Digimon Adventure: can definitely show that it understands the basic mechanics of storytelling when it wants to. Absent any idea-based explorations or even particularly deep character work lately, it's still mostly been able to move events along and keep us surprised with its twists and power shifts. That's made this latest stretch of episodes work; they're not the new GeGeGe no Kitarō by any means, but they have been solidly entertaining adventures nonetheless. And compared to some other cap-offs to arcs the show has tried previously, this week's episode keeps up that momentum as a finisher.
It's a necessary showcase, as this is the one where Taichi, Yamato, Takeru, and their Digimon finally confront Devimon, the big bad himself, directly. One concern I've had in the long lead-up to this destined digi-duel is admittedly somewhat pedantic and fannish: Power levels. Devimon, as he was way back in the old show, is a Champion-level evolution, now far surpassed by the Ultimates and mode-changes our heroes have attained by this point. Presenting a character who was taken out by technically-weaker Digimon just thirteen episodes into the original series as a major threat this deep into the new story would take some convincing, moreso given we hadn't really seen Devimon do anything yet. He'd been trading on name recognition this whole time to diminishing returns as our heroes leveled up to be able to wipe the floor with enemies we knew were bigger and badder than him, at least in terms of sheer technical numbers.
Digimon Adventure:'s solution to this is a twofold deployment of presentation and plot-twists. The idea that Devimon's home-turf of his ruined castle, completely powered by the surrounding miasma, makes his attacks intense and unavoidable, is a clever mechanical upgrade for MetalGreymon and WereGarurumon to fight against. The moving-between-cover strategy lends the whole thing an obvious video-game-boss-battle vibe, but that's hardly a bad thing when you're trying to communicate to the audience how much more major this confrontation is compared to its previous iteration. The show's still suffering from some seriously stiff animation in most places, which does kneecap things like trying to illustrate how painful Devimon's attacks actually are when they land, but for the most part the art itself is at least sharp and the concept here is directed well.
The other way the show sees fit to upgrade Devimon's threat level is much more obvious: Just have him evolve into a more powerful form partway through! While simplistic, it's still an interesting spin on the formula the show's hewed to so far. There's no new upgrade for any of our main characters' monsters this episode (apologies to anyone whose hopes were up that we'd see some kind of appearance or reference to BanchoLilymon this week); it's the villain who gets the surprise new evolution instead. NeoDevimon, as a presence, plays well off of what we saw from his previous form, taking what was already presented as a major threat and really dialing up the sense of danger. This is the point in the episode where things really cross over the line for possible hopelessness for the characters, as they get a taste of what their opponents thus far have been up against when they push themselves to new limits. It's even spurred on by an illustration of character development, even as we still don't really have a sense of the exact connection Devimon and Angemon shared that drives the former to such rage.
Another reason this progression works is the way it finally aligns the disparate plot lines of the group in the Digital World with the Real World B-team we've been following for weeks. The data-draining connection between Devimon and the boat-crashing scheme is made clear, and the two sets of characters calling and actually communicating with each other is instrumental in powering up and resolving both threats. These plot threads have bizarrely felt like they were progressing at different paces despite taking place across the same arc, and here they finally feel like they reach the same level of urgency at the same time. There's a coming-together effect that an ostensibly team-based show like this needs, and they do make it feel like, separated as the various groups currently are, it was still them working together that saved everything. Aside from all that, this was the big B-team group versus Calamaramon fight I had hoped to see last week, which is satisfying. And no new upgrades being introduced means even the mainstays of Taichi and Yamato's Digimon have to showcase some strategically-interesting deployment of their attacks in pulling off their defeat of NeoDevimon, which works for the same reason it did back in the Bullmon fight in episode 19. It's all cool, and it's a relief that this storyline ends in a decently satisfying way.
Until it doesn't.
Predictably, exhaustingly, Digimon Adventure: is still unable to just leave well enough alone, and we take one extra minute at the end of this episode for the forgotten-about DarkKnightmon to pop out of nowhere, pull up this mysterious dark crystal Devimon's power had been working with all episode, and juice him up for another new evolution into another new form for Taichi and Yamato to fight for another episode. It's immensely frustrating on account of the satisfying feeling of completeness the battles had, as Taichi and Yamato's relief at relying on their friends and appreciation for Takeru as they all got this far made for very effective pacing up until this false ending. And given how superfluously the extension of the last big battle against Nidhoggmon turned out, I don't think it's outlandish for viewers to have concerns going into this same kind of structure again. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe things will turn out cool in this latest eleventh-hour enemy extension. But Digimon Adventure: has too much of a history of being hurt by its own bad habits for me to not tense up waiting for next week.
Digimon Adventure: is currently streaming on Crunchyroll.