joe) is still studying his ass off but even has a girlfriend now that we don’t get to see (Don’t worry, even the cast themselves are questioning this declaration), Mimi (Mimi… lol) still gallivanting in North America but manages to make it back in time for the this new series, Hikari (Kari) is more of older sister to Taichi rather than a younger one, though Taichi is still a bit immature it only makes my observation more solid, and Takeru (TK) who’s more or less still the same, bit of a lady-killer as Hikari points out (Why aren’t they dating yet?). And there’s a new digi-destined, who I will not spoil though it’s very obvious but isn’t revealed until the last part of the movie (Or four-part anime that Crunchyroll decided to it split up into).
Not one character acts completely out of character, everyone is how they have been 15 years ago and Tri goes far beyond the call to stay in continuity (There’s a few retcons that seem to be brewing, but as a fan of digimon that witnessed the end of 02, I hope they do). The character banter is just like old times, Koushiro still goes into his own world when speaking tech, Mimi is still a bit bratty and over enthusiast, and Taichi and Yamato still get at each other’s throats. The only thing that feels off is that Taichi kinda worries about things that we would expect coming from Yamato, it’s feels so contrived. Speaking of which, Tri kinda goes out of its way to be too nostalgic at times.
The conflict between Taichi and Yamato just feels incredibly forced, like there was some sort of nostalgia quota that needed to be filled. Sure they fought in the past, but here it seems like it’s only here to fill in time. The pacing itself is a bit on the slow side compared to the original series, but I feel like it’s like this to enforce the change to the cast and tone of this season of Digimon. It’s got a slice of life pacing going on and even feels like one too, but when the digimon finally come in, the pacing gets only a little bit faster.
One of the things I was worried most for was the quality of the animation, Toei isn’t exactly known for their stellar craftsmanship in this category, and given the state of Sailor Moon Crystal and Dragonball Super, I had all more reason to be more than concerned. While it’s nothing particularly breath-taking, especially as a movie release, it’s still far above what the television series had reached. The Digimon designs are true to the originals, and even the previously mentioned “Same face” syndrome worry is mitigated with each character having more nuanced expressions in animated form and subtle differences. The animation does appear to be a bit more jerky in action scenes making it more apparent that the project has a television show budget and was originally produced to be one, but it’s nothing worth taking points off from, it’s very exciting and dynamic and that’s all we want after all (And not that chicken scratch they call animation on Dragonball Super).
Digimon Adventure Tri started as something I was worried about, but the end project fills me with hope for the next 5 installments. The amount of heart warming fan service and attention the small details will more than satisfy all old fans and old fans only, but be honest, this is story only for the digidestined of the world, just how we wanted it to be…