In the late 1990s, Pokémon was the gigantic cultural phenomenon of the time and was a lucrative cash cow for Kids WB!, who nabbed the first rights to the English dubs of the series. So, naturally, everybody was trying to copy its’ success and none bigger than Kids WB!’s competitor, Fox Kids, who tried to get in on the action with Digimon: Digital Monsters:
Digimon (デジモン Dejimon, branded as Digimon: Digital Monsters, stylized as DIGIMON), short for “Digital Monsters” (デジタルモンスター Dejitaru Monsutā), is a Japanese media franchise encompassing virtual pet toys, anime, manga, video games, films and a trading card game. The franchise focuses on Digimon creatures, which are monsters living in a “Digital World”, a parallel universe that originated from Earth’s various communication networks.
The franchise was first created in 1997 as a series of virtual pets, akin to—and influenced in style by—the contemporary Tamagotchi or nano Giga Pet toys. The creatures were first designed to look cute and iconic even on the devices’ small screens; later developments had them created with a harder-edged style influenced by American comics. The franchise gained momentum with its first anime incarnation, Digimon Adventure, and an early video game, Digimon World, both released in 1999. Several seasons of the anime and films based on them have aired, and the video game series has expanded into genres such as role-playing, racing, fighting, and MMORPGs. Other media forms have also been released.
While it was definitely very similar to Pokémon, there were some notable differences that made Digimon kind of stand out on its’ own, largely coming down to the main kids having their own virtual monster instead of six at a time like Pokémon, there were no balls to keep them in and most notably, they can evolve into other creatures but not permanently like in Pokémon.
Also, there seemed to be more of a comedic sense to the dialogue rather than in Pokémon which balanced itself out in the mix of comedic and dramatic situations, which actually ends up being both a pro and con to Digimon. It allowed Digimon to be more funny but their attempts at more serious dramatic stuff was more miss than hit compared to Pokémon.
The English dubbing of the show employed a very good voice cast that included Joshua Seth (who would go on to play Tetsuo in the 2001 Akira dub), Colleen Villard (who would go on to play Jazz Fenton in Danny Phnatom), Wendee Lee (who has done various voice roles for Sailor Moon, Rocket Power, and worked on Power Rangers as well), Johnny Yong Bosch (who was Kaneda in that same 2001 Akira dub), Lara Jill Miller (The Facts Of Life and later went on to voice in The Life & Times Of Juniper Lee), just to name a few.
The animation as a whole is very good, blending the regular 2D and CG animation pretty well and the action sequences were all really well done especially in the early seasons.
Like with Pokémon, I really enjoyed mostly the early years but unlike Pokémon where I was enjoying the first five years of the show’s inaugural run. Digimon was mostly enjoyable, to me, in the first two seasons, the first two seasons were where I was really hooked into what was going on and really enjoying what I was seeing. Then starting with the third season, the buzz kind of started to drop for me quickly, I can barely remember anything that was going on in that season except that Terriermon from Digimon: The Movie was among its’ cast but that’s it.
And then Disney came in on season four because the last time Disney came in on a show, it worked out so well for Doug….and by well, I mean absolutely not well. And that fourth season…I only saw one episode and then I clocked out, at that point, I was done but to be truthful, by that time, I was pretty much done with Pokémon at that time as well with my focus mainly staying on Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon at the time, as well as Toon Disney, but that’s about it.
Digimon: Digital Monsters in some ways actually did serve as a good counterprogramming strategy to Pokémon, but at the same time, Pokémon had at least five years of enjoyment value while Digimon really had about two, at least to me. Digimon: Digital Monsters was good for the time it was on but if I really was to choose between both, Pokémon would win the battle but Digimon had its’ moments to appreciate as well.
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