It never happened. The 02 group never truly became as “capable” as their seniors were -- but not only is that by design, it’s not even really a problem, and while they never quite reached the individual heights their seniors did, what their most valuable asset ends up being turns out to be something different entirely.
Even by the end of the series, the 02 group ends up rather “outclassed” by their seniors in nearly every aspect:
The 02 kids never truly ended up tackling a conflict as huge as the ones the Adventure ones ended up tackling -- the Adventure group had to deal with widespread chaos all over Odaiba and mass building destruction followed by preventing a massive rip in the universe, whereas the 02 group dealt with some small localized pieces of a territory war run by a petty eleven-year-old, followed by localized unfocused rampaging Digimon that they had a lot of help tackling (including said seniors!), and, finally, when they did get to enemies that had such terrifying amounts of power (BelialVamdemon and Armagemon)...they ended up defeating them not purely by their own abilities, but rather with power boosts and help from everyone else in the vicinity. (Including said seniors.)
For all intents and purposes, it’s clear that when both groups are working together, the older group (especially Koushirou) is doing all of the coordination and leading the charge. Diablomon Strikes Back had the 02 group clearly meant to be backup, only for them to step in front when things went sufficiently south.
On a level of sheer power scale, the 02 group even being necessary at the start of the series required severely nerfing the seniors and cutting off evolutionary access, and, as many have pointed out, even by the end of the series, their “overall power output” only really matches up to two Perfect-levels and one Ultimate over six people, which pales in comparison to what the Adventure group has overall. (And they still had to get tons of assistance from their seniors in the last arc of 02.) Their ability to use the Digimentals gives them a slight edge in terms of versatility, but given that all of them are equivalent to Adult level, that’s still not saying a lot.
Once the main conflict of 02 ended, the group didn’t end up being...that helpful. You could even argue that in some ways they tend to make things worse (by exacerbating the Kuramon problem in Diablomon Strikes Back or accidentally feeding Yamato useless misinformation in Kizuna); not that they ruin everything just by being there, but they’re still heavily prone to being fooled by their enemies and requiring tons of support.
Even their epilogue careers are not all that individually impressive or history-making compared to their seniors’.
It’s not to say that they’re completely useless, since they’re clearly capable of getting quite a few things done and being relatively reliable extra backup support when needed, but, comparatively speaking, you can hardly call them a good “replacement” for their seniors at all.
So then, if they ended up apparently trailing behind their seniors in so many ways, what’s the point? Well...
What the 02 group may have pulled off in terms of practical effects and combat may have been (comparatively) unimpressive, but as far as their emotional relations go, by all means, what they accomplished by the end of 02 should have been impossible -- reaching out to someone who, perhaps, should have been the last person to ever become friends with them, an “outsider” from a different town and school and Chosen Child background who had antagonized them and hurt them and done so many horrible things, and yet, through their bonds with each other and through their emotional warmth, connected with him, helped him heal, and integrated him into their group like another one of them. This is what could be said to be the true “miracle” of 02; even in the scope of the wider franchise, this group remains unrivaled in how tight the bonds between the full group are, not only fighting together as a group but also being heavily involved in each other’s social lives. Their ringleader, Daisuke, is someone who himself embodies not being altogether capable but having true strength in being emotionally supportive and empathetic with others. This group may not be all that great at Digimon fighting, but there’s no better place to turn to for intimate emotional support.
This is by design, all the way to Kizuna, not only in the in-universe sense but also the meta sense. “Useless” as their information for Yamato may be, it’s said that their happiness and cheer on the phone manages to momentarily spread to him; in the midst of some pretty emotionally heartwrenching events for him, their antics and unequivocal adoration for him being able to pull that off is a pretty huge accomplishment in light of the movie’s events. And in press and interviews, the 02 cast is repeatedly referred to as being “healing” and present to lighten up a heavy story, and the 02 cast-centric drama CD specifically had an instruction of “fun things are important” associated with it. For both the characters and the audience, this is a group that specializes first and foremost in “bringing others happiness” and enjoying the true meaning of “fun”, and that’s something particularly unique to them, and only them.
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