My brother and I watched a lot of cartoons as children, and that hasn’t changed as we’ve grown up. Over winter break last year, my brother and I found the second season of Digimon on Netflix, and we decided to watch that season all the way through.
It was fun to relive the Saturday mornings from our childhood, when we would wake up early to watch cartoons like Digimon, and it was fun to see how we reacted as adults to some of the stuff we watched thirteen (!!!) years ago.
One thing that didn’t change much was that of the six main characters in Digimon, my favorite character was Ken. As a kid, I could never really explain why he was my favorite, though. But watching Digimon as an adult, I figured it out.
In the first part of the season, Ken was the Digimon Emperor, an evil genius who took over the Digital World (the place where all the Digimon live) and ruled it with an iron fist. He was a very cruel Emperor, making the Digimon work for him as slaves, making them evil by taking over their minds with Dark Rings, and punishing those who didn’t obey. For most of the first part of the season, the five other main characters were trying to stop Ken, and everyone knew he was a jerk, except his Digimon partner, Wormmon. (People who have never watched Digimon must be finding this very weird to read! I hope you all get this.)
Ken had originally been one of the people destined to protect the Digital World, and every one of those people were given a Digimon as a partner to help them do that. Wormmon had been assigned to Ken as a Digimon partner before Ken became the Emperor, and Wormmon remembered that before Ken became the Emperor, he had been a very kind boy. However, a series of events including his brother’s death and being infected with a “dark spore” made Ken very spiteful and evil.
Ken treated Wormmon like a slave, and at one point, he rejected Wormmon as his Digimon partner and tried to create a new Digimon partner for himself, one that was bigger and stronger than Wormmon. This new partner was a monster and eventually went mad and started destroying everything. When Wormmon realized that Ken’s new partner was going to destroy everything, he finally told Ken everything he thought about him, but despite Ken’s treatment of him and all the other Digimon, Wormmon told Ken that he still remembered the kind boy that Ken used to be, and that he hoped that Ken would become that person again.
Wormmon then gave all of his life energy to defeat the monster, saving Ken and the other main characters. That event made Ken realize the error of his ways, and he stopped being the Digimon Emperor after that. Eventually, he joined up with the other main characters to save the Digital World. It took time for the other main characters, but eventually they were able to see Ken like Wormmon saw him: as a kind and noble person, and a hero.
What I just retold was a major subplot of a kids’ TV show from fifteen years ago, but there are themes in that subplot that are for people of all ages in real life, now. Figuratively speaking, we have all met a Digimon Emperor. Perhaps that person doesn’t go around killing people and controlling their minds, but the person does have fundamental flaws that end up hurting them and the people around them. And if I’m speaking that way, about people who have missed the mark and hurt other people and have flaws and scars that they can’t handle very well, then I can say with certainty that we have all been the Digimon Emperor at some point.
But I can also say, daring to hope, that there’s a Ken in all of us too, someone who is kind to other people, ingenuous and has something good to share with the world. Not everyone sees it, and it may be buried beneath all the flaws. But it is there, in all of us. And we need someone, kind of like Wormmon in this plot, to see that person and never stop believing that the good kid is there somewhere. We need someone who can deal with all of our flaws and help us find the inner kindness. We need someone to take on our burdens so that we can be helped. And if we can find that person–that exceedingly rare person–they will usually succeed in bringing the good out of us, not because we were good enough to find the good, but because we know how much it cost them and we want to repay them.
People like those are hard–nay, nearly impossible — to find. There’s no greater sacrifice for a person than to give his or her time, energy, and even his or her own life to see a friend gain life. I dare say that there’s nothing that messes with your head or your heart more than realizing that someone believed in you so much that they were willing to give your life to see you find your dreams.
That’s why Christianity still continues to grow today, though people’s actions throughout history have sullied its name–because in Christianity, Jesus is that person. Christians believe that God looked upon sinful humanity (i.e., the Digimon Emperor in all of us) and still saw the goodness, the image of God (i.e., the Ken) in all of us. God became human as Jesus to die for our sins and save us from sin and death.
If you find a person who believes in you so much that they can bet their life on it, it might take a while, but eventually, you start believing in yourself and wanting to do better for yourself, and you don’t want to go back to the way you were, because if someone gave their life for you, then your life must be worth it.
Jesus gave his life for you. Your life must be worth it.
Simi Akintorin ’16 is an Economics concentrator in Kirkland House. She would get a secondary in late ’90s cartoons if she could do it here.