If Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna is truly the final story in the tale of 8 kids from Odaiba and their monster pals, then it is a fitting ending to a story that has spanned the last 21 years. To bring such a long running beloved series to a close is not easy but now I am able to say goodbye to these characters now in a way that is both satisfying and heartbreaking.
It is weird in a world of never-ending IPs to have one that says to you “This is the end. This is it. We hope you like it.” There is enough room left for them to come back, as no door is ever really shut, but they don’t have to. I almost don’t want them to, as much as I love these characters, because they’ve found a way to end it in a satisfying way that franchises like Mass Effect, Star Wars and Game of Thrones could not.
This all might make the movie sound like it is depressing and I guess it is depending how you view it. That isn’t to say the movie lacks fun. It just isn’t a light hearted romp. It’s more like when you go out for drinks one last time with a friend before they move away.
I’m a hardcore Digimon fan. I’ve watched all the movies in Japanese and English. I’ve played the games, collected toys and cards and I’m watching the new series Digimon Adventure 2020 with subtitles because I just love this property. I love these characters. I even like the Digi Rap.
Something that has resonated with me throughout the years is that the show is about growth and how to tackle growing up so you come out better. The growth of the kids was tied to the growth of their monster pals. Their pals couldn’t become new bigger better versions of fighting monsters without the kid also learning and growing and becoming a better version of themselves first. That theme couldn’t be more present throughout this film.
Last Evolution Kizuna is about Tai and Matt. This is their story and it really does help the film to have a tight focus on the two of them. You get updates on the others and get to learn that Izzy has his own tech start up, Mimi is working on her cooking brand, Joe is doing his residency as a doctor and we get a glimpse into Sora’s life.
The 02 kids are back and they’re actually doing something. Its good to see them involved as Kari and TK are in helping keep rogue Digimon from crossing over between the worlds along with Tai and Matt. There’s a few little bits of fan service you’ll see around the edges. Keep your eyes open and you’ll spot a few kids from the Digimon World Tour episodes, Willis shows up and you get to see Meiko as well. It is just another small thing that gives you a bit of fan service while also driving home the point that this is the end. The glimpses are acknowledgements as much as they are farewells.
If you’re a fan today and you watch this movie, you’ve seen them go from elementary school students to middle schoolers to high schoolers to young adults now. That’s uncommon in a lot of media aimed at kids and it is an underrated part of the franchise that connects you to the cast in a way that is similar to the Harry Potter films.
We pick up 11 years after the start of the whole series and about 4 years after the end of Digimon Adventure Tri. The focal characters are 22 and finishing their undergraduates but neither of them really know what they want to do. Tai’s given up on soccer and Matt’s given up on pursuing music. They’re a bit aimless but what they still commit to do is always protecting Japan from Digimon attacks.
Tai is still your leader but he doesn’t really have anyone to lead anymore with everyone growing up. Matt makes sure he’s always there as well for his friends. Izzy still runs tech support but doesn’t often get involved in the battles. They don’t exactly have secret identities and the media treats them as if they’re heroes despite the kids not feeling that way about what they do. Again, they’re feeling a bit aimless and that’s what kicks the plot into gear.
I won’t say much more about the plot other than it focuses on growing up and how the bond to your childhood will grow weaker. It isn’t exactly original for a story to have the theme of “gotta stop being a kid” but that doesn’t make this any less effective. You could tell the most basic story ever written, but if you do it creatively and an in an interesting way then it is still exciting and grabs your attention.
There’s a new macguffin this time which can feel a bit cheap, but I think the movie does a good job of explaining the macguffin and why specifically its affecting Tai and Matt in this story. The kids grow up but the Digimon don’t really age. Agumon today is basically still Agumon of 11 years ago. Tai today isn’t Tai of 11 years ago though.
In a way, it is similar in plot to Tri but it is just executed better. It isn’t exactly a problem to have repetitive ideas when you do it well. The movie also doesn’t quite ignore Tri but doesn’t exactly acknowledge it either. You get a small nod towards it and that’s all. That’s fine. Tri always felt to me like it was a bit divorced from the property rather than an expansion.
Tri felt drawn out but Last Evolution Kizuna is tightly knit. There aren’t any wasted scenes. Nothing is drawn out. The movie is only 94 minutes long so it doesn’t really have time to waste anyway. That isn’t to say that the movie isn’t given a chance to breathe. Those slower quiet moments hit hard.
This feels like Digimon. It got a number of the original voice cast to reprise their roles. The characters look right. They act the way you expect them to act, just as adults now. The Digimon are themselves as ever. This fits into the cinematic line of the movies from Digimon Adventure to Our War Game to here. There’s just good filmmaking here. Edits make sense. Scenes rhyme. Themes are mirrored. There is visual and audible throwbacks that don’t feel shoved in. Everything feels earned. Director Tomohisa Taguchi did a tremendous job.
This movie also accomplishes something I wasn’t expecting in that it feels like a quality segue to the finale of Digimon Adventure 02. That surprised me.
Everything about this movie surprised me in terms of the quality. It’s a more grown up story with jokes about nudey mags and the guys going out for a beer together. They have to deal with things everyone does as adults. Just because they’re The Digidestined doesn’t make them immune to the world. Going through the new stages of life where you make friends just to be too busy for each other. Get a job just to be bored with it. Have a family just to want to spend time alone.
All of this made the story so interesting to me. I needed to know where it was going every scene. It puts them in situations that actually have you think “They actually can’t win.” And I think that relates back to the central theme. Sometimes you can’t always win clean and have things the way you want. Growing up can take sacrifices.
The final fight is ruthless as everyone takes a beating, emotionally and physically. Characters that have always seemed invincible aren’t anymore. They take real shots. They get hit real hard. They’re in danger and you feel bad for them. It feels desperate. The kids are faced with consequences that are depressing. Without feeling repetitive, the movie keeps driving the central theme of Digimon home again; for your monster pals to grow and be stronger then so do you.
I originally wasn’t totally thrilled with the ending. Not because it was cheap, just because of what it meant. After sitting on it a bit and rewatching the film, I’ve come around and I appreciate it. When I think about what the story tells me then I can take a breath and go “I’m okay”.
I do have quibbles with the story. This isn’t a perfect movie. Some of the twists are quite predictable which lessened their impact but not all of them were. As beautiful as the animation is, there are a few times where the CGI does make movement feel a bit floaty and lacking weight. I only noticed this a couple times but it is something that does get to me with CGI films in the hand drawn style.
You don’t get to see Wargreymon or Metalgarurumon at any point which just would have a nice bit of fan service and I don’t think the designs of the final monsters and how the come together are particularly strong either. None of this takes away from the movie, but just maybe keeps it from really achieving a perfect score to me. We’re honestly talking small visual nitpicks about a movie that is story and character driven.
Digimon has been a series I have always enjoyed. As a kid, I was more into Digimon as a show than Pokemon. I enjoyed both, but if I missed an episode of Digimon it was a big deal but I missed episodes of Pokemon without too much worry. I used to ask my mom to buy blank VHS tapes on the regular so I could record Digimon if I were to miss an episode.
As an adult, I have been able to figure why Digimon means so much more to me. Digimon as a show, while not deathly serious, did have a more serious tone and included a weekly plot that expanded passed villain of the week with much less filler. That drew me in and connected me to the characters in a way that really made me care.
Digimon was a kids show with a cast that felt like real kids. They had problems that real kids had. These were kids that had to deal with issues in their lives such as divorce, adoption, sickness, death, the pressure to succeed, not living up to expectations, familial rifts, etc. Ideas and character arcs that you might call more high school topics compared to typical anime kids show topics. They were tied to their families and they weren’t all one group of friends. They were different personalities and social circles that had to learn to get along and work together: jock, nerd, emo kid, preppy kid, tomboy, spoiled girl, etc. but they weren’t one dimensional. You learn that Tai is a “jock”, but he also is fiercely loyal to his friends and wants to help them all. You learn why Matt is aloof and “too cool” because he’s coping with a broken relationship with his parents.
Growing up is scary and hard. It is really easy to feel that as you get older that your world becomes more narrow. You realize you can’t do everything and you won’t achieve all your dreams. You try less new things because you don’t want to fail or don’t feel it is worth it. You don’t feel the need to challenge yourself anymore. It can make you feel unremarkable and alone. It’s easy to want to ignore that feeling and stay a kid forever despite reality making that impossible.
Digimon was really important to me. That was my Star Wars or Ghostbuster or Ninja Turtles. You know, the one property that I could turn into a turbo-shit-internet-baby with a full diaper because “OMG U RUINED MY CHILDHOOD BY RUINING THIS THING!!!”
Lucky for me, Digimon Adventure: Last Evoltion Kizuna did not ruin it. Instead, it did a tremendous job of reminding me what I loved about this show. It connected with me in a way that made me analyze and reflect on my life and what I’m doing. I know my potential isn’t limitless, but how do I make the most of myself? Something new may start rough, but the more you do it the easier it becomes and the more you’ll grow.
The things you loved growing up will always be there for you. Digimon is never going away for me. But I’m not a kid forever. No one is. Life changes. Being able to come to terms with that in a mature way is important to becoming the best version of yourself you can be.
Eventually some parts of your life come to an end and you have to let that happen. If you don’t, you might be stuck as the same person forever. But if you can let it go in a healthy way you’ll be able to grow from that experience and take on more as a person.
Part of me will always want more adventures with Tai, Matt and the others but if this is where we say goodbye then I’m okay with that. It’ll be nice if Toei agrees and maybe we can get some kind of follow up of this quality to Digimon Tamers. Or, maybe they just focus hard on pushing the new Digimon Adventure 2020 series and I’d be okay with that (because its fricking great).
This movie tells you that it is time to let go of 1999’s Digimon Adventure. That’s okay. Letting go is not the same as giving up.