Spoiler warning: this review discusses plot specifics from the first four episodes of Digimon Ghost Game as well as the preview to episode five.
It’s Halloween at last! And while all of Digimon Ghost Game is seasonally appropriate given its horror bent, Toei still decided to give us a specifically Halloween-themed episode this week. The baddie of the week is Pumpmon (previously localized as Pumpkinmon), a classic character who’d look right at home on any spooky display or Spirit Halloween merch rack. So, how are the festivities?
So what’s it about?
Here’s the series’ official trailer courtesy of Crunchyroll:
Also courtesy of Crunchyroll, here’s a plot synopsis for Episode 4 – “The Doll’s Manor”:
Trick or treat! It’s Halloween and Ruli is getting ready with decorations. However, one by one, people begin to disappear. Hiro and the gang investigate.
This being the Halloween episode of an already spooky show, the horror hijinks are more important this week than ever. Thankfully, they’re just as charming as one would hope. In classic scary movie fashion, we start off with a brief scene following a group of mysterious pumpkin dolls’ first victim. It’s a campy opening, delivering a Scooby-Doo-esque vibe in which the audience can easily maintain a sense of safe distance from the horror.
The pumpkin dolls’ antics all happen to be located at Ruli’s school, where she’s helping to decorate for a Halloween party. She enlists Hiro’s help and so they, along with Gammamon and Angoramon, chat while hanging up strings, signs, and such, all as the other decorators slowly disappear one-by-one.
The abductions remain fairly tame in their spookiness throughout the first half of the episode, though they do still have an eerie undercurrent. The shots of the pumpkin dolls dragging their victims across the floor are quite unsettling even if none of the abductees ever face any real harm. There’s also an AI hologram of what’s presumably some sort of school mascot. It roams the halls throughout often just missing the scene of a kidnapping, and its artificial, lifeless yet joyful demeanor adds to the episode’s air of unease.
And then there’s Pumpmon himself. Though an Ultimate level Digimon, Pumpmon has historically been seen as more of a cutie than a powerhouse. Here, though, he makes his scariest appearance in the franchise’s history. The show creators know exactly what they’re doing with regards to the staging of his scenes. As he forces pumpkins onto people’s heads and carves eye and mouth holes into them to form masks, we’re treated to many a shot of him with a knife raised and gleaming, aimed right at someone’s head. The episode’s sound design contributes further to the spooky fun with effects that convey the hard thump of pumpkin rinds.
Beyond just his horror framing, Pumpmon is also a good villain of the week due to his dangerously childish nature. He wants to make friends but doesn’t have a strong grasp on any sort of concept of consent. He believes everyone should have a face like his, and so he abducts people and forces them to wear pumpkin heads— which, I reiterate, he only carves into once they’re already being worn. It’s a terrifying ordeal for everyone involved, regardless of the fact that Pumpmon doesn’t mean any real harm. If anything his relative lack of malice just makes him more interesting. He’s like a bratty kid, and though Hiro and co. are eventually able to steer him toward better behavior his self-centered nature led to some harrowing moments.
Let’s build that world, shall we?
When they’re not chasing after Pumpmon and his minions, Hiro and co. have some conversations that shed light on the series’ lore and basic mechanics. All in all it’s effectively written world-building that introduces several concepts that will likely be important going forward.
The most notable of these is the existence of a digital plain that the characters can access at will via their Digivices. It’s not the actual Digital World but rather similar to DigiQuartz from Digimon Xros Wars. From a logistical standpoint this provides an easy-out in terms of stakes and the potential damage incurred during battles. By having the final fight against Pumpmon take place in what’s essentially an alternate dimension, the show is able to hand-wave away any concerns about the danger a Digimon battle would pose to the school or the students there. The implementation of this concept is smoothly done, but it still feels like a bit of a cop-out that dampens the drama’s intensity.
Beyond the pseudo-DigiQuartz, the characters also discuss the origins of Digimon and their evolution. There aren’t many concrete details given, but the implications alone help provide a feel for this series’ take on the franchise’s core tenants. It’s said that Digimon evolved from computer viruses, implying species development that wasn’t consciously driven or controlled by humans. Evolution, meanwhile, is said to usually take place over a long period of time. Gammamon’s quick evolutions and regressions to and from the Champion level are said to be unusual in comparison. Time will tell if the writers dive deeper into any of these ideas or if we’re just being given the bare minimum to explain the world.
Though none of the protagonists receive deep analysis or development here by any means, their relationships continue to blossom. Ruli gets Hiro, Angoramon, and Gammamon to help out with the decorating, and all of them already have quite distinct personalities for only being four episodes in.
The main character trait of note here is Hiro’s submissiveness. He’s not cowardly or easily bullied, he just finds it easiest to go with the flow of things. This makes for an interesting contrast to past assertive leads like Taichi, Takuya, or Masaru. I have a feeling his future character development might touch on a need to be more assertive, though I hope his laid-back demeanor will get to stay largely consistent.
Ruli meanwhile remains sociable and confident, while Angoramon is quite mellow and helpful. Gammamon, meanwhile, is still for all intents and purposes a rambunctuous child. Thankfully, all his obligatory cute mascot moments help keep him likable and not obnoxious. I especially love all the shots of him flying throughout; the design choice to give him bat wings continues to pay off in spades.
Closing thoughts and looking forward
All in all, this week’s episode is a step in the right direction after last week’s comparatively weaker installment. The world-building is very naturally weaved into the characters’ conversations, campy and scary horror elements are effectively intertwined, and the team’s dynamics continue to be fleshed out. The main drawback to this episode is just the sense of the new digital realm being a narrative cop-out to avoid the action having lasting implications. Nonetheless, the series continues to impress and I’m happy to see Jellymon finally appear in the preview for next week. The gang’s almost all here!
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