A big part of the charm of Toei’s original Digimon Adventure anime was that you could rely on each episode to feature at least one of its signature transformation sequences, in which a Digimon taps into its hidden power to evolve into a larger, stronger, more formidable form. The newly rebooted Digimon Adventure series keeps this tradition going, but its approach to the sequences is decidedly leveled up.
Digimon’s evolution sequences serve as way to amp up the action in any given episode, as they only tend to happen when the digital monsters or their friends’ lives are endangered. But the evolutions have also always been a tool to pad episodes out in terms of their runtimes, similar to the way that transformation sequences in other anime and sentai series do. After you see a Digimon evolve for the first time — especially the Digimon who have human partners — you typically know exactly what to expect from the sequence as it’s going to appear for the rest of the series, and generally all of the sequences have tended to follow a standardised pattern of action that doesn’t change much even when different Digimon are being focused on.
In the original series, for example, a Digimon evolving from the rookie stage to the champion stage almost always featured the rookie Digimon slowly spinning in a black void, before the camera crashed zoomed into them before pulling out to reveal the monster’s new champion form. The sequences’ animations all became more stylistically complex and unique as a Digimon continued down its evolutionary line over the course of the series, but the jump from rookie to champion was always rather staid.
The new Digimon Adventure series has had a few moments over the past three episodes in which Digimon evolved in less flashy ways in order to keep the plot moving, but in this week’s “Birdramon Soars” — the first episode since the show returned from hiatus due to the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic — it finally got around to spotlighting a proper transformation sequence that demonstrates just how wildly different the reboot actually is. Even though “Birdramon Soars” is mainly about Taichi realising that his good friend Sora has somehow been transported to the Digital World along with him, where she first meets her own partner Biyomon (who becomes the titular Birdramon during a battle), the evolution sequence in question actually belongs to Taichi’s Agumon, who ends up having to fight with Coelamon, a wild coelacanth-like monster.
While Agumon’s evolved into Greymon in before, in “Birdramon Soars” the transformation’s more intentional, as both Taichi and Agumon are in sync with one another and only concerned with making sure that they defeat the Coelamon. As the Digimon franchise has chugged along since the late ‘90s, its style has consistently grown and shifted to keep pace with new advancements in computer animation. The Digimon Adventure reboot strikes the perfect balance between the original’s simplicity and more complicated, modern CG animation techniques to make the entire sequence feel dynamic, riveting, and at times like it’s knowingly winking at magical girl transformations.
What’s going to be very, very interesting to see is what the rest of the squad’s pivots from rookie to champion are going to look like, because even if Digimon Adventure simply sticks to a formula modelled after Greymon’s evolution, there’s still plenty of room for each sequence to be unique enough to reflect how each monster is distinct from its peers in terms of what specific sort of beast they are. Even better, this is really only just the first (and arguably the lowest-stakes) batch of evolutions that Digimon Adventure’s going to do, and as the Digimon make their way to their final forms, there’s a very solid chance that these transformations are only going to get wilder and more impressive.
Digimon Adventure. is now streaming on Crunchyroll.