Digimon was —and is— my favorite animated TV show. Sometimes it’s hard to tell between Digimon, Sailor Moon, and South Park, but ultimately when I look at my impulse purchases around me, I see that I am surrounded by the Digimon franchise in various forms. (I bought a Koromon plushie last week off of eBay. It still lasts.) Digimon will forever be an influential experience on my work, not just because of the high quality of the show itself, but the experience it provided.
The premise to Digimon, if you’re unfamiliar, is that average kids go to a summer camp and wind up getting sent into the “digital world” within the internet. They were the “DigiDestined”— children from the regular world who could travel to the digital world, and by the help of their digital monster (Digimon) friends, they could restore peace between the digital world and the real world. The latter’s effect we see more throughout the end of the first season, along with Digimon: The Movie.
Within the spirit of the premise, it allows the viewers (albeit children) to put themselves inside the narrative; it gives them a chance to believe in the possibility of joining that reality. (Which is ultimately why Digimon will forever be better than Pokemon, but I digress.) The level of craft that allows the viewers to be able to engage with the suspension of disbelief to achieve full immersion is something that is incredibly inspirational to me. I aim with everything I write to be able to have that level of plausible believability.
We not only see the characters struggle with the problems presented as being digi-destined, but we see them come to age as they grow up. They age throughout the series, and while they do change, they still remain true to their core being. With such a large main cast for a children’s show, Digimon approaches several important topics like divorce, separation, loss, and when your strengths can become your weaknesses. Tai, the main character, is the digi-destined who has the crest of courage. He is, therefore, the most courageous. He takes this too far at one point where he made Augumon digivolve when Autumn wasn’t ready, turning Augumon into SkullGreymon instead of regular Greymon, resulting in Augumon turning into a terrifying and corrupted beast. Through that, they learn the importance of not only boundaries but how to be responsible with one’s courage and not cross the line into being reckless. Those are deep meanings for a children’s show to approach –especially in the early 2000’s–, and the ability to do so without diverging too far from the plot is something that I wind up thinking about whenever I wonder if I’m going off too far on a tangent.
In addition, the villains are a terrifying, and impressive threat to the characters. (Lookin at you, Jesse, James, and Meowth.) Devimon attacks TK—one of the children— but Patamon saves the day by sacrificing himself. While Digimon doesn’t die, Patamon’s data is reverted back to a digi-egg until he has enough power to digivolve up the power chain again. In the second season (which continues with the kids from the first season, who are now older, along with some new kids) it turns out that one of the enemies is another kid who’s been calling himself the “Digimon Emperor” and enslaving Digimon in the digital world. That’s a risky move to make especially with impressionable kids being the audience. However, we see that he eventually comes to his senses (he didn’t think Digimon were real beings) and winds up being one of the DigiDestined.
The show doesn’t sugarcoat the crimes he’s committed against Digimon; multiple Digimon, even after he’s reformed, are wary of him and call him out on how awful he was. In Digimon: the movie we see Diaboromon, whose influence has leaked into the human world by spreading computer viruses around. At one point intercontinental ballistic missiles are launched from the Pentagon getting hacked. Diaboromon (in another form) manages to age regress the kids in the real world, putting a few in danger from how young he makes them.
The show expertly weaves different storylines together while staying true to its themes and its goals. It is character driven and allows the audience to become characters themselves by allowing there to be a suspension of disbelief. The show is still fresh after I’ve seen it hundreds of times, and I fully believe it is one of the best-animated shows out there that are oriented for children. While the audience for my writing is young adults, I wish to be able to tap into the power of nostalgia and the feeling of being involved with the narrative. I could probably write an entire book about how much I love Digimon, but for today, I’ll end my praise here.