In many shows, episode two is almost as important as episode one in establishing the setting and the general plot concept. For example, it's the most important episode of Pokémon: it's the one where Pikachu impresses Team Rocket enough for them to want to pursue him for the next several years. If episode one ends on a cliffhanger, episode two better set everybody on the proper course. Thankfully, this does.
Since I knew this and the next several episodes feature one of the Digimon evolving to Champion in turn, I was planning to cover less of the episode and focus more on initial thoughts on the character in question. This was supposed to be Tai's episode, but it's really not. If it's about anybody it would be Joe, but the more interesting thing seen here is our first glimpse at the group dynamic.
After Gomamon provides for their narrow escape and we get a quick round of name-drilling for all the Rookie levels and a primer on evolution, it becomes clear that the honeymoon is already over and the kids want nothing more than to get the hell out of this place. They've been there half an hour and they're already stressed out. This makes for much better TV as there's no unbreakable bond with the Digimon or each other yet. There's no common purpose uniting them against all odds. It's just a few kids trying to get their bearings long enough to find a way home and each of them wants to go about it differently. There's some dissension, arguing, freaking out... good times. Best of all, Tai hasn't earned the leader position yet so this beast is walking around with no head. Everybody follows Tai not because they agree with him, but because they either want to stick together or are sick of Joe's complaining.
As for Joe, he really ends up with a sad fate in this episode. Everybody remembers his complaining, his stubbornness and his neurotic insistence on trying to connect through payphones clearly planted as a practical joke. It's easy to get a bad first impression of him early on. Here's the thing: this episode also illustrates just how important Joe is to the team. His Digimon saves everybody from falling into a rushing river. When everybody takes inventory (a decidedly Joe-like move), turns out he brought the essential food rations. And if the Digimon had been half as prepared as he was, they might have hunted and foraged a little food of their own in advance rather than go hungry and let Shellmon kick their asses.
On that note, how in the hell are the transplanted children more prepared for wilderness survival than the Digimon?! I am very impressed that TK has snacks, Joe has full rations and Mimi has a ton of useful camping gear in tow. The Digimon fail by comparison. Moments after they claim to take care of their own nutritional needs and don't need rations, they are immediately rendered ineffective in battle because they're hungry. Agumon saves the day only because he and Tai stole some of the rations. He also evolves to Champion, but it's not like that won't happen again.
My Grade: C+
- This episode proves that Gomamon and Palmon are the most useful Rookies in the group, only because their attacks aren't generic projectile weapons.
- The dub catches a lot of flak for silly ad-libs at inappropriate moments, and deservedly so. It deserves credit though for silly ad-libs at appropriate moments like the phone booths because they're comedy gold.
- Everybody seems surprisingly dry and unharmed despite taking some pretty nasty shots from Shellmon.