Ladies and Gentlemen: The Beetlemon (Digimon Frontier: Episode 05)
(Check out the previous review HERE)
The Digidestined are still traveling toward the Forest Terminal. However, Koji has been more tactful than his counterparts thus far and is reclining in style within the cabin of a train while Takuya’s crew trudge along through tracks in the desert toward the terminal. I guess you can say that the old adage ‘two heads are better than one’ doesn’t really apply to one with an above average intellect like Koji.
Like the previous four episodes of the series, episode five is used to round out our characters and power them up with ‘Spirits’. And as J.P. is the last one of the gang without a spirit, its now finally his turn to make himself useful. What the episode lacks that all previous ones had to greater or lesser degrees is the addition of backstory from Bokomon’s precious book of legends. Whereas the other episodes managed some sense of gravitas, or relative importance, to the narrative at hand, this episode’s dearth of backstory leaves it a little lacking in interest.
Nevertheless, it begins as Takuya, Zoe, Tommy, J.P., Bokomon, and Neemon sojourn through a desert storm along a set tracks that leads them to a place known as the Wind Factory Corporation. Therein, a group of friendly, but cowardly, Kokuwamon toil away in the industrial townscape creating electric fans for use by their masters: the Goblimon foreman, Minomon guards and watchers, and their boss Snimon. Worst yet, these enslaved Kokuwamon are tortured using fear tactics into releasing their latent energy to perpetuate the factory’s operation.
Snimon and his goons rule through fear and trembling, through brute strength, and nonetheless all there know that might is not actually right. The Kokuwamon work for no wage but a subsistence level of energy (food) and housing. They are protected from Cherubimon’s ravages of the Digital World whilst within this dark factory, but only because their captors are complicit in that dark lord’s scheme. The plot would be relatively innocuous to a viewer in Switzerland or its peaceful ilk, but to American viewers who themselves live within an empire of power and terror and most likely hire out their work to corporations complicit with that empire’s evil schemes (even just through taxation that might support MIC) for something below a comfortable living wage, the parallel is all too real. That said, the factory is evil partially because it is based on slave labor and partially because it supports and is supported by an evil regime outside of itself; it is deemed evil by our young protagonists who understand this all implicitly; and hence, I would conclude that even a children’s TV show like Digimon is never quite as simple as one might initially imagine (But hey, Miyazaki’s already taught us this lesson with his films, no?).
The Kokuwamon tell the Digidestined of their past glories before being forcibly abducted by the Goblimon. These diminutive Rookie-level electric beetle machine Digimon once lived in the forests and roamed freely. They were happy there, but as the elder often says, not so much ‘here’ (the factory). Takuya reasons that the Kokuwamon have only two real options if they wish to return home to their forests: 1. They must fight back and free themselves by using force against force, fire against fire. 2. They should run away from the Goblimon. However, the problem with option two is that the evil in Wind Factory remains to either track down the Kokuwamon and enslave them once again, or even worse yet, morally speaking, the Goblimon might track down a different group of Digimon to enslave, and thereby the Kokuwamon will only be passing along their enslavement to another group.
Everyone agrees that the only way forward is option one. Takuya even draws up a plan for Zoe as Kazemon to distract the Goblimon and Minomon guards by destroying the front gate and alarm systems, while Agunimon, Kumamon, and everyone else infiltrates the factory in the dead of night to destroy the assembly lines therein. However, J.P., who has still been unable to find his own Legendary Warrior ‘Spirit’ doesn’t like the idea of being a mere accomplice in this plan. He wishes he had the strength to help out and because he does not, he responds by refusing involvement.
Beyond the factory situation itself, the only other interesting element of Episode 05 to comment upon is J.P.’s relationship with a Kokuwamon youth. The tyke has never seen the famed forests of his ancestors because he was born into this hideous captivity. He has hopes and dreams for freedom from the factory, for the pursuit of his happiness without the chains of slave labor. And he entrusts his hopes with J.P.: the eldest of the Digidestined and the largest of their group.The little guy doesn’t know that J.P. doesn’t have a Spirit like his friends and thereby latches onto him as one with a strong character and amiable personality.
That night, Kazemon’s distraction succeeds in giving her friends an opening to invade the factory. Kumamon, Agunimon, and the swarm of beetle-like Kokuwamon defeat Goblimon after Goblimon, destroying as many industrial artifacts as possible along the way. But when they reach the inner sanctum wherein the assembly line is housed, Snimon appears and manages to defeat Agunimon just as the Goblimon make one last rally to repel Kumamon and the Kokuwamon. J.P., inspired by shouldering the weight of all the hopes and dreams of the Kokuwamon, jumps into action, and strikes Snimon with a large crane machine in the room. Snimon’s counter-strike destroys the machine, revealing the H Spirit of Thunder hidden within the metal beams that once held the crane aloft.
J.P.’s D-Tector finally alights upon his own destined Spirit and he uses it to Spirit Evolve into Beetlemon. In this form, he easily defeats Snimon totally and absorbs his Fractal Code within the D-Tector. The group manages to escape the factory just as it explodes and as a strong wind blows through the village carrying away the insubstantial Minomon. As the Kokuwamon celebrate and the Digidestined brace themselves to go back out in search of the Forest Terminal, an evil Digimon named Grumblemon in a cave nearby receives a report on the fifth Digidestined ‘Spirit’ discovery with much displeasure.
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody