Reviewby Jacob Chapman,
Digimon Adventure tri.
Episodes 14-17 Streaming
Now that the Digital World has been rebooted, the Digidestined will have to forge new bonds with their partners from scratch, but things aren't like they were back in those carefree summer camp days. The fate of both worlds is already at stake, and the clock is ticking fast! When a warped version of Gennai appears with zombified versions of the Dark Masters to blow them all away, he also reveals the mastermind's identity and wicked plan, which is far bigger than our eight heroes can handle. Luckily, Meicoomon still remembers everything from before the reboot, so if they can find Meiko, they might still have a chance! Unfortunately, not all the reborn Digimon are equally on board with their new human allies, and Sora is having a hard time winning Biyomon's trust. Can the gang get it together before it's too late, and an evil scheme that's been brewing for digital centuries finally comes to fruition?
This may not be as fascinating to the average Digimon fan as it was to me, but in all of Tri. - Sōshitsu's baffling and disappointing glory, it just so happened to exemplify the crucial difference between "plot" and "story." People often treat these two things like interchangeable words for the same concept, but the differences between them are important, especially from a critical standpoint. So if you ever need to explain this difference to someone, and they happen to be a Digimon fan, Toei managed to gift-wrap the perfect example to use in their fourth Digimon Tri movie. The story of Tri Part Four is compelling, but the plot is an absolute drag.
"Story" refers to the overview of what a movie is about, like the synopsis at the top of this review if it were filled with blunt spoilers instead of vague teasing. The story of Sōshitsu ("Loss") is explosive, slightly insane, and easily the best thing about the whole experience, as we finally get a truckload of surprising answers for the mysteries that Tri has been dangling in front of our noses for months. Not much can be discussed without spoiling everything (and these bombshells start dropping right from the movie's first few seconds), but whether you're a fan of the unpolished old-school lore from Adventure's early days or the gradually cementing modern-day canon of how the Digital World works, there's something in Tri's blend of backstory and baddie reveals to tickle your fancy.
Now that the cat's (mostly) out of the bag, the love and understanding that the creators of Tri have for Digimon at its best has become clearer than ever. The writers are playing with a ton of great ideas that reach down into the guts of Digimon's core themes, not just for our heroes, but for the villains as well. Frankly, one of the best things about Digimon has always been its bad guys, as it's gradually honed the clever tradition of combining melodramatic monster supervillains with more sympathetic human evils to create a wide array of wickedness. Some craft grandiose schemes we can love to hate them for, while others act on simple human desires gone wrong to sober our heroes with the complexity of evil, usually within the same story arc. Tri takes this tradition and runs with it to great effect.
Since Digimon Tri is all about the difficulty of growing up and moving forward, its villains' motivations reflect those hard feelings in a dark mirror by asking us to revisit old legends about the original Digidestined and, even further back, a Digital World that existed before humanity. Long before the protagonists of Digimon Adventure were born, there were other children learning to cope with the inevitability of loss, who've now become nostalgic for a world they can never recreate. The contrast between carefree children and nostalgic adults is clear in the Digidestined's new dynamic with their baby-fied Digimon, but characters even older than our protagonists are also longing for a past that only they remember. It's a sharp and thoughtful direction to take, and after a long franchise history of introducing new plot threads every dozen episodes before never revisiting them again, Digimon fans will probably be stunned by how many clever nods to continuity Tri has crammed in here, while still feeling completely like its own monster that casual Digimon lovers can enjoy. The possibilities going forward are truly exciting.
Unfortunately, we'll have to have to wait many more long months to see any of those possibilities fulfilled, because in between those exposition dumps of enticing twists, almost nothing happens in this movie. And what does happen is unexpectedly bad.
"Plot" is very different from story. Plot refers to the sequential play-by-play of events that fill a movie, like the ridiculously thorough descriptions you see for movies on Wikipedia under that "Plot" heading. If the story is the soul of a film, then the plot is the skeleton, and Sōshitsu plays out like a pile of broken bones. After three movies of good-to-outstanding Digimon content, this installment feels like some of Digimon's absolute worst episodes. Whether it's the awful animation that devolves into a complete slideshow for long minutes of runtime, way too many evolution sequences that actively harm the story's emotional impact, or a series of aimless vignettes that accomplish nothing for the plot or characters, it's clear that Toei's production constraints for Part Four limited what they could even imply was happening onscreen. Naturally, this creates a chicken and egg situation where it's hard to say what was written before or after production forced writers to revise what was being portrayed, but I have to assume that wasting a full third of the movie's runtime on throwaway scenes, repeated animation, and plot contrivances to pad the damn thing up to feature length was not the staff's first choice.
It would be bad enough if the movie had just 15 minutes of juicy content and 75 minutes of shrug, but Tri Four also delivers by far its worst character writing for Sora's turn in the spotlight. From the strange depression subplot near the end of Adventure to the fandom-splintering epilogue of Zero Two, Sora does seem to get the shaft most often compared to her fellow Digidestined. (She's like the anti-Izzy in terms of good character writing. No matter who's writing him, Izzy always feels like Digimon's secret MVP, while Sora's lows easily equal her highs.) She's such a great character that it hurts to see her get dumped on by Digimon over and over again, but Tri continues that trend by trying to propel her character development on the completely unbelievable contrivance that Biyomon would just reject her completely when all her fellow Digimon warm up to their humans quickly as expected. The excuse the movie gives for this in its eleventh hour doesn't work at all, and it still puts Sora in a reactive position where she doesn't have anything to learn from the experience. The whole thing is easily swept aside as a misunderstanding, leading to an anticlimax that makes Sora look weirdly shallow and robs her scenes with Matt and Tai of any meaning in retrospect.
And then, as the audience wades through more slideshows of the gang wandering through the wilderness, Tri ups its low-boiling fanservice quotient in the most unwelcome way possible. While most of Tri's forays into more mature content have been welcome and tasteful, seeing evil-Gennai strangle, wall-shove, and lick the faces of Digimon's female cast while making mildly sexual comments immediately puts a nasty taste in your mouth. In a movie with such little animation, these creepy flourishes just add insult to injury. At least all this is happening close to the movie's only well-animated scenes, a series of climactic battles that finally give the difficult-to-animate-but-totally-badass design of MetalSeadramon his due for the first time. Watching his big heavy coils whip around both underwater and through the air as the Digimon hurl their strongest attacks at his enormous beam-gun-head is truly refreshing.
Sadly, the Dark Master duels are only a faint shimmer of awesomeness in what is largely a disappointing experience that even has the audacity to just "stop" in the middle of a tense scene rather than actually concluding. The previous Tri movies certainly had an abruptness to their endings that could be maddening as we waited out that long "to be continued," but Sōshitsu's credits feel like a slap in the face, hastily dragged over a scene that didn't feel at all ready to fade to black. Fortunately, that crucial difference between "story" and "plot" ensures that the many questionable events of this movie will probably be easy to forget like a bad dream if Toei takes the time to do right by the last two Tri installments. Apart from wasting Sora's time to shine, there's nothing this movie's poor plotting does to permanently damage Tri's overall story, so it's easy to feel like the "Loss" in its title refers to the long minutes of bad animation and writing we can never get back.
Overall (sub) : C
Story : C
Animation : C-
Art : B-
Music : B
+ Strong dramatic setup that builds on great ideas from throughout Digimon history, impressively animated fight sequences at the end
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