Stuck in Sakkakumon With You (Digimon Frontier: Episode 27)

(Check my previous episode review out HERE)

Most of the Digidestined team have escaped from Sakkakumon while their friends Takuya and Koji continue to muscle on through the various areas within. J.P., Tommy, and Zoe Spirit Evolve into their H Spirit forms as Beetlemon, Kumamon, and Kazemon and attempt to reenter Sakkakumon to help out, but find a nearly impenetrable electric net force-field blocking their progress. Duskmon appears, and as his strength within his H Spirit form is well beyond a Mega-level Digimon, he is able to push on through to seek out Koji within the Darkness Area of Sakkakumon’s internal matrix.

As the other Digidestined have no way of entering the matrix themselves, they decide to try and contact their friends through the D-Tectors in an attempt to alert them to the presence of Duskmon. Zoe manages to get a hold of Takuya and tell him to track down Koji for back up, but they cannot seem to connect with Koji because of the interference of negative emotions and energy fields within the Darkness Area. Takuya makes double time to the nearest active eye portal, but finds himself within the Ice Area rather than his intended target. There, he is immediately attacked by an Ultimate-level Digimon called IceLeomon whose noble character shines through his possession by Sakkakumon. As Agunimon, Takuya tries to talk him down and bring him to his senses, but finds this impossible as the hold over his will is too strong. Instead, he swiftly decommissions the old lion heart after a quick, but intense exchange of blows, digitizes his Fractal Code, and finds that two new eye portals open up in his vicinity. One of these will lead him outside to his friends, while the other leads back to the internal corridors of Sakkakumon. Takuya chooses the latter path in the hopes of finding Koji before Duskmon lays waste with his sick fighting skills (forgive me, I’m listening to J Dilla as I write this).

Meanwhile, Koji didn’t have very long to wander through the Darkness Area before Duskmon appeared and grasped him by the throat threatening his life if Koji didn’t reveal who he was and why he seemed to have some relationship to Duskmon. Duskmon invades and interrogates Koji’s memories to learn more about him forcefully and finds out a bit about Koji’s life during the few days before he left for the Digital World. The story goes that Koji’s mother is dead and that his father finally moved on three years ago when he found another woman to fill the hole in his heart and give him a renewed emotional life. He and that woman got married and Koji has always been a little gruff toward her as he considered her unnecessary to the household and as no real replacement for his mother.

However, once when his father tried to talk to him about being nicer to her and trying to include her more in his own emotional life, Koji lashed out with is disaffection. She was coming up the stairs at the time and overheard the conversation, which hurt her feelings. Koji realized that she was no saboteur trying to take away his father from him or trying to replace his mother, but a real person with emotions who loves his father and wishes to become closer to him as a step-mother as well. On the day when Koji received the text message beginning the journey to the Digital World, he was in a flower shop looking to buy a bouquet for his step-mother and father’s three-year wedding anniversary. This was a big first step toward reclamation of something like a healthy household relationship, but the message was urgent and he ran out and left the Real world before he could give her the flowers and become closer.

The images of Koji on the train toward the Shibuya Station Underground Terminal trigger memories within Duskmon’s psyche of a boy who looks like Koji following after Koji and Takuya toward the station on that day. It seems that Duskmon may, unlike his fellow Legendary Warriors of Darkness, be a human child at his core who has merely turned to the powers of the darkness. Furthermore, he is a child who looks identical to Koji and therefore probably has some biological connection to him. These memories force Duskmon to his knees, which allows Koji to escape his grasp and Spirit Evolve into Lobomon. Cherubimon appears within Duskmon’s conscience and advises him to continue his fight and to keep working to plunge the Digital World into total darkness. He continues his fight and Lobomon continues to be beaten even as he Slide Evolves into his Beast Spirit form as KendoGarurumon.

And then, Seraphimon’s DigiEgg begins to move around in Bokomon’s waste band. It eventually comes dislodged and flies high in the air where it discharges a beam of light energy into Sakkakumon, through the Darkness Area, and directly toward Koji’s D-Tector. This light gives him the new power of Fusion Evolution, or the ability to simultaneously use both his Human Spirit and his Beast Spirit in battle. Koji triggers this new evolution potential and becomes the Super-Mega-level Digimon BeoWolfmon. This form can go toe to toe with Duskmon fairly well, but the abundance of light energy immediately defeats the Darkness Area and expels the two Digimon from without Sakkakumon’s body, throwing them far into the furthest reaches of the Continent of Darkness where Duskmon begins to run and BeoWolfmon gives chase as the apparent aggressor. The tables have turned in the battle against Duskmon and soon Cherubimon and the Rose Morning Star will be the primary focuses of the Digidestined.

But first, Takuya is still stuck within Sakkakumon and it seems that no one will be able to re-enter and help him finish off the final two regions. The first, the Light Area, is likely to prove no problem for Takuya as just another region that happens to have a strong Ultimate-level Light -type Digimon defender therein. If Agunimon can’t hack that, then BurningGreymon might be able to. The final region is the Steel Area where Mercurymon himself may be awaiting Takuya’s arrival. This is a more difficult foe to defeat as his reflective mirrors and hardened metal body reflect most types of attacks, including fire-based ones like those possessed by Takuya. If he can get some of that Seraphimon DigiEgg energy, however, there is probably no limit to what his powers can do and the Legendary Warriors of Darkness may be no more in short order.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

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Zoe’s Unbeelievable Adventure (Digimon Frontier Episode 26)

(Catch the previous episode review HERE. To go back to the beginning click HERE)

Thus far, the Earth, Wind, and Flame Areas of Sakkakumon’s interior matrix have all been disabled as the Digidestined previously entered each and destroyed the champions of those domains. In this episode, three more Areas will fall to the pressures of the Digidestined. The first of these Areas to go is the Thunder Area, which Takuya enters. There he finds a Parrotmon whose defeat is child’s play for Agunimon at this point. The big bird is defeated quickly, its Fractal code is digitized, and Takuya exits the Thunder area for another battle in a different sector of Sakkakumon’s interior.

J.P. likewise makes quick work of his Ultimate-level Digimon Cherrymon within the Wood Area. It seems that Sakkakumon’s champions may have once been worth their salt in battle against the Digidestined, but he has largely waited too long and allowed his enemies to grow too powerful. As the Digidestined now understand themselves to be a part of the Digital World, they can harness more of their power than ever before and thus even an H-Spirit Ultimate-level equivalent like Beetlemon finds it extremely easy to take down someone like Cherrymon just as he found Volcamon a weak opponent previously, and Koji and Tommy found their opponents Karatenmon and Asuramon relatively weak. After the battle, J.P.’s regard toward friendship is resolved and he feels that his Digidestined partners really are his true friends. This emotional confidence allows him to escape Sakkakumon and rejoin his friends Bokomon, Neemon, and Tommy outside of Sakkakumon.

Finally, the central focus of this episode is Zoe’s battle with Ranamon within the Water Area. Therein, Ranamon has been waiting for Zoe’s arrival so that she can prove which one of the two is most powerful, and thereby most deserving of praise as the most beautiful Digimon in the Digital World. She enlists her fan club of Armor type Honeybeemon to ensnare Zoe in one of their traps, but the Honeybeemon are so clumsy that they keep accidentally catching themselves in the traps instead. Each time, Zoe arrives and H Spirit Evolves into Kazemon to save the Honeybeemon from their own machinations. And though Kazemon remains none the wiser about the true motives of the Honeybeemon, they come to believe (or beelieve?) that Kazemon is actually a good person, a Legendary Warrior of superior moral standing than Ranamon who they find to be cuter than Ranamon to boot.

There is a narrative arc throughout this episode that consistently refers to the Snow White story. Initially, Ranamon becomes obsessed with defeating Zoe/Kazemon asap because of Mercurymon’s magic mirror. She calls to him and asks who the fairest of all the Digimon in the land truly is to which he responds that Kazemon is obviously the fairest in all the Digital World, and furthermore that her Beast Spirit form Zephyrmon is surely the strongest in the land. This lights a fire under Ranamon and influences her create a poison apple, which she hands to her Honeybeemon fan club with orders to give the apple to Zoe.

Although the Honeybeemon have come to adore and appreciate Zoe, they make a cold calculation, believing that Kazemon would not win in a fight against Ranamon anyhow. So they hand the apple to Zoe, which throws her into a stupor under which she begins to reflect on her school days and the fact that she could find no real friends back then. Everyone thought she was a snooty, stuck-up girl who purposefully tried not to conform or fit in with her classmates when the truth was that she was merely an individual who found such conformity impossible. Ranamon tells Zoe that she has no friends in the Digital World either and that her Digidestined teammates actually dislike her and talk about her behind her back. It is interesting to note here that Zoe has the exact same doubts and fears as J.P. regarding the authenticity of her friendships and as such, they are character types who really resonate with one another. This may be why J.P. and Zoe are the closest of all the Digidestined in Frontier.

Fortunately, Zoe awakens from out of her poisoned stupor by realizing that her friends must really enjoy her presence, that they are true friends indeed. She Spirit Evolves into her H Spirit form as Kazemon and proceeds to battle with Ranamon while the Honeybeemon continue to cheer on the latter, somewhat reluctantly. At a crucial point in the battle, Kazemon slide evolves into her Beast form as Zephyrmon as Ranamon does likewise and becomes Calmaramon. The outcome is as expected as Zephyrmon beats Calmaramon, but she also manages to take both of her Spirits and to digitize her Fractal Code in the process, which leaves only Mercurymon and Duskmon out of the original five Legendary Warriors of Darkness team.

Zoe and the Honeybeemon, resolved in their emotions and happy to be within each other’s presence and in the presence of friends, beam back down to the surface outside of Sakkakumon. There, Zoe, the trio of Honeybeemon, Bokomon, Neemon, J.P., and Tommy reflect upon how six of the ten Areas of Sakkakumon have now gone dark, but Koji and Takuya are still nowhere to be seen. And as they are still within the interior matrix of Sakkakumon, they alone must fight through the remaining four areas. These areas are Ice, Light, Darkness, and Steel. And presumably Darkness houses some antagonist at odds with Koji’s designation as the Legendary Warrior of Light, potentially even Duskmon himself. While the light and ice regions are probably somewhat uncontroversial, the Steel Area probably houses Mercurymon himself as the Legendary Warrior of Steel. If so, the Digidestined are just a few rooms away from defeating one of their last foes before reaching the Rose Morning Star and battling Cherubimon down the line.

It seems friendship is the theme of these Sakkakumon battle episodes as all of the Digidestined have some doubts about it. Doubts about whether their comrades are true friends or merely friends of convenience. Back in the real world, all of the Digidestined, except for Takuya, had no real friends and as such, they are all wary of whether their newfound partners will someday forget them or forsake them. A friendship or a new love is a miraculous encounter that is rare and beautiful and ought to be cherished and nurtured, coddled and protected. And for those who have given up on friendship or love, this encounter can throw one for a loop, can turn the wary into the waylaid and the wise into the foolish.

 

With love,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Dallos: The Battle of Monopolis

(Check out my previous Mamoru Oshii film review here: Urusei Yatsura: Only You)

Before the premiere of Gundam in the late 1970s and the resultant Gundam Boom of the 1980s, giant robot or mecha anime in Japan were typically of the Super Robot variety. These kinds of mecha often had flexible bodies or seemingly-impossible powers that did not conform to the laws of physics and their attendant applications of strength. A good example of this type of mecha anime in the 21st is Gurren Lagann wherein the writers postulate a new type of energy called spiral power within all living beings that allows them to dominate their enemies with basically just the strength of their wills.

When Gundam roared onto the scene with its psychological realism, narratively sophisticated plots about war, terrorism, and geopolitics in a future age, and with mecha that conformed more closely to what one might be like in real life, it changed the entire landscape for the better. Studio Pierrot head producers wished to follow up the success of Studio Sunrise’s burgeoning Gundam franchise with their own philosophically and politically sophisticated Space Opera, and to this end they hired on Mamoru Oshii and his mentor Hisayuki Toriumi to co-direct the film.

In Dallos, the Earth has run extremely low on its energy and natural resource reserves and in the early 21st century scientists found that much of the needed raw materials back on Earth could be mined on the Moon. They installed colonies of people in large containment domes who progressively eked out a place for themselves within this seemingly inhospitable landscape all while mining the resources of the land and sending it back to their ever-increasingly autocratic Earthling leaders. The people of the moon, or Lunarians, realized their subjugation to this colonial power and occasionally staged revolts and rebellions. But no avail. The people were forcibly fitted with metal Id head-bands from that point forward on which all of their criminal and public information could be scanned with little effort from the military police spinners in the sky.

A dictator named Alex Leiger has been appointed the colonial ruler and during his tenure has used the levers of power to slowly limit the freedoms of the people and choke-hold them into an ideological somnambulence. But there was once a folk hero named Tatsuya Nonomura who raised an army to fight for his people. He became a martyr, but the remnants of his movement remained and continued to fight against colonial oppression, imperial aggression, and the rape of their home’s resources, which only serve to enrich the Earthlings without likewise benefiting the Lunarian extractors of those riches.

Furthermore, there is a large machine out in the craters of the Moon, called Dallos, which is worshiped as a religious icon by the old guard Lunarians. This device’s powers have been forgotten throughout the generations and is even more mysterious as it exhibits evidence of being of extra-terrestrial origin. So when the young brother of the cult hero Tatsuya reaches adulthood and somehow manages to get caught up in the anti-Earth machinations of a terrorist cell/freedom fighter unit (in civil war’s one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist and it is only the outcome of the battle that ultimately determines the popular historical designation) of his brother’s old comrades- including the charismatic and intelligent Dog McCoy- a new war for independence begins with powerful and agile makeshift mining mechas and Dallos versus the much heavier-equipped Earth nation with its deluge of fighter ships and battle suits.

Much of the influence for the events of this film comes from the classic war film by Gillo Pontecorvo called Le Bataille d’Algers or The Battle of Algiers, which portrayed the dynamics between freedom fighting and terrorism in the face of colonial and imperial forces in perhaps the best cinematic adaptation of such a conflict to ever be staged and completed. The film follows the events of the Algerian people and their freedom fighter class who use terrorist bombings and guerrilla tactics, as well as the force of international pressure to eventually secure freedom for themselves as an independent state no longer under the control and hegemony of the French State.

The socio-political dynamic between these two narratives ought to be immediately apparent despite the geological and spatial differences involved between a war over a small channel and a war between worlds. But the characters- like Dog McCoy and the Nonomura brothers- in Dallos mirror the enigmatic leaders of the Algerian War for Independence. They repatriate tools once used for their subjugation into tools for combat against a repressive regime. And like in various iconic terrorist bombing sequences in The Battle of Algiers, female Lunarians in the city of Monopolis hide guns in baskets of flowers, which they pass on to radicals at checkpoints in order to ensure the success of high-target assassinations. They use their purses to conceal hand grenades and various improvised explosive devices in an attempt to run off their oppressors. And like in the classic Italian neo-realist tale of civil war, the military police who are native eventually switch sides and aid their homelands as they ought to have been doing the entire time anyway.

Dallos was an extremely ambitious project for its time and is considered to be the first ever OVA, or Original Video Release (direct-to-video anime release), as well as the first animated work ever released direct-to-video in general. It is a landmark film for both its technical and production aspects and is unmatched in quality even by classic OVA series released by those who worked on this project like Lily C.A.T. or Venus Wars. Many of the staff on this production, including a number of artists and the head producer, would later start their own production company called Studio Gainax and for their first really ambitious project- the masterpiece Space Opera Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise- they took Dallos as their central inspiration and high water mark of an achievement to try beating.

Although typically attributed Mamoru Oshii as head director and to his mentor and teacher Hisayuki Toriumi as writer, dig a little deeper and you will find that the entire first part of this four-section OVA series was directed by Toriumi. Oshii helmed part two, but both worked together on the third and final installments of the series. Oshii felt that the film would not have been as good as it became without Toriumi’s guiding hand and presence in the work, but the two did butt heads on many an occasion during its production  as well. From this point forward, Toriumi treated Oshii as an equal and the two never worked together on a production again as Oshii’s talents had become very apparent and he was now ready to become a head director in his own right.

Dallos is a tale about the human spirit for conquest and discovery: some of the most magnificent and beautiful aspects of our human nature. And it is simultaneously a story of geopolitics, power dynamics, and the lengths to which men will go for gold: even if it means enslaving their fellow men. And it was the springboard for an OVA Boom in the anime industry, which had never realized just how lucrative the home video market could be. More importantly, it was a springboard for Oshii, who was almost immediately given the opportunity to direct another Urusei Yatsura feature-length film. And the qualitative difference between this film and his prior attempt are leagues apart as Oshii finally found his footing as a director and developed many ideas he could not use in Dallos due to his co-director role on that production.

 

Ciao for now,

Cody

Crac!

(Check out my previous Frederic Back film review here: Tout Rien)

Before the release of Crac! in 1981, Frederic Back’s career as an animator and short film director was very intermittent at best. He created less than one short film per year and continued to make the bulk of his money working on smaller, less personal projects for the Radio Canada Broadcasting Company. But after toiling away on this film for 22 months during his free time between 1979 and 1981, Back finally released this 15-minute short film to audiences. The film made it to the shortlist for the 1981 Academy Awards for Best Short Film and even won the category, scoring Radio Canada and Back their first Oscars.

However, the process of the film’s creation was pretty arduous in a number of ways. Back required the help of an assistant for around 11 weeks during the project’s production run in addition to his own 22 months of animation work and the help of his usual team of editors and sound designers who searched tirelessly for the proper traditional Quebecois music to incorporate as a soundtrack. During this production, Back continued to paint onto frosted cells with pastel for all of the major action in the film’s sequences, but continued to advance his medium by penciling in backgrounds using the new Prismacolor pencil technology. And like all great artists seem to do at some point in their careers, he poured his blood, sweat and tears into the production, giving his all by accidentally getting fixative fumes in his right eye. This painful accident would weaken and nearly blind that eye for the remainder of Back’s life, thereby giving him his signature eyepatch in the process.

The story is one of a traditional Quebecois life of the past wherein small cities existed, but most people lived by themselves in the frontier, out in the woods where they were relatively isolated with just their family units. In this social landscape where the Church was once a great social space and public square for the disparate denizens of the cold north to congregate once in a blue moon, a young Native man finds a beautiful young French-Quebec woman to his fancy. The two go out and practice the normal courting rituals and spend time together before becoming engaged.

The young man, a woodcutter and trapper by profession, steals off into the forest one day to search for the perfect tree for carpentry work. He chops it down with his ax and the tree falls with a large crack (hence the title of the short film). The man drags it back home with the help of his horse and starts to work building his wedding gift to his lovely bride to be. The result is a rocking chair that will serve them for years to come as a beautiful reminder of their place within nature as human animals and as a token of his love for the woman forevermore. They grow together and have children who occasionally rough-house and damage the progressively ageing chair, which the man- no longer a young man- repairs often with tender loving care. And each time he repairs this icon of his life’s trajectory, he repaints it and makes it feel fresh and new thereby.

But things change, they always do. The children grow up quickly and leave the nest. The young man progresses into an old man, and eventually his wife dies. The chair’s seat breaks and the old man throws it out into the harsh clime where it sits and waits for generations as the old man perishes. His old cabin is put up for sale and eventually torn down as condos and other high-rise buildings rise up around it. Gentrification and urbanization wrack this once idyllic landscape with the visual tremors of civilization: the skyscraper, the apartment block, and finally the nuclear power plant.

But this is Back’s vision of the world and it can never remain sick for long without perishing totally. He believed in our ability as rational animals to come to the logical conclusion that we should cherish this planet and serve it well as good shepherds. Protests erupt and the power plant is gutted by the regional government that actually listens to its people. The old silo is renovated into a beautiful art museum where the elite enclave go to see abstract paintings and other forms of artwork much too cerebral to tug on the heartstrings and make one feel a positive emotion like traditional art can. A curator finds the old chair after all these generations and brings it back inside a new docile for complete restoration and a new paint job.

Once there, the chair becomes the favorite seat for a friendly security guard and guide at the museum. And more than that, the children, untainted by modernity and intellect, find the colorful and ancient chair to be absolutely fascinating. It becomes a beloved object to whole hosts of people once more and feels fulfilled in its duty as a chair that is no longer abandoned and alone in this world. And in the dark of night, when the night watchman is in a different corridor, it dances to the music made by the emotions of all of the paintings in the room and revels in its newfound usefulness: a reveling we can all sympathize with in our own wishes and desires to be useful to someone else, and to be loved by someone else by proxy.

The film is a veritable love letter to the imagined Quebec of Back’s childhood and to the historical Quebec wherein people really did live such beautiful, quaint lives in nature quite often. The young man is a paean to Back’s own uncle and the story is a reminder not to trade in old values for new ones, but to cherish the old values in the hope that they can enrich our lives in the present. Crac is the sound of a falling tree and thereby of deforestation and human progress, but it is also the sound of creation through destruction. It is the sound of a rocking chair’s rasp across the floor of a room and the sound of the breakneck pace of social change in the 20th century. A change that hasn’t slackened in the slightest into the 21st. But we can always continue to derive pleasure, joy, and energy renewal from positive traditions of yore in the hopes of assuaging some of the modern pangs of conscience and dread attendant upon us in the modern age.

 

Ciao,

Cody Ward

[Continued here: The Man Who Planted Trees]

The Dark Heart of Friendship (Digimon Frontier: Episode 25)

(Catch my previous episode review HERE)

After the defeat of Volcamon in the Earth Area of Sakkakumon, Bokomon and Neemon can see that one of the Legendary Warrior of Steel’s ten sefiroth eye nodules has gone black, meaning that this area no longer contains a champion and our Beast Spirit Legendary Warrior of Evil is 10% defeated. As all five of the Legendary Warriors of Light have been nabbed by various arms and dragged unwillingly into different eye sectors, they may soon defeat up to 60% of this titanic maze-like Digimon and ready themselves once more for the journey toward the Rose Morning Star where Ophanimon awaits their arrival.

In this episode, however, we are only privy to the goings-on around Tommy and Koji, who have fallen into the Flame and Wind areas respectively. In the previous episode, J.P. just happened to wander off from his friends and fall into the Earth Area, which just so happened to be his weakness as the Legendary Warrior of Lightning. For Tommy, he too has managed to find himself in the heart of enemy territory as the Legendary Warrior of Ice who is most susceptible to flame. As Koji has already gone head-to-head with Darkness in his battle against Duskmon previously, he is thrown into the Wind Area instead, though he may later have to fight against the darkness within himself after all in the Dark Area of Sakkakumon.

Tommy, while alone in this hell-like region where flames and plumes of fire and lava come spurting out of the ground at irregular intervals, finds himself all alone and vulnerable. He reflects on past talks with his older brother Yutaka (who is voiced by the same voice actor as Tai in the English dub). At home, Tommy was babied by his parents constantly and given just about anything he wanted. Yutaka realized that his parents were potentially harming Tommy emotionally and often tried to talk to Tommy about it, relating to him that the outside world becomes harsher year after year once you become a teenager. Yutaka meant to tell Tommy to toughen up in the hopes that no one would take advantage of his childish manner and so he could get some real friends at school one day, but Tommy thought his older brother was merely mocking him and being mean because their parents seemed to like Tommy more as the baby of the family.

Within the Flame Area, an Ultimate-level legendary Digimon named Asuramon (from the Hindu god of fire and destruction, if I’m not mistaken) appears and attacks Tommy. He immediately  begins calling out for his friends, the other Digidestined, which makes him realize that he does rely on others too often and maybe needed some of the harsh talk from his brother to become stronger-willed. Asuramon disappears, and a cloaked figure approaches who claims that he has scared off Asuramon for the time being. This Digimon is large and scary, but claims to have Tommy’s best interests at heart and wishes to become his friend. He purportedly leads Tommy to his friends and even brings him water to drink from time to time, which allows Tommy to wallow in reliance upon another for a time.

When it becomes apparent that this Digimon is not leading him back to his friends or to the exit of this world, and is instead driving him onward to progressively hotter, harsher climes until they reach the top of a lava mountain, Tommy asks his friend where they are really going. The ‘friend’ responds that he needed to go to the mountain first to grab something before bringing Tommy back to his friends on the outside world, but Tommy is not fooled. He understands that a true friend does not think of things in a tit-for-tat mode and instead is willing to help the other, even disproportionately if necessary. The friend reveals his true face as Asuramon and Tommy Spirit Evolves into Kumamon, and then eventually Slide Evolves into Korikakumon to defeat his relatively under-powered foe. When Tommy steps out of the Flame Area and into the eye portal to escape, he no longer holds any doubts about his older brother’s good intentions and he feels himself to now be emotionally resolved of his past problems. This feeling of wholeness and lack of self-doubt transports him out of Sakkakumon entirely and onto the shores of the precipice over which Sakkakumon floats. Most importantly, Tommy is back with Bokomon and Neemon.

Concurrently with the events described above, Koji finds himself within a grove in the Wind Area where those with a control of the air can dictate the battle. As he wanders about, a voice calls out and taunts him before appearing as the Tengu-Prince Digimon Karatenmon. This Digimon takes its appearance from a particular Oni in Japanese mythology that lives high in the mountains called the tengu who are associated most closely with the syncretic Buddhist-Shinto religion of Shugendo. and like that mythological beast, this Digimon is garbed in the ceremonial clothing of the Shugendo priesthood.

(A little aside, but about three years back, I spent a week at a little village called Dorogawa at the foot of Mt. Omine near Nara, Japan. This mountain is considered one of the holiest in Shugendo practice and is extremely difficult and treacherous to climb as it requires the use of ropes and chains with which to leap over precipices. As the climb is still forbidden to women and there were girls in my group, we instead made the climb up the secondary mountain of the region and performed cold water ablutions in 20 degree weather at the local Shugendo temple. The people of Dorogawa have a running tradition which states that they are not mere mortals, but are instead the mixed progeny of Oni and human beings. It was a great little place with amazing food and culture that I hope to visit again one day.)

Karatenmon continues to berate Koji from the trees and only descends for battle once he Spirit Evolves to Lobomon. The big bird wishes, like all Digimon in the service of Cherubimon, to defeat Koji and take his Spirits for the cause. And like all of his fellow Ultimate-level Digimon throughout Sakkakumon, he uses some mental games to his advantage in the fight. This time around the target is Koji’s lone wolf attitude and, displaying some mysterious knowledge about Koji’s inner life like all the previous enemies of this domain, he knows that Koji retains some sort beef with his mother who presumably left his father and him behind. Unfortunately for Karatenmon, he only succeeds in enraging Koji into Slide Evolving into KendoGarurumon and taking him out with an onslaught of attacks that makes overkill seem too light a word.

Koji exits the room, but Karatenmon’s words still weigh heavily on his heart, and as such, Koji remains within the complex of Sakkakumon generally. Three lights have now gone out in the outward eyes of Sakkakumon and he is 30% beaten. One can only surmise it is a matter of time before the others come to grips with their demons, defeat their foes, and make their way to the Steel Area where Mercurymon may be waiting as a last boss within Sakkakumon, a last boss whose defeat I surmise will be the end of Mercurymon as a Legendary Warrior.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Alone, But Never Alone (Digimon Frontier: Episode 24)

(Check out my previous Digimon Frontier episode review HERE)

Ranamon and Mercurymon are back at their hideout in the Old Castle licking their wounds and mapping out a new plan of attack. Whereas Ranamon is a bit annoyed that they retreated from battle last time, Mercurymon saw it as a necessary evil because of the fact that the Digidestined have finally learned about their connection to the Digital World as Legendary Warriors and are now able to harness the power of nature to their advantage tactically. Elsewhere int he castle, Duskmon sulks while reflecting on why he seems to be kinship or affection for Koji who ought to be just another stumbling block in the way of fulfilling Cherubimon’s desire to rule the Digital world totally and utterly. He also wonders aloud who Koji is in relation to himself as he seems to know Koji for some reason.

The Digidestined, after having shaken off the three remaining Legendary Warriors of Darkness in the Dark Continent, are back on track toward the Rose Morning Star. and they seem to be more joyful than usual as J.P. takes command as the team leader at the head of the party for a while and the others rib him playfully for being so boisterous. And then the ground opens up beneath the Digidestined team as Sakkakumon appears above and entraps the Digidestined within his web of emotional mazes. This new Digimon is the Beast Spirit evolution of Mercurymon, which disputes my claim in the last episode that he didn’t Spirit Evolve again because he didn’t have a second form. Instead, it turns out that Mercurymon’s second form is not ideal for battle, but only for mind tricks like the ones he is about to play with the Digidestined.

Bokomon and Neemon manage to escape the fall into Sakkakumon’s interior labyrinth of fleshy walls and bowels while their friends become subject to the prying of gooey hands that threaten to grapple with them at any moment and throw them into various areas of Sakkakumon’s 10-part eyeball Sefiroth matrix structure. The first to fall into a trap is J.P. who finds himself within the Earth Area of this matrix. We will later learn that each area represents one of the ten legendary warriors, and it is unfortunate for J.P. that he falls within the Earth Area of all places because of the ineffective power of electric elements possessed by his Legendary Warrior Spirits on ground-type enemies.

J.P. immediately finds himself in the company of an Ultimate-level Digimon called Volcamon who manages to convince J.P. for a time that his friends really only tolerate him because he is a Legendary Warrior and they need his strength. J.P. is able to get into a proper frame of mind relatively quickly and realize that Volcamon is merely manipulating his emotions to make him more susceptible to defeat in battle. He Spirit Evolve into Beetlemon and defeats Volcamon. However, by absorbing his Fractal Code, Beetlemon gains a new problem: the data was cursed with an emotional bug that manifests as a shadow version of himself. The fighting field rises up high into the air and manifests cables around its perimeter like a wrestling ring.

Outside of this battlefield, the rocks in the Earth Area transform into reproductions of the facades of J.P.’s friends who berate him from the sidelines and encourage the ShadowBeetlemon to crush him. J.P. thinks back to his time in school when he would get other kid’s attention by doing cool magic tricks and by offering them chocolate and other candy. J.P. was, like class clowns, a kid who desperately wanted and needed attention from his peers. But more than anything else, he wanted friends who would enjoy his presence without all of these accoutrements to his personality like games, magic tricks, and bribery with food. J.P. was popular, but had no close relationships in the Real World, and for a time he confuses that past reality with the current reality of the Digital World where he does have real friends in his comrades.

Those comrades have been searching everywhere for their friend during this ordeal and eventually find the eye into which J.P. fell earlier in the episode. They enter it and get J.P.’s attention, and cheer him on from the sidelines as all good friends would. J.P. Beast Spirit evolves into Metal?Kabuterimon, while his shadow does likewise and the two trade blows with their normal attacks until J.P. realizes that this tactic won’t work. He switches gears and uses his most powerful attack, which destroys the shadow but threatens to harm himself in the process. And somehow, he manages to make it none worse for the wear as his real friends surround him with concern about his well-being, which makes him realize that he really has made some important, lasting friendships in the Digital World (as well as one that could prove to be of great romantic interest in later life: Zoe).

The Digidestined escape from the Earth Area of Sakkakumon’s interior, but are then accosted by the hands within once again. All five kids are dragged off into different regions of Sakkakumon’s Legendary Warrior elemental Sefiroth matrix where they will no doubt undergo their own trials and tribulations in the following episode. Sakkakumon is an interesting Legendary Warrior in this regard as his powers go far beyond the physical (as he is actually quite brittle in his Beast Spirit form) and are instead about mind games and slowly driving his enemies to madness or self-doubt. This move set corresponds well to Mercurymon’s cerebral speech patterns and attitude, and it also serves as a cool way to break up the constant dynamic of a series like Digimon with all of its attendant shonen tropes like a new enemy appearing that is too powerful to defeat until the protagonist/s gain a new power.

Here, the Digidestined must trust in their intellects, and strike that in their hearts to escape this enemy and continue their pursuit of the Rose Morning Star whose rays symbolize the salvation of the Digital World.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Sockit Takuya (Digimon Frontier: Episode 23)

(Check out my previous review HERE. Or to go back to the beginning of this series click HERE)

I love puns, and dad jokes abound in my own day-to-day repartee, but the title of this particular episode explodes even my brain. A little aside I recently heard from a friend: ‘I just finished work for the week and was looking for a place to cash my check nearby. Found this bank, so I pulled in. Saw it said 24-hour banking, so I immediately left to find someplace else. I didn’t have that kind of time to wait around, ya know?’ This one’s by Steven Wright apparently.

Agunimon returns to the Digital World an immediately feels differently in these surroundings. He has finally realized as a Legendary Warrior who can inhabit and use the Spirits of ancient warrior Digimon that he is more than a mere human being in a video game. No, he is at least partly Digimon himself. What this means is Takuya now has an innate contact point with the Digital World as his homeplace where Digimon like himself are born, live, and die. And he has a new power: being able to sense the change of the seasons and of the weather patterns in this digital landscape. He will later use this power to help his friends out in the battle ahead.

First, Agunimon comes across Bokomon and Neemon who have separated from the others during Agunimon’s short absence. They are being tormented by a Sepikmon and his Spirit Boomerang weapon as the beast wishes to have friends, but also requires his friends to dance with him. As Bokomon is an intellectual averse to dancing and Neemon has two left feet, they both refuse and continue to be berated by the Shaman Armor Digimon. Agunimon arrives and manages to catch the Spirit Boomerang and give Sepikmon a quaint little lesson in friendship by explaining that to be friends he must merely not harm his would-be friends with his weapons. The four bond for a moment and Sepikmon reveals that he knows the whereabouts of their friends, which he can lead them to by throwing his boomerang as if a homing beacon of sorts. They decide to follow the weapon and eventually find the Old Castle grounds where their friends are being held.

There, J.P., Zoe, and Tommy have been chained upon a large ceremonial slab where they are being held against their will by Mercurymon, Ranamon, and a trio of Datamon who are tinkering with the Digidestined’ D-Tectors in an attempt to draw out and steal their Legendary Warrior Spirits. What’s worse, Koji has found his friends in this predicament, but is prevented from interceding on their behalf because he is so widely outnumbered and because the Datamon are protected within a force field that prevents him from nabbing the D-Tectors and adding his friends into the fray of the battle. Calmaramon and Mercurymon are also torturing the apprehended Digidestined by tickling them and making them sneeze with a feather across their noses in the hopes that they will learn either the secret to unleashing and thereby stealing the Spirits, or information regarding the whereabouts of their friends.

When Calmaramon begins to use her dark powers to torture J.P. through physical pain, Koji finally intervenes in the scene and fights Mercurymon and Calmaramon single-handedly. It is during this futile battle that Agunimon arrives on the scene. However, he does not immediately enter the fight and instead senses a change in the weather. A storm is approaching with heavy winds, thunder and lightning, and snow. These elements will help stoke of the flames of his own fire-based attacks, strengthen Kazemon’s vortices of wind, amplify Beetlemon’s electric surges, and snowball the strength of Kumamon’s ice, while not effecting, but not harming Lobomon’s Light-based arsenal. When the storm finally settles in, Agunimon jumps into action and distracts Mercurymon and Calmaramon while Lobomon frees his friends and their D-Tectors, thereby allowing them all to Spirit Evolve into their H Spirit forms and dole out a beating to the two Legendary Warriors of Darkness present at the moment.

Mercurymon and Calmaramon run away to the Old Castle to lick their wounds and complain about the Digidestined’ team’s newfound tactical fighting approach. And the Digidestined meanwhile thank Takuya for returning to help them out in this moment of dire need while forgiving him for leaving them behind while he did. Hell, if he had not left in the first place, this newfound strength of his would have never surfaced in the first place. Takuya reflects on his newfound understanding of himself as truly part-Digimon and tells the others how this realization has helped to unlock previously un-thought of power and skill. Everyone is simultaneously in awe of Takuya’s new headspace as a leader and proud of his growth as a person.

The only really unfortunate part of this episode is that neither Calmaramon nor Mercurymon were defeated fully by the Digidestined while they had the chance. This could be due to the tactical problem they all share regarding their unwillingness to use their much-stronger Beast Spirit forms in lieu of their more agile H Spirits. If they had all Spirit Evolved to their B Spirits, they may have only had to have dealt with one more Legendary Warrior of Darkness (Duskmon) before moving along to tackle the bigger problem of Cherubimon. But hey, all in good time right? Still 27 episodes to go.

Also, earlier I stated that Mercurymon must have a Beast Spirit evolution because of his willingness to rib Ranamon for not having one (this was before she gained her B Spirit). After all, how can one make fun of someone else for not having a particular thing if they too are so indisposed? However, in this episode, Mercurymon was almost in dire straits, in danger of being defeated by the Digidestined. And yet he did not Spirit Evolve into a stronger form that may have helped him. This leads me to believe that he may still not have such a form at this point. But I’ll just have to wait to find out more.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

Home Again, Takuya Returns (Digimon Frontier: Episode 22)

(Check out the previous review HERE)

As DarkTrailmon speeds along the tracks into the dark corners of memory, Takuya reflects on how his gung-ho approach to fighting caused his friends to be hurt by Duskmon. At the denouement of the last episode, he was asked if he wanted to return home and replied in the affirmative. Because Digimon (at least at this point in the franchise’s development) does not waste our time or kill our brain cells with recap episodes like many other long-running series, they use novel plot devices like this one to return our protagonists to a certain point where they can subtly reflect on the past without being explicit about what happened.

The first notable instance of this type of novel, subtle recapping was way back in the first series Digimon Adventure 01. Then, in episode 21, Tai is returned home through the forces of the Dark Ocean and his own melancholia regarding his perceived failure as a team leader. But throughout the events of this episode, he realizes that the world he is living within is nothing but a mirage created by the Dark Ocean to lull him into a stupor and prevent him from achieving his goal of saving the Digital World. Likewise, Takuya returns home for much the same reasons and likewise he returns not to his own world but to a replica of that world created by his imagination coupled with the dark powers of mischief used against him previously by Duskmon.

Along the way home, Takuya transforms into the Rookie-level Digimon form of his Legendary Warrior Spirit, which is called Flamemon. The metamorphosis is apparently painful, but necessary as he is constantly tailed by the apparition of Duskmon where ever he goes within this illusory, phantom world of his imagination. Takuya also finds that the world once returned to is nothing as he had imagined it would be. This is so because time moved backwards and he has arrived in the Real World on the same day when he left for the Digital World. Only he is there hours before his initial departure and can now change the outcome of events from that day if he really wishes to do so.

What he notices first is that people can see him and react to him as Flamemon pretty negatively. Second, that he himself, the human Takuya, is still back at home and has not received the message from Ophanimon on his cell phone to go toward the Shibuya Station Underground Terminal. Flamemon-Takuya becomes intensely nostalgic for home and wishes he had remained behind to celebrate his little brother’s birthday with him and to play soccer with his father that weekend as they had planned long ago. He decides to outmaneuver himself and prevent the human Takuya from entering the Trailmon at the station and thereby from ever leaving home in the first place. As this whole exercise is one of memory and not truly one of altering fact and past events, this course of action is extremely dangerous as it is self-defeating (he would not be who he is if he had not entered the Digital World) and thereby potentially a course of action leading only to a complex form of personality-suicide. That is to say, he will not actually prevent himself from having entered the Digital World in the first place, but will instead only destroy his mind or break it so that it too can fall into the clutches of darkness like Duskmon’s has.

During the journey, Flamemon can be seen by average people, which prompts him to hide himself away from sight whenever possible. But this only prompts Duskmon to appear and haunt Flamemon back into action. Flamemon cannot, however, be seen by the human Takuya despite how many times he attempts to appear to himself to prevent his advancement toward the station. He can influence himself by speaking to the human Takuya though and manages to get into his head enough that he almost misses his train.

Another interesting thing that Flamemon sees whilst traveling about his city is the presence of a child who looks identical to Koji and is also on the train a mere rail-car away. Flamemon follows this kid around a bit and finds that he knows Koji’s name as well, despite Koji having no knowledge of having a twin brother or doppelganger. This kid follows Koji to the station, but is too slow to catch up with him on the elevator down toward the Shibuya Station Underground Platform and instead takes the stairs. He falls to the bottom of the steps and hurts himself before calling out Koji’s name in vain. It appears he was unable to make it to the station or the trains that lead one toward the Digital World, but we will later find that this is untrue.

In the end, Takuya reflects on his past with his friends and how his adventures have shaped who he has become thus far. He realizes that without them, he is nothing, that the world has not changed, but he has and that therefore, he must give up his self-defeating quest and urge his human form to make it to the trains after all, which he does no problem. Finally, he faces his worst fears by standing up to Duskmon and destroying his apparition in a blaze of glorious fire attacks that leave Flamemon alone in the Underground Terminal with only himself and the tools he needs to take his fate by the reins.

Flamemon re-enters the DarkTrailmon in the Underground Terminal of his mind and thereby dons his destiny once more. His emaciated form transmogrifies into that of the Legendary Warrior of Fire Agunimon as he makes his way back to the Dark Terminal in the heart of the Dark Continent. And the Agunimon-Takuya who exits that rail car looks more confident, and powerful, then we’ve ever seen him hitherto. In philosophical terms, there is light, which is powerful. But if darkness sublimates and undergirds that light it can consume it and become something as powerful as Duskmon whose light is constantly consumed by darkness. However, the final synthesis is the overcoming of this darkness and a final return to a light so sharpened and refined as to potentially be the strongest piercing tool against the onslaught of darkness. This is the weapon Agunimon has donned by moving through the darkness, and it may just be the weapon that defeats Duskmon.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

 

Darkest Before Duskmon (Digimon Frontier: Episode 21)

(Check out my previous Digimon Frontier episode review HERE)

This episode begins in media res as Duskmon, the H Spirit Legendary Warrior of Darkness, faces off against the five Digidestined in their Beast Spirit Evolutions. In the past, the Beast Spirits of Earth and Wood, Gigasmon and Petaldramon, were no match for the Digidestined when in their own Beast Spirit forms. As Duskmon is only in his weaker H Spirit form one would imagine that this battle would go relatively smoothly and he would be defeated rather quickly. However, Duskmon lays waste to his opponents without breaking a sweat. He is within his domain and as we will later learn, his Spirit of Darkness is not the true form of the Legendary Warrior’s power that he commands.

No, Duskmon has been corrupted by darkness and the evil within his heart preys upon his senses and emotions in its all-consuming manner, which makes his H Spirit form stronger than even a Beast Spirit (which is a Mega-equivalent form). Duskmon’s H Spirit is even stronger than five Beast Spirits, which means his power level is well above that of your average Mega and would presumably, therefore, challenge even the Dark Emperor Cherubimon’s strength if they ever came to blows.

The Digidestined fail to make a dent in Duskmon’s defenses even with coordinated attacks and teamwork, and as such, Takuya gets annoyed and rushes in to fight on his own, which only gets him knocked out. When he comes to, his friends have reverted to their H Spirit forms to capitalize on increased agility and BurningGreymon rushes in and uses his strongest fire attack to toast Duskmon. Takuya believes he has defeated Duskmon, but Koji went sword to sword with their enemy and knows he has been holding back throughout the entire battle, so he suggests they run away for the time being to regroup and come up with a better plan. Everyone listens to Koji, much to Takuya’s chagrin as he believes, illicitly, he has defeated Duskmon for good.

After the Digidestined escape and bed down for the night far away from where they encountered Duskmon, J.P. lights a fire and talks with Zoe for a time about their team dynamics. He recognizes that its a good thing to have a hot-head like Takuya and a cool, calculating figure like Koji on their team as it helps their team to be dynamic like the very fire beneath his feet, which would go out if smothered by too much wood or if the wood was packed too closely together. The moment serves as romantic sort of character development meeting between himself and Zoe, as well as a counterpoint to Koji and Takuya who still don’t understand that their team’s strength lies precisely in its multitude of voices and opinions.

During this time, Takuya has been making a plan for a new attack formation against Duskmon. Tommy finds Takuya in the woods after his planning and learns of the new objective, which he immediately champions to the others. Tommy does this because he looks up to Takuya as a brother figure more than any of the other Digidestined and even hero-worships the guy to an extent. When they emerge from the woods, Takuya presents the plan, which involves a well-thought out flank attack with elements of surprise thrown in. Koji, however, requests a private audience with Takuya where he reminds his comrade that this is no game and that if they fail in their fight against Duskmon that could spell the end for them all. Koji’s focus on death is important here as the kids really could be killed in the Digital World and are not necessarily bound to win just because they are Digidestined. Takuya counters by saying he trusts in their ability to work as a team and that Duskmon will track them down no matter how far they run anyway.

This argument is compelling and almost sways Koji, but he has the firsthand knowledge of actually battling Duskmon hand to hand, and is thereby sure that they could in no way defeat him given their current power levels and the vast differential of that power versus Duskmon’s. The argument ends when the two hear their friends fighting in the distance. It seems Duskmon appeared at the least opportune time possible.

Tommy, Zoe, and J.P. Spirit Evolve into their B Spirits as Korikakumon, Zephyrmon, and MetalKabuterimon before holding off Duskmon long enough for their friends to arrive and join in. Koji arrives as KendoGarurumon and Takuya as Agunimon. The latter approaches Duskmon and finds his attacks wanting just as did Koji before him. He instead holds Duskmon in place long enough for his comrades to launch their most potent weapons toward the Legendary Warrior of Darkness. And again, not a dent to his defenses, Duskmon returns the blow by striking his sword across the mid-section of Agunimon, but Koji shows himself to be a true team player by jumping in to intervene and take the blow himself. This nearly cleaves him in twain, leaving his friends thumbing in awe and terror that Koji has almost been killed. Takuya, especially, is upset and expresses his fear and sadness at his friend’s current state by calling out his name.

And then an odd thing occurs. Duskmon, after hearing the name ‘Koji’, begins speaking it to himself. He finds some part of himself, deep within rebelling against all his attempts to finish the battle. And he understands not why his mind recoils so to this name, which means nothing to him as far as he can tell. Duskmon ceases his attacks and a ring of darkness escapes from around his body, enveloping all those in its perimeter. Takuya falls into a deep state of depression and self-loathing in the knowledge that his actions may have killed his friend and brother in arms Koji. And as if in the Dark Ocean, he is transported to another area of the Dark continent where a voice speaks to him and tells him he is being delivered to the the Dark Terminal where a DarkTrailmon waits for him if he wishes to return back home to the Real World.

Takuya seemingly takes this option and leaves his friends behind so as to avoid responsibility for jeopardizing their lives ever again. The irony is that without one of the Legendary Warriors of light, the Digidestined team is all the weaker and may in fact be at a dangerous disadvantage without Takuya, no matter how haughty and hot-headed he can be.

 

Ciao for now,

The Digidestined Cody

[Continued HERE]

I want to eat your pancreas

Through Fathom Events previews online and in theaters, I’ve been hearing about this film constantly for around four or five months. And during that entire time, I was probably- like many of you- very confused about what this film was. The title’s implication brings to mind immediately concepts like cannibalism and horror, while the previews show a seemingly innocent high school romance between two kids with no violence or guro aspects at all. The film’s theme song seems cheerful, inspirational, but with a solemnity hidden deeper therein and the tears that abound throughout the trailers demonstrate this darker side of the romance hinted at therein to be true. So when I went in to watch the film a few days ago, I was definitely in for a surprise.

But first, the specs. The film was released in September 2018, so the American theatrical audience is getting this film pretty quickly for an anime. It is based on a 2014 novel by Japanese writer Yoru Sumino and has hitherto been adapted into two other mediums before becoming an animated film. These include a long-running manga adaptation from 2016-2017 and a live-action feature film in late 2017. The property proved popular and lucrative, so Studio VOLN bought the anime adaptation rights and set studio director Shinichiro Ushijima as head director on the project.

If you haven’t heard of VOLN, or ‘Visiting Old Learn New’ (a sentiment that reflects the studio’s desire to simultaneously create work within a larger tradition of anime classics while also experimenting and embracing new technology), then you’re not alone. They are a very new studio, which was founded in late 2014 by Mita Keiji, an ex-Studio Madhouse director and producer. And thus far, most of their projects were financially assisted by brother ex-Madhouse Studio MAPPA and Masao Maruyama. VOLN is just getting its legs fiscally, but with I want to eat your pancreas, they have a good first international hit critically and financially that should bode well for the studio’s future if they can keep up the quality of work and their commitment to both the future and the past of anime history.

As for the film itself, it begins in the manner any art film adaptation of the source novel might: with a funeral. By beginning in this manner, the audience is primed toward a solemn, reflective, and emotional frame of mind that carries on throughout the remainder of the film. From here, the events flash back to the time our two young protagonists first meet. The boy, whose name will not be revealed until close to end of the film for certain dramatic, thematic, and narrative reasons (a trifecta of considerations this film really nails) is at the hospital getting stitches removed from a previous surgery: an appendectomy. There, this quiet, introverted, bookish young man finds a handwritten book abandoned on a nearby seat. He picks it up and leafs through the pages of the self-titled tome ‘Living with Dying’. These are the thoughts of a terminally ill person that he has managed to accidentally enter into.

A girl flags him down and tells him that the book is hers. The two just so happen to be classmates and the girl is not known to be ill by her fellows at school. The boy originally thinks this to be some elaborate kind of prank, but she ensures him that it is not. She has a terminal pancreatic condition, a disease of the pancreas that will inevitably lead to her untimely death in a few short years from now. Only her parents, close family, and physician know about her illness, but now the boy knows and the girl feels somewhat relieved. She asks him if he will keep her secret and he agrees, especially since he has no one to tell the secret to anyway. The boy has no friends and has never had a girlfriend. He is a loner, but now this girl has entered his life.

It begins when she visits him in the library where he works part time. She bugs him all constantly to learn more about him. She even starts coming by all the time and eventually tells him the fable at the heart of the film’s title: In the past, it was said that eating the heart of an animal would help someone with a weak heart. Eating a liver would help someone with liver disease. The girl practices this ethos by consuming organ meat like hearts, livers, and offal at her favorite yakiniku, or skewered meat, restaurants in town. Playfully, she tells the boy that she wants to eat his pancreas, of course being tongue-in-cheek, but also reflecting her vitality and will to live. The friendship begins to expand as she drags the boy along with her from place to place and date to date before it eventually becomes a heartfelt friendship that transcends labels like best friend or boyfriend and girlfriend.

They enjoy each other’s company and help to build each other up. The boy by being there for her and doing things with her without an ulterior motive like sexual attraction or the more romantic view towards planning a future together. The girl by bringing the boy out of his shell and making him more outgoing, by seeing him for who he truly is and learning to love him despite his flaws. Events unfold unexpectedly time and again, before the final event which neither saw coming despite the girl’s illness and the boy is left alone once again.

I want to eat your pancreas is a beautiful little uplifting film with large-scale implications about our default modes of behavior toward other people based on the situation. It’s a portrait of love in its many vicissitudes that leaves you feeling emotionally drained, but stronger in your convictions to go forward bravely into this new world where the nexus of social relations and connections is shifting so rapidly that it can lead many to social inertia, to just dropping out of the social game (something I arguably did for around three years until late last year). And it pressures us to treasure all our benign relationships with others, no matter how fleeting, even by design (such as terminal illness, or meeting friends in a foreign country even if your stay is short, or at a local school even if you are moving soon). I loved the film, and I hope you do too.

 

With love,

Cody

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