12 Days of Anime: Justice for the Digimon Adventure 02 Kids

12 Days of Anime: Justice for the Digimon Adventure 02 Kids

Digimon Adventure Tri, a sequel to the original Digimon Adventure television series, came to an end this year with its final installment Future. Tri‘s development began when Toei teased it with a digiegg that would “hatch” once their webpage received enough hits in 2014. A return to the original digidestined (chosen children) held promise, but one issue was present from the very beginning and only grew more glaring as the series went on. The main characters introduced in Adventure 02, the first continuation to Adventure, were written out of Tri. In the first minutes of Reunion Daisuke, Miyako, Iori, and Ken unceremoniously die at the hands of a mysterious digimon and leave a gaping hole in Tri‘s continuity.

Of course, this post contains spoilers for Digimon Adventure, Digimon Adventure 02, and Digimon Adventure Tri.

It makes sense Tri would trim down the cast to devote more time to the original eight digidestined, the fan favorites, but that’s not what happens either. In Tri, newcomers Meiko and Meicoomon join the team while Taichi remains protagonist. Despite Meiko and Meicoomon being side characters, most of the plot of Tri revolves around them. Compare to 02, where the new characters are clearly at the center: fresh face Daisuke is the closest thing to a protagonist, old face Takeru is the new kid integrating into the group of schoolmates. Why not make Meiko the main character, whether alongside the original eight or part of her own gang?

Adding to the heroes isn’t the problem, and isn’t new to the Digimon Adventure series. In Adventure, a brief return to the real world reveals Taichi’s sickly younger sister Hikari who missed the fateful summer camp where he was transported to the digital world. Later, she turns out to also be a digidestined and joins the main cast for the rest of the show. In 02, on top of focusing on the new digidestined classmates, former villain Ken joins them and gradually becomes their friend. The problem lies in how Tri actively erases established characters and presents the remaining cast as if they’re the only ones with digimon partners, creating an artificial importance on Meiko.

It doesn’t line up with the growing population of digidestined around the world in 02, which eventually culminates with everyone on Earth having digimon partners in the epilogue. Tri‘s selectively (perhaps begrudgingly) incorporates elements of 02, which is fair considering the amount of dropped plot threads in it, but it becomes a problem when contradictory. People besides the original eight like Meiko can have digimon, which begs the question of where the others are and how the conflict affects them. The portal between the Digital World and the real world was opened, but everyone including the digidestined act as if digimon are a rare occurrence. Hikari and Takeru have their D-3s during digivolution sequences, reminding the audience the other children with D-3s aren’t here.

Tri includes the Digimon Emperor from 02 but only as a disguise for their new villain, while Ken the actual former Digimon Emperor is kept physically and narratively locked away. Without Ken’s traumatic backstory that led him to darkness or Daisuke and Ken’s friendship symbolized in their combining digimon, the Digimon Emperor and Imperialdramon hold no weight. Despite Dark Gennai taking the form of their friend Ken, the digidestined are largely unconcerned with his or the other 02 kids’ whereabouts. Before Hikari and Takeru briefly investigate his house, the avoidance was to the point you might think their memories had been tampered with. In Future when Nishijima reveals the 02 kids trapped in the digital world, Taichi calls out to Daisuke by name. Apparently they remembered them the whole time, but never talked about them or made an effort to look for them even though their digimon would be helpful and their partners would be at stake too.

Taichi rescues Daisuke and company from Dark Gennai, but their faces are never shown. After all that, Tri still doesn’t acknowledge them. Digimon Adventure 02 is far from perfect or as well-told as its predecessor, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. It may not be as beloved as other seasons of the anime, but parts of it has clearly stuck with and resonated with fans over the years. Tri knows this as it incorporates the Dark Ocean, the Emperor, and the epilogue; but fails by excluding the main characters. It’s simply not fair to them or their fans. What leads them to their careers in the epilogue? How do their relationships with the original eight digidestined change once they’re on even footing? Can the underdeveloped DNA digivolution (jogress) duos finally get some depth? Are other jogress pairs possible? What happened to the dark spore children who became digidestined? How do the digidestined honor Oikawa’s memory? Is evil still lurking in the Dark Ocean? With a 20th anniversary project on the way set five years after Tri, Digimon has another chance to revisit the 02 kids, but I’m not holding my breath.

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