WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Digimon Adventure 2020, now streaming on Crunchyroll.
The Digimon reboot series is over the halfway mark of its projected 66-episode run now. While its first half was action-packed but lacking in strong characterization, its second has so far struck a good balance between the two. With the group back together after two long periods of separation, the recent spate of episodes have done what the series really should have done more of from the start: breaking off individual members of the DigiDestined for solo adventures off the beaten track that aren't crucial to plot advancement, but flesh out their backstories, personal goals and the strange world around them.
And the emphasis on "strange" really is a strong one. Recent installments have provided even more throwbacks to past iterations of the Digimon series, with settings like the spooky theme park in Episode 41 and, in Episode 42, a similarly spooky garbage dump presided over by Garbagemon and its helper Chuumon. These distinctly human places randomly appearing during the DigiDestined's journey towards FAGA are speculated by Izzy in "The King of Inventors" to be connected to the mysterious black lightning striking the continent. Their presence is actually weirder than any non-Earthly fantasy location. Take anything out of its original context and dump it where it shouldn't belong and it instantly dials up the uncomfortability factor. Tai and the others don't seem especially bothered, though -- they're just happy to be able to eat at a roadside, American-style diner than question why and how it got there.
But it's not just the Digital World's geographical features that remind fans of how peculiar Digimon is. While we're just about accustomed enough with the core group's digital partners to accept things like a giant, boxing cactus and a werewolf in jeans (less so when he's being actually crucified) other Digimon can give rival collect 'em all franchise, Pokémon's most bizarre creations a run for their Pokédollar. Digimon like Chuumon.
Food Digimon like Burgermon and the potato-based Jagamon, featured in Episode 39, are strange... but logical leaps of creative ingenuity. Plenty of anime beings have been based on food -- Fighting Foodons was entirely predicated on the idea. Even Garbagemon, named for its preference for hopping around in a trash can and formed out of "discarded data scum," is grounded in the history of fictional characters inspired by human waste and radiation. But Chuumon? Chuumon is a bit more special.
It's not that there's anything particularly groundbreaking about a cartoon mouse; rather, it's the way this cartoon mouse has been drawn that makes it stick out -- for all the wrong reasons. The pink critter has appeared in numerous franchise entries, from the original Digimon series to the most recent Last Kizuna movie to the TCG, and it rarely looks even remotely normal in any of them. There's just something about Chuumon, as a whole package, that feels... off: the black nails, the non-matching eyes with that wide-eyed gaze, those unforgivably-spaced buck teeth and even its color. Everything about it screams big Doodlebob energy -- a deliberately child-like sketch of a character accidentally given life. It's just as well it's used as a friendly companion to Garbagemon in the reboot, else it would make for a villain far more disturbing than anything the gang have faced thus far.
Chuumon might even make the poop-flinging Nanimon look relatively tame, which is saying a lot for a character so bizarre in nature its name is literally the Japanese expression, "What?" Stranger still is Chuumon's Armor evolution at the episode's end into Searchmon, a silver, knowledge-seeking insect. Perhaps there's a link there from a computer mouse to the World Wide Web? Honestly, Digimon evolutions, as fans have pointed out, make very little sense sometimes, and given the already out-there nature of Chuumon, what else would you expect from it? Stay weird, Digimon, stay weird.