Spoiler warning: this review discusses specific plot developments from Digimon Ghost Game episode 17, as well as the preview to episode 18.
This week our protagonists face one of the deadliest threats they’ve encountered to date: subzero temperatures. Sure, there’s a Digimon involved, but he’s far from the most interesting part of the episode. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
So what’s it about?
Courtesy of Toei Animation, here’s the official preview for Digimon Ghost Game episode 17: “Icy Hell”:
You can catch up on our coverage of the series thus far with our reviews of past episodes.
My kingdom for a good villain
We’re seventeen episodes in and Ghost Game still hasn’t had any overarching villains to speak of. With no primary antagonist to receive character development and propel the plot, the pressure increases for the villains of the week to at least be mildly interesting. With that said the baddies thus far have been hit-or-miss and Frozomon is firmly in the “miss” category.
The main problem is that his motivations simply make no sense. He’s literally a snow removal vehicle that goes out of his way way lower the temperature of a power plant and freeze everyone inside. He does this by…pouring limitless quantities of snow upon the plant. In other words, the opposite of snow removal: snow accumulation.
We get the sense that he’s stubborn and won’t allow anyone to get in the way of his missions, hence why he’s so pissed off when Kiyoshiro tells him to stop. None of that explains why a creature who exists solely to get rid of snow would be averse averse warm temperatures in the first place. It also doesn’t help that his design is frankly ugly. He’s just a big red vehicle with no unique expression or flair in his design. While monster designs can sometimes be both simple and high quality, I draw the line at being expected to consider a snow plow with eyes a viable Digimon.
Fortunately, Frozomon’s effects upon the environment are more interesting than he is himself. Hiro and co. struggle with the effects of sustained exposure to cold, resulting in a much stronger sense of real physical danger than usual. You can’t fight your way out of freezing to death, after all. As most of the heroes get sluggish and lose their ability to move or think clearly, it makes the situation feel all the more dire for the sole remaining combatants, Ruli and TeslaJellymon.
With that said, any good will garnered by the (brief) final battle is immediately sullied by the arrival of the Frozomon Defense Squad. A group of random arctic-themed Digimon show up just in time to pause the ass-kicking and assure our heroes that, all his actions and premeditated murder attempts aside, he’s really a good guy. Just a few episodes ago it seemed like Ghost Game was ready to mature in its handling of violence and conflict resolution, but this episode’s conclusion is perhaps the most childish and ill-thought-out to date.
It’s also notable that, prior to the final fight, the characters’ make a failed attempt to increase the temperature using digital field technology. They try to transform the environment into a desert, but the effect is just an addition of sand that does nothing to raise the temperature around them. Not only does this make sense, but it’s a nice prevention of a total cop-out solution. I’ve had grievances with the digital field tech ever since it debuted because of its dampening any sense of actual stakes, and I much appreciated seeing it be rendered moot this week.
Character archetypes and shortcomings
How did the protagonists end up at a power plant in the first place, you ask? Well Kiyoshiro, as its primary engineer, is in charge of overseeing some maintenance and brings his friends along for the trip. No, you’re not misremembering how young Kiyoshiro is. He is a child.
This whole premise highlights a trend in Digimon series that has grown tiresome: child characters who are famous or skilled in specialized fields to the point that they are far removed from anything the target demographic could ever aspire to. We’ve seen several musicians and academic prodigies in this franchise and these characters are often among the hardest to connect with or find relatable.
There are exceptions, but this isn’t one of them. Any plot convenience gained by having Kiyoshiro able to draft the team into situations like this is negated by how forced said drafting feels. All the most likable aspects of his character pertain to his personality quirks and wouldn’t be lost if he was just an anxious R.A. type minus the academic accolades.
On paper, one of the most interesting aspects of this episode should be the way Ruli and TeslaJellymon band together together fight Frozomon when the rest of the team is down and out. It’s a rare example of a human protagonist fighting alongside a different human’s partner Digimon, but the team-up doesn’t ultimately provide new insight into either character. It’s still a fun moment, but it doesn’t elevate the action to a more thrilling level.
The wrap-up and looking forward
This episode just isn’t good. The heroes’ struggles against the cold provide a new sort of conflict but that’s the only aspect here that’s actively enjoyable and not just a matter of untapped potential. The villain-of-the-week and resolution to the conflict are so unsatisfying that the episode is actually frustrating to watch. Next week we’ll be seeing Petermon, who if nothing else will at least be better designed than Frozomon. Here’s hoping for a major palette cleanser.
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