After the Pokemon franchise proved itself to be an overwhelming, immediate success in 1996, it’s no surprise that a host of similar, if not outright derivative, franchises would emerge in its wake. Digimon, one such post-Pokemon franchise, premiered in 1997 as a line of pocket pets in the Tamagotchi vein, but would soon spawn an animated feature film and an anime series, both of which premiered in 1999. Flash forward to 2013 and Digimon are conspicuously absent from the toy store shelves that once housed them, but which even still house immense quantities of Pokemon. It may indeed seem that the franchise has been swept away by the ebb and flow of popular culture. However, not all is lost, for Flatiron Film Company has endeavored to keep Digimon alive with its DVD releases of the original anime series, culminating in the release of this comprehensive, four-season set which collects Flatiron’s standalone releases of Digimon seasons one-four in one convenient package.
The basic premise of the series, which varies slightly from season to season, is that there exists a DigiWorld (or Digital World) parallel to our own inhabited by creatures known as Digimon (or Digital Monsters), some of which are good, some of which are bad, and others still that are downright evil. These most nefarious of these Digimon seek nothing less than to dominate the DigiWorld and Earth alike, or at their worst to bring about the end to both dominions. In order to prevent such catastrophes from occurring, children from our world are chosen to serve as the DigiDestined– saviors of the DigiWorld who battle the forces of evil alongside their Digimon counterparts or, as in season four, who themselves possess the ability to transform into Digimon.
The best of the seasons herein are the unarguably the first and second (known as Digimon Adventures), as the second season is the only season to continue the storyline from the previous season, allowing writers to craft a richer story world and weave a more elaborate narrative. Season Two picks up four years after the conclusion of Season One as the first season’s characters join forces with a new group of DigiDestined in a continued effort to maintain the balance of both worlds. Even the extended families of the first season’s DigiDestined play a part in the events of Season Two. As such, the series exhibits an often surprising emphasis on narrative continuity throughout, especially for a series obviously aimed at a younger demographic. It just goes to show the incredible level of respect that Japanese media-makers show their audiences, even if they are laterally (or primarily) financially-motivated in their efforts.
While Season Three (Digimon Tamers), which I discuss in more detail here, does not continue the narrative from the previous seasons, it is somewhat meta at least, in that it follows a group of characters who themselves watched the previous seasons of Digimon on television. This season is significantly darker in tone. In fact, one of the Digimon Tamers winds up suffering from PTSD late in the season. This is not to say that it ceases to be appropriate for children, however. Make no mistake, this is still a children’s show, and anyone who isn’t at least young at heart will likely find Digimon a bit off-putting by virtue of its sheer repetitiveness if nothing else.
Season Four (Digimon Frontier) marks an even more radical departure from the previous seasons than Three had. Instead of kids partnering with Digimon to defeat evil, these kids turn into Digimon themselves. Thus, while the season embraces a similar story structure to the previous ones and therefore may not be all that structurally different, it lacks the character dynamics that made the rest of the series before it so interesting to me personally.
Flatiron’s Digimon releases exclusively feature the English-language version of the series, which is a bit of a disappointment, but will likely not be an issue for anyone who grew up on the series. The Digimon: Seasons 1-4 Collection packages all four seasons as they appeared in their standalone releases (character guide booklets, Digimon sketch galleries and all) in a single cardboard slipsleeve. As an added bonus for purchasing all four seasons/205 episodes together in this collection, Flatiron includes a 20”x30” poster of the collection’s cover art featuring all four seasons’ central Digimon and DigiDestined!