In this episode, the entire Digital World is rattled to its core in a twist so huge they skip the entire first act.
You know you're off to a rocky start when you have to go watch the Japanese version just to make sure there wasn't an entire act chopped out of the episode for some arbitrary silly dub purpose. Turns out it was meant to start off like this. There's no recap of previous episodes and minimal establishment of the zone they're in, the central antagonist or the helpless locals that Mikey can't turn his back on. We just launch right into the action and Mikey has the code crown before the popcorn's out of the microwave. The real story comes after that and more than makes up for the unusual start, but also demonstrates why the stuff that we skipped probably needed its own episode.
Jumping right into the action is a storytelling trick to get our immediate attention. It certainly succeeded, but not the way it's supposed to work. Throwing us right into a chaotic battle is instantly jarring and unexpected. Mikey may not be as adept at episode recaps as Rika in Frontier, but at least he sets the table in a way we're comfortable with. His explanation of Swords Zone, where fighters come to test their might against strong competition, makes us want to know more about this place and how the Fusion Fighters were even able to gain a foothold. We would not have minded an episode to establish this setting, particularly more about Grademon. If he's going to give us a heroic sacrifice, it would be nice to know who the hell he is first.
The concept that Grademon illustrated got a hasty introduction as well. All this time, Mikey has apparently felt bad for all of the bosses he's vanquished, believing that they could all be good Digimon if circumstances had broken another way. It's easy to believe that Mikey feels this way, but it's a bit disingenuous that this is the first we're hearing of it. Certainly Shoutmon has shown little remorse for all the blood on his sword. Again, perhaps a full episode to explore this would have made it an easier sell. It's vital to get it across as it proves to be central to Mikey's ideal of the Digital World. His “sunshine and rainbows and everybody's a good guy” ideal. Eh, his crowns, his rules.
Once Tactimon shows up, the episode begins in earnest and it's everything you could hope for. All the code crowns, and thus the entire Digital World, is up for grabs against an incredibly powerful opponent. As cliche a gimmick as it may be that Bagramon needed to unlock Tactimon's sword, it allows Tactimon to be a credible enemy both early and late. While Laylamon and Blastmon had been in and out regularly, Tactimon was only active three times. He proved to be a tough opponent early, in the middle he realized he needed more power to beat these generals, and now he's basically the final boss of the arc. Given the way he was used compared to the other two, this shouldn't surprise anybody.
In the interest of getting all the central characters together, Christopher is here too and still a self-confident asshole. This plays well in that it's obvious to everybody, including himself, that they're hosed if they don't work together. He plays nice, but shouts down any speeches and gets to work.
What's beautiful about the Tactimon battle is that it starts out looking like your standard climax fight. Bad guy overwhelms good guys. Bad guy talks about how evil he is. Good guy gets pissed and gets a burst of energy (late contributions from the bench and Beelzemon were a nice touch). Heroic sacrifice gives good guy opening. Good guy sends bad guy blasting off again.
And then it happens: the consequences of their initial defeat become apparent as Bagramon pops in, claims all 108 code crowns, and sucks the Fusion Fighters out of the world. AxeKnightmon is revealed to be Bagramon's brother and cohort all along, and Mikey's stuck back home with the job unfinished.
My Grade: B+
- While it was cool that Jeremy observed that the move to defeat Grademon was the same one Mikey used on him, it was a bit ridiculous for him to spontaneously challenge Mikey. It felt like the kids were horsing around, but there's no reason they should think to stop and rest with all the code crowns claimed. More like the end of phase one, with the next step starting instantly.
- Mikey seems very pleased to hear that defeated Digimon are reborn once the code crowns are all collected. Given how traumatic it is when rebirth doesn't happen, it's nice that somebody appreciates this overall phenomenon in general, and not just when it happens to their own partner.
- The disembodied head of Blastmon seems reduced to comic relief from here on out. Stick to what you're good at, I guess.
- The conversation between Nene and Christopher was oddly flirty, but Jeremy pointing it out was a bit much given the situation. Christopher's “save it” line made the whole scene though.
- One of my favorite things about Tactimon is the way he refuses to underestimate Mikey. The moment he sensed a legitimate threat from Mikey, he got the sword unsealed. Now, when the Fusion Fighters get up from the Earth Hammer, Tactimon realizes that sparing his worthy adversaries would be unwise and decides to eliminate them completely.