It’s the great debate of 90s kids everywhere: Pokemon vs. Digimon – which show was the better ‘Mon?
Okay, maybe that’s not true considering that anyone I ask (and I’ve asked a decent sample size!) insists that Pokemon is the better show. And that’s a fine stance considering that more people watched it and remember it fondly.
That, and the Pokemon franchise has to be one of the most monstrous powerhouses to come out of the 90s, and still be ahead of the game.
What The Pokemon Company has managed to do with the franchise is absolutely incredible; I don’t think the Digimon franchise vs. the Pokemon franchise debate is worth having since there is a clear and obvious winner.
The show, however… that’s a different story.
Let me preface this by saying that Childhood Me definitely preferred some Pokemon action over Digimon. The theme songs changed, there were 151 monsters to discover, and I needed to know whether Ash would ever replace Misty’s bike. I was invested. That’s not to say I didn’t love Digimon, as I’m pretty sure T.K. was my first crush ever, but I had a clear favourite.
Another tidbit about Childhood Me was that I wasn’t very good at telling the time. This is relevant because as soon as Team Rocket would show up in Pokemon, I knew there were about 8-10 minutes left in the 30-minute program before they were “blasting off again,” and the episode would end.
I mean, sure, some episodes deviated from this routine… But like, not many.
It’s funny because people like to shit on certain anime (cough, Naruto, cough…) for their filler episodes, but really, Pokemon was a collection of practically ONLY filler episodes. Rinse, repeat. Nothing significant happened for a good 90-95% of the time.
The whole premise was a child traveling the world to become a Pokemon Master, but not once is the audience told what one needs to do to get this elusive, vague title.
Catch every Pokemon? They keep inventing more so that’s impossible.
Beat every gym leader? A new gym leader’s born everyday, apparently.
Travel the world? The world literally keeps expanding.
Even now, with the show still airing new episodes, Ash isn’t any closer to this goal. It’s been 20 years, and he’s done nothing significant except for figure out how to stay young forever (dermatologists HATE him!).
Digimon Adventure, on the other hand, had a story. Each episode built upon the last, and there were mysteries to be discovered. Throughout the show’s original seasons, we learn why certain characters are the DigiDestined, get to travel between the human world and the digital world, and get to see the characters grow up.
And when it’s finally time to bid a farewell to the original cast, the creators give us closure by letting us know becomes of them in the future.
I mean, it wasn’t some intricate, heavily thought-out, crazy twists-and-turns type of story, but hey, it was a story!
Digimon is often unfairly dubbed as a ripoff of Pokemon, but they’re really nothing alike in concept or story. The only similarities aside from the shared suffix, are a) the story follows a group of children, and b) they have their own “monster”.
The Digimon companions can evolve (or digivolve, if you will), but they always return to their Rookie state after battle. They can also talk.
And the kids grew up in due time. So.
That said, I don’t blame Pokemon for being the way it is. With longevity in mind, show was able to capture new fans across different generations. It’s a classic case of quantity over quality, and it’s been serving them well. And, like many anime of the past, I’m about 99% sure the show was only created to get people interested in buying their merch and games.
It wasn’t created to be a great show, and I can respect that for what it is. It roped in our tiny, little pre-adolescent hearts, and hasn’t let go.
I’m also sure that the Pokemon anime did pave a way for Digimon Adventures to be a thing, in the same way that the Hunger Games allowed Divergent to exist. Business execs saw dollar signs in their eyes, and wanted to ride the wave. Obviously, it wasn’t as great of a success as Pokemon went on to be, but I respect the creators for at least trying to make a quality program (for the first few years, that is!).
It’s unfortunate that it’s been branded a carbon copy of Pokemon, and I encourage anyone who likes a good blast from the past to re-watch the first season. You’ll see what I mean.
Or you won’t. Who knows.