In this episode, we finally realize what this season's been missing. That's right, another lively round of “they're not just data” speeches!
It's easy to be derisive about Ewan Amano. As the only significant plot twist until Apollomon, we have to hope he brings something massive to the table. Read the character synopsis on Wikipedia and it's anything but. We've seen the “boy goes bad” angle before. We've seen people refuse to acknowledge that Digimon are anything but zeros and ones. We've seen siblings forced to fight each other. Ewan appears to be little more than Ken Ichijouji with an infusion of Koichi and Tai (yes, Tai, we'll get to that in a second). While that makes it difficult to call it all that original, and the episode properly introducing him makes several sloppy missteps, there's just enough going on to make him an interesting and worthy addition to the season.
Like Ken and Koichi before him, Ewan is very clearly being manipulated. However, the simplicity behind his corruption actually makes it more heartbreaking. Cherubimon used Koichi as an unwilling pawn; Koichi himself had absolutely no say in the matter. Trying to break down the who and why over Ken's situation just gives people a headache. AxeKnightmon didn't need to rely on dark spores or spirits to bring Ewan over to his side. He just convinces Ewan that the world is a game where nobody gets hurt and where winning or losing has no consequences. Ewan has complete freedom over his choices, and he chooses to work with AxeKnightmon.
That's our little wrinkle, and one that makes Ewan's behavior all the more haunting. It's true that, like Ken, he's been led to believe that this world is his playground. And clearly neither is himself. But Ewan's transformation is due to the prospect of a pain-free world, an idea that consumes him from the very moment he hears it. This is a kid who's so paranoid about how fragile life is, afraid to harm anyone physically or emotionally. The Digital World becomes such an inviting release that he becomes a monster naturally.
This is where Tai comes in, namely that time Tai got the impression that death wasn't a thing in the Digital World and lost all concern for himself or his teammates. It was pretty extreme, and this is Tai we're talking about! Let an emotionally fragile boy like Ewan think that and it's no wonder he goes off like this. That's another difference between him and Ken: Ken may not value life in the Digital World, but he takes his conquest seriously. Ewan is all about unleashing his pent-up competitive spirit. He wants to win, but even more he wants to be tested. He plays hardcore, digifusing every chance he gets in an effort to show off his l33t skills against what he hopes is worthy opposition. AxeKnightmon and Tuwarmon feed into this perfectly by playing the parts of the game's advisers- telling Ewan what to do while leaving him with the impression that he's calling the shots.
Now unlike Ken, Ewan's older sibling is alive and present (too soon?). Nene's naturally stunned by all this, paralyzed until Mervamon and the guys step in. This is where things get a bit uneven. First off, Doumon's first illusion seems to serve as nothing more than dramatic ambiance to rattle Nene. If Ewan was really convinced this was a game, wouldn't he assume Nene was in on it and be less inclined to toy with her the way he does? He should be all business, especially since he later accuses Nene of trying to deceive him, taking AxeKnightmon's word over his big sister's.
Despite a better use of the illusion trickery against Shoutmon X5B and MetalGreymon and a satisfyingly unorthodox digifuse to take out Doumon, there wasn't much point to the fight. And after AxeKnightmon told Ewan they needed more pylons and organized a retreat, Nene was somehow emboldened by the whole thing, in spite of the trauma she just experienced. You'd think she'd be more defeated considering her brother attacked her and her friends just to get in a bit of grinding.
My Grade: B
- Between the season's first episode the annoyed way Shoutmon explains what they're doing to Starmon, we're looking at a renaissance of in-story plot recaps.
- So is Doumon another victim of badly mangled dub spelling or are the Crunchyroll subtitles good enough authority to give the dub a pass? Maybe they just wanted to distance him from Taomon to avoid all the Rika/Nene voice actress jokes.
- Speaking of dub edits, Laylamon's new form was the season's second most predictable Photoshop job after Mervamon. It was again entirely necessary and would again be less of a distraction if the whole point of Laylamon this season wasn't to be one big distraction. Still, this approximation of a sensible outfit raises some troubling questions about where the Vilemon are now hiding.
- Doumon casts this illusion on the surrounding area, despite them not knowing whether any of the Fusion Fighters are actually in the surrounding area, including Nene, whom the illusion was specifically designed for.
- So here's one spot where sticking with the term “deletion” instead of outright referring to death totally works. Ewan talking about deleting Nene shows just how mistaken he is about this place. And while they shied away from outright saying the butterfly died (aren't butterflies a protected species in this franchise?), the visuals got the point across.