This Week in Anime
Is the Digimon Reboot Worth Watching?

by Steve Jones & Michelle Liu,

Digimon introduced a generation to anime, evolving monsters, and the evils lurking within technology. The characters are back for a reboot with a splashy new coat of paint and some particularly adult problems (pandemic not withstanding). If you missed the Digi-Destined the first time around, there's no better time to lose yourself in this Digital World!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Micchy
You know Steve, I work with a bunch of software engineers, and one of the things I most often hear about is how functional code is basically magic. Why does it work? And why does it break? Well, the answer to those questions has been staring us in the face for years, and its name is Kawaii Uguu Robot Digimon.
Steve
And here I thought Javascript was usually the culprit. The more you know I guess.
But yes, Digimon is back! The original Digimon Adventure: anime debuted in 1999, and now after two decades and several different iterations of the franchise, we've returned to reboot the original series as Digimon Adventure:!

Please note the colon at the end there. It's very important.
Not to be confused with the absolute pain in the ass that is end semicolons, of course.
Now I'm a smidge too young to have grown up with Digimon like most other Millennials, so the extent of my experience with the franchise was watching my friends periodically get hyped for a new Digimon thing before the disappointment sets in. In my mind, "Digimon tri" is synonymous with "yeah we don't talk about that anymore." So here I am watching this shiny new reboot of the OG series wondering what exactly about it grabbed a generation so hard.
I, however, am quite aged enough to have been in that demographic sweet spot when Digimon came overseas. Granted, I never got as deep into this franchise as I did with Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!, but I have some fond (if fuzzy) memories of watching it on Fox Kids back in the day. And on a basic level, Digimon still retains all the ingredients you need for a successful kids' show, and by that I mean it has a giant friendly talking dinosaur who breathes fire.
So like Barney but cooler, minus the weird uncles.
No weird uncles that I can recall, but I also don't have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Digi-Database, so I wouldn't rule that one out. And thankfully, this is a full reboot in the sense that you don't really need to know anything at all about Digimon or its characters going in. There are some small glimpses of the full cast for veterans to get excited about, but the new 2020 Adventure begins by just focusing on Taichi and his neighbor Koshiro. Actually, more accurately, it begins with the new CG Toei cat, whomst I despise.
CG Toei Cat's beady little eyes are watching you trash talk, be careful.
Anyway, three episodes in I've found this new series pretty accessible and compelling for a kids' show. It definitely sells itself on its own charms without the aid of nostalgia goggles or prior knowledge, which is pretty dang nice when compared to, for instance, Sailor Moon Crystal. (May that series rest in pieces.) Actually, let me retract that qualifier - it's compelling, full stop. And definitely not afraid to set the stakes high right from the get-go!
Yeah, it definitely helps that this reboot immediately sets off to do its own thing and doesn't bother recapitulating the early plot beats of the original. It makes sense too: our lives have only gotten more intertwined with technology and the internet over the past two decades, so there's a lot of fresh material to explore. Like cyberterrorism!
It's kind of wild to me that Digimon: keeps its cast introductions brief and jumps straight into a national-level Internet of Things failure. It's even wilder that the cyberterrorism plot culminates in a literal nuclear attack. Like, aren't the heroes of kids' shows supposed to spend like five episodes minimum beating minor villains and learning about friendship or something? I'm pretty sure that's how it usually pans out?
I couldn't verify this because it's not streaming anywhere at the moment (which, I mean, come on guys), but I'm pretty sure the original begins with the kids hanging out at summer camp, not, y'know, thwarting the mass destruction of the Yamanote line.

I like that tho! It's action-packed and economically paced from the get-go, even though the escalation to the threat of worldwide nuclear annihilation in episode TWO is perhaps the wildest "shit just got real" moment I've seen in a children's anime.
Excuse me, Heybot! goes full-on fart-powered existential threat to the universe, let's not get ahead of ourselves now. But yeah, Digimon Colon basically skips to the finale of Terror in Resonance in two and a half episodes. Now I'm not trying to say a children's cartoon is quicker to the point than a serious adult political thriller, but the children's cartoon really is just quicker to the point than the serious political thriller.
Considering we're living through what feels like decades in the span of weeks right now, perhaps that accelerationism is just another accurate reflection of our modern times. Digimon, at the very least, definitely understands what being on Twitter is like 24/7.
Yeah this is just what it feels like to be terminally online.

Though I do raise my eyebrows a little at the 8-year-old on 4chan. Kid, you're not supposed to have your edgelord phase until you're at least 13, hold the heck up Izumi.
"Too online for their own good" is a universally tragic origin story. Dude is gonna grow up to be a QAnon guy if he isn't already.

But jokes aside, I think it's really smart of Adventure: to hold off throwing the entire cast into the mix all at once. Koshiro and Taichi end up having a nice and complementary dynamic, with Taichi rushing into the action while Koshiro uses his l33t haxx0rz skills to provide support and commentary from afar.

Also that child is just too small to be hanging out with Digital Monsters. Where are his parents?
On the other end of a Zoom call, obviously. Koshiro just doesn't share his screen with them while he's going all [hacker voice] I'm in.
He is just one very tiny Mr. Robot with a (pine)Apple computer.

I also like how his 4chan browsing habits reveal the two kinds of posters you will find online responding to any given disaster.
The characters might still have their awful '90s anime hair, but the show's sensibilities are thoroughly 2020, that's for sure.
Well, in some regards. Like, I wish the worst of our problems were just caused by nasty digital weeds that need pruning.
Yeah, our kids can hack those weeds down to size all they want, but bad actors still exist. But that's probably something to be addressed later down the line.
Adventure: also suffers from the cosmic irony of trying to update itself for 2020 specifically and, through no fault of its own of course, totally whiffing on the single most defining worldwide event of the year.
I mean, how could it predict a a global pandemic that would lead to its own production delay? It was on the right track when it zeroed in on viruses; it just picked the wrong type of virus. Oops!
Lol, true! And Digimon certainly isn't alone in that. It's just weird to think of all the stories written in the Before Times but set in 2020, which will now all occupy these weird parallel universes where COVID-19 didn't happen. Granted, things still get pretty rough in Taichi's world.
Global health crisis, nuclear disaster, either way lots of people are screwed. At least the digi-crisis is narrowly averted!
Sometimes the only thing you need to stop a bomb is two kids with attitude.

Well, attitude and two giant cyber monsters who can fuse together into a tokusatsu hero.

I think this is Omnimon by the way, but don't quote me on that.
Three kids! But don't worry, "Omnomimon" means absolutely nothing to me, so I'll be surprised if/when it shows up anyway.
Actually, on that note, I do like that this reboot doesn't bother getting preoccupied with its taxonomy. Like, the main villain mon of this arc is never named. It just looks freaky and does evil things, and that's all you need to communicate to your audience.
No need for names or fancy attacks when it can steal the saturation from the show's color palette to let you know shit really got real.

The show's really smartly directed, by the way. I honestly think most thrillers could learn a thing or two from how these episodes are put together.
Oh yeah, it manages to make those astronomical leaps of its stakes legitimately work! I was kinda on the edge of my seat during the climax of the nuclear showdown, not gonna lie. And the show also sells it with some pretty darn nice sakuga setpieces. Of course, it's also a children's program, so I can't begrudge it for things like "Digimon-powered rainbow manages to reverse the effects of a high altitude nuclear explosion EMP blast."

And since you mentioned it earlier, I would also like to shoutout Terror in Resonance for being the only reason I remembered that a nuke would do that.
I don't think you'd have much of a show in a nuclear wasteland! It'd be a very different one, at the very least. And as impressive as these first few episodes are, I'm kind of unsure how the show can scale down while still keeping the stakes meaningful. Unless we're gonna have a global-scale disaster happen every couple of weeks?
Lol yeah, this unintentionally ends up being one hell of a mic drop, but I imagine they'll have to scale things back as/when they continue. And I think that's definitely possible if it follows the original's lead and leans hard into developing its characters and their relationships to each other and to technology. I think those aspects of Digimon are what people my age look back on most fondly these days.
At that point it's a question of how compelling the show can make its cast of actual babies and how relevant its observations on tech are. I'm tentatively optimistic on the latter front; we'll see when it comes back after this [gestures wildly] is all over.
It's gonna be a rough season for anime production as a whole, but people's lives and safety are ultimately more important than hanging out with Agumon, no matter how sweet the Digital World looks.

But I'd say Adventure: is off to an auspicious start! And at the very least, I'm curious to see how it'll proceed.
For sure! And we're absolutely still gonna spend our time in a digital world of sorts, if not the Digimon one.
True that. And in that spirit, may I offer us all a nice digital egg in these trying times.

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