The Digi-Mare Before Christmas

“T’was auld ani-shows I be wraught,
for Infinite Rainy Day,
then new ani-shows be fore-sought
for this year’s holiday!”
It’s the holidays again! A time of serious films, expensive gift purchases and needlessly-complicated family dinners. But, also, it’s that time where I remind everyone that I’m Jewish, don’t celebrate Christmas and then buy into the holiday cheer anyway by discussing an anime Christmas episode. Last year was RahXephon, while this year I’m going more embarrassing and tackling the first anime Christmas episode I’d ever seen: Episode 38 of Digimon Zero-Two.

“But Zachary, I saw your retrospective series. Don’t you hate Digimon Zero-Two?” Firstly, yes. And secondly, so? Why can’t I discuss an episode from a show I hate, especially when it’s Christmas-themed? Am I not allowed to explain why it sucks?

Without further ado, here’s “A Very Digi-Christmas”:

After some opening narration from Ken’s English VA, (yes, I’m using the dub) we see the new Digi-Destined knocking down the remainder of Arukenimon’s control spires. The group celebrates in their usual, hokey way: awkward dancing, cheering and laughing like bozos. All of that changes when Ken announces a Christmas party that he’s having at his house, of which everyone’s invited. Even Cody, who’s been awfully untrusting of Ken, receives an invitation, breaking down their barrier permanently and establishing a level of trust.

But that’s not all! As a token of goodwill, the Digi-Destined open a portal to the real world and ship the original Digi-Destined’s Digimon partners to them as Christmas presents (especially Mimi, who lives in New York City.) The younger kids then head over to Ken’s house, while the older kids prepare for Matt’s special Christmas concert. We also see Tai and Sora share an awkward conversation, suggesting, albeit sadly, that Sora’s moved on and is dating Matt.

However, trouble’s brewing, as we get not only a brief scene with Arukenimon and Mummymon creating a new control spire, but also a strange conversation between TK and Matt’s mom and a shady man eating in an outdoor restaurant. His name’s Yukio Oikawa, and he’s a technical engineer who knows an uncomfortable amount about the Digi-Destined’s activities. He’s researched the Highton View Terrace incident, but he also knows a great deal about the Myotismon/real world story arc from Digimon Adventure and has been keeping tabs on the Digi-Destined since. With a vague warning, Oikawa wishes TK and Matt’s mom a nice holiday and vanishes.

I’m sure that won’t resurface in a few episodes from now, right?

The episode reaches a feverish peak when, during Matt’s concert, Arukenimon releases some feral Digimon and scares all the attendees off. Desperate for help, Tai calls Ken’s house and asks his sister and her friends, who are busy playing cards, to take of the situation. They do, and the next 10 or so minutes is fighting. Fighting with a purpose, the kids are rounding up the Digimon and returning them to the Digital World, but fighting nonetheless. And it’s not even that exciting, despite the dream team of old and new Digi-Destined working together.

And I blame the writing for that. Like I said in my retrospectives, the animation never lent itself to great fights, and that this entire season felt like an excuse to have battles in place of actual character growth, as opposed to the reverse, makes these feel routine and uninteresting. For crying out loud, you get to see the new Ultimate Digivolutions fight alongside the original kids’ Champion Digivolutions! How do you not make this exciting? They find a way!

With the wild Digimon back in the Digital World, the gang parts ways. Ken is escorted back to his house, Davis says a throwaway line about not kissing Kari under the mistletoe and everyone enjoys their festivities. Also, Agumon asks for a bedtime story, to which Kari recites the worst rendition of “T’was the Night Before Christmas” I’ve ever listened to:
“'T'was a Digimon Christmas, and everyone was busy,
Especially the likes of Tentomon and Izzy,
Joe played with Gomamon, Matt and Gabumon ate,
Palmon saw Mimi, isn't that great?
Cody and Upamon shared a little sushi,
While Pururumon sat on Yolei's tushy,
Tokomon went carolling, Ken's thankful for friends,
While in Davis's dreams, the fun never ends.”
My poor, poor ears.

The episode ends the next morning with Izzy and Tentomon looking at Izzy’s laptop and discovering that portals to the Digital World are opening up all-over the world, followed by a “To be continued”. And…that’s it!

Honestly, there’s little to talk about. Unlike last year’s Christmas pick, which was a subtle metaphor about frivolity, this one doesn’t have much in the way of a theme or message. There’s nothing about how life doesn’t co-operate with expectations on the holidays, which is a common theme in Christmas stories. There’s nothing about the importance of family either, which-again-could’ve easily worked. The idea of teamwork is tossed around loosely, although since that’s been a drawing point for Digimon in general I can’t call that exciting. Really, “A Very Digi-Christmas” is a mere filler episode to connect the show from the previous arc about The Destiny Stones to the succeeding “World Tour” arc one episode later.

Okay, what about the action? Like I said earlier, it’s uninteresting. The show’s been so heavily focused on covering up its lack of a cohesive narrative with drawn-out fights until now that even that feels lacklustre. Sure, there’s the constant one-liners. Sure, it’s cool to see old and new team up. But when your core narrative sucks, or isn’t compelling, then why bother? It’s not like a minimalist narrative can’t work, but this isn’t trying at-

Okay, that’s not entirely true. We get a brief advancement in plot with TK and Matt’s mom, Nancy, confronting Oikawa, there’s that much. But it’s not relevant yet. Oikawa won’t be important until Episode 43, so why tease him so early and do nothing with him? I don’t get it.

“A Very Digi-Christmas” perfectly embodies my problem with Digimon Zero-Two: it’s hollow. I understand the need for filler, sometimes it can flesh out characters, but that’s no excuse for lack of effort. Even “The Dreaming Stone”, which was RahXephon’s version of filler, still had something valuable to say about consumerist culture during Christmas, but this? Nothing.

That’s what Digimon Zero-Two amounts to in the end: save the brilliant “Genesis of Evil” that tackles Ken’s back-story, nothing. Annoying, frustrating nothing that, simultaneously, ruins what came prior with its ending epilogue. Overall, this was pure nothingness, which upsets me. And, sadly, it would only get worse starting with its next episode.

Happy holidays. Be sure to eat your fruitcakes before they grow mouldy, and I’ll see you in the New Year of 2016!


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