i just finished watching the first part of tri, and i have so many feelings and opinions about it that i figured i ought to try and organise them into a big-ass post
needless to say, this is going to veer right into spoiler territory, so if you haven't watched tri part 1 and you intend to, DO IT RIGHT NOW. the entire thing's up on crunchyroll so get yourself a free trial and watch it. now. even if you don't give a shit i'd also recommend watching it anyway, but of course i'd say that
Takeru continues his sixteen-year streak of being the worst-dressed person in Digimon (now in hipster flavour!)
It's been a very long time since i've found myself legitimately this excited and just plain happy about a media thing. i've spent so long stuck being despondent at Fire Emblem's insistence on driving itself into a smutty ditch, that i think i completely forgot what optimism about a series is actually like. Of all things to fix this, i can't say i was ever 100% convinced that Tri would be the thing to fix that. Ever since the announcement i'd say i was just as suspicious as everybody else for the most part. Toei has not been in good shape for the better part of five years; first they fucked up Sailor Moon, then Dragon Ball got the same punch to the face. Let's face it, those are both much more significant than Digimon. If Toei won't give a proper shit about those two titans, what chance could Digimon ever have? It didn't help matters that not only did the last Digimon animu production end on a really bad note, but just like Tri's premise, that really bad note was also all about nostalgia for prior animu runs. To say nothing of the painfully protracted reveal campaign and how long it took them to fucking clarify that Tri is not a full animu run! It was a recipe for disaster, really.
Sure, i was pretty hopeful after they finally started pushing teasers and trailers, and i've been anticipating the shit out of Tri for months now, but i've been burned by Digimon before. Xros Wars Hunters also looked pretty good at first and got off to a fairly strong start, but then the mindless filler death spiral started. If i may take the opportunity to go ahead with the one and only time i will ever quote George W Bush, "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."
Point is, with the twin spectres of modern Toei and Xros Wars Hunters looming over Tri, i went in braced for the worst. I figured that even if Tri itself turns out horribly, at least i'll always have the soundtrack. Sweet Jesus, the soundtrack. Hearing Wada, Miyazaki and Maeda in full flight with their most iconic songs again, all these years later, might have been the most magical part of Tri. Fortunately, it wasn't the only magical part.
Who'd have thought that a core part of English education in Japan involved MIRAI WO ERABU CHIKARA GA MEZAMERU MATRIX EVOLUTION
Most people agree that the thing with Digimon is that you come for the giant monster fights, then you stay for these stupid, stupid kids. The whole shonen animu aspect to the franchise is great and all, but the real strength of Digimon animu runs has almost always been how they write everything except the giant monster fights. Digimon Adventure was less the story of eight children who save two worlds, and more the story of how thise eight children came to terms with their eccentricities, their relationships, and their lot in life through the whole saving-two-worlds thing. At the beginning of Adventure, you look at the then-seven-strong group and you think, "oh look, stock shonen characters. You've got the (literally) fiery leader, his icy (literally) rival, the immature little brother, the vain ditz, the nerd, the hypochondriac, and the protective surrogate mother." Then the rest of Adventure happens, and by the end of it every single one of them has had to grapple with their identity and their insecurities, and has emerged all the stronger for it. I'd go into detail, but I'm not really here to talk Adventure itself.
Point is, that's always been the real beauty of the best of Digimon, and thankfully Toei seems to realise that. Once again in Tri, the monster-on-monster action is really more of a set piece used to explore the human cast, although unsurprisingly its scope is a lot more limited since they don't exactly have 54 20-minute episodes to do it in anymore. Equally unsurprising is that the bulk of the attention is, of course, on Taichi Yagami, and i am very okay with that. Taichi was kind of the subject of the majority of attention in Adventure as well, but not only did he come out of it with a fantastic character arc, but it sure as hell wasn't to the detriment of anybody else in the party, either.
The beginning of the film gives a sort of feeling of unrest to Taichi's situation, being that the Digital World has been completely closed off from the real world for years by this point. The other seven chosen seem to have had no problems coming to terms with it, moving on and finding a place in a Digimon-less real world, but Taichi doesn't seem to have that. Outside of soccer, he doesn't have much of a vision of what to do with his life, and i felt that was pretty interesting. It isn't as if the others are completely callous and forgetful about their Digimon partners, certainly, but Taichi seems to have taken it a lot harder than the others, so when the Digital World presents itself before him again with that Kuwagamon attack, needless to say he's the only one to chase right after it without hesitation.
The film even plays on one of my favourite parts of 02: a recurring point in that series was that Daisuke, Miyako and Iori had deep moral issues with the idea of killing enemy Digimon. It wasn't something the original's cast ever really thought about (and judging by Takeru and Hikari's reactions, those two still didn't either), but the worry grew throughout the series until they were forced to kill Daemon's servants and the experience thoroughly shook them. Taichi picks up this particular torch this time around, and it works beautifully. For the first time since Tamers, Tri takes a hard look at the mess that's left behind when giant animu monsters appear in Tokyo. The wreckage left behind by Kuwagamon's attack, and what it does to the people of Tokyo, legitimately terrifies Taichi and he finds himself questioning whether fighting back is even justified if it means that he'll just be wrecking Tokyo even more. This isn't the first time Taichi's dealt with something like this (his role in the Etemon arc in Adventure was also heavily concerned with this), and the way it influences his normally gung-ho attitude and his response to the anti-Digimon sentiment caused by the attacks was masterfully done. Even though he fights in the end, it's clear that this issue is far from over and that we'll be getting a good look at it again in later films.
And of course, Taichi's crisis feeds right back into his relationship with Yamato. Adventure had a lot of strengths, but a personal favourite has always been the Taichi-Yamato conflict which permeated the Dark Masters arc: how Yamato's insecurities about his diminishing role in Takeru's life were manipulated into full-blown grievances with Taichi, how he felt he had to leave the team to come to terms with his own problems, and how finally, on his return, the two fought Piemon as a near-perfect team. The tension created between these two by the Kuwagamon events is solidly done in that it doesn't come off as if either one is right while the other is wrong - Yamato is certainly right in that more destruction will happen if Taichi doesn't help intervene, but the root of Taichi's worries about fighting is well-founded. Admittedly the deck is inherently stacked in Yamato's favour since it's Taichi's crisis, but still, you can't blame either for their stances and it hurts to see the wedge driven between them by it.
"Ahhh, what an awful dream. Ones and zeroes everywhere... and I thought I saw a two."
"It was just a dream, Angemon. There's no such thing as two."
This goes for everyone, and not just Taichi. This is probably the biggest relief of Tri: that everyone feels mostly in-character and that we're looking at what each Chosen naturally became three years after 02. It's been well over a decade since anybody at Toei has had to substantially write the cast of Adventure, and even if they aren't exactly the most complex characters in the world, i wouldn't exactly blame them if they fumbled the ball. Thankfully, that's not the case. We're home. This is the Sora, this is the Yamato, this is the Koushiro, etc. As compelling as their roles were, though, I think my other favourite might have been Jou. Since Adventure, there's always been a very studious element to his character and role, which was particularly played up from Our War Game onward: not often being around to help out because he has to study and all that. Enter his current situation: he's unbelievably busy with his studies and devotes himself to them without restraint, but he's still getting dangerously poor marks. It was like a punch in the gut when that first came up. Now that's something i can relate to.
Also, Hikari actually has a personality this time, thank fuck. She really got shafted in both Adventure and 02; being introduced late into the series as this sort of messianic figure didn't exactly give her much room to have much character. Without that sort of thing in the way, without the narrative having so much emphasis on Hikari as this fragile creature that Taichi (and everyone else, but mostly Taichi) wants to protect to the point of self-destruction, we instead get room for the irate sibling banter that the two were denied back in the day, and it is beautiful.
On the other hand, Mimi kind of got shafted again. Poor sod's kind of been consistently shat upon since her brilliant arc in Adventure ended; when watching the old movies in particular, you almost get the feeling that Toei watched the dub's horrendous portrayal of her and decided "okay sure she is totally a useless ditz now that's her entire character". Even so, at the very least she's faring a lot better than she did back in Diablomon Strikes Back; not to mention, she got the second-least screen time of anybody and there's five more films to go, so perhaps those will improve her situation?
look, all i'm saying is that if i were there, i'd be right up there with Angemon and Tailmon futilely trying to beat the shit out of this guy. fucker deserves it.
(warning: old man complaining ahoy from this point)
Which, of course, brings us to the elephant in the room, the one thing i really don't care for as far as Tri goes: the hype cycle and distribution model is still kind of dodgy. i mean, now that i've actually seen part 1, i feel kind of bad saying this since it's obvious that there's a good reason for Toei taking its time here, but still, five months to go until part 2? The wait was interminable the first time around, and considering how much of the story has been only hinted at so far, this is going to burn me up for months. The tease here is obscene, and not even just about the core infected-digimon plot: there's still so many questions about just about everything else. What's the deal with Meiko? Why the hell is Hackmon hanging around and doing jack shit? Are the 02 kids alright? Speaking of which, how much am i supposed to loathe Alphamon at this point? Between the 02 kids getting the shit kicked out of them (miyako ;_;), his actions in the film's ending, and the fact that he's fucking Alphamon, it's obvious that something's up with him, but what? Why'd he intervene with that last Kuwagamon? Does that little monologue from Taichi in the trailer have something to do with this? Probably, but what?
Again, i understand that this shit takes time to make, but the problem is that the time taken so far is kind of obscene. Think about it: the existence of Tri was first confirmed in August 2014, it wasn't known by that name until December, and it wasn't until May that we found out that it wasn't in fact going to be a seventh regular TV series. Which, y'know, is kind of pertinent information. And in the midst of this timeframe, there was that idiotic egg-rubbing website, which i maintain is the worst way of dripfeeding teaser information i have ever seen... and that's without the added layer of bullshit that was the whole temporary Scumon blockage thing. i kind of feel that with the sheer extent of the merch'n'hype machine for Tri, Toei kind of drastically overestimated the pull that Digimon has. Yes, Digimon is great and Adventure was fucking fantastic, but i'm not sure enough people care enough about that to warrant something as clunky and barely functional as the fucking nade-nade game. Now, something like Kamen Rider or Sailor Moon? Maybe it'd work for them, but for an animu industry bit-player like Digimon? Yeah, i can't see anybody but the most diehard of fans tolerating the nade-nade game for long; hell, i count myself among that diehard fan number and i absolutely could not have given less of a shit about the nade-nade game. It doesn't exactly help that, despite claiming that Tri is part of the fifteenth anniversary of Adventure, said anniversary was last year. Odds are Tri will be going well into the eighteenth anniversary, and that miiiiight be a problem. :P
i kind of feel bad ranting about that, because for all the dicking around Toei did here, the final product was good. Really good. Not only was it a fun watch and remarkably pretty for a modern Toei job, but it felt true to the original. What we're looking at here is a pretty organic extension of Adventure and 02, and i am so glad that it is a thing. Things could still go very, very wrong with the next five, but for now, part 1 has me very firmly convinced. i'm in love again.
In the meantime, i think i'll be spending the next few days eagerly awaiting the dropping of the three singles. The sooner i can get my shitty-ass hands on Butter-fly and Brave Heart in perfect uninterrupted quality, the better.
i would pay all of the money for one straight hour of Piyomon, Tailmon and Palmon trying and failing to understand human crushes