by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 7 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
The children of Digimon Adventure: have been ‘Chosen’ on multiple levels. It's not just that there's an in-universe prophecy dictating their world-saving job; their very nature as rebooted iterations of classic characters demands that they join this cast and proceed through this story. So when someone shows up as more of a holdout than the previous party members, that can make for an interesting multi-layer conflict. I kept coming back to this idea in this week's episode, tasked with introducing Joe Kido and his partner Gomamon. It revolves almost entirely around the supposed question of if Joe was going to be part of the show or not, and in the end, I really wish they'd leaned into some of those more compellingly complex aspects of the setup.
One noticeable point about these new Digi-kids I've brought up before is how they all seem just a bit generally nicer than their previous iterations. This can be attributed, story-wise, to their motivation, voluntarily jumping into another world because they wanted to help out in ways only they could. But Joe seems to be the first character so far playing by what could be called the ‘old rules’ of alternate world adventure shows. He was seemingly drawn into the Digital World against his will, and his primary interest is in getting home and having his life go back to normal. It noticeably makes him the most abrasive character the others have encountered so far, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. He didn't come off overly annoying to me, and setting up some conflict with the other cast members can only be a good thing for long-term character dynamics.
Unfortunately, there were still other shortcomings. My main issue is the decision to seemingly base Joe's entire character so far on his drive to study for entrance exams. It's kind of a funny idea as a base, this kid so responsibly focused on this task that even in a hostile alternate world he just built a sweet shelter on the beach to keep hitting the books while waiting for some adults to come get him. But then everything he talks about, every aspect of his confrontation with Taichi and the others, rounds back to him wanting to study. It's especially repetitive and one-note in the first half of the episode.
While I've been trying to use comparisons to the original Digimon Adventure: as a mere reference point rather than any critical measuring stick, that was particularly hard in this case just due to how much more the original Joe had going for him than this. He could still be an annoying busybody, yes, but it manifested in his efforts to survive and actually attempt to get home rather than a laser focus on honing test scores. It feels like more of a jump to some stereotypical ‘nerd’ characterization than what Joe's personality has the potential to be, not helped by the recollection that the original-recipe Joe was subjected to this type of character drift as that timeline went on.
The other issue is a somewhat lacking effort from the other characters. It's noticeable with this one that as the cast has continued to grow, the other kids don't get a ton to personally contribute to the group dynamic. There is one really fun shot at the beginning of Mimi treating Taichi and Sora to a relaxing teatime, but after that they basically unanimously bounce off Joe in their attempt to get him to go along on their quest. That's to say nothing of the way Koshiro's still flying through the Network after several weeks, yet to even meet up with the other characters. It's frustrating since all the general niceness of the other characters could make for some personally compelling arguments with Joe to come along; Mimi's realization about her personal role last week would be an interesting contrast to speak up on. But instead they just kind of hang around until Joe's misgivings are resolved via his partnership with Gomamon. It leaves us still waiting to see how everyone is going to function working with each other.
Things work out a little better in Joe's arc with Gomamon, especially as the episode moves into its second half. It plays off of the interesting ideas this show is spinning about ‘destiny’ and what that means to the people it's imposed on. We don't have a lot of reason to put our faith in Joe at this point, but Gomamon never doubts him as his destined partner. It's not a question of blind faith so much as an appreciation for the sense of mutual purpose Gomamon gets from the partnership. Joe's contention at the beginning is that there's nothing he could or should do in the current situation, but Gomamon believing in him tips his attitude: Even if there's nothing we can specifically do on our own, sometimes there are things we can only do with others. Being predetermined as part of a prophecy makes it easier to codify that, but it also bakes in a level of social obligation to the quest the children are tasked with. That ties in interestingly to Mimi's motivations last episode, and characters feeling it's their duty to help, simply because they're able to.
That's a mostly satisfying series of hurdles in the name of getting Joe on the team, which unfortunately still means it all comes across a bit perfunctory. As I said at the beginning, Joe's already destined to be in the cast on multiple levels, so the show has to create an effective question as to why he might delay joining. The problem is that his reservations are so one-note that they can't carry that conflict believably, nor interestingly for the amount of time they go on. I like the ideas articulated in the second half, and by the end it seems apparent that Joe's characterization and dynamic might be swinging closer to the boy we know and love. But there's not enough here just in portraying his hang-ups while Gomamon and the others wait for him to make up his mind to make the whole thing compelling. It means while I'm happy to have Joe here moving forward, his debut is decidedly on the disappointing side.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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