Earlier today, Toei animation revealed that they’re working on a special project for Digimon‘s 15th anniversary. The company will produce a new Digimon Adventure anime series, which will return to the cast of the original. The series will revolve around Taichi, who will be 17 years old and in high school. According to the trailer, the series will tell a new story, for “all the ‘DigiDestined’ in the world.”
Let that sink in for a minute, everyone. Digimon is fifteen years old. Kids that grew up with the show are now out and raising families of their own at this point.
Feeling old? Good. Let’s move on, then.
The announcement was something that certainly made me smile a bit. Since the original Digimon Adventure aired in 1999, we’ve seen no fewer than five sequel shows produced. While all of these sequels were decent, they also seemed to resemble that original show less and less with each passing adaptation. And, with it, they seemed to move away from that quirky, charming style and atmosphere of the original.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that this was a masterpiece. It was designed to be a fun kids’ show that was generally made to sell toys and video games. Within that construct, though, it succeeded marvelously. The show garnered praise for its strong characters and surprisingly mature approach to storytelling. The cast laughed, fought, and grew together. And, when it came time to finally say goodbye to a character, it hurt.
Even in the heavily edited western adaptation, it was hard to deny that there was something about Digimon that separated it from its competitors. And, while it never reached the fever-pitch popularity of Pokémon, Digimon carved out a dedicated following that continues to adore the property to this day.
With the show’s return to the original cast and world, Toei has a chance to really re-capture that lightning in a bottle. If handled correctly, this could become another beloved installment to the classic that people will continue to talk fondly about a decade later.
Granted, therein lay the rub. “If handled correctly” is a very damning condition. The new series will need to not only provide the requisite nods to the long-time aficionados, in addition to finding its own identity. On top of this, though, the new series will need to find a way to really beat back and overcome the effects of nostalgia.
Sentimentalism is a hell of a factor. The idealized, rose-tinted products that rest in the back of our minds are simply untouchable and perfect. They’re the platinum standard, the utterly perfect special thing that is free from criticism. And that is what Toei has to compete against. It’s not Precure, Sailor Moon, or Cardfight! Vanguard. If they’re unable to step away from the shadow of their predecessor, if this new Digimon Adventure gets smothered beneath the reputation of the original, it will be doomed from the start.
I don’t doubt that it would still make some money. Digimon always ties heavily into toys, video games, and other media. However, it would never really rise to that legendary status the first series is held to, both here and in Japan.
I do have to wonder, though. When this is brought west, will we see a return to form for “Hey Digimon?”