When a group of kids head out for summer camp, they don't expect it to snow in the middle of July. Out of nowhere, the kids receive strange devices which transport them to a very different world to begin their Digimon Adventure! Led by the plucky Taichi Yagami, the seven children must now survive in a realm far from home, filled with monsters and devoid of other humans.
Luckily, they're not alone: each child is paired off with a companion digital monster called a Digimon. Together, the children and their new friends must overcome their insecurities, discover their inner strengths, and evolve into stronger fighters - literally.
A force of evil is spreading through the Digital World, corrupting all the Digimon. The DigiDestined have arrived and it’s up to them to save the Digital World, if they ever want to see their home world again.
Constantly accused of being a Pokémon rip-off, Digimon has struggled to find a big audience, particularly in the West—it doesn't help that its marketing never really took off out here. However, despite it never gaining a huge fanbase like its rival, Digimon continues to be a strong—if not struggling—franchise that still has a foothold in countries outside of Japan complete with its own loyal fanbase. So when most people think of Fox Kids or Saban Entertainment, they fondly think of either Power Rangers or Digimon (usually the first season), and not so much of the network itself. But for years, it meant risking an all-out playground civil war bringing up Digimon's name even when Pokémon's popularity was steadily declining, and one had to be hard-pressed to find someone who was a fan of both shows. To this very day, a mere 16 years after its first airing, there are still folks who are bitter towards Digimon and aren't afraid to fan the flames when provoked (Yu-Gi-Oh! had its share of hate, but not to the extent of Digimon's).
As a fan of both Digimon and Pokémon, I don't see how it's impossible to like both shows even though at the time I loved Pokémon to death and still do. They may have their similarities, but they are two vastly different creatures who just happen to inhabit the same genre. In fact, despite my love for Pokémon, I find Digimon to be immensely better in the anime department (the games not so much, ironically).
Story (8): Seven young kids go to camp for the summer, and wound up living in a digital land where they meet creatures called Digimon (short for Digital Monster) that evolve—called “Digivolving”—through six stages: Baby, In-Training, Rookie, Champion, Ultimate, and Mega. They use Digivolving and power of friendship to save the digital world from evil.
That's the simple, cliché response. In reality, Digimon goes much deeper than that, and it soon stood out from the other shounen 'Mon shows of the time. It still retains that cliché plot, but the thing about clichés is that there are different ways of playing with them, to help separate it from another similar clichéd plot. This doesn't automatically make the writing in Digimon perfect, there's always going to be flaws, but it makes it more watchable (or tolerable) than other similar shows.
Yes, seven kids (later it became eight) end up going into a digital world where they meet their Digimon partners. However, these kids end up discovering, or re-discovering themselves and grow up as characters to be better people. The Digimon technically don't change, although they are catalysts, and they do become stronger based on the inner strength of their partner. It's a form of teamwork, but more along the lines of “Believe in me who believes in you”.
But why were they sent to the Digital World? Because they are the Chosen: the DigiDestined who will save the Digital World from the bad Digimon who will do anything in their power to take over the world. Digimon was originally supposed to be about 13-26 episodes, however, high ratings in Japan was encouraging enough for Toei to continue for a total of 54 episodes. The series is thus commonly split into arcs named after the big bad: Devimon, Etemon, Vamdemon (Myotismon), and the Dark Masters. Each arc has its own fans, but typically the general consensus agrees the Myotismon arc is the highlight of the series.
Outside of your typical friendship and teamwork, Digimon is not afraid to tackle themes such as death, divorce, adoption, and fear of losing a loved one, and for a kids' show (especially given the time), it approaches them with maturity. And the average dub-hater will be pleasantly surprised to learn just how much Saban got away with all in a time where not even 4KIDS themselves wanted to touch such subjects (usually). Sure, Digimon has its share of censorship in the States, but only on an outward-appearance level (again, usually). Luckily, the script stays fairly true to the original while it developed Saban's signature gag dub trait, so a lot of the themes and atmosphere of the series remained. Still, the choice to watch the sub or dub rests all on the viewer, either are fine choices, both have their gains and losses.
Art/Animation (6): Let's totally be honest here, Digimon has a small budget, and it shows (Toei Animation has this problem a lot, it seems). Stock animation is rampant throughout the series, and there's off-model moments and other animation errors, but they typically try not to let you notice, and for the most part, they worked the best they could within their budget. As a digitally-colored show (heh, digital), the colors and line-art is clean, albeit kind of flat due to lack of lighting more often than not. The backgrounds (well, backdrops) stand out to me the most with this show in how everything looks holographic—in the Digital World, anyway, as the real world looks more normal, and thus more “real”. It's a stylistic choice that I feel is a staple to this show. Character designs are unique to the series in that everyone is distinguishable (big traits that stick out to me are the eyes, hair, and how big their hands and shoes/feet are—which is admittedly weird), and monster designs are varied from Digimon to Digimon. This helps them stick out in a line-up of other shounen anime, as well as pave the way for merchandise.
However, due to the small budget, the art is dated compared to later Digimon seasons, and even other anime of the time. The CGI Digivolutions in particular are the worst offenders (although for the time, it wasn't all that bad). The only exception I can think of where the animation was stellar and holds up very nicely (as well as go beyond its usual budget) was episode 21 when Mamoru Hosoda directed the episode.
Sound (9): Sound-effects in general are generic, however, the beeps, drones, and screeches of the Digivice stand out the most in that department—I would go so far as to say it's iconic to the series. The soundtrack itself is spectacular. Composed by the late Takanori Arisawa, Digimon's soundtrack is full of adventure and wonder, while being almost in an electronic/techno genre to give it a more digital feel. Every DigiDestined has their own insert song, and character score—two versions, to be exact—not really unheard of in such shows, but it's a big deal to Digimon. Villains even have their own character songs, if not theme scores, and they are wonderfully kept in character. The opening theme, “Butter-Fly” by Wada Kouji, is honestly one of the best anime theme songs in a kids' show (if not in anime in general), perhaps one of the more recognizable from the intro alone this side of Pokémon. “Brave Heart” by Ayumi Miyazaki is also well-known as the Digivolution theme song.
Saban Entertainment, like most dubbing companies of the time, composed their own music. By themselves, the musical score is good, it's clear they got talent in the musical department. However, the editor(s) of the episodes completely went overboard with the music and just slapped pieces together to fill up the entire episode, rarely leaving a single scene quiet. But the musical score isn't as well-known as the ungodly catchy, simplistic theme song, simply titled “Digimon Are the Champions”. And now you have the English theme song in your head. You're welcome. Bonus points if you can see the intro play out in your head.
Voice-acting in the original is solid, though likewise with the English dub, some voices don't really fit the character. It's thankfully few and far in-between, and it's not like the voice acting is terrible. However, because I'm not fluent in Japanese, I'm slightly biased when it comes to voices regardless if that was the original intent on the casting director or not, thus I cannot judge them just based on how they sound alone. I do personally feel there are voices that work best in the original, while others are enhanced better in the English dub.
Speaking of, given the time, the English dub is surprisingly phenomenal with a great voice-cast—yes, a late-90s kids' anime has an amazing English dub, script and soundtrack aside. It took a bit for the directors and voice actors to get comfortable with the show, but they were able to bring the characters to life in their own special way. Many of them were in the field for years prior to Digimon, and are well-known to the anime community: Joshua Seth, Michael Reynolds, Edie Mirman, Mona Marshall, Derek Stephen Prince, and Lara Jill Miller (at this time, she was well-known from NBC's “Gimme a Break!”, her being cast in Digimon happened at the same time she returned to Hollywood) stand out best in memory, but many of the cast is well-done. However, as I said before, it, too, has its share of voices that just don't work out. This is more-or-less limited to side-Digimon that you don't see often outside of one or two episodes, so it's the main cast I have more praise towards (though Mimi is a bit of an exception in some areas—Ai Maeda in the original makes Mimi more likeable/listenable than Philece Sampler).
Characters (9): This is where Digimon truly sticks out as a show. It's very uncommon to find a show with as equally-complex and diverse a cast as Digimon Adventure. The eight main children made this show, even though their Digimon are good characters in their own right and serve as great foils/combos with their human partners.
The characters are as follows: Taichi “Tai” Yagami (Kamiya), the leader of the group who acts before he thinks (but isn't stupid); Yamato “Matt” Ishida, the cool-headed big brother of a lone wolf; Sora Takenouchi, the motherly tomboy; Koushirou “Izzy” Izumi, the young, know-it-all technical wizard; Mimi Tachikawa, a spoiled, rich girl who never hesitates to speak her mind, but has her heart in the right place; Joe Kido, the more down-to-earth of the children who has a paternal side to him; Takeru “T.K.” Takaishi, Matt's younger brother who provides a more innocent outlook to the world; and Hikari “Kari” Yagami (Kamiya), Tai's younger sister who is good-natured and soft-spoken.
Each of them have a backstory, and their own inner demons (well, maybe not so much with Kari according to some folks). Among the eight, any of them can be relatable to the viewer. Many of them struggle to become better, more mature people, but they aren't alone. The Digimon partners: Agumon, Gabumon, Piyomon (Biyomon), Tentomon, Palmon, Gomamon, Patamon, and Tailmon (Gatomon). They, too, grow as characters and have their own personality, although it's Gatomon (and possibly Patamon) who has the most character development. But their main role as Digimon partners is to protect and be supportive, and for the most part, they fulfill their duties. They are likewise the mascots of the series, and yet are more than just pieces of data.
Meanwhile, partner-less Digimon play important roles to the story, perhaps even more-so than the human protagonists. Some examples (off the top of my head) are Leomon, Ogremon, Piximon, Wizardmon, Myotismon, Etemon, Pumpkinmon, and Gotsumon. These characters had depth despite being in a few episodes at the least, but they also were just that memorable to the point they have fans to this day.
Special mention goes to the children's parents for adding a depth to the show most kids' shows don't do. Parents in Digimon were very supportive of their children, as well as loving, but were also the most human. While they don't go through the same experiences as their children (for the most part), it still affects them greatly to let their children go and save the world without knowing why it is they have to. They had to put their trust into them, and thus they (and the writers) gain my respect when they could've been like every other adult in similar kids' shows. If somehow the children don't grow on you, then perhaps their parents will.
Enjoyment (10): It's truly a damn shame Digimon has never gotten as popular as Pokémon. Both franchises were being worked on at the exact same time, neither creator knowing of each other, and yet it was Pokémon that was finished first, and would overshadow every other 'Mon show that would come out since. Is it possible to blame bad timing for why it is Digimon has to constantly work to get noticed? Maybe. But how do we know Pokémon wouldn't have gone through the same ridicule had it been Digimon that came out first? How do we know that Digimon would have gotten the same popularity? Would it still have struggled? Would it have been a worldwide phenomenon?
Do I wish Digimon would have a bigger audience? Truly, I do, it clearly deserves recognition and praise. However, at the same time, I feel it was a good thing Digimon has remained rather... quiet under many people's radars. For one thing, it felt more special to me, as a kid, to know that as sad as it was, the show was more for me (and my brothers) than anyone else. I didn't want the magic and wonder of Digimon to be sucked up by anyone else, I wanted to experience it all for myself. In my mind, everyone else had to be just as special to like it as much as I did.
Another reason I'm kind of glad it stayed low was unlike with Pokémon, Digimon has never really been accused of the same things its rival went through (at least, that I know of). If it had, I don't think Digimon would have survived. Pokémon had Nintendo, tons of merchandise, and millions of children (and dollars) to back it up. What did Digimon have? Fox Kids? Saban? Toei Animation? Some of Pokémon's percentage of fans? What good would any of those have done to keep Digimon afloat against the onslaught of attacks?
Even with the cheesiness of a gag dub, I still find Digimon to be highly enjoyable. Yes, the original Japanese is superior in everything, but the English dub is special, even if highly subjective, and thus I can't forsake the dub. It's just as memorable as Pokémon's dub, and yet though I managed to find a way for Pokémon and Digimon to co-exist as friendly rivals, it's the better of the two (although I honestly would have a hard to picking my most favorite). Saban Entertainment took good care of Digimon at this time, and I thank them for that. It's the only thanks I can really give them besides “Thanks for Samurai Pizza Cats” and “Thanks for the Fox Kids block”.
In the end, I think “Butter-Fly” says it best for Digimon as a whole (translated):
“After an endless dream, in this world of nothingness
It seems as if our beloved dreams will lose
Even with these unreliable wings, covered in images that tend to stay
I'm sure we can fly, on my love”read more
Story: The storyline of Adventure evolves (no pun intended) into something wonderful as the series goes on, however, the beginning is very shaky, and, for some audiences, a weak beginning is an automatic turn-off. It starts off very episodic, and, aside from the fact that the kids want to get home and have to fight a guy called Devimon, there is not much else for plot. However, after they get home, the series jumps into one of my favorite anime story arch of all times: The Eight Child arch. That part (which largely takes up the middle of the series) was masterfully done, and if the beginning wasn't so average, I would have surely given this anime a 9 or a 10 because of its splendid center content, which is like a bipolar carnival ride of smiles and tears.
Art: For a show in the 90's, Adventure had very good art, and, even today, I prefer its style over that of many newer animes (Digimon ones included.) It is a hybrid of a toony style and a realistic one, giving the show a somewhat recognizable flare. Also, they have some amazing creature designs. True, there are some insanely cute Digimon (especially the babies) but, for the most part, the monsters actually look like what they are: Monsters! Adventure also uses a pleasant blend of CGI and traditional animation. Thankfully, they keep it low on the CGI (possibly due to the technology of the time) so it never looks stupid or overdone.
Sound: What can I say, I love the soundtrack for both the English and Japanese versions. The dub and sub have catchy tunes throughout, however, in both versions there is nothing outstanding in the area of music. It’s mostly just songs that’ll get stuck in your head, but there are no memorable pieces destined to give you chills.
Character: As someone who writes, I know that, the more characters you have, the harder it often is to develop them all. Adventure never seems to have this problem. The characters are all fleshed-out wonderfully, and are very relatable. Though they are young and clearly wise beyond their years, they are not so wise as to raise too many eyebrows, for they still make childish mistakes, and, despite their maturity, still act like kids. All of them have their own back stories and issues with their own images; at times the things they say are surprisingly deep, and I often found myself laughing and crying along with them.
Enjoyment: It's not too often I can come back ten years later, watch a show, and enjoy it more than I did a decade ago, so Adventure deserves a ten in this department. When the creators said they wanted to make it a show that anyone of any age could enjoy, they were not kidding.
Overall: Very good. Though it is definitely not perfect, due to a fun plot and great characters, it's still worth watching if you've never seen it, and rewatching if you have.read more
Digimon Adventure 01, a household name, a childhood memory, what did this blast from the past have in store for us?
That one time at band camp... I mean summer camp. Seven children dubbed the Digi-Destined find themselves in an alternate world, filled with bizarre creatures and a luscious ecosystem, where they soon discover the inevitable path they must walk, together. Although initially hostile, they are each partnered with one of these bizarre creatures known as ‘Digimon’ whom they must work together with to not only save the Digital world, but human world as well. Digimon is best described as a coming of age tale. Each of our Digi-Destined must fight their own demons, in order to progress and ultimately have enough to strength to defeat the “Dark Masters” of the digital world.
When you think about it, there’s no way these children who aren’t even teenagers yet could handle a situation such as this without any hiccups. Each have their own shortcomings, insecurities and past memories that haunt them, which correspond to their crest, allowing deep character progression. Although their emotions are easily manipulated, the maturity to come to their senses and read the situation is also shown consistently throughout. But don’t forget their partners in crime, the Digimon. They resemble the voice of reason in each partnership, almost like a parental figure, although they are shown to be quite childish at times themselves. They switch from cute and cuddly, to imposing beasts in order to protect the ones they cherish, as if they were protecting their young. The evil Digimon are similar in an aspect, they generally represent adults and their personalities tend to stay the same throughout the show.
For 20th century animation, I think Digimon is still top notch. Scenery is blended in beautifully, character emotion is easily distinguishable and the animation is fluid. But let’s not forget the action scenes. I still get goose bumps from almost every digi-evolution that took place even with the hints of poor CGI. It’s the unique character designs that allow the action scenes to truly stand out, each with their own outrageous special attacks, such as breast rockets. What more can you ask for? If you can think of something, they’ve probably already done it.
Although repetitive, the soundtrack for Digimon Adventure is well done in both English and Japanese. But for the sake of this review we’ll look at its English counterpart. The trademark OP/ED of the Dubbed Digimon franchise is memorable if anything. It isn’t an addictive theme, but it gets the job done. The second major theme used “Hey Digimon” on the other hand is as enticing as they come: upbeat, light-hearted and catchy. Used during the last few minutes of most episodes, it portrays the strength of the digi-bonds created. The background music which usually incorporates deep brass instruments and melodic strings tends to suite the mood well.
Not just a children’s show, Digimon adventure breaks this conceptualization and showcases its strengths in a suitable fashion. Deep character progression, a loveable cast and hilarious humor and just some of the reasons that will make this show an enjoyable viewing. Both English and Japanese versions presented very well, so it basically comes down to personal preference, which personally, dubbed wins based on nostalgia alone. So with the upcoming installment Digimon Adventure Tri right around the corner, what are you waiting for? Give Digimon Adventure 01 a Tri.
If you were to ask me what it was that possessed me with such a desire to re-watch the Digimon Adventure series I saw when I was younger, I couldn't tell you. Before now my memories of Digimon were not fond, the dubbing in the show was terrible, to the point were I hated the vast majority of the entire cast. I was a lot younger back then so I didn't understand that the occasional stupid things characters did/said were because the script was being hacked up. But beyond the negatives of the show there was a strange charm that reached me, and having re-watched the show completed in Japanese I understand that strange charm was just me knowing what a really good show it truly was underneath the hacking. So now I hope to show you what I saw, and still see, in Digimon Adventure season 1.
Like most lengthy anime series it starts off fairly slow, and like most shows in general it has a lot of typical things you'd expect from a show of this genre. Chosen children in a faraway land, partnered with strange creatures, that need to prevent the evil from destroying the world. We've all seen it, but that doesn't mean it can't be well done enough to be damn good in the process.
Starting off with the kids searching for a way home it's pretty episodic and gets into a pretty standard pattern for the first 15 episodes or so. But after that they begin the next adventure, searching for their respective Crests. Another small series of episodic episodes, but they're interesting enough that you wouldn't notice that; and they're all truly just a springboard that launches the show from 'fine' to 'very good' on my scale. Introducing Vamdemon (Myotismon for you dub people) and starting the search for the eighth Chosen Child.
It's here that the story takes a much darker tone, and it only gets darker as it goes on. The show pulls no punches, and though it's aimed at children it doesn't insult your intelligence (or at least in Japanese it doesn't). Though there can be a slight cheese factor in some of the more emotional parts, it's done well enough that you won't mind and might even find yourself smiling at the very thing you might have rolled your eyes at.
Even with all the improvements today I still find this art really impressive, and I even prefer it in some instances. There's a strange realistic feeling to all the characters, sure most have the typical accessories to tell you they're from an anime but I wouldn't find it hard to believe if they were based on real kids. But in a show with evolving and fighting monsters who cares how the characters look right, we wanna see wicked awesome monsters!!... Savages, all of you; alright, lets get to the monsters.
They're awesome, to say the least, there may have been one or two creature designs out of them all that I'd consider lame or stupid. And in a show consisting of 54 episodes and dozens upon dozens of monsters, that's damn good. The evolutions are awesome, the only ones that are a little lame are the 4 CG ones; it's not too bad though, considering when the show was made (they're also not very long). But now to move away from the creature designs, I'll talk briefly about the background designs, which I found to be incredibly pleasant compared to over a dozen other shows I've seen.
Though each background doesn't exactly stand out in any particular ways, it's the simple fact that they blend in so well that I like them. They're designed well enough that they look like scenery, you pay attention to it to get a grasp of what's around the characters and move on; it still sticks in your mind but it's not taking over the screen, it's not exploding to try and be noticed, it's simply doing the duty of being background scenery. I also found that for a show from the 90's there's a surprisingly low amount of re-used footage. Sure there's the occasional 'yeah I've seen that Mega Flame before', but for the most part each one fresh and reflects the scenery around it.
It's strange that a show about elementary school children would have a fairly large amount of character development and depth, but that's Digimon Adventure for you. Each of the Chosen Children has their own issues, their own past that's slowly explored as the series progresses, and by the end they've all developed into fully grown characters. They're all clever enough to question situations and surroundings, but they're only in elementary school so they all still have the charm and innocence of childhood.
But people aren't the only characters here, no no, the Digimon have their own personalities too. Which are, in some ways, better than the children in my opinion. Though the children grow and change as characters, and the Digimon basically stay the same, they're still a high point and occasionally contribute a large part of the humor or drama in many episodes.
Ungodly catchy. The Japanese intro and outros are both very good, so good that I've even downloaded them and added them to my iPods playlist of anime songs. Though they are very good, and catchy, they're nothing too spectacular. The audio during the show is also pretty standard, with most of those songs being ungodly catchy as well; awesome, but still nothing too great.
For a show that I once would have only given a five out of ten I'm so glad I went back and watched it over again with the proper audio. To charm me still after ten years have gone by it truly goes to show that this show is something people of all ages can watch and enjoy.
A very good anime that's sadly under appreciated. Though not perfect, Digimon Adventures is definitely worth watching, or re-watching; especially if you read this whole review!!read more
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