In this episode, a Digimon stealing human motivation becomes an unstoppable, insufferable beast after taking Tagiru's spirit. Feels like there's a message in that.
You'd think Tagiru being seeped of all energy and forced to take a back seat to Taiki and Yuu would be an overall strong step for the series. After all, there's only so much of this kid we can take, and we aren't even halfway through Hunters. This would be a nice turning point, properly breaking the protagonist and forcing him to build himself back up again, perhaps this time with a little more humility. Unfortunately, Tagiru without his motivation is truly a sad, empty husk of a boy, which isn't much more entertaining to watch. It's a slow slog to a resolution, which ends with Tagiru rejuvenated and boisterous as ever. He didn't need to learn any lessons or experience any real hardships, and for that we can only shake our heads and acknowledge that Gumdramon is among the stronger Digimon protagonists we've ever seen.
Usually episodes that sap a character of his or her signature trait is a way to give us an appreciation for said trait. Koushiro sacrificed his curiosity and earned a Perfect evolution the second he recovered it. We're supposed to come out of this admiring the degree of Tagiru's motivation and energy. Instead, the episode makes it apparent that it's all Tagiru has. He isn't that smart, his intentions are questionable and Mami points out that he slept through the entire school day. But how special is it just to have motivation and energy? The earlier victims like Mr. Sugimoto or the kids on the sports teams were also motivated prior to being attacked. Just because Tagiru seems to have more energy doesn't make him that different from any of them. At least those jocks presumably have actual skills that are just as important. Even with no energy, whoever kicked that wobbly soccer ball still got it into the net.
Motivation all boils down to where it's focused. It can be aimless, leading to someone who's driven, but flighty and uncommitted and unable to master anything. It can also be pointed in the wrong direction. FlaWizarmon shows the danger of that. He's not a strong Digimon; Shoutmon and Damemon beat the everloving crap out of him. He's only threatening because Tagiru's boundless energy allows him to get up from every attack, no matter how many times he's knocked down. This battle is, sadly, the closest we ever get to Yuu actually punching Tagiru in the face. It also can be used to indict Tagiru as much as it praises him. FlaWizarmon clearly has selfish intentions, with the motivation to keep doing them no matter how much Taiki and Yuu try to stop him. Are we really sure Tagiru's any different?
No matter how problematic such an intense motivation can be, Gumdramon realizes how important it is to his goals and refuses to let it go. Lost in all the questions about the clockmaker or Ryouma's intentions, Gumdramon has his agenda too. And he might have as good an understanding about what a human partner brings to a Digimon fight as any... who didn't end up uniting with them. While Shoutmon and Damemon were more than a match for him, Gumdramon takes his lickings, and keeps getting up to prove a point to his partner. Because as Tagiru's motivation goes, so too does Gumdramon's energy supply... but he doesn't quit anyway. That dedication makes an impression on Tagiru. Despite still being wobbly and pathetic, he's inspired just enough to summon a new batch of energy to charge an evolution and turn the tide.
There's really no reason that Arresterdramon was even needed for the fight, as FlaWizardmon presented no challenge to OmegaShoutmon and Tuwarmon. Still, once Gumdramon appeared, Taiki backed off. It's been a while since we revisited Taiki's motivations, and a chunk of that still appears to be Tagiru's development. Whatever he sees in the future, he still seems to realize that a strong Tagiru, scary as that seems, will be crucial. It's hard to say if Taiki really had faith in Gumdramon, but he knew he needed to give him a chance to take this one the hard way. It made the episode and the threat drag longer than necessary, but Taiki seems to consider it a small sacrifice for whatever lies ahead.
My Grade: D+
- Mami is enjoying the hell out of watching Tagiru do those extra squats in his dream sequence. It's funny because this episode has possibly the most civilized conversation between Mami and Tagiru all season... followed by one of the most uncivilized once Tagiru blurts to everybody in class that he's going hunting.
- It's oddly appropriate that FlaWizardmon has a design that makes him look like he wears goggles.
- Despite facing a stiff challenge from FlaWizardmon in their first battle, Tagiru never thinks to evolve Gumdramon. That would have almost certainly been enough to win and would have ended this episode in record time.
- OmegaShoutmon and Yuu are seriously freaked out at how much FlaWizardmon sounds like a shounen protagonist, as if somebody with bad intentions could never be so passionate.