Digimon Adventure Last Evolution Kizuna

In this movie, after three series Digimon Adventure reaches a grand finale, a touching conclusion to Tai’s epic journey where he’s finally dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood.

 
We have no idea if Last Evolution Kizuna really is going to be the last entry in the original Adventure canon. It ends with an obvious potential follow-up story and there’s already a next generation of children lined up and ready to be exploited. But it’s clear the intention here is to be the big finale. There’s an air of finality throughout, sold as the end of a partnership and of an era. It’s something of an illusion, but it’s a convincing and compelling one. Kizuna also shows nothing but love to the entire span of the Digimon Adventure anime. Fans of everything from the original movie through tri. will find all sorts of callbacks and nods of appreciation. Bolero! Parrotmon! Willis! Meiko! The 02 kids doin’ stuff! It’s all here, and whether or not this actually is the end, it helps us say goodbye to it all.

All the way in the distant year of 2010, smartphone technology is arriving, the world is stoically tolerating the presence of Digimon, and Tai still has no idea what he wants to do with his life. Matt’s kicking the tires on a couple ideas while stalling on any commitments. They’re both still actively helping fight Digital World trouble that drops in, teaming with their siblings and Izzy on missions they complete efficiently… enough. It’s a perfect re-introduction, as while they have college classes, new acquaintances, and crappy part-time jobs, not a lot is fundamentally different. They’re more in their element fighting Parrotmon than being in their early 20s trying to gain a foothold on their futures.

They’re more than comfortable with the crisis Menoa introduces them to. Even as it doesn’t go their way, they’re not fazed at all entering cyberspace to take on Eosmon, just the latest in a long string of battles for them. Then, with the triple threat of Eosmon on the loose stealing the consciousness of digidestined, Menoa dropping the bomb that the bond between a kid and their Digimon has a finite lifespan and Tai and Matt are on the clock, and Kyotaro looking shady as hell, it’s investigation time! Everybody running around gathering intel paints a delightful picture of how digidestined operate when there isn’t a giant Digimon in their backyard. They use their own skills, whether it’s Izzy’s online research, Yamato tailing Kyotaro, Davis and company being nosy on campus, Armadillomon’s swipe trick, or Tai being graced with Gennai dropping into his apartment. This feels like the job as it exists now, and it’s a pleasure watching them at work.

From the moment she shows up asking the only people who can stop her plan to help her stop her plan, Menoa is a striking figure. Like Maki, she’s another brilliant/disturbed mind who lost her Digimon partner at a young age and needs to use the digidestined as pawns to complete her objective. It’s basically the same thing, the only difference being Menoa believes her crusade to be an act of charity while Maki’s was a selfish obsession. This does take a little sting out of Menoa’s role in the story, but it points to a clear consistency Kizuna keeps with tri. (and arguably before that): Homeostasis is and always has been a soulless bastard with no concern for the mental health of the digidestined. Gennai’s appearance kinda proves that.

The idea that a digidestined’s power comes from their potential for growth that diminishes as that growth is realized is intriguing as it is sudden and shocking. It raises plenty of questions, not only with how smoothly it fits the rest of the canon, but even in what that’s supposed to mean. Menoa lost Morphomon at a relatively young age because of her commitment to use her talents and join society as productive adult. Tai and Matt get their notice as a direct result of evolving Omnimon and are warned that straining their bonds will erode them further. Izzy, Mimi, and Joe haven’t pushed the envelope like them, yet meet the same fate not long afterward. Sora loses Biyomon before all of them because she either fought back against the trip to Neverland or she picked a weird time to follow the Menoa route. It’s very inconsistent, but the concept is still successful at reinforcing the core theme of the movie: at some point everybody has to transition into the next stage in their lives.

The key part there is that it’s mandatory, as that’s where Tai and Matt end up. As much as Menoa entices them, as tempting as the thought of a spending eternity with their Digimon, and as looming as life without Agumon and Gabumon lurks… there’s no actual decision involved here. Neverland is horrifying and they’re first introduced to it from the inside. There is no way they’re accepting that offer. They have their doubts and their Digimon have to talk some sense into them a few times, but it was never a real choice. The real challenge comes in finding the will and the courage to break through the obstacles Menoa and Eosmon throw at them, including their own teammates, and accept that moving forward is the only direction they can take. That’s a better reflection of reality anyway: you can choose how to grow up and ideally have some sway in when, but eventually everybody must move on from their childhoods. It’s cruel to separate them from their partners, but they can’t be running around fighting Parrotmon until they’re grandparents.

There’s a risk of that message being too cynical, of being misconstrued as a statement to throw out all your stuffed animals the second you leave college. There’s also that time back in 02 when they showed everybody happy with their Digimon 17 years after this story takes place. So despite the likes of Matt, Joe, TK, and Davis making obvious strides towards their epilogue destinies (others do so in more roundabout ways), there appears to be a clear incompatibility. You’d think it would at least demand another story to patch that, but that’s the magic of the movie’s final line: Tai and Matt’s promise to see Agumon and Gabumon again. It’s the same promise Takato gives to Guilmon and Haru gives to Yujin. While they’re just words, they spare us from otherwise completely devastating endings. Even if there isn’t another story explaining how they do it, it’s the Odaiba digidestined: are you really betting against them figuring something out?

Moreover, it reinforces that even as we all have to grow up, it doesn’t mean we have to abandon or forget what we loved about our childhoods. We may have to reassess and re-prioritize, but we can always carry it with us. We can treat the original Digimon Adventure franchise the same way, moving on while keeping what we loved about it in our hearts. As it does to Tai and Matt, Kizuna doesn’t give us the choice of whether to accept this, it just ends it in as beautiful a way as possible, demanding we learn its lesson.

My Grade: A

Loose Data:

  • While Meiko appearing in Neverland was a lovely callback to tri., there were so many lovely callbacks to everything it would be disappointing not to see something like that. The real special bit of tri. love was bringing back Meiko and Meicoomon’s voice actresses to play the women in the bar, just to show they aren’t forgotten.
  • I’ve pondered the possibility of digidestined using the digital gates for quick illegal globe hopping before, so I love the confirmation that the 02 kids not only do it, but do it so casually.
  • Among many alarming things about Menoa is that if you do the math on the dates she was giving Tai, she actually became a digidestined before 1999. That should probably raise more questions. It’s a strange eyebrow-raiser, since putting that date even a couple years later puts her in the same range as Meiko and some of the internationals and wouldn’t be an issue.
  • One thing that’s massively glossed over in the movie is how the other five team members fall to Eosmon. Not that we don’t accept that they would (Eosmon’s very… persuasive), but they’re contrasted with Tai and Matt as the ones that actually have their act together and seem to be transitioning to adulthood pretty smoothly. The idea that there’s a part of them that would secretly love to be children again is very much a mood (it’s certainly consistent with tri.), but it’s another layer that could have used more attention. Especially with Izzy, who already knew separation from Tentomon was inevitable, had the chance to process that, and still had that trace of doubt in his head to let Eosmon get to his consciousness.
  • Then Sora could be a contrast to that! With barely a word, Sora appears to lose Biyomon somewhere in the middle of the action, the timing suggesting that she was paid a visit the same way Mimi and Joe were. The mindset leading towards this was explored in an earlier short, so that’s only an issue in the sense that she still wasn’t that far from the other kids. You need to assume that Eosmon tried, and from the way it attacked the 02 kids and the remaining internationals, it doesn’t take no for an answer. That implies some impressive resistance from someone who waffles as much as Sora does. Either way, it’s harsh that all of this happens to her and we don’t get to see any of it.
  • As for the dub, there are always a couple lines you can point out as being random silly dub moments, but it’s generally a pretty tight script and calling them out seems unfair. The change in the dub from “Neverland” to “The Neverworld” is very curious and makes you wonder if it’s due to creative license or other reasons. No issue at all with comparing that world to the one from a certain fanfiction of the same name.
  • The new voices in the dub are generally fine: Davis holds up surprisingly decently, Mimi’s not in it enough for Kate Higgins to be that noticeable, and Nick Roye is automatically an improved Matt before we heard a single line. The only notable miss is Yolei, who has an odd slur and not enough energy, and Robert Axelrod could never be replaced as Armadillomon. Strangely, the one voice that might be the most noticeably off is Gabumon despite having the same actor. He’s a little higher than usual, sounding more like Orbot from Sonic Boom.

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1 comment:

  1. A thought occurs to me regarding Menoa becoming a Digidestined before Tai and the others did. 02 established that other kids who witnessed a digimon became Digidestined (something reinforced by Tai's group who all witnessed the battle with Parrotmon). Given that we know that there was a team that came before Tai's, it's probable that Menoa fell into this category as somehow witnessing digimon from Maki and Daigo's adventure, and so became a candidate for being a Digidestined.

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