In this movie, Leomon dies. Dorumon lives... and the ruling powers have a real problem with this.
And now for something completely different!
Not long after Frontier wrapped up, with no Digimon on Japanese TV for the first time this millennium, we got this- a standalone CGI movie that features no human characters and is only loosely inspired by a manga. The animation style alone makes it stand out, as it's very much a product of its time. Odd as it looks, all CGI anime looked like this back then, and I've got the Vandread episodes to prove it. It's also the longest thing we'll have to review here. Only the first Zero Two movie is longer, but that one was mercifully shortened when brought stateside. As that one was incomprehensible to begin with, nothing was lost.
X-Evolution is not incomprehensible, but doesn't do the audience any favors when it comes to understanding the plot. It drops us right in the middle of the story and leaves us to infer what's going on through dialogue. This requires very good concentration, made difficult thanks to all the detailed computer animation, rather dull music and the fact that these characters insist on stopping to have a conversation every five minutes.
The gist of it is that ruling deity Yggdrasil, having determined that the Digital World is growing too complex to maintain order, is blowing it up and starting over, choosing a select few Digimon to populate this new world. However, some of the unwanted Digimon, such as furry little Dorumon, carry with them the X-Antibody, which keeps them alive in the new world against Yggdrasil's wishes. The Royal Knights have been tasked with wiping out these X-Antibody Digimon or, failing that, killing everybody and starting over. There's also a secret connection between Yggdrasil and Dorumon. Good luck figuring that part out.
While the movie stumbles frequently in outlining what exactly is happening, it does a brilliant job examining all the themes and angles in play here. That helps elevate it over the typical Digimon movie: this one feels like it's about something. As a mutant stowaway, Dorumon is a social outcast among the “chosen” Digimon, partially due to overt classism and partially due to the (justified) fear that Dorumon's existence will prompt the Royal Knights to, quite literally, kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out. You also get into the heads of rebels like WarGreymon who are actively fighting such an unjust system. The three featured Royal Knights all take a different approach: Magnamon sucks it up and obeys orders, Dukemon openly defies Yggdrasil, while Omegamon does his job while increasingly asking all the right questions.
While out of any mortal's reach for most of the movie, it's implied that even Yggdrasil's motives fit into the picture. The resounding message here is that fighting to stay alive is justified instinct rather than defiant political statement. Yggdrasil is doing the same thing, as its increased inability to control the Digital World is making it less and less relevant, making its subjects less and less reverent- bad news for a god if Neil Gaiman's any authority. It's sort of a “maintaining control vs. letting nature run free” conflict. Imagine Jurassic Park from the perspective of the cute spitty dinosaur that eats Wayne Knight.
Combining the philosophical commentary, surprisingly intricate character development and the gaudy number of plot twists makes for a movie that ultimately tries to juggle more than it can handle. It would have done well to simplify things, maybe establish the setting before diving into it, and do more to show us what's really going on instead of telling us what everyone's aiming for. That prevents X-Evolution from transcending from a good Digimon movie to a good movie that happens to have Digimon in it. There was no reason not to shoot for that.
My Grade: B
- As this movie was never dubbed, we're using Japanese names here. If you're more comfortable with dub names, feel free to change Dukemon to Gallantmon, Omegamon to Omnimon and, if you absolutely insist, Yggdrasil to King Drasil.
- The Royal Knights refer to three different terminals- Urd, Skuld and Verdandi, the three Norns closely tied to Yggdrasil in Norse mythology. Insert Ah My Goddess reference here.
- MetalGarurumon and WarGreymon fight Omegamon. This is your mind going kablooey.
- One of the more confounding elements of this movie is how nobody (except Leomon!) can stay dead. No less than four characters return from presumed death, and only two are given any sort of explanation. MetalGarurumon is the worst example as he's seen giving up his X-Antibody to Tokomon, falling to the ground dead, then returning later just because.
- So whose bright idea was it to combine a rebel base with a refugee camp? Having to take care of the innocents makes it really hard to mount a proper defense.
- While more time should have been spent building a bond with Dorumon, Tokomon has such a wonderful, understated role in all this as his relationship with Dorumon doesn't change even after multiple evolutions. This in turn helps Dorumon preserve his identity after his Perfect form looks an awful lot like the bad guys everyone's fighting.
- There's a great deal of meaning in Magnamon allowing Alphamon and Omegamon to pass through to see Yggdrasil. Even as he doesn't go along with them, simply allowing them to pass amounts to betraying his lord. He's silently rooting them on.