by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 10 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
I generally subscribe to the notion that plot twists in stories work if they're presented effectively enough, regardless of if they've been ‘spoiled’ for the audience. That said, a lot of that effectiveness is predicated on a well-done build-up and coming away from something unimpressed with a payoff, surprising or no, can make clear that it didn't work overall. In the case of Digimon, its rebooted Sunday-morning kids' show format tends to undercut the idea of spoilers in principle. We already know that the next stage in Greymon's evolution is MetalGreymon, and thanks to previews, we've known he'd be reaching that level in this episode for at least two weeks now. That means it's up to the presentation of the episode alone to entertain us in its execution, apart from any speculation or surprise. And the issue here is that execution is lacking.
It's not overly bad, mind you, and there are a lot of bits I really liked in this episode. The aftermath of the kids escaping the fortress and hiding out is staged with a real, sobering tension – the kind of quiet moments this show has excelled in that keep surprising me. That sense of place and personality is present in a lot of the little beats here, including delightful little character interactions like Mimi impulsively throwing Joe's book to test the toxicity of a miasma. And there are vestiges of conceptual conflict being worked through here: We get the first potential signs of an actual fight between Taichi and Yamato, signaling that the working tension between them hasn't completely dissolved since a couple episodes ago. And that motivation of fighting spirit for Agumon still comes through in his wistfulness over Orgemon's sacrifice.
But those parts don't really come together to create a proper sense of extreme circumstances that should lead to Greymon's monumental power-up, nor is there enough character work specifically earning it. See, these kinds of upgrades in stories of superheroics, and especially in Digimon as a franchise, work best when they come about as a result of some evolution or revolution for the characters involved. Taichi and Agumon gaining the power to evolve to the Ultimate level should have been a reward for them overcoming some sort of limiting character flaw, or gaining new insight into their own partnership, introspecting on what working together means for them. But there's nothing of the sort here, with Goggle-guy and Dinosaur-dude just charging courageously into this latest battle as they always have for the past ten episodes.
A major part of this problem, I believe, can be laid at the feet of the shifted characterizations that's been such a discussion-worthy aspect of this new Digimon. The more earnestly heroic personalities of these rebooted versions of the characters has worked when they need to be made likable in the moment, easy to root for in these hot new battles. But as time and situations march on, we begin to more pointedly encounter the issue central to this episode: With fewer flaws of softer proportions, there's little room for them to noticeably grow and change, and gain whatever new powers they wield, in ways that will feel earned. Taichi's courage hasn't been portrayed as anything but positive so far. There's no hotheaded impulsiveness that's been called out as detrimental that he needs to temper, so just doing the same thing he always has is enough to lead him and his partner to the latest in their line of gimmicks. There are allusions made to them being motivated by their sadness over Orgemon, but there are no personal revelations stemming from that. Yamato mildly calls Taichi out for not thinking through the plan he's following enough, but nothing extreme comes of it for either of them and it turns out in the end that Taichi was pretty much right anyway. It all just comes off as the story handing Taichi and Agumon a power-up out of sequential obligation that they didn't actually earn.
Furthermore, It doesn't help that the production itself leading into this big new setpiece of a transformation isn't terribly impressive. The storyboarding in this latest battle actually picks up a lot of the slack from the limited animation during Greymon's bout with Metaltyranomon. There are fun ideas like the big lizard careening through the sky with a missile he ended up holding onto. But it all still looks far too cheap and clunky for what's supposed to be a dramatic debut. This is a specific case where the spoiler protocol might have actually helped a little. If we were under the impression that we had just been watching another monster-of-the-week fight, we could be surprised and impressed at the ending turnaround where a shocking new form for Greymon debuts. But because of the way Digimon Adventure: has presented everything, it becomes an exercise in checking our watches while we wait for MetalGreymon to show up.
For what it's worth, MetalGreymon's debut does finally pick up some of the hype factor in the show's presentation, even with so little emotional or character context leading into it. The quality of the art and animation immediately spikes all around, there's a rockin' new insert song, and they at least make a show of selling this hot new toy to us. But I'm not sure if it's enough coming off of this episode's middling handling of what should be the important elements outside cool monster fights. As much as I was on-board for the pointedly nicer spins by the characters of Digimon, this one laid bare the ways it could go wrong, and leaves me with trepidation over how the others and their own Ultimate evolutions will be handled in coming weeks. This episode does end on the series tradition of splitting the party for a bit. So while I'll miss the bits of group rapport I just got used to enjoying, I'm hoping that being able to focus on just a few characters at a time will give each kid and monster a chance for characterization and growth more than Taichi and Agumon got here.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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