So with a pinch of nudity adding to the traditional lengthy transformation sequence, we enter the bio-merge era. Human children have gone from forming a partnership with Digimon to becoming the Digimon themselves. While it remains an extension of that partnership now, bio-merging opens the doors for spirit evolution in Frontier and even the bio-hybrids in Data Squad. It's going to be a long time before the sight of Takato and Takuya going full monty frightens people again.
Yes, we are going to have to talk about the nakedness. The whole bio-merge sequence came in out of nowhere last episode. One moment we're wondering what Takato means by “fighting together” and the next we're getting an answer more clear than any of us are comfortable with. The nudity is an appropriate choice symbolically, a stripping away of all superfluous layers and revealing just Takato at his most raw and vulnerable throwing it all on the line with Guilmon. Still, we're all left thinking three things: “okay, did the censors just up and quit?” “I'm gonna pretend this isn't a metaphor for something” and “oh God, is Rika getting one of these?”
Usually what happens with new evolutions, especially big dramatic ones like this, is an instant win. The good guys now have the power they need and start mowing over the bad guy that had been giving them grief. As impressive as Gallantmon is, Beelzemon manages to hang on and even push back. It's a sickening feeling that as random and awesome as this bio-merge is, it still might not be enough. Gallantmon one-hit KOs Chatsuramon all right, but Beelzemon steals the data, making him even stronger! It turns into a rare fight where both sides are elevated, which is scary considering the stakes.
As much as the action centers around Gallantmon, what's impressive about this whole series of episodes is how Henry, Rika, Suzie, Kazu and Kenta have not been ignored. With Terriermon and Renamon out of commission, they're mostly relegated to the sidelines, but that doesn't mean they aren't still present. They can still react to the situation and they can still be targeted. Henry's literally tearing his hair out as he's increasingly flummoxed by the double whammy of Beelzemon and his little sister becoming a tamer. Suzie isn't TK-ified and given strength and wisdom beyond her years. She has no idea what to do, refuses to let the more experienced Henry and Lopmon help her, and is just in the way. The added tension is just frosting in all this, but it's much appreciated.
Kazu and Kenta remain the humanitarians, first through their concern about Jeri and then being the most worried about Takato's mysterious disappearance. They are rewarded: Kenta is the first to figure out that Takato is a part of Gallantmon and Kazu and his Guardromon end up saving the day when they prevent Beelzemon from closing in. Thanks to them, Gallantmon is able to finish the job.
Except he doesn't. As much of a wreck as Jeri is, and as much of a wreck as she will continue to be, this is one of the early indicators of that lion's heart that Leomon was talking about (and repeats in an annoyingly long flashback). She knows that Leomon would frown on murdering for revenge. Furthermore, she doesn't want to see one of her closest friends with blood on his hands. This act of mercy ultimately provides the best solution: Takato's soul remains clean while Beelzemon, having witnessed such a magnanimous gesture, is left realizing just how tarnished his has become.
My Grade: B+
- The symbolism of nudity may owe its roots to Lain as well. In that series, Lain is frequently scantily-clad when she is working on her machines. She says it's because of static electricity concerns (and there is an obvious element of fanservice), but the impression works to a similar effect as the bio-merge sequences.
- While there was much ado about the hazard symbol on Megidramon, it's actually found on all of Guilmon's incarnations, including Gallantmon.
- You know, Zhuqiaomon has a terrible sense of timing if he orders Chatsuramon to go kill Lopmon during the battle. There's a time and a place for that sort of thing, and that is immediately after Beelzemon's done with them and Guilmon and Takato separate.
- When Henry pieces together the bio-merge concept, he calls Gallantmon an “indestructible fighting machine,” even though Beelzemon is proving him to be quite mortal and a fairly equal match.
- Beelzemon's flashback is long and kills all the momentum of the episode, but to make matters worse it includes more shots of the drawn-out Crysalimon genocide.