It’s easy to dismiss the drama of these idol elections as an underlying character subplot that ultimately contributes little to the overall action of the show. These stories, the ones visited multiple times through a course of a season and aren’t about Digimon at first, are pretty rare outside of Adventure (Ruki and Touma are the only obvious examples) and always related to family. But if you can emphasize the importance of it to the characters, explain why it’s so important, and draw all the right emotions out of its big moments, who says an idol election can’t have the same impact as Koushiro and his parents coming clean about his true identity or Sora and Ruki closing the rift with their mothers?
All of the past idol-focused episodes, even the poor ones, empower the weight of the election here. We know how important this is to Eri because we’ve seen all the work she puts into it multiple times. Saving the world as an App Driver is her job, but being an idol is her life. Add in her mother and her friends cheering her on and for a moment this feels like the most important thing in the series. The show could have gone in three different directions: a fairy tale first place finish made even more far-fetched after the Calcumon incident, a top-nine finish that’s an unrivaled success but denies us the twinge of melancholy we get with option three- falling tragically short.
Tenth place is agonizing, especially with everyone’s anticipation and initial reactions and Eri’s walk of shame in total silence. It makes the subsequent explosion of applause—naturally started by Dokamon—all the more powerful. Despite falling just short of her stated goal, her promise of making people smile comes through both on a grand scale (rewarded with her idol character boasting about not settling for tenth while subtly showing immense gratitude) and on a more personal level: her mother is proud and happy and her workplace’s star for a day. Eri’s former foil Astora is so touched he’s fighting off tears instead of shouting his catchphrase.
Determined to make sure we’re still in Appmon and not Idolmaster, Rei sees everyone distracted by the election and takes the opportunity to break into L-Corp to get information on Bootmon. Along the way, he discovers the extensive and intrusive data mining conducted through the election’s voting app and how, big shocker here, Knight and L-Corp are connected to Leviathan. They fall into a scrape with the final boss itself, leading to sudden character development when Rei saves Hackmon’s life while reiterating how much he needs him. Hackmon engineers an escape with his dimensional scissors back to Avengers Tower. We can chastise the characters for not figuring out the link sooner, but once they learn the truth, their horrified reactions are delicious and their instant urgency to find Eri is heart-stopping.
Eri learns the truth in a far more disturbing way. Honestly, the red flags should have gone up when she found herself isolated with a rich CEO and the dress he picked out just for her. As the skies darken, her discomfort grows more and more until the big reveal and Knight asking her to join Team L, both to help find Bootmon and as a fellow figurehead. As opposed to before, where Haru gave serious thought to the advantages of AI rule, there was no threat of temptation here. Knowing Eri’s true motivations for her career meant the promise of an artificial boost to the top would never fly. Her response is so collected and poised (even taking off her heels to stand on the enemy’s deck chair!) that it’s badass. That’s even before her daring escape, leaping off a luxury yacht to meet Haru, Astora, and Rei riding in on a motherflipping swan boat. This thing was good enough already without the Adventure callback!
It ends with the foreboding scene of the four drawn into an AR Field and a fight against all of the Ultimate 4 at once. So not only do we get the emotional high of Eri’s personal journey reaching a satisfying stopping point, we’re thrown right back into the meat of the story and a battle that sure looks destined to go very badly for our heroes. This one accomplishes about as much as the last eight episodes combined, and with this ending in our faces it’ll be a long time before we complain about filler again.
My Grade: A
- There’s supposed to be something intimidating about L-Corp’s name being on the stadium this whole thing’s happening in, but a big corporation having naming rights for a stadium is one of the more reasonable and logical intimidating displays we’ve seen so far.
- For an idol operation the previous CEO dismissed as barely worth thinking about in relation to L-Corp at large, it sure seems to capture enough of the corporation’s attention that Rei can sneak in with minimal disruption.
- It was awfully nice to show where Elena and Alice ended up because we would have been dying to know otherwise. Elena’s inability to maintain her wisecracker persona amid her gratitude also contrasts nicely with Eri managing to show both in her speech.
- Eri received 49,821 votes. Astora has 3.5 million subscribers. Considering she has her own base of support, that’s a pretty lousy conversion rate for the number of ghost pepper curry buns she had to eat.
- Props to them for not forgetting about the Calcumon incident when covering her victory, removing any suggestion that this was tainted in any way. Actually, it’s rare for random Appmon havoc to be mentioned ever again at all, no matter how much of a mess it made.
- From context, you would have guessed Eri’s mom has an unbelievably crappy job. Maybe she still does, but it’s nice to know it’s run by actual humans who realize how important these elections are and go out of their way to support her supporting her daughter.
- Awfully nice of Knight’s bodyguards to let Eri sneak off to her room, change clothes, and retrieve Dokamon before they try to corner her. Also awfully nice of Dokamon to cover his eyes while she’s changing!
- While Haru and Astora are pedaling like mad to get the swan boat to the Gorgeous Knight, Rei’s just watching in the back. Does that make him the Mimi?
- Not that it worked all that well, but the diminished worry over the missing 02 kids in tri. was a way to suggest that we should focus more on the more prominent storylines going on. Throughout this episode, Haru can’t stop asking where Yujin is. That suggests that his absence, which we may not have even noticed with everything going on, is vitally important. Knowing what we know about Yujin, that should spell trouble.