Last year, Digimon creator Akiyoshi Hongo announced plans to celebrate the 15 year anniversary of his beloved action-adventure anime series. These plans included a PSP game based on the first series (that is actually quite good, if I may say so myself) and, the main event, a continuation to the first two series in the form of six films, each of four episodes. The film series was titled Digimon Adventure Tri.
Created in 1999, Digimon tells the story of eight children, the DigiDestined, who are chosen to save the digital and real world from menacing threats alongside their Digimon companions, who evolve into stronger Digimon as the story moves along.
The first of the Tri films, entitled Reunion, was released on November 21 and picks up the story six years after the original series and three years after Digimon Adventure 02. The portal to the Digiworld has been shut for over a year, and the city is experiencing oddities in its telecommunication outlets. Taichi, Yamato, Sora, Jo, Mimi, Koushiro, Hikari, and Takeru have all grown up, with everyone pursuing his or her own interests, slowly drifting apart. Taichi in particular seems to have changed the most, as he struggles with the search to find his path in life. When a Kuwagamon appears in the city, despite the closed portal, the gang reunites to get to the bottom of the strange occurrence and find out who sent the infected Digimon and how.
Reunion kicks off with a sequence explaining the nature of the evil force that awaits the DigiDestined, but it is obscure as it is revealing, much like fans of the show will remember from the original series. The initial ambiguity, one that is carried out through all four episodes of Reunion, is extremely bewildering, but equally exciting.
The film was a love letter to its fans of many generations, but disregarded the new following it might have acquired due to the surrounding hype. While some may criticise the film for doing so, it’s quite necessary, I would say, to have watched the first two series, whether Tri is directly tied to their storylines or not. Part of the point of a sequel is seeing where the characters go and how they change. To not have source material to compare it to is to not relish in Digimon‘s full glory.
From the very beginning, from that first ping from the Digivice, the film pays tribute to the original series in ways that warm a fan’s heart, which is a necessity when making a sequel so long after the original has aired. Reunion manages to be its own without losing its core. The first major instant of this is the appearance of a Kuwagamon, which was the very first monster the squad had to fend off in the original series and the first monster they had to fight here. The places they visit, the ways in which they interact with each other, and the familiar faces from and connections made to the original series make the viewer feel at home. The music plays a huge role in this. The all-too-faniliar (and epic) Butterfly and Braveheart themes, while alightly altered melodically, immediately put a smile on the viewer’s face.
The world seems a lot more mature and grown up, and that’s something to admire about Tri. There are a lot more conscious and realistic consequences and attitudes towards everything that happens around the heroes, mainly everything that happens because of them. The film series comes with a refreshing sense of gravity that is reflected in the forces of evil as well. This is manifested in the Digimons’ struggle to defeat Kuwagamon in their evolved form, when they beat it in their natural form in the original series when they first encountered it.
One thing Reunion did really well was build up anticipation for the next chapter in the story. There are multiple instances where something completely detached from the story happens and it’s quite intriguing to see. From the sequences involving the DigiDestined from Digimon Adventure 02, to the new force of evil, to the secret service at play, the viewer is left with enough unanswered questions and mysteries to delve deeper into the Digital world once again.
One canot speak of the changes in Digimon without addressing the changes in animation style. The new version is slick and well-defined and is, naturally, given technological advances in animation, far better-looking. The Digimon and their battles are more professionally animted and more realistic, abandoning 80s-90s style animation, although the more lively colour fradients were not the worst to look at. Despite all that, the new evolution clips were a let-down. They were (aside from Angemon’s) very plane and bleak, as opposed to th original clips, some of which were 3D instead of 2D. The mega level evolutions have yet to be revealed and here’s hoping they’re a step-up from what we saw in Reunion.
The major issue with the film was the script. Now, I watched a subbed version, so there’s only so much I can comment on, but as far as the direction of the plot, this was too slow-paced. Barely anything happens, and the conversations, aside from one in a ferris wheel compartment are mostly without substance, sometimes even dull. The snippets of what lies ahead for the DigiDestined are what keep the viewer invested. In a sea of fillers, very little of Reunion ties to the central plot. It relies mostly on nostalgia, which can become mundane to a first-time viewer. Part of what made the original Digimon series great is that the fillers were as interesting as the central plot.
And when speaking of characters, it’s hard not to notice that the film allotted an overwhelming amount of time on Taichi and his internal conflict that needed to be contracted into an episode or two, not three. While it’s nice to see that the characters face realistic issues and that Digimon has maintained its psychological appeal, this focus on Tai remains a stark contrast to the multiple story arcs in the original series where every character would get his or her moment in the sun to deal with their personal struggles.
Reunion marks a solid, not great, start for the new chapter in the Digimon legacy. And while a lot has improved and interest in future installments of Tri is as avid as can be, the series will fail its fans if the script sustains its level of blandness. Only time can tell. For now, I remain with high hopes for the coming episode.
Digimon Adventure Tri: Decision will hit screens on March 12, 2016.