Rei’s allergy to filler wasn’t exactly a running joke on the show, but he was damn consistent about it. When plot wasn’t happening, neither was he. It’s amusing, but also lamentable. Of course things would eventually get intense and the opportunities to force Rei to react to or end up in silly, embarrassing situations would dry up. Along comes this beauty, giving Rei the opportunity he dreamed up, but only after putting him in the most uncomfortable spots and making the biggest threat to the operation a weakness he didn’t realize he had.
The best way to exploit a character flaw is to put them in a situation where it’s front and center. It’s what made Adventure work so well and where Frontier struggled to connect its plot with its characters. Rei’s done well to recognize that he isn’t alone. He’s asked Gatchmon for help before and here he’s not only insisting on Eri’s help but accepting it from the others when they offer it. Next rung of the ladder: not being inept at interacting with other human beings. His rigid introduction doesn’t impress Anezaki. Elena and Alice put him through the ringer. Rei breezes through the tech aspects without blinking, but engaging in basic small talk or providing refreshments normal people would want? Yikes.
But an obstacle’s an obstacle and a hero has to rise to the occasion. Rei adjusts his speech patterns to mollify Elena, he sells his protein pouches as best he can, and he performs as Jumping Happy Mouse with the right encouragement from the other idols and Anezaki. He sucks it up, wins them over, and does his humiliating (although thankfully anonymous) part with such gusto it gets an obligatory callback at the end of the episode. It’s maybe not the most conventional barrier a character has to break through in Digimon, but damn if it doesn’t do wonders for his arc.
While Rei’s determined pursuit of Hajime is the focal point, it’s also important to credit the show for addressing Eri’s situation. So much happened after Eri learned that Leviathan controlled Appliyama that it would have been both terribly easy and terribly sloppy not to talk about it. Thankfully, the news reports of Knight’s removal and Leviathan revealing itself publicly makes the situation unavoidable. The last bit, especially when directly stated it affects Appliyama, allows Eri the luxury of not needing to labor over her decision. She had been laboring over it, and that was nice to hear, but the obvious choice became obvious. It was still painful, evidenced by Eri’s moment of hesitation before starting what would be her last show and standing alone on the stage looking out at the empty seats.
Getting to Sleepmon and getting to Hajime was a nice bit of restrained action. There was enough stealth and hacking to sate us but didn’t get as extreme as some of Rei’s past infiltrations. That would have been overkill running against one of the episode’s undercurrents. It was great seeing Virusmon again and the Sleepmon attack was adorable, with the multitude of them just scary enough to look threatening. On the heels of Rei’s Jumping Happy Thunder attack (more impressive symbolically than visually, perhaps), the dramatic lunging reunion with Hajime feels earned… enough.
That was the tricky balance the episode had to contend with. Yes, it had to feel like Rei earned his victory, and social awkwardness, humiliation, and a desperate dive to snag Sleepmon-H from shuttering doors does the trick nicely. At the same time, the clues were all over the place. There was no powerful boss standing in the way. The security system appeared simplistic compared to the calisthenics Rei and Hackmon have been put through in the past. Heck, the system literally led them into the final chamber. Haru even observes that it felt a little too easy. That right there means that it was. Excellent!
My Grade: A-
- Leviathan straight up emerging as CEO was a big moment, but probably best reserved for the little time it got in the episode. There wasn’t much directly actionable from it, just sort of an ominous tone that there aren’t any mid-bosses left to take down. The transition to discussing its power over Appliyama was necessary to establish Eri’s problem, but is a weird transition given just how vast the L-Corp empire is.
- Elena’s star turn this episode instantly puts her in the most criminally underused side character conversation (already pretty stacked with Ai, Caméramon, Dantemon, and Occult Hunter J in there). Her badgering Rei about his speech patterns, her big speech about putting your personal life aside and entertaining when you’re on stage, and both covering for Rei’s hesitance and propping him up afterwards were all great moments.
- Another reason Elena’s speech to Rei slaps so hard is Eri choking up slightly before going on, knowing what her fate with the company would be.
- Haru, Astora, and Yujin all very deliberately got into the event to be around to back up Rei, but Astora is still way too excited to see Eri on stage live.
- Maybe this is connected to Leviathan letting them win too easily, but given how Rei struggled with it, how did the other three get to the top floor so quickly?