Note: Review refers to names used in the English dub of Digimon tri.
It has been six years since Tai Yagami and the other DigiDestined first crossed into the Digital World, and three years since the second group of DigiDestined, led by Davis Motomiya, vanquished BelialVamdemon. In the ensuing peaceful days, the gate to the Digital World has closed, and time continues to pass. However, the peace is interrupted when a Kuwagamon is spotted flying above Tokyo and starts to wreak havok upon the city. Tai happens to catch sight of the rogue Digimon, and chases after it in a futile effort to stop it. Just before he’s about to meet his demise in the claws of the Kuwagamon, Tai is unexpectedly saved by an old friend.
As I mentioned back in my earlier review, Digimon Adventure 01 wasn’t really the version of the series that I have any nostalgia for, so I don’t think Digimon tri., a six film continuation of the original series, was really targeted at me. However, even though I don’t have any particular fondness for it, that didn’t stop me from really quite enjoying tri., a slightly more mature take on the Digimon franchise that aims to be more than a cynical cash grab, giving longtime fans the continuation they’ve doubtlessly being clamouring for.
As you might expect with a sequel of this nature, the biggest appeal is of course going to be the cast, and seeing how the characters we know and love have grown up, and in this regard, tri. doesn’t disappoint. I was actually pleasantly surprised at how realistically friendships between the kids, now in their late teens, are depicted, in that they have slowly drifted apart. It would have been fairly easy for the writers to have the group have stayed close friends over the six years between the Adventure 01 and tri., and get on with the story, but that’s just not how it works in real life. Most people do lose touch with childhood friends over years, and the people you hung out with when you were 11 generally aren’t the same ones you hang out with when you’re 17, and the primary audience watching tri., who are also going to be in their late teens or early twenties, will likely find this incredibly relatable, at least I know I did. Whilst it is sad to see Tai struggle to get his old group back together at first, it does make the reunion around the halfway mark all the more gratifying, and it even made me, someone who doesn’t really have any particular long term attachment to Adventure 01, feel overwhelmingly happy for them.
As for the cast themselves, the majority of them are identical to we last saw them, which is kind of perplexing. Going from age 11 to age 17 with barely any change in personality seems like a total impossibility, and is one of the few snags tri. seems to hit. I can understand that the choice to alter anyone in radical ways would risk alienating the audience; after all, the characters they know are what they’re here to see, but it strikes me as incredibly odd to see that no growth has happened in the intervening six years. There is one exception to this, and that’s Tai, who has gone from being a hot-head to someone who considers their actions rather than diving straight in without a second thought. Throughout the movie, he ponders on whether or not his actions and those of the other DigiDestined are the right thing to do, or if they’re causing more harm than good with collateral damage. The film makes it a point to highlight this change within Tai, with him getting into a fight with Matt about it, but I can’t help but feel that the message it seems to give off is a wrong one. Matt seems to think that Tai changing is a bad thing, and whilst I do agree in this particular case, it does seem to imply that the concept is somehow an inherently bad thing, given that Tai is the only one to actually undergo any sort of development, and is chastised for it. Perhaps I am reading too far into it, but showing some improvements within the other DigiDestined might have been a good idea to balance things out a little.
To go along with the older characters, Digimon tri. throws a new dynamic into the mix in the form of possible romance between the DigiDestined. This was always sort of there in the TV series, but here it has been brought to the fore, as we see there is some sort of love triangle between Matt, Tai and Sora, as well as Izzy developing feelings for Mimi upon meeting her again for the first time in three years. It’s a nice and natural addition, given that the cast have grown up, and is done in a subtle enough way as to not distract from the broader reunion; it’s certainly something I’d like to see explored in the sequels.
As you’d probably expect from the focus on characterisation and the title being Reunion, the first tri. film offers a very barebones story, even by the standards of Digimon. A rogue Digimon is spotted in Tokyo, the original DigiDestined band together to defeat it, and that’s pretty much your lot. I can forgive this though, because this is the first of six planned parts, so it makes a lot of sense to fully focus on reintroducing everyone and then develop the plot in later entries. I hope that the future tri. installments can overcome the weaknesses of its predecessor, which had a rather poor and repetitive story. With an older audience in mind, who are less likely to be happy with a simple and somewhat mindless narrative, I’m sure that the writers will strive for a higher standard, or at least I hope so. Still, even if the plot is simple, it delivers the kind of Digimon action you’d expect, so if you want to see Greymon kick ass once again, you certainly won’t be disappointed.
Despite being animated by the same studio as the TV series, Toei Animation (Dragon Ball Z, Sailor Moon, Yu-Gi-Oh, One Piece), Digimon tri. sees a radical departure in its animation from Digimon of the past. The new look is much sharper and slicker, and between the fifteen years between Adventure 01 and this and the considerably larger budget, tri. is by far the nicest looking the franchise has ever been. Even, if compared to modern standards, it isn’t particularly special in any way, seeing all the old Digimon in new and shiny animation is still a great experience. The most instantly noticeable change is definitely the new character designs by Atsuya Uki (tsuritama), that are a long way from the designs of old. Tai and Izzy remain instantly recognizable but others, like Matt and Joe, took me a couple of seconds to even realise who they were. To me, this further reinforces the desire to distance this new series from the original show and establish an identity of its own.
Contrary to prior releases of Digimon in the UK, tri. features both an English and Japanese voice cast, although fans of the old dub may be a little disappointed. Not that it’s bad, far from it, but unfortunately they couldn’t get everyone back to reprise their roles. Joshua Seth, Philece Sampler, Mona Marshall and Colleen O’Shaughnessy return from the original dub as Tai, Mimi, Izzy and Sora respectively, and show vast improvements in the last fifteen years, yet still retain the same iconic voices you recognize. When it comes to the replacement voice actors, you can’t deny the caliber of talent brought in, with incredibly famous voice actors such as Vic Mignogna (Edward from Fullmetal Alchemist), Johnny Yong Bosch (LeLouch from Code Geass) and Robbie Daymond (Issei from Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Blade Works), but it’s still a little sad they couldn’t get all the cast back together in a movie primarily about reunion.
Date A Live and Super Sonico: The Animation composer Go Sakabe provides the score, which is high energy and guitar driven; a perfect match for the film. The opening song is “Butterfly” by Kouji Wada, a song that will sound very familiar to Japanese viewers, as it was used as the original opening theme for Adventure 01, but the song will be lost on the majority of Western viewers, as it was replaced with the now iconic Digimon Digital Monsters theme. Still, it’s an upbeat and catchy song that goes well with the rest of the music.
Despite an overly simplistic story, Digimon tri. The Movie Part 1 serves as a fantastic launch pad into a new era for the franchise.