Sunday, June 9, 2013

Digimon: Digital Monsters, The Official First Season Vol. 1 (anime TV series)

Digimon: Digital Monsters is a children's fantasy show. This first volume contains the first 21 episodes of the series, English dub only.


A group of kids are at camp when they are suddenly transported from our world to the DigiWorld. Each kid is immediately partnered with a Digimon, a cute (at least at the lower levels) digital monster that can transform (digivolve) into stronger forms. If you've ever seen a Tamagotchi, it works a little like that. Each kid has a digivice, a device that allows their Digimon to digivolve under certain circumstances. The children gradually learn what those circumstances are as they try to survive the various dangerous Digimon they encounter. Eventually, they learn that they are the DigiDestined, children destined to save the DigiWorld and therefore also the real world. In order to do this, however, they first have to find tags and crests that will allow their Digimon to digivolve even further.

The main human characters in this volume are:
  • Tai: An adventurous boy who is basically the leader of the group. He occasionally clashes with Matt.
  • Matt: The "cool loner" of the group. He's T.K.'s older brother and very protective of him. In the real world, their parents are divorced and they don't get to see each other much.
  • T.K. - The youngest member of the group.
  • Sora - She's the reliable one, and more of a tomboy than the other girl in the group, Mimi.
  • Mimi - Very much a girlie girl. Although she's not depicted as a bad person at all, she's vain, spoiled, and not very bright.
  • Joe - He worries constantly and feels like it's his duty to keep the other kids from taking too many risks.
  • Izzy - He is very focused on his computer, sometimes to the exclusion of his friends. He once overheard his parents discussing the fact that he's adopted, although they've never officially told him and don't know that he knows.

I picked this one up entirely because of the nostalgic value it has for me. I don't usually buy edited anime, but I have fond memories of waking up on weekends just to watch this show with my sister. We were incredibly hooked.

Nowhere on the box for this release does it mention that this anime has been edited. I confirmed that it was by checking Wikipedia (dialogue and names were changed, scenes considered inappropriate for children were cut out, the overall tone of the series was made to be less serious, etc.), but it was easy enough to guess that it was edited. This is an English dub-only release, and I don't think anime is ever released in English dub-only form anymore unless it was edited so much that including the original Japanese language track is impossible. I've never seen the unedited version of the show and will probably never have the opportunity to do so.

This first boxed set volume includes the first 21 episodes of the series, which could be divided into three different parts. The first part introduces the characters, explains some of the basic rules of the Digiworld, and shows viewers how the kids' various Digimon fight and what they can transform (digivolve) into. The second part pits the kids and their Digimon against Devimon, an evil Digimon who uses black gears to turn various Digimon into the kids' enemies. The third part introduces a new major villain, Etemon, who uses his Dark Network to hunt the kids as they search for the tags and crests that will allow their Digimon to digivolve to an even higher level.

The only reason I made it all the way through this boxed set is because 1) I own the other two volumes and I'm determined to review them all and 2) Teenage Me loved this series. The initial episodes introducing all the kids and their Digimon were kind of boring. The basic pattern was, “here's one of the Digimon, here's a disposable villain, watch them fight, and watch the good Digimon digivolve and win.” Repeat, until all but T.K.'s Digimon have digivolved. The introduction of Devimon and his black gears made things better – I especially liked seeing how the kids managed when Devimon separated them all – but then Etemon came on board. Etemon is quite possibly the most embarrassing villain ever. He's a monkey-like Digimon, and he talks like an Elvis wannabe.

The best parts of this first volume were: seeing what the Digimon digivolved into (although the opening credits spoiled most of this); seeing how the kids and their Digimon managed after Devimon separated them; and the mystery of what T.K.'s Digimon could digivolve into (again, spoiled by the opening credits). I realized that, even as an adult, I still have favorite Digimon, and they're the same ones I liked when I was younger. I liked Gomamon for his design and his habit of trying to get Joe, the kid he was partnered with, to lighten up. Of the more digivolved Digimon, I liked Garurumon for his similarity to a wolf.

Although I found things to enjoy, I couldn't help but notice that this show wasn't as good as I remembered it being. There were lots of very lame jokes, cliches, and puns. The animation was...not very good. Ogremon was one of the more painful examples – even during dialogue, his mouth never properly opened and closed. The series switches to really conspicuous CGI during the higher level digivolution transformation scenes. I also noticed the infamous moment in which Biyomon was accidentally given two beaks. And, while I'm on the subject of errors, I noticed a line of dialogue or two that was not said by the right voice actor. Check out episode 19, approximately 12 minutes in. It's Tai's mouth that's moving, but I'm pretty sure Izzy's voice actress is the one who's speaking. I can't even say this DVD release is any good. Its bare-bones, with absolutely no extras of any kind. The video quality is terrible, and at times looks a little blurry.

I'm going to keep watching, because, um, I've already bought the second and third volumes (curse you, nostalgia!). Also, the final episode of this volume was actually pretty good.

All in all, I probably wouldn't recommend this to most anime fans. It's super cheap, but you'd be better off saving your money for one of the many better unedited anime series out there.

  • Pokemon (anime TV series) - My sister and I would have been horrified if anyone had recommended Pokemon to us after learning that we liked Digimon - in our opinion, Digimon was way better than Pokemon could ever be, and fans of Pokemon didn't know what they were missing out on. Right. But those who like the "many cute monsters who partner with humans" aspect of Digimon might want to give Pokemon a try.
  • .hack//SIGN (anime TV series) - This is darker than Digimon: Digital Monsters, but it may still appeal to those interested in another series that takes place in an interesting digital world.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! (anime TV series) - This was one of those 4Kids-edited horrors (if I remember correctly, guns were edited out so that it appeared as though grown men were trying to shoot at kids with finger guns). There are lots of battles between monsters, although, in this case, the monsters just come out when their cards are used and aren't characters in their own right.

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