Spoiler warning: this review discusses plot specifics from this week’s episode, as well as the preview to episode nine.
Despite its great start, Digimon Ghost Game has gotten a little shaky lately. Episode six flubbed the series’ horror aspects, then episode seven suffered from a sharp drop in animation quality. Does episode eight right the track or just chug us further along the line of disappointment?
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 8 – “Nightly Procession of Monsters”:
A mysterious nightly procession of monsters has been causing accidents on the highway. Ruli asks the gang to join her at the go-kart track, when they’re met with unexpected danger. Will they be able to survive until morning?
So, how is it?
Last week’s preview was extremely vague but once I figured out what was happening I was all-in. It’s a Wacky Races episode! There’s something about that premise that has gelled very well with Digimon historically: Frontier‘s “Trailmon vs. Trailmon” episode was delightful, as was Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grandprix! Plus, who could forget Digimon Racing for the Game Boy Advance? (Okay, maybe we all should.)
A kart racing episode is typically fun because of how effectively it can straddle the line of being filler without actually feeling pointless. That’s not to say that this episode actually has a point, because it doesn’t. However, it does place our heroes in a fun new setting and context within which the conflict and villain of the week can feel more fresh than usual. Plus, there’s an inherent tinge of the absurd. Gigantic, dangerous Digimon are stampeding and fleeing for their lives, but some of them (as well as our protagonists) are restricting themselves to the mobile capabilities of go-karts? Sign me up.
With that said, this race still falls in line with Ghost Game’s general horror ethos more than it does the extreme absurdity of past Wacky Races style episodes. The threat at large is MetalPhantomon, who has a great design that basically amounts to being the Grim Reaper with a few flourishes. It’s the way he sucks up the souls of those unlucky Digimon he catches that really sells the fright, though. From the rendering of smoky vaporization as well as the voice actors’ screams, it’s clear that the danger here is graver than any ever faced by Penelope Pitstop.
(As a sidenote, I should probably mention that the spelling used for MetalPhantomon’s name here is actually Metalfantomon. I’m opting to ignore that romanization choice as it’s literal to the point of stupidity. The root word is “phantom,” so why would they not use the proper English spelling? Whether the answer is tired, underpaid workers or bizarre style guide decisions on Toei’s part, it looks ridiculous.)
With that said, the writing is a mixed bag. The beginning is a bit clumsy until the actual race, which was clearly the actual meat the creators wanted to get to. Besides MetalPhantomon, Sistermon Ciel also plays a crucial role and she just…kind of sucks. There’s nothing to her personality other than being reckless, and frankly the battle animation’s quality isn’t enough to make up for that by making her seem suitably badass. Kiyoshiro and Jellymon have some funny dialogue and Gammamon has a brief moment of cuteness, but I struggle to remember anything specific the other half of the cast did or said.
On the plus side, the animation here is much, much better than it was last week. There are still some awkward frames, particularly where crowd shots are concerned. With that said, the characters all move much more naturally for the most parts and the pivotal horror moments aren’t nearly as hindered by stilted frame rates. The voice acting is also good as usual, as is the soundtrack. The sheer technical aspects of the episode mostly fire on all cylinders, even if the actual execution of the racing theme leaves something to be desires.
Wrapping up and looking forward
My chief complaint this week is simply that the episode simply didn’t execute upon its premise as effectively as it could have. The animation is significantly better than it was last episode, Phantomon always makes for a fun villain, and there are some solid scary moments. With that said, there’s little else here that stands out. Half the core cast is largely just forgettable, never getting moments to shine amongst the ridiculousness of the race track. Sistermon Ciel also could have used some fleshing out as a character.
The preview for next week is exciting, though. We’re about to get our first recurring villain courtesy of Clockmon’s return, and I’m hopeful it will be a good time given how well he was utilized in the series’ premiere.
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