Digimon Adventure:
Episode 14

by Christopher Farris,

How would you rate episode 14 of
Digimon Adventure: ?

This Ultimate Evolution arc that Digimon Adventure: has gotten itself into has been terribly uneven, but that does mean that there was bound to be a quality hill amongst all these valleys. It ironically might be cause for lowering my opinion of a lot of these surrounding episodes even more, since this one demonstrates how rough entries like Taichi and Sora's disappointing showcases could have worked with the right allocation of effort. But instead I'll take it in as a positive implication: Digimon does still have plenty of gas left in the tank, so I can stay optimistic about how it'll use it.

Granted, this is a case where the new Adventure is kinda playing on Easy Mode by recognizing the particular resources it has at its disposal this time. Koshiro and Tentomon have always been some of the strongest, most entertaining characters in the franchise, and the kid computer whiz has been around since the very beginning in this reboot. That lets them sidestep the issues endemic to fleshing out some of the other kids, in that it doesn't feel like we're still barely getting to know Koshiro. We spent like a month and a half getting updates from him on Zoom calls in the early episodes of the show, and now every week opens with him reading to us out of the Digi-Dex! So we're already in a place where some prime growth can feel earned by building on all that we've already come to understand about the character.

It's funny to bring up Koshiro's earlier near-constant focus on communicating through his computer, since that's actually the fulcrum this episode ends up tilting his character on. It's an interesting spin on Koshiro's classic character definition: It's not necessarily that he's more comfortable working with machines than people, but here he prefers to interface with his cohorts and the world around them via his digital data-analysis tools. I'm not sure how intentional the commentary on how his character had been written until now is, but it still comes off as effectively knowing, in that we would only expect him to get used to viewing his surroundings and peers through monitors and webcams. It's kinda like if the arc leading up to Birdramon's evolution had specifically focused on how she'd been relegated mostly to just transporting the cast through the sky. Though at least that element gets a nod this week anyway.

Bits like that, and the main character focus for Koshiro here, almost speak to Digimon Adventure: seeming to get the rut it was running itself into. It was easy to leave Koshiro glued to his screen, rattling off information about routes and readings while Tentomon kept him in the loop on defining different Digimon themselves. But breaking out of that kind of routine is key to changes in the kids that let their monster pals change even further. So breaking Koshiro's computer is a simple, obvious writing method to force that kind of necessary growth. It does what it should do and lets us get a glimpse at a new side of Koshiro: His feeling of a lack of self-worth if he's unable to gather and analyze data. I particularly like how it brings us into the equation as viewers, in that we've gotten so used to Koshiro being utilized this way by the plot that we get to question if we were only honing in on his computer processing as his major contribution.

None of this is exactly the most subtle exploration of thematic character elements. There are repeated held shots of Koshiro's scrutinous face reflected in his blank monitor, and in the big turning point of the battle with Oukuwamon, Kabuterimon is just spelling out for Koshiro where his character arc is going. But for an all-ages adventure show, that's hardly a bad thing, and it means we get more interplay between the focal human and his monster buddy leading to the necessary evolutionary power-up, really working with the partner dynamic (that this show is supposedly built on) that Koshiro and Tentomon, across the franchise, have always embodied well. At this point I'll take Digimon Adventure: being overly blatant about its driving declarations just because it makes clear to me that the show actually knows what it's doing.

That sense of knowing what they have to work with seems to extend to the production all around this week. The art quality in general is still exceedingly rough in places, including a ton of instances featuring an adorably off-model distance-drawn Koshiro amongst all the big bugs in play. But unlike last week, the ambitions of what the animation is trying to depict don't outstrip its abilities, so we get cleverly-boarded sequences of action making effective use of the setup here with the kids being chased through a maze of canyons, crashing into chasms and cutting into crystals. It's a good use of space and even some obvious symbolic elements, like Koshiro and the freshly-evolved Atlurkabuterimon rising above the maze towards the end so they can assess the layout of things in a more efficient and observant way. Furthermore, even if it's not all animated sharply, there are still smart little flourishes of character, like the way Taichi tosses his Digivice at the beginning of the episode or the short scene of the group using a collection of crystals as fun-house mirrors.

I'm not going to let my guard down around Digimon Adventure:, we've still got one more of these Ultimate Evolution episodes left next week, and then we're into unknown territory (if the adorable new ending theme is anything to go by, it appears Takeru will be formally joining the cast soon). But it's good to know that the show can absolutely still make things work when it wants to. It just needs to step back from obligatorily plowing through things the way it has, and focus on working with its strengths. It seems that, no matter the iteration, Koshiro and Tentomon will always be one of those strengths, and their showing here thankfully resulted in a most prodigious episode.

Rating:

Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.


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