by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 20 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
This week's episode of Digimon Adventure: is another case where I have to break from independent assessment and directly address inclusions and allusions from previous Digimon shows. My first take is mostly just an odd recognition: Devimon's big birdly servant who's been glimpsed for a couple of episodes now turns out to in fact be Velgrmon. Digimon Frontier is pretty old by this point so I'm not sure the statute of limitations on spoilers still applies, but erring on the side of caution I'll simply remark that Velgrmon's antagonistic role in that series was pretty strongly tied to the particular way that show and the character worked. Chucking this creature in as a one-off enemy for this episode's situation just feels inherently odd. Perhaps I'm overthinking it and this was just meant as another little treat, something for established fans to recognize. But there's still baggage to the choice that makes it distracting, in my opinion.
The nature of that issue kind of sums up my mixed feelings on the broader events of this episode, which are tied up in the ways Adventure: does things that we should probably just be used to by this point. Carrying on from the twist ending of the previous episode, the purpose of this one is to at last properly add Yamato's younger brother Takeru to the cast of Chosen Ones. In terms of the new show's commitment in its earlier episodes to taking time to introduce all the kids individually, this has to be the most extreme example of that storytelling choice. As well, Takeru himself doesn't really get ‘introduced’ this episode, as he spends most of it unconsciously trapped in a laser-bubble that Taichi and Yamato chase after Velgrmon to rescue him from.
So once again – since there's little else the plot can do at this point – we're given a Taichi-and-Yamato-focused episode, and once again the writing does surprisingly little with any potential dynamics there. At least I was surprised and impressed that Taichi, despite never having met Takeru before, put two and two together with the name rather quickly to deduce who the kid was without Yamato needing to tell him. But while there are fleeting glimpses of the state of Yamato's emotional investment in this surprise situation, things play out in a decidedly more action-focused way of driving the plot. Most of it is based around the characters recovering from the unexpected Velgrmon attack (the series now loves dropping new antagonists on Taichi and Yamato to surprisingly strip away any wins they get, put a pin in that) and chasing it down while rotely strategizing on the fly.
Said strategies do make for some cool action in this episode, at least. This big flier-focused fight is a better pass at an idea the show has tried before with stuff like the Garudamon episode, and it comes together more strongly here. Of course, that's down to the storyboarders and directors seemingly letting themselves cut loose and have a bit more fun with the format by now; as cautious as I'm currently treating my engagement with Digimon Adventure: it'd be impossible not to fist-pump a little at WereGarurumon sky-surfing around on one of MetalGreymon's missiles. That, and MetalGreymon's cleverly utilitarian use of his extending robo-arm, are solidly-structured beats; my only issue would be that the show being so proud of itself for such sequences that it repeats the missile-riding beat too quickly for my taste.
But while Digimon Adventure: works great filling itself out with action elements when it really tries, it's still struggling with its emotional and character elements. Yamato's selfless rescue of Takeru from the pain-sphere tries to work on raw pathos, but falters because we really have no understanding of how Takeru regards his relationship with his big brother at this point, or even how Yamato's side of things works besides the obvious ‘He cares about him a lot’. So the scene stretches on with little to resonate, again feeling mostly like time-killing. It's another casualty of the new show's technically-clever insistence on individual character introductions, and it's not even the biggest one this episode.
The arrival of Angemon is the primary reason I simply cannot talk about this episode without referencing the series' origin. It's clearly a dramatic, major moment on its own. It must be, look at how it's framed! But we currently know so little of Takeru and basically nothing of Angemon, so the dramatic score and imagery are left trying to carry the major significance of a scene we have little investment in this particular version of. It extends to the end of Angemon's role a few minutes later, where his sudden appearance is tempered by his distressing dissolution into a Digitama. It's a direct parallel of the bittersweet moment between Takeru and Angemon back in the original show, but in that one we'd had thirteen episodes to become acquainted with Takeru and his partner, instead of abruptly throwing the scene at us like this. It means that the only way for the significance of this scene to land is by trading on direct knowledge of the original show, which will miss any new kids in the audience completely, and for old fans serve only to remind them of a much better version of what they just watched.
Once again, I can't write this all off as a complete misfire. Hollow as it is, the presentation of the last chunk of this episode is quite nice, and I like the touch of Agumon and Gabumon being the ones to reverently explain the significance of Angemon's Digitama. Like Leomon's conflict with Minotaurmon last episode, it helps the Digital World and its inhabitants feel like their own, in this case hinting at the broader culture the monsters have to themselves. But then we trip over aspects like Angemon not even winning his own debut fight, just powering up Taichi and Yamato's partners so they can be the ones to bask in the spotlight again. Or another new enemy dropping in at the end to repeat basically the same beat from the beginning of the episode, snatching a key to the Holy Digimon away from the heroes to string them along the next phase of this quest. Unlike a few episodes ago, I now find myself less enamored with having no idea where Digimon Adventure: is going, as I worry that the show itself isn't particularly sure of that either.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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