Welcome, one and all, to the first installment of a new weekly anime episode review series. I’m playing catch-up here due to a number of reasons. The obvious one is Covid-19. The lockdown here in the UK has meant major routine changes, which have seen me have to switch things up quite a bit. There’s also my ongoing game project. And…the problem of picking a show to review.
I settled on giving Digimon Adventure 2020 a shot. I’ll be honest though: I was wary. The original season was enjoyable, and while it had issues, it still has some charm in my opinion. Plus, we already had several follow-ups in the form of movies, a second season, and the more recent OVA series. Digimon Tamers remains my favourite season, and the radio drama that came with the anniversary release of it started a story where the kids from that run were transported to modern times, so it felt like that would be more logical than simply rebooting Adventure in 2020.
But. I’m extremely loyal to the franchise. While not as consistent as Pokémon, I always felt like Digimon did a better job of progressing the world and telling stories that weren’t just rehashes of the same old tale. As such, I was happy to give this a shot. The question is, did it reward my faith? Let’ have a look at episode one, two and three, and find out!
Soundscapes & Visuals
I wanted to start by talking about the audio in this run. Overall, I think it’s actually an improvement on the original run. The background pieces are really quite wonderful. Throughout these three episodes, there were plenty of little musical moments that leaped out at me. For one, the battle piece – that history dictates will be recurring – had a feel of old giant monster shows to me. It wouldn’t have felt out of place in something like Ultraman or Getter Robo G to me, and that fit really well with the nature of the battles.
The lesser-used pieces worked well too though. From the fantasy anime-styled melody when Omnimon was attempting to redirect the missile aimed at Tokyo to the dark orchestral with a rock drum beat track that played towards the end of episode three, Toshihiko Sahashi is doing a phenomenal job here.
The ending theme, Kuyashisa wa Tane by Chiai Fujikawa was fine, but it’s the opening theme that I wanted to talk about a little more. Takayoshi Tanimoto’s Mikakunin Hikousen is a really cool track. It feels like a modern anime theme more than the older series songs do. He’s also got a pedigree with Digimon, performing One Vision, the Matrix Digivolution theme from Digimon Tamers. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t find this a little bittersweet. I’m glad they stuck with someone that has a history with the franchise, but Kouji Wada, the man behind the previous themes, was a huge part of it all, and his death truly was a sad loss. I’m glad that he got to perform the theme for Digimon Adventure Tri.
From a visual standpoint, this is a definite step up from the 1999 original. And let’s be honest here if it wasn’t that would be a problem. The old series was never bad to look at, but it was also never standout. So far, this is, in some ways, much the same. I’d say it slots in nicely with some of the better-looking series out there right now, but it hasn’t done enough yet to make itself a real classic in how it looks.
That’s not to say it’s got much to criticise though. The animation is smooth, and the characters we’ve seen are just as emotive as you’d want them to be. The battles have a fun factor to them but are aided by some gloriously creepy enemy designs to make them feel a little heavier than they are. Toei Animation have clearly taken great care to ensure that the Digimon themselves move well and look the part all round so that’s awesome. And the backgrounds? Those are nice. The real-world stuff is fine, but the stylised view of the Network is better. The brief glimpse we get of the actual Digital World at the end of episode three though? That hints at some real beauty. I’m looking forward to seeing how they balance the real-world level physical nature of it with the electronic theme.
It’s the Chosen Children that really stand out visually though. In some ways, they aren’t that different from yesteryear. There are some visual tweaks here and there, like Yamato’s shirt colour and the way hair is drawn, but it’s mostly intact. For a series that will be relying on both new audiences and nostalgia, that was a wise choice. It feels like Toei only changed what they need to in that regard.
The thing that I loved though was the size of the characters. These are clearly kids. The way they’re drawn makes them appear youthful, and you can see a clear physical disparity between the age groups. Koushiro is clearly younger than Taichi and Sora, and both Hikari and Takeru are absolutely adorable in their teeny-tinyness. Couple that with body language that is also clearly child-like, and it’s a wonderful combo.
Some things have changed with the story. The core elements are clearly there, but it’s different enough to not feel like a wasted project. For one, we don’t have the first batch of kids getting sucked into the Digital World while at camp. Instead, we have Taichi preparing for camp and meeting Koushiro for the first time.
That segues into something going wrong with the tech in Japan and the Tokyo trains going wild – while Taichi’s mum and little sister are on board – and Taichi being warped onto the Net and meeting Agumon. They fight a bunch of Argomon, meet Yamato and Garurumon, and prevent a nuclear missile from hitting Tokyo. Then, Taichi and Koushiro briefly go to camp, introduce us to Sora, and in the end, the three are warped to the Digital World.
The whole thing is really quite interesting. In essence, the first three episodes kinda felt like a modernised mix of the original season opener and the Our War Game movie. The way we were introduced to the characters was certainly better executed. We got to spend some real-time with Taichi, Koushiro and to a lesser extend Yamato, getting to know what they’re like in this run. Then, when we finally met Sora, we were given enough to know that she’s popular and has known Taichi for a long time.
We also got plenty of intrigue built up. Yamato clearly knows more about the situation than he’s said, which leaves you wondering how long he’s been going there. Not to mention that when we first meet him, his Digimon Partner has already evolved to Garurumon. There’s also the feather motif where Hikari and Takeru catch feathers and Garurumon and Greymon are suddenly able to DNA evolve to Omnimon. Throw in that Hikari seems to know what Taichi did, and the mystery of why the missile was targeted at Tokyo, and there’s plenty to look forward to diving into.
That all being said, some things haven’t changed much at all. One thing that always felt a little off in the original season was the pacing. Everything flew by and for a long time, we essentially followed the same pattern form episode to episode. Child meets Digimon, crisis happens, evolution occurs, newly power-up hero wins, and repeat.
The same can be said here. Taichi evolves Koromon to Agumon, then to Greymon in the same episode. We meet Garurumon and they power up. Then they get the DNA evolution. The preview for the next episode makes it look like we’re going to follow the same route with Sora next.
It’s repetitious and it has a tendency to feel rushed. Honestly, up until Omnimon’s appearance I thought the series had shown a little more restraint in the constant evolution cycle, but pulling out the most powerful form of the lead heroes’ Digimon so early definitely felt rushed to me.
But I don’t want to criticize that too much. At the end of the day, this is a kid’s show. The pacing is built to cater to the primary target demographic, and as much as I think Toei were aiming for the nostalgia market, kids are still the main focus. As such, I don’t really expect the slow-burn of a more mature series.
Looking ahead, I can see a few things happening. Yamato I think has been in the Net for a while. Greymon was clearly acquainted with Garurumon already, so the pair must have been fighting things off for some time. That Garurumon was Garurumon, and not even Gabumon, means he already has the bond with Yamato. Yamato also seemed to have a good grasp on tactics, pointing towards some experience. I doubt they’ll make much of this other than to say that he’d been there a few times already though.
The missile is the better mystery, I think. It was aimed at Tokyo, where we know both Hikari and Takeru were present. Both children found feathers which seemed to affect the birth of Omnimon. If you’re familiar with the original run, you’ll know that Hikari and Takeru’s Digimon partners are Tailmon and Patomon, respectively. These two digivolve into the powerful Angewoman and Angemon. Given that, it’s clear what the feather motif represents. I’m going to guess that the big bad knows about Hikari and Takeru and wants them dead rather than have to face the angels.
It’s a real shame this is on hold right now. Understandable given the current crisis in the world, but still a shame. I had pretty low expectations coming into this, but it did a far better job than I expected. When it returns so will the reviews.
But those are just my thoughts. Did you watch these episodes? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.