Welcome to the story of how the DigiDestined grew up.
Digimon Adventure Tri is a series of six planned films continuing the plot of the first two seasons of Digimon. The first of these, Reunion, was released in Japanese theatres this past week (and in the West as four separate episodes). And much has changed for the original DigiDestined since we last saw them in the 90s.
[Note: As one who grew up watching the ’90s Digimon dub, I will be using the English localised names.]
Five years after the first season of Digimon (and two years after the second), the DigiDestined are now in high school — except for T.K. and Kari who are in middle school. For the last year, the group has been unable to access the digital world and have begun moving on with their normal lives as graduation steadily approaches.
Matt is in a band, Izzy is already a successful genius, Joe is studying for college entrance exams, and Mimi is off having adventures in America. Only Tai, it seems, has no greater dreams or plans for his life. He still dreams of his friends in the digital world; and while he pours his heart into soccer, it’s clearly not a career. On the cusp of adulthood, he is trapped by the past.
So when a giant digimon appears in the real world and begins recklessly destroying things, Tai eagerly gives chase. Agumon, his digimon partner, soon returns as well and begins to battle the raging monster. But it’s only then, when Tai sees the destruction first hand, that he has a realisation: When you’re a kid, having your own giant monster battle another giant monster through a city seems cool and heroic. But when you’re an adult, you can’t help but think “oh man, a lot of people are going to die in this fight.”
That is the central philosophical conflict in Reunion. No one has died yet thanks to Agumon battling another digimon; but if Tai and the others continue to battle the digimon breaking into our world, it is clear to Tai that some people will — and he’ll be responsible for it. What was simple as a child — i.e., fight evil monsters and save the world — is so much more complicated with the eyes of an adult. While not fighting means the rampaging digimon will destroy unchecked, at least in that case Tai won’t be directly responsible when the body count starts to climb.
Once the strong leader, Tai is now wracked with indecision. This in turn causes friction amongst the group who look to him to give the group a clear goal and moral center. Likewise the digimon, who basically have the minds of children, can’t even really understand what is bothering Tai — though that’s not to say they don’t sympathize with his pain.
As I alluded to above, the cause of Tai’s problems is one we all face — he and the rest of the DigiDestined are growing up. While Tai is focusing on the unintended consequences of his actions, the other DigiDestined are also dealing with their own problems.
Several members of the group have realised that their longtime friends are attractive members of the opposite sex. There is a clear love triangle between Matt, Tai, and Sora — with Sora doing her best to be supportive of both of them as she clings to their shared childhood relationship a bit longer.
Likewise, Izzy, who has remained in digital contact with Mimi while she has spent the last several years in America, finds he has feelings for her when she arrives back in Japan. Even T.K. and Kari, despite being the youngest of the group, have each become enormously popular with the opposite sex — a fact that threatens to change the nature of their friendship.
Of course, going through puberty is not the only problem that comes with becoming an adult. Joe, the eldest of the group, is studying for college entrance exams. Yet, no matter how much he studies or how hard he tries, he just doesn’t seem capable of scoring well enough to get into the Japanese equivalent of the Ivy League.
Though he doesn’t yet realise it, Joe has discovered his limits — that “you can be anything you want to be” is a lie told to children to inspire them but is far from the truth. Predictably, he has trouble realising this and basically cuts his friends out of his life in an attempt to be more focused. Sadly it doesn’t help; and now with giant monsters attacking Japan, he is torn between what he thinks he should be and what he is.
As the start to what will in the end be the equivalent of a 24-episode series, Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion is a great first step. It sets up the new status quo — reintroducing us to our heroes and giving us a glimpse at the series’ overall conflict of crazed digimon invading our world.
More than that, the series is able to present an adult take on the world of Digimon by having the characters in the midst of growing up. The resulting character growth is likewise excellent — though that’s not to say that you won’t get your fill of giant monster battles either. If you grew up watching Digimon, Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion is a love letter to you. And now that you’ve grown up, it’s time to sit back and watch as your animated childhood friends do the same.
Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion was released in Japanese theatres on 21 November 2015. It can be viewed for free and with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.