In this episode, the moment everyone's been waiting for all season! That's right, Zenjirou and Akari finally get their Xros Loaders! Bunch of other kids show up too.
The third Great Gathering in the Hunters series is a pretty big deal. The Hunters finally meet the enemy face to face. The clockmaker explains how Quartzmon came to be and why the rules for the Hunters are so funky. He establishes the basis for the final showdown as the strongest Hunter will be the one to Hunt Quartzmon. Tagiru loses Best Hunter to Ryouma, but handles it with previously unseen maturity and poise. Ryouma turns out to be Worst Hunter and Hunts one of the key components of the thing that Hunts Quartzmon. As all this is happening, a reunited Xros Heart helps buy time for the Hunters with the help of some marginally relevant assistants that serve as the remaining components.
Oh, and the marginally relevant assistants are main characters from the previous five seasons and much of the episode is just them going around beating up Vamdemons with their Digimon and just being awesome and Masaru just goes One Punch Man on everything and I can't believe that happened in an actual episode that was so...
You see the dilemma here. Analyzing this as a Hunters episode gives us a massive info dump, an important development in the main character, and a nasty plot twist that sets us up for a thrilling finale that gets Tagiru his big moment. The wave of Vamdemon extermination is exciting, but shortens much of the important action and forces it to take a back seat. At the same time, this distraction becomes one of the seminal moments of the franchise. Frankly, it's the only part of Hunters that matters.
It's perhaps surprising that when you look at what each different aspect tried to accomplish, it's the crossover element that falls short of expectations. We certainly can delight in seeing all of our favorite heroes and watching some legendary Digimon going to town. What we lack is actual character. There's so much time spent introducing everybody and explaining everything to the Xros Wars kids that there's no personality. Even the Digimon are doing little more than firing their lasers. All we're afforded is brief snippets of the goggleheads getting into a pissing contest as they refuse to be outclassed. It's fun, but it doesn't add up to very much.
Meanwhile, the actual Hunters plot is scrambling to make up for lost time. The clockmaker's explanation is rushed and sloppy, but it's at least thorough. We have an origin for Quartzmon and Digi-Quartz, a justification for allowing Digimon to be hunted (preventing Quartzmon from getting their data), and a reason why the good guys can't just beat the bad guy up until he stops moving. Because he's timeless and never stops moving. He can only be hunted... and they need to determine the best hunter for that.
Tagiru accepting his defeat graciously is a genuine surprise. Instead of reacting with anger or depression, he understands that they tried their best and were simply out-fought. It's kind of a big thing for him, and both the fight with Astamon and Tagiru's reaction to it were big moments that deserved more time. Ryouma's big turn at the end was a fantastic plot twist ruined by too much telegraphing two episodes ago and an attempt to counter that with an emotional backstory last time.
If we're going to remember this episode for returning characters, it's actually the Xros Heart reunion tour that stands out. All of our old favorites get a silly new digixros, there's one last ship tease of Mervamon and Beelzebumon, and who didn't love seeing Akari and Zenjirou finally getting Xros Loaders and their “kids on Christmas” smiles? Actually, if you wanted personality and character during the big crossover sequence... those two were the real all-stars.
My Grade: B+
- While most of Xros Wars takes place in Koto, Clockmon's protective spell and, apparently, the site of the final battle with Bagramon, is clearly not. The island park where they rendezvous with the clockmaker is actually one town over... in Odaiba.
- Taiki's mother was one of the people at the park. And seemingly still in the same jogging outfit she wore during the Bagramon battle. This makes no sense.
- In spite of the lazy storytelling, most of the lengthy explanation covered all the essentials, and knowing the clockmaker's true identity sort of explains how he got the other seasons involved. What's really glossed over is how Quartzmon prevented someone from accessing multiple Digimon from their Xros Loader except for a simple digixros. Sounds like a Zero Two-style nerfing right there.
- The groups of silhouettes around the world were... Sora & (presumably Tamers) Beelzebumon, Miyako & Ikuto, Lee & Junpei, Iori & Koji, Mimi & Ruki, and a Takeru/Hikari/Ryo three-way. Add in later appearances, and that means all twelve Digimon from Adventure and Zero Two appear, and all of the important ones from Tamers show up. For Frontier and Savers, only Izumi, Koichi, Touma and Yoshino are absent, so it's surprisingly thorough, unfulfilling as these appearances may be.
- You do have to give the clockmaker credit for getting Mizuki on board well in advance, not only for the immediate Dagomon problem but to go hunting for the Brave Snatcher in the bay.
- Airu passing up the contest because she doesn't want her Digimon getting hurt may have been an interesting character footnote if prior episodes had tried harder to build up character development. Ryouma's willingness to kick Ren's ass is an obvious note; Ren's surprise at this is just funny.
- Why are Daisuke and Takuya so insistent on explaining the whole age thing to Xros Heart? They don't know the difference, so Daisuke could totally just stop at “Taichi and I are from the same world” and revel being on equal terms this one time. Be more like Takato, who just fanboys at the whole thing.
- One of the coolest things about this is getting to see these complicated evolutions from an outside perspective without the swirling backgrounds and such. The nudity seems to be an eyeful for Nene and Akari though.