Digimon's anime can be more than a bit hit or miss. For every Adventure or Tamers, you get a Digimon Frontier, last year's Adventure remake, or whatever the heck Universe: App Monsters was. While there have been serviceable series (Data Squad was fun, it had someone punch an Agumon in the face), none have been especially great.

This year's series is special, though. Digimon Ghost Game is taking Digimon in a radically new direction and, so far, has delivered on everything its darker premise promised. When I say Ghost Game is the best Digimon has been since Tamers, I mean it.

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Digimon Ghost Game is set in a near-future where hologram technology has become commonplace. Everything from advertising to tour guides have been replaced with holograms, and they can freely move through the world as if they were real people. However, with this new technology has come a number of urban legends – people going missing or worse due to ’Hologram Ghosts’. You can see where this is going: Digimon are starting to appear, using holograms as a way to reach out into our world from the Digital one. It's up to a team of three kids and their Digimon partners to investigate Hologram Ghosts, the newly-discovered Digimon world, and deal with their personal demons at the same time.

Although it is still ultimately made for kids, Ghost Game takes a much darker tone compared to other recent series. Each episode is a monster-of-the-week affair with a different Digimon posing a threat to the real world, but it pulls this off incredibly well. Each episode builds up its mystery in a way that's uncharacteristically tense for Digimon, and the six episodes we've had so far have already been packed with scary moments.

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In the very first episode, a 'Hologram Ghost' is caught stealing the remaining lifespan of its victims, leaving them rapidly aged husks of what they once were. When we see it happen, it's a horrifying display of digitised screaming. Only a few episodes later, we see the Digimon veteran Pumpmon as a lonely ghost who misconstrues Halloween as being a celebration about him, causing him to abduct people, force their heads into pumpkins, and cut out the eye-holes with them screaming inside. None of it is particularly gory or disturbing (this is Digimon, not Another), but it is remarkably intense.

Digimon Ghost Game
The first episode has a Digimon stealing people's futures from them.

The real driving force of Digimon Ghost Game is how gradually it teases out new things about this Digital World. Ghost Game is an inversion of the normal kids-go-to-the-Digital-World format Digimon follows, by having the Digimon find themselves lost and adapting to the real world instead. Most react badly, giving us our monster of the week, but there are lots of examples of Digimon just getting by – one "haunts" a shrine, while Angoramon developed his bond with his partner Ruli by listening to her play the piano. So far there haven't been any overarching evil villains to fight; it's been individuals trapped by circumstance, and it's fantastic.

To match the tone, the characters are also a lot less Digimon-y than others. The leader of the team is Hiro Amanokawa, an intelligent, quiet, reserved boy who is nothing like the usual ‘Goggle Kids’ we've had up to now, like Tai, Davis, Takato or… Mikey. Kiyoshiro Hagahimitarai and his Digimon partner Jellymon, all have the hint of something more beneath them, with Kiyoshiro being a tech genius with an unexplained pathological terror of all things paranormal.

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The core team are very unconventional for Digimon.

It's impossible to look at Ghost Game and not draw comparisons to the fan-favourite Digimon Tamers. Both have a darker tone that deals with heavier topics, both are set in the real world, and both are more about the ongoing mystery than just having fun little jaunts with Digimon pals. And yet, by not being afraid to shed itself of the usual tropes Digimon is known for (not a goggle in sight!), and by taking a slower, more natural take on worldbuilding compared to Tamer's role of being a vehicle to sell the trading card game, Ghost Game has the real potential to overtake it as being the best series Digimon has ever had.

If you've got Crunchyroll, you're doing yourself a major disservice by not giving Digimon Ghost Game a shot.

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