Why Growing Up Is the Hardest Adventure We Will Face
(Spoilers towards the end!)
The human condition is host to multiple complex and layered emotions. From happiness to melancholy, there is a feeling for everything that we experience in our lives. One of the most powerful feelings that seem to be more prevalent now than ever before is nostalgia. By definition, the feeling is described as “a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” While everyone feels this feeling at least once in their lives, nostalgia has hit even harder for the millennial generation. With no scientific explanation as to why this is the case, all we can do is venture a guess about what has spurned this intense longing for a time long since passed.
What entertainment industries have noticed over the years is that nostalgia is not only incredibly prevalent in today’s society, it is also incredibly profitable. Hence, some of the best examples of this are Toy Story 3, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and the remake of The Lion King. As the world gets more turbulent, it makes a lot of sense that we as a society turn to what made us feel safest; however, some creators have used this opportunity to use nostalgia to teach us all new lessons. One of the most recent executions of that idea was the release of the anime film Digimon Adventure Last Evolution Kizuna.
Some of the best-animated films teach us the hardest lessons, like Optimus Prime’s death showing us that even our heroes can die in Transformers: The Movie or how sometimes we have to sacrifice some of our happiest memories to give someone else the chance to have their own, like in Toy Story 3. Last Evolution Kizuna decides to tackle the biggest life lesson of them all, growing up. As a child, where everyone was hip-deep in the Pokemon craze, I found myself in front of my TV every Saturday morning watching an anime about seven young kids who wind up stranded in a digital world. In this world, they meet their own partner digital monsters known as Digimon, who can change their shape and grow in strength by Digivolving, based on the strength of each virtue that these children have within them. The premise was simple, but as a kid, the idea of a wolf becoming a kickboxing werewolf or a rabbit changing into an even larger one with machine guns for hands was enough of a pull to draw me into the bigger message that the franchise was trying to tell us at hte time which was that our companions are how we stay strong and overcome our obstacles.
Fast forward about 20 years later, the characters of the original Digimon Adventure series had completed a seven-film follow-up series titled Digimon Adventure tri. fans were not only wildly happy with the finished product (maybe we will cover the series one day!), they were also content with this being the final bow for the characters in the story as they move into adulthood with their companions. Well, that idea was quickly silenced with the announcement of a new film that would be hailed as the last adventure of Tai and Agumon.
Digimon Adventure Last Evolution Kizuna sees a reunion of all of the characters from the original adventure and its follow-up series 02. The DigiDestined are in the latter years of their college career or getting ready to start their journey to college, and those that haven’t started on their own paths are still fighting rogue Digimon with their partners to make sure that they don’t wreak havoc in the real world. This is where we find the original characters of Tai, Matt, TK, and Kairi in the field with their Digimon taking on Parrotmon, a callback to the first film, which sees Tai’s original Agumon fighting off the creature as the titanic, Greymon. With their friend Izzy guiding the battle over an earpiece, the team takes on this Digimon with new and improved Digivices to the music of the original intro to the anime, Butterfly.
After the pulse-pounding battle that will make any fan smile, we learn that Tai actually has no idea what he wants to do with his life and would rather fight off Digimon with his companion, Agumon. His friend Matt struggles with similar issues, but instead of not knowing what he wants, he finds it hard to balance his budding music career with his DigiDestined duties. This is where we understand how the theme of growing up comes into play. Sure, we want to keep doing what we loved doing as kids, but our responsibilities will not wait, and eventually, they will force us to decide, which is exactly what happens to the duo.
After a battle, both Matt and Tai learn that their digivices illuminate a countdown counter that seems to accelerate every time Agumon, or Matt’s partner Digimon, Gabumon, digivolve. With the introduction of a new character who knows a lot on the subject, we are told that this is because the two have that they and their Digimon have fulfilled their purpose for one another, which is to reach their potential as they venture into adulthood. Once that timer runs out, the bond is broken, and their Digimon will disappear. Naturally, Tai immediately spirals into denial as Matt begins the coping process by taking these feelings head-on but never admitting defeat. What always struck me while watching the scene was how real their response to the news felt. Like being told, a loved one is going to pass, and they were right next to you.
The rest of the film comes across as a race against time, an uphill battle that only ever has one way that it will end. As the two heroes face their destinies head-on, DigiDestined, including their own friends, fall into a coma that they can’t seem to awaken from. Ultimately, it takes the combined efforts of Tai, Matt, and their Digimon partners to free them, but it will come at a terrible cost (don’t worry, I will do my best to limit the spoilers so that the impact of watching isn’t lost). As we reach the film’s final scene, the inevitable conclusion to the decision that the four of them made is before them. With the promise that they will see each other again, Agumon leaves Tai to face adulthood. Like ripping off a band-aid, the scene hits harder than almost anything else that the film has dished out up until then, and it sticks with you even after the credits roll.
Even as I typed this, it was hard not to get choked up because we have all been in the same position, both in seeing something from our childhood end but also being in the position of having to tread the waters of adulthood, ultimately, on our own. When push comes to shove, Last Evolution Kizuna hits hard, much like nostalgia sometimes can. However, it does something special with its somber conclusion; while we can’t stop the march of time, we can do everything in our power to achieve our dreams knowing that, as children, the things that we watched or experiences (like Digimon or playing with our friends) helped us reach our potential. We can take our challenges head-on, knowing we have the tools to overcome them, thanks to our own personal Agumons or Gabumons. Tai and Agumon, before the finale of the film, remind each other that they will see one another again someday. While that is something that I would love to see as a fan, I think it also means that we will be reunited with the experiences or objects that helped us get to where we are and will be. After all, there will always be lessons to learn as we evolve.
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