In this episode, it's all smiles and sunshine until a berserk bunny points a machine gun at a twelve-year-old girl.
It didn't take long for the series to start honing in on one of the key themes in Tamers. What are the Digimon here for? It's a complex question as we're still a ways away from anything resembling a villain. Without a bad guy in the mix and a world to save, it really is just a kid and his monster friend doing whatever they feel like. It's a question of purpose, as these things don't happen without a reason and every kid and Digimon's idea of “whatever they feel like” differ, even within a tandem.
Little glimpses aside, this is our first proper introduction to Rika and Henry. They're a fantastic pair, foils to each other as they represent polar opposites on the “function of Digimon” scale. One's a red-haired girl who believes Digimon exist for fighting and growing stronger. One's a blue-haired boy who believes Digimon are here to get away from all the violence and seek meaningful companionship. Both are pretty awesome.
The steady, methodical way Rika is introduced over the first three episodes is designed to fascinate, slowly raising the curtain on one of the most unique characters in the franchise. The first time we see her is in Takato's dream and more a first look at Digimon taming than a proper character introduction. Her fight in episode two confirms that she is cold and demanding, expecting nothing less than the best from Renamon and showing little tolerance for weakness. When she ambushes Takato and Guilmon, she shows a lack of patience for idiocy and indecisiveness. Not only is Digimon taming nothing more than a competition to Rika, she is dead set on winning.
While Ken was vilified in the first half of Zero Two for this attitude, the show points out that not only is there more going on with Rika, but that her way of thinking may not even be incorrect. Guilmon's primal instinct kicks in when he smells another Digimon and even Terriermon relishes the rare chances of violence Henry affords him. Shots of Rika walking alone at night, giving the cold shoulder toward the world in general, suggest that while there's justification in her opinion, this girl still ain't right and will command our attention.
An even easier way to make us care about Rika, of course, is to knock her down a peg. This is accomplished by not only having Terriermon evolve before Renamon, but to have the resulting Gargomon go absolutely bananas and shoot up the whole damn garage. It doesn't have the unique evolution sequence that SkullGreymon received in Adventure, but everything about this felt wrong. The combination of Henry being passive until Terriermon jumped in, the debut of new remixed music that disguises the theme song better and the scenario on its own suggests that this isn't something to celebrate. Gargomon firing his machine guns everywhere is crazy enough, but to top it off he looks so goddamn happy about it!
Stuck at the end of an episode that accomplished little more than a basic intro to Rika and Henry, the garage scene is one of the key early moments in the season, giving us a taste of some of the chaos to come. We've never seen a Digimon evolve against his partner's wishes, then lose control, destroy tons of property and nearly kill one of the children. The scene heads to a dark place, alerting us that this will be a turbulent ride that gets even darker before it's over. The whole thing is one giant reality check, best summed up by the look of pure fear on Rika's face.
My Grade: B+
- We'll have a full discussion on the use of modify cards when they're more prevalent and kids other than Rika start using them, but the dub is pretty lousy about naming the modifications something that actually resembles what's happening. Rika says she's using an armor mod, but Renamon gets a big honking laser cannon. Silly dub.
- The dub masking the gun that Gargomon points at Rika is unfortunate, but probably necessary. Tamers deserves a lot of credit for leaving some pretty dicey stuff in, but that should only make you wonder how this ended up getting axed.
- Everything's forgiven, however, for retaining Terriermon's “momentai” catchphrase. You have to wonder though... if Disney took over the franchise with Tamers instead of Frontier, does that get changed to “hakuna matata?” They mean the same thing.
- As little as Renamon objects to any of Rika's orders, she refuses to do any attacks that could go outside of those parameters. When fighting Guilmon, Renamon hesitates when a shot could hit Takato, and later misses when Terriermon runs into the fray.
- It's refreshing that Takato's cute little crush on Jeri is merely intimated over these initial episodes with no direct comment or action involving it. None of this Davis-like fawning business.
- Takato's twelve and Kazu's already revoking his man card for “needing a girl.” Meanwhile, Jeri, who seems innocent when she's not being a psycho with a puppet, is asking for trouble for suggesting that she could be that girl instead of Rika.