Back in the days of my latter primary school years, students were broken into two clearly defined groups – those who preferred to watch and talk about the Pokemon TV anime, and those who would much rather geek out over the latest episodes of Digimon: Digital Monsters. Both were running concurrently at the time on Cheez TV almost daily. I was very much in the latter camp myself. While the video games were definitely on the side of Pokemon, especially during the days I was limited to only Nintendo consoles, to me it was a no-brainer which cartoon to favour. Pokémon favours (and does to this day) a more episode-by-episode approach to its storytelling while Digimon: Digital Monsters involved a continually building and escalating narrative broken down into arcs. Looking back, do I think I chose correctly? Yes, yes, I do.
I make this claim because, while other groups’ experiences replaced the adventures of Tai, Matt and everyone else through series such as Tamers and Frontier – they have revisited the original cast through feature-length films in recent years. These balanced that nostalgia factor with the age of the original viewership today. This originally took the form of Digimon Adventure tri. from 2015-2018, six films which serve as a sequel to the first two seasons. This saw the now-adult original DigiDestined reunited with their Digimon to face off against a new threat to both reality and the digital world. This would have been a fitting send-off, but with a new reboot titled Digimon Adventure: currently airing in Japan, the Digimon creative team have clearly decided to give the OG cast one last final send-off in Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna.
Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna takes place a couple of years after the events of Digimon Adventure tri, where Tai, some of the original Digidestined and their partners actively work to prevent Digimon who have crossed over into reality from causing significant damage. While others such as Joe, Mimi and Sora have moved on to the next stage of their careers – both Tai and Matt are at the point where they are studying and trying to determine what they want to do with the rest of their lives. But reality kicks in when, after performing a botched mission at the request of an academic researcher from America, a golden counter appears on their digivices. As more and more Digidestined from around the world go missing, a quest Tai and Matt would usually not hesitate to partake in; they are forced grapple with the fact their time with Agumon and Gabumon is very limited – and doing this duty will limit it even further.
Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna’s downfall is that it shares multiple narrative elements with Digimon Adventure tri.. These range from the disappearance of some Digidestined to items of spoilerish nature including the antagonists and plot points. But while tri was very much drawn out and could stand to have lost a film or two during its production cycle, Last Evolution Kizuna felt like a much more concise and satisfying package. It has a strong focus on the leads, plenty of cameos and references to earlier adventures, and them not merely writing in a happy ending to keep everyone happy.
Except for Sora who outside of a couple of short scenes has no involvement in the film’s events (which lore-wise can lead fans down a different rabbit-hole), Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna gives all characters a chance to shine. Understandably, the focus is on Tai and Matt as they face their impending fate of losing their long-time companion. But it is nice to see that, after going missing in the introduction cutscene of the first tri. movie, the D2 cast makes their return and have a separate but still important role to play in the narrative.
Another nice aspect is that outside of one occasion, there were no prolonged evolution sequences which could easily chew up precious minutes of runtime. Most evolutions were concise and to-the-point if shown on-screen at all. On the note of evolutions, the combat presented in Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is easily some of the series’ best – of particular highlight the final battle which is visually and emotionally amazing! Given this was the grand finale, the final evolution and battle was a fitting climax to more than a decade of adventure.
Like Digimon Adventure tri, where possible, the original Saban English voice cast was brought in to reprise their respective roles. It remains a pity that they were unable to bring Lara Jill Miller in as Kari Kamiya. Still, iconic voice actors such as Joshua Seth (Tai), Mona Marshall (Izzy), Tom Fahn (Agumon), Kirk Thornton (Gabumon) and Laura Summer (Patamon) continued voicing their characters. They had a little less luck on the D2 casting side, with only Derek Stephen Prince (Ken) and Paul St. Peter (Wormmon) not recast. For recast characters, the new voice actors did a great job at evoking the mannerisms and spirit of the original cast – notably Griffin Burns (Davis), Jeannie Tirado (Yolei), Bryce Pappenbrook (Cody) and Christopher Swindle (Hawkmon).
With so many anime available officially via online streaming services nowadays, one of the main reasons to buy a home video release, in my opinion, is the extra on-disc (or physical) content. The DVD and Blu-ray copies of Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna lacks an audio commentary track that would have been awesome between the long-time voice actors. But, included is a featurette featuring Joshua Seth and Tom Fahn titled The Final Evolution: Remembering 20 Years Of Digimon Adventure, a sweet, engaging listen.
Was Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna a perfect film? Nope. But with Digimon being a series from a time where the sudden conclusion of a season meant it would be the last time you saw the characters you became attached to, having a defined ending to the original two Digimon: Digital Monsters seasons was a very welcome opportunity. This was a fitting end to a 20-year long era, and a part of my childhood.