Anime Review #61: Digimon Adventure – Last Evolution Kizuna

It’s quite fitting that I write this post today, the day after the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, when Catholics commemorate the event in which the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was taken up into Heaven in both body and soul, attested infallibly as dogma by Pope Pius XII in 1950. Having spent her earthly life conceiving, raising, witnessing Her Son’s divine ministry, and then accompanying Him throughout His Passion and Resurrection, and being with the Apostles in receiving the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, she spent the remainder of her life glorifying God, before her eventual heavenly entrance just as Her Son did many years prior, in the sight of His Apostles, who continued to transmit the Christian mission throughout the world.

Similarly, the topic of today’s Anime Review, the film Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, focuses on the final journey of Taichi Yagami and Yamato Ishida, two of the series’ most prominent Digidestined members, with their respective partners Agumon and Gabumon, before they are taken away to leave their beloved human partners alone to mend their own futures, though their memories will live on unforgettably in their hearts and minds.

DIGIMON ADVENTURE: LAST EVOLUTION KIZUNA

The culminating movie of 20 years’ worth of awesome characters, battles and adventurers.

The final theatrical installment in the Digimon Adventure franchise marked its debut on 21 February 2020 in Japan, and was scheduled to be released in the United States the following month, until the COVID farce took hold on the world and forced it to be released as a direct-to-video format, a move which is typically reserved for B-movies or really bad Disney sequel films. Intended to celebrate the franchise’s 20th anniversary, this movie features designs done by an animation team from the studio Yumeta Company, who also did the magical girl series Haruka: Beyond The Stream Of Time and the soccer flick Victory Kickoff, in association with Toei Animation. The film serves as a time-skipped follow-up to Digimon Adventure Tri, whose six-series epoch ended about two years prior in a bittersweet fashion. Reception among critics was fairly positive, praising it for the gravity of the themes displayed as well as drawing similarities to Mamoru Hosoda’s previous Digimon films, and of all things, Toy Story 3.

In conjunction with the film’s release, five OVAs were released under the title Digimon Adventure: 20th Anniversary Memorial Story recounting the mini-adventures of some of the minor characters’ off-theatrical exploits such as,

  • Joe Kido’s dream to pursue a medical career
  • Agumon and Gabumon reflecting on the changing lives of their adult partners
  • Piyomon and Palmon’s attempt to do Jogress Evolution from Digimon Adventure 02 (hereafter DA02)
  • Pumpmon and Gotsumon’s superhero tales in Shibuya
  • Most famously, a segment with Mimi and Sora talking to each other, with the latter deciding to suspend her Digidestined activities to pursue her flower-girl career

STORY

What’s left of the squad meets with Menoa, a brilliant academic specializing in Digimon research, who unbeknownst to them has a savior complex

Five years have passed since the events of Tri, and the lives of the Digidestined have begun to shape as adults. Koushiro is now the head of a tech company for Digimon devices; Joe is studying at a prestigious medical school; Mimi is pursuing the bustling lifestyle of a startup founder; and Sora has retired from her Digidestined duties to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a flower-girl. TK, Hikari, Taichi and Yamato are now students in college and are at the cusp of making a pivotal life decision for their future careers. However, they remain most active in their Digidestined duties, and successfully manage to ward off a stray Parrotmon from pushing mayhem in Tokyo, with the help of their partners. As they drift away from the scene of the carnage, it is revealed that Taichi and Yamato are struggling with their life decisions, with no idea of what they will do after university. Over dinner, the two meet with each other and contemplate on the different paths their friends have taken, their siblings’ potentials, and how life was never the same as that fateful summer camp expedition of 1999 – a year of technological uncertainty, pop culture breakthroughs, and Brett Hull’s controversial crapping on the entire city of Buffalo and their Stanley Cup hopes.

Their musings are interrupted when a girl behind them suddenly falls unconscious, with her last words being “I don’t want to be an adult”. The next day they meet Koushiro at his office, where he details another disturbance on the Internet, through the form of a Digimon named Eosmon. With the help of Menoa Belluci, a young professor from Columbia University in New York City, they make their way to Eosmon’s location and do battle with it. Initially, they are successful thanks to Agumon and Gabumon’s fusion as Omegamon; just as he is about to deliver the final kill, he breaks down and Taichi/Yamato’s Digivices get infected with a mysterious countdown ring, allowing Eosmon to escape gleefully. It turns out that these countdown rings are an ominous testament to – get this – the final moments that the two can spend with their Digimon partners, due to the lack of unfulfilled potential that they possess, strained by their stagnancy in adulthood. This also means they won’t be able to Digivolve their partners as much as before, and they aim to find a way to stop it.

Taichi meets with Gennai, who confirms the truth behind Menoa’s warning, but unfortunately does not have a way to reverse the process. He later meets with Menoa at her hospital, in which he learns that she was also a Digidestined, had a partner named Morphmon, lost her at a young age, and since then has been living in a state of suppressed depression as a result of her failures to bring her back. Yamato, meanwhile, discovers that Menoa’s assistant, a mysterious figure named Imura Kyotaro, talking to someone on the phone, and begins to follow him. He recruits the help of the DA02 Digidestined, Daisuke/Veemon, Ken/Wormmon, Iori/Armadillomon and Yolei/Hawkmon, to find out about them. Suspecting some kind of foul play, Yamato instructs Taichi and Koushiro to go off-grid as much as possible, and be wary of any human interference that might be involved in this plot; just as Yamato is informed by Daisuke of Imura’s origins; he doesn’t exist.

The attacks on the Digidestined continue, which unfortunately also claims Mimi, Joe, and eventually, TK and Hikari, the latter of which alert Taichi and Yamato to their whereabouts, and stumble upon Imura at the location, who reveals he is actually an FBI agent who is on their side, and is also suspicious of Menoa’s activity. Simultaneously, Koushiro finally confronts Menoa as the true progenitor of Eosmon’s plot, and kidnaps him to the Digital World just before he alerts Taichi and Yamato of their location. Realizing this might be their final battle, the two boys rush into there, and are greeted by a now-delusional Menoa, who has trapped all the Digidestined in a state of perpetual childhood, calling her perversion of a world Neverland (obligatory Michael Jackson reference here: hee-hee!). Greymon and Garurumon prove no match for Eosmon, and the possessed Digidestined prove too much as psychological warfare that it forces them to retreat.

Oh, Yamato – looks like you have the Imura guy under control. Let’s stop Menoa and DAMNNNN! What the heck happened to TK?

Resolving never to give up and to stand by their partners and principles in the face of this evil, Omegamon comes back one last time, which triggers Menoa to fuse with Eosmon to form a god-like entity which knocks the former out of commission. Taichi pleads with his Digidestined friends to wake up from Menoa’s control, and successfully does this by blowing into Hikari’s whistle, which brings her, TK, Joe, Koushiro and Mimi back to their cause. Menoa’s reign of wackiness finally ends when Agumon and Gabumon make a final evolution into advanced super forms, take down Eosmon for good, bring Menoa to terms with her dark past (in turn allowing Imura to finally arrest her), and restore the captives’ lives to normal. Unfortunately for Taichi/Agumon and Yamato/Gabumon’s, the battle reduces the amount of time they can spend together, and in a sudden flash, while appreciating their bond together, their Digimon are assumed into eternity. Heartbroken but not emotionally crippled, they push forward and finally make due to pursue their goals of becoming a diplomat and astronaut respectively, knowing that one day, they will see their partners once again, and the adventures will continue once more.

WHAT I LIKED

  • The film does what Digimon does best and Pokemon can’t: tell a story with an important message behind it, in a fashion that both kids and adults can understand. Central to the movie’s theme is the prospect of embracing the challenges of adulthood rather than running away from it, and learning to cope with the fact that, well, things change, and that which we loved as children sometimes have to step back for reality’s sake. Not only that, they also managed to take the message and sprinkle it into the plot through the character dynamics, the atmosphere, their up-and-coming lives, and even through the battles that take place. I have to say, when it comes to the original Digidestined’s stories, they have always fared well in this regard, and this film continues to exemplify such.
  • I liked the new look that they gave to Taichi and the others’ Digivices, which parlayed themselves as smartphone add-ons. I guess when you’ve got a tech whiz like Koushiro/Tentomon who owns his own software firm and is presumably years ahead of the game in this field, you can do anything. Expect to see this kid outshining the competition at the next installment of TechCrunch Disrupt, or making waves at his own TED Talk.
  • The OVA segments, with the exception of Piyomon/Palmon and Gotsumon/Pumpmon’s skit were mildly entertaining and gave good glimpse into the lives of some of the Digidestined; especially Sora, whose entire appearance in the film is only a mere 30 seconds long, with some heavy implied consequences. My personal favorite is the second one, where Agumon/Gabumon reflect on how much the main human cast has grown, moved on with their lives, and matured. It’s this stuff that makes Digimon such a special story for folks like me, who grew up with it in their childhood, and in my case, saved sanity in the second year of university; their characters feel human, relatable, and down-to-earth. It seems to me that the two Digimon weren’t just talking about the in-show characters – but about me, and everyone else who loved this show since 1999 – and that itself is quite a cherishing thought.
  • The battle segments were, visually and choreographically, great and incorporated things that made this film worthwhile; intriguing action, a challenging turnabout, and good communication between protagonists. Seeing these evoked me of the battles the younger versions performed in the Digital World – something which eventually takes a head in the last battle between Taichi/Agumon, Yamato/Gabumon and Menoa/Eosmon, the latter of which does an equivalent action to Biomerge Evolution from Digimon Tamers. Even the DA02 cast finally get some action amidst their vacation in New York City – which for those who liked it (myself included) was long-awaited, but much appreciated gesture.
  • I will say that the film’s ending is the closest to have made me cry. It’s an emotional moment to ingest, realizing that the person who you’ve connected best with in your childhood, and remained with you through thick and thin most, becomes nothing but a mere memory. Taichi and Yamato’s emotions were raw, powerful, an excellent closure to the film, and might make you definitely want to consider your life choices and plans.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Yankee Stadium to watch the Yankees play.”
– Daisuke Motomiya, probably before this trip began

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE

  • After a three-year long hiatus in which they became plot devices, the DA02 cast make their return to the screen for the first time since the Feast of the Annuncation in 2001, as secondary characters assisting the original Digidestined. Despite my grievances about their stale development over the course of the latter series, it was refreshing to see them all grown-up and about in their own New York story. They also had a role of espionage activity in this film, so that’s at least a step up from before. Unfortunately, their appearance in this film was a bit of a downer since they don’t really do much or get any deep insight into them since their last showing.
  • The random inclusion of Meiko and her partner, Meicoomon, from Tri also begs several questions. First of all, Meicoomon is already dead by this time (if we’re going by the rule that Digimon who die on Earth, die forever) – so the link to Meiko and her is already gone. This should have automatically disqualified Meiko from Eosmon’s wrath, but apparently not. Second of all, Eosmon’s selection parameters would be really contradictory if it took her into account, seeing how she’s no longer a Digidestined. Finally, at the end when Taichi tells her they’ll be friends forever at the end of the saga, she’s nowhere to be found as part of the crew. In other words, WHY IS SHE EVEN IN MENOA’S NEVERLAND IN THE FIRST PLACE?
  • The same problem of Digimon movies that I have complained about in my reviews of Bokura No War Game and Revenge Of Diablomon once again resurface in Last Evolution Kizuna; even though it’s addressed in the OVA, I have to bring it up; that of the absence of Joe, Sora, and Mimi from battle. Why do these characters keep getting the short end of the stick? Sora’s case is mentioned in the OVA, so I can give her a slight pass. But Joe and Mimi are virtually nowhere to be seen and their roles are practically invisible. I understand they have big duties on their shoulders and aspirations to come about (medical school and startup founder respectively); but Koushiro is the CEO of a big Digimon-related company and we see him fighting alongside Kabuterimon in the initial bout against Eosmon. You could make the argument that they had their bright moment in Tri, but that’s far from the point. It would have been nice to see them involved at least once in this movie, which unfortunately they lacked.

CHARACTERS

The original series was chock full of character development, displaying the main characters as ordinary kids without extraordinary powers; with their own hobbies, insecurities, personal convictions, and brief hints of romance. In similar fashion both the movie and the OVA continues this trend, by exploring how the characters’ roles continue to evolve since the end of Tri, without majorly impacting their predestined ending in DA02; most notably, through Taichi, Yamato, Sora, and Joe.

In Taichi and Yamato’s case, with them realizing the inevitability of becoming adults, and forging their futures ahead is a crucial point of conflict, especially when it comes to the countdown arc. Eventually, realizing that life moves on and they have to make the most of it, with or without the same circumstances that they’re used to, is one that they come to accept, and this trait is hinged on heavily. As for Sora and Joe, whose backstories get looked at in the OVAs, their maturity is detailed nicely, one with choosing to follow the strings of life and sacrificing her Digidestined role in the process to better herself, and in the other, an expanded sense of personal growth, fear-conquering, and responsibility, comically revolving around Joe’s childhood inability to stand the sight of blood, and if he can, as Gomamon thinks, become a doctor because of that flaw.

Koushiro and her could have been a good couple. They could have had something special. But the latter is one crazy ass woman! (ok, no more Rush Hour 2 references)

One of the flaws of the movie, however, was Menoa Belluci, the main villain. Like Ken Ichijouji as the Digimon Emperor in DA02, she is a human who uses Digimon to fulfill her own dark desires; however she is a snail compared to the former, who is in possession of a darker backstory, balanced character progression akin to Prince Zuko from The Last Airbender, a redeemable personality and stronger presence throughout the series. Menoa, on the other hand, is only present in a few scenes, comes off as irredeemably insane, and has no alluring traits or backstory whatsoever other than “I want my Digimon partner to revive”. She’s not a villain that is quite worthy of mention for that reason. Even though they tried to make her character as sympathetic as possible with the loss of her partner and all, it just comes off as cheesy and unfulfilling.

MUSIC

The music is a massive walk down memory lane, especially considering how it’s the final flick in the franchise’s 20-year long epoch. Starting from the title screen, which pays tribute to Bokura No War Game with the late Wada Koji’s Butterfly (the opening of the original anime) followed by clips of the characters’ day-to-day lives, the ending of that movie playing during the restaurant scene, the remixed Digivolution theme Brave Heart by Ayumi Miyazaki in the initial battle, a jazz rendition of Target ~Akai Shougeki~, the opening of DA02 during said crew’s appearances, all the way down to the anime-only classics such as Attack! or Shouri No Zen, it was not only great to hear these soundtracks again, but it was a precious tribute to both the series and the film’s central theme of embracing the future.

However, this does not come at the expense of its original OST pieces, which manage to match up with the overall atmosphere of their respective scenes, battles, and personal diatribes. The film had tunes to convey instances of desperation, a villain reveal, melancholy, or comfy vibes. In addition, vocal songs like Sono Saki E by singer Ayumi Miyazaki, which plays as a tribute song to Agumon and Gabumon’s last Digivolution, and the decisive kill, and Ai Maeda’s Hanareteite mo as the ending song made their way in too. They barely contain hype-generating beats, but it plays like a requiem for the franchise’s digital adventures. In other words, they are to this film what Pie Jesu and Lux Aeterna is to Gabriel Faure and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s famous Requiem pieces, respectively.

FAVORITES

Favorite moment (movie): Taichi and Yamato discussing their future plans was a relaxing scene to watch, which was enhanced not just by the background song (an instrumental rendition of Sakuhin No. 2 Haru I Chouchou) but also because it furthered their character and our knowledge of them in the years since Tri ended.

Favorite moment (OVA): Joe Kido rescuing, and bonding with his partner Gomamon at the end of his OVA segment was beautiful especially in context; Joe, the overworked medical student, rekindles with his partner and shows how much he cares about him, and confides on how determined he is to become a doctor, in spite of his past insecurities. He was my favorite character in the entire anime who I related with the most (and looked like physically), so it was great that he got some time dedicated to exploring him in the OVAs.

Favorite battle: The battle between the Digidestined and Parrotmon, was a brilliant throwback to not just the prequel film but also the many battles from the original 54-episode series, especially the Vamdemon arc; as such it stands as my most positive bout to watch throughout the 94-minute screentime.

Favorite quote: Yamato says this quote which I feel is quite relevant to me right now, as an adult and in light of my recent experiences this summer:

Things can’t stay the same forever. Even now it’s almost like our friends are growing further apart from us as their futures begin to take shape… one thing’s for certain though, our adventures with the Digimon will never change.

Yamato Ishida reflecting on the volatility of things in life

CONCLUSION

I love movies that try to play on the Jay Gatsby syndrome of “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” as a theme, and succeed in its execution. Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna fits this bill. With an exciting start, dramatic in-between, seat-gripping climax, a happy, yet slightly downhearted ending and most importantly, a primal moral message of embracing life for its good and bad times, this movie is one of the ways that the Digimon franchise is a hidden gem unlike others. Sure, the villain and the DA02 cast might have been a bit less exciting than anticipated, but overall whether you’re just getting introduced to Digimon or a young professional who grew up with the original characters and their plight, this movie serves as a satisfying conclusion to what, in my opinion, is one of the greatest anime series ever produced.

Ultimately, whereas Menoa failed to recover that past strech of happiness, both Taichi and Yamato are forced to embrace the future and let go of their past, there’s one place I can assure you the past is always repeated without fail: at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the un-bloody, mystical re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary for the salvation of souls.

SCORE: 8.8/10

12 thoughts on “Anime Review #61: Digimon Adventure – Last Evolution Kizuna

  1. Great review. I haven’t seen anything Digimon related since Tamers or re-watching Digimon: The Movie with some friends at university during my senior year there. It’s good to know how they actually put effort in this sequel because I heard the Tri movies weren’t great.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! And yes, the Tri movies were “meh” compared to the originals. At least, they didn’t capture the spirit far enough.

      Good you stopped at Tamers! Right after that are Frontier and Savers, and I know those ones are the ones that fans have mixed feelings about. You sure spared yourself some awfulness XD What are your thoughts on it though? I don’t recall you reviewing it from what I’ve seen. I thought it was decent in the sense that it is the last series to have a similar vibe, precept, and a certain semblance of decency to the originals.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re welcome. I’ve read some reviews of the Tri series and thought I should skip them.

        Is that so? Whew! Looks like I dodged a bullet by skipping the later series. My thoughts on Tamers? I haven’t seen that series in years, but it does blow my mind how that was the first thing I ever saw that had Chiaki J. Konaka involved in the production. This is the same guy who helped with Serial Experiments Lain, Texhnolyze, and the original Hellsing among several other series. Watching those and knowing he worked on Tamers, it oddly made TOO much sense despite the other anime being far more adult. I haven’t reviewed any of the Digimon movies or series. I remember liking it, but still thinking it was weird how it took place in the “real world” or how scary it was at times with the apocalytpic implications near the end or that freaking hand puppet from hell. Also, I will ignore the low-hanging fruit that stems from a certain fandom treating Renamon [shudders]. Even if it was different I can still tell that it still had the spirit of the original albeit in a much darker tone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. To quote the knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: “You chose wisely” (in skipping Tri) 😁

        Ah yes, furries. One of the reason why we can’t have nice things in the world…

        It was alright (certainly nowhere near the originals though IMO), and while in all due fairness a good chunk of Digimon Adventure/02 took place in the real world and some Biblical references thrown in w.r.t the villain, those didn’t bother me particularly much, but I do agree that there was something rather ominously special about how this one went. It’s like they took things up to eleven just by this production alone. Makes you wonder HOW EVEN FOX KIDS AUTHORIZED THIS SHOW…

        Oh God not that “hand puppet from Hell”; so accurately named! I haven’t seen much Jeri cosplayers at anime conventions but if I ever run into one sporting the hand puppet a full “exorcism” might be in order from my end. LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That’s good to know and that reference works. Hahaha!

        Yup. They certainly can ruin anything.

        Sure. When I meant “real world”, I mean the fact that Tamers took place in an environment that Digimon was an anime, card game, video game series, etc and completely outside the universe of the first two series. Sorry for not clarifying that. The 2nd half got so dark. Also, I wonder if EVA influenced Tamers in some ways like the technobabble technicians, cataclysmic implications in the final arc (although nowhere near as much as End of Evangelion for obvious reasons), or some psychological drama going on. Yeah, I never realized how Fox Kids let them play that series especially when other anime like Escaflowne got butchered for example.

        I know, right! That nightmare scene where it grew fangs and it’s super close up on the screen was one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in anime. Hellsing didn’t make me flinch that much. You doing a potential exorcism on a Jeri cosplayer wearing the hand puppet would be hilarious and appropriate. Hahahaha! XD

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I’ve heard of the Evangelion influences too – and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised considering Konaka worked on similar shows like Lain, Technolyze and has even seen Evangelion in portions. Actually it never occured to me until a friend pointed it out.

        No worries – I watched the Japanese version myself, so fortunately I was spared the “Digimon is a show-within-a-show” shtick that Fox Kids tried to pull on there 🤣 But I’m aware they did something like that, for whatever reason I don’t know LOL

        As for “Evil Jeri”; yes scary indeed! And how nobody noticed something off about her until then is beyond me. Not to mention, the part where the D-Reaper version of her just exposed itself right in front of Takato was the stuff of spooks IMO. It reminded me of The Exorcist and the demon figure from that film. All that was missing is for Frs. Merrin and Karras from that film to show up and cast out that unclean spirit! 🙏

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yeah, I noticed it in hindsight there. I don’t think I knew Konaka worked on EVA, but I can see how it could make sense given his body of work. Part of me feels bad for not knowing that fact since I’m a fan of Yoshitoshi ABe’s work and they’ve worked together a lot.

        Wait, so the “Digimon is a show-within-a-show” angle was only in the dub? WOOOOOOOOOW! I never saw the Japanese version, so I legitimately didn’t know about that fact about the original version. They hyped that up so much in the Fox Kids commercials back in the day where the Digi-destined monologue about “how everything changed” when all they knew was the anime and card game.

        Yes, that Evil Jeri D-Reaper stuff was legitimately terrifying, too! How could I forget about that part later on in the series? That’s an apt comparison with both works there.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Exactly, glad you saw it that way too 😃 You’ll be surprised how much Tamers changed in the dub just to try and fit the “kid-friendly” atmosphere (which for obvious reasons didn’t work out well). That’s why I stick with subs, to get the full unedited experience of the show. Highly recommend that too!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. Of course. I saw a little bit of that with the few Sub/Dub Comparisons reviews Fiddletwix did. I wouldn’t be surprised about other changes and even then the show still felt dark in the English dub. It’s totally understandable why you would feel that way especially when it comes to anime that get censored so much on Western TV. Most of the anime I watch is in subbed mode anyway. There are a few series and movies I’ll watch both versions of if the voice acting is good. The few anime I can think of where the dub was actually better in my opinion are Shinesman, Cowboy Bebop, and Yugo the Negotiator.

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Fair enough. I’ve heard good things about the Cowboy Bebop dub as well as Steins;Gate. Honestly my experience with 4Kids pretty much turned me away from dubs when I started watching anime again in 2016, with a few exceptions (Ghosts At School and Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland).

        Liked by 1 person

      9. No problem. I haven’t seen Steins;Gate, so I couldn’t tell you anything about that. To be fair, 4Kids would certainly tick off anyone and I certainly was when I started to get a bit smarter about anime during my teenage years.

        Liked by 1 person

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