This article contains spoilers for Digimon Ghost Game.
“Digimon, digital monsters, Digimon are the champions.” Those iconic lyrics from the 1999 Digimon anime are embedded into my soul. That series and its legacy live on as stories that help children learn lessons about life, death, and morality while giving them an incredible adventure to boot. Throughout the decades, there have been several sequel series. Each of these stories has its own personality. Perhaps the most interesting, bizarre, and surprisingly brutal entry is Digimon Ghost Game.
This deceptively cute anime has a giant cuddly bunny, a cute jelly girl, and a beyond-adorable dinosaur as its core Digimon cast, alongside a trio of human partners. At first glance, you could confuse this group with something you might see as a segment on Barney & Friends. However, on a weekly basis, this series touches on several subgenres within horror.
It’s fascinating to me. I had a question in my head when first writing this article: When is it okay to introduce children to horror? I remember when I was young, I would see my dad and my little sister watching Blade; she was one year old. It’s always made me giggle, remembering my little sister watching a film like Blade. Is there an appropriate time? Is there an appropriate story? After all, horror is similar to comedy in many ways; it’s all subjective.
This brings me back to Digimon Ghost Game. The series is made for young teens, but it easily has elements that would scare full-grown adults. I should know, as I am a full-grown adult and I am almost constantly terrified at the imagery and storytelling on show.
The series as a whole is even structured as a long-form horror narrative. It sets up the characters with all our heroes meeting. Then it sets the status quo with the world being plagued by villainous Digimon. And then it continues to add layer upon layer of horror, by pushing the Digimon’s twisted views on the world.
In its first episode alone, Digimon Ghost Game sets up far more monstrous Digimon than we’ve seen before. Clockmon, a relatively harmless villain in the past, is described as “The Sewn-lip Man,” a title akin to something from the Brothers Grimm. When he is caught in the act, we see that Clockmon is literally stealing time from humans, draining the very life from them. The imagery is quite unnerving, and it sets the stage for what is to come.
One of the most devastating moments of body horror for Digimon Ghost Game comes with the experimental Ajatarmon. This plant Digimon idolized a human and wished to make him into an Ajatarmon. Unfortunately, to perfect this, it experiments on multiple victims, taking them from their homes and subjecting them to experiments that have vines coming from every part of their body. From the screams of the victims to the twisted thought process of Ajatarmon, there is a lot going on within this particular story.
A particular story that resonated with me involved Digitamamon. He was an old friend of Angoramon, inseparable when they were young. When they meet once more in the human world, Angoramon at first is pleased to see his old friend. Then sadly the penny drops; since arriving to the human world Digitamamon has developed an insatiable hunger for humans. His thirst for knowledge has been replaced with something far more sinister, and his rationale of why he does it is haunting. Ultimately, Angoramon has to end his life, and a little piece of Angoramon dies with him.
The best horror element within Digimon Ghost Game is the slasher at the center of it all. GulusGammamon is the dark digivolution of the adorable Gammamon. Whenever Gammamon goes through moments of heightened negative emotions, he transforms into something malicious. He dons a cloak of darkness and rends his claws upon anyone in his way. When he arrives to “save” the day, he does so with cutthroat efficiency. He was born from tragedy, as most slashers are, and treats everyone in his way with contempt.
Some of his most notable hits include sticking his claw into a victim’s mouth and then blasting through their head. He grabs another victim and then skewers them with his tail. When he shows up, his supposed allies have to hide from him, as he has tried to kill them on several occasions. The worst part of GulusGammamon, which is unique to him compared to other notable slashers in horror, is that he turns back to the cute and affectionate Gammamon, who has no memory of the ill deeds he has committed.
When I first questioned myself about when to introduce kids to horror, I wasn’t sure. Now, after writing this article, I believe Digimon Ghost Game is the perfect entry point for kids. With stories that deal with hard truths and intriguing facets of the human condition, from which we draw upon to tell stories, Digimon Ghost Game is a hidden horror gem for everyone to enjoy.