Digimon is among a number of anime series that for some reason never saw a DVD release in the UK, despite seeing releases in Japan, and the US. That has changed with the release of Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 1 this month. Digimon is an anime about seven children who are transported to another world (called the digital world), and find themselves befriending strange monsters (named Digimon) who can change into more powerful forms. Together they must team up, not only to save this world, but their own.
Digimon is a product of the nineties and it is evident most in the show's humour. The jokes are cheesy, and sprinkled with (at the time) topical references (think Aladdin). This ranges from being a sign of its age, to being oddly charming. It ultimately pulls this off thanks to a consistent tone, and likeable characters.
Each of the characters has a core trait that both serves to characterise them, and to act as the focus of their friendship with their digimon. The show spends time developing these traits and exploring them, so that they never feel like arbitrary designations. For instance Tai's trait is courage, and we see him learn from his mistakes, and show real courage when it counts. Each of the characters does have an arc like this but as with many an anime this isn't done with equal attention to the entire cast. Tai and Matt undergo the most growth between them, but Joe's arc, for example, feels comparatively underdeveloped. We see the pressure he is under to live up to the expectations of his father, but we never truly see him confront those expectations.
Digimon was dubbed by animation company 4Kids and it is tempting to blame some of its failings at their feet. When the jokes don't work it is typically because they feel shoe horned in to what the characters are saying. When characters occasionally make grand speeches the dialogue just comes across as stilted.
Digimon feels like a series of contradictions, with little flaws that stop it from being great rather than any one significant failing. The humour can be cringe worthy, and yet it is what makes it endearing. Important character growth has a tendency to be brushed aside, but there are episodes devoted to giving the characters believable, and relatable personal journeys. When all of these elements are brought together Digimon proves to be greater than the sum of its parts. It is a lot of fun, and well worth checking out.
Special Features: Original Japanese Opening / Original Japanese credits
DIGIMON: DIGITAL MONSTERS SEASON 1 / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: HIROYUKI KAKUDO/SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: STEVE BLUM, MONA MARSHALL, TIFANIE CHRISTUN, DEREK STEPHEN PRINCE, PHILECE SAMPLER / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW