The Digimon anime series has been around now since 1999 and has undergone countless iterations in the years that followed. After returning to the series’ roots with the reboot of the original Digimon Adventure series, the franchise takes a wild turn with Digimon Ghost Game—which unapologetically throws everything we knew about Digimon out the window and, in its place, presents a dark occultic-themed take on Digital Monsters.
Ghost Game immediately sets itself apart from other Digimon series by the fact that it is set in a future society in which hologram technology exists in just about all facets of life, and technology has advanced significantly beyond our current times (made more evident by the “7G” signal seen on our protagonist’s phone). This, more than ever, makes the lines between the Digital World and the Real World all the more blurred and, as such, Ghost Game plunders this setting for the technophobic horror it oozes.
Yes, Ghost Game is well and truly a horror genre take on Digimon. The first episode focuses on a series of strange occurrences happening in the city, where an apparent “Sewn Lip Man” appears like a hologram before its victims and absorbs their life force—rapidly aging them to their final days and leaving them for dead. Our protagonist—aptly named Hiro—finds himself stumbling upon the Sewn Lip Man, who just so happens to be Clockmon. It becomes apparent that Digimon are appearing in the real world through the now ubiquitous hologram technology or at the very least being difficult to distinguish from the holograms.
Hiro escapes from Clockmon, however one of his schoolmates is drained of his life in the process. It is here that we learn that, in the not too distant past, Hiro’s dad had mysteriously disappeared into thin air, leaving behind a smouldering crater, and has since been missing. His mother also seems to be no longer alive, so he kinda has had it tough. The overall dark tone of this first episode caught my off guard, to say the least.
After returning home, Hiro by chance finds a number of storage chips and decides to try and plug them into the digital watch device that his father had left behind before the whole smouldering-crater situation. After doing so, suddenly his entire room is covered in digital grass and plantation and a hologram recording of his father appears before him and asks him to take care of Gammamon, who will be his new “little brother”. This is when Gammamon first appears, and Hiro and Gammamon hit it off almost immediately. Just as Hiro is about to get some answers on his dad’s whereabouts or living situation, Clockmon smashes through the wall and begins a battle with Gammamon.
This next part was good old fashioned Digimon fun, with a battle breaking out between Clockmon and Gammamon. Through some kind of spirit link, Hiro is able to give power to Gammamon to hit a special move which forces Clockmon to release all the time energy he had stolen—and it presumably returns to the bodies of the people who he had drained. It isn’t confirmed whether they lived or not exactly.
Interestingly, Clockmon flees vowing revenge on Hiro and Gammamon and we end things with Hiro now realizing that his dad was involved in some crazier things than he ever knew, and he decides to fulfil his wish and take care of Gammamon as his little brother.
All in all, I really enjoyed this different spin on the Digimon franchise and look forward to seeing how it explores the more inherent horror elements of the Digimon world in comings episodes. I’m actually surprised Digimon hasn’t ventured too much into horror before considering how terrifying some of the Digimon actually look. This was good. More of this please, Toei.