by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 24 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
There's something to be said for lowered expectations, I guess. If you've been conditioned by, say, a kids' monster-battle cartoon to consistently tense up for disappointment from it, you get to be extremely pleasantly surprised when it drops a stone-cold stunner after all this time. I honestly felt like I'd forgotten the show Digimon Adventure: was way back at the beginning of its run, out-of-context sakuga clips coming across my social media feed and reminding me of what the series had shown as its potential before settling into the style and storytelling we've just kind of accepted for the past several months. That bombastic three-episode premiere with evocative storytelling and lush animation had only seen its ghost come through in snippets of the show since.
So where. the Hell. Had Digimon Adventure: been keeping this episode all that time?
I mean, let's backtrack first and start with the obvious that this episode isn't perfect just because its presentation knob got dialed up to eleven. Power-ups for characters come and go like the wind with little justification beyond showing them off for a surprise. Characters like the Real World B-team are once again relegated to fleeting cameos with little to contribute to the story at this moment (to say nothing of DarkKnightmon, who just kind of disappears after the instrumental role he played at the end of last week's episode). And the actual crux of the action here yet again comes down to Takeru and his Digimon partner acting as last-minute deus ex machina power batteries. Just on a script level, all the sins of Digimon Adventure: as we know them today are still visible, and may even be gearing up for some new layers of storytelling frustrations moving forward.
But as an episode, in terms of precisely what this episode actually is trying to do, it's so hard to let those negatives drag it down the way they have previous ones, simply because this one actually knows how to work with what it has. The impetus for this episode to cut loose: Devimon's final feral evolution into DoneDevimon, and how it eventually provokes the same from MetalGreymon, is visualized with that sense of relinquishing visual limiters on the anime. It's all feelings at this stage in the story, and that actually ties in nicely with the point the show has been making about the characters involved up until now. Tokomon elaborates that Devimon's final evolution here isn't even technically him anymore – simply a vicious corruption of his power brought about by his loss last episode. One thing I haven't touched on much (because the show itself has only alluded to it) has been the seeming attempt to characterize Devimon more than the previous iteration, hinting at a more personal connection with Angemon that drove him to his actions here. His warping into DoneDevimon here lends some retroactive credence to that, being such an obvious reduction to a purely destructive id that we recognize the difference in characterization immediately.
It's a setup for an institution integral to Digimon anime series: Dark Evolution. It's interesting that Devimon's transformation here is its own Dark Evolution (despite happening to a pretty dark fellow already) and Tokomon's explanations seem to paint this as a known, understood phenomenon in this iteration of the Digital World. That layer of expectation is almost a necessity as we see what unfolds; Viewers have been speculating for months on the possibility of MetalGreymon undergoing an evil evolution into Mugendramon, so at this point depicting that momentously malevolent event is less about the “What” and more about the “How”. And that gets to be the engaging surprise of this episode, since the answer is DoneDevimon friggin' eats Taichi. It's a distinction from previous shows' versions of Dark Evolution, coming about not because of hasty personal failings or impulses by the characters, and instead provoked by extreme outside factors exacerbating the anguish of those involved (indeed, demonstrated just earlier by Devimon's own corruption). It almost speaks to the harsher, more violent Digital World portrayed in this new series, where progressing through it is so predicated on fighting and little more. More than any of his previous magical power-up moments, that makes for an interesting demonstration of Tokomon/Angemon's tempering influence, him trying to be a mediator to these other entities that seek only destruction at every moment they meet.
It says a lot about the evocative expression of extreme evolution on display this episode that I can delve into such thematic speculation with relatively little stated detail to go on. On a basic level, this is just another big fight episode, complete with another surprising speedrun next-level evolution at the end. But the lushness of the presentation, especially once the DoneDevimon/Mugendramon brawl really gets going, is so visceral that it immediately draws you in. It's even carried by some key artistic choices that one could argue mitigate that issue of evolutionary overkill: Both the Mugendramon form and Agumon's last-moment ascension to WarGreymon are rendered more as solid-color projections than full new forms. It signals, to me, that he hasn't actually hit all the criteria for either of those branching levels, instead seen here more as potential places he could end up at as a result of his trials on this adventure. Seeing how it ended up for Devimon here lays out an interesting path for the Digimon's character development, as well as Taichi's role in it if his continued reckless courage puts him in a similarly perilous situation again.
It's that illustration of potential that explains why I think so highly of this episode coming off of it, even more so compared to the show's efforts in the leadup. Like the mode changes showed off earlier, Digimon Adventure: is making a concerted effort now to try to show us where it can go. Whether it ends up there effectively or not is still up in the air, especially since even this one still wasn't firing on all cylinders. With respect to that, I don't know if even an episode like this will be able to turn around viewers' opinions on Digimon Adventure:. It's still so clearly the same flawed show underneath all the glossy paint they brought out this week. But I will say it comes across as the best version of what the show currently is so far, and at least this time around, I was pleasantly surprised to see its unleashed potential on display.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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