by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 30 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
Well, Sora's triumphant return was fun while it lasted. Near as I can tell, her swoop-in last episode was mostly meant as a plot device so she could be the one to shuffle the civilian Digimon out this week while Taichi and Agumon continue with Digimon Adventure:'s “constantly fighting” story structure. We should generally be expecting an ongoing spectacle for this episode, as apart from how the show's unflinchingly functioned for months now, the title just gives away this week's reveal in classic kids' anime fashion: After weeks of teases, WarGreymon properly debuts.
With that ultimate destination for this arc made obvious since the end of last episode, this one (as so often has been the case with Adventure:) ends up being a question of exactly how they're going to arrive there. We've already had near-neverending successions of battles with nightmarish baddies like DarkKnightmon or a hat-trick of Devimon evolutions, so what could possibly represent such a mighty threat to Taichi and Agumon that the Mega-level upgrade is necessitated? As well, the situation the characters find themselves in for this introduction is merely a continuation of their predicament in the previous episode: Stuck in a burning forest with a horde of angry, hungry, powerful monsters bearing down on them. The immediate problem here is one that's consistently haunted this show: The enemies just don't represent much of a personal threat. They're big and scary and numerous, sure, but in a show that could barely eke any character out of a charismatic concept like Devimon or drive potential interest in SkullKnightmon, what chance do we have to glean personal intimidation from some snarling dinosaurs? Digimon Adventure:'s ongoing, ill-advised insistence on not even giving the day-to-day enemy Digimon voices limits this further, exemplified in a Vegimon who appears this episode riding an Allomon like some kind of enemy commander, only to be reduced to some vaguely snarling odd close-ups.
The main threat driving the need for a power-up is actually the arrival of Parrotmon, a character who has some fairly compelling baggage in the overall Digimon mythos. This is the very first enemy that Greymon fought in the very first piece of the Digimon anime series, and he's been brought back a few times to pay tribute to that legacy. So on paper, I'm totally down with Adventure: having Parrotmon be the inciting factor for WarGreymon's debut, especially in a series that hasn't hit the homage button as often as you might think. Invested as I am in Parrotmon vs Greymon as an institution, I was even more excited to see the big bird get its own Mega-level evolution into Crossmon to drive up the threat factor further (even as it didn't exactly fit with my own evolutionary interpretations – ask me about my Parrotmon-Piedmon theory sometime).
The problem this time around is that even as the framework for this fight is fairly functional, the actual arc of getting there is nearly nonexistent. This happens as a direct result of Digimon Adventure: cocking a gun and unflinchingly firing right into its own foot: The initial tease of WarGreymon from the previous Mugendramon Dark Evolution disaster was absolutely vital character reading for where Taichi and Agumon ended up here, but the neverending chaos of the show's pacing never gave Yamato a chance to stop and actually tell those two about it, to discuss its implications and trigger the growth that should be coming out of their realizations. Stumbling into this setup now, when the two are stuck fighting by themselves again, the writing simply has Taichi spontaneously remember that time he got chowed down on by DoneDevimon and Agumon allude to his seeming loss of self as a result. It's a barely-discussed, vague character self-analysis – performed as such because there's simply no other way to get that critical character work done otherwise, and the show's attempts to pass it off as genuine development seem vapid and hollow. What was even the point of leaving Taichi and Agumon dramatically unaware of what had transpired, waiting for the opportune moment for Yamato to drop that bomb on them, if they were instead only going to vaguely recall it on their own later anyway and shrug it off regardless with “We sure have been through some tough times together, huh?”
All that is to say is that the eventual, inevitable episode-ending evolution to WarGreymon is yet another in Digimon Adventure:'s long line of upgrades that feel positively unearned. It's not even held up particularly well visually, as the whole episode looks rough in the art department; WarGreymon's debut spikes things up only a little, as he gets to show off by blocking one attack and throwing exactly one of his own. And honestly, the old Gaia Force stock animation from 1999 looked cooler than what we get here. This all smarts, because I really like WarGreymon, and I thought the little attempts at teasing him in previous episodes (including probably the best episode of the show so far) were making a decent effort at building him up. I guess what I didn't count on was Digimon Adventure: not leaving itself with the right resources to suitably dramatize the transformation when it happened, or depict him in action once he was finally properly on-screen. It leaves me once again just kind of shrugging, guessing we'll see where the show goes from here.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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