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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion.


Digimon Adventure Tri:
Reunion.



Okay, I admit, I was slightly apprehensive. Toei has not had a good track record with anniversaries of late, what with Sailor Moon Crystal, Saint Seiya: Soul of Gold and Dragon Ball Super - in fact, the best thing that can be said about those three is that the latter two at least prove that their horrible treatment of Sailor Moon isn't motivated by misogyny. But yes, I was nervous about Tri - it is a continuation of one of my most beloved childhood series, after all, and its development was at least a little troubled.

But now it's out, and thanks to various streaming deals, out pretty much everywhere! I watched it immediately.

For reference purposes, while I am most familiar with the dub, I will be using original Japanese names and terms for this review, entirely because I was watching a subbed version, and a dubbed version hasn't even been announced yet.

The Digi-Husbands.

In this first arc (and I say 'arc', because on the version I watched, at least, the opening and ending credits between episodes had been left in, making it very visibly Not A Film), the Chosen Children reunite with their Digimon once again when spatial distortions open in the Real World, allowing so-called 'Infected' Digimon to wreak havoc. As Taichi struggles with the realisation that the battles between Digimon could cause injury or even death to bystanders, and a rising conflict with Yamato over it, the team attempts to deal with the new threat, and end up battling Alphamon, a Royal Knight and the seeming leader of the Infected, who is chasing down Meicoomon, the partner of a mysterious new Chosen Child.

So, long story, short: This is really, really good. I mean, I suppose it's not difficult to understand why Toei would lavish more time, attention, and money on it, Digimon being, as a worldwide franchise, more popular than Sailor Moon, Saint Seiya, and Dragon Ball put together, but it's still a pleasant surprise just how excellent Tri was.

Is Yamato's band actually different, or did they just rename themselves?

A large part of that is that it builds on the themes of its predecessors while still remaining true to them, and it's clear that the writers and animators - while they aren't the original writers or animators for either Adventure or Adventure 02 - are familiar with, and perhaps even fans of, the original source material. Whether they're fans or not, they're certainly treating it with a lot of respect, and that's quite charming to see. It isn't just that the arc/film builds on the bigger themes of the first two Adventure series, and incorporates its theme of growing up and the big-scary world of adulthood into them, but also that it's filled with little nods those series. Things like career-advisor-and-secret-agent Nishijima suggesting to Taichi that he should look into studying languages and the jobs that would open up to him, referencing Taichi's apparent future as a diplomat; or Yamato's pernicketyness over food and cooking subtly referencing food being a sore spot for him in 02; or a short shot of Koushiro's parents being as doting but slightly bewildered as they were when we first saw them.

It's nice. But on it's own, it would just be nice and nothing else: The series(/films ugh this is going to get awkward) has to be able to stand on its own.

Which it does. It's beautifully animated, some of the most gorgeous work I've seen on an anime, and every shot is perfectly composed and beautiful to look at. Action scenes especially are stunning to watch. The voice work is perfect, the pacing is solid (although in episode three in particular it slows down a bit), and the soundtrack is lovely and full of both earworms and reworked versions of old Digimon classics.

Ah, Alphamon. I remember when you were a protagonist.

In terms of plotting, Reunion also is a fine example of how to do something that's mature, but not dark, and definitely not gory. Mature subject matter is dealt with constantly, from Taichi's terror over the possibility that he might accidentally kill someone, to Koushiro's social anxiety, to Jyou's stress at failing his final year exams, to the role of the media in creating and propagating panic after a disaster, and it's all dealt with remarkably deftly. Startlingly deftly, actually, because some of these things, especially that last, are quite delicate subjects to be handling. But they're handled well, and it's done so without melodrama, gore, ultraviolence, or aught like that. 

The most violent scene comes near the beginning when the Chosen Children of 02 are being brutalised, and even that is a totally bloodless affair: Lighting, colour, shadows, and stark images like Miyako's broken glasses do the business of conveying the brutality of the situation instead. You could take a five year old to see this, and while they might end up slightly bored during episode three, which is undeniably the slowest of the lot, there wouldn't be anything there that's unsuitable for them. At the same time, though, people in their teens, twenties, and upwards can enjoy some pretty well thought through subject matter.

New Chosen Child Meiko is either a cinnamon roll or pure evil, and I have no idea
which one she'll eventually turn out to be.

The writing isn't just strong when it's being serious, either: There are some brilliant comedic beats in these four episodes, from Taichi's expression of absolute disgust as he realises that his football team are trying to impress Hikari to literally every scene that Mimi is in. Literally every one, she has become a wonderful troll.

I could go on for another thousand words, I think, but I will spare you. The long and short of it is that I'm pretty happy, and I'm looking forward to the next four episodes, titled Determination, which will apparently include more Jyou and Mimi stuff.

Also, people need to stop saying there was a love triangle.

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