Disclaimer: minor spoilers ahead.
When we left the DigiDestined at the end of the first film, there were a lot of unanswered questions. What exactly are the infected Digimon, what’s causing all the distortions between the real world and the digital world, and who’s the one causing all this? These are just a few of the questions that have been plaguing fans since last October. There was hope that we’d get a lot more clarity about what on earth was going on in the second part: Determination. The film is finally out now and while there are some new clues as to the identity of the primary antagonist, there’s still a lot that we don’t know about. In fact, we have even more questions than we had to start with. But that’s not a bad thing, because unlike the first film Reunion, Determination tries to add some variety that makes it feel more like the series, so many of us grew to love over a decade ago. Despite little progress regarding moving the story along, Determination seems like a step in the right direction rather than a misstep.
Before getting to the serious aspects of the plot, Determination does tackle two tried and true anime tropes: the hot spring trip and the high school festival. If you’re familiar with anime at all, then you’ll understand when I say that not much happens here. Sure there’s hijinx involving Digimon pretending to be mascots and stealing food, but it’s your standard anime fare. Overall though the tone is a nice change of pace from the serious themes that the film series as a whole is adopting. But Determination thankfully isn’t just a lot of pointless fluff followed by a big battle; there’s significant character development as well.
Determination does reveal some additional details about Meiko and Meicoomon, the two new characters introduced at the end of the first film. However, apart from Meiko being a shy girl stereotype there’s still not a ton that we don’t know about Meiko, or in particular, Meicoomon. It is clear that both have enormous roles to play, but like last time, we apparently aren’t supposed to know that yet. They aren’t the stars of the show, but Determination does things a little differently this time around in that regard.
Rather than focus on the main heroes Taichi and Yamato, Determination focuses on Mimi and Joe. Personally, this was perhaps my favourite aspect of the whole film. Watching the series as a kid, Mimi and Joe (Izumi as well) were always my favourites, so it was incredibly satisfying to seem them take central roles. And we’re not talking about the final battle and their job in “saving” the day (we’ll talk about that later), I’m talking about the struggles that they face as well. Joe, in particular, is trying to get into a good university and doesn’t know if he can to that, throwing his “responsibilities” as a DigiDestined into the mix isn’t making things any better. He honestly wants to do the right thing, but becoming an adult is terrifying, and he doesn’t want to make a mistake he’ll regret later. Still, he comes through in the end, and the payoff is excellent. Mimi’s story is decidedly less emotional. It’s clear that she’s become braver than when we first met her, but her unintentional selfishness is clearly still a problem as evident by her good intentions coming across as thoughtless, annoying, and occasionally dangerous. The problem is that there isn’t a resolution, that is if you don’t consider “just deal with it” a resolution.
Either way, it was pleasing to have these two take the spotlight and have it culminate in the aspect I’ll admit I was the most excited for, the battle between Imperialdramon and both Rosemon and Vikemon. Apart from non-canon materials, we’ve never seen the mega forms of the other DigiDestined. The result, while brief, is a fun and exciting end to the film. Or rather a first part of the ending, because unlike the first film there’s a huge cliffhanger that will make waiting for the third movie’s release in September agonizing.
Part of the problem I had with the first film was the pacing and the lack of answers to questions, and while a few of the smaller ones from Reunion have been answered, there are about a million more brought up in Determination. For starters not only does the return of Imperialdramon and another familiar face raise some questions, but our heroes reactions to said return feels very strange. At this point if the third part doesn’t resolve some of the bigger mysteries then there’s the risk that any resolution will feel rushed despite the several parts of Digimon Adventure Tri.
Still, Determination has enough going for it that it feels like a satisfying follow-up to the first part. Even with the plot thickening at a sometimes criminally slow pace, there’s enough progress that it doesn’t seem like a waste of time. Time will only tell whether or not the third film, Confession, will take a bigger step forward than Determination.