The first few episodes of Digimon Adventure:, the new series reboot which debuted in April 2020, felt wildly rushed. Most of the early action takes place in a nondescript digital space, and the initial characters’ Digimon companions breezed through their evolutions as if they were getting them out of the way. On top of that, the stakes — saving Tokyo from a barrage of nuclear missiles — felt laughably high. Thankfully, as the season has progressed, the series has settled into a less hectic rhythm, unwinding a coherent story over episodes rather than trying to do everything all at once. But the shift in pacing comes with its own set of shortcomings.
In the series’ third episode, young protagonist Tai is thrown into the Digital World, which fans of the original 1999 anime should find familiar. It’s a lush landscape populated by Digimon, a stark contrast to the blue blocks that make up the environment in the first two episodes. As Tai, Matt, and Izzy are joined by Sora, Joe, and Mimi, bringing the six series regulars together, the show switches gears, taking on a rhythm that feels procedural. Each new episode introduces one new Digimon evolution. As soon as every main Digimon has reached the same level, the cycle begins all over again.
The episodes’ repetitive nature is slightly exacerbated by the way the show recycles Digivolution animations. The practice is understandable — creating original animation is time-consuming, and the sequences pad out a given episode’s runtime — but seeing the same sequence over and over again gets repetitive quickly (a complaint the 1999 series, or anime in general, isn’t exempt from). Rather than feeling retro, it feels like filler, and the habit is especially frustrating given the seemingly arbitrary rules as to when the main characters can and can’t Digivolve, as they’ll often go into big fights without evolving, putting themselves at a disadvantage, only for the action to stall when they’re forced to evolve.
On top of that, the Digivolutions indicate the show’s priorities. Tai and Matt’s companions, Agumon and Gabumon, have their Digivolutions consistently play through the entire animation sequence, emphasizing the show’s focus on the two boys, while the other Digimon, though given fancy animation glow-ups the first time they hit a new Digivolution, are sometimes skipped. The team dynamic is still a little out of balance as a result, especially as the group has been split up, leaving Matt and Tai together while everyone else gets lumped into a secondary group, once again.
At least the plot keeps moving, featuring old and new Digimon and slowly unspooling a story that’s totally different from the 1999 show it’s rebooting. The totally new events the anime is chronicling help make it feel fresh, even though the main cast remains the same. The stakes don’t seem any less ridiculous, but the gradual explanation of the connection between events in the real world and the digital realm at least makes them feel more developed.
The sense of forging into new territory also gives fans a reason to keep watching, even when the rhythm of the show starts feeling too much like grinding through levels in a video game. Eighteen episodes into the show, the quest to find a group of “Holy Digimon” (which differ from previously introduced Digimon mythology) has barely begun, as the protagonists have been too wrapped up in trying to save Tokyo from completely shutting down. But the promise that the characters will now be fully devoted to investigating the Holy Digimon promises something a little more involved and rewarding for fans of the franchise, and the renewed focus on that aspect of the show is enough reason to keep tuning in.
Overall, the show has improved. The breakneck pace, which was the biggest issue in the first two episodes, has slowed down, with more time taken to explain what’s going on instead of relying on viewers’ existing Digimon knowledge. The main characters may be the same, but the 18 episodes thus far have provided ample room to get to know each of them a little bit before exploring something new. But the show has yet to achieve a comfortable balance between its characters, and it could use a little shaking up in its routine episode structure. Given that the first season has been announced to run 66 episodes, there’s plenty of time left to iron out those kinks.
Digimon Adventure: is streaming on Crunchyroll.