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Saturday, 25 February 2017

Digimon Adventure Tri: Loss

Digimon Adventure Tri:

Okay, look, I'm just going to say it: The length of time between these films is, on average, too long. The wait between Determination and Confession was obscene, and the wait between Confession and this one -- a wait of about five months -- was much shorter but still tested my patience some. Part of that is that it's not just a wait: It's a wait with a constant barrage of marketing and a dripfeed of information, keeping us all in a state of perpetual hype, like the fan enthusiasm equivalent of a man who downed an entire bottle of Viagra on a dare and is now staring down the barrel of tissue damage, scarring, and, yes, eventually necrosis, wondering where his life went wrong.

Moving on.

Invariably, the film that comes out at the end of that wait lets a lot of people down: How can it not, when it is contending not only with fifteen years of built up nostalgia, but also with a calculated and ruthlessly efficient hype-marketing machine.

With that qualifier in place, I can say that while I did enjoy Loss, I also firmly believe it to be the worst film of the bunch so far.

Picking up immediately after the end of Confession, Loss sees the kids, now reunited with their Digimon partners, at a loss (heh) as to what to do. When Meicoomon -- seemingly unaffected by the Reboot -- appears, the group decide to stay in the Digital World and reunite Meicoomon with Meiko. Sora, however, swiftly finds herself facing personal problems when Piyomon refuses to acknowledge her as her partner, instead responding angrily and pulling away from her. Before long, crisis hits, however, when Mugendramon, one of the Dark Masters, appears, along with a MetalSeadramon and a now thoroughly evil Gennai. Meanwhile, Nishijima meets Huckmon, and remembers his history with Maki, as members of the Original Chosen Children.

Water guys.

Okay, let's talk about the main problem that Digimon Adventure Tri has: Too many cooks. In this case, 'cooks' could mean 'writers' or 'villains' or just 'stray, untethered plot elements,' you can take your pick. Every film has a different writer with a different style and a different focus, and moreover, it feels very much like every film introduces a cascade of new concepts and villains. Reunion introduced the Infection, Meicoomon, the Bureau (and Maki), the 02 kids being missing, and Alphamon. Determination introducd Evil Holo-Ken. Confession re-introduced Homeostasis, the idea of the Reboot, and the fact that Evil Holo-Ken was Gennai all along. Now Loss re-introduces the Original Chosen, introduces Yggdrassil, and introduces the Libra, who is Meicoomon, or something.

You see the problem? If this were a series, we'd be on episode seventeen, and I have never known a show to throw so many concepts at us with no attempt to resolve any of them. Some of these concepts are ones brought up briefly in 01 and 02, some are ones taken from other Digimon shows, and some are just entirely new, leaving us with a confusing hodgepodge of plot elements.

Ideally, Loss should have been the place where plot elements and questions start being resolved. We should have gotten a definitive answer on who our villain is, and it should have been someone we were already introduced to in Tri or 01; we should have gotten some kind of answer on what Meicoomon is (just saying she's 'the Libra' doesn't count, because we don't know what that is); and we should've gotten something approaching progress on the status of the 02 kids, the big mystery that's been looming over the series since its opening scene.

A cool bird.

Instead, what we largely got were some absolutely killer set pieces and emotional pay-off moments with a very weak connecting tissue. There are moments of sheer brilliance in the film: The sequence with Taichi and Yamato underwater was great; Hououmon's appearance was good; Sora independently solving her own problems was solid; and the opening sequence, depicting a sinister, old movie style flashback to the final battle of the Original Chosen, was wonderful -- but the elements that connect those big pay-off moments is lacking.

That's a problem, because when you have pay-off moments, it's the build-up which really makes them. You have to earn those emotional beats -- and that is particularly a problem when you get moments like Seraphimon's appearance, or HeraklesKabuterimon's reappearance, because there was no build-up to those, and so they lacked any kind of emotional justification.

Gennai, who is about to be bitten by a cat.

Which leads us onto Tri's other big problem: It lacks time. With a huge ensemble cast and a complicated plot, it simply lacks the minutes necessary to play out its big emotional arcs the way I think we all would like it to. As a fifty episode series, it would probably work a lot better, but instead it's a twenty-five to twenty-six episode series split into six chapters, each of which has to have its own climactic moment towards the end.

I'm making it sound like I hated this film, but I didn't: I enjoyed it. I will most likely watch it again, and enjoy it again. I am looking forward to the fifth film. But I don't want to pretend it doesn't have problems, and the problems in Loss are more pronounced than they are in any other film we've had so far in this series.

Also, what the hell was up with the face-licking from Gennai? The weird creepiness in general? That was jarring as all get out, and not in a good way, but rather in a 'did I trip and fall into another anime' kind of way. Please, no more of that, Toei.

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