In this episode, when your back's against the wall and all your friends are either tied up or fighting against you, sometimes you just gotta drop a giant alligator on a pirate ship.
Unity and cooperation are some of the biggest themes of this series as a whole. It takes the idea of many fighting as one and turns into a very literal concept. But even if one of the members of the Fusion Fighters isn't being digifused every episode, they still need to be a team player. As much as this is emphasized, everybody on the team is still their own person or Digimon. For many, the conflict is being able to function as a team member without feeling like they're just following orders or losing what makes them unique. The resolution to this episode is a textbook case of individuals doing a series of individual things, but still contributing towards a team success.
It might not be coincidence that Christopher is thrown into charge. Most of the team's still under the influence of pro-pirate propaganda, Ballistamon did a slide evolution into DarkVolumon and the other two generals are all tied up. This leaves Christopher with a slim army that isn't quite on the same page. Christopher himself is a cold realist, Shoutmon is overly emotional, Deckerdramon is sensitive and sympathetic to Shoutmon, and MailBirdramon agrees, but is either being pragmatic or using pragmatism to sway his general. Dracomon's just happy to be out of the damn Fusion Loader for once.
There is no magic digifuse that allows these guys to rescue Mikey and Nene. It's each individual's ability working together. Shoutmon disrupts Olegmon and goes to work on DarkVolumon. MailBirdramon rescues Nene. Christopher unties Mikey and communicates the big plan, one of the best big plans ever, really: DROP THE GODDAMN ALLIGATOR! Deckerdramon's individual ability of being a giant alligator might not be overly impressive, but it's sure as hell effective. Plus it looks like the kind of strike Dracomon would come up with. Everybody's doing something different, but it all comes together.
Just as telling is the way Mikey and Nene operate as captives. Olegmon shows complete disinterest in Nene, but he wants Mikey on board, going so far as to confirm key information in his lament that he lacks the power to coerce humans. He ends up resorting to the ol' pirate standby: join us or Nene walks the plank. Or rather face the full destructive power of DarkVolumon directly to the forehead. It's a small miracle we got through this whole episode without a “walk the plank” line, actually.
The fact that Mikey never caves is a remarkable show of team trust. That hottokenai spirit of his must be killing him throughout all this. We've seen enough cases in the past when Mikey or characters from prior seasons put themselves in bad situations for the sake of teammates. Hell, it's the only reason he got Nene to join his team to begin with. It's not even that joining the pirates is the worst fate ever... it's hard to say what that really entails, actually. It's certainly disadvantageous somehow and Mikey manages to fight off his instincts to let Nene dangle, counting on a timely intervention from Christopher despite no communication from him. Nene would refuse to accept anything less, and weathers DarkVolumon's torture, up to the point where Olegmon is ready to make it lethal.
Finally, there's Shoutmon and Ballistamon. When the reprogramming fails, they digifuse and chat it out inside, always an odd visualization but neither the first nor last time it's utilized. For all of Shoutmon's pleas and Ballistamon's sad acceptance of his true form, it all comes down to who he wants to be- a friend and a good guy. He turns on Olegmon, eventually using DarkVolumon's attack as a finishing blow. It is the first and last time a non-fused Digimon has killed a Dark General, and it couldn't have been a more appropriate time. Even Olegmon seems impressed that Ballistamon chose friendship over obedience, taking his defeat with grace. Not like that'll be important or anything.
My Grade: B+
- There does seem to be some discontinuity in Shoutmon wanting to rename DarkVolumon to indicate his more peaceful rebirth, only to name Ballistamon after a war weapon.
- The concept of Surtr and Jormundgandr (really thankful for those name captions for once) is a fun one, but there's no time for them to properly develop. You get hints that these guys have some character to offer, but it's more of a tease overshadowed by everything else going on. It's a better concept for a villain used in more than a couple episodes.
- And so ends any thought of Mikey having a romantic interest in Nene. He shuts down Olegmon's suggestion with so little drama you'd swear he was channeling Kari.
- Dracomon is far more tentative trying to get his opinion across than he was in Dragonland. It's a nice portrayal as he's been on the sidelines for so long and likely still not used to being a member of Blue Flare. He wants to get his point across, but is really careful not to step on Christopher's toes.
- If DarkVolumon was really a different Digimon loyal to Olegmon, would Mikey even be able to fuse him with Shoutmon? Either Mikey has Darkness Loader powers or DarkVolumon isn't as different as everyone thinks.
- As if there weren't enough reasons to love Olegmon, he doesn't settle for programming his sentient killer speakers to go up to ten. They go to eleven.