Digimon Adventure's Hard Reset Is Key to the Franchise's Evolution

The reimagined DigiDestined.
The reimagined DigiDestined.
Image: Toei

Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, the latest film in Toei’s Digimon franchise, is set to bring the story of the eight children who saved both the real and Digital Worlds by partnering up with living, digital creatures to an end. But it isn’t the end. Much in the same way that Digimon can’t truly “die,” the DigiDestined are coming back in a fascinating way.

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While the original Digimon Adventure’s premise revolved around a number of aspects about our reality—like the widespread use of the internet—the ways that we interact with technology has changed considerably since the series first premiered in 1999. Unlike Last Evolution Kizuna, which is set in 2010 (in keeping with the passage of time established in the original series), Toei’s new reboot Digimon Adventure: reimagines Tai and the other DigiDestined as young children living in modern-day Japan. (Note that the colon hanging out at the end of Digimon Adventure: is a purposeful choice to differentiate the reboot from the original.)

The basic premise of the story appears to be largely unchanged as a disturbance in the Digital World begins to affect electronics in the real world and DigiDestined meet their partner Digimon for the first time. What’s different, though, is that all the kids seem to have cell phones, their Digivices are all somewhat physically different, and the Digital World itself appears to be a more abstract, conceptual place.

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As the kids embark on their adventure and learn that it’s up to them to battle whatever creatures are causing the Digital World’s problems, back in the real world the prevailing idea is that the digital problems are part of a larger string of cyberterrorism attacks. It’s in ways like that which Digimon Adventure: is keeping in the series’ tradition of tackling real-world issues while also being fantastical, and at the same time, it’s introducing new elements into its story that reflect our present-day reality.

A big part of what made the original Digimon series so satisfying to watch over the years has been its willingness to let its characters continue to age and evolve in ways that many cartoons like Pokémon tend not to. Emotional depth was one of Digimon’s strong suits from the very beginning, and so it stands to reason that Digimon Adventure: will keep in that tradition, but now the franchise can do that in a world that feels as if it exists much closer to our own.

The original Digimon Adventure was very much a product of the way global telecommunications functioned throughout the end of the 20th century, but in 2020, the basic principles of how people access information on the web is just drastically different. Things like chat rooms, message boards, and the very concept of hyperlinking have all become subsumed by social media platforms and applications. Digimon originally worked with the idea of the internet being a massive, shared space that one could explore the way one might a continent. But today, the web is increasingly composed of walled-off gardens that we create portals into through our phones to scroll through TikTok, or through our consoles to go hang out with friends in Animal Crossing.

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What’s going to be interesting to see is how Digimon Adventure: ends up capitalizing on what the shape of the modern-day internet is like as the kids venture deeper into the Digital World. In a time where we’re all extremely online as a way of life, what does it mean to physically travel across the digital networks that keep the world operating? The DigiDestined might be the first people to discover the Digital World’s existence, but in 2020 they’re probably not the only hyper-connected children with the potential to become the unlikely saviors of two worlds.

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In nearly every Digimon series, when a digital monster’s life comes to an end (usually as the result of sustaining too much damage in battle), the creation disintegrates into glowing bits of dust that scatter to the wind, making it seem as if they’re lost. In reality, though, their data actually ends up being pulled to the Primary Village, a place where the Digimon is reincarnated (or recompiled, depending on how you think of it) as a fresh Digiegg full of new life and possibility. In a way, Digimon Adventure: is the Digiegg meant to be born in Last Evolution Kizuna’s wake. They’re interconnected stories that represent two distinct phases of life for the same franchise and how it’s time for Digimon to evolve into something new and more advanced.

While Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna’s premiere here in the U.S. has currently been postponed, Digimon Adventure: is set to hit Fuji TV on April 5.

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io9 Culture Critic and Staff Writer. Cyclops was right.

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DISCUSSION

gigawattconduit
Justin Carter

It’s been SUCH a long time since I’ve seen me a Digimon, and I’ll be sure to watch this when it eventually rolls around.

What’s everyone’s favorite season? I’m honestly partial to Tamers and Frontier just a bit more than Adventure.