In this episode, before we deconstruct this season's massive flaws, we stop to appreciate its awesome opening.
Twincest- Digimon did it before Ouran Host Club made it cool.
The ability to approach Digimon Frontier begins and ends with accepting its most drastic change: instead of a child having a partner Digimon, the child becomes the partner Digimon. That's a big deal, and if you can't handle that, you're not going to get very far.
The idea of a Digimon series without Digimon is not as fatally flawed as it sounds. One thing Tamers exposed was the rather superfluous nature of the monster partners in the first two seasons. They weren't deep characters on their own, so why have them around? It's not all that necessary to have these extra voices crowding the conversation, and likewise the kids often did little more than shout and get in the way during action sequences. A Digimon partner had frequently been a reflection of the child, so why not take that literally this time around?
As it turns out, the answer is personality. The Digimon partners in Adventure may not have been particularly rich characters, but they had the personalities to liven up drab scenes. One may have added little, but seven or eight certainly made things fun. While Frontier forcing its cast to discover their inner strength is no different than what the digidestined in Adventure had to do, the lack of Digimon means that the kids have to carry the whole show on their own.
When taken on their own, none of the characters are particularly weak. They all have their strengths and flaws, develop throughout the series and come out better people. The problem they run into is that, with the exception of Koji and Koichi, their major sources of grief are more subdued than we're used to. This is the only season with no dead parents, and that's actually kind of a bad thing. The angst instead is stuff more people can relate to (bullies, fear of being alone, difficulty adjusting to new environments), but the series struggles to work off of stuff like that for the whole run. Koji and Koichi's issues are great, but can't carry the load completely.
Speaking of carrying the load completely... remember when Tai and Matt gained the ability to go Mega? Adventure was very shrewd in ensuring that the other six kids remained relevant through the Dark Masters arc. Frontier makes you appreciate that as the spirits are gradually consolidated to the point where only Takuya and Koji matter. The other kids end up... well, doing little more than shouting and getting in the way, undermining half the reason to ditch the Digimon in the first place. It's rough, and makes for possibly the only season that limps to the finish line rather than builds to a crescendo.
This isn't the outright failure of a season that some fans purport it to be. The unique mythology of this Digital World is unmatched, the Trailmon are a pleasing aesthetic and there's plenty of goofy moments that take us back to the happier times before D-Reaper made us all uncomfortable. That said, the writing and plotting is probably the worst out of any season and it stands at the bottom of my list... at least until I get through all of Hunters.
That said, our tickets are booked and I will make sure to show off all the pretty sights on our journey before the inevitable derailment. For starters...
This song alone made me eager for this series as much as anything else. My second favorite of the Japanese openings behind Butterfly, eclipsing the Zero Two and Tamers openers by a wide margin. The random lip synching in the middle is a nice touch.
And since it must be acknowledged:
When the Digimon property went to Disney, the music did not go with. That meant that a whole new score needed composing, including a brand new opening to replace the one we're all familiar with (which, nostalgia aside, is grating and terrible). This is a proper song with proper words and a proper melody. Data Squad got its own opening too, but it doesn't come close to this plateau.