In this episode, we close the world and open the next.
Objectively, that was the best season of Digimon. After this, the show goes down controversial new paths, some more successful than others. Even for the dub, this was the point where Disney took over ownership of the show, moved it to basic cable and changed familiar production aspects (often for the better in the case of the latter, but change is still change). As meaningless a change as that should mean in the long run, and even as it was undone by Jeff Nimoy returning to write Data Squad or Saban reclaiming ownership for Fusion, Tamers is constantly grouped with Adventure and Zero Two while the remaining seasons are left to fend for themselves.
One reason for that is that Tamers is the last “pure” season of the series. The innovations made down the road shake up the child/Digimon partnership, the age of the human partners, and the nature of evolution. Not all of these have been welcomed. Hell, there are some people who dismiss Data Squad because Marcus doesn't wear goggles! It's unfair to divide Digimon into the good half and the dicey half, and it's something this blog seeks to correct by giving Frontier, Data Squad and Fusion equal billing. But for everything Tamers throws at us, it was remarkable in its ability to keep the essentials intact and mastering them.
The best example of this is in the way the Digimon partners are portrayed. Despite the show's title, Adventure and Zero Two were always about the children. The Digimon partners were merely reflections of the kids, injecting a dissenting opinion or personality here and there but never establishing themselves as individual characters. Tamers broke that by giving the primary five Digimon (Impmon and Calumon must be included here) their own character arcs. They grew and developed alongside their partners, and not always in the same way or at the same time. The most striking example, Guilmon, went from an awkward infant to a mature adult before our eyes. We won't see this much character out of the Digimon again until Fusion (where, thankfully, it will be in abundance).
Not that the human characters didn't keep up. The tamers were of a different mold from the digidestined, creating a memorable roster. Takato isn't brash or outwardly confident like all the other goggleheads, but has the passion and determination to make a worthy flag-bearer. Rika is only the most distinctive female character in the franchise. Henry will be forever stuck as the third wheel in this trinity, but only because his story goes far beyond the usual family/social issues and instead becomes a series of complex moral debates raging in his head. It's harder to summarize that cleanly.
Tamers is unusual not only because it shrinks the marquee to just three main characters, but that the supporting cast is incredibly developed. Jeri went from bit player to crucial figure in one decisive moment, ultimately how weakness and strength can be perceived by the same actions at the same time. The adults offering major support and the show's attention on Janyuu and the other parents is appreciated. Add in the twisted elements, random existentialism and a downright Madoka-esque dissection of the consequences of having a monster companion and it becomes a series that should get more attention among anime fans than your average Digimon series.
As always, thanks for reading, and thanks especially for commenting, even if it's to point out a mistake or disagreement. If you'd like to help support the project, the cycling list of Digimon swag at the right leads to Amazon.com. By clicking that link, a portion of anything you buy on that visit goes to help fund this site.
While I've posted over holidays in the past, with Christmas and the new year hitting right as we're bridging two seasons, it's a good time to slow down a bit. So I'll be taking Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve off and only posting on Thursday for the next two weeks. That'll cover the second Tamers movie and open up Digimon Frontier. So until then, here's hoping your holiday season is better than Tai's.
Now this is an ending theme! It particularly works well as a second ending- dramatic and a little intense. It's perfect for Tamers. Animation's not as rich as the first ending, but there's some sneaky symbolism and it's still a far cry from what we got in the first two seasons