Sunday, April 5, 2020

REVIEW: Digimon Adventure: Ep. 1

During a time where the whole world has come to a halt in perpetration for a massive change to everyone's entire way of life, there are no more new comics to review, conventions are canceled or delayed, and shops are closing down - some never to open again. Then, out of nowhere, the Digimon Adventure reboot flies into our lives at just the right moment. The moment when we needed it most. But is it any good?

It's the year 2020. The Network has become something humans can no longer do without in their daily lives. But what humans don't know is that on the other side of the Network is the Digital World. Nor are they aware of the Digimon who live there. Fifth grader Taichi Yagami's mother and little sister Hikari went to Shibuya, and now they're aboard a runaway train. Taichi hurries to Shibuya to save his mother and sister, but the instant he heads toward the station platform... a strange phenomenon befalls the DigiDestined, and Taichi goes to the Digital World!

For those of you finding me for the first time, let's go over  few things before we get into the full review. While there was a time when The Modern Gafa was nothing but reviews of TV shows, I can't remember the last time I reviewed an individual episode of a TV show - not to mention one from a franchise I love so dearly. So this may be rough, all over the place, overwritten, but still totally fun.

Secondly, just so you don't get thrown off, since I grew up with Saban's English dub of the series on Fox Kids and have had limited exposure to the original Japanese version via tri., I tend to sway toward using English names and terminology. I do use some Japanese names and will often use both interchangeably - sometimes within the same sentence. 

Also all of my reviews are super duper full of spoilers. Got it? Cool. On with the show.

The episode opens with a narrated introduction to the universe featuring clips from later in the episode - it almost feels like a trailer. Then we dive right into the OP. I've only seen it once but the song itself wasn't particularly memorable. I can't exactly hum any of it in my head just from memory.  I'm sure that'll change with the coming weeks. The visuals were really nice though. Plenty of great callbacks - I could almost do a whole article on that alone.

As the actual episode begins, it is once again August 1st and Tai is preparing for camp while his mom takes his little sister, Hikari, into the city for a lesson of some sort. Tai takes a break from packing to catch up on the local news - as you do when you're eleven. He is greeted at the door by Izzy who lives in the same building as him and has a question about camp. Izzy sees the news on Tai's phone and forgets all about camp before the two dive right into Adventure.

The episode wastes no time getting to the action and excitement. Tai and Izzy learn about weird problems that have been happening with the network. Izzy seems to already be aware of these phenomena as well. The net crisis of the week involves the trains near the circular Yamanote Line going out of contraol. Realizing that's where his mom and sister are, Tai runs off to try and save them.

The concept of Digimon causing problems in the real world's electronics and network systems a core of the anime and using it as episodic plot points is nothing new. This was a big part of Data Squad and Young Hunters and a bit with Tamers. It's not clear if that's going to be a recurring thing here, but if it is - even if only for the first 13 or so episodes - then I'm all for it.

I'm not entirely sure what Tai's plan was during any of this. I find it both heroic and reckless of him to think he can run on foot to the train station in not-Shibuya to prevent his mom and sister from getting on a train in Shibuya and then think he can run along the tracks to... what? Stop the train himself? The writers here really get Tai. He loves him family and wants to protect them, but he's also as brash as he is heroic.

While running down to the platform, Tai vanishes and ends up in the Digital World where he spots a wounded Koromon. After rescuing Koromon, Tai gets his Digivice and meets Agumon for the first time. Again, the episode doesn't waste any time, so we're quickly off into battle.

A decent chunk of the episode is just Agumon slashing and burning these little green Digimon that look like Kuramon but are not Kuramon - they said the name somewhere but I forget. Tai also jumps in to smack a few around. I can't wait for the Tai/Marcus punching memes to start.

This is actually my biggest problem with the episode. Tai and Agumon don't really have any dialogue with each other. The moment they meet - it's fightin' time. The best thing about Digimon is the relationships between the kids and their Digimon partners. I feel like the fight with the swarm of not-Kuramons could've been shortened to give Tai and Agumon a chance to actually talk.

Around the same time Tai got his Digivice, so did Izzy. This also transformed his laptop - which has a timely tablet mode - into a full blown Digi-Destined command center. I hope he can read Digi-Code. The new Digivices also have a voice chat and a Star Wars holo-chat feature.

So the entire time Agumon is taking on a swarm of Digimon, Izzy is dumping some sweet, sweet exposition. This was a great way to show off the series' new animation while still getting important info and worldbuilding across. 

The last remaining attacking Digimon Warp-Digivolves to a big tentacle abomination with these cool metal claws. Tai does some courage and Agumon digivolves to Greymon. I'm sure we'll get a traditional sequence later on, but here the transformation is depicted in real time as Agumon grows in size and gains stripes and horns all while glowing red-hot pixels. It's pretty as hell and I hope the standard, reusable sequence we eventually get is based on this. Also, I hope every first time on-screen evolution does this.

After the smackdown, Izzy says there is another network crisis happening in America. But Tai and Greymon seem to be distracted by the sudden appearance of a blond-haired boy atop a large, white wolf. And that is where our episode ends. In a bizarre choice, the series' first ED is an angsty Matt music video.

Based on this first episode, Digimon Adventure: is on track to satisfy new and old fans alike with no sign of slowing down. I always say that the best reboot is the kind that keeps the characters and their personalities and the basic premise while changing literally everything else. And this series does that perfectly.

I've seen lots of comments from fans saying things like "I hope they skip Etemon" or "I hope they use Machinedramon more" and I've been quietly saying, "I hope we don't see anything from the first series." And it looks like we're going to get that. I'm rewatching my favorite characters go on an adventure - and I have no idea what's going to happen next.

The episode does a great job at setting things up without giving too much away. We only get glimpses of the other kids beyond Tai with Izzy and Kari in smaller roles. And even though this episode is dense with lots of action and evolution and exposition - but it didn't feel overstuffed or claustrophobic. 

So. Is Digimon Adventure: a good series? Probably. I don't know. I've only seen one episode. I purposely tried to go in with zero expectations, but couldn't help get more and more excited leading up to the premiere.

I was absolutely in love with every moment of this episode. I strongly recommend it to fans of the original and anyone curious of checking out what all the fuss is about. Digimon is back. Again.

A few quick things you may have missed:
  1. Izzy's "Digi-Destined User Name" appears to be "Wiseman" and the Crest of Knowledge appears to be renamed "Wisdom Stone." I'd say Wisdom is technically different from Knowledge, so I hope all of the crests are given slight rebrandings and I really hope everyone gets a cool title. 
  2. Izzy's laptop is a product of Tachikawa Computers, hinting at Mimi's dad being a tech mogul. This is great, especially since Mimi probably knows nothing about computers.
  3. We see a lot of close-ups of phones on a call in-progress screne and aside from the the usual icons there is also one for a mustache, glasses, and Toei's Puss in Boots logo.

Digimon Adventure: is available on Crunchyroll. You can find the first episode here. Crunchyroll Premium subscribers have access to new episodes ad-free and in HD about an hour after they air in Japan for. Without a subscription you'll have to wait a week for new episodes and watch them with ads and in SD. Premium subscriptions are about $8 a month.