My Guilty Pleasure: Why Digimon Rocks My Socks
They didn’t want to catch them all.
They were just seven scared kids lost in another world who just wanted to find their way home.
At a time when all you needed was a catchy theme song, a constantly formulaic script, and a premise that cleverly played off the addictive qualities of human nature (yes, I am talking about, you, Pokémon), Digimon: Season One strived for more.
Believe me when I say I watched Pokémon with the rest of the millions of ten year olds, saw Ash meeting, chasing and capturing new Pokemon every week, saw Team Rocket chase after Pikachu every waking moment of their lives, get defeated, and go “blasting off aggaaaaaain”. And after a while, even as a grade schooler who watched tons of other, formulaic cartoons, I just found it lacking. And then I saw Digimon, and I fell in love with it.
Immediately viewers were introduced to the seven protagonists of the show: Tai, the leader, who had to deal with everyone relying far too heavily on him. Matt and TK, two estranged brothers struggling to grow closer while dealing with their parents’ divorce. Sora, who had problems depending on others and being depended on. Mimi, the glamor queen without substance. Izzy, the nerd who everyone left alone. And Joe, the nervous wreck pressured by his parents to be a great student. Together they were thrust into a world with a digital theme (think Reboot, a little) and paired with Digimon partners who can, with help, “Digivolve” into cooler forms with higher power levels.
Of course, being a kid’s show, it had its own formula for a while, especially with last minute digivolutions and messages about love and friendship. But as the series continued, the plot became progressively nuanced. The children faced their flaws, their fears, their qualities, and their mortality. It had its campy and cheesy kids moments, but what do you expect? It’s a children’s show.
I watched each episode day in and day out, rewatched them, drew them when in class, thought about them, wondered what other plot twists and challenges would come their way. Pokémon had superior games (hell, I’ll admit, I love them myself). Pokémon had superior marketing (seriously… “gotta catch ’em all”? Genius for the toy, gaming and card collection industries). But Digimon always had the superior story, and as a writer—however young and immature—where else could I find better?
Its legacy didn’t hold up too well. There are some cool, fantastically animated movies. Some okay games. When Season 2 followed, it seemed Digimon lost all of its narrative quality while battling Pokémon’s ratings, relying far too heavily on its own “Collecting the Digi-Eggs” gimmick in the beginning. I just got tired of it, and while I followed it as a faithful Digi-Fan, I wanted—I needed—more. And then Season 3 came.
Season 3’s “Digimon Tamers” series, returned with a darker, more mature story surrounding three characters who live in the real world, our world, where Digimon is just a trading card game franchise… until it bleeds over into our world. With realistic kids facing realistic problems, it was a season targeted at older audiences with a very different tone than its predecessors, and easily my favorite along with the first season.
Unfortunately, by this time, little cared besides the dedicated Digimon fanbase that lives out there. Even I stopped watching the seasons that followed, sulking in my corner alone while all of the Pokémon fans followed Ash for his millionth season chasing yet another new “monster of the week” and going insane after seeing Team Rocket “blasting off agaaaain” for what seemed like the billionth time. But every now and then, I put on one of the episodes I love, sit back, and fall back into the Digital World I know and love*.