While the Digimon series may have gone on a separate tangent from the before-school morning cartoons that we millennials grew up watching, I can appreciate how the creatives have kept audiences engaged with the series. For the main TV anime seasons, we have seen them retain their youth-oriented appeal, most notably the 2020-2021 reboot of the original Digimon Adventure. But for the original audiences of Digimon, we have received a menagerie of offerings from video games (Such as the amazing Cyber Sleuth duology) to visual novels (Such as the harrowing Digimon Survive), which focused on heavier themes that may not suit the young audience the series primarily targets. Additionally, in the animation space, we have been able to follow the teenage and adult journeys of the original Digidestined and their companion Digimon through a range of OVA and feature-length films, including the hextet of Digimon Adventure Tri films, to Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna which brought the tales of Tai, Matt, Agumon and Gabumon to its conclusion.
But for the protagonists of Digimon Adventure 2, outside of Kari and TK, they were limited to simple cameo appearances in the previous works and never received the send-out they deserved. Now in November 2023, we have that conclusion in Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning – featuring a new narrative, an actually decent threat and – were they to end the story here – a fitting and purposeful farewell to those who have memories of these characters from the early-2000s.
In somewhat aging up with their original viewers, Davis Motomiya, Ken Ichijouji, Yolei Inoue, Cody Hida, T.K. Takaishi, and Kari Kamiya – the second generation of DigiDestined, are now in their 20s, going about their lives like normal alongside their Digimon partners. While things on the surface appear normal, there are some mysterious events taking place – namely the number of DigiDestined children has increased considerably in recent years. Furthermore, above Tokyo Tower, a gigantic DigiEgg has formed, sending out mysterious messages on all technology worldwide but otherwise serving as a mystery. While the gang begin investigating this case, they watch on TV as a young man, named Lui Ohwada, attempts to approach the egg – requiring them to come to its rescue. This man, claiming to be the original DigiDestined and holding an original digivice in his hands, has a connection to this egg, and the group are brought into this mystery…. and in essence… begin to unravel arguably the biggest mystery of the series.
While not to the extent of Digimon Survive that arguably did ‘Darker Digimon’ narratives perfectly, even if this is a feature-length animated film based on what many of us grew up knowing as a morning cartoon, this is by no means a happy-go-lucky tale of the group going up against a threat and overcoming it by teamwork. There are many heavy-hitting, emotional scenes, especially around the newly introduced Lui, which tugged at the heartstrings but made him arguably a stronger written character than the guest characters of previous films. Furthermore, it breached upon the very nature of Digimon, the common trope of wish-granting, and without spoiling any specifics, much more beyond that. The “DigiDestined with an issue” trope has been the crux in many past films, to varying degrees of success, and it feels like they have learnt from their successes and failures in introducing Lui. Was he necessary? Surprisingly yes, at least with the narrative they went with.
Being centred around the cast of Digimon Adventure 2, outside of one or two minor cameos, none of the original cast had any bearing on the storyline, with Davis, Ken, Yolei, Cody, TK and Kari being left to solve this for themselves… another nicety as it always felt like Tai stole the show whenever he was on-screen. As one might expect, Davis, Veemon and Ken tend to steal the show, with the others playing second fiddle for most of the film. Having a greater focus on the group working together directly would have been much nicer, although, with an 87-minute runtime and a lot of content to cover, the focus was better on a few than everyone.
When Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning begins its cinematic screenings in Western markets over the coming weeks, you will have the option to watch the movie with either the Japanese voice-overs or English dubbing. If nostalgia is your thing, you will find a few of the original Saban dub voice actors return to their respective characters – including Brian Donovan (Davis), Derek Stephen Prince (Ken), Neil Kaplan (Hawkmon), Laura Summer (Patamon) – while some voice actors who started voicing their respective characters in Digimon Adventure Tri onwards also make an appearance. Unfortunately for some characters, their English VAs have since sadly passed away, or have otherwise not voiced their characters since the early 2000s – and it is to be expected they were unavailable. The same can be said on the Japanese voice-overs side, however, with many changes in voice casting. Being more familiar with the English voice cast, that is the language I opted to go with, and the returning cast did their darnest recreating their voices from 20+ years ago, while the new voice actors all paid proper homage to the original voices.
In terms of music, Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning features remixed versions of some of the show’s iconic Japanese tunes, such as Beat Hit! and Brave Heart (Which honestly, after hearing it in so many Digimon films since tri, is starting to feel nostalgic in its own right), while Target, the show’s original Japanese opening theme, also receives its own remixed version in a new opening, featuring existing vocals from the late Wada Kouji with an updated musical arrangement. The rest of the insert songs and new ending sequence were also welcome, doing the film justice in complementing the scenes while not being too annoying or overpowering.
Visually, this is once again a Digimon work with a movie budget, and the team at Toei Animation do this potential send-off to the cast of Digimon Adventure 2 in an aesthetically pleasing way, from great animation and environment designs to some pretty impressive fight scenes between Digimon. Furthermore, they went a bit further with the Digivolutions, bringing the DNA Digivolutions across into high definition. A nice touch indeed!
Whether you have been following Digimon Adventure in recent years or are like myself and have a deep-rooted nostalgia towards the cast, setting and themes it offers – Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is a nice (potential) end to the era, tying up some loose ends, introducing a compelling concept, standing out as good work in its own right and bringing across some of those more sophisticated and emotional ideals the series has gotten really good at delivering in other formats over the years. An enjoyable addition to the long-running Digimon Adventure narrative, and one that I don’t want to say goodbye to just yet.
Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is set to begin screenings in cinemas across select Western markets this month, starting with North America from 8-9 November 2023 kudos of Toei Animation and Fathom Events. Select screenings will be hosted in Australia later this month as well, kudos of Sugoi Co.
A screener of Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning was provided by Toei Animation to facilitate this review.
Imagery Credit for this Article: ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI