It has been over 20 years since the release of the original Digimon Series. Since the big anniversary, Toei Animation has released three out of six planned movies that continue the journey of the original team. Set six years after the original series and three after the sequel series Digimon Adventures 02. Our protagonists are facing off with not just the threat of Digimon’s entering the real world but also with adulation and maybe a bit more surprisingly to some, a very deep and complicated ethical issue.
This ethical issue is referred to as the Trolley Problem. Before we get into the plot we first have to know what the Trolley Problem is.
What Is The Trolley Problem?
The trolley problem is a thought experiment. The general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley running down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the other track. You have two options:
(1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.
(2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.
What do you do?
How Does It Relate To Digimon?
n the first movie/arc called Reunion, Tai is confronted with a wild Digimon destroying parts of his city, he can’t stop it without his Digimon partner and helplessly watches the destruction like everyone else. This changes his perspective, later when he and his friends face off with their Digimon against three berserk Kuwagamon, they win but leave the airport in which the fight took place partly destroyed.
The media starts criticizing the Digimon without making a distinction between the once causing the destruction and the ones trying to stop it. This leaves most of the Digidestines frustrated over this misinterpretation of the events. Tai is the only one who starts questioning if the media has a point. After all, their Digimon took part in the battle and caused damage. This creates a rift between the Digidestines, especially Tai, and Matt who takes to the side that they’re the only ones who can stop the berserk Digimon so they have to do it, after all, them doing nothing will cause just more damage and death.
Most people will naturally agree with the solution Matt offers. They’re causing damage but the alternative would be worse so they have to do it. Similarly, most people, when confronted with the Trolley Problem, say that they would pull the lever because saving five people is more important than saving one person. That’s how most of us are raised. The well-being of the majority is more important than the well-being of a few. But if it’s so simple why is Tai questioning it? Is it poor writing? A forced way to have drama between the characters?
No, while many people would write it off as that, Tai questioning this belief shows how much he has grown.
The Moral Conflict Of Actions & The Expanded Trolley Problem
“I can’t help it. I’m not what I was. Now I see more and understand less. I’m not sure if what we’re doing is right. Or maybe…what we’re doing wrong. I know only we can do it. But it’s not that simple.” – Tai
Tai was always the bravest with a tendency for being reckless, it wasn’t a surprise that his crest became the one of courage. But how he himself acknowledges when becoming older his eyes opened to the bigger picture, he isn’t the little kid that fought in the streets without a care for his surroundings or the repercussions of his actions.
“I’m scared. I’ve destroyed so much without knowing it. Not just buildings. People, too. Maybe I’ll end up killing someone.” – Tai
The expansion of the Trolley Problem is that instead of pulling a lever to save the five people, your only option is pushing a fat person in front of the tracks which will stop it. Most people, when confronted with this choice, are a lot more conflicted about it because now they have to physically push the person to their death, but haven’t you done that before by pulling the lever? However, you might spin it, by pulling the lever or pushing the person on the tracks. You decided that this one person’s life is less important. What if, that person would go on and cure cancer and you killed him for five people that will achieve nothing? Obviously, you can’t know that but because you don’t know that your decision is even harder.
What Tai is questioning is if inaction is the only way for them to not end up with blood on their hands. Furthermore, we have to acknowledge that Tai doesn’t fight the battle, he pushes his partner, his Digimon in front of the “tracks”.
So while Tai does know that they have to do something because they can. How should they approach it? Blindly jumping into battle, is that the way they should deal with the matter, the way they did as children? They’re High School students. Can you expect them to be able to make decisions that could cause the death of not only their partners but of innocent bystanders? Especially now that they understand the gravity of their decisions?
Tai has lost his naivety, he is painfully aware of his mortality and of the once surrounding him. He has so many questions but is still too young to make up his mind, he is still on the path of finding his moral boundaries.
The Lack Of An Answer
Many readers expect here a definitive answer, some sort of closer regarding the Trolley Problem, the problem is there is no answer. It reflects the issue we have when it comes to morality, there is no right or definitive answer. We ourselves have to decide what our answer is, just like Tai has to. Because at the end of the day, whatever he decides his answer is, he will have to live with the resulting consequences either way.
Maybe that’s what being an adult means, accepting that sometimes there is no right and wrong, just what you think you can live with.