JReviews/ Anime Talk: Digimon

Hi guys, JR here again and once again I'm hijacking the Anime Talk title from Kaldath (you guys get 2 Anime Talks in one week, what a novelty). This is because next week is the release of the second part of Digimon Adventure Tri. Now, I'm sure people might remember that I did an Anime Talk on the first part of A3 last year and I, for want of a better phrase, lost my absolute mind over it. Of course I will be reviewing (read fanspazzing all over) the second part next week, but first I thought I'd do something I've wanted to do for a while and go over the previous Digimon series. All of them.

*smiles*

Digimon Adventure

Date of release: March 1999- March 2000 (Japan)/ August 1999- June 2000 (US/ UK)

Pros: Nostalgia. Great characters, character chemistry, nostalgia, enjoyable villains, good writing, more adult themes than in many other child-oriented anime at the time (obviously toned down for western audiences, but much less so than many contemporaries) and a heavy does of nostalgia

Cons: Every character, with the exception of Izzy and Kari (best character), gets a chance to be unbelievably frustrating (mostly Matt if we’re being honest). Western dub cuts or edits a lot of the best bits from the original (see the final boss and his amazingly dark philosophical tirade/ horribly butchered metaphors). Plot holes. Etemon.

Overview: The one that started it all and the one that unfortunately cannot be looked at without a heavy tint of rose. If I were trying to be critical I would say that it kinda starts off a bit slow, there’s a lot of lose-ends that they just ignore (who/ what is Gennai, what is the light that possesses Kari during the Dark Masters Arc and why does it only appear that once, who were the original digidestined and why did they fail to stop Apocalymon for good, why were the crests scattered rather than given to the digidestined with the digivices?) and Etemon is in it. But, other than that, this series is great. The characters are wonderful, each go through proper character development and you see them grow from being pretty much complete strangers to close friends throughout the series and it doesn’t feel forced in any way (and it still doesn’t in two follow up series). The writing is pretty consistent throughout and whilst it does throw up Over-Protective Matt at points (turning one of the best characters into the most annoying in no time at all) and serious anime fluff with the arrows of hope and light (lets be honest, that was just pure cheddar), it also gives us wonderful bits like Kari’s illness and Tai’s guilt or Wizardmon. That still gets me every time I watch this series. Oh, and we have the villains. Obviously Myotismon stands out here (Wizardmon why!?) but the Dark Masters are amazing villains as well and the way they each meet their ends give the best “Oh yeah” moments in the series, with a shout out to Puppetmon for being psychotic, kinda sympathetic and getting completely crushed by MetalGarurumon. So, overall, it’s a great series, but I can’t really be very objective because I still freak out when you first see MetalGreymon and I still cry when Wizardmon happens, so I would say that. It’s nostalgia distilled. But is it the best Digimon series? No. Not even with the nostalgia factor.

Defining Moment: Wizardmon…

Digimon Adventure 02

Date of Release: April 2000- March 2001 (Japan)/ August 2000- May 2001 (USA/ UK)

Pros: It has all of the guys from the last series, plus TK and Kari (best character) are in main parts. Ken is possibly the most likeable character in the series history and starts off as the most despiseable villain, so two big pluses, Armadillomon is pretty chill, Azulongmon is quite impressive and the round the world trip was a cool arc.

Cons: Everything else… Davis is annoying, Yolei and Cody are intolerable. Veemons lisp gets annoying after 5 seconds. Arukenimon and Mummymon are reminiscent of Jessie and James from Pokémon and that’s not a good thing. BlackWarGreymon’s emo shtick gets old after the first few episodes of it (although his face-off with MagnaAngemon was one of the most hype moments of either Adventure series, well, up until it ends anticlimactically), they waste the Dark Ocean and Demon. Do I really need to say more?

Overview: I do? Ok, here goes. After Adventure 1, this was a big let down. The new characters had very little chemistry, barring Ken, who seemed to be the only one who believably got on with all of them at any point in the series (I would like to point out that TK and Kari don’t count here, not being “new characters”). Yolei and Cody’s main thing throughout the last half of the series was “we can’t hurt/ kill these Digimon because they are real creatures”. Now, this was a great ethical point, whilst they are technically digital monsters, they did have form and self-awareness in the real world. But the way it was presented was terrible. These arguments were set against the backdrop of massive destruction and potential loss of life, which doesn’t help the already really whiney characters get their very valid point across in any sort of meaningful way without making them sound even more whiney. This isn’t helped by the fact that the writing seemed to have taken a nosedive anyway. Unlike Adventure 1, this series felt like it had filler. Both did, but this one you could tell. BlackWarGreymon’s war against some rocks was a prime example of this. They did eight or so episodes of the kids going somewhere to protect a magic rock only for emo-Agumon to turn up and destroy it. Although this did give us MagnaAngemon’s semi-triumphant return, it was serious filler. That being said, the Christmas episode was perfect, the world tour arc was really fun as it gave us a chance to see some unusual pairings and great character interactions (Matt and Ken was fantastic, Izzy/ Kari was quite fun, Tai/ T.K was great if just for T.K’s un-ironic French grandfather, I kid you not) and armor digivolution and DNA/ Jogress digivolution were interesting and fun additions to the mythos. But these can’t really bring it up to anywhere close to its predecessor. I’m not going to go into the most frustrating problem, the Dark Ocean and Demon, here because, quite honestly, I’m hoping this will be solved in Adventure Tri. And finally we come to the ending to the series. Oikawa was an odd but very relatable villain; he was driven by grief and a child-like longing to see a wonderful new world. Not even Cody could ruin this one (as much as he really tried. Oikawa brought more to Cody’s character than Cody brought to the entire last 20 episodes). But then they did something that manages to leave a bad taste whilst actually making a lot of sense. Did they need to bring Myotismon back? Not really, and how they did it was quite honestly bad (don’t even get me started on how he loses, because it sucked. Badly. No really, it did). But it made the most sense. Having Oikawa be able to create Arukenimon and Mummymon, the control spires and the dark rings and corrupt the Crest Of Kindness all on his own wouldn’t have worked, and bringing in a brand new villain would have required too much explanation (why do you think they didn’t bother with Demon), so brining back an old villain made the most sense. And out of the old villains, Myotismon was the most sensible choice because he was best placed, the only Digimon villain to take the plunge into invading the human world and being killed there. Should they have done it? No, they should have had Demon be the main villain behind it all, rather than have him as a secondary villain who they just toss to the side. Or they should have had a properly epic showdown at the end rather than the flop they ended on. But at least the series ended on a flash-forward and gave us a glimpse into the future, which was nice.

Defining Moment: MagnaAngemon vs. BlackWarGreymon. It sums up the series perfectly in one battle.

Digimon Tamers

Date of release: April 2001- March 2002 (Japan)/ September 2001- June 2002 (USA/ UK)

Pros: The story, the story, the story and the story. The story is also pretty good.

Cons: Keeping Guilmon’s voice throughout his entire evolutionary line was not a good idea English Dub. And it takes a while to get going.

Overview: I love this series. I love literally everything about this series. I am willing to overlook all of its flaws, and there are some, because of how good this series ends up being. We’ll get the problems out of the way first. Firstly, this series takes very little time to get to really powerful opponents (14 episodes to digivolve to Ultimate/ Perfect level and 18 to have the whole gang up to that level, Adventure 1 took 20 for the first partner Digimon to reach that level. Sure they had less characters to work with, but still), and yet this series starts really slowly, much of the first 30 episodes are filler, even the fights will the Deva feel like filler, which isn’t great as they are meant to be primary antagonists. Then we have the bizarre way they put together the characters structure. You have the 3 main characters then you have the secondary supporting characters like parents and the guys from Hypnos. But then you have the 4 or 5 other Tamers who don’t fall into either of these categories. They get just enough character development not to be secondary characters, but they don’t get enough for you to say “yes, I really like this character”, they’re just there. But then episode 34 happens and this series gets blown wide open. To say things escalate quickly would be an understatement; it goes from 0 to a million so quickly it wouldn’t even get a ticket because the police would only see the sonic boom. You have a partner Digimon be killed off and eaten by a character that was previously a protagonist and then the main hero loses it and tries to murder him with a giant dragon that is so powerful that it threatens to unleash a digital hazard and wipe out everything digital. The fight between Megidramon and Beelzemon is one of the best moments of any Digimon series, because of how real it feels. Takato just saw one of his friends being murdered by another friend and he wants revenge. It is raw and visceral and unlike anything you’d expect from a kids show. Then when the dust has settled from that fight, it leads to THE. BEST. BATTLE. IN DIGIMON HISTORY- Gallantmon/ Dukemon vs. Beelzemon (which would have been even better in the dub if they’d have kept the original Japanese move names. Final Elysium is one of the most powerful and imposing move names I’ve heard). And then, after that, the series turns into Neon Genesis Evangelion in terms of how messed up it becomes. Jeri, the love interest to the primary protagonist, becomes seriously depressed after her partner Digimon getting killed and eaten by one of her friends (understandable) and then gets possessed by a virus designed to kill Digimon and she brings it to the real world, where it decides to kill humans. Cue some very Evangelion style villains, a heroic turn by said friend eating demon, who gets shot down brutally in more ways than one (and honestly should have been killed off because this series couldn’t have been more un-child-friendly at this point so why not), some fairly disturbing discussions on humanity and loss between two of the series previously most light-hearted characters and its main villain, some ‘almost’ child nudity because Japan and then as the uplifting ending once all the screwiness is over with, the kids have to say goodbye to their partner Digimon who can’t survive in the real world now that the barrier between the real and digital worlds has been closed. Kids show *thumbs up and cheesy smile*. Honestly, bear with the first 30 episodes of filler because the pay off is monstrous.

Defining Moment: Beelzemon’s Hannibal Lector act.

Digimon Frontier

Date of release: April 2002- March 2003 (Japan)/ September 2002- July 2003 (USA/ UK)

Pros: Great cast of characters, good story, unique ideas (in terms of Digimon series), brilliant main villains, the English intro song.

Cons: No-one seems to actually like it except me.

Overview: Welcome everyone, to the most unfairly maligned series in anime history. Yes, it is not the best series in the world, not even the top 3 best Digimon series, but the hate it receives is disproportionate. And the reason? No partner Digimon, instead the human characters become Digimon for battles using “Spirits” of Legendary Digimon. Yes it’s a seriously overdone idea in the world of anime (and pretty much everywhere else), but hey, it solves the problem that Digimon always sort of faced in “what the hell are those kids doing standing there whilst these monsters that are bigger than most buildings are fighting?” This made sense and it really made the series stand out from its predecessors. Apart from that, there isn’t much really to say about Frontier. It’s filler heavy, they even manage to have a filler episode in the middle of a main boss fight, and I don’t mean in the Dragonball way of having the main character train to fight the boss who just beat him. Nope, an actual episode not connected in any way to the story just happens, because ?. But anyway, the characters are engaging, if not on the same level as in previous seasons, the main villains are great, Dynasmon and LordKnightmon/ Crusadermon/ RhodoKnightmon (depending on which version you watch or which season you watch or, I don’t know, give the guy a proper name already) do the evil henchmen duo thing 20 times better than Arukenimon/ Mummymon, and Lucemon is a genuinely threatening villain. And they kinda kill off a human protagonist (it’s sort of open ended, it looks like he dies, but they make it out that he survives at the end). There are a few missed opportunities in the series, the main one being the fact that they introduce 4 new children near the end of the series, when there are 4 unclaimed spirits, and the new kids don’t get the spirits? Yes it may have been unnecessary and over-complicated things a bit, but the coincidence felt too much like bait with no pay-off. And the further the series goes on the less the majority of the characters actually do, it just ends up being the main two who do all of the fighting. But still, much better than most people think and definitely worth a watch.

Defining Moment: All ten of the legendary warriors appear to defend The Village Of Beginnings.

Digimon Savers/ Data Squad

Date of release: April 2006- March 2007 (Japan)/ October 2007- November 2008 (USA/ UK)

Pros: NO

Cons: I HATE IT. A LOT. SERIOUSLY, IF I HAD A LIST OF THINGS I HATE IN LIFE THIS WOULD BE UP THERE WITH HEIGHTS, DONALD TRUMP AND RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM.

Overview: Do I have to?

Really?

*sigh*

Helmets on everyone.

Ok, none of the characters are even remotely likeable. The lead is a twat, the blonde guy is boring, the girl is blander than a white wall with nothing on it and the kid is horribly racist. The partner Digimon are rehashed from Adventure (Agumon, a dog, a flower and a bird) and the writing is so bad it makes George Bush look like Albert Einstein. The lasting legacy of this series is that all of the kids who were unfortunate enough to have grown up watching this will now forgo logical thinking and reasonable discussion for PUNCHING THINGS IN THE FACE! POINTLESSLY! This series is everything that’s bad with anime distilled into a giant septic tank. The smart guy tries to make the sensible decisions and they always backfire in his face so he has to be bailed out by the guy who ONLY PUNCHES THINGS! IN THE FACE! POINTLESSLY! And he deals with the situation by, you guessed it, PUNCHING THINGS IN THE FACE POINTLESSLY! If this series had a redeeming feature it would be that the villains are good, Merukimon is relatable, Kurata was a nutter and the Royal Knights are the Royal Knights (I love the Royal Knights, which is why it hurts so much that this series is so utterly *word redacted because this site is family friendly*). But unfortunately THEY ALL GET PUNCHED IN THE FACE! What was the point of making this a Digimon series? The main character did as much of the fighting as the rest of the characters combined FOR NO REASON OTHER THAN HE WAS AN ARSE! I know I praised Frontier for having the human characters do the fighting, but that was a plot point, this was not. It’s like they decided to forego any character development at all, in favor of PUNCHING THINGS! IN THE FACE! POINTLESSLY! A LOT! In case anyone didn’t realize, this series involves things getting punched in the face, it’s kind of its thing. Just take all the Digimon out and have this guy punch kaiju’s instead. Make it One Punch Man, nearly 10 years before One Punch Man existed (only not ironic in any way shape or form, or good). At least then it isn’t a black mark on a great series. Is it any wonder that Digimon disappeared for 3 years afterwards?

Defining Moment: The first appearance of all of the Royal Knights in the anime, I guess. Even I will admit, I loved that bit.

Digimon Xros Wars/ Fusion

Date of Release: Jun 2010- March 2012 (Japan)/ September 2013- ? (USA/ UK)

Pros: It followed Data Squad and was actually good.

Cons: Not many actually… It’s rather long and there’s a lot of filler? The third arc’s main protagonist is a rehash of Davis from Adventure 2.

Overview: Ok, I have to say this right now; I’ve only watched this all the way through in sub format. I got really bored of the dub after about 20 episodes and haven’t gone back to it since, which I probably should do. Now this was my fault, I’d recently re-watched the sub before the dub originally aired, so the stories were all really fresh in my mind and unfortunately, the sub was better. So all of this is going to be based on the Japanese version, so if you’re a dub only person, sorry. Anyway, this series. Taiki is actually the best lead protagonist this series has ever had. Better than Tai, better than Takato and miles better than Davis. He’s just very likeable, the kind of guy you would actually feel comfortable following around this strange new world. He’s brave, but not reckless, he thinks through his actions, always looking out for others and his compassion doesn’t feel like he's just over the "doesn't care" side of laid-back (Davis, I’m looking at you Davis). The rest of the cast is diverse and interesting, the other human characters are well fleshed out and never annoying (apart from Tagiru, who takes over as lead from Taiki in the third arc of the series. He’s a slightly less annoying Davis. But only slightly) and the large group of Digimon characters are all given distinct personalities and their own time to shine. They reuse old characters to perfection (Beelzemon) and introduce brilliant new ones (The Death Generals, with particular mention going to Olegmon and Apollomon, who, if it weren’t for Taiki, could both claim best character spots). They introduce a new mechanic to replace digivolution and, much like Frontier, it gives the series a really unique feel. And when they do actually get to Digivolve, it makes the whole thing feel more special, because after 5 series of seeing it happen, it does sort of lose a bit of the excitement, until you take it away for half the series. The story may be over extended and filler heavy, but if you can get invested into it (which I did heavily first time round) it’s a great watch. And the pay off at the end. It’s the best kind of fanservice. No over-exaggerated women, JUST GIVING THE FANS EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT AND HAVE ALWAYS WANTED IN THE MOST EPIC WAY POSSIBLE. I would probably put the Japanese sub version of this series as my second favorite Digimon series after Tamers, lacking dub excepted.

Defining Moment: If we ignore the last 3 episodes, I’d have to say Kiriha’s final betrayal and the death of Deckardramon. The only time the Digimon anime has got close to replicating the reaction they got with Wizardmon. But if we do take the final 3 episodes, it’s what they did there. It’s always what they did there! Watch it.

 

So, at last we come, stumbling, to the elephant in the room. “But JR,” I don’t hear you say, “what about the movies?” Yes, there have been 5 Digimon movies, by western release (9 by Japanese release). What I would say here is, watch the first dubbed movie (or the first 3 subbed, the first dubbed movie was a massively edited together version of those 3) and don’t bother with the rest of the dubbed ones. The last Adventure movie isn’t great, the first Tamers movie is forgettable with a horrible ending, the second Tamers movie is quite literally a train wreck (that joke will make sense if you have seen the movie) that completely ruins the end of the series and the Frontier movie is not bad, but like the first Tamers movie it’s forgettable with an iffy end. When it comes to the movies that weren’t dubbed, there’s a Data Squad/ Savers movie, which is pretty much impossible to find, don’t know why you would want to. Then there is the Digital Monster X-Evolution movie. This is an oddity as it is a completely stand-alone movie that stars only Digimon, no human characters at all. It’s possible to find it in fragmented form on YouTube and I’d actually say it’s worth a watch, but only after you’ve watched all of the anime series, otherwise it doesn’t make much sense. But if you do watch it you will understand why I freaked out over Alphamon being in Adventure Tri. so much last year, because before hand this was the only time Alphamon appeared in the anime. Though, having said that, the  3-D art-style they use is going to be off putting for a few people. It looks like a late 90's video game, and this film was made in 2006.

 

So yeah, that's basically my overview on the Digimon anime as a whole. But what about you guys? What are your thoughts on Digimon? Which is your favourite series and why is it Digimon Tamers? I will accept no arguments on the subject.

Anyway, I'll be back next week with another Adventure Tri. review. But until then;

JR out.

JR19759

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