In this episode, I know I shouldn't watch this, but I can't take my eyes off it.
There's no other way to put it: Rika and Renamon's bio-merge is beautiful. The whole episode is choreographed to put the two in a situation were a bio-merge is not only appropriate, it's absolutely necessary. There's no drama, no ugly mistakes, no lessons learned and no surprises. From the moment Rika entered the pit, you knew how this one was going to end. That doesn't usually make for a great episode, but thankfully the whole sequence is so pretty that it doesn't matter.
Save for the quick glimpse at the end of the last episode, it's also the first time we see D-Reaper. D-Reaper is certainly not beautiful, and there are a lot of neat tricks that make it something truly horrifying. Part of this has to do with the animation style. While Digimon had been busting out the 3D models for upper-tier evolution sequences since season one, it's been used only sparingly elsewhere. However, combining CGI with the more traditional hand-drawn style always looks like a hot mess. So to have your typical animation suddenly encountering these nasty little 3D globs creates such discordance that you can't help but feel uneasy looking at these things.
While powerful and dangerous villains are usually big and fearsome, D-Reaper succeeds by being the exact opposite. We don't see a central mass, just these little red blobs of chaos silently floating up like bubbles. They're so quiet and so small that they're more weird and creepy than intimidating. Then they dissolve a rock on contact. Now they're intimidating. Both Rika and Ryo lose accessories to the chaos while down in the cavern, and it's harrowing that they're that close to annihilation without even a single evil dragon for miles.
Yes, Ryo rejoins the group here and while his character's presence isn't exactly necessary, it is one more factor messing with Rika's head. So it's okay. Between this mysterious enemy emerging, her intense sympathy towards Jeri, the sight of Takato and Henry bio-merging and the understanding that she's next, why not add her irritation towards Ryo to all this? It feels like Rika volunteers to go into the pit in order for her to have some alone time where she and Renamon can sort out all these thoughts without distraction. Ryo, thus, does an able job representing the distraction.
In spite of Ryo, Rika still does get her alone time with Renamon. As Renamon helps Rika down the ridge, they have a nice heart-to-heart about the nature of destiny. It's all heavy stuff, and even as Rika makes this perilous trip, it shows how frightened and meek she's become on this trip. Now that she's seen how expansive and dangerous the world is, and how little her previous accomplishments really mean, she's asking questions that she never would have pondered at the beginning.
After Ryo saves Rika a couple times, the two get in their allotment of sexual tension and she rescues Calumon, things start to get very dicey with escape becoming impossible. Renamon tries to get Rika to climb while she stays and stalls the chaos. Rika refuses, explaining that no matter what her fate is, she wants it to be the same as her partner's. This desire to fight alongside her partner is no different than Takato and Henry's sentiments when they first bio-merged, but the circumstances make her look crazy. No matter how concerned and how loud the boys are, Rika knows what she's doing the whole time, knows what's going to happen, and embraces it all the way.
And that's why there's nothing wrong with watching a show that features a completely nude twelve-year-old girl.
My Grade: B+
- This is the first time we get some dirt on Jeri's family life, namely her refusal to accept her stepmother following her birth mother's death. While Rika gets the bulk of the attention, the revelation that Jeri does not consider herself a nice person combined with Renamon's explanation that Jeri will ultimately choose whether or not to be happy makes this a pivotal episode on that front.
- Kazu is skeptical of Calumon's chances, saying that the little cream puff is not at all tough. On the surface, that may seem true, but given Calumon's ability to roam the real world freely, survive on his own in the Digital World for a long period of time (saving Rika's life once) and then climb his way out of Zhuqiaomon's prison on his own suggests otherwise.
- Ryo pulls another random card trick to make himself look impressive. It's not nearly as effective as the Goliath card that killed Majiramon, but I'm getting sick of this kid looking impressive solely through a few rare trading cards.
- All three of the kids talk about the warmth and energy surrounding them while they are in a bio-merge. The implications of all this do tend to get on the icky side, but it does have to be a similar sensation, doesn't it? As long as we're talking about the commonalities of heightened emotional experience with a soulmate and not making any suggestions that it's meant to simulate because seriously... ew.