Digimon (Series 1 and 2) Anime Review
US Release By
A monster show that's actually worth something
206 25-minute episodes:
54 (series 1)
50 (series 2)
51 (series 3)
50 (series 4)
1999-03-07 - 2003-03-30
What's In It
- Violence: 1 (mild)
- Nudity: 1 (mild)
- Sex: 0 (none)
- Language: 0 (none)
Seven kids (Taichi Kamiya, Yamato "Matt" Ishida, Sora, Mimi Tachikawa, Jyou Kido, Koushiro Izumi, and Takeshi "TK" Ishida) are transported one day from summer camp to THE DIGITAL WORLD!!!! (ooh, ahh!!). They each meet up with a "Digimon," a creature that lives there, which is their partner. Their digimon can "Digivolve," which is more like transforming into a Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z than evolving in Pokemon. The digimon fight a big red beetle to protect their partners and they eventually go on to do a lot of other stuff.
Digimon is often grouped with the other monster ripoff shows like Beyblade, Medabots, etc., but unlike those shows, I consider it part of a group of Pokemon ripoffs including itself and Monster Rancher that actually ended up being worth something because it was made for more than toy exposure. Sure, there were toys and there were cards and video games, but the show itself is actually worth something because of the characterization and storyline.
There are several story arcs in the first season alone, and there are four seasons in all, although none of the others are as long or, in my opinion, as good (the third comes close, though). The first story arc involves a digimon called Devimon that pits the good Leomon and bad Ogremon against each other, as well as trying to kill the kids with his henchman. He implants "Black Gears" into them to control them. This is a good opening story arc. The next is the Etemon story arc, featuring Etemon, a monkey who likes to impersonate Elvis. This is basically the worst story arc; Etemon is a pathetic villain, but the kids do discover part of the secret behind the Digital World. Luckily, it doesn't last long. At the end of this one, Taichi is sucked into a portal that leads back to the real world, where he stays for an episode. After returning to the Digital World, he finds that all the kids have parted ways and are scattered across the Digital World. This leads to probably the best story arc, the Myotismon arc. It's kind of the Digimon equivalent of Rurouni Kenshin's Kyoto story arc. It involves the spilling of all the secrets behind the Digital World and the discovery of an eighth child, Taichi's sister Hikari (known as "Kari" in the Fox version). The final story arc is the Dark Masters, where the kids return to the Digital World and find four ultimate evil Digimon that are actually pretty pathetic ruling over everything. This was about on par with the Devimon arc; not as bad as Etemon, but not as good as Myotismon.
The story is pretty good, but the best part of Digimon is actually the characterization. Most of the characters are based off archetypes, but they're actually well-done archetypes. The entire show, but no part more so than the characterization, is actually a lot like Cyborg 009 of all things. Taichi (known in the Fox version as "Tai") is a hotheaded leader-type (a bizarre combination). Yamato (known as "Matt") is the true hothead, though, as well as a dark and tortured bad-ass. Sora and Mimi are opposed female characters; Sora is a tomboy, but Mimi is a girly-girl. Jyou ("Joe") and Koushiro ("Izzy") are both nerds, but of different types; Jyou is more of a paranoid, overly-responsible nerd, and Koushiro is a computer nerd. Finally Takeshi ("TK") is a kid sick of being protected, but since his digimon is actually the most powerful (as well as slowest to digivolve for the first time), he can take care of himself, and you see him grow up as the show progresses. Kari didn't have much point, but she's basically only around in season one for the Dark Masters story arc, which isn't very long. Unlike even Monster Rancher (which I still consider superior to Beyblade and Medabots), none of the characters go around spouting off the "Me and my digimon are friends!" mantra in every single episode. This probably has to do with the fact that all the bad guys are digimon acting on their own (digimon can talk), so there's no one who it applies to. Part of Yamato's characterization is even that he has to learn how to treat his wolf-like digimon, Gabumon, like a friend and partner. They also actually have relationships. In the beginning, most of them are complete strangers, but as the show goes on they develop reactions to each other. Tai and Matt fight sometimes, Sora is in love with Tai, TK considers him like a second older brother (Matt is his first older brother). And that's only a few regarding one character.
Digimon is actually also okay technically, at least the animation is. The animation is better than Pokemon (it's about the same as Monster Rancher), and the designs are fairly unique (a lot of the characters have weird headgear and gloves, like Tai's goggles on his head and Mimi's pink cowboy hat). I've heard some of the original songs on MP3s, and they were all pretty good, but the American music is the usual dreadful keyboard music with a second-rate singer chanting some half-lyrics. At the time I watched this (I was about ten), I liked the music just because it was in Digimon, but even then I preferred the Japanese music. The dub voices are good enough, but the dub itself is littered with the stupid puns common to butchered American versions (mostly coming from a single character: Koushiro's digimon partner Tentomon, voiced by one of the show's ADR writers).
Since there isn't a lot to say about it, I'll shove in a completely free review of Season Two at no extra charge! Basically, there are new kids with no personality, along with TK (without personality) and Kari (who never had one). There are also three times as many toyetic devices because the digimon digivolve in some new way. Instead of going from rookie stage to champion stage to ultimate stage to mega stage like in season one, they have three or four ways of going into the same stage, along with super fusion digimon. I'm sure this satisfied all the young kids nicely, but without the characterization I found Season Two bland and boring. It also had the stupidest ending ever (it would take too long to go into). Season 2 scores exactly what season it is (a 2).
If it were still on TV, I would recommend Digimon heartily, but I'm not sure how many episodes were released on video (and I think there is no DVD). Plus, with the high amount of episodes I'm not sure it would be worth that much money for dub-only. There's also not much chance of it ever coming back on TV because the US rights were lost amid some takeover of the Fox Kids network by Disney or something.
There is also a corresponding review of seasons 3 and 4
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Notes and Trivia
Digimon has a lot of mythological references (not as many as season three, though). First of all is Biyomon's ultimate form, Garudamon. A garuda is something like the South American version of a thunderbird. Zudomon, Gomamon's ultimate, uses an attack called Thor's Hammer, taken from the Norse thunder god. Angemon, Angewoman, and Holy Angemon are all obviously from Christian "mythology," as is Devimon. "Gato", as in Kari's digimon Gatomon, is Spanish for cat ("Gatto" is Italian). I'm sure I missed a lot of the enemy digimon, since there are tons of them.
It was at the time somewhat unusual (though less so among children's series) that Digimon began airing on US TV only a few months after it aired in Japan.
Note that the four US "seasons" actually each consist of an entire year worth of Japanese programming, which is to say four seasons--Japanese TV shows are broken up by 12- or 13-episode seasons.
US DVD Review
There is a DVD set of the first 13 episodes, which is to say only part of the first US TV season. It is dub-only and apparently out of print but still available at some stores.
It is a bit violent; TV rating was Y-7.
Violence: 1 - Later on there are some marginally gory digimon deaths.
Nudity: 1 - There was some nudity from behind in the original; it was cut from the TV version.
Sex/Mature Themes: 0 - Holding hands is as far as it gets.
Language: 0 - Nothing notable.
Staff & Cast
English Dub Cast
Tachi "Tai" Kamiya: Joshua Seth
Sora: Coleen o' Shaugnessy