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Though that’s not to say it doesn’t have its fair share of giant monster battles.

In the penultimate chapter of Digimon Adventure tri, we have giant monsters invading the real world and the threat of impending doom looming on the horizon. But what the story is really about is two young adults grappling with their own sense of responsibility.

In Digimon Adventure Tri, Growing up Means Facing Frustration and Loss

[This article contains spoilers for Digimon Adventure tri: Coexistence as well as the past chapters of Digimon Adventure tri.]

As with the other four chapters of the story, Coexistence once again follows a pair of our DigiDestined heroes, in this case Tai and Meiko, as they struggle with the revelations that come with growing up and how their view of the world has shifted.

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The first chapter on the anime, Reunion, centered on Tai’s realization that digimon combat is far from the simple affair it was when he was an elementary schooler. Back then, it was so clear: Good must fight evil. So he, alongside his friends, did.

But as a teen on the cusp of adulthood, he suddenly is confronted with the hard truth of “collateral damage” and “unintended consequences.” These revelations scare him—and rightly so. It’s a terrifying thought to realize that, if you start a giant monster fight in a city, you could be responsible for the deaths of actual people. And who knows what other unforeseen effects could occur.

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Over the following chapters, Tai’s inner conflict has largely been in the background. He wants to help—he wants to do good—but he’s terrified about what could happen. Without being able to see every aspect of the big picture, he has trouble being decisive and doubts not only his actions but his motives as well.

This is where we encounter the second big theme of this chapter: sacrifice. In the world of kids stories, the heroes overcome the odds and come back all in one piece. But in the world of adults, we realize that few things ever end so clearly or happily.

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As children, the DigiDestined saved the Digital World with everyone returning safe and sound—humans and Digimon alike. However, we now know this outcome was far from certain. The original group of DigiDestined didn’t make it through unscathed. Maki’s partner, Tapirmon, sacrificed herself to stop the Dark Masters. This act, while saving the Digital World, broke Maki. The innocent child was forced to grow up and accept the inevitability of death in a heartbeat—only she couldn’t. She became obsessed with resurrecting Tapirmon no matter the cost.

Of course, this dark truth of reality only weighs on Tai even more, but thanks to his growing relationship with Meiko, he begins to find his way again. Meiko (who we’ll get into a bit more later), has almost completely given in to her doubts—deciding that she is solely responsible for all the bad that has befallen the team, Meicoonmon, and the two worlds.

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These are doubts Tai himself has had (only with him as the one responsible as leader), but hearing them voiced aloud, he reacts strongly in emotional opposition. Part of him knows that there is more than enough responsibility to go around and that only through supporting each other and trying to do the right thing can a perfect happy ending even have a chance of being reached.

So when it comes down to the big battle, he decides to fight. Part of him knows there is more going on than he understands—that he might very well be playing into the villain’s hands—but he would rather act now to try and save Meicoonmon than let Mei’s partner Digimon be killed without a fight.

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But as the battle continues and things go from bad to worse, he has to make the toughest choice a leader can make: who lives and who dies. As the ground collapses beneath him, he sends Omnimon to rescue Matt and Meiko instead of himself. He makes the choice that Tapirmon made a generation before—to make a sacrifice to try and get that happy ending for those he cares about.

At that moment, Tai truly grows up. He knows right, wrong, and the consequences—and he makes his choice. For the first time in a long while, there’s no sign of doubt or hesitation on his face. It’s a moment as beautiful as it is tragic.

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Meiko, on the other hand, faces a different problem when it comes to growing up: being unsure about her place in the world. As a child, it’s not something you really even think about; you just are where you are because you are. Your job is to go to school and to have fun.

But now Meiko has learned she has a chosen role in the world: She is a DigiDestined—and, more importantly, she always was. While the others were out literally saving the world, she was playing in the woods with Meicoomon.

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As a girl on the edge of adulthood, she can see the mistakes she made at that time. We see through flashbacks that there were all kinds of warning signs of Meicoomon’s dark side—like the time that Meicoomon returned with bloody claws for caused a fiery explosion in her father’s lab.

While as a child, she didn’t recognize these warning signs, in hindsight, they appear all too obvious. She feels she should have noticed—and by not noticing at the time she has failed not only Meicoomon but her new friends. She is old enough, like Tai, to understand the concept of responsibility—and with responsibility comes guilt.

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Over the course of Coexistence, she constantly persecutes herself within her own mind. If she did indeed fail, why was she chosen as a DigiDestined? Isn’t there someone better out there who could have kept this from happening—who could have kept Meicoomon safe and happy?

But as the others point out, there are nine DigiDestined in their group. They were all chosen and are thus all equally responsible. The others likewise push the idea of a true happen end for her, one where they rescue Meicoomon from herself and save the world.

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She tries to accept this, but like Tai she understands that happy endings rarely come without a cost. So when the final battle is underway and looks dark, she gives her friends permission to kill Meicoomon. Perhaps this sacrifice is her way of atonement for failing to keep her Digimon in line. Perhaps she is simply giving into despair. Or perhaps she isn’t willing to risk her new friends or the fate of the world to rectify her own perceived mistake. However, what is certain is that it is her way of taking responsibility for her part in all that has happened.

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But in the end, her choice is all for naught in the face of Tai’s own and she is left with a now masterless Agumon as things go from bad to much much worse.

Digimon Adventure tri: Coexistence can be viewed with English subtitles on Crunchyroll.

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