Spoiler warning: this review discusses specific plot developments from Digimon Ghost Game episode 13, as well as the preview to episode 14.
Across Digimon Ghost Game’s first twelve episodes, one thing has remained consistent: Gammamon’s cuteness. The series’ resident mascot is perhaps the cutest in Digimon history, and it’s difficult to imagine anything wiping the constant smile off his face. Or rather, it was difficult until s--t hit the fan this week. Ah geez.
So what’s it about?
Courtesy of Toei Animation, here’s the official preview for Digimon Ghost Game episode 13 – “Executioner”:
Courtesy of Crunchyroll, here’s a plot synopsis:
Digimon are being killed indiscriminately, and the gang comes face to face with an urban legend. Hiro and the others formulate a plan to take the rumored executioner down, when something unexpected happens.
You can catch up on our coverage of the series thus far with our reviews of past episodes.
So about that vicious murder spree
Digimon anime’s thirteenth episodes have historically been turning points marking the shift from opening arcs into a narrative with more serious stakes. In the original Adventure it was when the Chosen Children defeated Devimon…at the cost of Angemon’s life. In Adventure 02 it gave us the Dark Ocean’s introduction and Hikari getting kidnapped by Lovecraftian beasts. So on and so on, and Ghost Game has now reached that pivotal number. Does it continue the trend? Frankly, it’s probably the most extreme example of it in franchise history.
The villain of the week is Sealsdramon, and he delivers something that no other antagonist in Ghost Game has thus far: sheer life-or-death terror. Sure, there have been scary moments, i.e. Pumpmon wielding his knife menacingly or Clockmon’s sewn mouth flapping. Sealsdramon unsettles on a more primal level, however. He’s an stone-cold killer, one who chooses his targets indiscriminately and who never makes the slightest attempt to justify his actions.
Two elements make Sealsdramon stand out: the framing of his kills, and his context within the series as a whole. His name comes from the Navy SEALs, and he’s designed to match. The arrival of a Digimon sporting militaristic armor and whose kills are always preceded by sniper sights immediately signals that playtime is over. There’s also the coldly calm way his lines are delivered as he follows up each kill by stating a number: one which our heroes realize is a body count, just about to reach four digits.
At last Hiro and co. have come up against a battle they can’t talk their way out of. No amount of belief in friendship can quell the heart of a murderer who kills for the fun of it, and so the horror feels far more heightened than in any other episode thus far. Plus, the sheer number of Digimon we see Sealsdramon is staggering. We’re introduced to several adorable Digimon, just for him to snipe them with no warning save the telltale dot on their faces. In a pair of Monodramon’s cases, he shoots them during a meal and we watch their food drop to the ground half-eaten. It’s brutal.
Parting is such sweet sorrow
Hiro and co. find themselves directly in Sealsdramon’s line of fire, and that’s when tragedy strikes. Time slows to a crawl as a knife approaches Gammamon, and the rest of the cast looks on in horror. The only one who can make it in time is Bokomon, who ends up taking the hit himself and dying. Our fountain of information character is gone, and with it comes our first acknowledgment of how death works in Ghost Game. Though he is reborn as a Digitama, it’s noted that the Bokomon our heroes knew will never return.
Once Ghost Game wraps up, this moment will undoubtedly remain one of if not the most pivotal turning point in the series. It’s not just that Bokomon is an ally character, but that he is a particularly important figure in Gammamon’s life. Because Gammamon is so childish, he hasn’t really engaged in heart-to-heart conversations or anything of the sort. He is largely a figure to be cherished to protected, and Bokomon is a kind elder who has fed him and supported him in their brief time together. There’s a real feeling of a bond cut short, of a character who could have offered so much more to our heroes and whose role in the group will be impossible to fill.
Needless to say, Gammamon doesn’t take it well. Enraged, he evolves into GulusGammamon, whose speech patterns sound much more adult than any of his prior forms. The contrast between Rookie and Champion here is stark but illustrates a previously unseen depth within the character. While Gammamon is simpleminded and immature his love is just as potent as that of any other character, and his resultant rage and loss of self read very believably for his first true experience with death. Another moral event horizon is reached as he kills Sealsdramon in retaliation (with a stab to the head, no less) and begins to attack his friends. His reversion back to Rookie is timed well with his emotional exhaustion, and the whole experience is traumatic for everyone involved.
The wrap-up and looking forward
All in all, this episode is excellent. The animation quality is up to snuff, the pacing is effective, and the sense of loss and trauma is palpable. The depiction of the murder spree is gut-wrenching, and Gammamon’s character arc is both well-written and a much needed broadening of the character. The only potential con is that Bokomon’s death could have been even more affecting had he received more prior screen-time, but had his body not been shown reaching out before the knife for quite as long before impact as it was. That, and GulusGammamon looks a bit silly. Nonetheless, this is easily the best episode of Ghost Game to date.
The preview to next week’s episode makes it look like we’re going to be seeing Monmon, so if you’re a Digimon World 3 fan like I am that should be something to look forward to. Plus, Kiyoshiro’s worn out state looks humorous and hints that we may be getting a bit of a breather after all this week’s trauma. Whether that’s true or not, I’m very excited to see what comes next.
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