I thought last week's episode of Digimon Adventure: felt like a culmination of a long-form story on its own, but it turns out it was just the first part of a massive multi-episode climax. This continues my ongoing delight at not knowing where the show's really going at this point, as this fight in the fake Tokyo is taking on a structure similar to that three-episode ‘movie’ that introduced us to this reboot so much earlier this year. For all the bumps and hiccups the story ran into getting here, you can still definitely sense that this was where it was specifically working to get to.
So comfortable with where it's gotten is Digimon Adventure: that it gives itself time to get reflective right in the middle of its big battle this week. The freshly-evolved Orochimon is a pointedly imposing threat, but actually fighting it makes for mere bookends in the structure here. It's really about the kids retreating and getting separated (yet again) so they can get their second wind by thinking about how far their character arcs have come. It can be easy for me to be snarky about the somewhat expected style of this structure, and it does wear out its welcome in a few places. Yamato repeats his focal motivation of protecting Takeru in the Real World on the basis that Taichi hasn't gotten to hear it yet. That might be more compelling if it wasn't so reused a refrain of Yamato's character through the series so far, especially as it's used here just for another moment of contrary clashing from the show's lead boys as they're seemingly obligated to do.
But what does work about it is a springboard of setup for the other elements spacing out what this episode is doing. Yamato talking about Takeru again leads us into seeing the little brother's experiences in the blacked-out Tokyo, teasing how he'll eventually make his own way to the Digital World. That's run in parallel with Taichi's younger sister Hikari and some significantly more eventful happenings to her. We've been cutting back to the Real World more often these past few episodes, impressing the increased urgency of the power-outage situation, but also reminding us of the familial connections our heroes have back home that they're specifically fighting to protect. That does kind of make me wish Taichi would actually bring up his concern for his sister as a reason he understands Yamato more than he's given credit for, but on the other hand that feels like something the show is willing to let go unspoken and trust we get it anyway. Digimon Adventure: so far has thrived on giving observational credit to the audience, letting scenes like Hikari and Takeru witnessing their brothers' heroism on an impromptu inter-world broadcast speak for their own thematic effectiveness.
That willingness to let the visual elements of the story tell themselves (to say nothing of the visuals being upgraded enough to be capable of that) works into the more direct aspects of this episode as well. The second go at fighting Orochimon is predicated on the kids noticing that his mechanical heads are specifically protecting his one organic one from damage, marking it as the true target. This isn't spelled out until right after the fight is actually over, but it's still appreciably clear from how the battle is structured and the ways we see Taichi and Yamato react to the enemy's movements. It lets this big battle culminate and be an entertaining blowout on its own.
As well as that works though, my favorite part of this episode is seeing how the kids work up the will just to get to that point. Sure, Yamato's reflections are definitely a bit retread-y, but when we aren't focusing on the otherwise overexposed duo of he and Taichi, we see how strongly the writing can actually work for the other characters when it wants to. It's appreciable to see that Sora's characterization of caring about protecting the Digital World as much as the Real one is being brought up as a consistent facet, or how Koshiro knows when to close his computer and think analyses through himself. But there's also a heartening effect to how reviewing the character development they've gotten so far provides an opportunity for the children and their Digimon to sit around and have a funny, friendly chat about it. It's this sentimentally surreal scene, forged friends in what's technically a tense, dangerous situation, cracking jokes with each other and showing how well they enjoy time together regardless of the context now. That's a ‘how far we've come’ climactic culmination as effective as any new power-ups shown off, and makes clear to me the theme of how much we need friendly levity even in the most absurdly oppressive, terrifying times.
I don't mean to imply that Digimon Adventure: is all that dramatically dense with its thematics, but it has made itself a pleasantry to watch for these past couple episodes. That marks it for me as a true success for its Saturday-morning update ambitions. Compared to the awkward pacing and hasty turns of the previous arc, the moments here make it feel natural that the characters were brought together regardless. It provides a good sense like we're coming to a natural conclusion of this first major storyline, which to me is a strongly effective feeling seventeen episodes into a series we know still has quite a ways to go.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.