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Davis, Yolei, Cody, TK, Kari, and Ken must reconcile new responsibilities with their Digimon partners. But Lui Owada, a mysterious young man, appears claiming to be the first human to partner with a Digimon.*

Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning is directed by Tomohisa Taguchi and produced by Toei Animation and Yumeta Company. Fathom Entertainment offered a 2-day theatrical run in N. American theaters in early November, but the streaming/home video/DVD release date has not been announced yet.

SPOILER ALERT: This review includes some spoilers about events depicted in Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning. I will also be using the English names of the characters in this review

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Official poster for “Digimon Adventure: The Beginning” | ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI

Digimon is one of those franchises that it’s a bit surprising at times to realize is still around after 25 years, but it’s also comforting. Growing up, I was a huge Digimon fan, much like I was with Pokemon and many other kids’ anime series. But even as I got older, I never grew out of Digimon. I did grow away from it for a while, until a couple of years ago when I found out the Digimon trading card game (TCG) had returned–-something I collected as a kid–-and from there, the floodgates were opened.

I’ve since rekindled my love for Digimon almost to an obsessive degree, but really I’m just trying to catch up on all the stuff I missed over the years, which brings me to this new Digimon movie. One of the better things this franchise has accomplished recently is continuing the adventures of the original characters, the ones I grew up with; it gives fans a chance to watch them grow up and change.

I recently was able to watch those recent Digimon movies, and while I enjoyed them for the most part, the 02–or Second Generation–cast were sidelined for the majority of them. So it was exciting to see that they’re now getting their own movie, Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning. On top of that, this story also explores the genesis for the partnership between humans and Digimon that has become the basis for every story in the franchise. When I heard this, I knew this movie would be intriguing to say the least.

I can say that despite some polarizing and definitely controversial elements introduced in this film, I still liked it, mostly because of the care and thought they put into depicting these familiar, beloved characters in a way that felt fresh and fun for a long-time fan like me.

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The 02 cast of digi-destined and their digimon partners in “Digimon Adventure: The Beginning” | ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI

Nearly the entire film takes place over the course of a single day, on February 29th during a leap year. We get a glimpse into the lives of the various characters as they go about their everyday adult lives. Davis has opened a ramen shop, and he’s as easy-going as ever and rarely bothered by what’s going on. Cody works in an office; he’s bolder now as he’s grown up, but still cautious when necessary. Kari seems to be a kindergarten teacher, showcasing her caring side that fans are used to, and so on.

Suddenly a large Digi-Egg–-what a Digimon hatches from–-appears in the sky over Tokyo Tower, and for a while, it just floats there. Our heroes notice a strange boy climbing Tokyo Tower towards the egg, and they go to investigate. Lui, the new character introduced in this movie, is trying to communicate with the egg because he believes it harbors a Digimon from his past: Ukkomon. From there, as the now grown-up DigiDestined–-children who’ve formed bonds with Digimon–-try to help Lui, events begin to spiral out of control, including inadvertent time travel and revelations that throw both the DigiDestined–and viewers–-off.

This is a talk-heavy movie, very different from what we’re used to generally seeing in anything related to Digimon. In fact, many scenes involve Lui sitting around, simply explaining things as flashbacks occur and while the DigiDestined interject, responding to whatever major thing they just heard. The Digimon themselves are used primarily to get human characters from point A to point B, with minor fighting towards the end of the film. The action is very minimal, which surprised me.

It’s also very dark and can be a heavy, heavy film to watch, with scenes that depict child abuse and animal abuse (depending on how you define a Digimon). The backstory for Lui and Ukkomon is tragic too, as we learn that the pair are crippled by their inability to communicate with one another. This aspect of the film is something I would caution future viewers about because this is potentially one of the darkest Digimon stories we’ve ever gotten onscreen. You’ve been warned.

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Veemon believes friendship between partners is natural, “Digimon Adventure: The Beginning” | ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI

The animation is sleek though. It’s animated by Yumeta Company, who took on Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna in 2020. It’s impossible to deny that even in its darkest moments, every scene in this movie looks great. I hope that if these films continue, this studio will be chiefly responsible for how they will look going forward.

Digimon Adventures: The Beginning’s biggest sticking points with fans, however, will be the lack of action scenes and that no new evolutions are introduced in the story. At first, the film explains that a wish that Lui made to Ukkomon was the reason why partnerships between Digimon and humans began and why they have grown exponentially every year since then. This is a controversial take on the origins of Digimon, but I don’t hate it outright, even though at the end, Ukkomon and the actual limits of what he can do as a Digimon are left fairly vague. I do believe there are enough rebuttals from the DigiDestined that also leave this aspect of the origins of Digimon-human relations ambiguous. From Lui’s perspective, he and Ukkomon are the progenitors, but he may be an unreliable narrator because of his lack of experience with other DigiDestined.

The other, and this is one even I cannot pin down what is going on, is in the ending scene when Ukkomon apparently gets rid of all the DigiVices in the world. A DigiVice is the primary tool the DigiDestined use to make their partner Digimon evolve to their next form, or “digivolve” as it’s called in the dub. I believe the insinuation is this device/middleman between the bond of Digimon and humans is not needed anymore–Digimon and humans can simply form friendships now without it. I think? Ultimately, it just opens up way more questions than it answers.

Does this revelation affect evolution in a Digimon? In past Digimon films and also in this installment, Izzy (a member of the OG DigiDestined) was able to copy the evolution program onto the hero’s smartphones, so they could use it as a substitute for their DigiVices. Does that program still work? Do all the DigiDestined in the world have to get that program now? What are the DigiVices anyway? And will we, the fans, ever get answers to these questions?

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Things aren’t looking good to the DigiDestined, “Digimon Adventure: The Beginning” | ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI

One thing that’s become increasingly clear with the newest stories being released in the primary Digimon franchise timeline is the introduction of big creative swings without the complete follow-through to explore or answer them satisfactorily. This film is unfortunately no different, and it’s probably not worth holding our breath that a lot of these elements will ever make their way back around to providing a satisfying answer for fans.

Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning also lends itself to a familiar formula for the Digimon franchise but has become more egregious with the later entries in the primary timeline: having the story revolving around the paired MacGuffin of a newly introduced human and Digimon partnership. The Tri films did it. So did Last Evolution Kizuna, and now The Beginning. Sure, it’s a fun way to tell a story, but for me, it would be nice to see this cast take on Digimon threats again that are simply out to take over the world without ties to another brand new, mysterious team for our heroes to react to.

Despite everything I’ve said, I enjoyed seeing this cast in action again. I love the friendships they have with one another. I love how the DigiDestined are bonded with their Digimon. I was rooting for Lui and Ukkomon to get their relationship figured out, and by the end of this story, it seems like they have.

The big message of the film is about communication and that communication is key to making any relationship work. It’s something that I’m big on in my own relationships, and it’s something that I tell others when they’re looking for advice, so this was nice to see.

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Ukkomon, the mysterious first partner Digimon, “Digimon Adventure: The Beginning” | ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation, TOEI

I like this movie because it is different and because of its maturity. I didn’t mind the lack of fights because fans still get to see some awesome evolution transformations. It was great to see the characters living their everyday lives, too. This is something I enjoyed from the other Digimon films because it slows everything down and allows viewers to get to know everyone better. I completely understand why that isn’t for every fan, nor do I think it should be, but for me, the strengths of this movie completely rested on how it depicts these characters and the type of story it was trying to tell.

These further adventures are meant to allow the cast to grow up and so the audience, the original fans of the first two eras, can see themselves once again reflected in these characters. Digimon is well known for being a kid’s property, but this particular movie is not meant for kids. It’s decidedly meant for an older, aging generation. So when you look at it from that perspective, Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning completely nailed it for me.

If you’re a Digimon fan, I recommend seeing this movie when you can, though further screenings and an official home video release have yet to be announced. This was my first experience seeing a Digimon movie in theaters, and I’m glad it was this film.

Visit Toei Animation’s website for Digimon Adventures 02: The Beginning for more about the cast, characters, and trailers. You can also follow Digimon Partners on X/Twitter at @DM_Partners.

Cast of Digimon Adventure 02: The Beginning
Davis Motomiya: Fukujuro Katamiya [JP], Brian Donovan [EN]
Yolei Inoue: Ayaka Asai [JP], Jeannie Tirado [EN]
Cody Hida: Yoshitaka Yayama [JP], Bryce Papenbrook [EN]
“T.K.”: Junya Enoki [JP], Johnny Yong Bosch [EN]
Kari Kamiya: Mao Ichimich [JP], Tara Sands [EN]
Ken Ichijouji: Arthur Lounsbery [JP], Derek Stephen Prince [EN]
Lui Owada: Megumi Ogada [JP], A.J. Beckles [EN], Erin Yvette [EN, Young Lui]
Veemon: Junko Noda [JP], Derek Stephen Prince [EN]
Hawkmon: Koichi Tochika [JP], Neil Kaplan [EN]
Armadillomon: Megumi Urawa [JP], Robbie Daymond [EN]
Patamon: Miwa Matsumoto [JP], Laura Summer [EN]
Gatomon: Yuka Tokimitsu [JP], Kate Higgins [EN], Erin Yvette [EN, Angewoman]
Wormmon: Naozumi Takahashi [JP], Christopher Swindle [EN]
Ukkomon: Rie Kugimiya [JP], Giselle Fernandez [EN]