In this episode, Takato declares his love for a girl who responds by reading the nutritional information on a bento box.
In every season, there are one or two episodes that are considered franchise-defining classics. Tai returning home, Kari and TK's honeymoon in Innsmouth, Leomon's death, Takuya and the Dark Trailmon... all of these have beautiful, sometimes stunning, moments that demonstrate what this show is fully capable of. When thinking about the upper echelon of historic episodes, you have to ask yourself- why isn't this one on that list?
It's no coincidence that the defining episodes from Adventure and Frontier center around one of the characters returning home. After everything these kids go through on their own, being able to return home is an intensely emotional experience. This return is treated as a big deal, with Hypnos calling not only everyone's parents, but EMTs as well. The kids return home proud of their accomplishments, but also drained, humbled and happy to see their parents again. Any family drama that Rika or Takato may have had with their mothers is suddenly swept under the rug.
Part of the reason it's such an emotional reunion is that it was so much trouble to get home. The sight of this ark slowly progressing up a rickety track where the slightest miscalculation screws the whole operation adds suspense and sells the notion that planning this rescue was indeed difficult. Even as it's progressing, the Monster Makers are making adjustments, trusting each other's knowhow, all the while not even knowing if the kids are on board. They are, barely, as Rika and Kyuubimon are late after fetching Impmon and Takato stays outside waiting for them. Rika even sneaks in a modify card to speed her partner up, fulfilling the episode's action quota. Her grabbing Takato, then Kyuubimon and Cyberdramon leaping up into the ark? Epic.
Also epic is the way the ark listens to Guilmon's pleas to stop. There are plenty of instances where things seem to happen magically to answer the hopes and dreams of the children. The ark does this as well, both stopping when Guilmon wants it to and going when Takato wants it to. But here, there's an effort at an explanation, as Dolphin explains how its AI had a similar family tree as the Digimon, suggesting that it could have a mind of its own. It's just enough justification to make it more rational than, say, the digi-gnomes, and it'll be back in a big way later.
Of all the kids whose parents aren't on hand for their arrival, of course it had to be Jeri. We've seen a brief glimpse of her family life before, and Jeri had mentioned the rocky relationship with her stepmother, but there's another problem she never mentioned: her dad's kind of an asshole. It's understandable to be out of town and unable to pick her up, but the tone of his response is downright rude. Even when her family picks her up at the train station, he doesn't seem happy to see her and is downright violent pulling her into the cab. He's probably not saying much to her, which suits this Jeri fine.
As for Takato, he not only says a lot to Jeri, he delivers one of the most heart-wrenching monologues in the show's history. On the long, lonely train ride to Matsumoto, Takato finally gathers the nerve to confess his feelings for her, not only admitting that he like likes her (and wonders if the feeling's mutual), but also pouring his heart out about how terrible he feels about her disastrous experience and how helpless he feels not being able to help her. Takato and Jeri's relationship is the only time romantic feelings have any serious bearing in any season. Takato and Jeri liked each other so much that they happily jumped into this adventure together, only for it to end in devastation. Takato not only feels responsible for his inability to save Jeri from this fate, but also fears that she's so damaged that everything he loved about her is gone forever. That sort of thing can mess with a kid.
Jeri's response is nothing more than an Evil Lain-like grin and the nutritional facts of the unopened bento box on her lap. That sort of thing can mess with everybody.
My Grade: A
- While Takato's dub work on the train is impeccable, it sounds like he calls Rika “Reika” in the beginning. Since Reika was in the Lain triumvirate (the others being Alice and Juri Kato) and didn't survive the translation (her name was changed to Riley), we're calling that a Freudian slip. Reika was pretty bitchy in Lain.
- Without any fanfare, Cyberdramon's Rookie form Monodramon makes an appearance. Amazing how much restraint the writers must have had not to interrupt a well-paced sequence to introduce him properly.
- Oh, and Kenta's officially a tamer now too, after MarineAngemon stowed away in his pocket. That wasn't tacked on at all, was it? Funny how the first three tamers get Rookies, Jeri and Kazu get Champions and Kenta gets a freaking Mega. It's like when a character joins your party in an RPG and is somehow at a comparable level to everybody's whose been on your team since the beginning.
- The ark's sudden sentience threw the arrival coordinates out of whack, which leads to two questions. One- where was the original arrival point, because that spot in the park was absolutely perfect. Two- if the coordinates were thrown off so much that Dolphin was seriously worried about it, you'd think it would be a matter of how many miles or prefectures away instead of how many blocks.
- How did Hypnos know that Ryo was in the Digital World, on the trip home, and needed his parents contacted? Also, if Ryo came here from the Zero Two world (and canon says he did)... why is his dad even there? Assuming that is his dad. Guy didn't look that happy to see him.
- As a point of reference, the city where Jeri's family was staying is in the Nagano area. That's a 2.5-hour train ride that Takato's mother permits her son to take.
- Jeri had said that she shut out her stepmother, but when she reached home her stepmother was the only one to give her a hug.