After tackling time travel in The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Mamoru Hosoda returns in Summer Wars to the more provincial and realistic world of the Internet. Luckily the Internet here is not the boring, text heavy internet of our time, but a more garish and interesting Internet of a not-too-distant future. Pastel colored avatars, corporate headquarters and shopping centers dominate the internet world of OZ.
It’s brilliant to be in this position. The last thing I expected to be writing about is Digimon, but that’s just typical of life; ever twisting, ever unpredictable. So this morning I was reading about Mamoru Hosoda – a rising star of anime who is just now making an international impact with “The Girl Who Leapt Through Time” (having previously quit Howl’s Moving Castle). Anyone who has seen that or the frankly disturbing “One Piece Movie 6: Baron Omatsuri and the Secret Island” will know that Hosoda is the real deal; a genuine and unique talent.
The excellent (repeat: excellent) AniPages Daily has an informative article on him and raves at length about his name-making directorial debut on the first two Digimon movies. All I thought I knew about Digimon was that it was another of those annoying Pokemon “gotta buy ’em all!” clones, but in truth, I really knew nothing about the franchise at all, and so I sat down to watch Digimon Adventure (Movie 1) with a clean slate. Besides, the movie is only 20 minutes long, so basically, I had nothing to lose.
Put simply, it’s wonderful. The plot goes something like this; one evening, Taichi’s baby sister Hikari discovers an odd looking egg (it magically drops out of the computer monitor). Taichi’s just a young boy himself, but still, he’s spending the whole day at home looking after his little sister. Suddenly the egg hatches and an odd black shape emerges; it’s a monster! They try to catch it but it hides under Hikari’s bed – she blows her favourite whistle and the monster blows back bubbles, they feed it cat food and it poops on the floor. Over the day, the monster completely changes shape; eventually becoming a small tyrannosaurus rex-like animal called “Koromon”. Not before long, it’s storming through a Japanese city, launching fireballs at passing buses and impressing on-looking kids!
The beauty of Digimon Adventure lies in the way the children interact with Koromon. It feels a lot like a Studio Ghibli production because it captures that rare essence of childhood, where almost everything feels like an enchanting dream; so overwhelmingly full of fluffy fun and adventure. The kids almost immediately befriend the monster, despite the fact that it’s gradually transforming into a fearsome looking fanged beast! A particularly brilliant scene comes when Koromon lumbers outside for the first time; he walks through the street with the baby Hikari stuck to his back, ripping up vending machines and nearly getting smashed by oncoming cars. Hikari tries to clean up the damage but it’s an impossible task.
The message is friendship, but it’s not without a sense of sacrifice and loss too. All in all, this is a magical kids movie that inspires and feels like trip into a colourful imagination. Yes, it’s Digimon, but look past that and I promise you will be impressed.