Anyone still watching Digimon Adventure tri.? I don’t blame you if you aren’t—the original action-adventure shounen has turned into a plodding slice-of-life show about growing up, and if you aren’t into that, the pacing of this show will be extremely annoying to you. I decided to review the next two films in the series, “Determination” and “Confession”, together, as the action is fairly minimal. What the series does focus on is character development, but unfortunately, many of the character arcs seemed to retread character arcs that they had already dealt with in the original series.
“Determination” and “Confession” start as the characters learn about the new problems facing the Digital World and ultimately their own world. Meiko, the new Digidestined they found in “Reunion”, is quickly accepted into the group, but she and her partner Meicoomon harbor some secrets that the original Digidestined should seriously have investigated. Something’s wrong with the digital code in the Digital World and in the electronics of our world, and it’s leading “infected” Digimon to jump through portals to our world and attack everything in sight. It’s ultimately revealed that this infection originated with Meicoomon, who kills one of the Digidestined’s allies, Leomon, and jumps into the Digital World. The gang prepare to fight her once she emerges, but because they can’t figure out how to heal the infected Digimon, the mysterious government agency from “Reunion” also sets up a “reboot” that will basically serve to revert the Digital World to its previous saved version—one without the infection virus, but also without any of the Digimon’s memories of their adventures with their human partners.
While I was worried that the new series would only talk about Matt and Tai, fortunately, each of Digimon Adventure tri.‘s films appear to focus on different characters. The first film was Matt and Tai’s queerbait-y introduction to the grown-up struggles of our protagonists; the second film, “Determination,” centered around Joe and Mimi’s adolescent lives. Joe, who avoided the gang in the first film, is revealed to have been avoiding them not because of his studies but because he doesn’t understand why they have to be the ones to always fight. He calls himself a coward for avoiding them, but Joe had always struggled with balancing both his studies and his Digimon responsibilities in the original series, and he always chooses the Digimon once it comes down to it. Thus, his new “cowardice” seems to come out of nowhere and is never fully explained.
Mimi, meanwhile, returned from NYC at the start of the series and has to deal with her friends making fun of her rather worsened Japanese and her new, more individualistic attitude. At first I was excited about Mimi’s increased determination and drive, as Mimi tried to take on a rogue Digimon by herself to show a nearby news helicopter that there were good Digimon as well as bad ones. However, her partner Togemon’s attack misfires and sends the helicopter crashing into the ocean. Although all the reporters survived, Mimi’s actions only led to the Digimon being branded as more dangerous than before. Furthermore, fellow Digidestined Izzy chastises her for acting on her own and calls her selfish for it. Mimi’s character struggle has always been with selfishness and vanity, but I didn’t necessarily see this action as selfish (her behavior with her classmates is another story). I would have liked it if the story had delved further into her reverse culture shock upon returning from living in America as an adult character arc for Mimi—Mimi could, like many other immigrants, learn how to take the best parts of both cultures rather than confining herself to the behavioral mores of one or the other and learn to be sincere in the process. But I guess that’s beyond the scope of this show.
The third film, “Confession”, centered around Izzy and T.K. Izzy, as the most technical of the group, is set a little apart from the rest as he frantically tries to figure out how to solve the problem of the infected Digimon before all of the partner Digimon are infected. He’s ultimately unable to figure it out by himself, and his partner Tentomon has to watch him break down, lamenting his supposed ignorance and uselessness. Izzy’s low self-esteem, stemming from his adoption and introvertedness, was a major part of his character in the original series; like the original series, though, there was no one to witness his breakdown and no one to pick him up except for Tentomon.
As Izzy’s dealing with the infection, T.K. realizes that his Digimon partner, Patamon, is infected when Patamon’s eyes turn white and he bites T.K. Patamon is able to fight it off after a moment, but T.K., scared, takes Patamon away from the other Digimon and doesn’t tell anyone out of fear that they’ll have to put Patamon down. All the Digimon and humans do eventually find out about Patamon’s infection, but when Meicoomon reappears, all of the Digimon have to fight her, including Patamon, whose infection quickly spreads to the other Digimon. While it’s again repetitive to see Patamon try and sacrifice himself for the group (which he did many times in Digimon Adventure 01 and 02), this is at least an adulthood conflict that I like. It’s easy to say that T.K. should have told everyone, but T.K.’s conflict is ultimately understandable, as T.K.’s still a kid who hasn’t learned to deal with secrets, illness, and (a seemingly final) death. And it’s a heartbreaking theme to give to T.K., since T.K. has always been one of the youngest and most hopeful of the group, which makes his character arc pack the real emotional punch of the third film.
Going into this series, I thought I would really like Digimon Adventure tri.‘s focus on adulthood and growing up, as it’s not something we could really get when the characters were still pre-teens in the Digital World. But instead, most of the character arcs we got were repetitive and took our characters back to previous conflicts instead of bringing them forward. Though it’s normal to struggle with the same things throughout your life (hello, mental illness), there are ways to write character struggles that don’t hit all of the exact same emotional beats as its fifteen-years-old predecessor did. Judging from how Digimon Adventure tri. has been arranged so far, Sora and Kari should be up next, and as these two girls had some of the meatiest and most developed character issues in the original series, I’m hoping that they get a better run of things than Matt, Joe, Mimi, and Izzy did.
As for the shady government agency, our protagonists hang out with Nishijima and Himekawa, the two agents we’ve met, quite a lot over the events of “Determination” and “Confession”. We still don’t know their true motives, but we do know that both of them possibly have a history with Digimon, and that Himekawa, the leader of the two, is holding information back from the Digidestined. She says it’s for their own good and that she wants them to keep their childhoods for a little longer, but this clearly doesn’t work out for her. Maybe I’m just a Gross Millennial, but her actions definitely showed me an adulthood theme that the writers probably didn’t intend to have in their show. Himekawa, the adult, knows that a full reboot of the Digital World might be necessary from the beginning. She knows that Meicoomon could be infected from the beginning. And she knows that DigiGuide Gennai is hanging around from the beginning. Why, then, didn’t she tell anyone about anything?
If we assume for a second that it’s not just bad writing, Himekawa reflects both the helicopter parents who control everything their kids do and the misguided adult lawmakers who think keeping information about things like sex and abortion out of kids’ hands will stop them from doing anything. When Izzy was finally told about the decision to do a reboot, he immediately figured out a way to save the partner Digimons’ memories—but it was too late for them to carry out his plan. When Himekawa finally told everyone about Meicoomon and the origin of the infection, it was too late to stop Meicoomon from killing Leomon and escaping into the Digital World. If Himekawa had been honest with the kids from the beginning, this series could have turned out extremely differently. There are three more films to go, so I’m really hoping that this will be one adulthood theme that the series will focus on explicitly, given the age of its current audience. It doesn’t necessarily have to be anti-authority, but the kids could come to realize that adults don’t always make the right choices, either.
Now that we’re back in the Digital World, I really hope that the pacing of this show will pick up. We still have so much to talk about—the fate of the 02 Digidestined kids, Himekawa and Gennai’s secrets, and the results of the reboot, among other things—that the show can’t handle any more of its current plodding pace. I’m looking forward to the rest of the series and I still want to know what my old favorite childhood show has to say about growing up and adulthood, but I can’t say that I’m looking forward to the rest of it as much as I used to be. I guess we’ll see what happens next year.