A “DIGITAL” BLAST FROM THE PAST
While Pokémon was beginning to building its empire of “pocket monsters” through various media outlets (TV shows, cards games, video games), a somewhat rival franchise, Digimon “Digital Monsters”, was slowly on the rise. For the uninitiated, Digimon was created back in 1997 in Japan and were originally virtual pets (similar to Tamagotchi and Giga Pets), which spawned a franchise of trading cards, video games, and (most notably) an anime series, which spanned several series and seasons. The franchise focused on Digimon creatures, who live in a “Digital World” (a parallel world that originated from Earth’s various communications networks). Through its many incarnations and iterations, Digimon are raised by humans (sometimes known as the DigiDestined or Tamers) who team up to defeat evil Digimon or some nefarious human organization who are trying to destroy either our world (Earth) or the Digital World. Now, in part of celebrating its 15th Anniversary project. the Digimon franchise is reinvigorating itself (and its viewers) by presenting Digimon Adventures Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion, the first entry in a new film series, which is a direct sequel to the first two seasons of the Digimon anime series. Does Reunion bring back a” digital” nostalgia from the beloved show or has too much time lapse for viewers to care about the original “Eight DigiDestined”?
It’s been three years since the DigiDestined came together and defeated MaloMyotismon, ending season two of Digimon (Digimon Adventure 02). Though they’ve remained friends, the DigiDestined have all grown older and have their own priorities to contend with, finding it difficult to gather as an entire group. Tai Kamiya (Joshua Seth), now in his second year of high school, feels this disconnection the most, longing for all his friends to be together once again. Without warning, a new threat arrives on Earth in the form of “Infected Digimon”, who have the ability to rampage on Earth and leave wide swathes of destruction behind them, causing public sentiment to turn against Digimon in general. Pulled by the strings of a secretive government organization, the DigiDestined team reunites, calling upon Tai, Matt (Vic Mignogna), Sora (Colleen Villard), Izzy (Mona Marshall), Mimi (Philece Sampler), Joe (Robbie Daymond), T.K. (Adam Park), and Kari (Tara Sands). While the DigiDestined and their respective Digimon (who also reappear) prepare to do battle with this new enemy, Tai struggles with the changing times and struggles with his own realization of his actions or even his inactions. Meanwhile, Meiko Mochizuki (Cristina Valenzuela), a girl who recently transferred into Tai’s class, mysteriously becomes intertwine with the DigiDestined and events of the “infected” Digimon.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
While I have been a fan of Pokémon (I will never deny that), I have also been a fan of Digimon, but more of a causal one (not a super nerd fan). While Pokémon had a cuter and “lighthearted” episodic approach to its TV series, Digimon (I felt) was a bit superior, touching on darker and more mature themes, while also being a tad bit more violent in its action scenes and more intricate in its storytelling. I absolutely loved the first two seasons (Digimon Adventure and Digimon Adventure 02), the third season (Digimon Tamers) was okay and bit too dark, and the fourth season (Digimon Frontier) had an interesting story, which I liked. After Frontier, I loss interest in the franchise, moving on to liking more live-action TV shows to watch. Quite frankly, I was a bit surprised to hear the Digimon franchise continued onto season 5 (Digimon Data Squad) and season 6 (Digimon Fusion). Still, I do have fond memories of watching the first two seasons of Digimon (definitely going to have to revisit those seasons sometime soon). As a side-note, I did see Digimon: The Movie when it came back on DVD (back in 2000) and, while I appreciated the continuation of the tale of the DigiDestined (both old and new), I thought the movie was just so-so.
Anyway, I was planning on going to the movies on a Thursday Night (either to see Blair Witch or Snowden) and, while I was looking up movie times, I saw that there was a “special screening” for a film, Digimon Tri. Reunion. I was completely shocked and taken aback by this, quickly doing some research onto the nature of the movie and learned it was only (in theaters) for one night only. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go see it. After seeing the movie, I felt that Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion, while not without its flaws, was a fun “blast from past” from my addicted anime days, catching up with old cartoon friends in a new brand story.
Interestingly, Digimon Adventure Tri. is presented and (and being planned) to be six-part film series. Thus, Reunion, which was released last year in Japan) is the first installment in this direct sequel to the original two seasons, making its English dub debut starting on September 15th (in select theaters). The North American English dub DVD / Blu Ray release for Reunion is still TBA (at this moment).
Reunion (or rather the whole Digimon Adventure Tri. series / films) is directed by Keitaro Motonaga, who previously helmed such anime series as Quiz Magic Academy and Yumeria. Effectively, Motonaga does a good job of allowing viewers return to Digimon universe. For most part, if you were a fan of Digimon, then Reunion is the movie for you. To me, I had a great sense of nostalgia wash over me while I was watching this movie. I mean when I heard “Agumon Digi-volve to…. Greymon!” in Reunion, I totally geeked out a bit (inside). Plus, it was great to see all the original DigiDestined characters and actually see them grow up and mature a bit. Speaking of that, that was a great positive point in Reunion. Yes, all the characters retain their fundamental personas (i.e. Tai is the leader, Izzy is the intelligent one, Mimi is the outspoken one, etc.), but each one has matured since we (as viewers) last saw them exploring high school teen problems (like hanging out, studying, etc.). In addition, like the show, Reunion makes Tai out to be the main character, following his journey with his inner mortal conflict with some of his friends (the other DigiDestined) and the sudden situation with the new “infected” Digimon. Basically, Reunion does keep your interest as it does what a lot of first installment to a sequel series does (i.e. reestablish the characters and the world, pose a new threat, and leaves a viewer wanting more).
However, Reunion does have its fair share of problems. First and foremost, “Digimon” (as a brand name) isn’t as strong in comparison to its rival, Pokémon. To be fair, both relatively came out around the same time and both are based on some form of monster companions to humans. However, while Digimon has survived over the years, spanning for several series and seasons, it hasn’t overtaken Pokémon in popularity. Pokémon (as a brand) has a much stronger following, with many, many video games, TV seasons (I think it’s like 17 or 18), movies (like 16 or 17), and the recent uber popular mobile game (Pokémon GO). Thus, Digimon has always played “second fiddle” to Pokémon and Reunion just gives more credence to that knowledge. Basically, (in terms of the “general public”) does it really matter that “Digimon” is back with a new movie? In truth, many probably don’t even know what “Digimon” is. Thus, Reunion, is more for its fans. Luckily, I am a fan of Digimon, so this doesn’t bother as much as I’m it wouldn’t for its fans.
Coinciding with that (a bit) is Reunion’s overall tardiness to its own fandom popularity. While season two of Digimon ended back in 2001, Digimon Adventure Tri. should’ve came out around this time, not 15 years later. Because of this, the story / movie feels “dated” and doesn’t capitalize on its full potential. As I said, I was excited to go see this movie and revisit the original DigiDestined team, but its a bit “too little, too late” for its fan-base as this new series of films should’ve been released during the height of its popularity.
Animation-wise, Reunion is a bit of a mixed bag. While character designs are generally good, the overall animation (sometimes) is sloppy and its quite noticeable. Of course, close-up shots and shots of Digimon are excellent, but faraway shots of characters (at various points) are a bit shoddy. This was a problem I had with Digimon: The Movie as the animation quality dipped in comparison to how the TV show looked, which I thought was better than the films. While Reunion looks much better than Digimon: The Movie, it still has some moments of less-desirable styles of animation. It didn’t completely hurt my overall impression of the film, but its something I can’t ignore.
This is more of a minor nitpick, but where are the rest of the characters? The official synopsis states that Reunion takes place several years after the events of season 2 of Digimon, so where is “new” DigiDestined members. Of course, T.K. and Kari are a part of both new and old DigiDestined teams, but I’m talking about Davis, Yolei, and Cody. Where are they? I do know that the character of Ken Ichijouji does appear in Digimon Adventure Tri. (his name is briefly displayed on a computer screen in Reunion and I briefly saw him in a “sneak preview” of Chapter 3, which was shown at the end of my screening of Reunion). It would’ve been cool to see them all return to fight this new enemy. Hopefully we’ll see them in the future installments. Lastly, the story places an emphasis Tai and Matt’s relationship as the pair “butt heads” in differences of opinion. Didn’t we see this happen before towards the end of season 1? Seems a bit repetitive.
As I stated above, I did attend a special screening of Reunion, which was the debut of the English dub version of the film. What I was most surprised with (and gleefully) happy with is the fact that most of the original English voice acting cast return to reprise their roles from TV series. Returning to their posts are Joshua Seth as Tai Kamiya, Colleen Villard as Sora Takenouchi, Mona Marshall as Izzy Izumi, and Philece Sampler as Mimi Tachikawa. Even some of the voice actors for the Digimon come back, including Tom Fahn as Agumon, Kirk Thornton as Gabumon, Jeff Nimoy as Tentomon, and Robert Martin Klein as Gomamon. Personally, I think that’s pretty cool all these voice-actors came back to revisit their “Digi” characters once again. Definitely big props for that.
As for the new roles, including Robbie Daymond as Joe Kiddo, Vic Mignogna as Matt Ishida, Tara Sands as Kari Kamiya, and Johnny Yong Bosch (Adam Park from the Power Rangers TV Series. So Cool!) as T.K. Takaishi, are good but it would’ve been cool to hear their original voices once again.
The original DigiDestined return for a whole new adventure in the Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1: Reunion. Director Keitaro Motonaga’s first installment of this new trilogy or TV series (depending on how you view it) is a fun way to return to the beginning of the franchise, revisiting the first set of characters from the first two seasons and recapturing on why fans fell in love with Digimon in the first place. Although, Reunion does stumble in some of its animation and its overall belated return. Personally, I liked it. Yes, it wasn’t perfect and a bit late to its own party, but it was great to catch up with Tai and the rest of the DigiDestined gang (and their respective Digimon). I’m definitely interested in seeing Chapter 2 (Determination) and Chapter 3 (Confession), which are currently out now (in Japanese). Hopefully, they both get an English dub as well. All in all, if were (or still are) a fan of Digimon, then Reunion is just what you’ve been looking for, a nice trip down a memory lane that offers a continuation narrative to the original eight DigiDestined characters. It may not be for everyone, but this first chapter certainly does offer up plenty of nostalgia nuances and moments from the franchise’s past. Time to get “digital” once again!
3.7 Out of 5 (Recommended / Iffy-Choice)
Released On: September 15th, 2016 (US Release Date)
Reviewed On: September 21st, 2016
Digimon Adventure Tri. Chapter 1 Reunion is not rated (at this moment) by the MPAA. However, I would say it s PG for cartoon action violence.
Written By Jason Kerin