by Christopher Farris,
How would you rate episode 1 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
How would you rate episode 2 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
How would you rate episode 3 of
Digimon Adventure: ?
Everything old is new again, so let me put down Final Fantasy VII for a moment to tell you all about this rad new show called Digimon Adventure:, airing Saturdays on
FoxKids!Crunchyroll! The original Digimon is old enough to drink at this point, meaning it's timely to sell a whole new generation of kids on the distinguished monster-battle franchise, taking up as it does the time-slot previously held by storied series like Dragon Ball Super and GeGeGe no Kitarō. With all that, there's an ambition inherent to Digimon Adventure: before you even watch the first episode, leaving the big question of how well it measures up to its own existence.
As someone who grew up with the (dubbed version of) the original Digimon Adventure: and became a huge fan of it, this might ordinarily be the place where I discuss that nostalgia and how I will or won't factor it into my evaluation of the new show. Except in this case I really can't, since the new Digimon Adventure:, right out of the gate, reveals itself as shockingly committed to doing something new with the corner of the franchise so many think has already been retread too often. The original characters are here, seemingly, for the most part, but they haven't all been covered yet and who we have met have been introduced to us in intimately different ways than we were expecting. So beyond the reference points that Taichi, Koshiro, and Yamato are all here and seem mostly in line with how we remember their personality portrayals, there isn't a lot to be gained from contextualizing them with the original's plot since there's little-to-no overlap.
Instead of an introductory dump of seven kids and their corresponding Digimon partners being immediately swept into a world of adventure, what we get in these first three episodes is an exciting statement of intent more than anything else. It's largely built around an acknowledgement of how far the internet's embedding in our everyday lives has come since 1999. Yes, rogue Digimon were messing with traffic lights and launching missiles back in the old show, but right from the start this new take places key emphasis on the kids diving into the Digital World specifically to right those wrongs. Taichi jumps a turnstile and into an alternate dimension to stop a runaway train with his family on it, and then he, Koshiro, and Sora get swept away in the third episode investigating rolling blackouts. It immediately piques the interest of viewers old and new as to how the structure of this one is going to work, making it more universally interesting than any rote revisit of the original plot.
Helping that core story appeal is the point that Digimon Adventure:'s presentation is a cut above not only its founding material, but a lot of its contemporaries. In fact, general style may be the one place you can make direct comparisons between this one and the original. Digimon '99, despite its charms, was a borderline slide-show animation-wise at times, with a racing, jerky style. The new show takes pains to move things in a more measured, near-cinematic direction. The evolution sequences we've gotten for the Digimon so far happen entirely without stock footage, leading to lavish monster battles put together by some of the best of Toei's action animation talent. I also need to heap praise on how much the audio element of this show is putting it over: The music is one of the best swelling orchestral scores I've heard in ages, maximizing big moments like Taichi's resolution leading to Agumon evolving, or Omegamon's attack on the enemy in the third episode. Tied to that is the show's understanding of when not to use audio, that aforementioned take-down occurring near-wordlessly, something unthinkable in the original series. Similarly, the dread of the nuclear missile being launched in the second episode drops with the impact of raw silence, shocking an audience who may not yet be sure how deadly-serious the stakes of this monster-battling action cartoon may get.
That's all in service of that story that so far is making deft use of audience familiarity, and lack thereof, with its foundation. It becomes apparent to the old fans in the audience, by the beginning of the third episode, that we may have been looking at a remake of one of the original Digimon movies, ‘Our War Game’, as a cold-open to the main monster-meeting event here. But reshuffled and recontextualized as it is, it still works wonderfully raising questions to pursue for anyone watching the show. Who is this Yamato and what does he want? What was with the formation of Omegamon, and will Taichi and Yamato be able to do it again? Digimon Adventure: further divides itself from earlier context by teasing at the original, making us think we're getting back on the rails as the kids head to summer camp, only for that to pass by in uneventful moments and see just a few of them whisked away to the Digital World from Tokyo again instead. This spacing out of character introductions speaks to the show's newly measured sensibilities, giving characters like Sora their own focal room to breathe apart from the crowd of other characters all at once (it's important to note that the original Digimon Adventure: began immediately with fourteen main characters all in a group). One of the most appealing aspects so far is the immediate emphasis the show places on the friendship between Taichi and Koshiro, the former rewarding the latter with genuine interest and appreciation for his computer knowledge, which also speaks to how importantly that may factor into their digitized adventures moving forward. Digimon Adventure: feels rich and confident in its storytelling and characterization so far, is what I'm saying, and that makes it just generally enjoyable to watch.
It's made the show a most pleasant surprise. I wasn't really thinking this series would be bad or anything, but to have it blow away what I think were a lot of people's reasonable expectations is something else entirely. This new Digimon feels as adventurous as the original did over two decades ago, and doing so while technically being a remake is remarkable. I definitely have no idea where the series will go from here, and that's a good thing, as it's proven that it knows how to show me a good time while we're getting there.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.
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