In Japan, today is like any other. A massive Digi-Egg is hovering over Tokyo Tower spewing messages around the world, schoolchildren are wasting away on their phones, and overworked wage men and women are coming and going about their business.the same as always. The truth is that Japan has experienced stranger times, particularly this particular Japan. Nevertheless, our second generation of Digi-Destined, who are now older and traveling the world on their own, are drawn to the entire “Giant egg floating over Tokyo Tower” thing. I always enjoy Digi-Ports. The news then says that someone is making their way towards the Digi-Egg by climbing the Tokyo Tower. No, it’s not Godzilla or King Kong, which is shocking. The man is young. Our sour, lavender-haired brother Lui tells us that he is the first Digi-Destined and that he is the reason behind all the hijinks with the big egg when he gets saved from falling on the sidewalk. To defeat the Digi-Egg, he needs to go near to it. Naturally, Davis, our ramen-loving goggle lad, makes friends with this distant fool and offers to help.
The three Digi-Destined fly up to the Digi-Egg in 1996 with the assistance of Ken and Davis astride Paildramon, because being subdued and discrete is NEVER in this group’s playbook. As soon as contact is made, however, they are dragged back to Hikarigaoka. They first see 4-year-old Lui there, and he doesn’t appear well. Our little brother has been mistreated and neglected by his mother, who takes her anger out on little Lui because she is exhausted from taking care of her small child and her unconscious husband in a tiny apartment. Following a particularly cruel episode in which she essentially casts him out on the chilly, snowy balcony on his birthday, a Digi-egg materializes in front of him and begins to hatch, exposing Ukkomon, a Digimon. This obviously has an impact on Lui in the present day, who tries to stop Ukkomon from wishing, but is thrown out before he has a chance. Lui shares his story after eluding the police and hiding in the computer lab of the nearby school, acting like the honorable citizens that they are.
One unique Digimon with the ability to grant wishes is Ukkomon. We’ve heard stranger things, hey. At the time, young Lui yearned for a large number of friends from all over the world who would be kind to him and watch out for him. Ukkomon is more than willing to comply. Things start to improve right away: Lui makes friends and his parents are well, content, loving, and caring. It appears that everything is proceeding smoothly.Lui was unaware, to his great dismay, that all those attacks were actually Ukkomon’s misguided but well-intentioned attempts to fulfill his request, and that his parents’ newfound compassion was simply the result of Ukkomon’s intervention, until one day on his birthday, he witnesses a Digimon battle in Japan. This infuriates Lui, who attempts to destroy his Digi-vice, killing his parents and making Ukkomon vanish.Years later, on Lui’s birthday, the massive Digi-Egg materialized over Tokyo Tower with the singular intention of giving EVERYONE, whether they desire one or not, a Digi-monster, or companion, friend, if you will. Imagine the mayhem that could result from that. What if we end up with another Digimon Emperor scenario? Who really wants to see another Ken around, after all? Yolei, please put your hand down. So, it’s a straightforward goal, right? Stop this calamity from unfolding by defeating Ukkomon. However, TK draws attention to the fact that EVERY Digi-Destined, numbering over 60,000 globally (including them!), might break their bond with their Digimon partners if they manage to defeat Ukkomon. Given this information, how in the world is our team going to solve this puzzle?
The dramatic gut blow of Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna and the inconsistent Digimon Adventure: Tri films have finally been replaced by this film, which offers the 02 Digi-Destined their due. And they did shine. These destitute children are no longer sidelined and ignored in favor of a dull narrative for the original crew. This crew is finally free to tell its own story in its own unique way, without any of the old Digi-Destined watching over them and trying to work their way into the story. And the way the current issue is resolved makes it feel a lot like a story from season two. The Adventure 02 crew is more likely to say, “Hold up, let’s TALK this out and see if there’s a way we can win without having to kill off a Digimon,” in contrast to the Adventure crew who usually charge in for the kill and rely on Tai and Matt to save the day with the giant Omega-Mega Cannon Blaster attack powered by dreams, crests, Kōji Wada, and floppy socks. There is a strong sense of World Savers by Committee. Although Davis is the group leader, everyone is allowed to make decisions. Furthermore, unless it is absolutely essential, this crew always hesitates to administer lethal blows to Digimon. To be honest, I believe the members of Season 02 are more likely to hit each other than they are to hit Digimons, bless their hearts.
That being said, Digimon Adventure 02 does not pull punches, in contrast to the 02 Digi-Destined, who are more likely to do so (except for TK, of course—just ask Ken). It seems as though the filmmakers decided to go all out because this might be their only opportunity to make a movie about these characters as they are at this point. Except for Jeri’s mental breakdown towards the end of Digimon Tamers, I don’t remember Digimon ever giving me this much nightmare fuel or making me feel this uneasy, from the physical and psychological abuse Lui endures at the hands of his mother to the absolutely terrifying moment of realizing what Ukkomon has done to grant the boy’s wish. Thank goodness, it’s brief and well-utilized.
The film also does a fantastic job of incorporating some legend into the franchise without forcing a new character to appear out of nowhere and serve as a possible love interest for a certain goggle boy. glancing at Meiko. Seeing Lui go through his character arc in the film was far more enjoyable than watching any of the new characters introduced in Tri. Lui is a character who has likely had the worst run of luck out of all the Digi-Destined. He is a character who has witnessed a great deal and endured great suffering. Both psychologically and physically, Digimon has altered his perspective on life. You start to care about the specifics of his plan to put this all right. At the end of the film, when we watch the darkness, gloom, and doom leave him and he transforms into the happy, joyful boy that Ukkomon always intended him to be, seeing him grin feels like such a well-deserved, wonderful moment. Though a little depressing, the film’s conclusion strikes a far more optimistic note than that of Kizuna, its predecessor, and is more cheerful and hopeful than the conclusion of Season 2. This ending, which is devoid of any tears save happiness and laughing, perfectly captures the original phrase that was shared globally: “May everyone in the world have friends.” I hope Digimons come for everyone.
Having said that, I would be failing in my duty if I failed to draw attention to what I believe to be a significant weakness in this film. Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a fantastic movie and it’s nice to see the Digi-Destined crew in action after they were practically held in stasis for the whole Tri series, but I wish we had more time to spend with them, time that wasn’t devoted to the Lui plot. A couple extra scenes introducing the team’s activities AWAY from their Digimon adventures would have been fantastic. Tri and Kizuna did an excellent job of illustrating how our team handles non-Digimon-related, everyday situations. We witnessed Sora…doing Sora things, Izzy trying to go into fashion and face his affections for Mimi, and Tai and Matt reconciling with their rivalry. For extra fun, we even took our group to a hot spring. Did that make Tri’s story any more interesting? No, but it was entertaining to watch our guys act like goofs, and it was enjoyable. These characters become teenagers with actual issues rather than just Digi-Destined heroes battling to preserve the world. One of the things that distinguishes Digimon from its cousin Pokémon, as I have stated numerous times, is that although our heroes must save the world, they also have to deal with everyday life. Even so, there are snippets of the 02 team’s lives outside of their world-saving missions, such as our resident hat bro TK driving what appears to be a Jeep Grand Cherokee. Since this is the last episode of the series, I would have preferred to have seen more as a fellow Grand Cherokee owner—NICE PICK BRO. Simply put, it seems as though the 02 team is once again shunted to the side while the precursor of their predecessor has the tale to himself, and that the 02 crew is there to help with the Lui plot.
From a production perspective, I must admit that the animation in this film looks really amazing. Even though I wasn’t watching this in a packed theater with a tub of popcorn on my lap and a huge screen in front of me, it seems like this movie will look fantastic on a large screen. I adore how the Digivolution visuals maintained their fundamental appearance while receiving a small upgrade. I particularly adore Davis’s version of the leader goggles, which he wears with his Beatnik glasses. It’s a peculiar touch for the character, and it demonstrates his independence and sense of style, in my opinion. From a musical perspective, everything is present and authentic Japanese music, even in the dub. Fortunately, “Digi-Time Again” is not included.
Speaking of which, the English dub of Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning offers us a variety of voices to enjoy—a combination of well-known actors and actresses as well as some fresh ones. The acting is excellent, and the dub is generally well-written. The humor and lightheartedness that defined the US version of the series are present in this strong ADR screenplay, but they are handled far more sensibly and in keeping with the original Japanese. This is Hikarigaoka, lads and girls—no more “Highton View Terrace.” The voice of Armadillomon is the only aspect of this dub that I could find problematic. Fans of the original Digimon will recall that the character had a country accent thanks to the late, great Robert Axelrod. In a strange way, it was charming and adorable, even though it was ridiculous because “LOL, Armadillos are from Texas so let’s give him a country bumpkin accent.” This version has a voice that is, well, awful. It’s quite bothersome that his voice sounds like he took a helium hit in the booth and then pitched his voice higher. Naturally, I don’t hold the actor Robbie Daymond responsible for this; he was only carrying out the part as instructed. But I have to ask, what in the world was thinking when they decided to make Armadillomon sound so completely unlike the original? Apart than that, the dub sounds fantastic throughout. I’m delighted Brian Donovan gets to play our goggle boy again, albeit in an older role. He brings the same enthusiasm and innocent innocence to the role as he did in the first season of the show, and I’m glad this could be his final performance as the character.
What implications does that have for Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning, then? Basic. If you are a fan of Digimon and you happen to live close to a theater where this film is being shown, you should definitely go see it. This film accomplished its goal and did it brilliantly. It allowed the Digi-Destined of Season 02 to shine in their own right and leave the shadow of the original 8. Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is, without a doubt, the best reboot movie we’ve seen so far thanks to its straightforward but captivating story, the same stupid people we know and love, a new character that fits into the series’ plot, charming animation, and a voice cast that includes both series regulars and newcomers in the English version. To use a phrase from a famous computer nerd, “it’s a well-done, much-deserved send-off to this Digi-Destined team,” and that is prodigious.
Final Score: 4 out of 5
Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning was released in Japan on October 27th. It screens in the U.S. on November 8th and 9th only (Visit Fathom Events for more details). Key art and stills courtesy of Toei Animation.