Digimon Adventure

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It’s a bit of an anticlimax. A memory of a few powerful episodes made me hope I’d get more of the same. The Digimon series is split into different shows, each spanning about 50 episodes. These are stories that eventually conclude, instead of going on forever. Such decisions separate good storytellers from the bad. I hoped I’d get something more like Medabots – odd characters, light episodes that slowly grow into a dark and intense climax. It turned out something like that, but with none of the skill Medabots displayed.

There are the hilarious comparison to Pokemon. It’s Medabots that is actually far similar, with the whole championship story. Digimon is just a hero’s journey split into 8 protagonists who have a cool pet coming along. I’m sure that if I pick a random Fantasy bestseller, I’d get a hero with a cool pet, too. Even Jon Snow has his albino wolf.

None of the Digimon are as boring as an albino wolf, but that’s damning with faint praise. It’s a limp show. The visual style is brilliant, but in the storytelling department the imagination is so lacking. Isn’t this ‘creative differences’? People who can design Sora, Izzy and Apocalymon shouldn’t be on speaking terms with people who wrote an arc like Miyotismon’s.

The problem that towers above the series is not that the Digivolutions are repetitive, or the monologues about friendship. It’s not even that the action is pathetic. Every battle is solved by getting stronger, with no attention to fighting styles. There is no difference between any of the Digimon, so all the fights are same. Even that can be forgiven. Such dull characters can’t.

You can’t blame the protagonists too much. They didn’t choose to go to the Digi-World, but the villains could have been a bit more. Devimon is evil. That’s his whole character. He sticks black gears in good Digimon, and to remove them you just shoot a fireball and it’s all over. About 13 episodes are dedicated to him.

At least Devimon does something. Miyotismon is supposed to be even more powerful. We know that because we’re told so. This powerful Digimon spends around 10 episodes sending a pathetic bat to mess with the kids’ heads. This create ‘conflicts’ which come and go like a chicken breast meal. No one remembers them. They don’t affect the future and everyone keeps going like nothing happened.

Eventually Miyotismon shows himself, but it’s hard to take him seriously by then. He spent all these episodes threatening his bat buddy but doing nothing. If he has to send a weak Digimon to bother the kids and can’t afford to get angry over him, how dangerous is he? There is a bold attempt to create drama with the kids’ families in the real world, but Miyotismon is there. He is also evil, but that’s it. No method to his madness but just a desire to be an asshole and laugh maniacally.

Once the series moves to more interesting antagonists, everything changes. So Etemon was defeated by Greymon getting stronger. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t make Etemon any less fun. He’s evil, but he’s also a megalomaniac. Every action, every moment he’s on screen is affected by this. He feels more alive and real than the other threats, and thus more dangerous.

Puppetmon is where, suddenly, they get everything right. Even their dull monologues about friendship gain a purpose. Although Puppetmon is supposed to be evil, more often than not he’s just a spoiled kid who wants to connect with people but also have his way. His journey mirrors the kids, and his defeat comes because he refuses the to learn the lesson that they do. For once it makes sense for his death to not come out of a fight. He’s defeated not by strength but because his worldview fails him.

I’m told Digimon is for kids, so expecting moments like these is silly. Yet here they are, and they’re well-executed, intense, exciting and more entertaining than anything else around it. Medabots and Pixar films are for kids too, but they don’t shy away from such symbolism. It doesn’t need to have layers to dig through. It just needs to mean more than ‘they defeated the bad guys’. Even Apocalymon, in his brief time, delivers a speech that shows he’s more than just another evil guy doing evil things.

If your villains are evil and your heroes are good, but they don’t represent more than than then they’re not characters. They’re tools in a game, which works in an Asimov novel but not in a monomyth-esque anime. Even the idea of ‘goodness’ is not really explored. So if it’s all an excuse just to have fights, then the fights need to be interesting. In Digimon, they just power up and that’s it.

The only reason we care about entertainment is because of what it means. Genres are created around themes, like romance or suspense or tragedy. Even music, which tends to be too abstract has genres more dominated by themes and meanings rather than sounds (see also: Industrial music). Digimon Adventure has some monologues about friendship, which is nice. Bad teachers also deliver these monologues with hopes that the kids will shut up, but that doesn’t make the teacher a good one. It doesn’t even make the kids respect them.

There was a lot of potential here, but most of it is wasted. It’s a pretty show, one that has plenty of cool visual ideas. The lazy storytelling even stomps that out sometimes. Halfway through, most new Digimon that appeared just looked like more grotesque versions of animals. It happens a lot in the Miyotismon arc, where the giant monsters look like barely any work was spent on them. You sometimes get something like Apocalymon, one of the more visually uniquee things I’ve seen but it’s dullness all the way. The Etemon arc and the Dark Masters arc are worth a watch, but even they are disappointing.

2 files out of 5

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