A few years after the adventures of the original Digidestined, a new batch of children are chosen to save the Digital World when an evil ruler known as the Digimon Emperor starts erecting control spires and enslaving the Digimon to do his bidding. With the help of Tai and the other original Digidestined, the new group, along with their partner Digimon, begin a journey to stop the Digimon Emperor before he takes full control of the Digital World.
After the incredible worldwide success of the first season of Digimon: Digital Monsters, a follow-up was inevitable, however, this sequel season, known in Japan as Digimon Adventure 02, is far from just a cash grab, and far outclasses its predecessor in almost every way. If you read my review of Digimon’s initial outing, you’ll know that I had quite a lot of issues regarding its story. Despite the fact that the basic formula remains almost identical, there are a lot of small but meaningful changes that really improve Adventure 02’s story. Right off the bat, Adventure 02 does away with the pointless meandering that plagued the first half of Adventure 01, and gives the new Digidestined an objective to work towards right away. This may sound like a fairly minor change, but it makes a world of difference, as it’s far easier to get invested when you know the characters aren’t just aimlessly wandering around, and, as such, episodes that would have felt like filler material in Adventure 01 are much more tolerable here. Although they still do become somewhat formulaic, when you know that the kids knocking down another control spire means the plot is progressing, it’s a lot easier to stomach. That’s something else I liked about Adventure 02 over the original series, not every single episode need apply to the whole “Evil Digimon appears, Digivolve to defeat it” formula that is prevalent in both seasons. Sure, these are quite few and far between, but there are a handful of episodes where there is no fighting, and the show focuses entirely on characters or the story. These episodes serve as a much appreciated break from the fairly tiring formula and prove Digimon doesn’t have to be all about the action, and can sustain itself entirely on the characters sometimes.
One of the bigger alterations I loved in Adventure 02 is how it handles its Digivolving items. In the first season, the crests, which allowed the Digidestined to Digivolve their Digimon to a higher level, were not really handled very well at all. Despite the fact the crests represented different attributes that the kids are associated with, they were just given out without anyone having to do anything to earn them, which was a huge missed opportunity. The writers must have also thought this a huge missed opportunity too, because here, the Digieggs, which serve a similar purpose to the crests, allow for substantial development for its cast, with the characters having to learn to embrace the attribute on the egg before gaining its powers, such as group leader Davis learning what it truly means to be friends earning him the Digiegg of Friendship, or Cody having to save the rest of the group by himself in order to earn the Digiegg of Reliability. It’s in these egg discovery episodes where the characters are really fleshed out, and are some of the highlights of the whole series. I’m really glad that the writing staff decided to revisit this concept and actually do it justice this time as it’s a really smart way to develop the group of characters but in a way that ties in nicely to the action.
Due to the development derived from discovering the Digieggs, the cast of characters in Adventure 02 are head and shoulders above those in the first season. Not to say the original Digidestined were bad or anything, and they did receive some development, but they definitely pale in comparison to some of the new characters in terms of depth. The old Digidestined do return in Adventure 02, but are only in a supporting role, passing the torch to the new group, with the exception of TK and Kari, who remain part of the main cast. Honestly, this does strike me as a bit of a missed opportunity to perhaps further develop the old characters now they’ve grown up a bit, but it is still nice to see them reunite with their Digimon after a tearful goodbye at the end of Season 1.
One of my biggest peeves with Digimon Adventure 01 was the incredibly weak roster of villains, which all felt very cliche and weren’t memorable in the slightest. This is yet another huge improvement in the follow up, as the character of the Digimon Emperor is probably the best character in either season. Without spoiling too much, he is quite a complex character, considering it’s an anime aimed primarily at children, and is very well fleshed out. To me, it seeing his arc and development throughout the course of the show is probably the best thing about this season, and is an incredible improvement over the cookie cutter villains that came before. Disappointingly, though, the villains that take over in the latter half fall in line with the Adventure 01 villains, being generic and forgettable, which only looks worse when you contrast it with the excellent antagonist that came just episodes before is. However, this is balanced out by the angst- ridden anti-hero BlackWarGreymon, who goes through what can only be described as an existential crisis, and is searching for his reason to exist, which is another case of being incredibly complex considering the target demographic.
Anime studio Toei return to supply the visuals for Digimon Season 2 and do a fairly good job once again. In all honesty, there is absolutely zero change in the aesthetic of the show at all, although that is kind of expected considering it’s a direct sequel, and was only released a year after the first season finished broadcasting. The CGI is a little bit better, but has still aged fairly poorly and looks pretty jarring. In any situation is used, traditional, hand drawn animation would have looked for better, in my opinion.
Once again, Manga’s release of Digimon Season 2 is English audio only, and it’s yet another fairly good effort from Saban. The characters that return from the first season have their voices carry over here, with the exception of Wendee Lee as T.K., who is replaced by Doug Erholtz, although this is a very understandable change given TK is a lot older than when he first appeared. The newcomers are mostly a cast of fairly unknown voice actors, who have done little before or since Digimon, including Brian Donovan as Davis and Tifanie Christun as Yolie, but there are some fairly big voice actors too, such as Derek Stephen Prince, who you’ll likely recognize as Uryu from Bleach, Philece Sampler, who has voiced characters in Blue Exorcist, Kill la Kill and Lucky Star to name a few, however, the most notable addition to the cast is the legendary Steve Blum, most well known for his part as Spike Spiegel in Cowboy Bebop as well as countless other shows. All involved do a good enough job, better than you’d expect from a kids show, which makes the dub only audio a little less painful.
Continuing on the improvements front is the soundtrack. Whilst the actual music used in the show itself is about the same as in the first season, just kind of alright but suffering from being overused, it’s in the insert songs where the biggest improvements can be heard. Season 1 had only one insert song, “Hey Digimon”, and it was awful, and I’m happy to say it does not make a comeback. Instead, we have a handful of insert songs, and they are actually fitting this time, with all of them being pulse- pounding rock tunes. They’re nothing amazing, but they’re far better than “Hey Digimon”, which made me want to fall asleep during the fight scenes.
The extras included in Manga’s release of Digimon Season 2 are identical to the first season, in that it has the Japanese OP and ED, and nothing else at all. Unfortunately, this release has the same issues regarding chapter markers as before, in that if you try and skip the opening, it will throw you halfway into the episode, which is fairly annoying, but not a deal breaker.
Whilst I struggled to recommend the first season of Digimon: Digital Monsters to those who lacked nostalgia for it, I think that this follow up is a good show in it’s own right. Improving on all the flaws of its predecessor, Digimon Season 2 feels like it’s everything the original should have been.