In this episode, being a pacifist who refuses to let his Digimon fight isn't a whole lot better than Rika's little bloodsport.
We've already established that Rika's out for domination. She's here to watch Renamon kill Digimon, absorb their data and grow stronger. That philosophy bit her in the ass last time when she almost got blasted full of lead. While she's off licking her wounds, we turn now to the other side of the coin. So far, Henry's been a cool customer, a peacemaker who's pretty logical, especially the part where he doesn't want Terriermon to evolve because he'd be too big to pose as a stuffed animal.
As it turns out, Henry's just as screwed up as Rika. His mellow attitude masks the fact that he's just as committed to non-violence as Rika is to getting stronger. His reasoning is a little obsessive and his unwillingness to waver even with an imposing threat makes Henry a dangerous role model. Not wanting to fight sounds good on paper, but when Digimon pop in hungry for blood, resisting a battle is an awful idea.
While it's important to create the war vs. peace contrast where the truth lies somewhere in the middle, the presentation of Henry's backstory is uneven. The episode is littered with flashbacks that aren't in sequential order, darting from Henry playing the Digimon game to receiving the game to evolving Terriermon to receiving an de-evolved Terriermon IRL. Thankfully it's not too hard to get the point: caught in a battle, Henry was able to get Terriermon strong enough to evolve, but Gargomon's violent tendencies deeply disturbed Henry, as did the sight of a roughed-up Terriermon. Hence the no-violence, no-evolving rules.
There's a scene where a Gorillamon, who may or may not be angry at being rejected as a partner, may or may not be distorting the line between video game and reality. It's sort of trippy and has some Lain vibes to it, but it doesn't help an already confusing narrative and is never properly put into context. Especially since a Gorillamon that really can't be but probably is the same one bio-emerges and is set on revenge. Henry's pacifism puts himself, Terriermon, Takato and Guilmon in grave danger until Terriermon ends up getting in a lucky shot and kills Gorillamon anyway.
Presentation aside, Henry's backstory serves to illustrate several important things. Henry's character flaw of caring too much is most crucial, especially as Takato's bond with Guilmon strengthens. Much as Takato dislikes Rika's philosophy now, he'll be exploring that territory soon enough. The flashback also introduces the video game and its apparent connection to the Digital World, which becomes a key component later. It's also the first time we see Henry's dad, and both of his scenes involve this video game. Make a note of that.
This video game is likely one of the factors behind Terriermon evolving first. The bond between him and Henry appears to carry over, giving them an instant head start. It's a curious development that should raise eyebrows, especially as Henry is the only character in the entire franchise whose Digimon evolves to Champion level before the gogglehead's.
Given the rarity, apparent emotional toll and difficult reversal of evolution this season, Terriermon was an ideal guinea pig for it. The awkward wait to get Gargomon to change back is a lot cuter than it will be when Guilmon finally evolves. Speaking of which, Takato sure seems intent on making Guilmon's evolved form a total powerhouse. It's strange, because he and Guilmon would rather be buddies and play rather than fight all the time like Rika and Renamon...
My Grade: B-
- Even taking the vintage of the series into consideration, the graphics on Henry's game are terrible. They may not have been as impressive as Skyrim, but PC games of the era still looked pretty good. Henry appears to be playing on a Super Game Boy.
- Calumon makes a pretty sharp observation about the Pavlovian response schoolkids have when they hear a bell. It's pretty thoughtful for a throwaway dub line.
- We will discuss Hypnos at more length when their role becomes more than “infrequent cutaways to shady government organization,” but Yamaki seems awfully smug at his ability to take care of Wild Ones, even though his success rate at preventing bio-emergence hasn't been too hot lately.
- Henry says he relates to Terriermon because he's small and smart. Thing is, Henry's not that small... and there's no implication that Terriermon's all that smart. Smartass maybe...
- Takato attempts to use a modify card for the first time, but we don't see what it was supposed to do, we don't learn why it fails... and he didn't even get a card slash sequence out of it.
- It was pretty obvious that the card Kazu gave Takato would come into play... but it didn't actually work, making the whole thing a waste of time. As awesome as the sequence was, Gorillamon wasn't actually stopped until Terriermon's anti-climactic follow-up attack.