The Digimon franchise has been running for fifteen years and none is so beloved than that of its first anime series: Digimon Adventure. Recognizing its nostalgic value, Bandai and Toei Animation teamed up once again to create a six-movie sequel series that takes place six years after the original. I stated in my last review that the first film, Digimon Adventure Tri: Reunion, was a fantastic continuation from the original show, logically chronicling the next step in the eight Digidestined children’s lives as they tackle the complexities of adulthood. It doubly served as a love letter to fans who grew up with the original, sprinkling the screen with callbacks to old and remembering past events to ensure consistency. The English version even went out of their way to reuse their specific dub-inclusive terminology! It was a sublime experience, and the domestic release of the second film Determination looks to continue that trend.
When we last left off, the cards were heavily stacked against the Digidestined. Infected Digimons have started appearing in their hometown; two mysterious agents have been gathering data on the Digimon and spying on the kids; the second Generation Digidestined stars of the second anime series, Digimon 02 have gone missing; and newcomer Meiko and her Digimon partner, Meicoomon coincidentally appear on their doorsteps.
Digimon Adventure has been praised for its expert balancing of character development of all eight kids and the Tri films are no slouch in that department. They cleverly seem to be focusing on two of the Digidestined per film. Reunion specifically focused on the Digidestined leader, Tai and his “rival” Matt; Determination tackles Mimi and Joe’s story.
Ever the extrovert, the spoiled Mimi had always been outspoken and honest about her feelings. At her worst, she was pampered and whiny, but her truest quality was her outwardly compassionate nature and oftentimes brutal honesty. Determination challenges Mimi’s independent streak where she suffers severe culture shock after having lived in America for years. Her boisterous personality might have been beloved even encouraged in the US, but it’s frowned upon in the traditional and more conformist Japan. Her pushy attitude earns her the nickname “narcissist” from her classmates and even her friends question her behavior. Her haughty attitude reaches its breaking point when she accidentally risks innocent lives during a Digimon battle, forcing Mimi to realize the boundaries she has overstepped.
However, while Mimi’s burdens are not trivial, the emotional backbone of Determination goes to Joe. He’s been a reluctant guy since Day One, but has come around to his role as a chosen Digidestined over time, often as the reliable older kid to his younger peers. His decision to become a doctor means he’s spent the last six years deep into his studies, often to the detriment of his social life and responsibilities as one of the chosen ones. This creates tension between him and his Digimon partner, Gomamon, who in complete opposition to Joe’s cautious nature, is an easily relaxed and humorous being. Their differences clash when Joe refuses to heed the call, leading to arguments between the two and straining their once strong friendship. Both Joe and Mimi undergo a burning question: do their actions make them selfish? Mimi pushes people because she thinks it’ll benefit them, but never stops to consider how they feel. Joe wants to retire from fighting and pursue his own goals because he felt he did his part, but at the risk of shirking his duties in a time of crisis. They’re no longer the kids they were six years back and their decisions carry considerably more weight this time around.
Because Meiko didn’t benefit from a previous anime appearance, her story is juxtaposed with Mimi’s, where her shyness is a heavy contrast from the bubbly girl. Meiko’s story isn’t particularly profound though; her Bespectacled Nerd Girl archetype means I’m either annoyed at her passiveness or deeply impressed whenever she willingly stands up for herself.
Determination raises just as many questions for our heroes as Reunion did: agents Daigo Nishijima and Maki Himekawa support our heroes, but always at a distance and with obscure goals in mind. One of them is even hinted to have a personal agenda not yet revealed. A mysterious red-cloaked Digimon is always watching from the shadows, but never interacting with anyone. The biggest bombshell is the sudden reappearance of the villainous Digimon Emperor, formerly the disguise of second generation Digidestined Ken Ichijouji. Frustratingly, his goals are obtuse other than causing some kind of malicious intent in the Digital World. Determination is content to spread the story as far as it’s capable of and if not for the strong character developments, the movie would be very thin.
Digimon Adventure Tri: Determination is available on both Blu-ray and DVD. It presents both the English dub and original Japanese with subtitles for viewing. Directing Digimon is a 10-minute feature on the American dub as they show off the basic outlines of voice directing.
Determination only marginally continues where Reunion left off, but it’s a stronger film than the first. While Tai and Matt’s story seem destined to stretch across the whole series, Determination’s laser focus spotlight on Mimi and Joe means they get a satisfying conclusion by movie’s end. I hope it keeps up the winning streak because the Tri series is now two for two.