A Reflective Look-Back at Digimon: Part 3-Digimon Tamers (1 of 2)

Part One - Digimon Adventure
Part Two - Zero-Two

So I guess that now’s a good time to get this season out of the way, especially considering where I left off in my last entry.

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Digimon Tamers, or Season 3 of Digimon: Digital Monsters, launched in Japan on April 1st, 2001 and in the West on September 1st of that year. Fox Kids, then in its prime, began hyping the f*** out of it, hoping it’d help keep it alive while it was secretly underway to be sold to 4Kids Entertainment. As a then die-hard fan, I was more than willing to comply, but little did the bizarre and gritty trailers prepare me for what’d follow.

Some preliminaries are necessary before I dive in:

Firstly, this’ll be the hardest entry to discuss. Not because the show is bad, but because it’s actually REALLY good; in fact, it might be too good for its target audience, being a dark, sophisticated series with themes that’d fly over its target audience. To-date, no other season is as intricately woven as this one, and I’m amazed by how well it’s held up. Because of this, I have to chop this part up into two articles, as I doubt I’d fit everything into one. I don’t think I’ll meet the 7000000+ words I once jokingly teased on ScrewAttack, but expect something dense regardless.

Secondly, I don’t think this season was really appropriate for its target age group. Season 3 remains, even today, a dark and mature season, with ideas and concepts that’d turn off younger fans. Actually, now that I think about it, it did, as many people, including my cousin and younger brother, couldn’t handle something so serious back when it first aired. To-date, I’m amazed it wasn’t pulled from the networks either. We’re not talking Anamaniacs-level content either, i.e. technically okay for kids, even if half of what’s discussed they wouldn’t get, no. Digimon Tamers has always been unapologetic about the blunt nature of its writing, so much so that I’m amazed, to this day, that it was aired on Fox Kids at all.

That being said, I don’t think the dark nature of this season works against it either. It’s easy to throw out the “darker =/= better” argument and have examples to back you up, especially with the existence of Man of Steel and The Amazing Spider-Man films. You could make the defense that this show came out before dark reboots were trendy, but that doesn’t make the argument any less weighty. In this case, though, it works. As the show would prove, there was a compelling story here, even if the content was often...well, it wasn’t always flawless. The show had its fair share of problems, some of which didn’t bother me in previous seasons because of how lighthearted they were in comparison, so it’s important to toss in the bad with the good this time.

And finally, I have a shaky relationship with this season’s head writer. Unlike previous and future iterations, where the end products were of a corporate entity, this season had a clear vision under the guidance of a Chiaki J. Konaka. Mr. Konaka, who’s since worked on shows like RahXephon and Ghost Hound, has a reputation as a visual and subtle horror writer whose content even stumps adults at times. He has the visual, Cthulhu fixations that made Guillermo del Toro famous, but also the slow, controversial, detached pacing that Stephen Soderbergh was often criticized for. As such, I often find his work, while brilliant, too taxing and heavy for long stretches at once. This show rectifies much of that issue, it’s meant for children, but...well...my day job wasn’t the only obstacle in finishing the season as quickly as the previous two.

With that said, it’s time to discuss my favourite entry in the franchise: Digimon Tamers, aka Season 3.

Digimon, Digital Monsters – Opening #3

The story began unusually: a tiny Digimon, whom we’d later find out was named Calumon, being chased by a much bigger Digimon inside a layer of circuit boards and wires. Said Digimon was then intercepted and defeated by a much stronger Digimon, the impact of which sent Calumon flying into the city streets of real-world Japan. Cut to a different scene, and it was revealed that the fight was part of a card battle in a mysterious-looking playhouse in the middle of a nearby park. It was here we were introduced to one of the show’s tritagonists, Takato Matsuki, and his two closest friends: Kenta and Kazu. It was also the first inference that this’d be a vastly different show than previous entries, as yes, they were going for a more realistic take.

I should re-emphasize how much of a “realistic” take that was, especially since it stood out in my mind even as a kid. This wasn’t a show about a group of kids being sucked into a parallel world to battle monsters, but rather the reverse, i.e. monsters being sucked into the real world to battle kids. It wasn’t only a complete flip, it was a meta-fictional flip, with the Digimon franchise being as much a show and toy series as it was a parallel to the Digital World. This meant that the Digimon themselves were both real AND not real simultaneously. It still boggles my mind to this day.

The plot began taking form when, in a rush to get to school on time, Takato knocked his playing cards onto the ground, only to discover a mysterious-looking blue card that he’d never seen before. What was worse, his attempt to swipe and analyze the card even made his card reader, i.e. the machine that stored his gaming stats, fritz up and short-circuit. Frustrated and late for class (again), Takato put his card reader away and ran to school, hoping it was a fluke accident. But was it? He initially thought so, but a closer inspection later that afternoon revealed that his card reader had transformed into, you guessed it, a Digivice (or D-Arc, as they were referred to in this show.)

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Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Ecstatic, Takato took the D-Arc home and figured that if he received something that cool, then he must be a Digidestined (or Tamer, as they were to in this show.) So he swiped the drawings he made in detention earlier that day and, perhaps unintentionally, created his own Digimon from scratch. In other words, Takato wasn’t chosen to own a Digimon by destiny, unlike the previous two seasons. No, he was chosen to own a Digimon because he WANTED one, again being a more realistic take on formula. And given how normal of a kid he was, being a daydreamer, having average intelligence and being super into Digimon, made me relate to him almost instantly.

That night, Takato had a dream where he watched another one of the tritagonists, a girl named Rika Nonaka, take on a wild Digimon with one of her own. Unlike Takato, Rika was cold, distant and skilled at battling, except she only considered Digimon as data for her partner to absorb. This brought in another aspect of the season that I found intriguing even as a kid: Digimon could actually...die in this entry. And I don’t mean, “die until regenerated,” no, they really died when defeated. They’d scatter into data particles that were either wasted like digital trash, or, as in most scenarios, absorbed by their opponents akin to level grinding in standard RPGs. So yeah, real world dynamic, meta-fictional take on the Digimon themselves, kids being “Destined” by choice, real-time battles in the city of Japan and actual deaths. Factor in using playing cards as boosts in battle, and you alienate a good chunk of the old fans that only wanted a light-hearted fantasy show.

Yeah...Digimon Tamers, while often brilliant, didn’t do as well in ratings as its predecessors. Did it still do well? Yes, but it goes without saying that this wasn’t what Toei were expecting. It was like buying a box of truffles, opening them up, biting into one and realizing that, surprise, the chocolate was bittersweet, not milk. Sure, those with more refined tastes, like myself, wouldn’t mind that, but to the average person it’s easy to see why that’d be disappointing.

Takato woke up and wandered to his window to stare at a nearby building, which was quickly revealed to be the headquarters of the top-secret organization HYPNOS. A man named Yamaki ran it, and I used to think he was an older version of Matt from the previous seasons. His underlings, Riley and Tally, were responsible for monitoring the activity of “Wild Ones,” i.e. Digimon attempting to enter the real world via a data synthesis procedure called “Bio-Emerging”. They also, going with the Matt comparison, reminded me of Yolei and Sora. Regardless, their presence added to the sci-fi element of the show, which always tickled my fancy given my love of sci-fi.

The following day, after failing to convince his friends that his dream was real, Takato was alerted that his Digimon had hatched and was now Bio-Emerging. So he followed the trail of smoke, all-the-while a quick introduction of our third tritagonist (Henry Wong) being made, and wound up in the middle of a junkyard where he met his creation: a dog-like reptile named Guilmon. After realizing that Guilmon wasn’t gonna attack him, he took him home and hid him in his room, whereupon we got the introduction to another set of pilot goggles (because, y’know, every main character in the franchise needed those.) But keeping Guilmon a secret was harder than it looked, so Episode 2 spent most of its time with a loose dinosaur in the local school, Takato meeting Henry and his Digimon companion during the search for Guilmon, Takato eventually finding Guilmon and Takato realizing that Guilmon needed a better hiding place.

Suddenly, Rika, with her partner Renamon, attacked, clearly looking for a fight. Henry and his partner Terriermon interrupted the battle in Episode 3, but it wasn’t long before it resumed in an underground parking lot and got out-of-hand, when Terriermon intervened again and ended up getting caught in the crossfire. Henry rushed to save him, his D-Arc glowed and Terriermon Digivolved to his Champion mode as a result.

I should apologize in advance for the heavy plot synopsis. Unlike previous seasons, which were pretty simple and straightforward, Digimon Tamers was an incredibly dense and intricately written show. It was so dense, in fact, that its first 13 episodes, all of which were set-up for what’d follow, still had a lot to discuss and dissect thematically. One of these aspects was the Digivolution sequence, which had much to live up to when compared to the first two seasons. Considering how those seasons’ English themes were slight revamps of the opening, i.e. wordless, it’d be interesting to see how this season compares-

Digivolution – Digimon Tamers

Okay, you win... *Glares*

Suffice to say, this didn’t turn out well. Terriermon’s Champion form, Gargomon, was reckless and uncontrollable, such that even Renamon scratching his face couldn’t stop him from almost murdering Rika in cold-blood. As the camera panned to her hyperventilating in fear, I finally understood how different this season really was. Gone was the fun fantasy of the previous seasons, replaced by a dark and realistic take on the toys in question. And as someone who was insistent on staying up-to-date, I had to stop projecting my fantasies into the first two seasons and start projecting them into this one. But that’s for another day.

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I’m onto you! *Glares*

The unfortunate downside was that, unlike the past seasons, I was mostly alone. My cousin stopped caring the second the first promotion hit Fox Kids, and it wasn’t long before my brother followed suit. Even in school it’d died down, as no one really cared to talk about it anymore. The only one I could still chat with was my neighbour across the street, who also happened to be the only kid my age who was actually nice to me. But even then our mutual enjoyment didn’t last long, let-alone outside of discussing the playing cards (which, thanks to this season, finally made sense.)

The show seemed to have excellent foresight, as it answered the question that was on my mind in its next episode: why was Terriermon so out of control as Gargomon? As it turned out, Henry had found Terriermon in the Digimon video game after accidentally getting into a fight with a much more powerful opponent named Gorillamon. Desperate to stand a fighting chance, he kept swiping modify cards until Terriermon managed to Digivolve and get out of control. Frustrated and upset, he waited for him to run out of energy and, through a fluke emotional connection, had him transferred to the real world under the pretense that he’d “never make him fight again.” Fast-forward to Episode 4, and Henry’s worst nightmare came back to haunt him. Even after re-battling and defeating Gorillamon he wasn’t satisfied, but it at least put some of his long-standing concerns to rest.

Episode 5 was simple and light-hearted, perhaps to balance the more somber tone of Henry’s trauma. It focused on Henry and Takato trying to find Calumon a Tamer so as to stop him from messing up the schoolyard with his games, only giving up when it was clear that wasn’t gonna work. Interestingly enough, and this is something I only realized upon seeing the show in its entirety, Takato’s three Tamer candidates would actually become Tamers themselves later on: Kazu would receive Guardromon in Episode 31, Jeri would be ill-fated with Leomon in Episode 23 and Henry’s sister Suzie, the source of Terriermon’s “Pwincess Pwettypants” torture, would gain Lopmon in Episode 33. It was clever and subtle foreshadowing, despite not being made obvious from the get-go. Also, the episode taught me the phrase “good riddance” once Rika came in at the end, and Lord knows how many poor parents I terrorized with it when I dressed up as a burglar that Halloween. *Sigh*

Episode 6 tied in directly with the ending to Episode 5, as it gave the back-story for why Rika acted the way she did. It turned out that Rika had won the local Digimon Card Game tournament that year and received Renamon almost as an indirect consolation prize, even though the scene where she met her is terrifying for any kid watching it. Since Renamon was a strong Digimon, and Rika a strong card fighter, the pairing was perfect. Sadly, I didn’t get to see this episode as a child, despite it being advertised heavily, although I think there was a benefit to that that I’ll discuss shortly.

Looking back on it now, I should’ve watched the episode when it first aired, since I never liked Rika as a kid. Ignoring her dub personality, i.e. an unneeded b*tch-fest, Rika was an a**hole who kept antagonizing other people to shield herself from her real problems. And looking back, she’s an example of how Chiaki Konaka loves reusing character tropes and arcs from his other shows. Rika isn’t only Rika, she’s also Megumi from RahXephon and Makoto from Ghost Hound. She’s the kid with a troubled family who bottles her feelings and takes everything out on others, and as someone who was constantly picked on it didn’t sit well with me.

Anyway, this was the episode where Renamon Digivolved to her Champion form, Kyubimon, for the first time, and the fight where it happened was one of the most-emotional in the first arc, so I’ll give it credit for slightly softening me up to Rika in retrospect.

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Yeah, the fight got pretty intense.

Episode 7 wasn’t terribly special, it even ended on a bizarre-yet-justifiable deus ex machina, but it highlighted the fragility of Guilmon’s relationship with Takato, being data and whatnot, and how Takato’s parents were, in my opinion, way too trusting of him. It WAS, however, not pointless, as it indirectly led to the succeeding episode via Takato’s growing concern for Guilmon’s safety. It was also my introduction to Impmon, a nasty little sh*t-disturber who proved himself a nuisance to the Tamers in later episodes. Yes, he was technically first shown in Episode 6, but I didn’t see that episode initially and, honestly, I thought him messing with couples in the park here was a better way to make an initial impression. But it’s too late now to go back and re-write the show.

Regardless, Impmon’s pyrotechnics caused great concern to Takato, such that, after a lecture from a bizarre cop and a misunderstanding, he berated Guilmon and stormed off in frustration. Around this time, a giant Devidramon Bio-Emerged into the real world, an action made easier by Impmon being a pest and unintentionally breaking through his energy field. The fully-emerged Devidramon went scouring for a fight, found one in a lost and confused Guilmon and...I’ll save you the explanation for what’s my favourite fight in the show’s first 13 episodes:

Skip to 13:45. Awesome, isn’t it? (Courtesy of user Best of Digimon.)

I have one gripe to pick with this fight: toward the end, Yamaki made mention to Riley that she was to create a cover story for this “event that never happened”. How? It was a giant demon-bird and a giant reptile-dog fighting in the middle of the city, and in front of tens of people! How do you cover THAT up? Actually, come to think of it, how did people not take note of this in the news? Were they-I’m over-thinking this. The show would also address that issue in future episodes, so...

Episode 9 marked a first in franchise history, as it was the first episode without a fight that wasn’t solely character-focused. Unlike previous and future seasons, all of which had a slow-paced, introspective episode sandwiched between more action-packed ones, Digimon Tamers was notorious for episodes without fighting and a strong focus on dialogue and character growth instead. And while “Genesis of Evil” from the previous season ALSO had no fighting, it-I’m getting off-track.

Anyway, the episode centred on Takato, once he stopped trembling over a 50-foot dinosaur hovering above him, trying to find a way to get Growlmon back to Guilmon. He tried everything from exercise, to praying, to sleeping it off, to hiding until it wore off, to even asking others for suggestions, and all to no avail. Finally, after his latest scheme involving camouflage failed too, he burst into tears and feared that nothing would ever work. Except it did, in the form of a rainbow. And I never understood how that made sense, even when I was younger: how does a rainbow absorb data? Was it a digital vacuum cleaner? Should I always stick my computers in front of rainbows if I want to clear hard drive space? Still, it’s cute.

Then we got to Episode 10, which also happened to be my favourite episode growing up. It focused on Rika, who was trying to figure out why Digivolution required an emotional attachment, being stalked by an icy creep h*ll-bent on kidnapping her. I always remember this episode for four points, three of which were covered in the first half: 1. Her rude blow-off of Calumon, which was often paralleled by my brother doing the same to my liking of the show each time this episode was on in reruns. 2. Her even ruder blow-off of Renamon when she offered her help, using “I don’t need you...I don’t need anybody!” as her defensive response. 3. Learning the word “incorrigible” when Impmon tried attacking Terriermon in the episode’s side-plot. It’s a bizarre episode, but the fourth point was its cold shift in tone once Rika was captured and her stalker was revealed as an IceDevimon desperate to be her partner.

Yeah, you thought Devimon from the first season was intimidating? Meet his tundra-loving, stronger younger brother. IceDevimon even showed off his resume, hundreds of frozen Digimon, to Rika under the justification that “they were merely stepping stones”. It knocked Rika to her senses as bluntly as a hammer to the head, but when she refused to join him he became more aggressive. Eventually, it took the combined forces of Kyubimon, Henry, Takato, Terriermon, Guilmon and a combo of two modify cards to jam the monster’s head into the ceiling, dismember him and absorb his data, ending IceDevimon’s rein of terror permanently. It also freaked out Rika to the point where she declared her hatred of Digimon, so it was a bittersweet episode.

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Your friendly reminder that this was supposed to be a “kids’” show.

The succeeding two episodes were reconciliations between Henry and Rika and their Digimon partners. There was a side-plot involving Takato introducing Guilmon to Kazu, Kenta and Jeri, to varying results, but it was the reconciliations that really mattered. For Henry and Terriermon, that reconciliation happened in Episode 11, when a Musyamon Bio-Emerged and the only way to prevent it from killing a little girl was to kill it first. For Rika and Renamon, it was in Episode 12 and happened during a fight with a Harpymon that Renamon was losing. In the former’s case, the two learned the importance of teamwork. In the latter’s case, the two learned the importance of teamwork. Honestly, these episodes felt like they could’ve been blended into one had the Guilmon side-plot been removed, but that side-plot was necessary for future episodes.

The show finally hit its stride in Episode 13, when Yamaki captured and tortured a DarkLizardmon to death so as to get data for his new project: a machine that’d erase Digimon, aka Juggernaut. Yes, there was another side-plot about Takato becoming over-protective of Guilmon, but I’ve always felt that that was petty and won’t elaborate further. Besides, the real focus was Juggernaut, a device that could erase Digimon by opening a portal to the Digital World and eradicating them from both sides. It worked initially, we even saw a disturbing image of a Digimon howling as its body got vaporized, but it wasn’t long before that backfired and the show’s first threat took the form of a series of twelve, Ultimate-level Digimon called “The Devas”. Since the kids defeated eight of them before the arc ended, and since they’re all relatively straightforward, I’ll discuss each of the eight in lightning round fashion:

Mihiramon-the tiger Deva, his fight was an “ominous dragon” sparring match. Interestingly enough, I actually thought he WAS a dragon until a few years ago. Regardless, he circled the Tamers’ Digimon like a shark, only going in for the lunge once his prey was caught off-guard. After Takato realized this and went for the lunge right away, Mihiramon, who clearly wasn’t an idiot, dove right in and ripped off Growlmon’s arm. For some reason, although it wasn’t explained until many episodes later, the chomp hit Takato like an arrow to the chest, causing him to lose consciousness and black out.

By the way, the ability to now activate Digivolutions at will made no sense. In the past, it was implied that a Digivolution could only happen in intense moments of danger or emotional bonding. Now, thanks to the interest of time, it could be activated via a card swipe. Yes, having that might make sense if factoring in that the game is the same way, but it begs the question of why this couldn’t have worked earlier. Still, I guess the show needed to move along the story, so I’ll chalk that up to a plot-hole of convenience and move on.

With Takato out-cold, he had a bizarre bonding moment with his injured Digimon, causing him to realize they shared a psychic bond, and woke up near a startled Calumon with a new ferocity to fight. He tapped into a blue card...somehow, used it to Digivolve Growlmon to Ultimate level and blew Mihiramon away like a rocket being launched into an enemy country. The Tamers figured that the nightmare was over, but it was only the beginning of their problems.

Sandiramon-the snake Deva, as well as the one responsible for making Rika’s day of reflection, i.e. realizing that Renamon was more than data, feel more pressing. It took the combined efforts of Takato, Rika and Henry to defeat him, but not before Sandiramon informed them that the Devas wouldn’t be defeated so easily.

Also, the fight had one of the best dub jokes about a ham sandwich.

Sinduramon-the rooster Deva, and probably the second most-bizarre (I’ll cover the most bizarre soon enough.) Sinduramon was, and I kid you not, a chicken who ate electricity and used a passing owl as his mouthpiece. Again, it took the combined efforts of Henry and Takato to knock him into a dam where, and I couldn’t make this up if I tried, he short-circuited to death.

Also, I call bullsh*t again on the adults not picking up on Digimon being real by now.

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Mmm, electric-fried chicken...

Pajiramon-the sheep Deva, and one of two female Devas in the dub. She was initially sent with Vajramon to cause trouble in Akihabara, but since she was the weaker of the two she was also the first to be obliterated by Terriermon’s Ultimate form, Rapidmon. Actually, the whole back-story behind that is kinda interesting, especially since it brought Henry’s dad to the foreground, but I’ll cover it shortly. Also, considering how he was usually the calm and collected one of the three leads, seeing Henry freak-out was kinda nerve-wracking to watch.

The episode ended with Henry’s dad, Janyu, explaining how the mysterious blue card he’d received at the beginning of the episode was from an old project he’d been working on in college with a few of his former colleagues. It was called “The Digi-Mon Project”, and it’d allegedly died when the funding was cut...or so he thought. It seemed like someone wanted to keep the project alive, hence creating the playing cards and a survival instinct that allowed their project to evolve into the Digimon from the show. It’s another example of the show’s meta-fictional component rearing its head and making light of how bizarre this season was. But that’d be delved into later on.

Vajramon-the ox Deva. Having survived the fight in Akihabara, but not without being greatly weakened, Vajramon decided on diplomacy and tried convincing Renamon to work for his master, whom he dubbed “The Sovereign”. The Sovereign wanted to rid the world of humans so that Digimon could live as they wished, and he planned to use Renamon to help them. The Sovereign seemed to have left out the significance of Calumon’s ability to make Digimon Digivolve, so when Vajramon attacked the little guy, Renamon decided he wasn’t worth it and should take him out then and there. One blue card and an Ultimate Digivolution to Taomon later, and Vajramon was history.

Indramon-the horse Deva. Indramon was one of two Devas that took more than one episode to beat, and a lot of side details occurred along the way too. Henry, for example, learned that the Devas weren’t necessarily evil during a conversation with his sensei, which drove home the season’s theme that individuals can commit evil acts for misguided reasons. It was an interesting angle on the “complex villain” dynamic, as it wasn’t afraid to discuss the idea that good and bad are largely an issue of perspective. Also, it wasn’t preachy or heavy-handed (Digimon Zero-Two, take notes!)

On another note, the episode marked the introduction of a weird-looking kid who kept eyeing Calumon like a lion observing his prey, which was freaky when I was younger and still gives me chills to this day. It also brought in the idea of blue cards being a partial by-product of the imagination, as evidenced by Kazu drawing one from scratch and claiming-successfully too-that it could allow Digivolution if desired. But that came into play during the final encounter with Indramon, so I’m getting ahead of myself. Besides, that kid was insanely creepy. M’KAAAAAAAAW!

On an even further note, we got the full induction of adults into the story via Janyu and his former colleagues, all of whom (save one) had been brought to HYPNOS to help Yamaki stop the Digimon invasion. Ignoring how the show kept pronouncing Tao as “Taow” and not “Daow”, especially since that’s phonetically incorrect, it set the record as being the first season where adults had a big role in the story. Considering how they were merely supports in seasons’ prior, it was a bold and welcome inclusion. Besides, the adults were often more colourful and fun than the kids anyway.

And finally, this was when Impmon began to crack. Up until this point, he’d been a minor pest that no one took seriously. But when Indramon saw through his charade and accused him of being a human sympathizer, a fact later confirmed via his tantrum in front of Renamon, he became more aggressive and attacked passer-bys to prove that he wasn’t a puny weakling. He also got pummeled senseless during a one-on-one with Indramon, and he would’ve gotten killed had the Tamers not intervened at the last-second and changed his fate from “death” to “knocked out of the park like a baseball”. That’s...kinda dark, no?

Again, a reminder that this was supposed to be a kids’ show.

Anyway, with Impmon (temporarily) out of the picture, Indramon set his sights on the Tamers. And he would’ve creamed them had Yamaki not tested Juggernaut again and paralyzed the big mare long enough to have to regroup and Bio-Emerge somewhere else. This gave the Tamers a chance to regroup as well, but their second fight was so one-sided it even began to take its toll on Rika and Henry’s bodies. Finally, in a last-ditch effort, Takato used Kazu’s blue card, which worked, and managed to blow Indramon away like a sandbag.

Kumbhiramon-the rat Deva, and the most-bizarre looking of them all. This one was weird for two reasons: 1. It was a Jeri-centric episode, focusing on her desire to be a Tamer and non-stop chase to make a freshly Bio-Emerged Leomon her partner. 2. Up until the finale, it was a screwball comedy about said desire to make that happen. Sure, Kumbhiramon was important, but he was mostly an afterthought in his own episode and was defeated rather easily by the combined efforts of Leomon and Gargomon. Not to mention, when combined with Jeri's inability to use Takato’s D-Arc successfully, it made for a rather heartbreaking resolution. I’d almost call it filler, but it wasn’t because of Leomon and his ability to break Jeri’s heart. He’d do it again in Episode 34, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Vikaralamon-the boar Deva, as well as the final Deva of this arc. The two-part fight began with a series of tremors, followed by each of three leads getting into minor spats with their families, followed by HYPNOS prepping Juggernaut again, followed by Henry making the connection that the Devas were patterned after animals in the Chinese Zodiac (a fact that racked my brain as a kid) and finished with Vikaralamon’s Bio-Emergence and the devastation of the city. Remember when I complained earlier how stupid it was that the adults hadn’t picked up on the existence of Digimon? Well...my concerns were now put to rest. After all, it’s pretty hard to ignore a 100-foot tall, hairy boar prancing its way through the streets.

The fight initially proved useless, as three Champions could never take on an Ultimate of that size, so the Tamers decided to wish for blue cards and, voila, they magically appeared. Of course, even three Ultimates weren’t enough on their own, so Yamaki initiated Juggernaut in an attempt to end this madness once-and-for-all. That worked briefly, slowing the giant boar down a bit, but then the weird kid from earlier revealed himself-creepily too-as Makuramon, the monkey Deva, tossed a weird orb into the sky and caused HYPNOS to implode. After Takato’s forced dilemma over losing Guilmon when he Digivolved, he regained his footing and gave WarGrowlmon a boost by...screaming? I’m sorry, I’ve seen this show several times, and each time I arrive at this part I start laughing over its ridiculousness.

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Silly or not, it worked, as it allowed for WarGrowlmon to get up and send Vikaralmon to his doom. All seemed over...until Makuramon snatched Calumon and headed back through the rift in the sky to the Digital World. Which begs the question: why waste eight Devas, wreck havoc on the city, cause millions in property damage and scar several people if your goal was to bring back Calumon? The little guy was never much of a fighter, the show would even prove later on that he wasn’t a Digimon, so wh-ah, forget it! The arc was fun, the fights were fun and the kids even got to grow with their Digimon partners, so I’ll let it slide. Besides, it ended with a badly injured Impmon receiving a Faustian invitation from another Deva, one that’d be followed-through in a few episodes, so it was worth it.

No sooner did Makuramon make his escape when Leomon returned to rescue him, failed and was badly injured. Jeri’s cry of desperation to save him caused another D-Arc to appear, so...yay? It was good and bad: on one hand, it saved Leomon’s life and granted Jeri her wish to be his partner. On the other hand, well...it was Leomon, so...nice knowing him. Leomons always die in the different iterations of the franchise, so the clock was now ticking until he went kaput. But we’ll get there eventually, for now it was touching.

With Calumon gone, the Tamers knew it was only a matter of time before the world was in danger, so they spent all of Episode 24 discussing how to get to the Digital World to rescue him. The answer came via a portal in Guilmon’s hiding place, so everyone made plans to go. Takato revealed Guilmon to his parents, Henry only told his little sister, Rika and her grandmother decided not to tell her mom and Jeri...said nothing to her folks, instead trusting that Leomon would guide her from now on. If the latter wasn’t heavy foreshadowing for his impending fate, well...it was nice knowing him anyway.

Perhaps the most-bizarre part of this episode was Yamaki’s change in character, having decided he was a worthless scumbag and should help the Tamers from now on. It was nice seeing the grumpy, chain-smoking workaholic actually do something useful for a change, but so quickly a 180? Considering this was the same guy who almost strangled Henry to death when Juggernaut backfired in Episode 14, as well as the guy who’d launched it again eight episodes later, it never sat well with me. At least he was being helpful, but so soon? I dunno.

The Tamers set out with their Digimon, Kenta and Kazu, a team flag and a com-link from Yamaki and travelled to the Digital World. As they made their way through a bizarre field of punctuation marks and fell through to the digital plain below, it was time for the weakest part of the season. It wasn’t bad, but, like the first-half of Season 3 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it felt slower than the rest of the show, was heavily padded and seemed like set-up for an inevitable Magoffin chase over Calumon. It had its ups and downs, and while the pay-off was worth it, and would lead to the season’s best part, that didn’t mean it wasn’t occasionally overlong and tedious. But I’ll cover that next entry, so stay tuned...


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