Digimon Adventure Tri. – Part 4: Loss

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“Loss”

Airing at the bizarre whims of Toei Animation on Crunchyroll

The Digital World has been rebooted, taking the Digimon’s memories with it, and the new Biyomon refuses to accept Sora’s love. With the work done in ages past to protect both worlds undone, the agents of Yggdrasil begin to move in earnest to conquer them.

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Zigg’s thoughts

Up until now I’d classify pretty much all three of the Tri films as pleasant surprises, being surprisingly adept at balancing nostalgia, comedy, and some decent tugging on the heartstrings. Given the blatant yet incredibly effective emotional wringer that Confession put us through, and with a title like Loss, there was a strong expectation for this latest entry to continue putting work into character development. That expectation was especially keen given that this instalment was due to focus on Sora, who has been perpetually served poorly by the franchise .

Unfortunately, I’d say the large part of the promise which this episode held was squandered, and in fact this is the first of the movie series I’d truly classify as sub-average. There’s a number of issues here, but I think first and foremost is the fact that nothing really happens. Almost all of the important plot revelations happen in the (admittedly impressive) opening flashback, and the rest of the film is mostly padding, with some unimpressive fights and a lot of vague plot crumbs scattered about. That might be acceptable if we were still early on, but we’re now technically in the back half of this story and we need more payoff and fewer vague gestures towards some overarching scheme.

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It’s a shame too because the revelations that we do get are impressive and work really well in the established Adventure mythology. The idea that Himekawa, Nishijima and co. were Digidestined before our familiar gang is a super neat twist that works due to the time dilation which was used as part of the original Adventure plot, and it provides a plausible and powerful reason for Himekawa to manipulate the crew into resetting the Digital World. I feel like we probably could have done with a bit more of HImekawa herself during the runtime though – as it is her ‘reunion’ with Tapirmon is far too brief and the script doesn’t really do enough to emphasise the tragedy of her situation and the hubris of her attempted solution.

Given that it becomes pretty readily apparent that the ‘loss’ of the title does not refer to Sora but to Himekawa, where does that leave our scarlet haired leading lady? High and dry, as it turns out. Whereas previous movies have done brief but decent attempts at character studies on their Digidestined of choice, there’s not really much that we learn about Sora here. She’s upset that Piyomon mistrusts her sure, but there’s not really any attempts to get under her skin other than the obvious ‘she’s sad!’ and there’s not really anything done to give us Piyomon’s point of view either. Sora’s plotline is further hampered by the sudden appearance of Meiko, who finally falls off of the precarious edge between ‘understandably confused and worried’ and ‘annoyingly useless’, and not onto the bearable side. There’s so much that could have been done here, given Piyomon’s well known and joked about tendency to usually be the clingiest of the Digimon, plus the ongoing ship-tease between Sora, Matt and Tai that the films have stoked back to red hot. The awkward scene where Tai attempts to console her is one of the best in the film, and it’s really disappointing that there’s not more stuff like that. Although the suspected instant retcon of the Digimon’s memory loss doesn’t happen, it might as well have, since for the most part they get along as well with the children as they ever have, another disappointingly wasted opportunity.

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I’m also a little wary about the continued development of the main plot line, such as it is is, since Evil Gennai reveals he’s working on behalf of Yggdrasil, a name which is bound to set long time fans’s alarms ringing. Although it varies from canon to canon, Yggdrasil is generally depicted as the overarching AI that controls the Digital World, and therefore the closest thing it has to a ‘God’. Stories that involve Yggdrasil almost without fail devolve into tedious anime bullshit about the nature of reality and/or his interactions with the Royal Knights, his lumped together special guard, and I’ve got no time for that stuff in what’s meant to be a character driven story that focuses on our heroes. The writers seem to be heading towards a conflict between Yggdrasil and Homeostasis, the other god-esque presence of the  Digital World and that could not be less interesting to me if it tried. Let’s hope they go somewhere with it.

This chapter of Tri then is a major disappointment and a serious misstep on what had up to now been an engaging and interesting reimagination of the franchise. It’s still fun in moments and there’s still some nice character work in there if you take the time to watch it through, but that doesn’t make up for the myriad of sins on display. Let’s hope the (as yet untitled) fifth instalment can get us firmly back on track.

Random Digi-Observations

  • It’s not like the previous movies were technical masterpieces, but the production value really goes through the floor here. The battles with Machinedramon and Metalseadramon are extremely underwhelming to say the least.
  • There’s also some pretty obscene padding to be found. Why are the children separated after Machinedramon’s initial attack, given they simply meet up again without anything important having happened? In a more blatant example, the endless stock footage evolution sequences at the end are unbearable.
  • Look, we understand Gennai is evil now. There’s no need to use implied sexual assault, aka the shittiest trick in the anime playbook, to make him appear so.

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Iro’s thoughts

With Loss, it’s time for the Act 2 low point to start rolling in with a bunch of new questions in tow. The big one, of course, is what exactly is going on with that intro sequence, where we see child versions of Himekawa and Nishijima (and a few other mystery children) confronting the Dark Masters in the Digital World, ending with their partners (minus Himekawa’s) evolving to become the Sovereign / Four Beasts and banishing the bad guys to whatever hole they eventually crawled out of for Adventure‘s final arc.

We’re told at the end of Adventure that Tai and crew weren’t the first generation of DigiDestined, and Tri‘s new information works surprisingly well with what’s been established. Before our friends defeated Apocalymon, one minute in the real world was a full day in the Digital World; if Himekawa’s group entered the DigiWorld a scant ten years before Adventure, that creates a gap of over 14,000 years in Digi-Time, practically eons. On the other hand, Azulongmon said in 02 that the Sovereign were sealed by the Dark Masters and not the other way around, which… doesn’t quite line up, but I guess that could have happened during the 14,000 year gap? I guarantee you I’m putting more thought into this than the writers did.

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Of the main crew, it’s Sora’s turn to be put through the wringer, with the memory-wiped Biyomon completely rejecting her while everyone else happily hangs with their partners. Unfortunately, this still runs into the same characterization pitfall that Tri‘s always had, in that it’s rehashing lessons the kids learned when they were younger. It’s surprisingly heart-wrenching for Biyomon to upgrade from her previous characterization as “clingy child” to “shitty teenager” and a logical extension of the explicit Mother-Child relationship she has with Sora, but it provides no opportunity for Sora herself to grow as a character. Biyomon is the one who has to accept the unconditional love Sora has always provided, which simply doesn’t have much impact.

Instead, this conflict is presented as a mirror held to Himekawa, revealed to be pulling a Gendo Ikari-style long con to reboot the DigiWorld purely so she can see her dead partner Tapirmon again. We spend an hour watching Sora all but break down weeping at Biyomon’s repeated rejections, so when Himekawa meets Tapirmon and he says, “I don’t know you”, we understand immediately how the show has rammed in that knife and started twisting. Drawing these parallels is effective storytelling and finally gives us a bead on Himekawa’s motives, but I couldn’t help but immediately turn back around and think, “But what about Sora?”, since she’s always gotten the short end of the characterization stick.

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Evil Gennai takes full center stage as the villain this time, revealing himself as an agent of Yggdrasil (Goddammit) and claiming that his purpose is to free the Digimon from the yoke of their human slavers and lead them to take over the real world. It’s a bit of a hoary motive, but it explains why he took the form of the Digimon Emperor for three movies. Joe says they didn’t enslave the Digimon, but… well, Ken as the Emperor totally did enslave hundreds, thousands of Digimon. That happened. Less acceptable is that the main way they establish Evil Gennai as EEEEEEEVIL is by having him act all rapey towards Sora and Meiko. We get it, he’s weird and villainous. That doesn’t mean we need to see him licking people.

Overall, Loss feels like more of a transition than any of the others so far, ending on a blatant cliffhanger with nothing resolved and more questions than ever. One hopes we’ll find an end to all of this soon, but it’s hard to have high hopes when Toei seems to be putting forth the minimum possible effort towards this project. As of this writing, all we’ve heard of Part 5 is that it’s due out “in 2017”, and I’m hard pressed to continue seeing this as a 15th Anniversary project of Digimon Adventure as we rapidly approach its 20th.

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Random Digi-Observations

  • I can’t help but see it as a dark joke that Himekawa’s partner is Tapirmon, seeing as how there was a Tapirmon at the soup restaurant where the 02 crew met Azulongmon. Maybe he was actually fine all along!
  • The running gag about Izzy liking oolong tea has expanded into a full-on obsession, it seems.
  • Agumon’s single-track mind about food is making him feel more and more like Guilmon from Tamers.
  • The reboot reviving all of the Digimon killed in the real world means Tri might be on track for a record two – count ’em – two Leomon deaths!
  • It’s a major disservice to have Seraphimon appear for the battle with Machinedramon since it A) cheapens the appearance of Phoenixmon; B) should have happened during Confession, if not at the very end of Tri.; and C) creates an undue amount of padding alongside the HerculesKabuterimon digivolution sequence.
  • THEY’RE STANDING ON THE EDGE OF MY TERRITORY NOW: THE SEA
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