Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television, and games.
Previously on Digimon Adventure tri., it had been a few years since the DigiDestined and their Digimon partners grew apart. Suddenly, electrical occurrences and infected Digimon started wreaking havoc. The gang reunited and took down the threat. At the same time, they encountered a government agency, a powerful Royal Knight Digimon called Alphamon, and a mysterious girl and her cat-like Digimon. So, now that everything is safe at the moment, what will they do next?
While figuring out the cause of the infection, the DigiDestined become acquainted with their new friend Meiko (voiced by Christina Vee).
Two-Thirds of An Extended Episode, Third Act of a Movie
Judging from that clip above, this seems promising for fans to expect something exciting. Once that scene ends, we then cut to the DIgiDestined, their partner Digimon, and their new friend Meiko spending the day at the spa. Okay, a cute start for some lighthearted humor. After that, an infected Ogremon appears and Mimi and Palmon try to fight him alone. All right, we are getting some action. Suddenly, their old friend Leomon appears and quickly sends Ogremon back. ...Okay? So, now that is over, Mimi decides to go back to important matters: preparing a cheerleader cafe for their school festival. ...What? Didn't you realize that your Digimon almost hurt someone during that battle or something may be wrong? Not to mention that Joe is still absent. The others seem to get the memo.
In case you haven't guessed, the primary issue with the story is that it feels disappointingly boring when compared to the first film. It looks like something interesting is going to happen, but it gets quickly sidetracked to focus on the less-important things. Now, before continuing, it is quite comprehensible that the movies are character-driven and since this is the second movie, there is nothing wrong giving the characters depth or development, which will be discussed later.
The thing is that the writing and scenarios for the first two acts are executed in a vague and lackluster matter. The movie spends most of its time on Mimi planning on this cafe for their upcoming school festival and making Meiko feel more comfortable. This type of story doesn't sound adventurous; it feels like watching an extended episode of a generic high-school drama anime instead. Even the story has a mean-spirited tone whenever either Mimi and Joe's selfish natures would ruin the mood.
Granted, the first two acts have moments and carried the comedic moments from the previous film. First off, we get the return of their old Digimon ally Leomon and his rival Ogremon. Besides the cute spa scene, there are admittedly funny moments where the Digimon partners persuaded Leomon into sneaking them inside the festival for food and Izzy's reaction seeing Mimi in a cheerleading outfit. Fanservice in Digimon, our childhoods have really matured.
With all negativity aside, the movie does become worth watching once we reached the third act. It's where Meiko's partner Meicoomon gets captured by an old foe into a realm between the human and Digital World. In there, a true historical highlight awakens where the other partner Digimon, besides Agumon and Gabumon, Digi-volve into their Mega level forms for the first time! The only downside is that, without spoiling, it ends on a dark and sad note along with no explanation given to what they were fighting against. It may be a snore-fest for majority of the running time, but if you fast-forward to the third act, that is where it earns the movie title.
Same Old, Same New Animation
If you have seen the first movie, then there's no need repeating on the animation quality. For newcomers, the straightforward version would be that a new animation studio gave the characters a new look (yet staying true to the source material) while elevating the character animation, action sequences, and effects to a cinematic level.
With that said, let's talk about the new stuff. When entering into a Digimon movie, many would expect exclusive Digimon that never appeared before in the anime. For this case, we have the debut of Palmon and Gomamon's Mega Digivolutions: the luscious Rosemon and the husky Vikemon. On a side note, there are a couple of differences in the Digivolution sequences.
First off, the sequence is more straightforward where the previous level (subjectively the Ultimate level) goes to the next level. Plus, the animation medium for the sequence is more hand-drawn for the later Digivolutions while that awkward 2-D characters looking 3-D effect only applies to the Rookie Digimon for some reason.
As for the background animation, the city Odaiba is still the main setting where it mostly takes place at Odaiba High School. If you have seen high school drama anime, then the high school itself is nothing special to look at. Fairly enough, when the school does celebrate its festival, it does look nice and colorful. Even the cheerleading café shows that Mimi be can be creative. The spa is not bad of a scene either. It does authenticate the traditional Japanese culture of patrons wearing robes and bathing separately.
One familiar location that fans are sure to spot is the Digital World's Primary Village where Digimon get reborn from eggs after they die. Unfortunately, this place only appears in the beginning. The highlighted background is definitely the realm between the human and Digital World where the scenery is a black void full of circular and 3-D objects to give that surreal feeling. Even with that, there's nothing much left to say but: same old, same old.
Sweet and Sour Characters
The DigiDestined are reunited and came with mixed results throughout this movie. As mentioned before, each movie is character-driven and centered on a certain member of the crew. To get the others out of the way first, Tai is the brave leader, Matt is the stoic best friend, Sora is the mother figure, Izzy is the brains, and T.K. and Kari are Matt and Tai's younger siblings. Their partner Digimon continue their roles as comic reliefs, mostly because of their love of food. Besides that, they take the back seat as supporting characters while we focus on the central characters: Mimi and Joe.
Mimi is usually the optimistic girly girl of the group with her partner Palmon sharing the same personality, except she is more reasonable and sensitive than Mimi. That comparison alone makes Palmon more tolerable to sit through because Mimi acted so selfish throughout the movie. Yes, she had her selfish moments in the original anime, but back then, she was a kid. Here, Mimi went overboard focusing on her school café and making Meiko her best friend that she keeps forgetting what's most important. While she deeply still cares for her friends, the one character that really sours the mood is Joe. In case you forget, Joe is the oldest and most reliable member of the group where he dreams of becoming a doctor. His partner Gomamon is the happy-go-lucky and playful seal. Since he was sometimes absent to help the team last time, he acts even more inept when he shows up less and focuses more on his future career as a doctor. For future reference, the concept of a DigiDestined outgrowing their partner was handled much more in a later film. Like Palmon, Gomamon is more likeable because he truly understands the true value of being a partner and tries his hardest to save Meicoomon alone. Of course, both Mimi and Joe do redeem themselves in the end. Generally speaking, outside of this movie, Mimi and Joe are still charming characters. It was just the writing that made them feel off than usual.
For their new friend Meiko, she is the shy and kind new student who is actually a DigiDestined. She is easily the sweetest character of the group. Even Mimi gives her the nickname "Mei-Mei." We also get acquainted with her partner Meicoomon. As cute as she looks, Meicoomon, without too much detail, can be described as...moody. Hometeacher Daigo Nishijima and government agent Maki Himekawa don't have much screen time as before but have their moments in the end.
The most noticeable aspect of the story is the returning allies and foes from the original anime. Starting with Leomon, he is the brave lion-like Digimon who constantly warns the DigiDestined that the infection is still spreading and even sticks around in the human world to help and rescue Meicoomon later on. His rival Ogremon acts more like a wild beast because of his infection and becomes ant-climatically defeated early on. But, the most mysterious returning character is Ken Ichijoji. For those that are unfamiliar, Ken was a reformed villain and member of the season 02 DigiDestined, who are still surprisingly absent. He dons his Digimon Emperor outfit and kidnaps Meicoomon without a single word out of him. Honestly, his creepy presence does build up the mystery even more.
Once again, the voice acting is pretty good. It was nostalgically reassuring to hear Paul St. Peter as Leomon and Beau Billingslea (uncredited) as Ogremon. Even with good performances, the characters won't help redeem the mood.
A Discouraging Sequel
Although this is the second chapter of the six-film series, Determination is, so far, a discouraging sequel that doesn't live up to fans' expectations. While the production values, lighthearted humor, voice acting, and entertaining third act remain intact, the rest of the chapter acts like an extended television episode with a boring story, wasted and vague moments, and crabby characters. This movie is mainly recommended for hardcore fans for the third act alone if you are in the mood for action and seeing a new historical moment in the anime. Causal viewers would generally skip this and go either watch the first chapter again or see the third movie instead. In fact, the ending does, at least, set the mood for the third movie, which is truly an extenuative entry of the series. To be continued...