In this episode, Jeri's father seeks to atone for his rough parenting the only way he knows how... by stealing Mr. Matsuki's truck and crashing it into the bad guys.
As much as we worship Hiroaki Ishida around here (to the point where I'm concerned that I might not find ways to talk about him during Frontier), I would never go so far as to call him a good parent. We can acknowledge that he had a few shortcomings on that end. So when it comes to Tadashi Katou realizing that he's partially responsible for Jeri's trauma, it's curious that his attempt to make amends involves turning into Hiroaki Ishida. Some parents talk about problems with their kids and hug it out. He turns into a goddamn action hero.
That's not to say that his reaction is unnatural in any way. If your only daughter was held captive by a strange red mass, you'd drive a stolen truck into it too. You end up feeling bad for the poor guy. Under the gruff asshole we've seen before is somebody who deeply cares about his daughter and wants to be a good father... but has no idea how to do it. The death of his wife and Jeri shunning his new bride puts him in a difficult position and he just can't figure it out. He figures playing the bad cop is the best method, except his daughter refuses to love the good cop. His failures don't change his love for her, however, so of course discovering her situation is going to turn him into Liam Neeson.
Jeri, of course, gets the worst of it. Calumon may have found her, but she's a shell of herself. She's had a lot of time to think, which is never a good thing with that much pain. By now, D-Reaper has amplified her negative memories, distorting them into full-blown nightmares, unless hospitals came equipped with creepy future Jeris armed with rabid sock puppets. Whatever was left of her soul after Leomon's death has been crushed and buried, leaving her certain that loneliness and despair is her only fate. As she obsesses over this, D-Reaper's newest agent Paratice Head (so grotesque that it doesn't even deserve a properly spelled name) echoes it in her voice to demoralize Tadashi, Takato and Rika.
Rika deserves a special mention for a moment of reflection that frames the parallels between her and Jeri's family problems, tying a bow on Rika's character development. Nobody's going to say Rika has an easy family life, with a dad that she doesn't see much and a terribly young mother that doesn't quite know what she's doing. Jeri's situation makes Rika appreciate that at least her dad is alive, her mother is trying and she has a very comfortable lifestyle that she was probably taking for granted. There's a hint of regret in how oblivious she and the others were to Jeri's demons. Think of all the opportunities they had to learn more. They all left Jeri alone the first time Leomon ran from her. When Takato wept over the letter from Mom, he didn't ask if Jeri missed home. She showed an alarming knack for serving adult dairy beverages. These moments could have started conversations and allowed Jeri to open up. Rika realizes that they could have done more, as friends, to understand her.
This lends itself to one of the moral lessons of the season being “you are not alone.” Most of the problems of the series stem from characters feeling like they are, ultimately coming around when they realize that they have people (and Digimon) that care about them after all. It applies to Rika, Impmon, Jeri, and even Ryo to an extent. Grani is this message delivered to all of the tamers. Modify cards have made the tamers a bigger part of the battles than before. Then came bio-merging, where they joined the battle on par with their partners. Even then, it often felt like just them against D-Reaper. Grani, engineered by the Monster Makers (particularly Daisy), is a tangible asset borne solely from the minds of the adults watching the battle. For all the emotional support, information and occasional chauffeur work kids have received in the past, we now see a direct contribution to the front lines making a critical difference in the fight against the Optimizer agent. Score one for the grown-ups!
My Grade: A-
- There's a subtle rebuke of the trite phrases that people use to console those who lose loved ones. Hearing “part of her will always be with you” a dozen times must make it lose meaning.
- In the last drive Mr. Matsuki will ever take in his truck, he asks “Where's Poochie?” Er... Ryo. Ryo is back as Justimon and still fighting agents incessantly. Something tells me that this persistence was more Cyberdramon's decision.
- Shibumi uses quantum mechanics to explain how he plans to bring Grani into the real world. It's too simple to qualify as a Lain moment, but you have to credit the show for attempting to teach kids quantum mechanics on a Saturday morning cartoon.
- Oh that smug look on Suzie's face when Dolphin and Curly confirm her assertion that somebody's in D-Reaper's Kernal Sphere! Sassy one, her.
- The other notable part in Rika's reflections is that it's the first time she's even mentioned her father. Until now, we couldn't even be sure that her father was alive, or even once married to Rumiko.
- Tadashi stole Takehiro's truck and crashed it into D-Reaper. That has to make for some awkwardness between those two. I can picture them years later, at Takato and Jeri's wedding, sitting together as the fathers of the bride and groom, reminiscing over old times when Takehiro says, “Hey, remember that time you stole and crashed my truck?”