Spoiler warning: this review discusses plot specifics from the first seven episodes of Digimon Ghost Game as well as the preview to episode eight.
Digimon Ghost Game had its worst episode thus far last week, but it was kind of an argument for the series’ high quality at the same time. If that enjoyable fluff was the worst we’re going to get, then the series is still on a great track. With that said, are things looking up this week?
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 7 – “Birds”:
A mysterious group of crows are going around releasing captive birds around the city, including Ruli’s friend’s pet sparrow. The gang agrees to track down the missing bird and get to the bottom of this unknown threat.
So about that animation…
I don’t believe in leaving elephants in rooms unremarked upon, so I’m going to address this right off the bat. Week after week I’ve heaped praise upon the series’ animation and art direction, even when the plot faltered a bit. This week, however…the budget wore thin.
It would be difficult to name aspects of the episode where this wasn’t plainly visible. The overall crispness of the line-work was way, way below what I’ve come to expect, as were the renderings of characters’ faces. Many a JPEG was dragged across the screen, and there was no shortage of awkwardly lingering shots. These issues are less prevalent at the beginning of the episode. Some of the visual timing feels a bit off, but nothing outrageous. The longer the episode goes on, however, the more and more distracting these issues become.
Now, I’m no stranger to faulty animation. I’m a Digimon fan. Given my priorities for strong narration over animation, I’m generally less picky about these things than a lot of other anime viewers. Coming off the heels of some of the most consistently well-animated episodes in the franchise’s history, however, these flaws feel heightened in comparison.
A lot could have forgiven if certain details were just honed slightly. If it had been different shots that were lingered on, and the timing of certain transitions was adjusted by mere seconds, then the animation’s most glaring hiccups could have been majorly smoothed out. This is especially evident in the movements of Yatagaramon and his crow underlings. Ghost Game leans heavily into Digimon’s horror roots, and timing in horror is absolutely crucial. When the crows’ flight unintentionally looks as if it’s in slow motion during the final battle, any sense of them being threatening goes out the window.
The Birds (1963), directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Though the animation hinders them, I will say this: the birds in this episode still mange to deliver the best horror of the series thus far. I’m not even just talking about Yatagaramon himself. The opening scenes of humans unexpectedly running into pissed off and violent murders of crows who are fully ready to push the standards of violence in children’s television? Outright horrifying.
Nothing particularly explicit is actually shown of course, but the creators do an excellent job conveying the threat of mortal harm. If it weren’t for the animation issues plaguing some key moments, then I would even say this episode is an excellent example of how to fit true horror within the confines of broadcast standards without losing any edge. Coming off of last week’s disappointing endeavors with Sirenmon, this scariness is especially appreciated.
With that said, as with Sirenmon, the resolution to Yatagaramon’s plot is underwhelming. He just…flies away. There are some sweet moments involving the birds who had joined him, as we see one in particular fly back home to its beloved owner. The dialogue about differences between caged and free birds’ desired is also pretty solid. Nonetheless, the series has now established a pattern of failing to deliver satisfying climaxes within its monster-of-the-week structure. Time will tell if this remains consistent throughout the series’ run or if we’ll look back on this as just a matter of growing pains.
Gammamon shinka!! (Again)
Did you know that Gammamon evolves to a new Champion form this episode? I didn’t either until it happened, which points to something I consider a strength of the series thus far: its conscious choice not to spoil the timing of new evolutions via next episode previews or long episode titles that practically serve as plot summaries. There’s something to be said for leaving room for surprise.
With that said, KausGammamon’s debut isn’t perfectly executed by any means. The same animation issues that hinder the rest of the episode also prevent him from making as cool of an appearance as one would desire. Nonetheless there’s still fun to be had as the other characters coach him on how to fly, or more accurately, glide across air currents. His design is also growing on me now that I’ve actually seen it animated. It gives off vibes of various dinosaurs and Digimon we’ve seen before, but never joined together in quite this way. In other words he’s pleasantly familiar yet fresh, and I look forward to watching him glide his way through future episodes.
On the topic of evolutions, it’s worth noting that this is only the second Champion partner Digimon we’ve seen in seven episodes. It’s easily a franchise record low, but I appreciate it. By this time in Adventure all the rookies but Patamon had evolved, and in virtually all other series the entire initial team had reached the Champion level or some equivalent by this point. As someone who has strongly dislikes the way that Ultimate evolutions seem to come sooner and sooner in every single series, I’m very thankful for the slowdown. Higher level evolutions are much easier to appreciate and make more of an impact when they’re not just given out like candy. Not to mention, it benefits the Champion forms as well when we have more time to appreciate them as the height of the heroes’ powers.
Closing thoughts and looking forward
All in all, this was a fun episode. Yatagaramon and his crows delivered some of the best horror in the series thus far, the dialogue was well-written as always, and we even got a pleasantly non-forecasted new evolution. With all that said the animation was a major hindrance this week, and all the more obvious of one coming off the high standards set thus far.
As far as next week goes, I have no clue what to expect. Large segments of the preview didn’t offer clear glimpses of anything, and the only definitive information included seems to be that our heroes will be fighting a whole group of Digimon instead of taking on just one antagonist. I’m optimistic as always, given how enjoyable this show has been even on its off-weeks.
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