What’s it about? On the day he planned to leave for summer camp, grade-schooler Taichi finds himself transported into a world inside the Network that connects the world’s computers. There he finds a world full of monsters, both friendly and dangerous. It’s up to him and one strange new creature to defeat the viruses causing havoc in the real world.
I regret to inform you, readers, that I can’t give you an opinion on what it’s like to experience Digimon for the first time in 2020. While the admittedly messier Adventure 02 remains first in my heart (not least because Ichijouji Ken marked the earliest stirrings of “transition goals” in my young heart), I was nonetheless a faithful Saturday morning viewer of the (extremely butchered) Digimon Adventure dub during the ’90s.
Truthfully, I’m not sure that Digimon needs a remake. The original series remains a stellar isekai ensemble, and its outdated tech and charmingly ’90s premise about visiting a world inside the internet has aged gracefully into an almost retro-futurist appeal. Since the premiere of the extremely divisive Digimon tri. in 2015, the franchise has fallen into the trap of abandoning its innovative but less popular spins on the concept in favor of mining the reliable nostalgia dollar.
Then again, here I am talking about a series I haven’t thought overmuch about since I was twelve, so perhaps that’s proof of concept in and of itself.
Whether or not we needed a reboot with the original cast, it’s here now. And the good news is that this is an exceptionally promising start. Rather than introducing the entire cast upfront, we spend most of our time with Taichi, who endears himself quickly as a straightforward and earnest kid. While he might charge ahead recklessly, he’s also quick to help others and to befriend shy tech wizard Kojiro.
His goal-focused, “take it in stride” attitude winds up being perfect for an episode with so many concepts to introduce, and the script breaks up its info-dumps into manageable chunks that don’t detract from the action scenes or the established ticking clock.
Speaking of fight scenes, the landscape inside the Network so far draws a lot more from one-time Digimon director Hosoda Mamoru’s later work on Summer Wars than the more concrete settings of the original TV show. That does credit to the fight scenes, as it leaves a lot of free space for glowing particle effects and the changing bodies of the various monsters.
Hopefully it won’t stay that way though, as even during the final few minutes when Taichi and Agumon finally get a breather, the landscape quickly becomes underwhelming.
There’s a lot up in the air about how the series intends to proceed, partly because the plot jumps right from one crisis to the next. With the near-collision of the local train lines resolved, Taichi is immediately sent running off to deal with an attack on US nuclear computers that could cause the end of the world.
It’s a big jump in stakes, but also fascinating as a way to acknowledge straight away how much the shape of technology has changed since the early ’90s. And while it’s a shame to lose the series’ isekai roots, I’m hesitant to decry the premiere’s 50/50 split between the real and digital worlds just yet.
It’s likewise unclear how this initial focus on Taichi (and Yamato, from the looks of things) will affect the amount of screen time the rest of the cast gets. Sora and Mimi only appear briefly onscreen and in the opening, and while Hikari is prominently featured in the episode she doesn’t get any lines. The former is also, in fairness, true of Jou, but the main cast’s five-to-three gender ratio (and the frankly exhausting fandom debates that primarily center Sora as the middle of a love triangle) leaves me more concerned about how the female characters will be affected.
That minor quibble aside (and the downright deliberately misleading decision to differentiate the remake title with only a colon at the end), this is a great watch that takes care to introduce its concepts in an accessible way for new viewers while putting on a lot of visual bells and whistles for longtime fans. Even if all it does is make you want to rewatch the original, it’s worth giving this one a shot.