I’ve probably said it before, but I’m a huge fan of Digimon. I love all the various cartoons, movies, and games! However, recently I found myself reading the Digimon manga known as “Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01”. I found this to be arguably the best thing to ever come out of the franchise, in my opinion. Good characters, good plot development, fun designs, and a story that feels more like a continuous arc as opposed to a collection of several somewhat unrelated arcs. I’m not saying that the structure of the anime series are terrible or anything, but I prefer the way V-Tamer structures its plot better.
I was considering doing formal a review on this series, and I probably will later down the line. For now I feel like discussing this series in a more informal way and going over a lot of what I liked about it. Of course, there will be SPOILERS. If you have not read the manga (which you can find easily online) I suggest you do so first before reading further.
So, what is this manga and what makes it so unique? Well, this manga first introduced the world to both Digimon and its first protagonist: Tai/Taichi. Now, this is a somewhat different version of Tai. Unlike the main Adventure anime series, this Tai has a Veedramon as his partner as opposed to an Agumon. Weirder still, all the primary Digimon have nicknames to better differentiate themselves from other Digimon. I kind of like this, to be honest!
The story primarily revolves around Zero and Tai trying to save the Digital World from an evil Digimon named Demon, as well as a power-hungry human known as Neo Saiba. The two have joined forces in an attempt to create the Ultra-level Digimon known as “Arkadimon”. While this does seem like it would be a fairly generic Shonen plot, it actually ends up being a lot more enjoyable and fulfilling than a fair amount of Digimon series.
Why is that? Well, for one thing this series ended up starting a lot of tropes associated with the series, such as having a goggle-headed protagonist who has a reptilian Digimon. However, it’s a lot more than that. The manga has a lot less characters than other entries in the franchise, which allows it a fair bit of character development. Side Digimon get a fair bit of development, including this universe’s Leomon.
What makes this series so strong is due in part to its length. Not including bonus chapters, the manga ran for 59 chapters. Sure, this doesn’t seem like a lot when you compare it to Naruto or Dragon Ball, but for a manga based off Digimon that’s pretty good. Most Digimon manga run for about 3-4 volumes, but this one ran for a crazy amount of time.
Chapters were released around the air of the first four seasons, but managed to stay fresh and their own thing for a long period of time. Despite the fact that the series was focusing a protagonist who was essentially the same character from season 1, the show managed to give him unique personality traits. This Taichi cares just as much about people as the anime’s Taichi does, but this one tends to brag and boast a bit more and take things far less seriously.
That’s one problem that the original Digimon anime had in spades: It took itself too seriously. Despite the silly and childish adventures our heroes got into, the dialogue was kept way to serious at times. This is why people often prefer the English version of seasons 1-3, due to the increase of comedy relief to damper the more somber and dark plot-lines of later story arcs. However, this series doesn’t have that problem at all. It can be serious, funny, goofy, and epic all at the same time.
Something else that makes this series so good is that it treat Digivolution differently. In the series, Digivolving allowed our heroes to essentially level up and get stronger. Though, most of the time they would return to their previous forms. Not in this series! Every-time a Digimon evolves, be it a Tamer’s Digimon or some other random Mon, then will stay that way forever. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but this is mostly played fairly straight.
This is why Zero stays in his Ultimate form most of the second half of the series. Since UlforceVeedramon strays away from that adorable Dinosaur design, Zero remains as an AeroVeedramon for most of the major battles. The writers didn’t want the character to lose its appeal, and I can appreciate that. This means that they had to make Zero overpowered, to the point where he could defeat Digimon who were levels above him with relative ease.
One of the best part about this manga were the crossovers. The manga crossovers over with Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Frontier. It’s never been stated if the crossovers were technically canon or not, but they did help develop the protagonists of these two shows a lot more. I could never get invested in the characters of Davis or Takuya, until reading this manga that is. Despite only getting a singular crossover chapter each, they still got more development than they ever did in the show, which is saying a lot. I also love that goofy chapter that had Tai going up against Ryo Akiyama in a (quite literally) heated argument.
Moments like this made the series a joy to read through. This was a series that was its own thing, but drew enough elements from the series itself to be familiar. It was fun, entertaining, and used more obscure and unknown Digimon to fill out its cast. If I had any major complaints, is that the ending felt a bit cliched. I also felt that the main antagonist, Neo Saiba, was redeemed too easily. Neo was heartless and cold monster consumed by his desire to change and “improve” the Digital World so bad that he let himself be manipulated. Unfortunately, he goes from being a really good and badass villain to a complete turnaround in the course of a chapter. He’s not even punished that bad for what he’s done.
Regardless of the few faults I have this series, it’s something I can reccomend to read, especially if you are a Digimon fan. Of course, it has its problems, but it also a lot of heart to it. When I read through it all, I felt like I had stumbled across some sort of treasure-chest of awesome Japanese 90s nostalgia. I always love that feeling, and the manga definitely captures that in spades! Sadly, the manga may be hard to come by nowadays. It may be even more difficult since you need to be able to read Japanese to fully get the impact of the comics. There’s always scanlations though, if you’re really craving the manga and don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars on import fees.
Whichever option is entirely up to you. Since the manga hasn’t been re-released in years, there are few ways to adequately enjoy the series. It’s never been brought over here, nor it has received any type of anime or videogame adaptation. I still think its something that’s worth cherishing, especially since it introduced so many concepts that would become very important and integral to this series as a whole. Give it a read, and let the Digi-nostalgia wash over you like a wave!