There are two kinds of fans of Digimon. There’s the one that just watched the first season (possibly the second as well) when it was on tv back in the early 2000s, and there’s the Digimon fan who watched the first season and then went on to watch the show in the original Japanese. Generally speaking, the second kind of fan is a far more discerning viewer of anime, whereas the first was a kid when Digimon first aired, a time when Pokemon and Dragon Ball Z were two of the dominant shows for kids. I bring up this difference because depending on what camp you fall into, or if you fall into neither, you’re going to have a very different experience watching the first movie in the Digimon Adventure Tri series. The first film Saikai, translated as “Reunion”, has been released to the hordes of fans who have been eagerly awaiting its release since the project was first announced. The result is a film that will excite fans of the franchise, but only the second kind of fan that I mentioned earlier not the first.
The film takes place three years after the events of Digimon Adventure 02, with the original Digi-destined now much older and facing the challenges of high school and eventually entering the world of adults. And of course, evil Digimon have once again come to cause trouble the real world. But the key difference is that while the television series was light-hearted most of the time, the movie is arguably a darker story. While the original dealt with some serious subjects, you can tell that Tri is attempting to be a more mature story in certain areas. Primarily the fact that the battles between the Digimon cause some serious damage like “destroys most of an airport” serious. Going hand in hand with the serious story are some serious character moments. You can tell that while all the characters we’ve come to know and love are still mostly the same, major characters like Taichi (Tai), Joe, and Yamato (Matt) all have a far more mature view of the world around them, constantly pondering if they’re doing the right thing.
Now, before you go panicking thinking that Digimon has gone the Dark Knight route, it hasn’t. There’s more than enough comic relief to balance any grave situations our heroes find themselves in. In particular, what the film does best is fan service. In fact, the film does this so well that if you haven’t seen Digimon before you’re not going to understand what’s happening. But, if you’re a fan of the original Japanese dub, then you’re going to feel right at home. A large number of the original voice cast have returned to familiar roles, and the music for the opening and ending are new versions of the same themes from the first season.
But for all that’s familiar, there are a lot of things that are unfamiliar to the audience. Without getting into spoiler territory, from the very beginning of the film there are some very big questions that even by the end of the first film are left unanswered. One of the biggest problems with the film is its pacing. While you understand that is part 1 of 6, to give us a story with so many unresolved threads and then have made virtually no progression in two hours feels like the only reason it’s six parts are due to the pacing rather than plot content.
Despite this issue, if you’re like me were one of the thousand who couldn’t wait for this come out then I’m happy to say that you’re going to be very happy with Digimon Adventure Tri. There’s enough nostalgia to make us happy, but the difference in overall tone means that we’re watching something specifically made for us rather than kids. If you’re a casual fan or new to the series, then you might feel out of place. Here’s hoping that the next films will resolve the pacing issues; unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait until March for that. Guess we can wait a little longer if it’s as good as this one.