When Digimon Adventure tri. was first announced as a thing, the creative team said that it would be out in April of this year. That clearly didn’t happen, and as time went on, the release date kept getting pushed further and further back, until I lost all track of when this show was supposed to be released. It wasn’t until I saw some weirdly complete Tumblr gifsets over the Thanksgiving break that I realized the show finally was out. And so, abandoning my turkey, I rushed to my computer to watch the show.
Despite the new series only being available in subbed Japanese, this review generally uses the American names for characters, since that’s what I’m used to using. Slight spoilers after the jump!
Digimon Adventure tri. is set after both the 01 and 02 series and is supposed to take into account the much-maligned and hopefully forgettable series epilogue, as well. Three years after Digimon Adventure 02 ended, we see the younger 02 gang defeated by an unknown Digimon. In the real world, Digimon suddenly start appearing and disappearing. This is great news for Taichi, who’s a little lost now that he’s in high school and has no idea what he wants to do with his life. All of the gang have their own things to focus on—Matt has a great(ly emo) band, T.K. and Kari seem content with their lives, Izzy is… messing around with his computer… and their separate activities mean that they’re drifting apart, unable to get together for Tai’s soccer game or Matt’s concert. So when Tai sees a Kuwagumon over the city, he jumps on a bike and races off after it. (Poetic, since a Kuwagumon was the first Digimon to attack the gang way back in Digimon Adventure 01.) Agumon appears in the nick of time, as do the rest of the gang’s Digimon, and everyone, sans Mimi and Joe, is able to get together and defeat the Kuwagumon.
However, this isn’t the first Digimon to appear in Japan and it isn’t the last. Scant days after the Kuwagumon attack, a powerful Digimon called Alphamon appears in Odaiba (of course) and the gang has to stop him from attacking a new Digidestined and her Digimon partner.
For a series that’s been confirmed to be comprised of two short movies (split into anime-length episodes for those outside Japan), the show thus far was pretty slow moving. We didn’t get much plot and, save for Taichi’s conflict, most of the character interactions focused on relationships. Sora, Mimi, and Kari get the worst of this—Kari’s largely there to nag her brother, tease T.K. about a girl, and be stared at by Tai’s soccer team, and Mimi flirts outrageously with everyone. What happened to the Sora who had such a great conflict between her tomboyish interests and her traditionalist, very feminine mother? Apparently nowadays all Sora does is try to choose between Tai and Matt. And the relationship shenanigans, fortunately or unfortunately, aren’t confined solely to the girls. When he’s not on the computer, Izzy spends all his time getting teased by T.K. about how he’s suddenly interested in fashion and it must be for Mimi, and when Joe tells the group that he has a girlfriend, everyone is hilariously disbelieving.
The only one who gets a meaningful character arc is Tai (and Matt, I suppose, by way of them being drift compatible). Remember the brash, gung-ho Taichi who was so eager to be a leader that he forced Agumon to Digivolve into SkullGreymon? Well, now Tai sees that reckless decision-making can lead to collateral damage, and for a while there, the collateral damage is all he can see. He stalls out several times when he and Agumon are attacking the rogue Digimon, and Matt starts to question his dedication to the cause. The girls lock Matt and Tai in a ferris wheel together (I wish I was lying), and Tai tells Matt that now that he’s gotten older, he “sees more, but understands less”. A fitting ode to adulthood. Tai wants to be the Tai that could charge forward and damn the consequences, but he’s really grown up—despite the fact that Digimon is the only thing he’s passionate about, he knows that shoving blindly forward and hoping for the best doesn’t always work out. This would definitely make sense if they’re setting him on the path to becoming that diplomat we see in the Digimon 02 epilogue.
Matt, who’s refreshingly the same and doesn’t as of yet show any signs of interest in space or astronauts, tells Tai that inaction is still an action, and by flashing back to the good old straightforward days in the Digital World, side by side with Matt, Tai is able to get over this cumbersome, if realistic, block. He hooks arms with Matt (again, I wish I was lying) and the two of them take out Alphamon together.
As a viewer who’s also grown up with Digimon, Tai’s conflict strikes a certain emotional chord with me. I feel like as a kid, I was able to just do things without thinking or overthinking them much. My life wasn’t “see monster, destroy monster”, but it was fairly straightforward. Now that I’m out of college, I’m constantly dwelling on what will happen if I do something “wrong”. In school, at least in my experience, life was simple: get homework, do homework. Now it’s all: is moving to a new country for a job worth the risk? Is voting for this politician really going to accomplish anything? If I fix this toilet wrong will it come back to (literally) bite me in the ass?
And Tai has it worse; he used to have such clarity of purpose. He and his friends literally saved the world, both real and digital. And now… what? He’s in high school? Taking tests? And even when his world comes back to him, it’s not the same. Now he pays more than superficial attention to the T.V., and he knows that people are blaming Digimon, including his Digimon, for catastrophic damages throughout Japan. He knows that Digimon might have different reasons for being in the real world, and he knows that blindly attacking just leads to more damage and more blame. I’m really interested in how this is going to work out, particularly as Digimon’s rogue Digimon might not lend themselves to this kind of nuanced conflict.
But unfortunately, I’m pretty annoyed at the show’s use of the rest of the characters. Believe me, I know what a big deal exams are in Japan, but Joe’s totally ignoring his team in order to study—and Joe’s the guy with the Crest of Responsibility, and could even be cajoled out of school to help out the younger team in Digimon 02. I don’t even buy that Joe could be as behind as he is in class, since we know Joe and we know he turns out to be a great doctor. And I know the rest of the characters are growing up, but growing up doesn’t mean that all they do is talk about romance.
Either way, though, I’m excited about the rest of the show—I desperately want to know where the rest of the Digidestined are, I want to know what the weird government agency’s goals are, and I really want to know how Tai works his shit out. Most of all, though, I’m enjoying this step back into the lives of my favorite Digimon characters, and there’s been nothing thus far that would stop Digimon from continuing to be my favorite comfort anime. I was pretty much bowled over by emotion when I turned on the first episode and heard the updated theme song, and I haven’t managed to peel myself off the ground yet. Can’t wait to see the rest of it when it comes out in March.