Though the Digidestined’s emotional connections to their Digimon have consistently been depicted as the true source of the heroes’ strength, almost every Digimon series has involved massive arcs in which characters were tasked with discovering external power sources that represented key aspects of their personalities. The trope may be played out within genre fiction, but it’s a part of the Digimon franchise’s DNA that different creative teams have attempted to make their own over the years.
In Toei’s original Digimon Adventure from the late ‘90s, once the children fated to save the Digital World have bonded with their Digimon partners, the story put them on all a path of exploration driven by the search for tags and crests, special pieces of technology that would enable their monsters to evolve into even more powerful versions of themselves. In the original, the hunt for the legendary eight tags and crests made up a substantial part of the Digidestined’s adventures that took them all across the Digital World, tested their mettle, and padded out the series’ episode count quite nicely.
But things are drastically different in Toei’s new Digimon Adventure reboot, which keeps the bulk of the original series’ story while also updating it by setting it in the present day.
Much like Digimon Universe: App Monsters did before it, the Digimon Adventure reboot uses some basic realities about the modern world to heighten the stakes around the Digidestined’s battles in the Digital World. Because the reboot’s Digidestined are all kids born in the thick of our current internet-defined age, their base level familiarity with how information systems function in the real world is much more advanced.
Though most of their fights may take place in the Digital World or in the internet itself, the Digidestined realise that actions in digital spaces have material consequences in the real world. When swarms of Digimon interfere with the GPS systems of the world’s shipping industry, for example, the shipping freighters that rely on them for navigation are left with no way to know whether they’re in danger of crashing into one another or the nearest shore.
While this dynamic was present to varying extents in the original series, here it’s heightened in a way that gives the Digidestined’s adventures an added gravity because the reboot has kept the group’s ties to the real world far stronger. By splitting the team up early on and having some of the kids stay in the real world while both groups stay in contact with one another, the reboot highlights that the Digidestined are all aware of how important their mission is for both worlds.
All of this has been borne out somewhat gradually in the reboot’s first season, but the biggest change that the show ushered in actually came rather early way back in episode two, “War Game,” a story that aped some of the more significant moments from the second Digimon movie, “Our War Game.” Though the Digidestined were all still quite new to the world of Digimon at that point, the episode introduced Omnimon, the iconic fusion of two mega-level Digimon that, at that point, hadn’t been explained in context in a way that conveyed how big a deal Omnimon’s arrival was in the movies.
Unlike Pokémon, whose permanent evolution come from gaining experience through battles, “Digivolution” is most often depicted as a temporary response to immediate danger. Most Digimon can only push themselves to higher levels with the assistance of skilled humans who understand them.
“War Game” was the first indication that the reboot’s story would only map onto the original’s but so closely. But as the season has progressed, Digimon Adventure’s only continued to fast-track the Digimon’s growth in ways that completely do away with the old tag and crest lore that was first made a crucial part of the original. Instead of wandering around the Digital World tracking down two pieces of tech and then learning how to make them work — arcs that typically took multiple episodes to play out back in the ‘90s — basically all of the Digidestined in the reboot have already managed to get their Digimon to the Ultimate level (the third highest most Digimon reach) before the show’s even gotten around to fully explaining what its villains big plan is.
Even though it initially seems odd that Digimon Adventure’s creative team would rush into what old school fans might consider endgame territory, the choice has come to make a lot more sense with time. By shucking off some of its own old surface level lore, the show’s freed itself up to spend time on the weirder, more complicated mythos that makes more sense the more familiar you are with the franchise as a whole.
In place of the many episodes some might consider filler that focused more of the kids’ journey from File Island to the Server Continent, the reboot’s instead delved into the existence of holy, god-like Digimon and their dark counterparts who seek to control them. The Digidestined all know that they aren’t just fighting to keep their friends safe, but rather are protecting the world from collapsing on itself whenever massive disruptions in digital services occur.
What’s most exciting now as the mysterious eighth child’s being brought into the mix properly is the Digimon Adventure reboot’s got almost all of its major players on the table and damn-near fully powered up before the real battles have even properly begun. As drastically different as the Digimon Adventure reboot was at its start and has consistently continued to be, it’s difficult to imagine that the story’s going to shift closer to the source material in its second half, meaning that we’re likely going to see even more new plot twists that shake things up in riveting ways.