If you had asked somebody familiar with the trappings of shounen anime but clueless about Digimon what was going on with this current string, they’d confidently tell you the show’s been waiting for the manga to advance the story farther to know how to proceed with Millenniumon’s inevitable revival. Like Angemon’s return and the random appearances by BlitzGreymon and Ponchomon, getting MetalGarurumon doesn’t change that. If anything, it makes the lack of story progress even more annoying. Now they’re falling so far behind they have to burn major evolutions in perfectly average filler material. Nothing about it is egregiously wrong and any spotlight on Gabumon is welcomed, but don’t leave this with any impression that the show is doing anything but spinning its wheels.
As much as we like seeing Gabumon take a star turn, it’s a version of Gabumon we’re woefully unfamiliar with. We get Gabumon as Yamato’s loyal companion and his playful rivalry with Greymon, but the obsession with running? That’s… new. Maybe that’s the reason Yamato and Garurumon did nothing but run through the plains for multiple days back when plot was happening to Taichi. When an episode is going to feature somebody, it’s best when the logic behind it tracks. Sora’s adventure with the Pomumon and Koshiro’s visit with Gerbemon didn’t need any explanation. Here we arrive at a racetrack and Gabumon is suddenly possessed by Sonic the Hedgehog.
At least within the confines of this episode, Gabumon’s characterization is enjoyable. We’ve gotten moments here and there where the kids are allowed to be kids, and the essence of all this is giving a Digimon a chance to indulge himself with a run around a racetrack. It’s that preservation of fun that bolsters Gabumon as much as anything, and the suggestion that Machmon isn’t having fun troubles him more than being rammed into and shot at. Yamato is very much the supporting player here, following Gabumon’s lead with an admirable devotion and getting into enough trouble to prompt WereGarurumon to evolve. It’s nice to see it play both ways. With Yamato’s hesitance to provide unnecessary help well behind him, we’re left with a healthy, loyal, and ultimately kind of dull relationship.
Thing is, beyond that, there isn’t much else to talk about. Other than Yamato, Koshiro is the only one with any real presence in the episode, even taking the random race jobs into consideration. The track and Parasimon’s presence are vaguely referential, but hardly to the point of nostalgia. If they were playing that card, the Grand Prix would be populated by someone other than a brand new Digimon and Parasimon would be going after a train for the third time in franchise history instead of a motorcycle. You can squint and see how elements of this episode could be highly enjoyable. Put them together and it continues to be a mediocre slog.
My Grade: C
- One easy fix for both Gabumon’s sudden enthusiasm for racing and everyone else’s lack of relevance is for all of them to get caught up in the excitement of a top racing facility and wanting to do a lap. It’s actually a little weird that Agumon and Patamon at least aren’t interested in giving it a go.
- Why is anyone surprised that the race format is anything goes? The Grand Prix did exist in-universe, and even out of universe the short and the game don’t lend themselves to pure tests of speed and maneuvering. Hell, you can get away with half this stuff in NASCAR!
- That upside-down fire-attack-as-thrust maneuver to save Machmon from the wall? Somebody in the writer’s room thought of that in their sleep and were dying to work that into an episode.
- Yamato, Koshiro, and Taichi say something menacing about the big turn at the end being the key to unraveling the mystery. Other than its obligatory place for the dramatic finish, it has nothing to do with unraveling the mystery.
- If the Lilimon cheerleader outfits on the girls weren’t enough of a hint that they were desperate to find something for the other characters to chew on, putting one on Takeru clinched it. Remember that someone in the cast had to have suggested it, someone had to make Takeru wear that, and someone had to prevent Yamato from coming to his brother’s rescue. That someone is obviously Mimi.
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