Looking Back At 20 Years of Digimon

You never do find out what he’s pointing at.

It’s hard to believe that just a few days ago Digimon turned 20. This is a series that I enjoyed as a kid, and a franchise I find myself getting interested in once more. For those of you don’t know what I’m talking about, Digimon is a series about Digital Monsters existing in an alternate universe often referred to as “The Digital World”. These creatures often enter our realm and interact with humans, mostly kids and teenagers, in order to save the world.

It’s a pretty basic formula, but somehow the series manages to do something new with the franchise in each successive season. With 7 different shows, over 15 films, dozens upon dozens of video-games, and several manga series, there is definitely a Digimon series for everyone. The way that the franchise constantly manages to do something unique with each iteration is something grand to behold.

Even if some of the seasons were more on the mediocre side, they still did something interesting with the basic Digimon formula. The first two seasons were a more “Alice In Wonderland” type adventure, while the third season was a fairly dark melodrama filled with deep character analysis and epic confrontations. Each series is its own thing, which may turn off a lot of people.

Individuals may look at this franchise and say “it lacks identity”. I do like this though, the idea of constantly showing glimpses of similar yet very different alternative universes is very enticing. The games further exemplify this, with each one focusing on its own universe with its own set of characters. Partaking in any part of the franchise is like watching the Twilight Zone, you’re getting singular stories that are (usually) separate from other parts of the franchise.

You can play the Digimon World: Next Order video-game, without having to play the many other Digimon World games in said series. If you do play previous games though, you get somewhat of a bonus, because in some games they do establish a “multiverse” of sorts. Certain games link in small ways to each other, but those are few and far between in the franchise.

What I really liked about Digimon though, is the fact that they looked like monsters. Pokemon are supposed to be monsters as well, but 90% of them looked more like super stylized cartoon animals. They were always a bit too cutesy, never really looking like ferocious hideous beasts. Some of the Digimon in this series (especially the ones meant to be adorable) can look utterly ugly or hideous at times. Digimon never really followed a set design path, almost all Digimon looked different from one another.

Of course, certain Digimon were palette-swapped clones of the other, but this was never too excessive. Am I saying Pokemon is terrible? No, I was just never a fan of the concept of them being “monsters”. Then again, I guess you can’t really call them “animals” either. I guess you could say I’m being picky, but hey, I’m a huge fan of monsters in media.

The thing that I found most fascinating about the franchise is its switch in audience. A few series aimed for children tend to market themselves more to adults over time. An example of this is Samurai Jack, which started off as a kids show, but recently had a final season aired on Adult Swim. Much like Samurai Jack, Digimon has started gearing itself more to the kids who grew up with it.

Believe it or not, its often hard to appeal to the children of today, especially with the constant changes in the market of animation. So, Digimon became a series that started to drift away from being marketed to kids and more towards adults. Digimon Savers, Digital Monsters X Evolution, Digimon Adventure Tri, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, and Digimon World: Next Order are all attempts to bring the franchise to older audiences.

Of course, Digimon is still churning out series that are aimed more towards kids. However, one may argue that this series just feels better as a show geared towards the older demographics. After all, I can’t think of too many “collectible monsters” shows that have tried to appeal to those who grew up with it.

To me, Digimon is something more than nostalgia. It’s something I can still come back and watch, even when I’m out of the age demographic for most of its shows. A lot of series have an entertaining and well-written quality to them, and they manage to tell interesting stories with large stakes to them.

Believe it or not, the past few Digimon shows in the franchise have flopped somewhat in Japan. Though, with the release of Tri, the series has once again began to pick up momentum. I’m honestly liking where this franchise is going, and I can only hope that the new entries of the Digimon franchise that are coming out soon can continue to entertain. Anyways, I thank you for reading my long diatribe on a 20 year old cartoon/anime franchise. I hope you all have a good day and fantastic weekend.


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