Welcome to the second part of my special edition of Saturday (Err Thursday) Morning Cartoons. This is the series where I watch shows that I watched when I was a kid to see if they hold up to the test of time. Sorry this is so late in the day guys, but I was up super late last night playing MulTAYplayer with everyone and then in the TAYveyard that I slept in early and writing this took way longer than I thought! So it's really Saturday (Errr Thursday) Morning (uh Afternoon) Cartoons this week haha. Happy Fourth American buddies and Happy Thursday everyone else, this week we continue watching Digimon, moving on to the second season of the show. This post's a super long one so I hope you guys just read what you'd like heehee :3 *Beware some major spoilers follow for this season of Digimon*
The second season lets us know that the original Digidestined are no longer the ones running the show and we are introduced to a very new group within the first episode! One of the main differences between season one besides the new cast is that there are only five Digidestined this season. Well six, but we'll get to that later. Kari and TK are the hold overs from the first season they are Digidestined this time as well, but the three other kids in the new Digidestined are totally new characters. Davis, the new goggle head Davis, is the "leader" of the new group. I put leader in quotes because it seems like he's ridiculed for being dumb more than they follow his leadership, like the group with Tai did. Cody the little kid who looks a bit like Izzy is the one who carries knowledge this time although, it's more curiosity than knowledge this time around. Yolei is the last of the new characters on the good side. She's got the power of love this time around, but it seems early on that she's more suited to knowledge than Cody is! Also Yolei can be a total bitch throughout the course of the series, but it's ok she gets some redeeming qualities as it goes forward. Unsurprisingly, I didn't like the new characters to begin with, they grew on me as the season went on, but for the beginning it's kinda rough. The season also introduces a human villain for the first time in the history of the series. He's the Digimon Emperor (Self Proclaimed) and he's kinda an interesting character, but he wears on you after a while. His whole shtick is that he uses dark rings to enslave digimon to his will and his dark digivice and later his dark spires prevent Digivolution by normal means. This allows the show to introduce it's major gimmick, armor digivolving. The new Digidestined are able to armor digivolve with the help of armored digi-eggs with the crest they represent on them. It's neat at first to see some cool new form of Digivolution, but it gets a little tired as it goes on.
I had some serious problems with the early part of this season. The first problem the new series has is that while there are totally new Digidestined this season, they're not left on their own to develop as characters until much later in the season, the older kids hang around even though they can't digivolve and are essentially useless. They basically exist to introduce the new kids and what crests they represent. It works for the first five episodes or so, but once the characters are introduced the concept drags on for another ten or so. This seems to be the problem as a whole for about the first half of the season, it has some really great ideas, but they're so stretched out over twenty episodes that they wear out their welcome. The Digimon Emperor in particular falls into this trap, his method of enslaving Digimon ruthlessly is a great concept and allows for some interesting situations, particularly when he captures Agumon and forces the gang to fight their friend. However, he is a mustache twirling (without the mustache) villain for a majority of the arc. It isn't until you see Wormmon start to protest what he's doing in episode eight or so that you sense something else is going on here. There's one last thing that really bothered me throughout the whole season is that the digivolutions are used as padding for the episodes to fill out some of the episode lengths.
Now it may seem like I didn't particularly enjoy this season if you just stopped reading here, but that's far from true, in fact it has my favorite episode of any Digimon season in it! The early part of the series had some gems in it, Ken's Secret, the episode where they reveal he's the Digimon Emperor is pretty strong. The Lovecraftian horror at the end of His Master's Voice (Episode 13) also makes it a strong one. But, once you hit episode twenty, the writers do a complete about face and pull that depth that made the first season of Digimon such a compelling re-watch right out of their hats. This is when you begin to see the fall of the Digimon Emperor and somewhat of the man behind the curtain so to speak, it also gives T.K. the chance to be a total badass, which doesn't happen very often, so cool! One of the most compelling parts of this season is that Ken as the Digimon Emperor creates his own evil Digimon Kimeramon, he plays god and creates life and just like all the others who try this it turns against him! It also begins to become apparent at this time that Ken isn't the one in charge here, he keeps hearing evil voices in his head taunting him and manipulating him. Davis comes to the Rescue with a Golden Digivolve and saves the day with the help of Wormmon. It turns out that the Digimon Emperor (Ken Ichijoji) didn't realize that the Digital World was a real place with living creatures in it. I had a hard time at believing this, he did see the baby form Digimon at the soccer game, but they explain it away pretty well right as I was having this doubt. He thought it was a video game on his computer or something, and then as he realized what he had done and all the pain he had caused, he has a breakdown. To compound all this, his loyal Digimon Wormmon dies. Ken goes off and the rest of the crew deal with this kind of bittersweet victory. This got to me, what kind of kid show deals with this stuff? Oh right Digimon does all the time, it was just a return to form. Just when I was thinking that the show smacked me right across the face with the best episode of the show. Genesis of Evil. It is an episode where Ken is back in the real world having an existential crisis. Legitimately having an existential crisis. Let me let that sink in for a second. A kid show, has a character going through grief having an existential crisis. Damn. It deals with the loss of his brother as a small child, the jealousy he felt for his brother and the survivor's guilt he felt after the loss. It also dealt with his manipulation and the feeling that he had to live up to his parent's expectations for his older brother. Finally it dealt with the concept of forgiveness and whether redemption is possible. Overall some seriously heavy stuff. This episode reminded me why I was watching this show from beginning to end and why Ken was my favorite character across all seasons so far. It's because he has the most complex character arc and the best written story lines. Seriously the season could be called Ken's arc and then some other stuff happened too.
Once Ken turns good, the new Digimon can finally Digivolve normally and the show really starts cooking with gas. It also introduces a new form of Digivolving, DNA Digivolving which is really quite cool. It fuses two champion level Digimon to form a ultimate level Digimon. Ken and Davis are the first to do this and instead of just accepting it as a cool new thing, Ken and the gang wonder about the complex nature of having two beings inhabit one body. They contemplate whether the two would be able to separate ever again and what it was like to share a body. Instead of saying that both minds inhabit one body, it turns out their minds fused together as well! Eventually they broach the concept of DNA digivolving with other members of the team. It's actually mentioned as a thinly veiled metaphor for sex which gave me a huge chuckle. When Gatomon called the other Digimon young and inexperienced, and the others respond, hey but we'll learn quickly! Hahaha ;)
One of the arcs that is spaced out over the whole series is the idea of the Dark World. It's supposedly the embodiment of all evil in the universe and it exists in a physical state. It is on a separate plane than both the Digital World and the Real World. Kari had a connection with it all the way in the beginning, in episode thirteen. Then Ken had a connection with it because it's what drives him to be the Digimon Emperor. Yolei finally gets her connection to it in episode thirty one. It also unhinges Ken's mind whenever he comes in contact with it. It seems the Dark Ocean is one of the major themes of the series and that Lovecraftian horror from episode thirteen is a large evil. It seems as if the powers that guarded the Digital World as a result of the original crew sacrificing their crests are losing their grip. This force is the major evil throughout the whole season. Episode Thirty One also redeems Kari for the series somewhat. Kari was a strong female character in the first season, but in the second season it was a bit different. In the beginning she assumed the role of damsel in distress, but in response to some help from Yolei she becomes a strong character once more! The whole thing feeds into Black Wargreymon's arc and his own Existential Crisis which tie into the destiny stones.
Next to Ken's arc the Black Wargreymon is the next best arc in the show, he's an anti-hero and who doesn't love a good anti-hero? His quest isn't to just destroy the Digital World, but to find an opponent worthy of his strength. It's a bit of a cliche in anime, but at the time anime hadn't really hit it big in the U.S. yet, so it was so new to me as a kid and I thought it was the most badass thing ever and it holds up pretty darn well, not to mention Wargreymon has such an amazing design to begin with the new color scheme he looks even better! He is constantly asking whether other digimon/control spires can feel pain, and he protects a small flower from a rampaging Mamathmon and doesn't know why. He monologues about the difference between artificial life and organic life, and if he doesn't have a heart why does he feel like this? His discussion with Agumon about the nature of life is one of the best philosophical moments in the series. Black Wargreymon keeps searching for his purpose. It's really an interesting thing for them to broach within a children's TV show. The destiny stones are an interesting concept as well, and the way he ties into his arc is the driving force of the last third of the show.
They begin seeding for the end of the show around episode thirty three and in the process make the show a much more global thing which is nice because it really adds to the gravitas. One of the neat things that they add to the lore of Digimon is when they introduce Sora's dad, he has this theory that all of the Digimon are actually legends of yore that people gave life to through the Digital World, which is a little harebrained, but certainly something cool to think about. T.K. Finally gets some real character in episode thirty four where it's shown that he still has emotional trauma from the fight with Devimon. T.K. had some serious badassness back in episode twenty when he was beating the crap out of Ken. He still carries anger around with him from that time. The bond between Cody and T.K. becomes deepened with episode thirty four through thirty six and Cody helps T.K. overpower the anger that remains in his heart. Cody takes a stand against Blackwargreymon and it helps T.K. and Cody get along better. It was a really cool moment, and it really made me like Cody as a character completely.
The season begins heading towards it's end at a nice clip, it's great the quick pace of events is nice because the scale of the problems grows with each episode and the fact that the Digidestined are losing at every turn really ups the tension. It's not until the last encounter with the last destiny stone that things begin to turn around for the good guys. The appearance of Azulongmon, one of the guardians of the Digital World, a deity of sorts, but he's only a Mega level Digimon (What gives?), who gives a whole bunch of info on what's been going on all along. He also explains the reasoning for armor digivolving and the new digidestined. Plus he and Blackwargreymon act out the scene from A Few Good Men. YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH! They also discuss the meaning of life, which is great. Blackwargreymon then goes off to disappear for awhile. The team actually goes on to debate the nature of good and evil and whether evil could ever be totally eradicated from the world. The next thing that happens is the start of the final arc of the show. The great evil that Azulongmon hints at.
The break episode between the world tour and the Blackwargreymon arc, A Very Digi Christmas is great. Ken throws a Christmas party and the episode introduces a new suspicious character in mister Okawa and brings Arukenimon and control spires to the real world as well. There's even some subtle nudges at the consumer culture of the holidays.
The world tour was neat because it brought back the abilities of the original Digidestined to reach the Ultimate level. So the new group paired up with members of the old group and went off to different parts of the globe to meet up with other members of the Digidestined that live in different countries. The arc was cool because it was a three parter that aired all at once when I was a kid and I remember being glued to the TV for a straight two hours when it aired. Although the reason why the American Digidestined Michael sounds like a British dude is kinda weird. Genni shows up again, but he's changed pretty drastically O.o He's about a thousand years younger and a big part of the World Tour. Finally Davis and Ken become the first of the new Digidestined to reach the Mega level. Imperialdramon is pretty darn awesome. He Davis and Ken take care of Japan's Digi-problem all by themselves!
After the world tour The problems faced with Blackwargreymon are resolved and the ultimate threat is faced, these episodes are so good that I won't spoil them here, just in case you guys forgot what happened or goodness forbid you haven't seen it yet :P
At the very end of it all I think I actually liked this season of Digimon better than the first! I know sacrilege right? But while it does take absolutely forever to get going… The second season goes even further into the deep emotional issues that plague the main characters and creates one of the most emotionally poignant characters (Ken) in any cartoon I've watched. Where the first season dealt heavily with themes of growing up, isolation, and survival; this season dealt with some more esoteric concepts as well it dealt with forgiveness, redemption, the meaning of life, as well as more philosophical thoughts on the nature of good and evil. The season also had some awesome action scenes and some humor that went over my head when I was a kid. I can't believe that I've watched over one hundred episodes in the last two weeks. We still have one season left to go with the third season of Digimon, and fifty one episodes to go! See you guys back here next week!