Now that all the introductions and formalities are out of the way, it’s a good time to explore the world a little bit. What does Gatchmon think about Haru’s daily life? How much of an influence does app technology have? Can his mom cook? The answers are sufficient: fascinated, a lot, and c’mon she’s doing her best. Since Haru’s the only kid in the game so far, everything in his life goes under the microscope, and there are plenty of curiosities among his friends, family, and world to warrant such attention. We get enough snapshots and frameworks of cool ideas throughout, so many in fact that none of them have time to land with any satisfaction.
It’s clear early on that this may become the most fun setting a Digimon series has had, simply because it gets so much mileage out of the present day. Losing wifi breaks up a group hang, Haru’s annoyed Gatchmon changed his ringtone, and everyone’s way too reliant on their phone’s navigation app. Other than the montage of Navimon hijinks, this is illustrated through Haru’s friends Watson and Ai. Watson shows up in a state, telling his tale of woe about a rough walk home from cram school and a grumpy puppers. Ai gets lost returning from an errand. While Watson’s story is funny enough and Ai’s plight spurs Haru into action, these are chances to dive into the rest of the roster and we don’t learn much, particularly Ai’s which is both introduced and wrapped up by word-of-mouth. We’re left wondering why Watson dresses like a total nerd despite clearly being an idiot and how Ai got into and out of protagonist-rousing peril without uttering a single line of dialogue.
Because her “peril” comes off as more of an inconvenience, it cheapens Haru’s charge into action. Last episode he was timid and reluctant to fight back no matter how bad Gatchmon was getting it. Now he hears Ai might be doomed to take a longer way home and he morphs into Taiki. The lovable early awkwardness is only seen around the margins and he’s already exuding a base-level gogglehead aura. A more gradual progression wouldn’t be so jarring.
We wouldn’t mind shortcuts on the character development side if the action was worth its while. It’s Digimon even: our standards for good action are low, and the Appmon even have a killer gimmick going for them. Navimon’s gimmick doesn’t let us down, pinning Gatchmon’s location and using it as a homing beacon for his guided missiles. But after one shot, the resolution cuts corners, relying on vague search terms to learn to disorient Navimon (with nary a “recalculating route” joke) and an Applink that felt arbitrary and not at all essential. For all the cool stuff we’re teased with, it all feels glossed over just to demonstrate a new mechanic that’s basically DigiXros without the cool mashup designs.
Those are reserved for App Fusion, which also debuts here, as if the episode wasn’t busy enough. Like everything else, it comes out via an awesome concept that didn’t get enough attention. Cameramon (sorry… Caméramon) has the personality and quirk of ten villains, from the posturing, the insistence on pronouncing his name right, the bad selfies, the camera flash blinding attack, and the spontaneous red carpet that appears when he greets Haru and Gatchmon. Haru responds with the equivalent of a button mash, Applinking Gatchmon and Navimon in desperation and getting Dogatchmon for his efforts.
This is our introduction to App Fusion, our equivalent of evolution. Seeing Dogatchmon in his CGI glory is eye-opening for sure, but again it’s a disservice to Haru’s character arc. Evolutions, especially a character’s first, are major events, and how they’re triggered should say a lot about a character or a particular season. The distinctions for the Adventure eight are analysis-worthy by themselves, never mind someone like Masaru. Haru gets it not through a moment of self-reflection or willpower, but by randomly fooling around with a technique he learned ten minutes earlier. We don’t even get to see Dogatchmon in action; the Caméramon fight bookends two episodes. Given how much the episode could have been doing before squeezing this in, it’s as natural a cliffhanger as the dub cut of the MetalSeadramon fight.
My Grade: C+
- Thanks to the opening, there’s a popular misconception that Appmon takes place in 2045. As will become very obvious later on, the story is meant to be present day, to the point where the date given at the start of each episode often matches up with the original airdate. 2045 is suggested to be the date of technological singularity when machine intelligence matches human intelligence. One leading proponent of this theory is futurist Ray Kurzweil, who could well be the namesake for Rei Katsura.
- For a character mostly there to be the irritating friend frequently inconvenienced by corrupt Appmon, Watson got a lot of design attention. It’s a shortening of his real name Takeru Wato (and another AI reference!), his appearance suggests he won’t be the background character he mostly is, and he and his friends even have backpacks with digieggs on them.
- Look at Gatchmon not backing down with his exposition duties, introducing the audience to Ai’s dad and reminding us about Haru’s crush.
- While fleeing his mayhem, Navimon bounces off a wifi icon. More characters do this too and it’s such a nice touch.
- One of Navimon’s victims is definitely not President Barack Obama (nah, this season wasn’t in limbo for a while…). Maybe it’s Niki Odama from Hunters. Weird to realize the seemingly endless black hole of Digimon content between Hunters and tri./Appmon happened during the same presidency.
- Oh yeah, when this episode first aired I made a ringtone in case you too want to be annoyed by Gatchmon every morning. Download it here!