Saturday, December 05, 2015

First Part of 'Digimon Adventure tri.', 'Saikai', Is Rich in Nostalgic Charm and Production Value, but Lacking in Everything Else

To mark the 15th anniversary of the Digimon franchise, Toei Animation decided to produce a six-film series entitled Digimon Adventure tri.  It’s a direct sequel to the very first series, Digimon Adventure, and set six years after its events.  The first film of the series, Saikai (meaning “Reunion”), has been recently released, and I’ve just finished watching it.  It’s technically a full-length movie, but it’s being packaged outside Japan as a series of four episodes (via Crunchyroll); I’m still going to consider it as a movie, though (hence, the “2015 movies” label of this post).

The plot of Saikai is simple and predictable: the original DigiDestined – now in high school – and their Digimon partners are reunited to protect the human world from rampaging corrupted Digimon that are mysteriously popping out from the Digiworld.

Production-wise, the quality of this new Digimon anime is very good.  It also has ample nostalgic charm.  However, I was honestly underwhelmed by the story.  One of the things that make Digimon a better anime franchise than Pokemon is how it tells complicated and high-stakes narratives and trusts its young audience to handle it.  But in Saikai, nothing extraordinary happened.  Granted that it’s just the first movie of a six-part film series, still, I was hoping it would immediately have that storytelling depth.

Aside from that, I also didn’t like the slow, exposition-heavy pacing; the pretentious and needless tension between Taichi and Yamato; and the fact that it took until the very last minutes before we get to see any of the Digimon digivolving above “Champion” form – and it was done in such an anti-climactic manner that there was no pleasure at all when it happened.

Even as far as “fan-servicing” is concerned, it lacks at it.  I was hoping some characters or elements from the other Digimon series would make some “cross-over” appearance.  But that didn’t happen, to my disappointment.  Heck, aside from those DigiDestined who are both part of the first and second batches, none of the second DigiDestined batch are even in it.

Actually, in my opinion, Digimon Adventure tri. should have been all about servicing Digimon fans.  Because, seriously, I don’t think it has enough appeal to draw a new generation of fans anyway.  Almost all of Digimon’s fans now consist of adults who had watched and loved the original anime as kids.  Thus, Digimon Adventure tri. should have been designed for them.  And one thing which I think would have appealed more to such intended audience is if the timeskip isn’t just six years, but ten to fifteen years instead – wherein the DigiDestined are already in their 20’s dealing with young adult issues.  That would have been more relatable and interesting to fans.

So yeah, I was kind of disappointed with Saikai. But again, this is just the first installment.  Digimon Adventure tri. could get better.  Maybe it’ll get thrilling eventually.  Too bad, we still have to wait until March next year – intended release date for Ketsui (“Determination”), the second installment – to find out.

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