At long last, the Digimon Adventure: 2020 reboot series has arrived, and from the get-go is doing truly exciting things that have me counting down the days until Episode 2.
Tokyo Digital Crisis far exceeded my expectations, simultaneously managing to do something brand new with the characters of Adventure while also subtly referencing all kinds of Digimon stories from the franchise’s twenty year history through its visuals and story beats.
Off the bat, it appears this iteration of Digimon Adventure will not see the kids trapped in the Digital World. At least, not anytime soon. Instead, we appear to be getting something more akin to Adventure 02 where the cast can hop in and out of the digital world, and like Tamers and Data Squad (Savers) where strange digital phenomenons affect the real world. Of course, this also loosely resembles the events of the mid section Digimon Movie, Our War Game, but more on that later.
In terms of direction, this feels like the way to go: in 2020 our world is more digital than ever. Regardless of nostalgia for Adventure 01 — a series I’ll always love — the Digital World was really more akin to a fantasy land like Oz; there wasn’t much that was particularly digital about the world other than the names of its monster inhabitants. Opting to explore this network style Digital world to save a real world that massively relies on digital computer systems feels like a more modern premise.
Art & Animation
Admittedly, I was a little puzzled when a few weeks prior to its debut, Toei Animation dropped new character art assets that looked nearly identical to the 20 year old original series art. Shows like Hunter X Hunter and even American cartoons like Teen Titans Go had sort of trained my brain to expect reboots to flip the art style on its head.
However, seeing this art in motion was a thing of beauty and solidified just how much the animation has improved in 20 years even if the core style guide is the same. Agumon and Taichi moved around with speeds that we never got to see in the original series. Plus, the simpler art style allowed for more fluidity than something like Digimon Tri, which had the reverse issue of looking gorgeous when standing still, but less so in motion.
A living breathing Tokyo, particularly the train stations and Taichi’s apartment residence looked fantastic, with the later pulling hard on nostalgia strings. And while I mentioned that I’m into the new premise of hopping between the real world and a Digital space, the world that Taichi found himself in wasn’t particularly unique or nice to look at. There’s nothing awful about it, but it’s not as inspired as other interpretations of the internet, such as the Digital World from other seasons, the net from Our War Game, or the network from something like Summer Wars, a Hosoda classic that often gets brought up in Digimon conversations.
I hope to see some true Digital World exploration later on, like how the characters of Tamers had to enter the Digital World midway through that series. For now I can accept the compromise of a decent looking digital setting if the real world Tokyo setting continues to shine.
Characters And The Future
Based on the pilot, the opening animation, and many of the posters, it’s looking like this version of Digimon Adventure will focus even more on Taichi and Agumon as the main characters. Instead of introducing us to a handful of kids and Digimons immediately, it looks like the series will slowly roll out its other characters.
This could be similar to the Persona video game series in which every arc of that game introduces a new protagonist to join the team, with a focus on an enemy that ties to both the larger plot as well as that new character’s inner demons. While it may seem like we’re seeing less of these characters right now, we may actually get deeper connections with them by giving their individual personalities time to breathe.
Take the first episode, for instance: we already got to see an intriguing friendship blossoming between Taichi and Koushiro, one that probably wouldn’t have landed if six other characters were all on screen too, each trying to get their personalities out through quick one-liners.
Beyond that, the episode ended with a killer Yamato tease (and outro animation) that hints at a deeper exploration of his character. The fact Yamato is seen with a Champion level Digimon from the first episode fills us with questions: when did him and Gabumon meet? How did he find himself in this world? What are his intentions?
Speaking of the ending, the last minute or so of the episode teased a concept that has effectively sold me on watching (and reviewing) the rest of the series. Midway through watching Taichi and Koushiro teaming up to stop a real world tech malfunction, I caught myself thinking, “huh, this is giving me Our War Game vibes!”
Just as the episode was wrapping up, Koushiro dropped a bombshell, telling Taichi about a second Digimon cyberattack – this time in the U.S. “Looks like the American military’s tactical data network is being targeted,” Koushiro warned Taichi. At this point the story resemblance to Our War Game is unmistakable. Digimon Adventure: 2020 is going to revolve around a reimagining of that film.
Doing Our War Game is not a bad plan. That film is easily one of the highest regarded in the Digimon filmography, and also did the best job connecting the real and Digital Worlds through a cyber threat with huge real world ramifications. Some fans have often expressed sadness that only about half the DigiDestined cast gets time to shine in Our War Game, so expanding on the concept and letting Sora, Mimi, Jou, and Hikari in on the action could answer a 20 year fan wish.
I am pleasantly surprised and fascinated by what Digimon Adventure: 2020 Reboot brought to the table in its first episode. A clear focus on characters and taking its time rolling them out, an art style that is familiar but stunning in motion, nods to all kinds of Digimon franchise of the past including Our War Game, seems like a recipe for success.
I fully expected the new series to be heavily aimed at kids; something that hardcore adult Digimon fans might enjoy, but ultimately recognize that it isn’t for them. While I can see how this show will connect with new young audiences, I genuinely feel its doing things meant to surprise and excite old school fans, too. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
Tokyo Digital Crisis: 9/10
While its version of the Digital Space and enemy design could be more unique, episode one is delightful kickoff to a new series that balances respect for the source material with a willingness to explore in exciting ways.