The DigiDestined go to a nearby hot springs theme park and everyone has a good time, but Joe doesn't show up because he wants to study for his exams. Another infected Digimon, Ogremon, attacks Odaiba. Gomamon runs away from home while Mimi faces problems with the other DigiDestined and her classmates because of her selfish ideas. Would Joe accept his responsibilities as a DigiDestined before it's too late?
Directed by: Keitarô Motonaga
. Starring: Miho Arakawa
, Beau Billingslea
, Johnny Yong Bosch
, Robbie Daymond
, Mari Devon
, Hisao Egawa
, Dorothy Elias-Fahn
, Junya Enoki
, Doug Erholtz
, Tom Fahn
, Anna Garduno
, Natsuki Hanae
, Kate Higgins
. Music by: Go Sakabe
It seems the writers are already feeling the burden of balancing so many characters and subplots within the typical running length of an animated feature. Whereas "Reunion" was mostly about reintroducing the old gang, with Tai's concerns receiving the most attention, "Determination" is primarily devoted to Mimi and Joe. While giving the spotlight to certain characters for specific chapters seems ideal, the execution fails to lend much traction to the story.
Given that everything is technically still in the setup phase, the story has some of the same limitations as "Reunion", with limited momentum for the actual crisis due to limited information and revelations. "Determination", however, doesn't make much effort to overcome these; the main crisis is rarely at the forefront and the numerous subplots never manage to cohere into a streamlined experience. It seems the writers aimed to fill time before the big shocker by giving these guys one last opportunity to simply be kids (an intention voiced through the two government agents), but why make this such a big point and have so few of the teens show concern for the effects these responsibilities are having on their lives?
Mimi received some of the best treatment in the first chapter, and at least here we become familiar with other aspects of her personality. Her frankness and take charge attitude combine with an egocentric side, leading to some inconsiderate actions. The ingredients are there for vintage "Digimon" material, but rather than have her take action in overcoming weaknesses, much of her time is devoted to a growing (and insipid) friendship with Meiko and the hurtles in planning a school festival. What exactly any of this has to do with the main crisis is unclear, and this disconnect prevents Mimi's dramatic arc from being as compelling as it otherwise might have been. Shouldn't she be actively trying to resolve things with, say, Izzy or Sora or Tai? The only substantial interaction she has with any of her original teammates is an encounter with Joe, and, would you know it, it's one of the strongest scenes in the episode. There's even a brief scene that makes Tai's empathy with Joe clear, which is way more interesting than what Mimi goes through. "Digimon" is at its best when introspection or interplay between characters is at the forefront, and "Determination", despite all the scattered chatter and exposition, is largely misguided with these.
Joe's matters are more interesting and better handled, in my opinion. While I voiced my disappointment in him being relegated to the same role as in every other "movie", it was a pleasant surprise that being a digi-destined is a burden he may not be willing to carry anymore, because it may prevent him from living the adult life he wants. Considering the existence of hundreds of other kids with digimon partners, it's not an unreasonable concern, and hearkens back to his old practicality and cautiousness. It even leads to some nearly heartbreaking interplay with the endearing Gomamon. The resolution to this is rushed, but given the urgency of the situation and the fact that it gives Kari something to do, I'll accept it.
Everyone else is, at best, part of the backdrop, or, at worst, cheapened. Sora and T.K. have next to nothing to do, while the partner digimon mostly just wait around for something important to happen; the joy in seeing them with their counterparts is absent. Meiko fails to define herself beyond tiresome overt bashfulness, which doesn't help that a significant chunk of the story is devoted to integrating her into a group that we know is too colorful for her. None of this compares to what they do to Izzy. His naïve crush on Mimi, rather than have any substantial follow-up, is reduced to being completely sensual in nature. If the intention was to show that these two are not an ideal match, it could have been done in a less uncomfortable manner.
Even the fighting sees a discernible downgrade. While the last episode treated us to two extended action sequences, here we just get a brief skirmish and a curiously subdued introduction for two mega-level forms. The gray backdrop is among the least interesting depiction of cyberspace yet, and the awesome Imperialdramon is a mere shadow of his old self (if it's the same one, that is). Are the writers so appeasing towards fan ire against "Digimon 02" that they would reduce one of its best creations to a punching bag? While it's cool to finally see Vikemon, Rosemon is kind of underwhelming, though that may have been inevitable due to "Data Squad". Overall animation quality is slightly decreased, but there are a few standout moments. Some of the scenes within the hot springs facility are excellent, and the scene of Mimi and Joe contemplating by a river at dusk, with the steady rainfall, is appropriately somber.
Two rather good things that can be said about this installment concern the music and ending. Appreciable effort has been made in expanding the background themes, and while none are particularly great, they're refreshing. An improved soundtrack can go a long way towards adding entertainment value and emotional heft to an anime. The ending, with Meicoomon assuming a dark form and killing(?) Leomon, is very grim and the most gruesome the franchise has gotten since Jeri's twisted flashback. It really draws you in for the next chapter.
While still enjoyable enough, this second installment in the much anticipated film series is a definite step down. It's understandable that balancing so many characters and subplots to complement a larger story is a tall order, but these will have to see improvement to make this project worthwhile. The last thing this series needs is another episode spinning its wheels half the time. Even so, this is only "Part 2", so there's plenty of opportunity to take things in interesting, fruitful new directions. Perhaps there's more setup here than one would think.
Review by jephtha from the Internet Movie Database.