Ichijouji Ken's transition to the Digimon Kaiser: My issue with the Dark Seed

Rosamon

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Ken is my favourite character in 02. I'm a sucker for tragic villains turned heroes.

As much as I love him and his growth in overcoming his internal conflicts throughout the season, I feel the whole Dark Seed reveal took away a lot of what I liked about his backstory.

I'd argue that it was more emotional and had me more connected to the character when the reason for his actions as the Digimon Kaiser was that he experienced natural, negative character development. His brother whom he resented so much had finally died like he had wished, and while Ken was heartbroken, he lavished the new attention his parents gave to him. He receives an email from a stranger that encourages him to journey to the Digital World with the Digivice his brother had claimed, but was truly Ken's. Just like that, Ken has access to a fantasy video game world where he's the only player, while in the real world he devotes himself to becoming just like his brother and really lavish his parent's attention.

The power of course, slowly gets to his head. He distances himself from everyone and begins living out his power fantasies in the Digital World, thinking he's just playing some sort of sandbox game. This is why the Digimon Kaiser seems so cheesy with his speech, so edgy with his design, and somewhat nonthreatening with his evil laugh (of course, until you associate that laugh with the fact that he usually has the upper hand and things are getting bad for the Chosen Children)- He's a child living out his dream. He even names his devices Dark Towers, Evil Rings, and Evil Spirals. He wanted to play the role of the villain. Most villains in fiction don't outright call their stuff "evil." But if you're playing a game, and nobody's there to judge you, you're free to be as corny as you want!

He begins the doubt the Digital World's existence as just a game when he sees Daisuke and the other Chosen Children at a soccer match, and further doubts when he sees their Digimon's Baby II forms in the Digital World and remembers seeing them at the soccer match. He gets the sense knocked into him eventually, and realizes the truth of his actions: none of this was a game. He wasn't controlling, experimenting on, and torturing simple AI animals, but actual living beings. Beings that, like Wormmon, have human intelligence. (He had no problem kicking dogs, so I think its the fact that Digimon are so human-like that really got to Ken.)

Ken leaves the Digital World and falls into a horrible depression, not having enough mental energy to bother getting out of bed. He starts to dissociate while he mulls over what's happened. Then, although he doesn't believe in himself, he starts to make amends, to his parents, to Wormmon, and to the Digital World, all of which he had treated with such disrespect. Ken hates himself for having been the Digimon Kaiser. He becomes incredibly afraid of the darkness, of his memories. He's ready to accept the fact that he may never be forgiven.

But the Chosen Children, but Daisuke especially, encourage him. They give him the support he's never had before. Slowly he comes out of his depression, and eventually learns to stop pitying himself and move forward. (I particularly like how Daisuke and XV-mon talk him and Stingmon out of committing suicide by dying within the Digimon Kaiser's base.)

I really, really empathize with Ken. I struggle with constantly flip flopping between "I'm the greatest, the people who defy me are worthless" and "I'm the worst, the people who try and help me are wasting their time." I'm... Also depressed, so that, too.

...And then the show went and said "Oh, Ken just became nasty because he had a Dark Seed." And threw out all of the depth that backstory had.
 

frankiemon827

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As for the background story of how Ken ended up with the dark spore and became digimon emperor, there was an old digimon ps4 game (I think) called Digimon Adventure 02: Tag Tamers which explains quite a bit. Otherwise yes I do agree that Ken as character was one of the highlights of 02
 

Yamato-san

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To my understanding, 02 had way too many writers on board, so they'd constantly come up with ideas that ultimately went nowhere or had a half-assed resolution. You could probably throw in some corporate meddling from Bandai in there as well, since Ken's story tied into the WonderSwan RPGs, with the Dark Seed originating from Millenniumon (I guess Oikawa just noticed it was there and proceeded to copy it). Now, one could argue that the Dark Seed simply amplified negative emotions that were already there, though as I recall, Noriko and the other children that Oikawa manipulated seemed like they were pretty well off, and even if that were the case, you do make a point that it ultimately cheapens Ken's delusions that he was simply playing in a game world. Sadly, this might have to be thrown along with the Dagomon plotline into the bin of 02's missed opportunities.
 

HawkG

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The fundamental problem with the Digimon Kaiser and Ken is that they aren't the same character. The main problem is that his transition into and out of the kaiser persona isn't based on growth or degradation of his character but a switch that gets clicked on and off because of "plot reasons." And honestly I think that ruins Ken's entire character because I can't feel for a redemption plot line when the character in question wasn't fully aware of his actions. The longer the story went on the more agency the digimon kaiser lost and the more Ken's regrets felt unwarranted from a narrative perspective. I think Ken is one of the worst written characters in digimon because the show just ruins his character the further it goes and it's a shame because he had the most potential to be great.
 

Jaybird C

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I did some reflection on it a while ago, and it occurred to me that the Dark Seed could be really useful to the story with only a slight retool; the idea of a little thing of malice and evil whispering directly into Ken's brain would go well with the general trend of villains being manipulated by other villains that defined a lot of 02's plot.

The fundamental problem with the Digimon Kaiser and Ken is that they aren't the same character. The main problem is that his transition into and out of the kaiser persona isn't based on growth or degradation of his character but a switch that gets clicked on and off because of "plot reasons."
That was a big hiccup in Ken's story. After the fall of the Empire, the issues that gave rise to the Kaiser persona (heavy social expectations, Ken's resentment and disdain) all just kind of vanished so normal Ken could angst about having been Evil.

ps4 game (I think)
You're thinking of the Wonderswan.
 
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