This would have been a very beautiful second-to-last episode. For all of the warts this season has, to cut its losses here would have been to salvage it. Even a short arc to wrap up the big Koichi twist and give us the inevitable Lucemon/Susanoomon showdown would have been lovely. At the very least, we would have been able to say Frontier was on par with Zero Two, faint praise as that may be. It would have worked too; whatever that big ball o' data that fell down to Lucemon signified, it could have very easily spelled his full return rather than the arrival of more lackeys.
In fact, this needed to be close to the end. It was built for it, had all the necessary ingredients, and the sentimentality made it feel climactic. The truly epic battle between EmperorGreymon, MagnaGarurumon and Cherubimon was only half of it. Really, it's the B-Team's heart that make this episode work. JP's made no secret that he wants to be the hero. He's angry about the raw deal that he, Tommy and Zoe end up with. Lingering in the background just isn't in his coding so he has to say something. Instead of being negative, he visibly suppresses his frustration and becomes Takuya and Koji's primary cheerleader. Knowing what his true thoughts are, it becomes one of his stronger moments in the series, to the point where you actually feel bad for him.
Seeing the backups acknowledge that they're watching this from the sidelines is touching, because it's very hard to do in something this important. The fate of the world is at stake and, despite having some pretty impressive power themselves (as demonstrated just last episode), they're stuck in the bleachers. It's not to the extent that we saw in Adventure of course, but there's an element of sacrifice involved with being so willing to accept this role. That's why it's so crucial that this series of events come towards the end of the line: as it is now, they'll be doing this same routine for the next ten episodes. It gets old.
Zoe's, ahem... method of motivation is a discussion point both for the fact that she goes there and the way it distracts Takuya on the job. Her offer to let Takuya and Koji date her is probably in jest. Still, it leads to this really awkward fantasy sequence where Takuya is resting on Zoe's lap. It's easy to get the impression that Takuya has some sort of romantic interest in Zoe from this, but every other scene in the series so far would tell you that was wrong. But she puts the idea in his head, which takes his mind off a particularly grueling part of the battle. When going through hell like that, it's easy to imagine resting on a pretty girl's lap under a tree, with friends playing nearby. He may not like Zoe that way, but she is easy on the eyes and acts extra docile in Takuya's fantasy. With Cherubimon pounding on him, he'd take that.
As for the battle itself, it goes through a few stages and there's plenty to like in each of them. Rather than the notion of facing insurmountable odds, you get the sense that Takuya and Koji feel that this is a winnable battle. That adds to the drama as their initial momentum feels appropriate, while failure is still a very real option and seems even more devastating. When Cherubimon absorbs a boatload of data and grows huge, he gains the upper hand for a while until a beautiful combination of strategy and sheer willpower defeats him. MagnaGarurumon comes up with the plan, but accepts that he has to play meat shield since EmperorGreymon has the necessary weaponry. That sort of final shot is how someone like Cherubimon should go down, and the shot of a victorious Takuya carrying Koji back to the others is a perfect ending.
Now end, goddamn it!
My Grade: A-
- There's a bit of crazy brilliance in the idea that so much data is being absorbed from the Digital World that its gravitational pull is affected.
- While JP gets a proper character moment out of his encouragement to Takuya and Koji, Koichi barely gets four words in before Takuya breaks it up. From his expression, it looked like he was worried that it was going to turn into a creepy twincest moment.
- The sight of Takuya's on Zoe's lap is kinda suggestive for a kid's show, certainly more of an affectionate display than we're used to seeing... unless you count Tommy motorboating Zoe in episode 31.
- MagnaGarurumon sounds awfully damn positive that his plan will work. It does, but he makes a whole lot of assumptions here and takes on a whole of personal risk believing they're right.
- It's a pretty nice touch that MagnaGarurumon's armor is slowly stripped away as he charges towards Cherubimon.