Friday, June 26, 2015

Digimon Is a Kids' Show

I'm a little tired (and have to drive my sister around when she's got an awful work schedule-currently we're in the seven-hour downtime between a nine-hour shift and a six-hour one), so this is something a bit different than the parade of Xros Wars posts I've been doing, even if it's still Digimon.

So the same franchise that produced this screenshot*:

...also produced this sequence**.

This, in all seriousness, is why people remember this show. The same show that had all sorts of silliness, cartoony characters, and a borderline stick figure-based art style for the human characters also had hard-hitting emotional moments, violent character death, and psychological and cosmic horror. (This is most pronounced in Digimon Tamers, which the clip is from, but it's true of the franchise as a whole.)

*Open confession: I'm a pretty big fan of Xros Wars, but this episode, while I found it really enjoyable, had an emotional moment that really fell flat for me.

So the character Kiriha, who I haven't really talked much about beyond him being the blond kid in this post, has been hard to get along with a violent, antagonistic asshole for a big chunk of the series, but he's been getting better.

This episode sees him being convinced by the villain of the episode that he needs to dispose of his allies to become stronger; his obsession with strength is a huge part of his character, and in this episode we learn that it's because his father was emotionally abusive for the sake of trying to make him stronger. Then his parents died, his father dying in the middle of a sentence about getting stronger, and the people who worked for his father then ran his company into the ground and abandoned Kiriha. So he's got trust issues like nothing else.

The above screenshot, by the way, is Deckerdramon, his strongest partner Digimon, telling him to stop attacking his friends; that moment is immediately followed by Kiriha making a genuinely creepy face and then trying to kill Deckerdramon for getting in his way.

The other characters manage to get him to stop beating up Deckerdramon, who reveals that he knew from the start what was up with Kiriha because he's apparently a telepath or something in addition to being a giant robot crocodile with missile launchers on his back and also some manner of local deity with healing magic (this is why Digimon is awesome) and that he joined Kiriha's army essentially because he knew that Kiriha was in serious danger of becoming a cold, hard person with no friends, and couldn't let that happen. Then, after the emotional moment, Deckerdramon died protecting Kiriha.

...I'm sorry, I need a second. (Giant robocrocogod dad is best dad. Fortunately, they brought him back to life in the finale, and even if that cheapens his death more than a bit, Kiriha really needs his crocodad, y'know?)

Anyway, the part where this falls flat is that it's "revealed" that Kiriha's father was cut off in the middle of saying "true strength comes from having friends." That's a fine lesson (this is shonen anime, after all, and that'll be everywhere), but I really don't like that they were trying to insert it into the mouth of an abusive father. What made it even worse was that the creepy face Kiriha made when he started attacking Deckerdramon was actually far less terrifying than the "happy" face he made in response to realizing his father "wasn't" being horrible to him.

I'm just going to pretend that the "dad was trying to tell him something different" thing didn't happen, because the story mostly works anyway without it. I'll just pretend that he decided Deckerdramon was his real dad or something.

**This sequence is the nightmare that an eldritch abomination called the D-Reaper (which is short for "Digital Reaper," because it was a program created by the programmers who had unwittingly made the Digital World and living Digimon in order to "regulate the population," and had grown in power proportionately to the Digimon, some of whom at this point would have been able to outgod the Greek pantheon) uses to plunge a ten-year-old girl into ever deeper despair because it needs her negative emotions to grow when it's in the real world. It's partly a recreation of the death of her mother, and the term "fate" is a deeply painful one to the character, but it doesn't stop there, no.

This comes after her Digimon partner was killed, once and for all and forever (Digimon Tamers never undid character death ever), in a horribly brutal fashion, and happened to unwittingly use the worst possible phrase as he died: "This was my fate." That was the wrong thing to tell this poor girl, Leomon.

-Signing off.

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