Spoiler warning: this review discusses specific plot developments from Digimon Ghost Game episode 18, as well as the preview to episode 19.
Last week’s episode of Ghost Game was one of the most disappointing to date. Despite utilizing the dangers of extreme cold exposure in neat ways, it couldn’t ultimately overcome the drag of having a terrible antagonist with nonsensical motivations. We’re still in villain-of-the-week territory this time, but is it more of an enjoyable one-off?
So what’s it about?
Courtesy of Toei Animation, here’s the official preview for Digimon Ghost Game episode 18: “The Land of Children”:
You can catch up on our coverage of the series thus far with our reviews of past episodes.
Digimon/child bonds used and abused
Few motifs in this franchise have been as recurrent as bonds between Digimon and children. Almost all of the anime specifically star kids paired with Digimon in mutually beneficial relationships wherein they help each other mature and literally evolve. Some anime have acknowledged this dynamic and devised explanations for why Digimon are so attracted to children specifically. Generally the answers involve imagination, open-mindedness, and positive belief that become harder to maintain as people grow older.
This week’s plot flips that script and it’s a joy to see. The villain-of-the-week is Petermon, who is a great choice given the series’ preoccupation with yokai and urban legends. Though he originates from specific works by J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan has achieved such a level of cultural ubiquity that one might mistake him for a folkloric figure. Petermon, is turn, manages to balance the character’s visual signifiers with the expected Digimon flair. Like the original character, Petermon’s whole shtick involves an aversion to growing up, and said aversion is depicted as decidedly negative here.
Despite its large number of legacy fans such as myself, Digimon remains a children’s franchise. As such, the decisions it makes with regards to themes and morals are best analyzed while keeping that audience in mind. Petermon kidnaps children and manipulates their thoughts to keep them captive at his Never-Ever Land where they won’t age. In fact, even the acknowledgement of aging disgusts Petermon. He frequently derides the literal smell of grown-ups and at one point acts violently against an Elecmon who remarked that he wanted to grow bigger and stronger (even though Elecmon only meant to do so for sake of excelling at a children’s game). Needless to say, Petermon is unhinged. He aims to protect children from the lies of adults, but does so by being a lying adult.
The satisfying rebuttal to all this comes in the form of how he’s defeated. Not only do the heroes’ Digimon partners evolve for battle, but they inspire the captured Rookie Digimon to evolve to their Champion forms as well. This is a children’s story that explicitly frames growing up as a good thing, not something to be feared. Hiro even points out that adults still play and enjoy their lives. As far as morals in kids’ television go, this episode’s is quite nice.
Horrific implications and rushed conclusions
The most terrifying scene this week occurs early on when Kiyoshiro first investigates a classmate’s disappearance. He goes to the young boy’s house, where the mother claims to have no clue who the missing boy is. When Kiyoshiro points at the boy’s shoes in the doorway the mother acts confused, and then she has an outright panic attack upon being led into her son’s room and seeing photos of him. She still has no idea who he is after Petermon’s mind-wiping, and facing evidence of a life she can’t recall causes her to scream and order Kiyoshiro to leave. It’s a horrific scene conceptually and sells how harmful Petermon’s actions are.
Unfortunately, the episode’s conclusion leaves a bit to be desired. Everything with the children talking about growing up and the Rookie Digimon being inspired to evolve is great; the thematic concerns aren’t the issue. Rather, the problem comes when CaptainHookmon rides in out of nowhere aboard his ship to restate the moral some more. While Petermon is nicely designed CaptainHookmon is just some dude and he doesn’t contribute anything of value. Petermon could have just had his change of heart with the heroes without having to cram in another character’s introduction. It’s also worth noting that the length of the heroes’ brainwashing earlier in the episode is way too short; it doesn’t feel like they’ve overcome anything when the problem is solved just as quickly as its introduced.
Final thoughts and looking forward
Overall, this is an enjoyable episode. Petermon fits right in with the series’ urban legends and folklore theme, and the final moral of growing up being exciting instead of something to dread is important. With that said, the conclusion is just strange and the pacing feels a bit off in places. As always, the preview to next week’s episode is very vague. We don’t get a clear indication of who the next villain will be, but as always I’m looking forward to it.
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