'Digimon Adventure: 2020' is the Best Argument in Favor of Nostalgia-Filled Reboots of Beloved Franchises

(Welcome to Ani-time Ani-where, a regular column dedicated to helping the uninitiated understand and appreciate the world of anime.)

It’s hard to be excited when a reboot of a beloved franchise is announced. Why mess with something that isn’t broken? What can you possibly add to the original that could justify a remake or a reboot? Well, according to Digimon Adventure: 2020, the answer is a lot. The reboot of the popular Digimon franchise is a celebration of its 20th anniversary and it takes a page out of the Planet of the Apes reboot trilogy, the Hunter x Hunter reboot, and the recent Fruits Basket reboot. Digimon Adventure: 2020 takes everything you loved about the original while recognizing that the world has changed and reflecting those changes in the show.

The reboot moves the action to the present day and reimagines Tai and the other DigiDestined as young children living in modern-day Japan, and the show acknowledges that our relationship and dependence on telecommunications have changed drastically since 1999. Like in the original, a group of kids are mysteriously transported to a Digital World, where they discover they are destined to save not only the Digital World, but our own with the help of monsters called Digimon.

In the 17 episodes that have aired so far, Digimon Adventure: 2020 has followed the general plot of the original series, while vastly quickening its pace and adding enough mythology to make it feel almost like like an entirely new show. If you are at all interested in the 20-year-old franchise, this is a great place to start.

What Makes It Great

Animation has changed in the past 20 years – that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Where the original Digimon looked good, it wasn’t necessarily a big-budget anime series, being that it was aimed at kids. In 2020, Toei has put a lot more resources into the reboot, and it shows. There are sparkling and vibrant backgrounds in every episode, and the fight scenes look as good as any battle shonen anime. The animation is far more fluid and the fight choreography makes the action scenes hit harder. Another staple of the original anime is the evolution sequences, which used stock animation and at times sloppy CGI to amp up the action in any given episode. For the reboot, the stock evolutions find the perfect balance between modern CG animation and the simplicity of the original sequences, showing how a small dinosaur could — in a manner of seconds — become a giant, monstrous T-rex, or a wolf materializing pants.

Digimon Adventure: 2020 could have easily just been a rehash of the original with some new and pretty animation, but luckily the writers looked at how the franchise evolved in the last 20 years and added the best of it to the reboot. In the first handful of episodes alone, we meet Digimon that hadn’t been introduced until years after the original show ended, even taking inspiration from Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth and other video games. The original show was a bit of a slow-burn, and didn’t introduce significant lore until the story was nearly over. The reboot, however, takes from mythology found in later seasons, including the idea that there are celestial Digimon that have engaged in battles against evil forces for a long time, and the story of the show is but the latest chapter in a never-ending story. The enemies may seem the same as in the original, and the general plot beats are similar, but the reboot is hinting at a big departure later on, one that will be unique to this story. And isn’t that what we should want from a reboot? 

Generally, this reboot has a much faster pace than the original, as viewers noted when the first two episodes already adapted the plot of the 2000 Digimon: The Movie, as the show assumes viewers are either already familiar with the source material, or savvy enough to keep up with its dense information dumps.

Another way that the show not only changes what came before, but becomes its own, is in its characterization of the Digimon. Although we believed that there was a strong bond between the DigiDestined and their Digimon, the kids were mostly coaches shouting instructions at their silent Digimon during fights. This time around, the Digimon talk during fights, and their kids ride them into battle, strategizing, fighting together, and hurting together. Likewise, these Digimon are characters in their own right, bantering and building relationships with not only their partners, but among each other and with the other children. When a Digimon evolves, their personality evolves too, signaling that they are growing up just as their power increases — watching the shy and nerdy Tentomon becoming a jacked and confident Kabuterimon is not only hilarious, but a fantastic addition to the show.

What It Adds to the Conversation

The original Digimon felt very much like a product of its time, given how it completely revolved around a Digital World that was created because of the birth of modern telecommunications (Internet speed being obliterated by simply getting a lot of emails was a huge plot point in the 2000 movie). The reboot, however, acknowledges that message boards and chat rooms have all been consumed by social media platforms, and that we’ve never been as connected to a screen as we are now.  The group’s tech-wizard is constantly on his laptop checking the news and looking up information about their current situation. 

The show is also building up the importance and impact of the Digital World to the real world. From the first episode, we see how attacks on the Digital World are causing blackouts and electronic interference in the real Tokyo, playing with how every part of our day-to-day life is controlled by machines connected to the Internet, and how easy they can be messed with. 

Why Non-Anime Fans Should Check It Out

While Pokémon has remained more or less the same for 20 years, allowing anyone to simply get in with whatever new season is currently airing, Digimon has a long and lore-rich history, and an episode count that may seem daunting for newcomers. Digimon Adventure: 2020 changes that. In 17 episodes, the reboot has shown that this is a show that both welcomes newcomers with a fast-paced show that introduces the world of Digimon to a new generation, while adding enough fresh materials to satisfy its older audience with more than just nostalgia.

If you want to replicate the feeling of watching Saturday morning cartoons, with colorful and exciting new worlds, relatable characters that go on fantastic journeys, but with higher stakes and better animation, you could do a lot worse than watching Digimon Adventure: 2020. 

What This If You Like:  Saturday morning cartoons, Pokémon, The NeverEnding Story

Digimon Adventures: 2020 is streaming on Hulu.

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