After what feels like ages, Digimon Adventure 2020 is back in business. The Digi train has left the station and finally viewers get to explore the new Digital World teased at the end of Episode 3.
Birdramon Soars finds itself in a tricky spot as far as expectations go. It is the first episode after a two month hiatus that was unplanned and out of the studio’s control. It is also essentially the first episode of a new mini arc, meaning the events of this episode were never going to reach the highs of Episode 3, which was the conclusion of mini arc 1.
With all that said, Birdramon Soars mostly impressed me with its realization of the Digital World, a jaw dropping Digivolution sequence, and time for Sora and Birdramon to…well…Soar.
Animation Concerns After The Hiatus
I do have one concern with this episode, though, and that was with some moments of animation that didn’t feel all that animated. Let’s just rip the band-aid off and cover that before exploring what I loved.
Early on viewers are treated to sprawling shots of this shiny, bright Digital World, which I adored as establishing shots…until Digimon in motion were included. For some reason these monsters didn’t feel like they were moving in a space — they felt like PNG files dragged across a background in Photoshop. I don’t consider myself an animation snob, but there was little to no animation on the creatures themselves and it was extremely hard not to notice.
Later on in the episode the same thing happened to Sneimon – the Digimon flies out of the shot but instead of flying it looked like clip art was dragged out of the crop area.
I’m curious to see if we’ll get more of this in future episodes or if it will prove to be an anomaly. Is this the first time we’re physically seeing the side effects of the mandatory work from home period animation studios were forced to take? OR, was episode 4 always going to take a hit? It’s always possible and fairly common for shows to pour their budgets into the first few episodes and the final couple episodes of a season to grab audiences from the start, so maybe episode 4 was always destined to look a little worse than episode 3.
One thing that didn’t look worse was the phenomenal Digivolution sequence that Agumon is treated to in this episode. Between the original 01, Tri, and this, I think Adventure 2020 may have just given us the best evolution sequence we’ve ever seen. I can’t wait to see the other partner Digimon get this treatment, and I’m even more excited to see what Champion to Ultimate will look like!
As for the episode’s plot it’s fairly straight forward, and honestly a nice slowdown after the dramatic heights of the Tokyo Digital Crisis arc. The kids have 72 hours before a region wide blackout hits Tokyo, and have to work their way towards a colourful mountain that seems to hold the answers. Sora, Tai, Agumon and Piyomon craft a raft, and in a delightful moment Sora justifies why she wears that helmet-hat thingie, deeming it necessary to wear a helmet for this dangerous raft ride.
Taichi and Greymon fight an enemy in the water while Sora and Piyomon fight the Sneimon in the sky. Sora demonstrates courage and love climbing up the Sneimon’s leg to free Piyomon, and their connection results in the birth of Birdramon. We’re treated to a killer bit of music by Takayoshi Tanimoto, and the episode more or less ends.
Birdramon Soars was a fine addition to the new canon of Digimon Adventure 2020 episodes. It presented concerns in the early half with clip art level animation at times, bu redeemed itself shortly after with an unbelievable transformation scene and a stellar fight with Birdramon. Episode 5 teases a bit of world building with Holy Digimon that looks promising; we’ll see next week if the history of this Digital World is similar to the original shows, or if they’re going for something completely new.