Adventure: (2020) Episode 58: Hikari, New Life

In this episode, Hikari and Tailmon make it perfectly clear that this is their fight and no one, including Taichi, is going to hijack it.

One of the bigger failings of the series is in the way it portrays struggle. We’ve seen the good guys get overwhelmed in battle plenty of times, but rarely does it actually feel like there’s any risk of them losing. Even when it does there’s no sense that it will come with consequences. Inevitably, the child and/or Digimon in question digs deep and summons the extra power or new evolution needed. That is what happens here, and when combined with another enemy detached from the central conflict it keeps it from being anything remarkable. But the struggle Hikari and Tailmon face is more vivid and convincing than usual, adding a proper sense of adversity that we really should be seeing more often.

The notion of the Village of Beginnings has circulated plenty of times in Digimon, but it’s never fully realized its dramatic potential. Its first appearance in Adventure was purely light-hearted, while its brief appearance in the Dark Masters arc only served as a stark reminder of the stakes. Frontier overloaded us with cuteness before the Royal Knights came to slaughter everything, ending any hope for nuance in a pair of villains sticking around long enough to demand some. Here the babies are still in their eggs, shifting the emphasis from them to the mere concept of rebirth. Tailmon sees this place as a sign of the world’s renewal she’s been working so hard to attain, so of course she’s going to take its defense personally. It adds some meaning to the same “protect the territory from the unattached bad guy” story the series repeats over and over again.

Speaking of repeating over and over again, there’s even something to salvage Taichi’s contractually obligated appearance. While it continues to be a sad joke that the show thinks this is necessary, at least there’s a moment here. As generic as his relationship is with Hikari, you don’t need to develop much to understand why there would be apprehension over letting her and Tailmon lead the fight. Previous Hikari-focused episodes either isolated the team or forced their hands. Here Tailmon presents a logical reason for her to take point and puts Taichi in a position to authorize putting his sister in direct danger. Taichi pushing back would be both inconsistent and would force the show to develop this relationship, so that’s not happening. But for a second he looked like he had doubts, and that’s close enough to a moment of genuine characterization that we can appreciate it.

Not only does Taichi approve putting Hikari in direct danger, the battle convincingly conveys her and Tailmon being in direct danger! Overwhelmed by a swarm of Soulmon and outmatched by SkullBaluchimon, there’s more desperation than usual. Tailmon goes all out to slash her way through as many Soulmon as she can, and Hikari is forced to help her out with some impressive moves of her own, a unique look for the eight-year-old version. Less new but no less refreshing is seeing the toil it takes. These two are put through the ringer. They’re exhausted, dinged up, and even the arrival of Angewomon isn’t enough at first.

There’s a point to this suffering as well. This sort of determination is standard for Tailmon. She’s always been a crusader, refusing to be denied the symbolic victory the village represents. It’s not the first time Hikari’s worked alongside her, but it feels like the first time she sacrifices just as much in the name of victory. And it’s her who taps into her crest power by touching a dying egg, the first time this process feels natural and appropriate. Tailmon’s fierce attitude has always made her one of the strongest characters in the series, and Hikari proving herself capable of keeping up with her makes them a more convincing partnership than most of the others.

Even if it follows the same script, the improved presentation is compelling enough to work. It might be a crude approach, and having Taichi and Takeru spend the entire fight without much to do doesn’t help, but it’s an improvement on most of the ways this story is told. We can still hope for more variance, more relevance to the main plot, and more personality, but this is what the baseline should look like. Make the stakes personal, make the battle punishing, and make the kid get a workout instead of riding on their partner’s shoulders the whole time. That alone won’t make the show great, but it will make it much more tolerable.

My Grade: B+

Loose Data:

  • Tailmon acts like the Petaldramon thing happened a long time ago. Sure 14 episodes feels like a long time ago, but that wasn’t that long before Millenniumon went down and that couldn’t have seemed like that long ago to Tailmon considering how much of that span was spent in Joe’s hot spring.
  • Hikari gives us all sorts of weird angles and looks this time around. It’s quite janky, but also very unique to this episode, helping set it apart from the usual business.
  • Quite a few things click in this episode, from the power of a village of renewal drawing evil energy, Tailmon’s Holy Ring helping detect the Soulmon, to just having Muchomon around to give them a tour.

Enjoying Digimon: System Restore? Support the site by joining our Patreon! Special thanks to Patrons Sofia and Laura

No comments:

Post a Comment