Daniel Dockery

FEATURE: How Behind The Scenes Decisions Changed The Course of Digimon Adventure 2020

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In the Digimon Adventure: opening, there’s a little bit that’s always stuck out to me. Just before it teases Greymon’s evolution into MetalGreymon, protagonist Taichi performs a standard battle hero pose — the ol’ “Yell while I have got my arms slightly bent and my hands are curled into fists.” You’ve probably seen it in another anime produced by Toei Animation, Dragon Ball Z, as it’s a pose Goku has struck a few times when charging up or reaching a new level of Super Saiyan. It’s a classic anime mannerism, signifying increasing strength through physical turmoil. It’s super interesting when applied to Digimon Adventure:, as it seems indicative of the entire direction of the series.

 

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Digimon Adventure: is a reboot, one that bears almost the exact same name as its predecessor. So, there’s an expectation for it to hit certain beats, for it to reach a certain quota of homage — which it does almost immediately. Taichi spinning rapidly as he plummets through the digital space that contains the name of the series at the beginning of the opening immediately recalls the Digi-Destined doing the same thing in the original theme song. But whereas in the opening for the 1999 anime, Taichi was soon followed by the rest of his friends, the 2020 anime sees him spinning alone. And most of the sequences that follow also see him alone, hanging out with Botamon, Koromon, and eventually Agumon. They pal around, take naps together, and most importantly for Digimon — a franchise built on the ethos of “What if digital pets, but fighting?” — they battle together.

 

The original opening saw the kids often staring in awe of their evolved Digimon partners, barely able to comprehend their supernatural majesty. The 2020 opening has Taichi and Agumon standing back to back, equally battered, amid a field of flames and ruin. They are friends, destined to have found one another in order to save multiple worlds, but they are also action heroes. The episodes that make up the series so far — 24, at the time of this writing — make good on the opening’s promise. Yes, there are multiple Digi-Destined kids, and yes, they all have their distinct personalities and lovable relationships with their monsters. But the focus is mostly on Taichi and Agumon, whether they’re clashing with villains or inspiring one another to grow stronger. 

 

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To fans of the original series, this might seem a bit unsettling.

 

See, 1999’s Digimon Adventure is chock-full of, well, adventure. Nearly every episode ends with some kind of climactic battle against a villainous Digimon, often correlating with some new bit of emotional growth for its protagonists. But it’s also, surprisingly enough, kind of a hang out show. Rewatching it will reveal that the kids and their Digimon spend a lot of every episode talking and eating and debating and joking. You get to know them all pretty well — their likes and dislikes, how they bounce off of one another, their expectations for each other, etc.

 

And this was very much by design. Digimon Adventure producer Hiromi Seki and series director Hiroyuki Kakudou knew that even though Taichi was the main character, he wasn’t “the only main character there.” Kakudou intentionally wanted children to see that “even the child who sits at the back [of the classroom] is still a member of the class.” This approach to developing every character on an almost equal basis would also help with ratings, as it ensured that when Taichi wasn’t there, people would still tune in to watch everyone else. 

 

However, keeping this in mind calls into question Digimon Adventure 2020‘s value as a remake. Did the producers somehow flub and instead of creating Digimon Adventure, they landed on Digimon: The Adventure of Tai? This is an opinion I see online often, and I totally understand it. Because if you go into the 2020 series hoping for the spirit of the 1999 incarnation, you probably won’t be satisfied. But it’s not because the people involved forgot the original recipe. Rather, they intended from the beginning to cook up something new.

 

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Well, turn something old into something new. According to a Digimon Web interview (translated by Kazari at The DigiLab), back in 1999, as the toy company Bandai was eager to expand the various mediums that Digimon could appear in, manga artist Tenya Yabuno was contacted to create a one-shot for V Jump magazine. The one-shot would be extended and the series Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01 would eventually become the longest-running Digimon manga ever — and its main character was Taichi. Not the same Taichi you see in the anime. Whereas the Taichi on TV was someone working to be a part of a team, the Taichi on the manga page was mostly a solo act, a kid who grows up as the central, lone hero. 

 

It’s this Taichi that provided a huge influence on the one we see in the 2020 anime. Lead writer Atsuhiro Tomioka, who’d previously worked on Dragon Ball Super, admitted that “the core of new Taichi is directly based off V-Tamer 01” and he set out to make Taichi someone who is “always with his Digimon, fights together with him, gets hurt together with him, and gets through dangerous situations together with him. Of course, he still works together with other allies, but we want him to be a heroic figure with a strong sense of responsibility and dependability.” He’d been directed to make “the battle aspects more prominent,” an order that goes hand in hand with the character objective. 

 

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Yabuno also recognized that the 1999 series addresses “human weakness a little more” when it comes to Taichi than in his manga. This is somewhat echoed in an interview with Taichi’s voice actor Yuuko Sanpei, who referred to Taichi as “a flexible and talented character. Like a super person.” To watch Taichi face near death as he’s thrown around with Greymon by ridiculously powerful villains, you can kinda see what he’s going for. 

 

The people behind the production are in full-support of this creative mission. A reboot is something that Toei had been considering since the days of Digimon Adventure tri., and one of the reasons producer Hiroyuki Sakurada appointed Masato Mitsuka as director was Mitsuka’s proficiency with action scenes. Mitsuka isn’t shy about his desire for them, even admitting that he did some things that were a bit “unreasonable” for a TV anime in order to show off “Omegamon fighting in a cool manner” in the third episode. 

 

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In fact, Mitsuka and his team re-thought the whole approach to Digimon fight scenes. I’ve often referred to some of them as “Digi-MMA,” but Mitsuka wanted to “directly apply the principles of human action scenes” to Digimon. Thus, the titanic monsters often engage in punching, headbutting, tail-whipping, kicking, and general fisticuffs in a way that the creatures in 1999 never did. When it came to giving directions for the creation of the opening, two of the three Mitsuka listed were “the pairing of Taichi and Agumon” and “the battle aspects.”

 

To put it simply, Digimon Adventure 2020 isn’t really trying to be Digimon Adventure 1999. Rather, it’s doubled down on the aspects that the creators have found to be the most appealing, namely the idea of Taichi as a hero and the Digimon as combatants. Personally, I really enjoy it (while also really, really enjoying the original Adventure) but I understand it if isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But that’s one of the best things about Digimon. The franchise is so sprawling you should find at least one incarnation that checks off your boxes, whether it’s a series, a manga, or the digital pets that spawned this whole thing. Digimon Adventure: is just one more story being told among many great ones, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store for me next.

 

 


 

Daniel Dockery is a Senior Staff Writer for Crunchyroll. Follow him on Twitter!

 

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