Digimon was first introduced in Japan in 1997 as digital pets that were similar to the Tamagotchi, except for the fact that Digimon was being marketed more to boys. In March of 1999, Digimon made the move to the anime medium with the first Digimon film and television series. Five additional series followed, with most of them having their own tie-in movies.
The first anime series was dubbed and released to western markets in Fall 1999. As of this writing, the first five series have been dubbed and released. The sixth series has been acquired by Saban Brands, and it is supposed to air in North America on Nickelodeon beginning at some point in 2013.
Digimon is short for “digital monsters,” and these monsters are the focus on the anime series. These monsters, which hatch from Digi-Eggs, live in a “digital world.” The monsters age through a process called “digivolution,” which changes a monster’s appearance and increases their power. However, the effects of the “digivolution” tend to not be permanent. A Digimon’s human partner can use a device to cause a “digivolution,” although there are times when a special item has to be found for the Digimon to evolve into another stage. A Digimon can revert to its original form after a battle or if the monster is too weak to continue. Most Digimon possess a large amount of intelligence, and have the capacity for human speech.
The first anime series introduced the Digimon life cycle, and showed that while the monsters age in a similar fashion to real organisms, they don’t die under normal circumstances. When a Digimon dies, it dissolves into infinitesimal bits of data, and the data recomposes into a Digi-Egg. Sometimes, the reincarnated Digimon may retain some or all of its memories from its previous life. However, if a Digimon’s data is completely destroyed, then it will die.
At the beginning of the first series, seven kids who are at summer camp travel to the Digital World, where the Digimon creatures live. The kids learn that they are “DigiDestined” to save both the Digital and Real World from evil. Each child is given a Digivice. The second Digimon series is a direct continuation of the first series.
Digimon Tamers, the third Digimon series, is primarily set in a “real world” where the first two Digimon series are television shows and the game merchandise becomes key to providing power boosts to real Digimon that appear in the “real world.”
Digimon Frontier, the fourth series, introduces and focuses on Spirit Evolution, where the human characters use their D-Tectors to transform into special Digimon called Legendary Warriors. These characters must find the 10 legendary spirits and stop the enemy from destroying the Digital World.
Digimon Savers, the fifth Digimon series, has a story that focuses on the challenges faced by the Digital Accident Tactics Squad, an organization that was created to conceal the existence of the Digital World and Digimon from the rest of the world. It’s also their job to secretly solve any Digimon-related incidents that occur on Earth.
At this writing, Digimon Xros Wars is the most recent Digimon series. The protagonist of the series is Taiki Kudo, and he, along with his friends, end up in the Digital World. They must travel through the Digital World to try and liberate it from the Bagra Army.
In North America, Digimon came out during the time the Pokemon fad was in full swing. During those early years, I had heard of Digimon, but it never seemed to be quite as prevalent as Pokemon was. Even though all of the Digimon series have been or will soon be dubbed and available in North America, the series just never seemed to ever quite achieve the popularity or notoriety that Pokemon achieved. While these two series may share some similarities, I ultimately see that these series have two very different premises.
The first two Digimon series sound rather straightforward in their premise. However, from their descriptions, it seems the third and fourth series were trying a little too hard to differentiate themselves from the previous Digimon series, and come across as being a little “out there.” This seems to be a problem encountered by other similar series over the years, such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bakugan Battle Brawlers, and Beyblade.
The fifth series seems to have a more realistic and reasonable premise, and the sixth series seems to be trying to “return to the basics” that were established in the first two series.
While the Digimon franchise has never been huge on my personal anime radar, I know that the franchise has acquired a dedicated following in North America over the years. Obviously, this following is strong enough to convince Saban Brands to license the most recent series and dub it into English It’s going to be interesting to see how well the most recent series will fare on Nickelodeon after it begins airing on the network.
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