by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 19 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
The obvious irony is that last week's episode of Digimon Adventure: was the one centered on a countdown timer, when this week's introduces the franchise's favorite ticking clock. Yes, the latest iteration of Leomon is finally here, so let's all pick out spots on the betting pool for when he's going to get offed. Oh sure, this reboot being a fresh take means it might surprise us and let Leomon live through the whole thing, but it'll take us the entire length of the show to be sure of that, so until then, don't let your guard down. That's how they get you.
I mean, I was just talking last week about letting my guard down around Digimon Adventure: in general, seeing how that turned out one too many times. This episode is certainly better than the mess that was that previous one, but then again, how could it not be? To its credit, the show certainly seems to be trying. We're firmly in the act of kicking off a new story arc (or at least a new stage of the ongoing story), and there's a sense of effort at getting my attention with all the new directions it'll be going. Evil has shown his face in the form of Devimon, there are several portentous new Digimon being teased in silhouette, and the status quo's been upended in ways I'm not necessarily crazy about, but can at least acknowledge as having potential. Seriously rough patch or not, Digimon isn't giving up.
Starting with that status-quo shift: The relieving part is that the other kids apart from Taichi and Yamato haven't totally disappeared. We find out early in this episode that they were actually transported back to the Real World (for real this time), seemingly separated from their Digimon in the process. It gives them a front-row seat to the successful resolution of the power-outage problem, and prevents Taichi and Yamato from being locked into what would be a circular goal of finding where they were and rescuing them. The Tokyo-bound kids don't get much more to do this episode beyond acknowledge their new station and meet up with Taichi's mom and sister, but I'm intrigued what this might mean for their role in the overall story going forward. From the beginning, this incarnation of Digimon Adventure has put more emphasis on the Real World proceedings of the overall quest, so factoring it back in even more substantially at this stage makes sense and keeps that degree of setup freshness we generally expect from this series now.
But that's purely an intriguing speculation and not a ton of credit I can give to the episode itself which, predictably, is otherwise a full-blown episode of The Taichi and Yamato Show. Because this series has become a consistent vector for me to complain, I'll get the negative elements of this episode out of the way first. The main issue is that despite devoting most of the episode only to them, Taichi and Yamato don't get much of a workout as characters. You'd think this would be a prime situation to bring in some kind of tension or disagreement dynamic about them, but they hardly contemplate on their next step for a moment before deciding to simply be pulled along the plot's path by the intangible momentum of the story.
Even getting swept up into Leomon's business does little to challenge any dynamic that Taichi and Yamato might have lurking in their all-business execution this week. Leomon's resistance here isn't trying to directly rescue ‘civilian’ Digimon like the previous encounter with a giant mobile monster-fortress, and his goal relates to the Holy Digimon, the sole plot device Taichi and Yamato have left to chase. So there's no chance of a conflict akin to the question of priorities Yamato came to with Sora over helping other Digimon, even more so with the Real World Tokyo confirmed safe from immediate danger. Now there's a very strong chance this dynamic might shift after all given the revelations at the very end of this episode, but for this entry we spend a whole bunch of time with just Taichi and Yamato without them really showing off the current states of their personalities or character dynamics, which is not a great way to endear us to who seem like the only focal characters for the time being.
Then again, at least this one manages to craft an enjoyable half-hour of cartoon action. I'm not sure how long he's actually going to stick around, but Leomon himself is an effective contributor to things turning out well this week. His battle with Minotaurmon isn't just cool to see, it brings in some of the only character and concept-based content of the episode when everything to do with the kids' situation lacked it. We haven't really gotten to see a stated ideological clash between the ‘Good’ Digimon of the world and those that have allied with Devimon for their own reasons, and while what we get here isn't much beyond some vague portents about changing the world and having their own ambitions for doing so, it's at least something. It sells the idea that there are forces driving this world apart from the quest of the Chosen Ones, making the Digital World feel more like its own broad place and not existing simply at the behest of our heroes' journey.
The fight itself is pretty good too. The studio basically took last week off, so while the animation isn't phenomenal this week, it's still noticeably present here, and there's real direction and coordination in the battling. Garurumon and Greymon don't even use their Ultimate forms to take down Bullmon, they actually strategize! Ironically enough, it's episode MVP Leomon who pulls out the ‘new power-up to win’ button for his bout, but showing off a hot new version of his iconic attack is the kind of surprise that's easy to hype seasoned Digimon fans up with. Likewise, the episode-ending twist of finding Takeru in the Digital World doesn't seem to make a ton of sense coming off what we saw of the character previously, but it's at least attention-grabbing. All told, this episode is really just ‘fine’, serving mostly to codify the pointlessness of the preceding one, and contributing to the cautious, frustrating feeling of Digimon Adventure: only knowing how to play to its strengths like half the time.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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