Something that’s made Appmon such a pleasant experience is the positive attitudes of its cast. Haru and Eri weren’t stuck in bad situations by any stretch, rather their Appmon buddies gave them an opportunity to improve themselves and they leaped at it. They’re thrilled to be here! Astora has a legitimate personal issue but Musimon is making sure it doesn’t bring him down. While Adventure drags children out of their problems to mold them into something resembling functional individuals, Appmon is about helping moderately stable children excel.
That’s why it’s so alarming when these three arrive in an openly hostile world where everything’s against them and the awful consequences of failure are spelled out for them. Pulling unhappy children into the Digital World leads to a character-building, rewarding thrill ride. Pulling happy children into Deep Web is child abuse. But don’t worry, there’s a special hell reserved for the one unhappy kid!
The Pipomon welcoming party and Cyber Kowloon is a terrifying introduction to this new world. You’ve got worms roaming around killing random Appmon, giving us our first straight-up deaths in the series. You’ve got a place where illicit information is the currency of choice: data on aliens, hidden money and weaponry all come up. Reality seems capable of warping itself on a whim, evidenced by the bizarre door sequence. Nobody there emerges as an ally of the Appdrivers, and they’re already on the radar of a powerful enemy. If it weren’t for the Seven Code Bands, they’d be toast five times over. Its ability to navigate, flash a Minerva symbol to scare away the Anonymous, and even pull them back to reality in a blink is a little too easy, as was Astora stumbling on the exit to the door trap. Throwing them into the deep end of the pool is fun, but seeing them wriggle off the hook themselves is crucial.
Another problem with the instant evacuation is we don’t know if Cyber Kowloon is a fair reflection of Deep Web in its entirety. We should hope so, as it adds the distressing development that most of its denizens supports Leviathan’s actions. We’ve seen plenty of worlds where the locals aren’t friendly to humans, but this is the first time they really do appear to be the enemies. Leviathan is advancing the notion that Appmon should revolt against human control and the mob is apparently getting behind that. The Appdrivers aren’t here to save the world from destruction or pacify a war: they’re here to ensure human dominance and take down the renegade leader. Heroes have been making the “Digimon aren’t just data” argument since Zero Two. Leviathan is the one pushing that thinking here, and it will make it that much harder for the Appdrivers to gain sympathy in Deep Web.
Even worse, Leviathan is not only trying to liberate Appmon from humans, but liberate humans from their own bodies. The notion that a human dying in Deep Web means dying for real is nothing new. We should be happy that the kids get their shock over with and internalize it in a couple minutes rather than a two-episode arc finale. Actually, unless any of them were secretly Taichi, they should have assumed that was how it worked. But the discussion here feels more like a real threat. All three have several brushes with death in Kowloon, punctuated by their data being distorted during moments of trauma like falls or being squeezed by a giant worm.
But while Haru, Eri, and Astora have a hell of a time, Rei gets it even worse. His dour mood and shadowy tactics are right at home here, but it falls apart when he discovers the devastating news: Leviathan has separated Hajime’s soul from his human body and shaped it into something decidedly un-Hajime. It’s not unprecedented in Digimon and maybe there should be some relief that he’s still alive, but the shocking blow hits hard and Rei’s loss of composure and outpouring of emotion is stirring, especially given his usual stoicism. It’s all justified too: tracking him down becomes that much harder, it’s doubtful that Hajime is free to roam, and if he’s no longer human we’re left asking what he is and whether Rei is rescuing his brother or merely what remains of him.
My Grade: A-
- A concept like Cyber Kowloon is a smart idea given the role Deep Web needs to play and its inconsistency with reality. Really, Deep Web is just any part of the internet not indexed by search engines, which includes most of anything you need a password to see. The nasty underground with the really horrible stuff is called Dark Web and the two are not interchangeable. Bringing them to Cyber Kowloon helps the trip live up to expectations without being inaccurate.
- The large light pillars between Deep Web and Surface Web and maybe even the weird fish illustrate the relationship well. Those wouldn’t appear in Dark Web.
- The Anonymous (alternate name: Shyguys) are a great concept, drawing on the anonymity we’re afforded online while also being generic locals we don’t have to care about. Thing is, are they all Appmon like Drawmon or are there a few other sentient creatures in the mix here?
- In all of the glorious worldbuilding, there’s precious little time for character. Rei gets a big turn and Haru gets enough with his insistence on saving Drawmon from the worm (nice to see that lack of athleticism come into play again) and even defending Rei from Eri and Astora’s salt, but Eri and Astora themselves are pretty flat again. They get a couple moments like Astora taunting the Anonymous with Minerva shouts and Eri’s karate pose when opening the first door (Astora just does his rock hands), but at some point we want to see them step up in ensemble episodes.
- Drawmon is cute enough for a Deep Web denizen, and him selling out the kids for favor with Leviathan is an acceptable dark turn, but not so much the idea that Sateramon tasked him with trapping them. The worm was too chaotic and the plan relied on both Haru feeling compelled to save him and succeed at it to really buy the fix (he also shouldn’t have planted the idea that some of the Anonymous are too scared to stand up to Leviathan). Then again, after Splatoon maybe it’s not to mad to have a creature all about spraying colorful paint in cahoots with a squid creature.