Maligned 101: Tomoki Himi (Digimon Frontier)

Welcome to another episode of “Maligned 101”, where we take an unfairly criticized character, hero, antihero or villain, from anime and explain why they deserve a second chance. Last time, I discussed Dante from 2003’s Fullmetal Alchemist, which also happens to be one of my favourite anime shows. This time, I’ve decided to go with someone from a lesser-known Shonen series that’s criticized because it doesn’t “meet the standards of its forerunners”. I’m talking about Tomoki Himi from Digimon Frontier.

Honestly, I could’ve touched on anyone from this show, as they’re all heavily-criticized in some fashion: Takuya is often labelled as “impulsive”. Junpei is picked on for being obnoxious. Izumi is labelled as a shallow “flower child”. Koji is called “reckless”. And Kouichi is called a rip-off of Ken. But Tomoki gets particular criticism for reasons I’m not sold on, namely that he’s “a whinier, less-interesting version of Takeru from Digimon Adventure.”

Let’s start from the beginning: Tomoki is first introduced at the terminal to The Digital World, where we meet our other heroes. Of everyone on the train, he was the only one there against his will, having been grabbed by a pair of bullies and shoved inside as joke. He wishes nothing more than to leave, and he calms down once Izumi assures him everything will be okay. It’s also hinted that Tomoki, being the youngest of the group, looks up to others for emotional support. That desire lessens as the story progresses, but for now I’ll forgive it because it’s a common sentiment for 8 year-olds struggling with self-confidence issues.

Tomoki demonstrates his first act of heroism in Episode 3, when he grabs his cap and splashes some Candlemon with water because they, together with a Wizardmon, are overpowering Takuya in his spirit form. He states that “he’s standing up to bullies”, causing a nearby cave to break open and reveal his bear-looking spirit Digimon, Kumamon. He’s then able to help Takuya, earning the group’s trust and helping him change his mind from wanting to leave.

We get more insight into Tomoki when the group ends up separated after encountering Grumblemon in Episode 6. Tomoki, Takuya and Koji end up in Toy Town, and Tomoki is kidnapped by a WaruMonzaemon. Tomoki hasn’t gotten over his insecurities, but he befriends the Digimon and purifies him by playing with him. When Takuya and Koji find him, he’s as jolly as ever. Fitting, considering this is the first indication that, when you overlook his whining and insecurities, he’s actually as fun, if not more so, as Takeru from Digimon Adventure.

In Episode 9, the group travels to a forest covered in TVs. The TVs show the kids a portal to the outside world, but Tomoki’s TV in particular troubles him. He spots his mother waiting on the park bench where he was kidnapped, and begins crying when the image fades. It doesn’t help that he’s later brainwashed by a Bakumon into thinking that his friends are bullies, causing him to change into Kumamon and attack them. It’s the first inference that his insecurities and his association with bullies are one in the same. Even after that debacle is resolved, the question remains: what’s really bothering Tomoki?

The obvious answer is that he’s a typical 8 year-old: emotionally-insecure, vulnerable and constantly feeling a need to prove himself. But that’s not enough to reassure his detractors: a whiny child? Geez, Takeru was never like this!

I have to ask if the detractors and I watched the same show. Takeru was a fun kid, true, but he wasn’t exactly this shining beam of awesomeness. He was insecure, he whined and he often acted impulsively. Sure, he matured over time, such that he was quite confident and in-control by show’s end, but that also leads to something that separates him from Tomoki: depth. Let’s be honest, what did Takeru really do to mature in his respective story? Patamon developed, but Takeru's only defining moment of character, watching his Digimon die, was clumsily glanced over and then retconned into his character in the second season. In short, he wasn’t deep, especially in comparison to everyone else (save Kari, but that’s a subject for its own day.)

Tomoki, in comparison, has a clearly defined arc. Is it complicated? No, but when has a character in this franchise, save Digimon Tamers, ever been complicated? Digimon as a franchise has always been for kids, so I doubt they’d understand intricate nuance anyway.

The rest of Tomoki’s growth can be summarized in little moments sprinkled throughout; for example, he’s the one who finds the heroes’ D-Terminals when they’re stolen by a group of Toucanmon, having made a bargain with a pawn shop-owning Datamon for beating an unbeatable video game. As a reward, and for saving said Toucanmon from drowning in broken ice, he programs Tomoki’s Beast Spirit, Korikakumon, into his D-Terminal. Earlier on, he calms Takuya when his Beast Spirt takes control by reminding him that he can be brave too. In the stretch of episodes inside Sephirothmon’s body, he learns a valuable lesson about standing up for himself and not always being babied, something prompted by a flashback to the relationship he has with his parents and older brother. And he does it on his own too!

Basically, Tomoki’s big challenge is always taking control of his weaknesses and turning them into strengths. As someone who was pretty insecure himself as child, Tomoki was an example for me to follow. It sounds crazy, considering that I was already 12 years-old by the time this show first aired, but it’s true: I was incredibly insecure and constantly bullied. Tomoki proved I didn’t have to take that abuse. Why is this worthy of criticism? If anything, this is the character development that I wish Takeru had!

You want to know what Tomoki’s defining moment is? It’s in the final arc, when he confronts the two bullies that shoved him onto the train. Initially, they try blackmailing him into convincing his friends to go back home. When Tomoki refuses, they try to show him up by facing The Royal Knights on their own. However, they’re the ones who lack confidence, and it’s Tomoki who comes to their aid. This moment would’ve never happened without character growth.

Still, I guess the reason Tomoki gets the hate that he does is because Digimon Frontier in general gets the hate that it does. The show has often been criticized as being “a lazy rip-off of Power Rangers with no character development and overly-childish clichés”, when that misses the point. For one, Power Rangers was already a hackneyed rip-off the Sentai genre, which the Digimon franchise has paid homage to since inception. And calling Digimon Frontier “overly-childish” ignores the fact that this franchise was always meant for kids. It’s the Ponyo debate all-over: were you expecting something else?

As for the character development complaint, I’m not sure where that’s coming from. Save Ken Ichijouji, no one in Digimon Zero-Two had any real/consistent development, while everyone, Tomoki included, had character development in Digimon Frontier. And yet, Digimon Zero-Two is incredibly well-loved by fans and this show isn’t? Give me a break!

But beauty is in eye of the beholder, so maybe I’m being paranoid. Either way, give Tomoki a chance. And while we’re at it, take a moment to help his English VA, Brianne Brozey, with her current predicament. She brought Tomoki to life, and even if you can’t donate money, at least spread the word. For now, Tomoki Himi’s another inductee into the “unfairly maligned” group that includes Dante from Fullmetal Alchemist.


  1. frontier is the worst thing to ever happen to digimon

  2. As much as I can't like Digimon Frontier(as any Digimon seasons following Zero Two), I can't hate it for whatever reason

    1. It's not a great season, but it's definitely underrated...


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