by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 8 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
I have to feel bad for Koshiro at this point in Digimon Adventure:. Sure, he and Kabuterimon seem to have endured a lot fewer attempts on their lives, but they've been cruising through the Network for like a month now, missing out on stately scenery like the shimmering sky of the Digital World, the curious collection of creatures the other kids have all met my this point, and adorable asides like... Mimi braiding Ikkakumon's hair! There are claims that they're hurrying up with an indication that the pair could join up with the rest of the team soon, but that's not in this episode. No, this one's all about adding on Yamato instead.
Yamato occupies a space in the Digimon Adventure: cast construction a bit distinct from all the other kids so far. This should've been easy to catch onto even if this was your first trip into the Digital World: Yamato and Gabumon were the other half of that big, special, fusion transformation with Taichi and Agumon, and he's gotten the whole ending theme to himself since the beginning. It's an arguable issue that can be brought up among fans, that Taichi and Yamato's characterization and power level far outstripped the contributions of the rest of the cast as the Adventure franchise wore on, and the success of their dynamic duo would go on to be reflected in other Digimon storytelling setups (ask me about Takuya and Kouji sometime).
So there's an element of trepidation when Yamato and Gabumon show up and not only immediately run off to take care of the episode's threat (a huge fortress full of unfriendly monsters) all on their own, but also get a big, fancy stock animation evolution sequence like Agumon got that all the other Digimon have conspicuously lacked. I'd had concerns that overall production issues brought on by... everything this year might have impacted the creation of sequences for the other main monsters, but here it becomes clear that we were just waiting on Yamato's buddy to be the second one treated to it. So there's the concern: Now that Yamato's here, are we just eight episodes in going to sit back and have him and Taichi take over the show again?
I can't tell you how happy I was that the answer, at least as far as this episode was concerned, was No. There are little touches to Yamato's character in this iteration that I will touch on in a minute, but what's really important here is how things roar to life as soon as we cut back to the other kids after he's left. Joe gets to show off his stupidly hopeful pragmatist side in an absolutely hilarious ill-advised surrender attempt, and then we get to see different delightful reactions amongst all the other kids and Digimon. After weeks of people just neutrally reacting to each new kid that showed up, there's a sense that this time, they're not going to sit back and just let Yamato hog all the cool time in the spotlight.
Yamato is still trying to be that force of coolness, of course, but there are varying factors conspiring to make sure that isn't going to be a huge factor in his characterization, which is surprising and refreshing this early on. My favorite idea has to be the swiftly-revealed motivation for him blowing off the team to go attack on his own: He remarks about the larger group being a bigger target and not wanting to be held back by "dead weight," only for Gabumon to point out that he really just doesn't want the others to get hurt but doesn't want to admit that. The old Yamato could definitely be... a bit of a tool, whose antisocial tendencies made him extremely difficult to like and side with a lot of the time. As such, Adventure:'s solution to keeping the same vibe of the character while still fitting with the inherent niceties of everyone's new personalities is pretty inspired: They've made Yamato a tsundere.
It makes perfect sense, of course. Yamato was right up front with Taichi in the first episodes jumping headfirst into the Digital World to help save everyone. So we already know he's not actually a self-absorbed sort. And it shifts the potential arc of his character from learning to accept friendship to coming around to admitting his feelings for the friends he's finding. He already appears to be speedrunning that development; this episode climaxes with him viewing the others and their contributions to the combat with a glowingly-lit friendship montage and admitting just by the end of the episode that their jumping in may have saved him from becoming a mopey antisocial jerk. It's exciting because it makes me curious where this Yamato's characterization will go, on his own as this mysterious newcomer to the team, and also compared to that old version. It's a trick Digimon Adventure: hasn't been too reliant on, but I still think it's neat when I see it.
For all the misgivings I had regarding the pratfalls of bringing Yamato in this episode, it proved to be one of the strongest overall entries so far. We don't just get a cool new character, we get a greatly fun look at the current group dynamic before he's properly integrated, and there's a big old digital monster punch-up anchoring the whole thing, meaning it succeeds greatly as a cool action cartoon as well. It's still not quite on the level of that opening three-parter, but this feels like the strongest the show has been since then.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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