What’s this – a First Impressions post in November? And for Digimon, yet? Yes, it’s odd, but here we are. This Digimon revival has been in development since forever, and the announcement that it would be a series of movies rather than a TV series was met with an audible groan from most of the massive fandom. But Crunchyroll has ridden in to the rescue of the Western fan base, deciding to release those movies in episodic form. And so we jump into the wayback machine.
As the movies are being released one at a time, CR is releasing “episodes” four at a time (this post covers the first one only), with the next batch due early next year. I think any post I do on Digimon needs to be prefaced with a few disclaimers – the most important of which being that I’m no expert on the franchise. I did like Digimon – better than Pokemon, certainly – but never watched it religiously. To be honest I had a hard time remembering who everyone was – who’d been in the original series (and it’s much-loathed sequel, which is apparently still canon) and who hadn’t. And the fact that in my memory they were all 11 year-olds didn’t exactly help in that effort.
There was some real talent involved in the Digimon franchise back in the day – no less than Hosoda Mamoru worked on the original TV series and directed the first movie. I remember it being surprisingly smart, and the relationships among the kiddie cast more complicated than you’d expect. A lot of anime has flowed under my bridge since then and I have no idea how much of that perception was my lack of exposure to anime, and how much genuinely came from the material itself. But I enjoyed it, and I enjoyed the first ep of Tri, too.
Again, I remember so few details that I can’t really place most of what happened in this episode in context. It’s six years later and everyone is in high school, scattered far and wide and consumed with teenage pursuits like sports clubs and rock bands. Most of the focus in the premiere is on Taichi (now played by Hanae Natsuki), who in my mind’s eye was kind of the archetypal impetuous ringleader. His sister Hikari is still around obviously, and a few old friends. But a bunch of the other principals seem to have dispersed (to as far away as America) and of the principal Digimon themselves there’s almost no sign.
What we have here, it seems to me, is something like a high school slice of life episode with a slight nod to potential shipping. The character designs by Uki Atsuya (Tsuritama, Cencoroll) are what really stand out – the director is the reliable and experienced Motonaga Keitarou. The Digimon do get involved, and a Kuwagoman (I’d never have remembered that) causes some trouble in Odaiba, causing power blackouts before divebombing Tai at his soccer game. Obviouly there’s going to be a Digi-themed plot, but my sense is that this is going to be a pretty character-driven take on the mythology – and there’s enough in the first episode to make me think it might be an interesting one. I probably won’t blog it, but I’ll catch up to the remaining three released episodes and if they really grab me, who knows?