Note: This review of Digimon Adventure tri: Reunion is focused on the dub of the film. If you want a review of the plot, check out our past review here.
What was this movie trying to accomplish? I still can’t quite figure out. Ostensibly, the English dub of Digimon Adventure tri: Reunion was being marketed to English fans of Digimon. Specifically ones who grew up with the Fox Kids dub. This is reflected in the casting of many of the old voice actors. If this were supposed to only be for hardcore Digimon or anime fans, they wouldn’t have bothered with the old cast. So that’s where I’m coming from in my review. I’m coming at this as someone who dearly loves the English dub of Digimon and thinks the original Digimon: The Movie is a flawless masterpiece. No, seriously, I did a whole list about it. That English dub is very near and dear to my heart.
My, perhaps misplaced, hope was that this movie would follow that style. It didn’t. What we get instead is more or less a straight dub of the original Japanese version with a few token references for dub fans. It’s completely at odds with itself.
On one hand, they have a new theme song. It’s complete trash, but at least it’s original. Something different. On the other, they play Brave Heart, the Japanese song for Digivolutions. Why? Why would you play a Japanese song that the English dub audience has never heard before? It makes no sense, especially when you put together a new theme. Either license the old music, use all of the Japense music, or go all out and make a whole new BGM. Don’t bother with just a crappy new theme song and then the rest of the Japense soundtrack. One poorly done new theme won’t placate fans. It’s just confusing.
This movie mostly features a translated script, rather then the more inventive dubs of Digmon’s past. That means no puns, no side jokes, and no overflowing of dialogue. It makes the whole movie feel slow in comparison to the original Digimon: The Movie. Purist fans will argue that creates a better atmosphere and it’s more faithful to the original. Yeah, but I didn’t pay fifteen dollars to see a faithful dub of the original. I paid fifteen dollars to see an English dub of Digimon. That means wacky jokes about the Power Rangers Arbor Day Special, dang it.
If you want a faithful translation, go watch the subtitles. The Digimon English dub and the original Japanese are similar, but different entities. Treat them as such.
Thankfully the movie is not a complete loss. The returning voice actors were all a delight to hear again. Joshua Seth easily slips back into his role of Tai with no problem. It’s a shame he doesn’t get any big comedy beats to play, because Joshua Seth always excelled at those. Mona Marshall back as Izzy is a triumph, along with Jeff Nimoy as Tentomon. Nimoy especially sounded like he was relishing playing that part again and Tentomon’s antics had the whole theatre busting up laughing.
One of the biggest cheers came when Tom Fahn first showed up on screen as Agumon. That voice was always very distinctive and you could hear just how happy it made everyone to hear it again. Dave Mallow also made a surprise return as Angemon, if only for a line. Everything that man touches turns to gold. Same with Dorothy Fahn as Tai’s Mom, who sadly doesn’t get to mention any new recipes she’s made for Tai. I could go through all of the original voice actors, but suffice it to say, most of them nailed it. All the comedy bits, like Izzy telling Tai that Mimi wants him to buy her a plane ticket, Mimi flirting with Izzy, or Sora picking out an outfit, land perfectly.
The only original voice that I found a little lacking was Kirk Thornton as Gabumon, who didn’t quite nail the original voice.
The new voice cast brought in to fill out the other roles is hit or miss. I’m still perplexed why Doug Erholtz, who played TK in the original season two dub is in the movie, but not as TK. Johnny Yong Bosch does fine, but when the original TK is right there, why not use him? Vic Mignogna is an okay Matt. It took me awhile to warm up to him but by the end he was doing all right. Tara Sands at times nails Kari, but it just makes you wish Lara Kill Miller had been able to return. Cherami Leigh as the new Biyomon doesn’t fit at all. Same with Robbie Daymond as Joe. He’s missing the out of breath and panicky voice that made the original Joe so endearing.
I understand that you can’t bring everyone back. That was a problem with Revenge of Diaboromon, but there they had most of the cast and the strong writing and direction of Jeff Nimoy. Here, it seems as though whoever was directing this film knew little about the history of Digimon and it was more up to the cast to bring the roles to life.
The writing of this film was really not up to the English dub standard of Digimon. The biggest offense is mispronouncing Gennai’s name. Yes, pronouncing it with a hard G makes it closer to the original, but as I’ve said, this isn’t the original. This is a dub that should be taking its cues from the style of the Fox Kids version.
Also, the Digimon don’t call out their attack names. Why? Would it really be so hard to let Birdromon cry out, “Meteor Wing!” or Kabuterimon to yell, “Electro Shocker!” These seem like little fixes that could have gone a long way to endearing fans of the dub to this movie. We do get small winks, like Izzy saying, “Prodigious!” Those are fun, but too fleeting.
You know what else would have helped? Better music. I know I touched on it above, but it bears repeating. The Japense Digimon Adventure tri. BGM is bland. I’m not talking about Butterfly or Brave Heart. I love Butterfly especially to death, but the instrumental music throughout is uninspired. It lacks a central leitmotif to carry the movie and this leaves a lot of scenes feeling dead and moving at a glacial pace. Say what you want about the dub, but that score from Shuki Levy, Udi Harpaz, and The Tel Aviv Symphony Orchestra was beautiful.
Compare the formation of Omnimon in this dub to the formation of Omnimon in Digimon: The Movie. The English dub wins that by a mile. Revealing Ominimon is a track for the ages. It’s memorable. It gets stuck in your head. The BGM here is just flat and boring.
That’s the biggest problem with this dub. It’s lackluster. For the first fifteen minutes my theatre was pretty damn silent. Once the pace was firmly established and lack of jokes settled in, the audience started making it’s own comedy with various jokes hurled MST3K style at the screen. That made the movie a riot. Without that? It’s an okay dub at best with an extra point for nostalgia with all the old cast. They do a great job and are the highlight of this movie.
In case you wondering, the film was preceded by a nonsensical Top 5 Digimon list. #2 was Poromon because… sure? After the film we got a brief shilling of Crunchyroll with two somewhat awkward presenters and a preview of Episode three. This was especially strange because anyone who came in fresh for this movie was completely spoiled to the plot of episode two thanks to the recap at the start of the preview. I know most Digimon fans assumed only hardcore would go to this and thus would have seen episode two already, but that wasn’t the cast for a number of people in my theatre.
If these dubs for Digimon Adventure tri. continue to be made, they need more work put into them. Don’t mess around. Just hire Jeff Nimoy back as director. Let the man rewrite that script to hell. Maybe you can’t get the music, fine. Ditch that new theme. Don’t even bother. Go find the old season four theme. That worked well enough!
Just do better, Digimon English dub. Don’t try to please the hardcore Japanese version fans. They already have their version. I need more jokes about Beef Jerky shakes.
Shamus Kelley sang the Digi Rap before the movie began in his threatre. Only a few people joined in. Digi dissapointed. #CellPhonesOutForDigimon. Follow him on Twitter!