Digimon Adventure 02 The Beginning [Dub] (Spoilers)

In this movie, an adorable, sympathizing Digimon gives a poor, desperate kid the chance to make his humble wishes come true. Clearly they’re the villains of the piece.

Depending on whether you approach The Beginning from the perspective of Lui or the Zero Two cast, you’re going to find it to be a story about one of two things. Looking solely at Lui and Ukkomon, there’s a lesson in how wishes are fulfilled. You’re only going to get what you want out of a relationship if you express your needs clearly and understand the motivations of those trying to provide them. That applies double if they can magically grant wishes, as any good Monkey’s Paw derivative would illustrate. The Zero Two kids face a tale about the nature of fate. Not the dread over an inevitable tragedy as the last parts of tri. and Kizuna explored. Instead, the dread of learning that something wonderful originated from something awkward and manufactured, and how an origin point can be more uncomfortable than a fixed destination.

It’s a bombshell to both us and the established cast: the digidestined were created not to help a digital entity maintain order, but to help a abused four year old feel less alone. There are some staggering questions that arise from all this. Did Ukkomon empower Homeostasis to choose digidestined? Would the Digital World have been defenseless against its evils if Lui hadn’t made the wish? Why couldn’t Ukkomon get anyone together for Lui’s eighth birthday? Even if everything that came before this remains in continuity (and it's supposed to), it twists the initial contact between child and Digimon into something forced rather than a divine destiny. That’s what the kids have to grapple with, and grapple they do.

What they come to realize is that even if their fated partnership had such shallow origins, they themselves made it genuine. They’re the ones who put the work into creating and maintaining these bonds, the same as any other relationship. The preservation of past canon reinforces that, allowing them to look back to Willis and Ken and even Lui himself to understand that such partnerships, well-intentioned as they may be, have the capacity to go wrong. Theirs didn’t (or at least they got better), and that’s still something to cherish. In this way, it’s still a struggle to accept fate the same way Tai had to in tri. and Kizuna, but coping with the past rather than the future.

Meanwhile, contrast that to Lui and you can understand his cynicism towards the concept of digidestined. Grateful to have his life turned around and unwilling to question the implications of Ukkomon’s actions, he doesn’t put the effort into maintaining a partnership because he never had the impetus to. Without the stakes the other digidestined faced, he’s allowed to continue living his fantasy, only realizing the implications when he sees other kids and Digimon risking their lives because of the wish. Feel to mark that as a possible clue to some of the above questions. Either way he goes to the other extreme, rejecting the wish entirely, inflicting some gruesome body horror, and making Ukkomon very sad.

In this regard, and our astonishment that Kari calls this out so bluntly, Lui and Ukkomon are simultaneously the story’s protagonists and antagonists. Lui’s wish and his initial refusal to rein in his partner are as responsible for this mess as Ukkomon was, while both seek to work together to find a more organic solution to make young Lui’s life better and not realize the wish’s final apex. The Beginning is very naive about the power of communication. Sympathetic as it tries to be towards Lui’s mother, a random stranger grabbing her out of nowhere is unlikely to suddenly reform an abusive parent. And it’s hard to envision a way Lui could have successfully articulated his wish better after it was already set in motion. But this movie follows a series where Davis reforms a former villain just by talking to him enough, so don’t act so shocked.

The movie certainly communicates its feelings about this world’s continuity. Its way of honoring everything that came before it while simultaneously being cavalier about how it’s incorporated is either incredibly frustrating or the most zen thing we’ve ever seen. Kari and TK know of Homeostasis and mention it by name, so they must know of the original five digidestined. But using that to question Lui’s claim of being the first would be distracting and fruitless, so we don’t see it. The epilogue is more intact than ever, with Davis consumed by ramen, Kari helping with a daycare, and Yolei hitting on Ken. But it also treats the notion of giving everyone a Digimon partner as a nightmare scenario with little elaboration. Not that it needs any after Savers and Ghost Game, but Zero Two’s ending relies on the idea of making Digimon accessible to everyone. And despite its close links to Kizuna, when the kids wonder if killing Ukkomon will end everyone’s partnerships, it never weighs on their minds that they may already have a shelf life. In fact, the destruction of the D3s suggest that the bonds are again limitless, possibly reversing mechanics we just learned about.

So why is it all right? Both the elimination of the digivices and the final narration suggest that even if the Digimon Adventure timeline is unbreakable, it is malleable. Events can swerve in different directions, new revelations can upset what we used to believe, contradictions can co-exist, and the rules and logic of the world can be made and broken on a whim. We have to allow ourselves to put our assumptions and expectations aside for the sake of a good story. We still seem headed towards the epilogue, but the surprises Kizuna and The Beginning throw at us suggest we should stay on our toes as we await whatever comes next. Remembering how dull it once seemed to be stuck traveling a narrow path to 2027, isn’t that what we should be wishing for?

My Grade: A

Loose Data:

  • Suppose we should start out with thoughts on the dub, which is mostly faithful and generally solid. Davis, Ken, Veemon, and Hawkmon are back in peak form, and Yolei sounds more natural and expressive than she did in Kizuna. TK, Patamon, and Cody are fine, while our substitute Wormmon does his best. Kari and Gatomon have the same voices from tri. and Kizuna but sound a little shakier this go-round. Armadillomon’s the same actor, but an shockingly stark downgrade in his direction. As the leads, both of Lui’s actors and Ukkomon absolutely deliver standout performances. Good luck getting that birthday song out of your nightmares.
  • As far as the script goes, some things like Hikarigaoka and a couple attacks don’t get adapted to dub equivalents, but everything’s pretty understandable. The conversation about switching to D3s is the only one that seems unfocused.
  • That “Journey 1, Route 1” bit at the start makes it feel like there’s some bigger plan in motion for more Digimon Adventure stories. But it also feels like whatever that’s supposed to be about should have started with Kizuna.
  • Even if the story is not really about the Zero Two kids, Davis, Ken, and Yolei certainly make their presences felt. Davis Davises his way into getting everyone on board working with Lui and with Veemon offers the motivational speeches. Ken keeps him in check and tries to inject reason to his madness, even if Davis’s introspective side shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise to him. Yolei is back to offering pure personality in her dealings with Davis, even calling out him and Ken’s “flirting” (which Davis blushes at!). Kari and TK occasionally bring up interesting points. Cody… he got them into a computer room?
  • It doesn’t matter for purposes of this movie and nobody is in a position to deliver answers, but they bring up Ukkomon’s connection to a higher power a lot. A connection to Homeostasis makes the most sense, but there were an uncomfortable number of helixes flying around when Lui dove into Ukkomon at the end there. That’s not usually good.
  • The effects of Ukkomon melting and later dying track well enough if you realize Lui isn’t actually changing the past. But his mother dropping dead is alarming since she wasn’t physically unwell when Lui made the wish. Her death suggests that Ukkomon taking control of her means it actually killed her years ago. Hope those classmates are all right.
  • We get the sudden canonization of the ol’ “digidestined count doubles every year” thing that was only a rough guide that even Zero Two proper didn’t actually follow. It still can only be seen as a loose estimate given its inevitable march to the “everyone on Earth is a digidestined” scenario the kids fought so hard to avert, and there are so many surprise digidestined cropping up before the Zero Two kids (Menoa and Meiko are just the recent ones) that it’s a disservice to steer the audience to any hard numbers. So it’s a strange choice to mention out loud, especially when Miyako or Ken just dropping the raw estimate would have sufficed for that scene.
  • It’s worth pointing out that Lui convincing his mother to stop abusing her kid is happening inside Ukkomon, so the improbable effectiveness of that act could well be one last bit of wish fulfillment before they hash things out. Wonder what would have happened if Davis actually had intervened in the first leap.

Thanks to Toei Animation for providing Digimon: System Restore an advance screener of this movie.

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  1. Yeah the way I see it, Lui didn't actually change his mom's mind, rather it was Ukkomon's attempt to give Lui closure in that facet

    Also maybe Ukkomon did kill Lui's mom to puppet her around cause he recognized that she was no good for Lui. Fits with the theme of wanting what's best for him but not knowing what's right and wrong

  2. I think the issue with giving everyone a partner was that it would happen instantly and cause chaos, as opposed to it gradually happening naturally, which would allow people to get used to it.