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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.