In this movie, one more troubled relationship between one more kid and their partner threatens the world one more time. The Zero Two kids help… a little.
As much as Last Evolution Kizuna’s message spoke of our need to be able to let go of our childhood fancies, and as much as it would have been an appropriate final bow to the original Adventure canon, it also proved that this world is still capable of turning out some wonderful, thought-provoking stories. Especially when given the kind of budget this movie relishes in throughout. Before we tiptoe around major plot points without actually revealing them, it must be said that The Beginning looks gorgeous. The big action is animated beautifully and minor details in the art go far in supporting the story. It’s important because the movie is all about quality. Quality above distracting subplots, quality above unnecessary fights, and—perhaps more concerning—quality above cherished Digimon Adventure establishments.
The first sign of the movie’s lack of concern about bending the knee to prior Adventure canon: this is 100 percent Lui’s story. If you’re expecting the Zero Two kids to have some deep character growth the way Taichi did in Kizuna… well, it’s the Zero Two kids; half of them didn’t get that in their own season. No, this is all the Lui and Ukkomon show. After tri. and Kizuna you might be thinking “isn’t this the third time now we’ve been introduced to a new character whose partnership issues are a harbinger for chaos?” The answer to that is no: it’s the fourth time if you count Wallace in Hurricane Touchdown. But while tri.’s format allowed the established cast to have full character arcs alongside Meiko’s and Kizuna was still fundamentally about Taichi dealing with the problems Menoa creates, The Beginning is too compact and too tightly wound to give anyone but Lui room for growth.
That’s not a bad thing though! In a relatively short time, we get all the gory details of Lui’s past, where Ukkomon fits into the equation, how things go wrong, why it’s everyone’s problem, and how Lui fixes it. It’s told vividly, and viscerally at times: some of the story is straight-up disturbing and the movie understands the importance of not shying away from it. These are some horrors that would bother even the Ghost Game kids. The facts of Lui’s story aren’t particularly complicated—it’s a surprisingly simple story for a feature-length film—but they’re presented with a nuance that hits the upper echelon of what Digimon has ever been capable of.
Still, it does leave the Zero Two characters a little in the lurch. Character moments are sprinkled in whenever they can get them and everybody’s heard in group conversations (sometimes even making a good point!), but some feel like they’re only there because they have to be. Until the fade out at the end, there honestly isn’t much more of the Zero Two kids being Zero Two kids than we saw in Kizuna. Anyone longing to see these kids tackling their own problems instead of someone else’s will be left hanging. That said, the revamped evolution sequences are fire, we’re still treated to Target and Beat Hit, and there’s even a couple teases for the shippers. And the ending is absolutely a “Zero Two kids being the Zero Two kids” moment.
But yes, one of the trickier conversations will certainly regard The Beginning’s relationship with Adventure canon. On one hand, Lui’s situation suggests a conflict with Adventure and tri., and some could interpret the resolution as incompatible with particular aspects of the epilogue. On the other hand, none of the issues are in any way major, and countered both by references to events in Adventure and tri., and the fact that everybody is still barreling straight toward their epilogue fates. Weirdly, the most dubious point of contention may be with Kizuna. Any direct discrepancies are again insignificant, but the revelations of the prior movie feel like they should weigh more on some minds as they process everything going on here.
To its credit, The Beginning seems fully aware of what it’s doing. It understands how much it’s potentially shaking things up. The characters recognize it! The movie delivers on the things that really matter: the kids, the Digimon, the music, and the heart. Things like adherence to an increasingly rigid and cluttered timeline are more superfluous. It doesn’t dismiss anything for the sake of dismissing it, but it’s not going to let it get in the way of a good story. Even as the kids dutifully stay on track for the epilogue, the ending narration suggests that anything goes from here. We may find out: unlike Kizuna’s sense of finality, The Beginning builds momentum for more stories in whatever interpretation of this world grows them best. If they’re anything like this one, we’ll welcome them.
My Grade: A
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Thanks to Toei Animation for providing Digimon: System Restore an advance screener of this movie.
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