Saturday, August 1, 2015

Digimon! Digital Monsters!


August 1 is known as Odaiba Memorial Day, or Digimon Day, in Japan. This is because that in the original Digimon anime series, "Digimon Adventure", August 1 is the day the adventure began - the day where seven kids at summer camp got their Digivices and were sent to the Digital World. The funny thing about that series is that it really only takes place in the course of three days - the first three days of August. Since little to no time passed between the two worlds, the events of episodes 1 to 31 took place on August 1, the events of episodes 32 to 34 took place on August 2, and the events of episodes 35 to 54 took place on August 3. August 4 had come when the time zones between the two worlds were synchronized and the DigiDestined kids had to bid farewell to their Digimon partners and leave the Digital World behind. Today these days are celebrated for the fictitious events that transpired on them, and it's a testament to how far this franchise has endured for all these years, especially in it's home country. While I have a personal favoring towards "Pokemon", I'll admit that "Digimon" is probably the superior franchise as a whole mainly for two reasons - it has more different continuities and casts than "Pokemon", and has much more possibilities to it. You won't ever hear me say that there are too many Digimon now or that most designs of the newer monsters look ugly. Because as digital creations, the inherent nature of Digimon is much more unlimited and justified.

As for this entry, I made it because while it looked as if the franchise had met a brutal end with the failings of "Xros Wars", in particular it's horrifically low quality spinoff series "The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time", there are plans to reboot it completely with the "Digimon Adventure TRI" series of short films that are being made and to be released soon. So before Japan gives us it's second attempt at revitalizing the franchise, I thought it best to recap all aspects of said franchise.

Digimon Virtual Pet Games: Tomagotchi-style virtual pet games on handheld devices is how the franchise originated. Do you remember Tomagotchi? I do, but barely. These Digimon games didn't seem to have much lasting value beyond a couple of installments, but the people in charge did their damndest to give this thing some sort of staying power. They built a background, lore, mythos, and entire world around these Digimon creatures in order to give a semblance of premise to the franchise. This made it an ideal candidate for receiving manga and anime based around it, and thus we got those. And because of those products' success, the sales and creation of the virtual pet games
saw a massive increase and before long the Digimon franchise itself became a global sensation.

Digimon V-Tamer 01: The first Digimon manga series, running for 9 volumes and actually debuting a little bit before the first anime series even premiered. It centered around the exploits of Taichi Yagami and his Digimon partner called Zero in the Digital World, which they have to save from the plans of the malevolent Lord Daemon. This manga went on for as long as four Digimon anime were on the air before finally ending it's run and concluding the story. Despite being only 9 volumes, the story is strong and the quality of the work is very high. It's like the "Pokemon Special" of this franchise.

Digimon Adventure: The first Digimon anime series, with 54 episodes in total. C.S Lewis once said that "a children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest." When I see that quote, this series of sort of what I think of. It's aimed primarily at children, designed to generate interest in the franchise and sell more stuff, and yet the story within the show is phenomenally done, having more care, heart, thought, and effort put into it than it really necessitated. It was perhaps because of this that the show became a big ratings hit in Japan and is what got the franchise it's worldwide notoriety. The series has been praised by fans and critics alike for going above and beyond what a marketable children's cartoon show could be, and it's certainly earned that. Revisiting it as an adult, I find it's aged exceptionally well, and I always find things to enjoy about it.

Digimon Adventure 02: The second Digimon anime series was a 50 episode sequel to the previous one, taking place four years later. The original Digidestined have grown older and aside from the two youngest, the mantle is passed on to new kids who fight to liberate the Digital World from an evil Digidestined kid calling himself the Digimon Emperor. This series is known not only for being your typical sequel that isn't quite as good as the original, but for turning into a trainwreck of plot points and concepts in it's second half, changing it's direction as frequently as people change clothes and leaving many of it's plot threads dangling, unresolved, or without any true sense of payoff and closure. Even worse, many things didn't add up with the original show due to an abundance of retcons and continuity errors, and by the series finale it almost got to the point of being downright disrespectful. There were more people on board for this show, and many of them just didn't care as much - they only wanted to try out new gimmicks for either marketing purposes or clashing artistic visions. Thus when the ratings slipped and interest wavered, it was decided that this continuity would be scrapped after the show was finished. Chiaki J. Konaka was handed the reigns for the next one.

Digimon Tamers: The third Digimon anime with 51 episodes in total. This one was set in a new continuity in which the setting was a reality not too dissimilar from our own. In fact, it goes meta
by having Digimon be a franchise there too, complete with very marketable playing cards. And this realistic edge was only the start of all the things in this series that were so different and so brilliant. It's perhaps the deepest, most mature, and most intricate of all the Digimon series', and easily the darkest. There is seriously stuff in this one that will go over kids' heads and mess them up for life.
For it's detailed backstory, ever escalating conflict, emotional depth, psychological subject matter, dark content and scary imagery, development for human and Digimon characters, active roles for adult characters, and sheer intensity, it's an experience that kids and adults alike can appreciate.
It received high ratings and critical praise, as well as successful marketing at the time, which was probably around the time the franchise peaked in popularity. It's pretty much all downhill from here.

Digimon Frontier: The fourth Digimon anime with 50 episodes in total. Set in another new continuity, this one had a less well received set up and even worse received execution of it's narrative and characters. The show attempted to recapture the "Adventure" magic by having a bunch of kids who didn't know each other (five of them this time) wind up lost in the Digital World with no way back home and having to embark on a quest to save the world from evil. But this premise was combined with a bizarre Super Sentai style gimmick in which the kids transformed into Digimon through use
of Spirit Evolution and fought their own battles. The kids couldn't interact with their Digimon spirits, and the only Digimon partners they had around were their annoying guides Bokomon and Neemon. Audiences found the characters to be unengaging or unlikable at worst, and this only worsened when three of the kids became totally useless to the plot because the two leads, Takuya and Koji, kept hogging all the action. The story itself was disorganized, the pacing a mess, and the many glimmers of potential had all but faded by the time the show reached it's final arc, which featured a succession of battles against enemies who trounced our so-called heroes and accomplished their goals over and over and over again. The increased disinterest in this show led to ratings taking a dive in it's latter half, and without the budget for another Digimon anime, the franchise was put on ice for three years.

Digimon Savers: The fifth Digimon series, one cut shorter than the others and containing only 48 episodes. As the first new Digimon anime in three years, the show was intended as a reboot that would pay homage to the franchise as a whole and regenerate interest in the properties. So how well did this work out? Alright, but not up to the standards expected of it. The series being styled more like generic Shonen fare, starring teenage characters instead of children, and riding on a premise that was radically different from any of the previous series' turned a lot of people off, many of the shout outs to other aspects of the franchise never went beyond being mythology gags, the story took awhile to start truly going anywhere, and the momentum came to a grinding halt in an uninspired final arc. However, it still did reasonably well overall and is often praised for it's edgier tone, high stakes,
a compellingly deplorable villain, intense action sequences and moments of raw emotion that sets it apart from the other shows in the franchise. Is known as "Digimon Data Squad" in the US dub.

Digimon Xros Wars: The sixth and last Digimon series, and the first since the original to contain 54 episodes in total. The premise is an easily appealing one based around a war between four different armies over who will claim the throne of the Digital World, with six human kids drawn in and choosing their own sides in the conflict. The plot plays out like a digital video game and it's pace is just perfect. The characters are all engaging enough, but it's the action where the series really shines, with Digi-Fuses and special attacks coming out the wazoo in rapid succession, all building to what's arguably the most epic finale the franchise has ever pulled off. In Japan this series got incredibly poor ratings for whatever reasons, but the basic premise and Digi-Fusions sparked a renaissance for toy sales, which made it an overall big marketing success. Is known as "Digimon Fusion" in the US.

Digimon Hunters: Oh that's right, there was kind of one other Digimon series, though it's really just     a sequel spin-off/addition to "Xros Wars" with a totally different style and premise. It's full title is the dumb as heck "Digimon Xros Wars: The Young Hunters Leaping Through Time" and it's as bad as you'd think something with it's title would be, having only 25 episodes and most of them being dumb, mindless, simplistically written filler in the same vein as the "Pokemon" anime. If that wasn't bad enough, it dedicated it's final three episodes to a crossover event made in honor of the franchise's milestone anniversary in which all the lead heroes of past series' and members of their supporting casts came together in order to combat a threat to the multiverse indirectly unleashed by Bagra's actions, and proceeded to waste almost all the potential that such a set-up had in favor of forcing this series' horrid, underdeveloped joke of a protagonist to ascend to unearned, undeserved glory. Unlike "Xros Wars", this season was a failure in all areas. Interest died down, viewership, ratings, and toy sales declined, and the "Digimon" franchise had essentially killed itself off. Good riddance!

Digimon Movies: Anime movies of Digimon, usually based around the anime series' that are going on at the time. "Adventure" had a short film that served as a pilot for the actual series' story, and then a second movie called "Our War Game" that takes place months after the series ended. That latter film is easily the best one in the franchise, being on par with a Miyazaki film in terms of animation and plot investment. "Adventure 02" got two movies as well, neither of them particularly good. "Tamers" had two average movies and "Frontier" got a surprisingly good movie. "Savers" got one lousy movie, and "Xros Wars", of course, got no movies. There was also a special CG film called "Evolution X."

Digimon World: A series of Digimon based video games. The original game was released for Sony Playstation, with two sequels for the same console coming out soon after. The fourth one came out for the Nintendo Gamecube, and a special "Data Squad" themed installment was released for the PS2. The Nintendo DS got three installments - "Digimon World DS", "Digimon World Dusk/Dawn", and "Digimon World Championship." The quality of these games vary depending on the installment.

Digimon Manga: Aside from "V-Tamer 01", the anime series' get their own manga adaptations. They all somehow manage to be different experiences from their anime counterparts, ranging from decent ("Adventure"), awful ("Adventure 02"), and just plain bizarre ("Xros Wars"), but all worth looking at.

Digimon Comics: Dark Horse comics' adaptation of the first anime. They're pretty lame/skippable.

Digimon Toys: Exactly what it sounds like - toys. All franchises' have them, especially ones built upon marketing them. I bought a lot of them back in the day. The digivolving figures are the coolest!

Digi-Battle TCG: The Digimon trading card game that was popular during the times of the first three anime series. Notoriety increased when "Tamers" featured such cards, but then it sorta faded away.

Series Ranking
1. Adventure - The best Digimon series in terms of how fantastical it is and how much purity and heart was put into it. It's also the original, the first one I saw, and my personal favorite, so I'm biased.
2. Tamers - The best Digimon series in terms of how realistic and deconstructive it is with it's subject matter and how much depth it has. This might technically be the greatest of the Digimon series'.
3. Xros Wars - The Digimon series that feels the most like an epic digital video game in terms of the structure of it's setting and plot. Almost everything in this one is well executed, especially the action.
4. Adventure 02 - An inferior sequel to it's predecessor in so many regards, this one still has a great deal of heart put into it in spite of it's clunky narrative and many cheap marketing/artistic gimmicks.
5. Savers - While it's riddled with cliches of both Digimon and Shonen series', it's filled with terrific ideas, nods to franchise lore and history, and a pretty compelling story until it's killed in it's final arc.
6. Frontier - A horrible narrative with terrible pacing, less than likable characters, and a Super Sentai gimmick sadly drowns out the rich mythology, stellar villains, and great concepts this series has.
7. Hunters - A cheap add-on to a successfully marketable series, this one has scarcely any heart or redeeming value and ends up being a giant slap in the face to the entirety of the Digimon franchise.

Goggleboy Ranking
1. Takato Matsuki - The most realistic, likable, and developed lead character in the entire franchise.
2. Taichi Kamiya - The original goggleboy. A great hero/leader in all the continuities he's appeared in.
3. Davis Motomiya - While an inferior replacement for Tai, he can be a decent hero in his own right.
4. Mikey Kudo - One of the smarter goggleboys who really came into his own in the second half.
5. Marcus Damon - A subversive no-goggles goggleboy who sort of declined in the second half.
6. Takuya Kanbara - An awful hero/leader who hogs spotlight and never seems to learn a damn thing.
7. Tagiru Akashi - A brain-dead, spastic, morally repulsive disgrace to goggleboys and a total Stu.

Hero Cast Ranking
1. Adventure - Eight kids and eight Digimon partners, with not a single one of them being horrible.
2. Tamers - A mostly wonderful cast of heroes, but adding Ryo and Suzie to them was a big no-no.
3. Adventure 02 - Underdeveloped (aside from Ken and Cody) but reasonably well rounded heroes.
4. Xros Wars - Shoutmon is terrific, and what the humans lack in depth, they have in enduring spirit.
5. Savers - The main humans are flawed but alright, but only two of the Digimon really stand out.
6. Frontier - These so-called heroes have no partner Digimon and barely seem to get anything right.
7. Hunters - A whole bunch of heroes and yet they're all wasted in favor of that little shithead Tagiru!

Female Cast Ranking
1. Tamers - Two well developed human girls and an epic female Digimon are the franchise's best.
2. Adventure - Three girls, three female Digimon partners, and all of them work well to some degree.
3. Savers - Let's face it, people: girls like Yoshino, Kristy, Namami, Miki and Megumi are awesome.
4. Adventure 02 - The noteworthy female characters here got wasted, but boy were they lots of fun.
5. Xros Wars - Angie, Nene, and the female Digimon are likable but could've been better utilized.
6. Frontier - Zoe's the only girl among the heroes and she mostly sucks. Give me Ranamon any day!
7. Hunters - The only girl in the main cast is an antagonist and the other new girls barely do anything!

Villain Cast Ranking
1. Adventure - While only four of them are standout characters, they're all effective standout villains.
2. Xros Wars - The various villains among the Baga, Midnight, and Blue Flare armies are all so epic.
3. Frontier - Lucemon is great and so are Cherubimon and his evil warriors. But those f**king knights!
4. Adventure 02 - The two evil humans, Ken and Oikawa, overshadowed all the wasted evil Digimon.
5. Tamers - We had a human, a Digimon, and a thing as great villains. And then we had all the rest.
6. Savers - Aside from Merukimon, Kurata, and their henchmen, the baddies in this series sucked.
7. Hunters - The rivals often failed at evildoing, and Quartzmon was ultimately a big unfunny joke.

Favorite Characters
Joe Kido (Adventure)
Ken Ichijouji (Adventure 02)
Rika Nonaka (Tamers)
JP Shibayama (Frontier)
Thomas H Norstein (Savers)
Shoutmon (Xros Wars)
Ewan Amano (Hunters)

Favorite Digimon Partners
Patamon & Gomamon (Adventure)
Wormmon (Adventure 02)
Terriermon (Tamers)
Kazemon (Frontier)
Falcomon (Savers)
Shoutmon (Xros Wars)
Damemon (Hunters)

Favorite Minor Characters
Hiroaki Ishida (Adventure)
Jun Motomiya (Adventure 02)
Gorou Mizuno (Tamers)
IceDevimon (Frontier)
Nanami (Savers)
Wisemon (Xros Wars)
Mami Takahashi (Hunters)

Favorite Ships
Mimi/Joe (Adventure)
Ken/Kari/Yolei (Adventure 02)
Takato/Jeri (Tamers)
JP/Zoe (Frontier)
Keenan/Kristy (Savers)
Angie/Jeremy (Xros Wars)
Ewan/Airu (Hunters)

Favorite Friendships
Sora & Mimi (Adventure)
Davis & Ken (Adventure 02)
Impmon & Calumon (Tamers)
Bokomon & Neemon (Frontier)
Marcus & Keenan (Savers)
Angie & Jeremy (Xros Wars)
Ryouma, Airu, & Ren (Hunters)

Favorite Villains
Myotismon (Adventure)
Ken Ichijouji (Adventure 02)
Beelzemon (Tamers)
Lucemon (Frontier)
Akihiro Kurata (Savers)
AxeKnightmon (Xros Wars)
Ryouma (Hunters)

Least Favorite Characters
Sukamon (Adventure)
Azulongmon (Adventure 02)
Ryo Akiyama (Tamers)
Dynasmon (Frontier)
Yggdrasil (Savers)
ChuChumon (Xros Wars)
Tagiru Akashi (Hunters)

Least Favorite Villains
Kokatorimon (Adventure)
MaloMyotismon (Adventure 02)
Zhuqiaomon (Tamers)
The Royal Knights (Frontier)
Yggdrasil (Savers)
Matadormon (Xros Wars)
Quartzmon (Hunters)

NOTPs
Mimi/Izzy (Adventure)
Davis/Ken (Adventure 02)
Rika/Ryo (Tamers)
Zoe/Takuya or Koji (Frontier)
Thomas/Yoshino (Savers)
Mikey/Angie (Xros Wars)
Tagiru/Anyone (Hunters)

Best Arcs
The Odaiba Arc (Adventure)
The Digimon Emperor Arc (Adventure 02)
The Guilmon Arc (Tamers)
The Duskmon Arc (Frontier)
The Kurata Arc (Savers)
The Seven Dark Generals (Xros Wars)

Worst Arcs
The Server Arc (Adventure)
The DNA/Destiny Stones Arc (Adventure 02)
The Devas Invasion Arc (Tamers)
The Royal Knights Arc (Frontier)
The Yggdrasil Arc (Savers)
The Young Hunters (Xros Wars)

Top 20 (Human) Male Characters
1. Ken Ichijouji
2. Joe Kido
3. Takato Matsuki
4. Henry Wong
5. Thomas H. Norstein
6. Izzy Izumi
7. Taichi Kamiya
8. Christopher Aonuma
9. Yamato Ishida
10. Keenan Crier
11. Cody Hida
12. Davis Motomiya
13. TK Takaishi
14. Jeremy Tsurugi
15. JP Shibayama
16. Marcus Damon
17. Mikey Kudo
18. Ewan Amano
19. Tommy Himi
20. Kazu & Kenta

Top 20 (Human) Female Characters
1. Rika Nonaka
2. Mimi Tachikawa
3. Sora Takenouchi
4. Kari Kamiya
5. Jeri Katou
6. Yolei Inoue
7. Yoshino Fujieda
8. Nene Amano
9. Angie Hinamoto
10. Airu Suzaki
11. Kristy Damon
12. Jun Motomiya
13. Rei Saiba
14. Nanami
15. Miki & Megumi
16. Zoe Orimoto
17. Riley & Tally
18. Mami Takahashi
19. Suzie Wong
20. Others

Top 20 Villains
1. Myotismon
2. Piedmon
3. Ken Ichijouji
4. Lucemon
5. Beelzemon
6. Lord Daemon
7. AxeKnightmon
8. Yukio Oikawa
9. Diabolomon
10. The D-Reaper
11. Cherubimon
12. Etemon
13. Puppetmon
14. Kurata & Machinedramon
15. Devimon
16. Lord Bagramon
17. MetalSeadramon
18. Apocalymon
19. Mitsuo Yamaki
20. Tactimon

4 comments:

  1. Frontier is the only series I've never seen, and I love all the others. I agree that the original series is probably the best though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In some ways it is, though in other ways "Tamers" is.

      Delete
  2. You mentioned only four of the villains in Adventure are standout characters, which ones?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Etemon, Myotismon, Puppetmon and Piedmon. The four other major villains - Devimon, MetalSeadramon, Machinedramon, and Apocalymon - didn't get enough screen time to showcase a lot of character.

      Delete