Hey, did you know there’s a pandemic going on? While we still must stay vigilant, it seems that around my neck of the woods, things are starting to get relatively normal here. That said, I can’t wait to go back to theaters to watch films in the coming months.
Speaking of which, one anime that I meant to watch in theaters before everything hit was Digimon: Last Evolution Kizuna. The movie is a 20th-anniversary celebration and an epilogue to the first two seasons of the show (as well as the tri-series of sequel films that came out recently). Because of the pandemic, this film recently came out earlier this month on home video. What I didn’t know about the film is how hard its messages about moving on to another stage in life would hit me.
(Note that I will be using the dubbed names throughout this column. I grew up with the American names and did watch the English version of this film, so it’s only fair to do this.)
The Final Threat
Billed as the finale to the original Adventure and Adventure 02 series, Digimon: Last Evolution Kizuna follows the adventures of the original DigiDestined as they deal with a new threat known as Eosmon who threatens the wellbeing of DigiDestined all over the world. New character and US professor Menoa Bellucci explains that there lies an ultimate fate that awaits all of the DigiDestined: After they reach a certain age, their devices will be set on a countdown which will cause their Digimon to disappear forever. This appears once the potential of a DigiDestined is no more, which happens once they decide their own path.
To add to the panic, it seems that those who have been afflicted with the countdown will decrease the time even more if they digivolve. This, of course, affects protagonists Tai and Matt who, after unsuccessfully fighting off Eosmon, have their countdown clocks activated and risk leaving Agumon and Gabumon forever. Throughout the film, the rest of the cast must deal with the threat of Eosmon rendering DigiDestined children comatose as well as dodging Menoa’s mysterious assistant, Kyotaro Imura. It’s a race against time that might end in sadness.
How to Approach the Film?
Now, let’s establish what Digimon: Last Evolution Kizuna isn’t. Unfortunately, it’s not a film that puts all twelve characters (if you include the four characters from 02) on equal footing. I’m putting it out there if you’re a Sora fan, just leave and watch the tri movies instead. She gets literally a couple of scenes that last less than a minute long total, while everyone that isn’t Tai, Matt, or Izzy gets relegated to short cameo appearances. Heck, even the 02 cast gets more screentime because of their lighthearted character arc and slight involvement in the final fight!
That said, Digimon: Last Evolution Kizuna is a poignant epilogue that ties the bow on a nearly 20-year series of episodes that answers the question: Can you move on? It’s the focus on Tai and Matt, the two most important characters in the first season, that culminates in a farewell to the first two seasons. These are adults whose childhoods we’ve seen on the screen, as kids ourselves. I was about 7 years old when the original dub came out in North America, and as I’m roughly the age of the duo, it’s kind of heartwarming to see them still having fun like their younger incarnations.
Friends Going Their Separate Ways
Alas, not everything is as rosy as the beginning sequence makes it out to be, as it seems that most of the original cast has gone their separate ways. Heck, half of the characters don’t even show up to the introductory battle; Mimi is a fashion designer, Joe is a doctor, Izzy is a company president, and Sora followed her parents’ footsteps and inherited the flower business. While TK and Kari are still in college, Tai and Matt are planning to graduate, with the two unsure about their paths in life. It was this crossroads moment that resonated with me, as I (and a lot of millennials my age) understand the pain of leaving friends behind through no fault of my own.
This separation doesn’t improve throughout the film, with the other four acting distant and moving on with their lives. Sure, their Digimon partners are still there, but something’s changed that can’t be returned to its former state. You can see the despair that Tai and Matt feel as they drink and eat barbecue at the beginning of the film, wanting to stay friends but knowing it’ll be difficult, if downright impossible, to keep that dynamic after university finishes.
This, of course, is in stark contrast to the chummy relationship of the 02 gang (a little younger than TK and Kari), who are still as thick as thieves throughout the movie. It’s a clear contrast to what happens when you’re still in high school or college, and you think your friends will be there forever. It’s a great way to introduce a human conflict even before the world starts turning topsy-turvy thanks to Eosmon’s intervention.
(Caution: Spoilers below!)
You Can’t Go Back…
At the end of the day, the main villain is plagued by the desire to return to their old glory, much like how some people feel as if they peaked in high school. This especially rings true for those that were deemed prodigies in their early life but petered out afterward. I felt understandably sad for this motivation since the “growing up too fast” trope is a common one I see with the youth these days. Sure, we all want to grow up, but what happens if we do way too soon?
It’s due to the bond that Tai and Matt have with their Digimon that they can knock the antagonist out of their stupor and defeat Eosmon once and for all. (I know that Mamoru Hosoda didn’t direct this film, but man, did the final battle look like something out of Summer Wars.) This, unfortunately, leads directly to the ending, which caps off the Adventure saga but more importantly is a fitting farewell to two duos’ friendships.
The Ending Says it All
Looking at the sudden disappearance of Agumon and Gabumon as they leave their DigiDestined for good made me realize how the past couple of years made me realize it was time to grow up. Sure, I still play video games and read manga (heck, I buy official releases now more than ever because of work), but gone are the days when I could kick back and just spend what felt like forever with my friends in high school. When I would do an all-nighter finishing Trauma Team in one day or getting McDonald’s at 2 in the morning while cramming for an exam.
And honestly? I miss those days. But it’s necessary to move on.
In the end, both Tai and Matt figure out what to do with their careers, living to the fullest in the hopes of cherishing their time with their Digimon partners. In a way, Digimon: Last Evolution Kizuna is a way of doing the same with its audience that has grown up within the 20-year span of the franchise. “Your childhood is over, but it’s because of it you can grasp your future,” The film beckons. Your friends won’t be the same, nor will you be physically or emotionally, but the past has shaped you to look to the future.
It might not have been the most epic conclusion full of battles we’ve come to expect from the series, but there was an emotional connection that I could relate to, and I believe it’s a perfect way to finish a series that my friends and I have loved since we were kids.