At the end of the millennium, a contagious fashion took hold of Japan. Pokémon became a worldwide phenomenon and a key part of that success, at least in the West, can be attributed to its popular anime adaptation. It was then that the formula of the series began to be replicated in the plot presentation of all kinds of Japanese franchises of the time aimed at children: adventure stories starring children and some variant of “monsters”, which served as the hook to attract them towards all the merchandising associate of the saga.
None of them managed to dethrone the king, but there was one that was made from a faithful cult of fans in Latin America and other latitudes of the globe, thanks to a collection of friendly characters integrated into a story that combined those elements of adventure and science fiction. , with sharp and delicate social themes: Digimon.
Created by a Bandai Namco team, under the pseudonym Akiyoshi Hongo in 1997, Digimon was born as a virtual pet inspired by the Tamagotchi. The good reception of the product gave rise to multiple video games, manga, collectible card games and tons of merchandise. In the world of animation, the iconic short film Digimon Adventure (1999), directed by future Oscar-nominated director Mamoru Hosoda (Mirai, my little sister) and the brilliant screenwriter Reiko Yoshida (A silent voice), it would be just the beginning of a phenomenon that has spread across eight anime series, numerous OVAs and more than a dozen films.
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Challenge to the formula
On August 1, 1999, a group of elementary school students who enjoyed a summer camp are suddenly transported to the Digimundo, an alternate plane created from virtual data on the Internet, which is inhabited by creatures with the ability to speak and reason. known as “Digital Monsters” or “Digimons”. According to the prophecy, Tai Kamiya, Matt Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Izzy Izumi, Mimi Tachikawa, Joe Kido, TK Takaishi and Kari Kamiya were the “Chosen Children” and, along with their fellow Digimon, would be in charge of protecting and restoring balance. between both realities.
First aired in March 1999 on Fuji TV, Digimon: Digital Monsters arrived on Latin American television on June 25, 2000 through the Fox Kids channel. The plot soon distinguished itself by eluding the typical escapist fantasy that characterized the subgenre. None of the protagonists had chosen this destination; however, they had to fight now to survive in an inhospitable world, not knowing if they would ever return home. The greatest strength of the early series was the wide range of intrapersonal and interpersonal conflicts, of a more realistic nature, with which the youngest viewers could relate: five boys and three girls with very different personalities, virtues and family dynamics. To overcome the villains, the Chosen Children had to strengthen their bonds, overcome their insecurities, and become stronger at heart; something always escorted by the iconic theme “Brave Heart”, De Ayumi Miyazaki.
“I’m really interested in topics like growth and evolution, and children have the ability to change and learn immediately when something happens,” said Mamoru Hosoda about his personal connection to the series in an interview for Digimon Movie Book in 2001. “For example, an unexplored land where they can adapt to whatever comes their way, and that is what contributes to a wide range of possibilities for evolution.”
The universe of the original series continues to live in Digimon Adventure 02, the second animated series in the franchise. Likewise, the main saga inspired several productions for cinemas, among which stand out as official sequels: the six-part film project Digimon Adventure tri. and the epilogue Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna.
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The latest evolution
An additional badge of Digimon is that the characters have grown along with the fans. After mixed reception of Digimon Adventure tri., Toei Animation found redemption with the film Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna, premiered on February 21, 2020 in Japan, as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations. A more than satisfactory closure of the adventures of Tai and company, which even generated comparisons of the international press with the feelings that aroused at the time Toy Story 3 (2010) among the audience.
Directed by Tomohisa Taguchi (Persona 3 the Movie), the story takes place eleven years after the original anime, with the Chosen Children one step away from being adults. Tai and Matt still grapple with doubts about their respective futures, when a mysterious force emerges to steal the consciences of the rest of the Chosen. The central conflict revolves around a devastating discovery: the bond of our heroes with their Digimon has an expiration date and each battle only accelerates this process. The allegory is effective. In order to complete their transition to adulthood, they must finally leave a key part of their childhood behind.
“Above all, I wanted this movie to act as a stimulus. For those people who were held back by their memories and, therefore, could not decide to take a step forward ”, reflected Tomohisa Taguchi in a interview for the Deluxe Edition of the Blu-ray Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna in Japan. “Even if we end up making a small mistake, or sacrificing something, or having to leave something important, I think it is essential to move forward so that we can continue living. I was hoping this was a story that anyone could relate to and apply to themselves. “
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The adventure restarts
A cycle ends and the saga is reinvented for a new generation. A reboot from the classic series titled Digimon Adventure: arrived on the small screen in April 2020. With this, Digimon joins the select group of iconic Toei Animation franchises that received a new treatment over the past decade: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal, Saint Seiya: Knights of the Zodiac Y Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai.
The story moves to 2020. A series of cyber attacks take place in Tokyo; humanity is unaware that these failures are the result of events in another world within the Internet where Digimon inhabit. While preparing for a summer camp, Taichi Yagami and the rest of the Chosen Children are transported to that digital universe with the mission of stopping the threats that threaten both worlds.
Masato Mitsuka, director de episodios de Digimon Fusion, leads the production of Digimon Adventure:, from scripts supervised by Atsuhiro Tomioka, a veteran of the franchise Pokémon. Only character designer Katsuyoshi Nakatsuru returned from the first series team. The 66-episode anime is in its final stretch and can be seen on simulcast by CrunchyrollBut has he managed to recapture the same magic as the original? Although this reinvention has not been to the liking of those who grew up with the 1999 version, the commercial response seems to be positive enough that speculation about a sequel or other associated production have begun to circulate.
“We wanted to do a series of Digimon for the children of today, rather than for ‘the children of the past’. Part of this arises because we thought it would be sad that Digimon Adventure become a thing of the past after their twentieth anniversary, “said producer Hiroyuki Sakurada to the portal What’s IN?. “We had the idea of letting a new generation enjoy Digimon Adventure, the story of boys and girls who live an adventure through the Digital World together with the Digimon ”.
Now is when the adventure digivolves!
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A version of this article was originally published in Cine PREMIERE No. 307, in April 2020.