In this episode, JP has to confront doubts about having friends. Once the enemy poses, amplifies and exaggerates such doubts to an unrecognizable proportion, that is.
Yay! It's the Sakkakumon arc! It's time for the kids to run around the Sephirot for five episodes, and thus making me brush up on both my Kabbalah and my big book of Final Fantasy VII jokes. While it ultimately amounts to little more than random character development, it's a very clever and creepy stage to hold the proceedings and tee up the big Duskmon storyline. Plus anything in a kid's show that's making me research Kabbalah can't possibly be a bad thing, right?
Everybody's going to get a turn on this ride, and it starts with JP because why the hell not? The group is in high spirits following their victory over Mercurymon and Ranamon. In fact, considering it involved three of them being tied to a rack and tortured while another went through a time warp in search of himself and a fifth survived only due to a random twinge of angst, their spirits might be a little too high. Still, it's a fun moment as JP pretends to lead the team down a linear path to the Rose Morning Star as the others plan out a timeshare for the captaincy and mock JP's leadership abilities. While it's probably meant to underline a lack of respect the others have for JP, it does more to illustrate how close they've all gotten, how they can throw harmless barbs at each other, and how Takuya is comfortable letting someone else pretend that they know what they're doing.
It doesn't matter who's leading the way as the road opens up in front of them and everyone save Bokomon and Neemon are sucked into the beast. Mercurymon has a solid plan here: the interior of Sakkakumon is freaky enough without the giant eyeballs and frisky slime hands. Add those in to separate the group and it's even more promising. The goal is to draw kids into separate elemental zones, each with its own traps and monsters. It's a sensible enough plan, but with one major flaw: on top of the trippy atmosphere, Mercurymon tries to engage in direct psychological warfare rather than just overpower them physically. That never works.
Mercurymon isn't the first enemy to prey on insecurities in the hopes of the good guys beating up themselves. Such efforts inevitably fail when the hero realizes that he's good enough, he's strong enough and doggone it, people like him. What makes his efforts to undermine JP especially pitiful is all the work that needs to go into it. First he needs to trap JP in the Earth Area and have Volcamon tell him someone pushed him in and that he doesn't have any friends after all. Once Beetlemon takes care of him, a shadow version tries to reinforce the message by throwing in a few flashbacks and some illusions of the other four taunting him. While Shadow Beetlemon proves formidable, he never quite convinces JP that everybody's against him, because JP's just not that gullible.
The thing to understand about JP is that while he's kind of an asshole a lot of the time, he's not a moron. It's not that Volcamon or Shadow Beetlemon are lying about JP not having friends, it's more that JP is already aware of his problems socializing. He knows that he tries too hard to impress or bribe his way into gaining admirers, failing to dedicate himself to the foundation that makes a true friend. JP may hate to confront it, but this isn't new information for him, so it doesn't have the impact that it should.
Meanwhile, since this “true friends” thing is new to him, he can feel the difference in his relationship with the rest of the group. That's why he just can't get his head around the idea that the other four don't value his contributions to the team or consider him a friend. The enemy here is trying to force JP to have an epiphany over information he's already sorted out in his head. While it's a nice way to have a character overcome such tactics, it's embarrassing that Mercurymon would try them in the first place.
My Grade: B-
- Better Know A Sephirah! Sakkakumon takes the form of the Sephirot, an ancient diagram of emanations that acts as sort of a flow chart to explain the relationship between the divine and the mortal. The Earth Area JP finds himself in is called Yesod, meaning “foundation.” Basically, it does the dirty work of collecting the energies from other spheres and making something tangible out of them. Considering how some of these areas get so little action, it's possible there isn't any logic behind certain things happening in certain areas. But if there is, JP having to balance himself and his shadow in order to discern reality would be the symbolism here, as does making earth the dominant element.
- The whole group is getting sucked into a mysterious void and totally freaking out, and Zoe's worrying about her skirt.
- Frisky slime hands flying all over the place and Zoe clobbers Takuya because she thought he suddenly decided to play grabass. Once again, Zoe violently reacting when she mistakenly thinks she's being sexually harassed and letting it slide when she actually is being sexually harassed.
- Takuya actually sexually harassing Zoe was cut from the dub when he comments about her being heavy after she crashes into him. That's why she checks her waistband. She should have clobbered him.