Based On: Digimon Virtual Pets
No. of Seasons: 1 (Technically)
No. of Episodes: 54
Production Company: Toei Animation
Original Japanese Run: March 7, 1999 – March 26, 2000
American Distributor: Saban Entertainment & Fox Kids
While not technically my favorite of the many variations of the Digimon franchise told in anime form, Digmon Adventure is the one responsible for many of the common tropes and themes found in them and is easily among the most recognized amongst fans for a variety of reasons.
To start with, let me bring an end to an argument that I’m sure a great many of you fans have heard time and time again. The argument of “which came first” in regards to Digimon and its similarly named “competitor” Pokémon. Pokémon versions Red and Green were released on February 27, 1996 whereas the first line of the Digimon virtual pets, which in themselves were a masculine spin-off of the then-popular V-pets Tamagotchi, were released in the summer of 1997 both in Japan and in America. Pokémon Red & Blue would not hit American store shelves until the following year on September 28, 1998.
So it can be said that, as far as American audiences are concerned, Digimon did indeed come out first followed shortly by Pokémon. However, one thing that I believe many fail to realize is that despite the similar naming convention, neither of them is at all alike save for a few themes shared between them, namely the human-monster partnership and the concept of evolution into stronger forms. Really, it’s like comparing Marvel Comics superheroes to those of DC Comics but that’s a kettle of fish the size of Manhattan that I have no intention of touching thank you very much.
Digimon Adventure, as it is named in Japan but is more commonly recognized as simply the first of the Digimon series in America, is about seven young kids who had gone to camp for the summer and wind up living in a digital land where they each meet their own digital monster. A… somewhat basic description but hey, if it works in song and all that…
Of course, the story of these seven, and later eight, kids and their digital monsters is not simply them having fun and surviving whatever “monster of the week” may come up next. Like most anime series, Digimon Adventure does not have seasons so much as it has “arcs” to its story with each arc featuring a progressively more powerful and far more evil Digimon than the last, each with their own agendas and plans for the digitally destined children and the Digital World as a whole.
Being an anime that was released in the late 90’s to early 2000’s, Digimon Adventure and its following series suffered from a rather severe… Americanization. Of the lot, Digimon Adventure got away with the fewest of changes mainly to the names of digitally destined children being shortened to Americanized nicknames and several Digimon names were translated to their English equivalents. However, contrary to the original Japanese version, Digimon Adventure’s English dub focused on being more humorous to the point of absurdity in some cases (I’m looking at you Etemon) whereas the original version was far more serious.
That and the whole “digi-whatever” wasn’t a thing so there’s that.
Still, it’s not even half as bad as what was done in an episode of the third series, Digimon Tamers wherein the digitally destined children help make “milkshakes” (or sake in the original version) to knock out an Orochimon that had been terrorizing a settlement of Gekomon.
Just… wow… There’s censoring, there’s adapting, and then there’s just treating your audience like they’re a bunch of idiots.
Still not half as bad as when the Pokémon anime tried to make doughnuts out of rice balls though…
Being an American adapted anime, there are two different versions to the opening theme, both of which thankfully have only a few minute differences in cosmetics. Between them both, I’m afraid that I have to pick the English song, aptly named “Digimon Theme” as my personal favorite for the series because while the Japanese introductory song “Butter-Fly” has a good beat to it… It, like most anime themes be they intro or closing, makes next to no sense when translated.
At least, not initially…
For Digimon Adventure, nay, the entirety of the Digimon franchise is about growing up, learning from one’s mistakes and one’s vices and surpassing them, finding the piece within themselves that is all that they are and all that they can be and accepting it. Of course, with seven, and later eight, kids and their respected Digimon, their development kind of leaps about all over the place insomuch that some don’t seem to change for several episodes at a time before suddenly making a progressively large leap forward.
Of the arcs, I’d have to say that my favorite amongst them would be a tie between the introductory and final arcs of the show. The introductory arc features the vile Devimon as the villain with his overall goal being infecting other Digimon with his Black Gears, devices that he uses to not only drive other Digimon into a wild and near unstoppable berserker-style rampage but can greatly enhanced their powers to be above their standard level.
The final arc however is the true end-game for the children and their Digimon, pushing them into realizing the darkness and the light within themselves in order to put an end to the four, aptly named, Dark Master who have converted nearly all of the Digital World into their own personal playground. Each of the Dark Masters is a Digimon at the highest level of power, aptly named “Mega Level,” and control whole dominions and minions alike in the Digital World, leaving virtually no place safe for the children and few whom they can trust as allies.
While I do find the American version to be quite humorous and with more than a decent share of good puns all around, I’d recommend the original Japanese to first time viewers of the franchise. For while there is certainly something fun to be had in entering a digitalized wonderland, there are monsters here. Most in the very literal meaning of the word and others… Well, it is as the saying goes… Look into the abyss and the abyss looks back into you…