Spoiler warning: this review discusses specific plot developments from Digimon Ghost Game episode 14, as well as the preview to episode 15.
Last episode was a pivotal one, not to mention a hard act to follow. It was easily the best episode of the series thus far, and entered as yet untouched thematic territory. In contrast, the preview for this week made it look we’d be winding down with another monster-of-the-week. While that’s sort of true, there’s also some serious acknowledgement of the reality of death. Does the episode handle this subject matter effectively?
So what’s it about?
Courtesy of Toei Animation, here’s the official preview for Digimon Ghost Game episode 14 – “Zashiki-warashi”:
Courtesy of Crunchyroll, here’s a plot synopsis:
Kiyoshiro invites the gang along to his academic conference, upon hearing that his hotel is haunted by a Zashiki-warashi. There, they investigate the rumor of the haunting, while Gammamon has trouble accepting what happened to Bokomon.
You can catch up on our coverage of the series thus far with our reviews of past episodes.
Loss, grief, and comfort
The real measure of how good a story about death is doesn’t come from the actual death. It come afterword, in the form of how the work addresses grief and the impact of loss on those still living. Fortunately, Ghost Game doesn’t shy away from this responsibility. Rather than just moving on to a lighthearted filler episode with only passing mention of Bokomon, the series instead delivers one of the most extensive and thought-out stories about grief Digimon has ever had.
Our monster-of-the-week is Koemon (more popularly known as Monmon, at least to Digimon World 3 players). He haunts the hotel the heroes are staying out, pranking patrons and asking them to play with him. Though he scares people, it’s worth noting that they’re never in any physical danger. This is notable for multiple reasons. On one hand, it’s cool that the series is drawing inspiration from a type of yokai that specifically isn’t violent. To the show’s credit, there’s not a single actual fight scene this week. Not only is that impressive in and of itself as a departure from genre expectations, but it enables more time to be spent addressing the episode’s core thematic concerns.
Gammamon, ever childlike, doesn’t understand what’s happened to Bokomon. Hiro and co. end up explaining that Bokomon has gone on a “journey” in a scene that feels true to the real struggles adults face when teaching children about death. The fact that this discussion takes place within a kids’ program says a lot about the showmakers’ respect for audience members’ intelligence.
The pacing and dialogue in characters’ conversations feel appropriately stilted yet earnest. One example of this occurs when Gammamon suggests saving a manju bun to give to Bokomon, and the others suggest that he save it for Bakumon instead. The scene captures so much at once: Gammamon’s misunderstanding of death, his desire to bond with friends, and the rest of the cast’s thoughtfulness in remembering that they aren’t the only ones Bokomon has left behind. Here’s looking forward to seeing how Bakumon’s role shifts and develops in future episodes.
With all that said, the best aspect of the journey metaphor comes from how Gammamon gets to help Koemon. Koemon is suffering from his own loneliness after his friend (an ex-employee of the inn) moved away, and he now finds himself devoid of companionship. In helping to fulfill Koemon’s last request, Gammamon plays two roles at once: both the griever and the comforter. Even if he has his own problems to cope with, he can still help make the process easier for others. It’s an important message, and exactly the sort that’s promising to see in children’s television.
Odds and ends
The personal journey Gammamon goes on with his own grief and helping Koemon is easily the highlight of the episode. With that said, there are some other moments worth noting. From a plot perspective, the most important development is Hokuto’s second appearance. The mysterious BlackTailmon (who still looks super cute) shows up to deliver a hologram message from Hokuto, and the contents give some hint as to what we can expect moving forward. It seems inevitable that our heroes will be traveling to the Digital World at some point to find him and learn more lore information along the way. Fun as the series has been thus far, this scene is a good sign that we’ll be deviating from the real world monster-of-the-week encounters here soon.
Animation-wise, this episode is a mixed bag. Most of it looks perfectly fine, largely because all the scenes of characters sitting around and talking don’t require fluid or creative movement. There’s even some fun physical comedy courtesy of resident coward Kiyoshiro. Unfortunately, there are still frames and scenes where budget constraints become incredibly evident. Koemon is a monkey Digimon but he doesn’t display any of the agility or enthusiasm one expects from such species; instead his movements are shadowy, pitiful, and downright incomplete-looking.
The wrap-up and looking forward
All in all, this is another great episode. Koemon and Gammamon both have compelling arcs, and the handling of grief is sensitive and provides great lessons for the show’s core age demographic. This may be a breather episode after all the trauma last week, but it’s one that faces loss head-on and takes time allowing the characters to heal. Next week’s preview intrigues me due to its theme of astrology and foretelling, and I have one major question about the future: when the hell is Angoramon finally going to evolve?
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