Having a serviceable story right off the bat affords a lot of perks early on. There’s no aimless wandering here as Taichi and Sora know where they have to go and the general idea of why they’re in this Digital World. That dulls many of the usual surprises and shocks first time visitors usually experience. Normally this could be criticized, as kids bugging out over this strange and dangerous place is part of the early fun and sets tones for characters. Taichi and Sora roll with everything smoothly, which says some things. With Sora, it might say something unintentional and maybe even a little worrying. But while their early capacity to meet each challenge calmly is unusual, and perhaps puts pressure on Joe and Mimi’s introductions to give us a proper freak out, having some early answers and a path to follow justifies this. Not only by helping Taichi and Sora make sense of it all, but in making the path itself the real draw.
What’s most remarkable about the effectiveness of the story to drive the show is that it isn’t rocket science. Being in the Digital World to deal with problems seeping into the real world isn’t a departure from the original Adventure premise. Only here, Taichi and Koshiro have already made that connection and don’t have to waste time being confused by what’s happening. And a strange guiding presence telling the kids to go to a distant place inhabited by angels? Every word of that is identical to Frontier’s opening arc! But instead of the voice in the D-Scanner telling them this, Taichi and Sora find this information themselves. It’s because of a conveniently located tablet with Google Translate enabled and Sora happening to have a pair of binoculars, but it still involves them doing work rather than sightseeing.
Helping matters further is that the action is worth watching. Usually an afterthought in early Digimon series, battles here look better, flow better, and have more intelligence to them. Snimon attacks because he thinks Taichi and Sora are running off with his lunch (he’s not wrong). Taichi stands his ground and helps Agumon, but prioritizes escaping over taking Snimon down. Later, Sora’s left to deal with Snimon herself not because her partner’s name is in the episode title, but because Greymon’s busy with Coelamon. Even after evolution, Greymon and Birdramon require maneuvering to beat their respective enemies. The action creates and relieves tension the old fashioned way.
These elements ease the pressure off of providing deep characterization right off the bat. In the case of Sora, this is both an absolute delight and more than a little strange. She embraces Taichi’s explanation for what’s going on, threatens to leave without him when he gawks at dinosaurs, adopts Piyomon with little hesitation, is down for jumping off a cliff, has a bag full of useful survival gear, and climbs up Snimon’s legs to save a bird she met that day. This is the Sora we remember loving as children, the one who never quite manifested in reality. It’s hard to argue with an introduction this badass, especially for a character whose personality and role became so subdued in future chapters.
It does come with some trepidation, however. Eventually we hope these characters will be explored more fully, make more mistakes, and lock up due to their own flaws. Taichi’s too central to everything not to mess up at some point. Sora’s introduction makes us wonder what issues she’s going to take on. There’s no reason to think she won’t have any, but she became so defined by her fear of emotional attachment due to crippling mother issues that it’s weird imagining anything else. And that fear first bore itself in her first interactions with Piyomon. Not so here. Maybe this will bear itself out in a different way. Maybe she’ll have something completely different. Either way, the uncertainty puts her in a weird place. So as awesome as her introduction was, and as justified as it is thanks to both the surrounding elements of the show and her being damn due for some love, until we get deeper into everyone’s personalities, we do have to be a little cautious about how this will play out.
My Grade: A-
- The unspoken thematic emphasis on dinosaur Digimon is a nice bit of world logic, plus shows off Brakimon and Stegomon, two Digimon that haven’t gotten much love in the anime before.
- The quick flashes of Digimon names may be this season’s equivalent of an analyzer spot. As long as it doesn’t get as repetitive and obnoxious as when Xros Wars did it, it’s a nice touch to avoid breaking into scenes.
- We don’t get to see Koshiro meeting Tentomon, which would be disappointing if 1) we had any reason to believe there’d be an element of emotion involved and 2) we saw them meet in the original series. Now that we’ve had two offscreen meetings, it’ll help to remember that back then we only saw two kids meet their Digimon for the first time, and one was Hikari.
- The Digital World’s connection to the internet is always fluid depending on the series, and usually it doesn’t matter. Koshiro saying the Digital World is in the deepest part of the network is both a departure from past models and probably significant.
- Sora’s shopping bag full of useful equipment is too delightful a contrivance to criticize. It also shows that by going to Cabela’s and buying all this stuff in the first place, Sora’s up for all this, so it counts as a character note. And it’s not like the original series didn’t have a similar bag of goodies. But damn, that knife tho…
- Gotta say I applaud the show for making the massive threat at the end of the river a Digimon instead of a waterfall.
- Koshiro and Tentomon getting swallowed by Whamon is fun in the sense that it satisfies the desire for a nice cliffhanger, even though everyone who’s seen the show before kinda knows where this is going already.