Maligned 101: Mimi Tachikawa (Digimon Adventure)

Welcome to another Maligned 101, where I take an anime character, popular or not, and discuss why said character deserves more credit than is currently given. Last time, I focused on Tomoki Hime from Digimon Frontier. In keeping with that theme, today’s inductee is also from that franchise, except this time from a less under-appreciated season. I’m referring to Mimi Tachikawa from Digimon Adventure:

You’re probably thinking, “Mimi’s maligned? I thought people loved her!” Well, so did I…until I did some snooping around. Sure enough, Mimi has detractors. She’s got a strong fan-following too, don’t get me wrong, but of Digimon Adventure’s three girls, Mimi’s easily the least-popular and most-despised. If you don’t believe me, check out this review. The man clearly spells it out.

Anyway, Mimi’s interesting as far as Digimon Adventure's concerned. Every other Digi-Destined had a “hook” that made him or her relatable: Taichi was the leader. Yamato was the stubborn loner. Jyou was the daddy who cared about everyone. Sora was the mommy who also cared about everyone. Koushiro was the prodigy. And Takeru and Hikari were fun-loving kids, with Hikari also a paragon of righteousness.

So what what did that make Mimi?

Well, Mimi was…interesting. She was an only child, but more importantly she came from a rich family and had really frilly parents. This reflected in her character, as she always whined and spoke her mind, even when it wasn’t necessary or relevant. It made her come off as incredibly shallow, a fact not helped by her dub writing adding extra complaints and “valley girl-isms” (to paraphrase JesuOtaku). Factor in that people don’t like whiners, and Mimi was easily the most criticized of the original Digi-Destined.

That’s all fine and dandy, but since this series defends maligned characters, not exonerates their detractors, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

I’ll give her detractors credit: Mimi sometimes pushed my buttons too. In Episode 3, she screams for help when the group is lost, even though it’s completely useless. In Episode 25, Mimi’s especially unbearable, having gone power hungry after a tribe of Gekomon and Otamamon start treating her like royalty in hopes that she’d wake their master with her singing. However, both of these can be explained within the show’s context: in the former case, Mimi did what anyone in her position would’ve done, while her power hungriness is no worse than Taichi’s arrogant streak in Episode 16. And even then, both are resolved fairly quickly.

Another example of frustration with Mimi is how two well-loved Digimon, Chumon and Leomon, die saving her in The Dark Master’s arc. But even this can be rationalized when you look at the grander context of their deaths. In Chumon's case, he was already demoralized by the death of Sukamon, so he was willing to die anyway. And Leomon’s the type of Digimon who’d have saved anyone, it merely happened to be Mimi because she was trying to stop a badly-wounded Ogremon from acting callously. Ergo, it’s not so one-sided.

If I’m spending a lot of time talking about her shortcomings, it’s because those are what detractors generally remember. They often neglect the context behind her decisions, as well as the lessons she learns. Mimi’s greatest strength is her unabashed honesty. Her biggest flaw is her conceitedness. Her biggest point of development is, therefore, learning to think about others, which she does…in stages. For example, her first character focus episode, Episode 6, involves her taking charge against a black gear-infected Monzaemon, as the teddy bear has brainwashed her friends into acting like zombies and has trapped their Digimon in a toy chest. She ends up learning friendship and teamwork from this, something important for later on.

It’s important when you factor in that her Digimon, Palmon, has combat evolutions that are strong fighters who rely mostly on defensive attacks. This is especially apparent with Togemon, who’s a boxing cactus, yet only goes in for heavy blows when necessary. Lilymon, in contrast, is purely defensive, even having an attack that paralyzes enemies. Palmon, in general, matches Mimi well. She’s incredibly honest and can be as sincere as her, but she understands the simple side of life and appreciates the importance of standing up for what’s right. It’s a lesson that Mimi’s constantly forced to learn as well.

Perhaps Mimi’s biggest “love her or hate her” moment is when she splits from the group after the big fight between Yamato and Taichi in The Dark Masters arc. Her reasoning is that she’s fed up with all the pointless fighting and doesn’t want any more casualties. This happens anyway when Leomon dies, but it emphasizes that Mimi’s looking for a different method. She rallies a group of Digimon allies, with the help of Jyou, in her quest, and with Leomon’s death she learns that some battles are worth fighting for.

I’d talk about Mimi in Digimon Zero-Two, but I won’t for two reasons: one, she’s pretty self-confident by that point and doesn’t develop further. Two, the epilogue ruined her character completely, so the scars are still there. Regardless, the question of why she’s hated is more relevant to Digimon Adventure, as that’s where her development and flaws are most-noticeable. To that end, I think the answer is obvious: people don’t like her because she’s not as “interesting” as everyone else. She’s a whiner, a flower child and constantly breaks from the popular opinion. And that irks people.

Here’s where I put my foot down and say “no” to the Mimi hate-train. For one, being rich doesn’t automatically make you awful. It might make you selfish, but I know plenty of people from rich families who are wonderful human beings in spite of that! We tend to project onto wealth as being bad, especially since money shouldn’t be the focus of an ideal world, but that’s not to say that being wealthy makes you inherently evil. I’ve heard stories of rich people being generous philanthropists and poor people being really stingy, so it’s unfair to generalize, or even project, our feelings on others because of their backgrounds.

And two, attacking Mimi for having flaws ignores the reality that the other Digi-Destined weren’t perfect. Taichi was callous, Yamato rude. Jyou was a whiner. Sora often was short-sighted about her own feelings. Koushiro could be really insensitive toward others. Takeru acted childish, and Hikari? Well, she was so thoughtless and perfect that it was creepy. Mimi having flaws doesn’t seem so bad when putting it into perspective.

It’s also important because she’s the most fleshed-out of the three girls in Digimon Adventure. Sora’s “mommy issues” were petty, even if executed well, and Hikari wasn’t developed. But Mimi? Mimi’s struggles, while shallow, were decently explored, enough so that she was interesting. And isn’t that what counts? A character doesn’t have to be unequivocally awesome to be likeable, it’s possible to be whiney and still have depth. That’s a human characteristic, as no one is perfect and everyone can be annoying from time-to-time. Besides, she was active when push came to shove, and isn’t that what matters?

Additionally, she’s fathoms more interesting than Miyako from Digimon Zero-Two, but that’s for another day…


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