In this episode, Takuya takes the midnight train goin' anywhere.
It's hardly an insult to call this the Frontier version of episode 21 of Adventure. That was the first truly great episode of the franchise, occurred at about the same point in its series and dealt with the common territory of the team leader returning home under mysterious circumstances. It's an apt comparison, but even that sells this scenario short. While Tai was tempted by the luxuries of home, staying never felt like an option. Takuya doesn't just get the opportunity to stay, he gets the chance to rewrite the past so that he never left.
The Dark Trailmon is the manifestation of every video game Game Over screen. “Takuya! It looks like you got your head handed to you. So, how about giving it another shot?” This is a tricky one to piece together, because not only is there no explanation for Takuya's arrival at the Dark Terminal, he didn't actually get his head handed to him. His social link with Koji was high enough that KendoGarurumon dove in front of Duskmon's shot. Could it be that this Game Over is not due to him dying, but in committing actions that severely wounded a teammate? With that kind of guilt hanging over Takuya's head, it's no wonder he selects End rather than Continue.
After throwing in the towel, Takuya is forced to become Flamon, a lower-leveled form of a Digimon that really shouldn't have lower-leveled forms. As with many things in this episode, it's symbolic! He's bailing out on his friends, forfeiting his right to take the form of a Legendary Warrior. He's also not much of a man either. Conveniently, it also means he would be unable to live in the real world in this state, and it distinguishes him from the Takuya of that time period, sort of like he was wearing something silly like a fez.
Yeah, there's plenty of wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff going on here as Takuya is sent back in time with the chance to prevent his past self from entering the Digital World in the first place. Knowing nothing about time paradoxes, that's exactly what he sets out to do. In doing so, he's reminded of just how impulsive his decision to leave was, and the family he left behind. And the cake. Especially the cake. All the more reason for him to stop himself, right?
Considering just how many lucky breaks Takuya caught en route to the Digital World, it's no surprise that fate conspires against Flamon. There's an odd bit of spotting a second Koji on the train, but that can't possibly have any bearing on the rest of the story, can it? All the while, the image of Duskmon appears to be breaking through the shadows, forcing Flamon to keep running. It's still symbolic!
It comes down to the final platform, where Flamon has his clear shot to hold Takuya back and prevent him from boarding. Then he remembers that first day, and how he met the rest of the team. And how they were all totally assholes. They've all changed a bit since then, growing closer together and at least no longer being dicks to each other. The bold move of portraying them negatively at first comes back big here as it doesn't take a lot to see the difference. This growth, his bond with the others, and his concern for how totally screwed they'd be without him causes Flamon to not only let Takuya go on, but urge him forward.
Tai's angst when he returned home was that he knew he had no choice. Takuya has a choice here, and he came very close to making the wrong one. While it doesn't have the unique art style or Kari, story-wise, putting the difficult decision in Takuya's hands makes it the superior choice.
My Grade: A
- You really do have to accept the reality of this episode without asking too many questions. While the Duskmon appeared to be an illusion, Flamon does appear to actually go back in time in this form, with many horrified witnesses to prove it.
- The introduction to Koichi was well handled, introducing the idea by just showing him and a couple of key scenes, with no elaboration and, most importantly, no interaction. It's clear that he fits into the puzzle somewhere, but hard to pinpoint where.