The Odd One Out (Digimon Frontier: Episode 08)
(Catch the previous episode review HERE)
In the final moments of Episode 07 of Digimon Frontier, Zoe, J.P. Bokomon and Neemon’s makeshift log-raft washed up on the beach of a territory unknown to any of the group. They quickly find a walking path through a field of seemingly endless cereal grains wherein J.P. musters up a brave face and resolve for the long trip ahead only to later complain about the length of their journey through this maze of plants. Zoe looks down upon J.P. for his emotional oscillation and because the big lug seems only to care about food and sleep. Thus sets up the beginning of Episode 08, which will take us along an adventure with the half of the Digidestined gang not followed in the previous episode. The goal: another character development arc.
As J.P. tires and begins to appear at the end of his rope, all his stamina completely used up by the long walk, a Tsunemon appears on the path ahead from without the surrounding grain stalks. The little guy is surprised to see human beings before him. So surprised in fact that he forgets himself and allies long enough for his pursuer, a motherly Togemon, to find him and carry him off back toward the Digimon School with his fellow Baby and In-Training Digimon schoolmates. But not before the Digidestined speak with Togemon, hear of the school and the promise of food if they are willing to teach the children at the school about the Human World, and eventually give into the pressures to follow (J.P. being the prime motivator in this course of action as the promised food is a much-needed provision in his current ragged state).
Once the group arrives at the Digimon School (wherein both Bokomon and Neemon, as well as all Digimon , were once reared), they find it to be a haggard, dreary little hut bustling with eight little Digimon (including Tsunemon). Among the throng include Digimon who should be familiar to all Digimon fans who have watched the previous seasons of the show like Yaamon, Kapurimon, and Tsunemon, but also Digimon shown in the anime for the first time in this episode including Jyarimon, YukimiBotamon, Zerimon, Conomon, and Nyaromon. However, one of these little Digimon does not fit in with the others: namely, the aforementioned Tsunemon who dislikes being at Digimon School so much that he attempted running away and was only foiled in his escape by his bewilderment at running into the humans.
Many events unfold that slowly give the Digidestined crew a sense of why Tsunemon is an outcast amongst the otherwise tightly nit group. When YukimiBotamon first meets the humans it is terrified, but Tsunemon merely responds that he was brave and never scared even when he first met them on the footpath. His braggart nature turns off his peers. In the classroom later that day, Tsunemon is stuck in the corner of the room away from the rest of his peers and when snack time arrives, he refuses to eat with the others. During a soccer match later that day, he sees an opening to score a goal for his team, but Kapurimon rushes in to prevent Tsunemon from getting an opportunity to headbutt the ball and hurts himself in the process. Finally, J.P. attempts to mend the situation by bribing Tsunemon’s classmates to play with him by using candy bars and none of the little Digimon take the bait, even then.
All the while, Zoe chafes at J.P.’s increasingly harebrained attempts to discern why Tsunemon’s classmates avoid him like the plague. But Zoe also feels emotionally similar to Tsunemon and eventually reveals some of her past to J.P. We learn that Zoe lived abroad for years in Italy and finds herself uninterested in the things her classmates back home found appealing. Because she is a pretty and stylish girl, all of her classmates initially wanted to be her friend, but her choices not to engage in what she thought to be activities or purchases unfitting to her tastes led her would-be friends to regard her as snobbish or stuck up.
After Tsunemon is rebuffed by his classmates who won’t even fall for J.P.’s bribery scheme, he runs off and accidentally falls into a pond. Zoe, following after the little guy to reassure him to try again to fit in with his friends, also falls into the pond. However, she is the one most taken by surprise and thereby finds herself in danger of drowning. Tsunemon then unveils his power to Digivolve into Gabumon and saves Zoe. He reveals that the others in his class saw him Digivolve one day and thought his resulting Rookie form somewhat monstrous and scary due to the abrupt change and size differential between himself as Gabumon and their smaller forms. Because the others did not have the ability to Digivolve, they viewed Tsunemon with suspicion as one who was different, and thereby to be feared, rather than one who is unique and to be cherished as a potential friend.
That night, a storm passes through the Digimon School territory, which threatens to wash away the very class building by virtue of its ferocity and abundant corresponding rains. The lightning terrifies J.P., who reveals that as a person he is much less brave than when in his Digimon form. Yet, something must be done quickly. Zoe chides J.P. for his cowardice, which manages to spur him onward. J.P. and Zoe both Spirit Evolve and then head off in the direction of the School House where Beetlemon dislodges a large boulder and places it in the path of the raging waters as Kazemon uses her wind attacks to divert the remaining water around the building. Finally, Kapurimon is picked up by the heavy winds from the storm and swept away toward a small sapling where he hangs on for dear life. But a log comes barreling toward him and threatens to wash away and drown the little guy. Only Tsunemon can help, and he Digivolves into Gabumon to do just that.
After the storm subsides, it is clear that Tsunemon’s schoolmates now consider him one of them. It is also clear that Zoe has much more respect and adoration for J.P. after he took up the helm of responsibility and saved the day. The Digimon at the School create a wind-powered landboat for the Digidestined crew’s use to arrive at the Forest Terminal. and by an unlikely stroke of luck, Takuya, Tommy, and Koji find themselves parachuting down from the floating island they investigated in the previous second and landing just inside of this boat in the final moments of the episode. ‘
Many elements of this episode strain credulity for me, and I cannot find a good reason why Beetlemon/J.P. couldn’t have established his respectability in Zoe’s eyes in a situation that also furthered the plot. Or why Zoe couldn’t have revealed some of her backstory in an episode with more thematic weight in the larger narrative of Digimon Frontier. The tale always goes that Adventure 01 and 02 are the best nostalgia kicks in the franchise, Digimon Tamers is the best and most critically acclaimed series, and Frontier is the first to really show narrative fatigue. I have never watched Frontier in its entirety (as I will endeavor to do in the following weeks and months), but the first eight episodes of the total 50-episode series (or a total of 16% of the show) has thus far been found wanting in my estimation. I can only hope things are on the up and up from here on out.
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody