Spoiler warning: this review discusses plot specifics from the first five episodes of Digimon Ghost Game as well as the preview to episode six.
Halloween may be over, but the spookiness continues unhindered in Digimon Ghost Game. This week the team finishes coming together as Hiro’s dorm leader Kiyoshiro finally gets his Digivice and meets his partner Jellymon. All hell immediately breaks loose however as Kiyoshiro faces divine retribution at the hands of Majiramon. Does the series continue to meet the high standard it’s set for itself thus far?
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 5 – “Divine Anger”:
Something has disrupted the digital money system, angering the envoy of the god of wealth. What has caused the disruption? Hiro and the gang are on the case.
Our new human/Digimon partnership
Plot-wise, this episode’s most important contributions are Jellymon’s introduction, her bullying (er, bonding with) Kiyoshiro, and their meeting the rest of the core cast. So, what sort of roles do these new additions to the team fill?
With regards to Kiyoshiro, he’s most fun when he’s scared out of his mind. Terrified of hauntings, he comes up with the idea of creating digital talismans to ward off the rumored hologram ghosts. This is an interesting concept, but not one that works. His alarms only go off once Jellymon has already arrived in his room to terrify him.
Jellymon is a rare breed of Digimon: one who is actively antagonistic to her human partner. The closest example from past series would probably be Gomamon’s loving ribbing of Joe Kido, but even their relationship was ultimately non-threatening. Jellymon demands respect, berating Kiyoshiro anytime he doesn’t add “-sama” to the end of her name. She also thinks of human affairs as games for her amusement, which results in her hacking Kiyoshiro’s computer programs and setting off the chain of events that leads to Majiramon’s attack.
All of that may make her sound bratty, and I suppose she technically is, but she’s a lot of fun. There’s never any sense that she’s actually going to do serious physical harm to Kiyoshiro, and the outright bullying aspect just creates room for their relationship to grow. It’s a refreshing change of pace from all the years we’ve gotten of humans running into Digimon partners who instantly recognize and love them (as Gammamon did with Hiro in this very series). I’m looking forward to seeing how these two’s relationship blossoms in future episodes.
I also need to shout out some fun tidbits we learn about Kiyoshiro. He’s presented as a genius character who’s already studied overseas and gotten college degrees, so why is he back in school in Japan with his age cohort? As Jellymon informs us, it’s because he’s an anime-loving need who wants the Japanese youth experience he’s watched so much of. It’s just plain silly and adds a fun wrinkle to a character who has otherwise oscillated primarily between sternness and cowardliness.
Conflicts divine and underwhelming
The chief physical threat to our heroes’ well-being this week is Majiramon, who’s described as a divine being that punishes those who dare disrupt the flow of wealth. Putting aside any jokes about the implications of literal Digimon gods of currency and its its capitalistic distribution, there are a lot of great aspects to this premise. The best is the divine touch itself. If we’re going to play up the idea of Digimon not just as independent beings but also as supernatural spirits ala human legends, then it makes sense to tie them to specific concepts ala mythological gods.
Majiramon in turn is a great choice for such a figure. He already has an instantly recognizable holy stature thanks to his role as one of the Devas in Digimon Tamers, who in turn were all conceptually rooted in Buddhist theology. Plus, there’s the fact that he is simply far, far larger than any other threat the heroes have faced thus far. The episode features many shots of him towering over the cityscape in his descent upon Kiyoshiro and co., looking like divine retribution itself. This theme is further enhanced by the presence of three sentries (Goatmon, Quetzalmon, and Bitmon) who precipitate his arrival. All in all, he’s an awesome antagonist visually.
With that said, all of Majramon’s potential is directly tied to why the episode’s resolution is ultimately unsatisfying. None of the concepts raised by his very existence are dived into with any real depth. There’s little sense that the implications of gods existing will ever actually be followed up on or taken to their natural conclusions, nor are these possibilities even acknowledged by the heroes. Perhaps this will turn out not to be the case later on, or further explanations will be added regarding the extent of the relationship between Digimon and human mythology. Within the context of this episode alone, however, all the god references feel like flavor text on a trading card that’s meant to sound cool but doesn’t ultimately hold up to a close reading.
The other flaw with this episode’s conclusion pertains to Kiyoshiro’s character arc. It’s not terribly executed, but it just doesn’t feel fully believable. After four previous episodes and the bulk of this one emphasized his fearful nature over all other traits, his brave last stand in the end just doesn’t feel properly led up to. It would have felt more in character if he had still been visibly terrified but acted courageously anyway, but his commitment to the role of dorm leader is used to waive away his fear to an extent that just doesn’t track with the character we’ve seen thus far. It’s not that these elements of the character weren’t present before, just that the actual timing and execution feels very rushed by the constraint of fitting this episode’s plot within just twenty-some minutes.
And there lies the true rub this week: this story should have been stretched across a two-parter, at least. Not only would it have allowed more time to polish up Kiyoshiro and Jellymon’s arc together, it would have also prevented the battle’s ending from feeling so anticlimactic. Majiramon just leaves once the money-hacking program is disabled, and though his actions make sense he really had the goods to serve as more than just a villain-of-the-week. His sentinel Digimon are also awesome conceptually and visually, but they barely get any time on screen to do anything. Ultimately the execution of the conflict in this episode isn’t outright bad, it just isn’t as exciting of heightened as it could have been.
Animation and art design
With all that said, it cannot be overstated how much fun this series continues to be to look at. We get more of the usual this week (Gammamon being cute, impressive digitalization effects, lovely background art, and smooth, clean animation in general), along with charming use of visuals that help sell the new Kiyoshiro/Jellymon partnership.
With regards to Jellymon, she spends her first several minutes of screen-time with most of her body obscured. Initially she appears more similar to an actual jellyfish with her limbs, torso, and face all balled up within her core jellyfish body. As a result of looking less humanoid, she’s all the more imposing as she haunts and berates Kiyoshiro. Frankly her jellyish form is just plain cool to look at and allows the reveal of her true self to be a fun twist and not just a matter of fact.
The characters’ facial expressions, body language, and general expressiveness help make the episode all the more enjoyable. Strong character writing goes a long way, but visual ticks ala how Kiyoshiro’s face contorts in both fear and frustration make the show that much more memorable. This continues to be the best animated Digimon series I’ve ever seen (a fact that I’m all the more thankful for as I’ve been rewatching Adventure 02, which is likely on the opposite far end of the spectrum).
Even small details like the motion of storm clouds in the sky show attention to craft that many past series either never would have done or saved only for dramatic watershed moments. The artistic highlight of the episode is a downright religious painting of Majiramon’s light attacks raining down upon Kiyoshiro in divine judgment, once again selling Majiramon’s status as a being of a different caliber than the other threats thus far.
Closing thoughts and looking forward
Despite feeling rushed and not utilizing all its elements to the upmost of their potential, the ideas presented here are still very cool and point to the creators being on a unique track conceptually. Add in the excellent art direction and how good of a first impression Jellymon makes and this is a successful episode overall. The preview for episode six reveals that next week’s haunting will revolve around karaoke, with glimpses of a Digimon that might be Harpymon. Here’s hoping for another fun outing with our fully formed team.
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