Friday 7 June 2013

Anime REVIEW: Digimon Adventure

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters

Note: Being the nostalgic guy I am, this is a review of the DUB version of Digimon Adventure. As I haven't seen the original Japanese version, any name/event/dialogue changes shall not be mentioned.

Back in the mid-nineties when the world was in the grips of Pokémon fever, there was another monster related series hitting both Japanese and Western television. While it's true many probably overlooked it at the time as a cheap imitation, the Digimon franchise has its own very loyal fan base and actually excels its "rival" in certain areas. While Digimon started out as a virtual pet toy, it soon branched out into video games, toys and anime series/movies. The first of which was Digimon Adventure (the "Adventure" was dropped for the Western version), released back in 1999.

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Tai Matt Sora Izzy Joe Mimi T.K. Agumon Gabumon Palmon Biyomon Gomamon Patamon
The Digi Destined and their partner Digimon

Our story begins when seven children (Tai, Matt, Izzy, Sora, Joe, Mimi and T.K.) are mysteriously transported to the "Digital World" while attending summer camp. Here they meet their partner Digimon, who tell them that they've been waiting their whole lives for their arrival. As they travel the Digital World in search of a way home, they discover they have the ability to help their Digimon partners "digivolve" into new and stronger forms. After encounters with several evil Digimon, they discover that they are in fact the Digi Destined - children foretold in an ancient prophecy to restore order to the Digital World.

But as they come to grips with this news, new and stronger evil Digimon emerge to destroy them. To battle the forces of evil, the Digi Destined must draw upon even greater strengths to help their partners digivolve further. Not only that, but they also learn that not only does their world hang in the balance too, but there is an also an eighth child out there waiting to be found.

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Kari Gatomon
Kari, the eight Digi Destined, and Gatomon

So there are seven (later eight) Digi Destined children, which means there's that many lead characters. It's a pretty big number to throw at a series from the get-go, but the show does a pretty good job of balancing it all out so that each character is memorable in their own right. Sure characters like Tai, Matt and to a lesser extent T.K. and Kari get more of the focus, but even the rest get their moments in the spotlight and all play their part toward the bigger plot. Despite their rather one-dimensional personalities (Tai is the leader, Izzy the smart one, Mimi the girlie girl etc.), under the surface most of them have some rather deep issues that they work out through the course of the show. It never gets particularly grimdark, but it's good to know that a show which is primarily aimed at younger kids can tackle such issues.

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Champion Greymon Togemon Ikkaumon Angemon

Then there's the Digimon themselves, which showcase the huge variety this franchise have. The beautiful thing about Digimon is that the monsters aren't constricted to a certain design type, so there are cute and cuddly monsters, big brutish ones and even humanoid ones. They can be a range of different animals and creatures, including robots and machinery parts. Such a massive variety almost guarantees that there will be some particular Digimon that you'll like, and a good chance that one or more will have a lead role. Even the evolution process allows for a huge variety - while the Greymon line is pretty similar throughout, Lillymon certainly isn't anything like Togemon.

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Ultimate WereGarurumon MegaKabuterimon Garudamon Angewomon

With four separate arcs taking place in a grand total of 54 episodes, it's sorry to see how painfully underdeveloped some things are. While the Devimon and Myotismon arcs have an excellent amount of build up and story behind them, the ending fights themselves turn out to be rather rushed an lackluster. However the biggest problems lie in the Dark Masters arc, which has a grand total of 14 episodes to defeat five villains (four Dark Masters and then the final big bad). This is simply not enough time to develop any of them really as actual characters, with Machinedramon and MetalSeadramon getting the worst end of the stick (Machinedramon getting a grand total of 2 episodes and then dying in a 3 second fight).

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Villains Devimon Etemon Myostismon Dark Masters MetalSeadramon Puppetmon Piedmon Machinedramon
Evil lurks throughout the land...

The other main problem also stems from the Dark Masters arc, which is the decision to have only Agumon and Gabumon reach the Mega level (becoming WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon respectively). From a story point of view it makes sense, but it also diminishes the relevance of the other Digimon. The arc plays heavily on teamwork and how the Digi Destined can't win unless they're together, but whatever way you look at it all of the Ultimate level Digimon are little more than glorified backup to the big hitters. It's also a crime that great looking Megas like HerculesKabuterimon and Hououmon didn't get an appearance.

Digimon Adventure Digital Monsters Mega MetalGarurumon WarGreymon
Awesome but overused.

So despite a few glaring flaws, the first Digimon instalment still holds up pretty well today. The characters are a very likeable (if a tad stereotypical at times) bunch, and the constantly upping threat level throughout the show ensures that it never becomes a dull watch. Whether you choose the English dub or the original Japanese version, Digimon Adventure still hasn't lost any of the charm it had all those years ago.

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