Whitly Analyzes-Lionheart: Jeri and the Leomon Debacle

Posted on January 22, 2012 - 4:20pm by Whitly

TLDR;

This one took me a while to do, but it's a LONG one! I suggest avoiding it if you can't stand long, or even if you just don't like controversy. For anyone else, here's another work from everyone's favourite captain in a Tanooki suit. I'm not sure if all of you will understand it, but I'll risk that because this was so time-consuming to make and was the only thing new that I could actually write this past month...

Hey g1s! Whitly here! I’ll skip the formalities this time and go directly to today’s topic. Why? Because amidst my old laptop breaking, 1 month of constant issues surrounding fixing it, a pent-up rage resulting from working around bogus financial issues, various attempts at blogs that fell wayside, school essays and dealing with other computers that suffer from being old, I have little-to-no energy to open this up with-oh wait…whatever, I don’t care anymore!

On the *ahem* “cheerier” side of things, I’ve decided to tackle an issue surrounding Digimon Tamers, aka the most-controversial and intricately written entry in the Digimon TV series. My stance on the season is…complicated, so I’ll save that for a 7000000+ word blog that I may or may not ever get around to in the future. And while I’m aware that I’m going back to Digimon, there’s reason for it. Like I said in my review of “Genesis of Evil”, there’s just way too much to talk about because of the writing and subtexts of the series!

Anyway, today I’ll be discussing the most-controversial season’s most-controversial element: Jeri Katou’s character arc. I ask now that anyone unwilling to hear my stance on this subject to please stop reading this and go somewhere else. You’ll understand why shortly, as I’m not holding back. I also plan to break down the controversy into sections, tackle nearly every aspect of it, give each one context and then refute it in great detail to make a point. So I’ll warn you again: it’ll be long, and it’ll blunt, sometimes simultaneously.

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If the above picture hasn’t already given it away yet, Jeri’s development in the show is very bitter and unpleasant…

To give some background, Jeri Katou’s entire character arc is built on trauma and a very dark back-story. She starts off as a very frilly, very sweet, all-around cheery and jovial girl, one who ends up joining the three leads halfway through the season. There isn’t much to her character outside of foreshadowing until the last 17 episodes, which is then followed by a complete 180 that piles up relentlessly until the finale. The reason for this isn’t unfounded, but her drastic shift in character has fans forever divided on her likeability factor; to some, Jeri is an example of the show’s clever writing, taking a very simple character and giving her a serious issue that’s handled with grace and maturity. For others, Jeri’s the epitome of a whiny irritant, constantly moping over nothing and frequently demonstrating her obnoxiousness. My stance is firmly in the former, but I think some context is crucial for understanding why that is:

Firstly, the Digimon cartoons were always comfortable dealing with dark and uncomfortable issues; heck, they were usually the prime focus of the protagonists’ character arcs, being dived into fairly frequently and helping to make them as likeable as they were. It was a selling point that made the series standout from its direct-competition-aka Pokémon-and allowed for it to be equally about the characters as they worlds they were thrown into. These conflicts ranged from divorce, to adoption, to sibling-inferiority, even all the way to more serious problems like death and psychological regression. The outcome was often a mixed bag, some conflicts were better executed than others, but it worked in the show’s favour more-often-than-not due to how thought provoking and passionate the respective seasons made them out to be. Not to mention, given that the show’s entire existence was to sell toys to Japanese children, it was nice to see a marketing vehicle go out of its way and instill heart and soul into something that didn’t require it. In other words, the show was actually trying to be taken seriously, and that’s one of the reasons it has such a passionate fan base to this day (amongst other things, but that’s for another day. >_>)

Moving along from there, Digimon is no stranger to killing-off its characters. In every season, side-characters we’d grown to like would engage in battle with the enemy, get seriously wounded and die. This concept was such an integral part of the show that the second season even dedicated an entire episode to one of the protagonists learning to cope with the death of his partner. That said, the digital nature of these characters meant that they usually regenerated and that the long-term consequences of death weren’t very serious. The exception to this scenario is, without question, Digimon Tamers, which was written so that Digimon who died in battle were either vaporized forever or absorbed by their opponents through data osmosis. Because of this, Digimon Tamers remains the only season to actually treat death like something serious and tragic.

The final point of reference is the character of Leomon. The Digimon franchise has started some very unusual traditions over the years, but none are more heart wrenching and renowned as “The Leomon Curse”. The tradition is that every version of Leomon to grace the show is built-up as a noble warrior who valiantly defends the heroes from an enemy infinitely stronger than they are, is mortally wounded as a result and dies a horrid death on-screen. In other words, he’s the tragic hero, the Mufasa of Digimon, the noble knight who meets his unfortunate end, pretty much the reason why little kids always cried while watching this show. And, to tell the truth, they had every reason to: Leomon was a likeable character, and losing him was always tragic.

-The Initial Shock-

So what does this have to do with Jeri? Well, everything I’ve just mentioned leads to a single moment in Digimon Tamers that simultaneously kick-starts Jeri’s character arc and the massive amount of hate she gets from her detractors:

For those of you complaining about how this is the actual episode, it was all I could find on YouTube that allowed embedding. For everyone else, skip to 4:50 if you only want the part where Leomon’s death comes into play. (Video courtesy of YouTuber MovieClips1011.)

Yeah, the end-result isn’t very pretty. Anyone who’s seen the entirety of this season knows what happens next, but for everyone else? Well, this is the big turning point, with the episodes prior building up to it and the ones following branching-off directly from it. It’d be referenced constantly in the episodes to follow, and the show would just get darker and darker from hereon in. Most-importantly, as I’m sure you’ve already guessed, Leomon’s death would drive Jeri into psychological-regression, turning the most-jovial member of the group into a mental vegetable who’d do nothing but stare at her D-Arc (i.e. the device on her waist that went static once Leomon died,) complain about how she doesn’t deserve to live and just mope all-the-time. For many fans of this show, it was the Digimon-equivalent of the Midichlorians from Star Wars Episode. I: The Phantom Menace: why would the writers do something like this and completely ruin Jeri’s character?

My response: they ruined nothing. Remember that Jeri's just witnessed someone get murdered in front of her eyes. On a basic level, that’s scary. Additionally, this was someone very close to her, her Digimon partner who-thanks to the rules of this universe-is never coming back. This adds to the shock because it’s personal, and the trauma of death is always greater the closer you are to the person who died. But, most-importantly, Leomon’s attitude toward death struck Jeri on a far-deeper level; in both languages-English and Japanese alike-Leomon’s content with his fate, assures Jeri that it isn’t so bad and utters a line that, as we quickly discover, she’s heard before in a similar situation. These events trigger a serious case of déjà vu and, ultimately, break her psychologically.

One argument you could counter with is that Leomon accepting death so coolly is incredibly cruel; after all, why would anyone be okay with being murdered in cold-blood? My best guess is that, being a beast made from computer data, Leomon knew that his time would come eventually. He’s spent most of his existence in solitude, only teaming-up with Jeri after she healed his wounds in Episode 24. Additionally, he’s a proud lion and a virtuous hero, so he takes death in battle with the same honour that a samurai or a knight would. Not to mention that, given the rules of this season’s universe, death in battle-apparently-is honourable. So this is normal for him!

That said, Jeri’s reaction to Leomon’s death is still completely understandable.

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In the words of Lesley Gore, “You would cry too if it happened to you…”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.

=Bestowing Mercy=

With Leomon’s death at the end of Episode 34, the show begins to take a turn into far darker territory than the previous seasons had ever attempted. Jeri’s depression is a clear sign of that, but Leomon’s death has a profound-effect on the other Tamers too. Most-notably, Takato actually goes ballistic and demands that his Digimon become a Mega-level (i.e. the highest stage a Digimon can get to in the franchise) and take down Beelzemon, i.e. the enemy who murdered Leomon, once-and-for-all. His anger causes his Digimon to become a corrupted monster named Megidramon, whose power is so out of control that it causes the Digital World fabric to start falling apart. After a series of events involving senseless-violence, major trauma for everyone, Megidramon being knocked unconscious by Beelzemon and a revelation of character for Takato, Takato and his Digimon partner-Guilmon-re-establish their lost bond and merge into a knight-like Mega named Gallantmon. Their combined force eventually overpowers Beelzemon, but they’re unable to kill him because Jeri insists he be spared.

This, of course, leads to the second-complaint detractors usually make about Jeri: why did she let the murderer walk away? The tension surrounding these events in Episodes 34-36 is pretty high, so it’s no surprise that many people felt cheated over an intense battle with such an anticlimactic resolution.

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Make that cheated AND pissed!

Jeri’s insistence that Beelzemon be spared is another one of those examples that people usually point to when they argue how Jeri’s such an obnoxious and aggravating character. There’s no denying that her decision is unusual, but I also think it’s unfair to slam her for it. For one thing, she’s seen massive h*ll break loose for three episodes. From the time Beelzemon first ambushes the Tamers, and up until Jeri begs Gallantmon to spare his life, she’s witnessed the following:

1. All of the Tamers’ Digimon partners get tossed-around like dolls, twice.

2. Leomon punch Beelzemon in the face, lecture him about being misguided, get pierced through the chest as a result, die with parting words to Jeri and then be absorbed by Beelzemon.

3. Takato become enraged over Leomon’s death and swear violent revenge.

4. Takato’s rage force his Digimon to Digivolve into a nastier version of his Ultimate form, who gets smacked around by Beelzemon and almost passes-out.

5. Takato demand that his Digimon Digivolve to Mega, turning him into a vicious monster that nearly destroys the entire digital-plain.

6. Beelzemon strangle another Digimon who came out of nowhere to death and absorb his data, then proceed to almost destroy two of the other Tamers’ Digimon soon after.

7. After a fit of hysterics, Beelzemon viciously beat Megidramon and knock him unconscious.

8. Beelzemon nearly murder Takato cold-blood with his gun, only to be saved last minute by an unusual tail whip from Guilmon.

9. Takato and his partner mysteriously vanish, only to re-appear as some valiant knight with a weird accent.

10. Another Digimon enter the digital-plain and attack two of the other Tamers, only to be saved at the last second by said knight.

11. Beelzemon shoot up out nowhere and absorb said Digimon’s data once defeated by said knight.

12. Said knight gain the upper-hand with the help of one of the other Tamers’ Digimon, back Beelzemon into a corner and nearly strike his javelin into the creature’s chest in an attempt to finish him off for good.

Just on a basic level, Jeri clearly wanted all this violence and death to end. I don’t blame her, as I’d be equally as sick of the violence in her position. Still, why would Jeri let Beelzemon go after what he’s done? To that end, I think their exchange answers that question for us:

 

Beelzemon: I don’t get it, why are you protecting me? I destroyed your partner!

Jeri: *Whimpers, tears falling down cheeks* I hate you *sniff* for doing that…but even if you died it wouldn’t bring Leomon back. It’s my fault he’s gone, and if you destroyed each other then it’d be my fault too! *Sobs and whimpers* I just can’t *sobs* stand *sobs* to see anyone else get hurt *sobs* because *sobs* of me! *Sobs more*

 

Clearly, Jeri’s not a fan of revenge. Maybe Beelzemon does deserve to die, but what good would that do? Leomon’s not coming back, Digimon Tamers works on logic that prevents it. Unlike the other seasons, there’s no Primary Village, data isn’t recycled and Digimon don’t even turn into eggs when they die. In this universe, you get one-shot at life and that’s it. It’s just like real-life. And, just like real-life, would revenge bring back Jeri’s Digimon? How would murdering Beelzemon revive Leomon, especially once his data’s been absorbed?

I think it’s worth noting that the concept of taking pity on those who don’t deserve it isn’t new; heck, it's a key aspect of the climax in The Lion King! Did we think less of Simba for not shoving Scar off that cliff? He had the perfect opportunity, but he refused because he didn’t want to stoop down to Scar’s level. He even gave Scar a chance to run away, only fighting him once Scar refused and kicked ashes in his face.

But that’s a problematic comparison, so I’ll use an example from one of my favourite shows that better illustrates this point:

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I’m sure many of you already know where this is going.

In Justice League Unlimited, there’s an episode where Huntress gets wind that her parents’ killer, a man named Steve Mandragora, is in town and attempts to assassinate him in cold-blooded revenge. She gets kicked out of the league for it, but she remains deadest in her ways and recruits The Question to help sniff him out. Long story-short, Huntress finally corners Mandragora at the nearby harbour, right as he’s about to leave with his son on one of the cargo ships. As she raises her crossbow and prepares to fire, she sees the fear in Mandragora’s son’s eyes and decides she can’t pull the trigger. So she proceeds to knock him out with a cargo freighter and lets him live another day.

What does this have to do with Jeri? Wildly-different circumstances aside, both characters take pity on the individuals responsible for ruining their lives right before they’re about to die, using the justification that revenge doesn’t solve anything. Like Mandragora, Beelzemon murdered someone close to Jeri in cold-blood. Like Mandragora, Beelzemon feels no remorse in doing so. Like Mandragora, Beelzemon could’ve been taken out then-and-there without much hesitation. But, like Mandragora, Jeri understood that eliminating Beelzemon wouldn’t bring Leomon back, and that it’d make her no better than him. Remember, Jeri blames herself for all of this destruction, even though she’s innocent. For her, it’s both a perspective issue and something else: revenge only makes things worse, not better.

This is being “selfish”, or “mentally challenged”? How is showing mercy selfish? Bringing up the “he might do it again” defense doesn’t work here either, it’s an instant red herring once we realize that Beelzemon takes Jeri’s compassion to heart and wanders off to contemplate his existence a few minutes later. And why didn’t she interject earlier? Well, she did: once when she begged Takato to not force WarGrowlmon to Digivolve, once when she freaked-out after Megidramon was created, once when she lectured Takato about turning Guilmon into a monster and once when she begged Gallantmon to show mercy. The first time didn’t matter because Beelzemon didn’t care, the second time it was too late, the third time it did a lot of good for Takato and the fourth time she was fed-up and couldn’t stand it anymore.

Again, how is this being selfish?

Honestly, I think this comment on YouTube sums everything up nicely:

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i no, rite?! He puts Superman to shame!

|=ADR-01 and the Kubler-Ross Principle=|

So now Jeri starts regressing and wallowing in severe depression. Her smile is gone completely, her voice frequently quivers each time talks, she constantly stares at her now-useless D-Arc and she keeps mumbling the phrase, “Leomon said it was destiny” over and over again. The complaint here is that she’s now a pathetic shell of her former self, constantly whining and acting like a lump. In her defense, that’s the point. Depression is all about whining and moping, feeling like life isn’t worth living anymore, a complete loss of the will to be positive and useful. You ask anyone with a history of depression what it’s like, and that’s what he or she will tell you. >_>

Even so, Jeri doesn’t become a complete lump either. In Episode 39, after Rika and Renamon have gone off to stall the latest threat, a foe named D-Reaper, and prevent it from growing further, Jeri rushes directly to her in panic. She’s worried that Rika might’ve died too, which would crush her even more considering how helpful she’s been to her in the past. Is this called being a lump? No, it’s called “expressing concern”. Also, she’s experiencing depression! I think she deserves to be cut a little slack!

Still, if I had to be honest, I think Jeri’s situation can be better described as experiencing “Kubler-Ross Syndrome”. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Jeri’s experiencing “The Five Stages of Grief”. Given what we know about her up until this point, I’d say that she’s in-between Stage 2 and Stage 3-Anger and Depression-but more so at the end of the former. She’s still angry with herself, for very obvious reasons. Even if she’s distraught over Leomon’s death, it makes sense because she’s only halfway through the 5 stages. She still has three more stages left before she can really move on.

But I think the real issue here is that Jeri’s doing something very normal: having a hard time dealing with loss. Believe it or not, many people have a hard time getting over the deaths of loved ones. Speaking personally, a piece of my late-grandmother died alongside my late-grandfather when he got into a fatal car accident 20 years ago. I don’t remember my grandfather, I was still an infant when it happened, but I distinctly recall an underlying paranoia and insecurity that frequently-resurfaced despite my grandmother trying to hide it. She was always concerned about over-heating food, not using the right cutlery at the right time, whether or not someone was intruding on her property and how dangerous it was for me and my two brothers to drink out of soda cans. I loved my grandmother and will always think of her as a source of comfort when I was down, but I noticed this stuff as early as 6 years-old; heck, I recently found out that she could never touch lox again because that was the last thing my grandfather ate before the accident!

Ergo, Jeri’s situation isn’t anything unusual-she’s a 10 year-old girl, from a troubled family, whose mother died when she was young, and she was very close to Leomon, whom she may very well have had a secret crush on (the show definitely suggests that when she first meets him in Episode 21.) With all that in mind, I’m not surprised she broke down after Leomon died; heck, I’d be surprised if she didn’t! I’m actually surprised her mother’s death didn’t break her first, but I’ll get to that eventually. Still, why is it so bad that Jeri is grieving like this? Okay, so Ken from the previous season also had a death in the family…but he didn’t truly get over that either. I’ve seen “Genesis of Evil” more than a dozen times, it’s still my favourite episode in the entire canon, but Ken never really truly accepts Sam’s death until the second-last episode. Even then, he just acknowledges that it was an accident and that he doesn’t need to beat himself up over it. Jeri does learn to cope with Leomon’s death eventually, but she’s entitled to be distraught for a while…

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You’d be upset too if your D-Arc stopped working once your Digimon died, especially if it kept reminding you with static each time you glanced at it…

It’s at this point that the Tamers are to return the real world, in keeping with the series’ tradition of the protagonists coming back to the real world after a lengthy adventure in the Digital World, via the help of an ark created by a group of programmers back home. The Tamers make their way to the ark’s arrival point, but not before the D-Reaper coughs up a stream of gooey consciousness in protest. Jeri notices that her hand puppet, the funny-looking sock she frequently converses with, starts beckoning her of its own free will to follow it to a place that can “delete her sadness”. The rest of the group eventually finds her behind a nearby rock, except that now she’s paler, her eyes are larger and any trace of emotion is wiped clean off her face. Thinking nothing of it, the group finds the ark, takes off to the real world and winds up in Shinjuku Park where their parents are waiting for them. The exception is Jeri’s father, who claims that, “She left on her own, so she can return home on her own.” So Takato escorts her on the train to meet up with her parents at the station…assuming that really is Jeri.

And…it’s not. When her sock puppet took her to “the place”, what it was actually doing was taking her to the D-Reaper to be analyzed so it could migrate properly to the real world. With a quick bait-and-switch, Jeri was captured and replaced with a replica. It was a near-likeness of Jeri and couldn’t be identified as an imposter by scent, but Fake Jeri, also known as ADR-01, had an emotionless-face and secretly observed the human world to relay information back to the D-Reaper. And this leads to the next issue people take with Jeri’s character arc: how did ADR-01 pass-off as Jeri, especially given how creepy it is?

There are several explanations for that, the first one involving context. Aside from being rushed for time, no one bothered questioning anything because Jeri had recently gone through h*ll. She’d just witnessed Beelzemon impale Leomon, and that’s a pretty traumatic thing to watch for anyone; heck, just thinking about it is creepy! I’d assume it wasn’t questioned because everyone thought she’d finally cracked. It’s not uncommon to crazy under severe stress or trauma, it happens in real-life on a regular basis. And given Jeri’s behaviour prior to her disappearance, who’s to say it couldn’t have happened?

Additionally, ADR-01 is very good at trying to hide that it isn’t really Jeri. Aside from the cold eyes, ADR-01 doesn’t do much that suggests “suspicious”; okay, so it smiles a lot and breathes heavily, but other than reading the ingredients on an airplane meal Takato buys for her-which, I might add, is incredibly unhealthy given the absurd quantities of sugar, salt, fat and MSG it allegedly-contains-nothing suggests a red flag until it pins Jeri’s brother to the ground and whispers “All better now, all better now!” in his ear in Episode 42. Considering that the Tamers had long-arrived home by then, that’s quite impressive in a disturbing way. Not to mention that ADR-01 doesn’t truly reveal itself until Episode 45, as well as that most of the creepiness is shown as a side-wink to the audience and not to the characters in the show.

Curiously enough, this technique of side-winks was also used in the previous season. Remember the Dark Spores, those grayish-black seeds that were frequently discussed in the last 7 episodes of Digimon Zero-Two? The changes they had on their hosts were very similar. One of them actually created the season’s first villain, Ken, but he was very good at hiding his transformation despite almost punching someone over an autograph and kicking a puppy for sniffing his shoe. The same went for the other kids infested with Dark Spores, keeping their cool in public and misbehaving in secret. Noriko was, obviously, the exception, but it was established that her Dark Spore was maturing way too quickly and had to be harvested prematurely because it was starting to kill her. ADR-01 may not be a Dark Spore, but the idea of the red flag duplicity is still there.

If it’s any consolation, Takato picks up that something’s wrong with Jeri long-before anyone else. While on the train with Jeri, he actually states-while in tears, no less-that it hurts him to see her so distraught. It’s interesting because, while no genius in any way, Takato’s established from the get-go as a shy kid with a sweet nature and a secret crush on Jeri. It’s the reason he volunteers to escort Jeri when her parents are no-shows at the arrival point, but it also means that he sensed something was wrong Jeri long before the ark set sail. He even mentions to Rika and Henry, the two Tamers he spent the most time with throughout the season, that something was wrong with Jeri several times before ADR-01 reveals itself, making him easy prey once it corners him and messes with his emotions in Episodes 45-46. So detractors can revel in relief over that, even if they’re still being too critical of a bunch of 10-somethings who were too rushed to question Jeri’s change in behaviour.

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Not to mention, it makes for plenty of dramatic tension… *Shudders*

-|=Jeri and Her Disorderly Family=|-

Perhaps the key factor to understanding the controversy surrounding Jeri, as well as appreciating why she behaves the way she does, is examining her family life. In Episode 25, as everyone prepares to head to the Digital World and rescue Calumon from the enemy that captured him earlier, we’re given foreshadowing of what’s yet to come: Jeri’s father owns a restaurant, yet she rarely spends time with him because he’s always so busy with his customers. Her biological mother died when she was young, and the photograph on the night table in her bedroom suggests that she was very close to her. Her father got remarried to another woman, one who had a son from a previous marriage. Jeri’s on good terms with her stepbrother-she actually has to rip her sock puppet out his hand while he’s asleep because he likes it so much-but she seems to have no relationship with her stepmother. We don’t know what any of this means at the time, but the information’s still given anyway.

Once Episode 38 rolls around, we’re finally given some clues to how everything fits together when Jeri takes offense to Takato calling her kind: Jeri’s mother died from a terminal illness when she was about 5 or 6 years old, and she made a vow to never love anyone else from that day onward. Jeri’s stepmother tried to establish a relationship with her, but she kept pushing away. The story IS silly, but it explains why Leomon’s death was so hard on her: Jeri made that promise because she refused to believe that anyone could ever be as caring as her mother was. When Leomon came into her life, she was so caught-up in the frenzy of being a Tamer that she broke the promise without realizing it. When Leomon died, the resulting shock made her realize she’d broken said promise and intensified her guilt over having both betrayed her mother and watching someone close to her die again. It’s all about context and perspective!

The situation, however, finally reaches its grand moment of clarity in Episode 47, when Jeri’s revealed to be held prisoner in the central brain of the D-Reaper’s Earthly form. It uses her energy to power its consumption and digestion of Earthly materials, playing on her misery to keep her from breaking free. It does this by replaying memories of both Leomon’s death and something more disturbing: the very moment that Jeri’s mother passed-away, except twisted and perverted to make it look like it's straight out of a horror movie.

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To-date, this scene STILL gives me the creeps!

The scene itself is disturbing enough without the twist at the end-Jeri’s dead mother's being prepared for burial, that’d be painful for anyone to see in her situation-but it says an awful lot about Jeri and why she’s so distraught in these final episodes. It’s particularly interesting to note that Jeri actually runs out of her mother’s room and down the hospital corridor to find her mother’s soul, as she refuses to believe that she’s actually dead. This is a classic case of denial, not uncommon when people lose loved ones. And we can assume that she buried the memory and pretended it hadn’t happened for the longest while, hence her uppity behaviour throughout most of the show and her downward spiral once Leomon died. I won’t say the D-Reaper barraging her with this memory isn’t cruel, but it’s still very revealing and worth noting when discussing her depressive state.

Surprisingly enough, this is the one area of Jeri’s arc that isn’t criticized; after all, why criticize someone over death? Instead, the argument is over which version of the scene is more effective. In both versions, original and dub, Jeri is told that her mother’s dead, that it was destined to happen and that she should accept, whereupon she runs-off to find her mother because she can’t. However, the wording is different in each version, as the key line is meant to parallel the same line that drove Jeri into severe-depression. In Japanese, Leomon says the following words as he dies:

"This... might be my fate…"

 

As such, the Japanese flashback has Jeri’s father mention that her mother’s death was “fate”. The dub is different, however, as Leomon’s final words are much more elaborate:

"Be brave, Jeri. A part of me will always be with you. Remember, you have a lion’s heart…"

 

Of course, in keeping with the change in dialogue, the flashback has Jeri’s father say, “A part of her will always be with us…” instead. Which version’s more effective is purely opinion, but the bottom line is that Jeri’s flashback explains why Leomon’s parting lines struck her so deeply. Either way, it’s very revealing.

It’s just as revealing when the show transitions to Jeri’s father shortly afterward. Upon hearing that his daughter’s been taken hostage by the D-Reaper, Mr. Katou drives off with a truck belonging to Takato’s dad to go rescue her. It’s here we discover that Mr. Katou’s not a terrible father, unlike Episode 41 would’ve suggested, but a very flustered one. Like Jeri, his first wife’s death was hard to get over, so he remarried to lessen the burden of being a single parent because, “[He’s] not very good at [it].” Unfortunately, this decision left him distant from Jeri, which he acknowledges with regret in hindsight. He then decides to confront the D-Reaper and expiate his guilt by offering himself in her place.

In other words, a very touching scene. (Clip uploaded by user DCMRenaguilSpyder.)

Mr. Katou’s words fall, obviously, on deaf ears; after all, the D-Reaper is an inorganic entity, given sentience only through a series of bizarre mutations. It doesn’t understand the concepts of love and parenthood, let-alone human emotions period. It even malfunctions once Mr. Katou starts crying, as tears are foreign to it as well. To the D-Reaper, organic life is a scary and illogical concept that’s too convoluted to continue existing. There’s no compromise in its inevitable future. Either humanity gets with the program now, or there’s h*ll to pay.

Regardless, this exchange speaks volumes about Mr. Katou’s relationship with his daughter. No explanation is given for why he acts this way, but none is needed: Mr. Katou was irresponsible, he’s realized his mistake, and this is his way of fixing things. Jeri’s detractors take issue with the fact that Mr. Katou only realizes his cold behaviour after he finds out that Jeri’s been taken hostage, but I think that’s unfair given his status as patriarch in a society like Japan. As Hayao Miyazaki so-brilliantly demonstrated in Ponyo, Japanese fathers are often distant from their children because society expects that from them. Aside from Mr. Katou’s “better now than later” moment of truth, there’s really no need to criticize him because Digimon Tamers is already doing that far more-effectively.

Also, Mr. Katou’s decision to go out and rescue his daughter adds weight to his redemption, which is mirrored soon after by Beelzemon and his attempt to help Jeri.

=|=Beelzemon and the Issue of Perspective=|=

Shortly after having been spared by Jeri, Beelzemon had wandered off to go contemplate his existence; after all, his current powers were only given on the condition he destroy the Tamers and their Digimon partners. Since he could no longer carry out his objective, he saw no reason to keep them. So he thinks over his existence, spots a group of angry Chrysalimon and demands they finish him off for good. Rika and Kyyubimon later discover him weakened in his Rookie form, i.e. Impmon, whereupon he’s brought back to the real world and left to wonder if his life really does having meaning after all. After a reunion with his Tamers, whom he’d left in the beginning of the show because of their constant bickering, Beelzemon rises up stronger than before and decides to redeem himself by fighting the D-Reaper alongside the Tamers.

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Also, he looks bad-a** now.

As usual, this leads to another complaint detractors have with Jeri: between Episodes 46-48, Beelzemon goes through a lot of h*ll while fighting the D-Reaper. He’s first absorbed by it to be scanned, all-the-while his energy being drained because he’s a data entity. Next, he wakes up and gets spit out into the open, whereupon his wings are tattered by the D-Reaper’s agents and is forced to listen to the blobby substance mention that he murdered Leomon over-and-over. When he fights back, the blaster on his left hand is disintegrated. He then starts punching his way through the D-Reaper’s outer structure, draining him of nearly all his remaining energy. Once he finally gets to Jeri’s holding chamber, Beelzemon makes his final stand, focuses whatever strength he has left into a single blast and gives us the most gut-wrenching scene in the Digimon franchise:

And when I say “gut-wrenching”, I really do mean gut-wrenching. (Video courtesy of YouTuber Dante1016996.)

Shortly after his rescue attempt fails, Beelzemon is pierced in the back and mortally wounded, all-the-while begging Jeri for forgiveness as he plummets to his doom. He doesn’t actually die-he’s rescued at the last-second-but he can’t fight anymore. Not-surprisingly, the detractors are in arms over this:

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For the record, there were 10 comments out of 38 that attacked Jeri on the above video. This was just the easiest and best one to use for reference.

This scene is so controversial that every video, blog and conversation on the internet always brings it up when discussing Digimon Tamers. One reviewer on YouTube even had this to say:

 

“…[I]n a well-known scene, Beelzemon attempts to rescue Jeri from the D-Reaper, but she refuses because she does not forgive him. Honestly, if someone is genuinely trying to save you, and everyone you trust is yelling at you to accept that help, it only makes sense to accept it. The fact that her depression seems to leave her blind to all the hazards that she is surrounded by only magnifies how selfish she can be, making her one of the more difficult characters to empathize with…”

On a basic level, this poses a crucial question: why would Jeri refuse Beelzemon’s help, especially when she should’ve accepted it? Honesty, this bothered me too when I first watched it. That being said, there are several reasons why criticizing Jeri for this decision is-once again-unfair:

Firstly, Jeri’s been going through, to put it bluntly, sh*t for the last 10 episodes. Aside from being abducted, she’s been scanned by a non-entity, kept in a chaos-submerged cell that’s rapidly draining her life force, constantly leeched off of for her energy and intelligence and mind-raped with scenes of Leomon’s and her mother’s deaths every few minutes to keep her downtrodden and unable to rebel. On top of that, she’s recently witnessed the greatest thing she’s ever had vanish in front of her eyes, Takato’s Digimon turn into a monster and an entire world almost crumble to pieces, all of which she feels directly responsible for. And, of course, she hasn’t felt like she’s meant anything for weeks now by this point in the show. Jeri’s in no condition to think rationally-she even states that she doesn’t understand why Beelzemon’s helping her.

Secondly, why should Jeri trust Beelzemon? Remember, this is the same guy that almost killed her 13 episodes prior. This is the same guy who murdered Leomon and nearly took out everyone else’s Digimon too. She wasn’t there when the ark left the Digital World; she was already missing by that point. She didn’t see Rika and Renamon go out to rescue Impmon, and she hasn't been kept in the loop about his goings-on since. For all intensive-purposes, she hasn’t seen him since Episode 36. How would she know his intentions if she last remembers him attacking her?

Thirdly, Beelzemon made a boo-boo here. I’m well aware that his decision to use Fist of the Beast King was justified,  it was the only way to smash through her holding cell, but that was also Leomon’s signature move. The show had already established that Jeri knew it was one of his attacks, she even owned his playing card and shouted his name when he first-appeared in Episode 21, and this was just another reminder that he was gone; in fact, the scene itself briefly-shows Leomon in his Fist of the Beast King-pose, right before Beelzemon uses the attack. Not to mention, she whimperingly-says, “You’re not Leomon!” before the cell closes again. To use an analogy, it’s like seeing the man who murdered your father, the one who disappeared shortly afterward, dig you out of an avalanche 30 years later with the same shovel he whacked your old man with. He might’ve reformed by this point, he might even want to genuinely help you…but can you really trust him? You may think it’s a weird example, but that’s probably what Jeri’s feeling at this point.

I think the term “perspective” is key here. Perspective is a big factor in how this scene plays out, and it’s an equally big factor in the end-result. From Beelzemon’s perspective, he’s just trying to help Jeri. From Jeri’s perspective, it’s just another reminder that Leomon’s gone. When you put the two together, we see a huge misunderstanding, all resulting from a lack of communication. Of course we feel bad for Beelzemon, why wouldn’t we? But that doesn’t make Jeri an evil person, especially since she had no idea how to react in this situation. Gallantmon might’ve begged her to co-operate, but by the time she heard his voice it was already too late.

As a side-note, it’s interesting how no one complains about Episode 24 of Digimon Zero-Two being unfair to Ken, despite playing out under similar circumstances: the Digidestined are attacked by a Thundermon. They try to fend it off, but are unsuccessful until Ken shows up and has Stingmon destroy it. We know why he did that-it was an old control spire gone rouge, and this was his way of fixing things-but the Digidestined don’t! They haven’t seen him since Episode 21, they didn’t know what his motivations were! To them, this was The Digimon Emperor all over again, as he’d just destroyed an innocent Digimon that, as Cody’s actions suggested earlier, could’ve been convinced to leave them alone with reason and persuasion. Again, it’s all a matter of perspective.

And lastly, Beelzemon’s attempt to free Jeri does have an impact on her: after he plummets to his death, Jeri freaks-out because she thinks she’s killed him. And since he’s “gone for good”, she adds his “death” to the list of casualties she’s responsible for. She wanted to be saved, but she couldn’t trust Beelzemon until it was too late.

I think this comment, responding to a complaint over Jeri’s reaction to Gallantmon, sums everything up beautifully:

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See people? YouTube can be intelligent too!

|=|=The Pitiful Road to Redemption=|=|

With Jeri’s freak-out over Beelzemon in full-play, the D-Reaper sends ADR-01 to silence her because it’s scared that she might break free now. ADR-01 then wraps in a several energy-draining tentacles, causing her to fall limp and give-up again. This time, however, she whips out her sock puppet and starts going on about how the world would be better off if she didn’t exist. Jeri’s detractors complain about this scene being overkill-on-top-of-overkill-i.e. “Shut-up already!”-but I think she’s entitled to whine here; after all, wouldn’t you be saying the same thing if all you did was kept killing people? I know I would! Also, Calumon, who’s been trapped with Jeri for several episodes by this point, tells her that she’s being too hard on herself, so the show’s criticizing her for us.

Surprisingly enough, Jeri takes Calumon’s words to heart. She begins thinking over what Leomon said about “destiny”, and then has epiphany: when Leomon said “destiny”, he meant that it was destiny to become something special. He didn’t, contrary to what she thought earlier, mean that she was destined to be miserable forever. The detractors, again, use this to prove why Jeri’s so irritating, but I think she’s finally learned to handle the grief of Leomon’s passing. Remember, she was suffering from “The Five Stages of Grief”. With her grief out of the way, she’s now able to move on with her life. So she breaks out of her holding cell with her D-Arc and is rescued by Takato and Guilmon, thus concluding her character-arc for good. She forgives Impmon for what he did in Episode 34, thanks Calumon for being her moral-support while inside the D-Reaper and everyone’s happy…until the tragic goodbye, but that’s irrelevant right now.

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Given how her character-arc played out, I disagree. But you can just read my analysis to see why. *inb4shamelessplugginghumour*

-|=|=Final Thoughts=|=|-

When it comes to the Digimon franchise, Digimon Tamers will always be remembered for its daring attempts at treading darker waters. The season is littered with risky themes and concepts, and while it’s not without its flaws or story problems, Jeri’s character arc really isn’t one of them; sure, her story is brooding, childish and even silly at times, but which character in the franchise didn’t have silly moments? Remember, this is Digimon we’re talking about; the franchise was never known for its Grade-A writing or pacing, as its primary objective was a narrative advertising series for kid’s toys. And besides, given that the protagonists were usually children themselves, it’s only natural that they’d make poor decisions and act goofy in the same way that a normal child would on a daily basis. In that sense, Jeri’s no less human than your typical, 10-something.

Honestly, I think the issue's that Jeri’s character arc is very unsettling. It deals with problems that, while valid, were never been discussed prior. For fans of the previous seasons, this was heavy stuff. Even so, I don’t think Jeri deserves the hatred she frequently gets. Family issues, grief and mental trauma are challenges that people go through on a regular basis, and her frequent comparisons to Mimi-whom, despite claims to the contrary, wasn’t useless either-make detractors look heartless and insensitive.

Because this is “being useless”, right? (Video courtesy of ThatCrazyGuy2731 and JediAce1991.)

That’s not to say that the show was always fair to Jeri, as that isn’t true either. She may have had great chemistry with Leomon during the short time they were partners, her fight with Orochimon in Episode 31 even demonstrates that she was a competent Tamer when the time called for it, but pairing a child with the one Digimon who dies in each season is incredibly-cruel and insensitive. We know he’ll die a horrible death eventually, delaying the inevitable doesn’t make it any less obvious. Not to mention that Jeri, as demonstrated by the way her arc plays out, goes through intense tortures that I wouldn’t even wish on a fully-grown adult! Therefore, I agree that abusing such a sweet and innocent character is a hard pill to swallow on an emotional level.

Which is why it’s so important that Jeri experienced this in Season 3, as any other entry in the franchise would’ve gone straight to h*ll because it couldn’t handle something so disturbing. Since Digimon Tamers was already an eerie and cynical season, it makes sense to include her tribulations at some point. And besides, Jeri’s depression should fit right at home with fans of such a dark story. Remember, it’s the same continuity that dabbled in abductions, child abuse, bloodlust, torture and dismembering on several occasions. Given how frequently this all occurred before Leomon’s death, I’m surprised she lasted until Episode 34 before losing it; heck, I’d have cracked after the first few episodes!

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Seriously, why aren’t people up in arms over this?

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Or this?

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Heck, even this?! Why do fans frequently overlook these scenes, while Jeri’s depression gets lambasted? They might not be as disturbing, but they’re still unsettling!

I’m getting ahead of myself, though. As much as I disagree with Jeri’s detractors, they’re perfectly entitled to think what they will about her. But I still think it’s unfair to attack someone for-essentially-being human. It’s nice to a kid’s show, particularly a marketing vehicle, go the extra-mile and dig further into of its leads’ back-stories every-so-often, especially since girls tend to get the short of the stick when it comes to character development in the Digimon series. It’s a nice change of pace, especially since it takes two of the franchises biggest problems-the lack of long-term tragedy, and the Leomon tradition-and rectifies them.

But if that’s not convincing, I’ll end with this: If you’d lost your mother at a young age, were distant from your father, watched someone you cared about get murdered in front of your eyes and ended up mind-raped by a non-entity on an hourly basis, would you react any differently?

****************

I guess that wraps things up! If you’ve stuck with me for the entirety of this diatribe, I salute you! Feel free to listen to Calumon’s singing as a token of gratitude:

I don’t care if it’s silly, Calumon’s still awesome! (Video courtesy of YouTube user Debke.)

Until next time, this is Whitly saying, “Read, comment and goodnight!”

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“Captain Raccoon to the rescue!” *Flies off*

» Source: www.youtube.com
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