(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
(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
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
(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
(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
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.
(Catch my review of Oshii’s early career HERE)
Anime director and auteur Mamoru Oshii began his career at Tatsunoko Productions in 1977 where he was mentored under that studio’s head director before making the move along with him to Studio Pierrot in 1980. There Mamoru Oshii helmed his first anime production as head director on the critically-acclaimed and beloved Rumiko Takahashi adaptation Urusei Yatsura (for its first 106 episodes). By 1983, the Studio decided it was time to make a bold move into the feature film market with an adaptation of a new story within the Urusei Yatsura universe. And Oshii was the obvious choice to direct the film.
The film follows the exploits of Ataru Moroboshi, a young earthling, who is inexplicably the love interest for one of the universe’s most eccentric, powerful, and beautiful woman: the Oni princess Lum Invader. This film in particular begins with an art nouveau sequence in which only reds, blacks, and whites are utilized to animate a sequence from Ataru’s deep past. Therein, he and a mystery girl romp about a playground together eleven years in the past. We learn that the little girl is from an alien planet, like Lum, with its own culture and practices. One of which, and the most important in reference to the events of this film, is the engagement ritual in which a young suitor steps on the shadow of his would-be beloved. This signals his interest in the girl and thereby engages the two, and as luck would have it, Ataru is a very mediocre kid with a very unlikely past indeed as he stepped on this girl’s shadow at that time.
Years pass, and we are thrown back into the current world of Urusei Yatsura wherein Ataru runs about whimsically avoiding becoming Lum’s groom at all costs and through any gambit he can muster up (understandable for any real high school kid being pursued romantically by an alien, but infuriating for any young weebs like myself who can only dream of such a glorious fate!). Where was I again? Oh yeah: a mysterious message is sent to practically every person who knows Ataru on Earth, which relates his engagement and immanent marriage to a girl named Elle. His friends, already jealous of Lum’s affections for Ataru, are incredulous that Ataru would go behind Lum’s back and get himself engaged to another girl. Ataru is confused as he does not remember the events of eleven years ago, and anyway would most likely find them banal and not truly pact-worthy in nature.
And yet, Lady Elle has grown into a beautiful young woman who now reigns as Queen over her subjects as the ruler of the largest and most powerful planet in the galaxy system. Ataru is smitten immediately, which serves as the film’s primary conflict for most of its 100-minute run time of wily adventuring, boisterous action, wry comedy, and occasional musical sequence (which are all done surprisingly well). First Ataru willingly leaves with Elle’s entourage only for Lum and her friends to kidnap him and spirit him away to her own home planet where an impromptu wedding ceremony is planned. Elle’s spies steal Ataru back, almost causing a potentially cataclysmic war between the two planets for love on a scale far more weighty than Troy.
The spies eventually take Ataru successfully and he plans to marry Elle. But when Elle first sees the young man after 11 years, she mistakes him for one of Ataru’s friends in the group named Mendou Shintaru, which later leads to a midnight rendezvous avec les deux that results in Mendou learning about Elle’s secret cache of 99,999 frozen, handsome young men she keeps cryogenically frozen to preserve their youth and their love for her. The Queen is crazy after all. When Ataru finds all of this out, he refuses to wed with such a pernicious and seemingly evil alien broad, and is saved in the nick of time once more by Lum who is now welcomed with open arms as her entourage cause chaos on Elle’s home planet where the wedding ceremony takes place. Unfortunately for Ataru, once again, when he arrives home, he is immediately deposited within a large church where the vows are to be made between himself and Lum on the spot. Ataru runs for his life, and his freedom, out of chapel and prolongs of the saga of Urusei Yatsura once more for an indefinite period thereby.
Mamoru Oshii called Urusei Yatsura: Only You a failure of a film. However, artists in any medium are known to often be overly critical of their own work, and especially of their first work. As this was Oshii’s first feature-length project as a director, we really ought to take his admonitions of failure with a grain of salt and view the film on its own terms.
The first question is what should a film be? If the answer is taken historically and realistically in terms of what films succeed and are remembered, I would say a film is good if that film properly entertains an audience for its full run-time, if a film adaptation of a previously existing franchise fits well into that franchise, if critics like it, and if it is becomes a cult film at some future date. There are, no doubt, many other criterion one might add to this list, but these are at least important ones to reflect upon in the context of Urusei Yatsura: Only You.
I found the film to be extremely engaging and fun at times as a mere romp, while also aesthetically pleasing and artfully made in terms of animation. While not an intellectual effort on par with later Oshii films, there is a particularly good surreal sequence in which Ataru, Elle, Lum, and various others rewatch the inciting memory of eleven years prior and even interact with its characters: the child Ataru and Elle. This is a novel and interesting melange of reality and memory that prefigures much of Oshii’s later work. The film is definitely of the spirit of the larger franchise and has received favorable critical attention in the years since its release. And while not the cult film that’s its sequel Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer is, there are few anime films from the early 1980s that regularly receive releases in the Western home video market that do not simultaneously have something to do with Studio’s Ghibli or Madhouse. Plus, if you’re really into romantic-comedy action sci-fi series and can’t find a single one other than Tenchi Muyo, here’s a film for you.
[Next up: the first OVA Dallos]
(Catch my previous Frederic Back film review here: Taratata)
Quebecois animator and short film director Frederic Back’s sixth film is important within his oeuvre for one principal reason: the innovative new approach to animation used therein. Rather than using large quantities of paper anymore to produce his animations, Back decided he needed to find a cost-effective and ecologically-sound way to make his films. The result of his search was a new process whereby Back used frosted cells, which he would animate, commit to celluloid, and then reuse by either making small changes for the next shot or by erasing his work to create a new scene entirely. Even though this process was more in keeping with Back’s ecological concerns, it was a slow process wherein multiple frames could not be worked on at once by a team. As such, even with two assistants on the film, it took the team 20 months to complete this 11 minute, 30 second long short film.
The story is extremely philosophically and theologically resonant while never making reference to any particular mythos and instead concerning itself with a sort of constructed or imagined creation mythos derived equally from Judeo-Christian tradition and Native American cosmology. A vague, personified cosmic force with the general appearance of a human being lives within a universe that is void and without form. This being decides to bring into creation other beings who may commune with it. The first are the birds who come into the world naked, featherless. They emerge from out of the void of Being into another kind of void where they now exist but live without direction, meaning, and in a cold world where their bodies are ill-equipped to handle the elements. The God-force directs their evolution through a one-time instantaneous change that allows all the birds to develop feathers and wings of ostentatious, beautiful, and varied plumage.
Next, the mammals are created to live upon the terrain of the Earth. They too are brought into being naked and afraid without fur. The God-force directs their evolution into hairy, warm animals who live in peace with the land through natural laws of predation and survival. The fish are born and the the heavens emerge to the light this new world wherein so much bounty has been established. And all things are good and well, are wholesome and gay in aspect.
And then the God-force creates a pair of beings in its image: the humans. They are endowed with the power of intellect, reason, fore-thought. But with this great gift, so too arise negative forces like desire. The animals, endowed with animality as opposed to God-gifts of language and intellect, live with the world and in the world. They do not desire things beyond the fleeting momentary ones needed for survival. Through this imbecility, they remain pure, sinless, and live without a fear of death because their thoughts don’t reach forward for very long into the domain of the future. They are, in a complicated German philosophical strung together word, Being-There, Dasein, and happy.
The human pair arrive and immediately covets the majestic potential of life undersea with the fish. The God-force grants their desires to appease them and changes them into merpeople who live amongst the sea’s creatures for a time before becoming tired of these surroundings and crying out to the heavens for a change. Next, the humans become hairy beasts who roam the land with the other animals, consume weaker forms of life with their claws and teeth, and generally live as Bigfoot-like monsters, which also bores them after a time. Finally, the people are changed into bird-people who admire their own plumage and attempt to live within the branches of trees. However, having heavy bones and large frames only makes life difficult so up high as they break branch after branch in their tree-domiciles.
Finally, the God-force decides to forsake these presumptuous human beings who thought they could just demand and demand again and again from their creator, progenitor, from the wellspring of their being. They are reverted back to naked human beings who then create their own weapons to destroy other forms of life once more. This time, however, this destructive work is not undergone for sustenance, for food, it is undertaken to artificially constrain the powers of nature to themselves. They kill all kinds and don the dead’s skins as fancy accoutrements to their newfound powers as murderous beings who kill for sport and comfort.
The generations pass and children are born to these beings. Those children are indoctrinated into the murderous lifestyles of their forebears. They travel and spread by foot before developing ships with which to conquer the world. They go whaling, harness the oil therein, create factories and oil refineries, deforesting operations and natural resource extraction, automobiles and planes arise. Industry booms as cities expand, and so too do production and wealth increase as waste and abject poverty become the norm for the majority of those wretched of the earth (to quote a Franz Fanon title). Human beings become more than a member of the animal kingdom. They become the master species whose exploits have the ability to alter the very inner workings of the world itself.
And they kill the God-force with their bows and arrows and other weaponry, just as we have killed spirituality and a belief in forces outside of our power through modern medicine, science, and technology. They rely on medicine for cures rather than on nature’s discretion about who will live and die, they rely on science to avert global catastrophe or lessen their effects, and they rely on technology to prolong their lives. All commendable things in a world where there is no God, but Back’s imaginative plain here is not such a world. And as such, the final action for these people is only to return to nature, to recognize their animality, and to become one with the world once again rather than coveting all its spoils. The God-force revives after this about face by the humans and all is restored to an idyllic world. If only such a narrative were true and such a return were possible in our own world.
[Continued here with Back’s award-winning 1981 film Crac!]
Arbormon finally returns back to the lair of the Legendary Warriors of Darkness, where he commences weight-training to get into the proper headspace for battle. Mercurymon enters the room and begins to insult Arbormon’s intelligence using terminology that Arbormon does not understand and thereby Mercurymon has his fun whilst preventing lighting a fire or provoking the ire of his dim-witted companion. Duskmon, however, understands Mercurymon completely and later picks up on one of the would-be thespian’s exterior monologues reflecting his wishes to hide the Seraphimon Fractal Code from Cherubimon and to later use it’s powers to become the Dark Lord of the Digital World himself.
Despite the fact that Duskmon has not yet fought any of the Digidestined and has remained on the sidelines, presumably planning some machinations for their later defeats, he is still a devoted follower of Cherubimon. As such, he relates the information he overheard from Mercurymon to Cherubimon who later summons his Legendary Warriors and requests all of their Fractal Code. Mercurymon, of course, withholds the Seraphimon code, and Cherubimon intimates to Mercurymon that he knows all about the data and will allow Mercurymon to keep it in trust for the time being, but will take this data anytime he sees fit in the future.
Elsewhere, the Digidestined have come to the end of the line for their Trailmon companion who has plenty of track ahead on which he could travel, but decides to end the journey abruptly. The reason? They are fast approaching the Dark Gate to the Dark Continent, which is an accursed space that no Digimon is known to have entered and escaped. Bokomon’s book of legends has a page about this territory. Unfortunately, the pages are completely blank as if no one had ever been able to fill these pages with a firsthand account. As this route is dangerous, Bokomon suggest they avoid entering it, but Takuya reasons that this path is the fastest one toward the Rose Morning Star and furthermore that they are five Legendary Warriors all with Beast Spirits who probably would be able to handle anything they encountered within the Continent of Darkness. As Beast Spirits are Mega-level equivalents in terms of power, Takuya is right here because they’re most powerful opponent, Cherubimon, is still only one Mega-level Digimon.
They head through the Dark Gate and into a pitch black morass of forested terrain. However, after a few minutes, the Digidestined gang come across a glade with glowing moss, which they investigate and eventually pick up as a light source to help them see their way through the forest. There are Digimon in the Dark Continent that seem to be trailing the Digidestined everywhere they go. And when the group reaches a cave, the Digimon start repeating everything the Digidestined team says, even tongue twisters, to a tee. Koji throws his moss in the direction of the voices and reveals a group of bat-like Pipismon who are adept at mimicking sounds, are known to be docile by Bokomon, and are even somewhat cute by Zoe’s standards.
Just as the Digidestined begin to enter the cave, Arbormon appears and threatens to defeat the Digidestined once and for all. First he destroys the Pipismon and absorbs their Fractal Code for extra energy before Slide Evolving into his Beast Spirit evolution as Petaldramon. And for the first time ever, the Digidestined do the most rational thing in response: they all Spirit Evolve to their highest level. BurningGreymon, KendoGarurumon, MetalKabuterimon, Zephyrmon, and Korikakumon all battle against Petaldramon to greater or lesser effect until the plant dragon Digimon consumes a few trees and thereby expands in size and power to a level beyond the other Legendary Warriors present. The effort all looks for naught as our heroes strain under the bondage of Petaldramon’s vines and malicious attacks until BurningGreymon uses his fire powers to free himself and then slowly the Digidestined combine their efforts to incapacitate Petaldramon at each turn by striking at vines, his tongue, his arms, and eventually flipping the big lizard on his back before doling out a decisive blow.
Petaldramon’s Fractal Code displays itself and KendoGarurumon Slide Evolves into Lobomon to absorb this data along with Petaldramon’s Beast Spirit of Wood. Petaldramon reverts to Arbormon and suddenly Duskmon appears from out of the surrounding darkness. Arbormon welcomes his comrade who is surely there only to help out in the battle at hand. Yet, Duskmon immediately cuts Arbormon in half and absorbs the remainder of his Fractal Code as well as his H Spirit of Wood, which defeats Arbormon totally and leaves only three Legendary Warriors of Darkness for the Digidestined to defeat. The audience is meant to have a feeling that Duskmon will be more powerful than any of the previous Legendary Warriors of Darkness, besides maybe Mercurymon whose reflective powers are seemingly impenetrable.
What’s even worse is that the Digidestined are all out of their element while Duskmon is within his domain as the principal Legendary Warrior of Darkness. We know he is of superior intellect as he understands the speech and intentions of Mercurymon quite well. We also know that Duskmon is mysterious and may have many powers that could prove surprising and thereby effective against the Digidestined, especially after their battle with Petaldramon that left them somewhat drained and weaker than if they had been going into this next battle fresh. Finally, we do not know if Duskmon has a Beast Spirit. But if he does, it would come as no surprise if that plus his advantage in the domain of darkness gave him the decisive advantage in this particular situation.
And well, we all know who the Legendary Warrior of Darkness truly is because no spoiler goes unspoiled for a series that has been around for over fifteen years. But for the purposes of this particular review series, I won’t give any of that away yet in the hopes that those who have not yet watched this series will do so and follow along with me.
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody
(Catch the previous review HERE)
Since Petaldramon’s defeat a few episodes back, he has once again been out of the picture. At the beginning of this episode, we get a sense of how tired he is of fighting against the Digidestined because he has seemingly left his old party as a member of the Legendary Warriors of Darkness and has instead created his own legion of Chamelemon and set up a secluded forest hideout within a large mansion on the outskirts of Hamburger Village. His motives have changed from helping Cherubimon to fracture the Digital World further and instead, Petaldramon and his troop’s new objective is to eat as much good food for free as they can by using their brute strength and numbers to thereby live off of the land through force.
The episode opens as the Chamelemon and Petaldramon enter the Village in the dead of night, seek out and find the town’s best chef, consume all his burgers to taste test their quality for themselves, and then kidnap the Champion-level Burgermon to bring back to their hideout as their personal chef. However, this head chef has a wife Burgermon and many young TorikawaBallmon children who he must support and protect. They plead with Petaldramon to return their father, but Petaldramon merely responds that he will be back on the next night that the Digital World’s three moons overlap in the night sky, and if the mother can create a better burger than the one’s made by her chef husband, then he might consider returning the head chef.
The Digidestined enter town with their previously-won all you can eat burger tickets from the Great Trailmon Race in the hopes of stuffing and engorging themselves to near bursting with hamburgers. However, they learn about the Chamelemon from the family of the Burgermon who was abducted and decide that to eat the best burgers, they must first help out in some way and return the old chef to his home. Zoe decides that they ought to create their own new burger recipes for the Chamelemon to try out so that they can follow them back to their lair, defeat them and their master, and return the head chef back home. Unfortunately, none the Digidestined have any experience cooking and as such, Takuya and Koji’s new recipes are horrendous, and J.P. and Zoe’s are only so-so. However, Tommy accidentally drops the onions he dices for his burger into a boiler, which cooks them in an ideal manner and then he accidentally drops them into salad dressing. The result is a sauce that tastes delicious and unique, which goes perfect on a burger.
The Chamelemon arrive that night., try the burgers, and immediately kidnap J.P., Zoe, and Tommy, while the TorikawaBallmon follow behind in the shadows attempting to help in any way they can. The group eventually arrive at the large mansion in the forest where they are incarcerated into a kitchen with iron bars where the head chef has been preparing food for some time: none of which has managed to assuage Petaldramon’s hunger in the least. What’s worse is that the TorikawaBallmon are captured and also incarcerated within a bird cage. As Tommy teaches the head chef how to prepare his new burger recipe, Petaldramon gets antsy and requests a burger immediately, giving the crew no time to finish their work. As such, Tommy and the others immediately Spirit Evolve into their H Spirit forms as Kumamon, Beetlemon, and Kazemon, free the TorikawaBallmon with whose help they locate the camouflaged Chamelemon, defeat them, absorb their Fractal Codes, and then watch as they revert to Armadillomon and scamper off into the woods environs.
Next Petaldramon arrives and the Digidestined Slide Evolve into their B Spirit forms as Korikakumon, MetalKabuterimon, and Zephyrmon, which allows them to defeat their foe once again. The Burgermon finishes his masterpiece burgers and tells the weakened Petaldramon to go to the kitchen to consume them. He does so, eats them, and immediately falls asleep for a long nap, which is undisturbed even as the Digidestined destroy his mansion and the rubble falls all around him. The Digidestined return to Hamburger Village with the Burgermon and TorikawaBallmon in tow where they are well-received by their fellow Burgermon and the Digidestined seemingly have a place to stay for the night as well as the possibility of redeeming their Hamburger Village meal tickets at the best eatery in town.
Unlike the town in the previous episode, Hamburger Village is only seen at night and for very brief moments during the day when the Digidestined arrive. Therefore, we learn little about the daily goings on in the town and about the variety and number of Digimon living and working therein. World-building of this ilk is always an interesting matter when watching these episodes of Digimon Frontier that are mostly filler in nature, as not much else is going on. The Digidestined all have their Beast Spirit and Human Spirits, have not yet arrived at their next destination The Rose Morning Star, and are unable or unwilling to finish off Petaldramon, which would be important plot point that they could have easily accomplished in this episode after defeating him. Furthermore, we hear nothing more from Ophanimon over the D-Tectors and learn nothing more about the backstory of the series or about Cherubimon, and our characters don’t even really develop any throughout this episode in terms of character.
It is always cool to learn more about the Digimon native to the Digital World of the Frontier Universe like the Burgermon who have both Rookie and Champion-level forms that are both referred to as Burgermon. And that the previously seen EbiBurgamon is a Rookie-level variant form with Shrimp based attacks. Or that TorikawaBallmon Digivolve into Burgermon and that Armadillomon can Armor Digivolve into things like Chamelemon. This episode also tells us that Arbormon/Petaldramon’s interests lie less in destroying the Digital World and more in living a comfortable life wherein he can have fun through battle and eating. But beyond that, there is very little of interest in this episode that helps move along the plot in any tangible manner.
Ciao for now,