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Friday, 2 September 2016

Digimon Adventure: The Movie

Digimon Adventure: The Movie.

So, as our series on Mamoru Hosoda continues, it's high time we look at some of his work within other shows. While he has a smattering of work across various different anime, foremost among his work for other studios is his work on Digimon Adventure, consisting of two films (the pilot film and Our War Game) and one episode. One of these is much more interesting to look at than the others (even though out of the three, it's probably my least favourite), so we're going to start with that one -- specifically, I speak of the pilot film.

Or 'film,' I suppose. To my knowledge, its only theatrical release was when it was bundled with Our War Game and Hurricane Touchdown for its release in the US and Europe, whereas in Japan, it just aired on television as a 'zeroth episode' for Digimon Adventure 01. It's only about twenty minutes long, even including the ending theme, which makes it actually very slightly shorter than a regular episode.

Set in the Hikarigaoka neighbourhood of Odaiba during the mid-late nineties, the film follows Taichi Yagami and his sister Hikari when an egg emerges from their computer screen. As the two care for the egg, and the creature that emerges, over the course of the rest of the day and the following night, it grows into bigger and wilder forms, eventually culminating in a battle against a giant bird while the children of Hikarigaoka watch.

Taichi and Koromon.

Obviously, this film is meant to serve a very clear purpose: It's an origin story, describing how the gang of kids in Digimon Adventure 01 were chosen to save the world. Beyond that, though, Hosoda seems to have been given almost free reign to do as he likes, because -- much more than Our War Game or even the episode he wrote for the series -- this feels very distinctly like his original works.

More than anything, this feels like a Miyazaki-oid (and Hosoda-oid, since he likes these kinds of stories too) 'a boy and his monster' story compressed into a very small space of time, and the general beats of the story remain almost identical. A supernatural creature appears, there is suspicion, misunderstandings, hijinks, before it is eventually revealed that the misunderstandings were benign in nature, and the bond between human and creature becomes instrumental in saving the world. 

It's a very well-worn plot structure, just scaled down. The cast of characters is narrowed to basically a cast of three (four if you include Parrotmon, who never speaks but whose presence looms quite large over the latter half of the story, even before he turns up), and the standard plot beats are basically the only plot beats, with nothing to break them up.

Where Hosoda's work diverges from the norm is that -- most likely to pay lip service to the fact that the actual series requires the characters to start off confused so that they can be exposited, but also arguably for a few stylistic reasons -- these events are presented as consistently baffling and difficult to understand. The idea of a meeting that never should have happened, the interaction of two worlds that never should have overlapped, and the inexplicable nature of the entire event gets alluded to quite frequently.

A dinosaur vs bird battle feels oddly transgressive, somehow.

I say 'arguably for a few stylistic reasons,' because Hosoda manages to seed a few extra mysteries into the narrative. The two monsters simply vanish at the end, leaving behind very few traces of that they were around; despite none of the other characters having any reason to expect Parrotmon's arrival, it's made abundantly clear that Agumon is expecting him (and specifically him, at that); it's never really made apparent why his egg emerges from the computer in the first place, or if it was specifically seeking out Taichi and Hikari.

Touching briefly on technical aspects, you can kind of tell that Hosoda's budget wasn't exactly huge here. The animation is very distinctively like those of his other films, but considerably lower quality (and even having a certain grainy quality in places); the soundtrack is composed entirely of classical music, with a special focus on Bolero; and there's a very limited number of voice-actors (I'm not sure Hikari even gets any lines -- in fact, with a few exceptions, I think all the VAs are ones who would then turn up in the series).

It's a good product regardless, but it certainly suffered somewhat for its small budget.

Whistles are fun.

While a fun film, it's not difficult to see that there are some key differences between how Hosoda approaches his original work and how he approaches tie-in work. While I wouldn't say he puts any less effort in, there's a certain spark missing to them, a slightly more by-the-numbers approach to plotting. But what I've really taken away from this, and from his other forays into Digimon, is that I'd really like to see Hosoda do an entire Digimon series -- eiher in Adventure's continuity, or his own continuity. His particular style and themes mesh pretty well with Adventure's, and it'd be fun to see what he could pull off if he had more time and budget.

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