While most reviewers will have some form of nostalgia when watching and reviewing this anime, this is actually my first time viewing it. Since I am well out of the target audience range, I might look at this anime with a more critical eye than most.
Story: There are four main arcs in this anime, and each lasts anywhere from 8 to 14 episodes. The main storyline is that 7 students are caught up in a freak storm and transported to the Digital World. There, they meet their Digimon and are told they have to save the Digital World or else their world will be in trouble. Cue shounen levels of growth excelleration. The story allows for plenty of character development, interesting sub plots, and a lot of action scenes. Even being outside of the target audience, I found the storyline to be pretty fun.
Animation: Bright, colorful, and pretty simplistic for the most part. Until you get to the second half of the anime and then suddently, Toei Animation decided it wanted to experiment with CGI. It might have been cool in the early 2000s, but it has not stood the test of time. Just... gaze upon it...
Sound: There are only so many time you can hear "Digimon, Digital Monsters, Digimon are the champions!" before you want to punch something. But, the intermediate bits are pretty decent. But by the 19th time I heard the English lyrics, I started dreading the transformation sequences.
Characters: Now for the only part of this anime that was any good. The characters were given a huge amount of depth. Because much of the story has to deal with how their emotions and personalities affect the digital world, the story gives them a lot of room for personal growth. Even when there were times when I wanted to smack them for being stupid, I liked this group of kids.
Overall: It was a decent series. The transformation sequences got a bit old after time, but I would definitely recommend this anime for both kids and those that are kids at heart.
When it comes to 'childhood shows' you grew up watching, there comes a certain kind of dissonance between the experience you had as a kid and the experience you would have as an adult. Rewatching Digimon Adventure recently, I realized that it's the kind of show that wouldn't sit well with you if you think too much, especially when compared to other better anime. Objectively speaking, it's not a classic, and one would certainly have to retain some sense of nostalgia to really enjoy having this adventure. For an anime created to promote the virtual pets merchandise, however, it is a well-produced series that offers a few surprises, even for the more cynical audiences.
While it's definitely better than the other popular 'mons' anime franchise in terms of its overarching plot, the story is not the strongest aspect of the anime. The series is split into four major arcs, and like any monster-battling shounen shows, the storyline can get a bit episodic, with the children fighting a new set of villains with the beginning of each arc. Predictable cliches are commonly found without looking closely, and there are even a number of plot-holes and deus ex machinas that attack your common sense and logic. That said, viewers going in expecting a typical beat'em up will be pleasantly surprised by some of the darker plot-twists during mid-series. For a show seemingly targeted towards a younger audience, its angst and drama can become a bit mature for the little ones. This is where the strongest suit of the series comes into play - the character writing.
For the entirety of the show, it's as if the writers had set out to place their focus solely on 'evolving' the seven children (and to a lesser extent, the eighth child) in the show. Most of the side characters in the show, even the protagonist Digimon characters, have little to no personality. Their morality and motivations are pretty clear, and it's definitely a good versus evil story at play. There's little intelligence to be found among the villains' cliche 'take over the (digital) world' scheme, and even the good guys don't give a satisfying explanation of why these particular children, and not any others, were chosen to be sent to the Digital World and fight the battles. Nevertheless, this leaves plenty of room for a singular focus - the Chosen Children characters.
As the story goes on, each of the eight children are given a proper development scenario where they have to conquer their flaws and become a better person. Nearly all of them has an inner demon to fight with, and this can range from casual angst to realistically unpleasant situations. After doing some research on the show, I found out that the writers had decided to name each of the characters based on symbolical words that are related to good luck and fortune. This had me thinking that the writers really cared about the characters as they would care about a bunch of real children, and the writing really shows. While the manner in which the characters overcome their fears and anxieties can be overly convenient and even awkwardly forced at times, 'character development' is at its most literal sense here as we see the children evolve past their immature selves and be freed as a butterfly would.
For an anime produced in the '90s, the art department did quite a decent job. However, the first thing I noticed rewatching the show is how blend the water-color backgrounds can be. While it's a common, traditional style among many anime of that era, the art of both the Digital World and the real world in this anime would be the least memorable thing in your mind. This can be effective in the sense that your focus is entirely placed on the characters instead of a picturesque backdrop, and considering that the characters are well-animated, this is hardly a problem. Given the angst the protagonists would face, the color tones at these grimmer moments do give the show the appropriate atmosphere, being cheery, thrilling, and emotional at the right times.
However, viewers would be annoyed at the repetitive transformation sequences the Digimon would go through very often. While this may be fun for the kids, and it's certainly an effective business technique to promote the toys, they get old and tired for the more impatient viewers. Moreover, while the traditional animation transformations were decent to look at, viewers may find the CG animations to be cheesy and even cheap. The accompanying music, however, helps the audience through the ordeal without leaving things too awkward.
Some of the scores you hear in the anime might feel familiar for you older audiences out there. That's because composer Arisawa Takanori had decided to recycle and remix a few of his old tracks from Sailor Moon Sailor Stars. Cheap productions aside, I noticed that many of the scenes in the anime have awkward silences where no track is played, and this can be sometimes anti-climatic. That said, there are more than a handful of enjoyable scores, character themes, and battle themes inserted in every episode to keep one entertained, not to mention the ever memorable "Butter-Fly" theme song by Wada Kouji. In addition, the theme song for the Digimon evolution sequences, Miyazaki Ayumi's "Brave Heart", would certainly fire up the spirits in your heart as you root for the heroes to win.
One particular aspect I would like to mention about the songs in the original Japanese series is that the lyrics are definitely a lot more mature, symbolic, and memorable than those second-rated pop songs used in the dub series. In exchange for an opening about becoming a fluttering butterfly, the dub chose to use an over-the-top cheese-fest that repeats the word, "Digimon" over and over again.
The overall enjoyment of the series is a difficult aspect to evaluate. As stated above, what one might enjoy as a child is vastly different than as an adult. Being a kid, I really loved this season of Digimon to death, more so when I discovered the original Japanese version. The values this show brings to children about courage, friendship, and love are more entertaining than preachy, and they really help the younger audiences relate to them as they journey on this fun adventure with these lovable characters. But as you grow older and become more cynical, you would start noticing the chinks in the plot-armor, the randomness even in the original Japanese dialogues, and you would wonder to yourself how the heck you had managed to sit through this show.
Nostalgic factors aside, the anime series is pretty tame compared to better-written shounen shows out there, even with its above average character writing. However, for a carefree experience revisiting your childhood again, the show will serve up as more than decent entertainment as you travel with the Chosen Children on this Digimon Adventure.
Animated by Studio Toei, who knows well how to make nice children’s shows. Directed by Kakudou Hiroyuki, who also directed many other famous children’s shows such as YuGiOh, Transformers, and Super Robot Wars. Not a bad team I must say.
[Agumon! I choose you!]
When I first watched Digimon several years ago, I thought it would be just a Pokemon rip-off; the similarities were simply too many. But after a few episodes I clearly knew it was something different; maybe not so classy and balanced as Pokemon, but still BETTER.
First of all it has an on-going plot and although it is predictable and formulaic to the most part, at least it’s going somewhere, it offers progress and has a build-up. So although the premise is just about a team of children transported by accident into a digital world full of monsters, it played out perfectly with what it had. I mean, sure, they pair up with monsters out of nowhere and have to “save the world because destiny demands it” type of kitsch but it sure does a lot more in-between those overused tropes. First they only want to find a way to go home, which begins an adventure of learning about the world around them and fending of its dangers, then when they manage to return they realize the danger has followed them there as well, so they need to go back and fix things.
The artwork was quite good back when it was made but pretty average by today. The backgrounds were interesting most of the time, since the Digiworld was a very strange place but none were as exotic or eye captivating as in other anime with strange worlds. The human character figures have not much detailing and Digimons look like a bunch of incoherent ideas from every animal, plant or object you can imagine making a creature from. All the special effects are fancy but damn do they repeat a lot.
A thing you must tolerate somewhat is the overuse of the transformation sequences, which repeat in each episode and take up lots of the duration for no reason other than exciting the kids into buying the toys. It gets really annoying, especially when they later on try to blend in crude 3D effects in the otherwise 2D environment. Also, most episodes follow a pattern of the sort of a kid facing a monster of the week and using its own Digimon to beat it, by leveling up in the middle of the battle or even getting extra evolutions if it’s necessary. It makes things predictable but also exciting to see what their next stage of evolution will be like or what if they mess a bit with the formula and do something different from time to time; meaning, there are a few simple plot twists.
I usually don’t like J-pop songs but the ones in the series were very catchy. I consider them and even the voice acting to be above average but way below great. And voice acting was ok, aside from being with silly sounding voices most of the time.
[Digimon! Gotta get them all!]
And then, there is the eternal present comparison and categorization of the Digimons. Since this series is based on a breeding pets/ RPG game, every Digimon has its own element, special attacks, different evolutions and flavor behavior that can hook all of you who like collecting and categorizing things, like trading cards, stamps, coins… or even Pokemons. Major collector’s urge! If you see it from afar, it looks very variable and complicated for the age group it is aimed at.
It is not just about action or monster collections of course; there are lots of messages here, from friendship and trust, up to taking up responsibilities, growing up to be strong and secured with yourself, and never giving up on your goals. It makes things very motivational for the target audience. Of course if you try to see the whole thing from a more mature point, it looks very lame. 10 year olds, destined to protect the world with evolving monsters and convenient power ups exactly when they need them and stuff. But hey, the target audience won’t care much about that and it’s still eons better than Pokemon.
[Who’s that Digimon?]
The series has poor character development (mind that just because the Digimons get new powers and grow stronger does not mean that they become better as characters) and almost non-existent backdrop (kids from Japan and monsters from Digiworld with no story behind them). There is though strong character presence, giving of an average feeling towards them. There are no prevailing personalities and all characters are stereotypes but at least they are well established. They are all quite different from one another. From time to time the story evolves around their quirks and tastes and colorizes them by devoting an episode for each one of them. Their Digimons can be viewed as extensions of themselves and don’t actually count as separate personalities.
And let’s not forget the jokes; light moments that can make you laugh no matter your tastes. And there are several scenes with very subtle erotic humor that spice things up. To imagine how good it was, just think that the American version edited several scenes out. Which can only mean that IT HAS TO BE GOOD!
Anime based on some product are made solely to advertise it and start an addiction to its possible consumers (usually nerdy kids with loaded parents). As such, most game –based anime are quite lame, with childish scenario and carton characters being just an excuse to shovel us flashy techniques or strategies of the soon-to-follow game. Despite this scam, Digimon has a typical scenario, bearable characters and likable situations. It is amongst the good scam-hiding series. Along with Pokemon, this is amongst the most renowned series with kids pairing with monsters and it is still a living franchise. Chances of rewatching it are rather low as there is nothing to expect from a rerun of a childish show.
Story: This has to be my favourite anime ever, period. I can remember from when I was only about 4 or 5, standing by the tv watching this show and marvelling at how great it was. Over 10 years on I still think its absolutely great and one of the best animes out there- but I'm a bit biased, since it was the first anime I ever watched its bound to hold a special place in my heart. Anyway, I digress. The general story of this is 7 kids get transported from Summer Camp to a place called the DigiWorld, where they befriend some odd creatures called Digimon. And off they go on a magical adventure to save both their world and the DigiWorld. Ok, the story isn't backbreaking, nothing absolutely out-of-the-water amazing, but back in the late 90s it sure was. Judging it as if it were 1997 now, this was one of the most popular shows out there, even if it IS a Pokemon copy.
Animation: Compared with other 90s anime's I've watched, Digimon 01 seems to me to have superb animation in comparison. The art is clear, the monsters and people both looked impressive and the backgrounds too! I don't think you can really flaw it, maybe its a little cartoonised, with a hint of American cartoon, but its still great nonetheless.
Sound: The music to this is catchy and attractive, admittedly it can be annoying and very VERY repetitive, but it was good.
Characters: I love the characters of Digimon, I don't think there are any other character who I know better from any anime or anything. There's Tai, headstrong and fiesty, Matt, the cool guy whos protective of his little brother Takeru Takaishi, Mimi the girly girl, Joe the sweet worrywart and Izzy the computer nerd as well as a whole host of other characters who I love. Even the Digimon were given very distinct personalities, which is one other thing that makes Digimon appeal more to me than Pokemon. The Digimon all were unique, every last one of them and I thought it good how the children learned stuff from the Digimon and the Digimon learned stuff from them, they both treated each species like equals which I found sweet.
Overall: Yes, its like Pokemon, Beyblade, Yu-Gi-Oh! and every other one of them 90s shows and yes its very predictable and kinda old, but its a classic must-watch nonetheless, and if you don't watch it, then you're definitely missing out, my friend.
As tpeople who know me personally can attest, I often make conceited efforts to pull this series out of the abyss of prejudices it is sometimes thrown into. Because it often gets treated like "just another pocket monster series for kids", which is seriously underrating it for what it has to offer: beneath that there's a lot of content much more mature and "adult" than what you'd probably think at first.
Let me state this clearly: those, like me, who grew up with this anime getting broadcasted on TV, most probably experienced it too soon. Infantilisations brought upon it by the various dubs aside, 8-9-10 years old kids are simply not old and mature enough to understand all the various themes and nuances. Every aspect is told for a target audience of 13-14-15 years old kids, and therefore it can't be considered a 100% adult series, but if you scratch slightly below the surface and can forgive the dumbest and goofiest moments (and there's a lot of them, expecially in the first and last arc), you'll notice the story and situations are much more "mature" in nature than those of most "kids shows" like Pokemon or Beyblade: stranding a bunch of kids alone in an unknown land full of things out to kill them, forcing them to fight and kill putting their life on the line to return home, slowly having them realise the destiny and the burden on their shoulders, having them choose between their homes and families and that burden while facing their inner demons, is certainly different than the hot blooded shounen hero of the day simply wanting to become the best (insert game taken far too seriously here).
The plot, in itself, is kind of simple, and can be reduced to the usual "good guys fighting bad guys to save the world". But it's well told, and it's made more interesting by the way in which it interwines with the development of the characters, in which it gets "spiced up" with the usual themes of self-sacrifice, courage, nakama, friendship, fighting to protect the loved ones, and so on. Even though most shounen series always had this kind of themes, Digimon Adventure manages to make them feel fresh in this kind of setting, and manages to move and excite the viewer: many fights are thrilling, the death scenes (yes, characters actually die here) are moving, the characters are sympatethic, and the final revelation on the nature of the evil they'd been fighting is well pulled "Cry for the devil" material. To be fair, the story takes its bloody time (10-12 episodes) to pick up pace seriously, but episodes such as the 21st, the entire Vamdemon saga, and the last 8 are of HUGE quality.
This being a "monster series" nontheless, the focus is surely on the main 7 (later 8) human characters. All of them are given various degrees of backstory exploration and character development. They all start off with a general character type and not much of a depth, but as the series moves along we gaze deeply into their souls, their weaknesses, their backstory, their doubts, their desires, their motives, we see their relationships and conflicts change and develop, we see them growing up, reacting differently to their role and to their adventure. Some get a lot of development, others get more backstory, others get more interaction between one another, but they all have their share. Gazing into their story we also get a taste of such themes as divorce, adoption, and overbearing parental expectations, which sure help raising the maturity level of the anime.
About the Digimon themselves, there's more to them than the simple cute critters of the day. The main eight all have a distinct personality and some of them, like Tailmon and Patamon, also get their share of development and pathos, while characters like Wizarmon or the villains Vamdemon, Pinocchimon and Apocalymon really have enough charm and strenght in themselves.
Animation and art in this anime are "average". Nothing exceptional, but nothing disgusting either. The character design is nice and, at least for the main ones, strong and memorable. Some Digimon are a bit goofy-looking, but some others, expecially the later evolutions of the protagonists and the last five main villans, are gloriously awesome. The animation has some pretty low points, with episodes like the 41st being serious facepalm material, but overall it's decent. The backgrounds are a little strange, in that they're made in a different style, a bit "watercolour"-like and with strange... glowing... dot... things all over them, and thus at times the characters may seem not to blend in well, expecially in forest environments, but if you can get used to it you might even come to like it as a particular, distinguishing characteristic of the series.
The soundtrack is, all-around, extremely good. Of course I'm not talking about the USA dub, here... man, at least the Italian one left that poor soundtrack alone. So, besides the catchy opening (Butter-fly), the epic main insert song (Brave heart), and the two endings sung by Maeda Ai, Takanori Arisawa (who sadly passed away in 2005), already composer for Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon, gives us a wonderful collection of original themes ranging from hard rocking and pumping, to sad and melanchonic, to ethereal (and unbelievably nostalgia-inducing to people like me), to a memorable set of character themes.
Finally, the voice acting cast is stellar: some careful listeners may recognize Naruto's voice actress Junko Takeuchi as Gomamon, Cromartie High School's Noboru Yamaguchi's voice actor Yuuto Kazama as Yamato Ishida (Matt), and they would probably not recognize the incredible performance of Takahiro Sakurai, of Code Geass and Final Fantasy fame, as Tentomon (and also as Mimi's father). Other great performances are old glory Toshiko Fujita's Taichi Yagami, Ai Maeda as Mimi Tachikawa, prince of bishounen characters Akira Ishida (Gaara, Kaworu Nagisa...) as the unforgettable Wizarmon, Umi Tenjin as Koushirou (Izzy) and good ol' Chika Sakamoto (Mei in My neighbor Totoro, among others...) as Agumon.
This one is a great anime, much better than what most people would expect from a series with "-mon" in its title. If you've watched it as a kid, and like me find yourself drenched with crippling nostalgia of the good ol' days whenever memories of it surface, give the original Japanese a shot, you'll find yourself liking it even more. If you haven't, then I think that any anime-lover willing to wait for the story to pick up and able to rid their mind of prejudices and see the maturity underneath could like it, or at the very least realise that it's as far from a Pokémon knockoff as Gundam is from a Mazinger Z knockoff.