The understated relationship between Yamato and Takeru has put a serious damper on at least the older brother’s character in this series. Without the compulsion to worry about a younger brother and without that edgy assumption that he has to work alone, there isn’t much for Yamato to chew on. Like his earlier mini-quest with Joe, that isn’t exactly remedied here, but we do learn more about him and his key relationships, flat as they may be. Takeru, meanwhile, gets a bit more, including an unexpected evolution you would have thought was forbidden in this string of character-focused episodes. Neither that nor his past with Yamato land quite the way they should, but both are in the general direction of what they should be doing right now, so some credit is due.
Even if the relationship between the brothers remains under-developed, it’s never going to get anywhere if they don’t spend time on it. This was overdue, and unlike Sora and Taichi’s adventure last time it’s hard to pinpoint a place where doing so earlier would have been reasonable. You’re not featuring the ol’ theme park trap as a sidebar during the march against Devimon. The premise starts out as conventional as these traps go. The same Opossummon from Hunters convinces Takeru and Yamato that the abandoned amusement park in the middle of a perpetually foggy patch of forest is absolutely trustworthy. The fact that they don’t attack her then and there tells us almost as much about their relationship as anything that happens next.
Everything boils down to a past trip to a theme park being one of the last happy memories of Yamato and Takeru as a single family. Both look back on it fondly, needling each other’s respective fears while taking them in stride. On the surface, that’s about it. Explore deeper and there’s plenty to digest. The willingness to fall prey to such an obvious trap suggests both are desperate to rekindle those memories. And then there’s Yamato’s unfulfilled promise of riding the merry-go-round with Takeru next time. The idea that he never got the chance hangs in the air well enough, but it’s a moment that could have been milked harder. They’re doing well to dive into the divorce more in this series, but this was the chance to show us their reaction when they learn there wouldn’t be a next time. Make it hurt more.
Of all the characters sticking their necks out and being stupidly reckless, who had Takeru and Patamon down for being the first ones punished for it? Learning the truth about the park from adorable fluffer Xiaomon unravels the lie, and the memory of theme park fun is so important to Takeru that Opossummon’s manipulation of it is deemed unforgivable. When he finds out that the untouchable WaruMonzaemon is feeding off innocent Digimon and makes Xiaomon his next victim, Takeru flies Pegasmon in without a second thought. It’s not part of a clever ruse and they lack the raw muscle to make anything good of such a move: it was plain stupid and they realize it immediately, suffering the same fate as the swallowed critters. If it were Taichi, he’d have somehow summoned WarGreymon and slashed through from the inside.
The hope thing is a bit on the nose, and a few Digimon hoping to escape a giant teddy bear doesn’t equate to the hope of ridding the world of Millenniumon’s evil the way it’s passed off here. But it is a strong display of hope, led by Takeru, that leads Patamon to overcome his demons. So even if there are holes in the actual execution, they’ve got the right idea, which isn’t something we’ve been able to say for most of this series.
My Grade: B
- Trying to decide if a massage from Gomamon would be better or worse because of the lack of fingers.
- Opossummon has plenty of personality in Hunters with Airu, but without her she really chews the scenery and carries the episode on her back. Amusingly, this Takeru and Airu share a voice actress.
- Yamato, in his defense of his haunted house fear, points out that Takeru was too scared to go on a roller coaster. Takeru’s roller coaster fear is a little surprising as this kid doesn’t look like he’s afraid of anything. Certainly Pegusmon’s acrobatics offer more Gs than any roller coaster Takeru would be tall enough for. Are there any roller coasters Takeru would be tall enough for?
- They don’t make a big deal out of Yamato running into the haunted house thinking Takeru’s in there. That’s because it isn’t one. Being uncomfortable in haunted houses and preferring to avoid them is fine. If he’s more afraid to run into one to save his brother than he is staring down a bunch of hostile Digimon firing lasers at him, that’s ridiculous and the episode doesn’t take the bait.
- Xiaomon recalls the black lightning as a reason everyone was cowering in the forest, making them susceptible to Opossummon’s scheme. It’s a nice callback at a time when it feels like that subplot ended so abruptly.
- It’s less essential than drilling home the sadness of Yamato’s promise going unfulfilled, but we didn’t get to see them actually ride the merry-go-round either.
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