Spoiler alert: Review contains spoilers for the first episode of Digimon Xros Wars/Digimon Fusion.
A new Digimon series has started airing on Nickelodeon, although the usual press release churning media machine of Nick's that crows about such series as Korra and Sam & Cat has stayed awfully quiet about it. Its Japanese name is Digimon Xros Wars, but in the grand tradition of the franchise, Nickelodeon has changed it to something much more simpler and on the nose: Digimon Fusion.
(Guess what kind of Digi-evolution goes on this series? You get three hints, and the first two don't count.)
And so the first episode of Digimon Fusion aired this afternoon with little fanfare. So, what might be going on in the Digital World since the last series?
Meet Taiki (the dub calls him Mikey but it doesn't seem Typical Digimon Male Protag enough). When we first meet him, he's suffering from exhaustion that should be alien to a boy his age. Naturally, our first scene with him is a dream sequence, previewing his future adventures, followed by a frantic 'wake up and go to school' moment no Digimon series is complete without.
We soon find out that his fatigue is because Taiki is so bloody helpful, he's worn himself out helping every club that asks him for assistance, much to the annoyance of his best friend and pillow fetcher, Akari (in the dub, Angie - wait, haven't we had an Angie in Digimon before?).
And Taiki is annoyingly perfect at everything he does! We see him perform like a boss at a basketball game, his spinning fake-out the move that wins the game, right before he admits he only started playing the game four days ago. Gosh, Taiki! What a guy! And by that, I mean: really, Digimon? Although, is it any wonder he's our main protagonist? He even has the goggles that do nothing!
His party is made up of long suffering friend Akari as well as Zenjirou (understandably changed to Jeremy in the dub), the stubborn angry one who is a deft hand at kendo and just wants to beat Taiki up in a fair fight. These are the folks Taiki enters the Digital World with. Makes you wonder whatever happened to the days of the Digidestined traveling in groups of six and seven impressionable young kids. I'm sure we'll tack on a few more unsuspecting minors to our crew before the season is over.
Taiki meets his partner, Shoutmon, through some pretty unusual circumstances, which include a mysterious voice personified by a visualized sound wave in red, a surge of unknown power that knocks out phones of all types, and a car that shows up out of nowhere and crashes through a high story building, nearly killing the trio in the process. During all the drama, Taiki comes across the dying spirit of Shoutmon, and is assisted by the mysterious voice to save Shoutmon's life, pretty much making them bros forever. And then Taiki and his trio fall into the Digital World - although they don't learn this detail until the very end of the episode!
A device called the Fusion Loader, this generation's Digi-device, gives Taiki the ability to control the Digimon that also become part of his party and make them fuse into bigger, stronger Digimon to protect him and his friends. That's right: Digimon just went full Voltron. Naturally, their first battle is against some pretty bad Digimon, who answer to a digital overlord known as Tacticmon that watches from the shadows with their cronies. So far, there are no details on Tacticmon or the crafty looking folks that surround them, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough what havoc they are wrecking on the Digital World (because god forbid anyone other than Digi Destined come into the DW for purposes other than destruction).
We also see a few humans at the very end, who have Digimon of their very own. Their intentions are about as murky as those of Tacticmon, although it is pretty obvious that they see Taiki as an intruder, not a potential best friend. They also don't seem to be related to one another; neither human even acknowledges the other's presence or is even bothered by the other being there.
So at the end of the first episode, Taiki, Akari, and Zenjirou are good and stuck in the Digital World, with no way back to the world of humans. Taiki is the only one with a Digimon partner; however, if the opening title sequence (and the promo art!) is anything to go by, Akari and Zenjirou will soon join him in the ranks of Digidestined proper. Not a lot has been explained plot wise except that the Digital World is in danger, Taiki has been charged with saving it, and there are several forces that are probably bent on stopping his efforts.
It all seems like a fairly typical Digimon series, although the fusion of Digimon certainly puts a different spin on things. However, it has a nice blend of humor and zaniness that keeps things interesting. I enjoy watching the scenes of Taiki's home life as well as his friendship with Akari and Zenjirou, as well as the scenes in which Taiki learns more about his role in the Digital World. Shoutmon certainly lives up to his name, and is as high-spirited as any Digimon can be, declaring his love for Taiki by the end of the episode. The other Digimon are certainly less developed but, well, first episode and all, that's no surprise.
As for the English dub – well, it's a typical dub. It still does that annoying thing where extraneous dialogue is dropped into scenes that originally had no dialogue whatsoever, as if Digimon's target demographic couldn't possibly parse the opening scene without assistance. The new English opening theme is Auto-tuned nonsense with the usual vague, uplifting lyrics. I actually find Angie's English VA to be awfull entertaining, while Mikey's VA is a little restrained compared to the original Japanese.
Jeremy, however, is pretty perfect – oh God, wait a minute, HIS VOICE ACTOR IS THE ONE FOR KEN ICHIJOUJI OF COURSE IT IS. Ahem. Overall, it's not bad for a Nick dub and it is definitely watchable, even if the localized script brings the story down a level smarts wise. Also, I'm amused that no one bothered to digitally edit Angie's bag – the one that says Taiki on it. Whoops!
You can watch new episodes of Digimon Fusion on Nickelodeon every Saturday afternoon. Set your DVR for it!