Appmon Episode 09: Aim for Number One! Appmon Championship in Cyber Arena!

In this episode, we interrupt your regularly scheduled comedic filler to bring you important plot details, then interrupt your important plot details to bring you a menacing character introduction.

Just like that, right in the middle of a very enjoying romp of filler and exposition, the plot crashes onto the scene and upstages everything! It’s like that Jungle Zone episode of Xros Wars all over again. It’s not the ideal way to put together an episode as having three very different segments prevents any of them from being the major taking point. At least the show’s learned from mistakes of prior seasons in recognizing that none of the three were strong enough to carry a whole episode on its own. Maybe it would have done better only drilling on two of the three, but they’re all pretty entertaining in their own way so it gets away with it.

One thing we didn’t get enough of in Xros Wars was the opportunity to really have fun with all the quirks and personalities of the various Digimon outside of battles. Not that the assorted captured Digimon in Hunters were as lovable, but most never made return appearances even in battle. Remember when Tagiru caught Cthulhu and never bothered to pull him out again? Appmon recognizes how much character rests within the three App Drives and pulls them out for something called a “Ranking Championship.” The story behind the competition is hilariously flimsy, owing itself to Gatchmon and Navimon having a petty edit war over Dogatchmon’s Definitely Not Wikimon page. If we have to dock points for such meaningless frivolity, it’s for reminding us this hilarious feud is perpetually shoved to the background. In limited appearances, Navimon’s been more interesting than Dokamon so far!

The filler itself, meanwhile, is delightful. Now that we’re up to speed on all three App Drivers and don’t have any arbitrary infected Appmon to worry about, all of the assembled critters can use their special app abilities to launch themselves to victory in events testing their ability to cheat at racing, art, and… digging? Rather than ignore Emceemon being a Musimon palette swap, they celebrate their brotherhood while insisting their resemblance is just a weird coincidence. The glowing light distinguishing Ropuremon as a Seven Code Appmon is not only a tangible object but can be switched off at will. None of this pretends to have a point, and Eri even finds it a tedious way to spend her day off, but if you’re going to give your monsters of the week personality, props for exploiting it after their week’s over.

The first shift is startling and awkward, prompted by Eri asking what Leviathan actually is after Gatchmon pretends this nonsense could actually help fight it. Tutomon, the exposition tutorial app and Definitely Not Hamtaro, gives us a primer on artificial intelligence, explaining how AI is helpful to society, but that its growth could eventually lead to machines like super AI Leviathan rising against their programmers. It’s a good primer on AI in general, very basic but covering the important concepts needed to fully appreciate the long-term themes of the series. Everything about Leviathan itself is too vague to be useful, but at this point that’s still acceptable. Remember, even identifying the final boss at this point is light years ahead of the normal pace. More important is that they didn’t dance around the critical point: the Appmon are AI beings themselves. It puts a new spin on the old “Digimon are more than just data” speeches. Appmon are just data, and the moment they become more than that raises foreboding implications.

Just as they resume the silliness with the “climactic” showdown between the three main Appmon, Hackmon hacks his way into the scene in the second startling, awkward transition, interrupting their fun little bloodsport by wiping the floor with all of them. He introduces Leviathan a little more vividly, explaining how the AR Fields illustrate what Leviathan has in store for humanity. Hackmon points out how weak they all are and that they aren’t suited for a full war with Leviathan. This has the kids convinced that he’s in league with the super AI and… I don’t know, sending a warning or something. Really, there’s nothing about him suggesting his allegiance, just that he has some sick abilities and did some sick things to Gatchmon and company with them. Those intimidating powers and the menacing looks he and Rei share are all it takes for a sudden increase in the show’s intensity. Like everything else in this episode, it may be overblown and kind of pointless, but it also looks and feels good. We’ll take that right now.

My Grade: B

Loose Data:
  • Marking the transition into late November, the three kids are dressing warmer now. The commitment to weather-appropriate clothing and the attention to where in the calendar they are is an underrated flourish both here and in Zero Two.
  • While Emceemon recognizes Eri and Tora’s work in their introductions, Haru’s just a boring middle schooler. It sets Haru apart, but it also reminds us that until now, Eri and Tora’s App Driver duties weren’t a big part of their lives while it was all Haru really had going.
  • We get that Eri’s still very new to Appliyama and the joke about her finishing last in a rankings competition is a funny moment for her and Haru, but given how much solo TV time she’s getting and her eventual ascendance, joking about her being that far down sort of undermines all that.
  • Kind of lost in the Gatchmon/Navimon editing war is that they’re watching the Dogatchmon fusion sequence on Dogamon, all inside Haru’s watch.
  • Karuta is a Japanese card game all about hearing a poem being read aloud and finding the card with said poem before your opponent. This is a competitive sport in Japan and the subject of the anime Chihayafuru… now in its third season!
  • Eri and Tora don’t seem fully committed in the fight against Leviathan until they’re told that AI could theoretically replace idols and Apptubers, a bit of a selfish way to get on board. Pushing their lack of commitment a little harder could have offered a whole episode of conflict and content.
  • On that note, if you take them at face value, AI idols and YouTubers already exist! Hatsune Miku and Kizuna AI aren’t actually artificial intelligence, but they present themselves as such and the effect is strong and tremendously successful.

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