Anime Review | Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 1 (Lights, Camera, Action!)

By Drew Hurley 01.10.2016

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Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 1 (UK Rating: PG)

Digimon started its existence as a Tamagotchi style toy in Japan back in 1997, but it was when it received an anime from venerable studio Toei that its popularity really took off. Since then, it has received numerous anime series, manga adaptations, and tie-in games. This release from Manga Entertainment is the very first anime series, originally released in 1999. Whenever a classic series like this is re-released, it's interesting to see if it was as good as fans remember or was it just nostalgia goggles? Cubed3 sees how it holds up today, as this first season from Manga Entertainment is due on 3rd October and contains a whopping 54 episodes for over 18 hours of adventures in the Digital World.

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This first season received a very fast English dub release, arriving only a few months after the series began airing in Japan. The story follows seven children who are whisked away from their regular lives into a world filled with strange creatures known as Digimon. In the very first episode, the group is met by seven Digimon, each one to be partnered with one of the children. The kids and their partners then depart on an adventure to discover the truth about the world they find themselves in and to see if there's any way home.

Parallels are often drawn between Pokémon and Digimon, but it's not really a fair comparison. While Pokémon focused on Ash's journey, visiting gyms, catching Pocket Monsters and aiming for the Pokémon Leagues, Digimon was more of an adventure story. What is an accurate comparison is the relationship between each of the group and its Digimon, compared to Ash's relationship with Pikachu. The seven children are paired with Digimon who each seem to be similar to their partnered child's personality. At first, these Digimon are just weird bouncing heads, but each has the ability to "Digivolve" into different forms, transforming into a variety of cool designs, like the chibi T-Rex Agumon, pink bird Biyomon, and the bug Digimon Tentomon.

The stories through this first season are very much "monster of the week" style to begin with, and as the kids travel across the Digital World, they learn more about Digimon and the world. Most of the Digimon of the world are meant to be friendly and yet week on week the group is attacked by these seemingly berserk versions of the friendly and happy creatures. After defeating some of the frenzied Digimon, strange black gears appear from their bodies and the Digimon return to their natural state. The designs of the Digimon really run the gamut with the designs. There are bugs that look designed by Geiger, next to half robot zombies at one point, and then giant plush bears at the next - all of which are sentient, speaking life-forms instead of just being able to repeat their name.

After this first arc, the youngsters are told they are the "DigiDestined" and are foretold to save both the Digital and the real world. On the surface, Digimon is an adventure story where the group of children and their Digimon partners, but there's more here than that. At its heart, Digimon is a coming of age tale: the kids have to deal with more than just saving the world, they each also have personal problems to deal with in both worlds; family problems, growing up, accepting their flaws, and so on.

This is a release of an anime originally broadcast over fifteen years ago now and is not a remaster. This release is available on DVD only with a 4:3 ratio, so the quality of the visuals are understandably dated. On the audio front, only the English dub is available and the voice acting starts off absolutely dire, but, to be fair, by the season's end, there's a clear improvement. It's interesting to hear the voice actors develop and learn, improving over the course of the show. One of the most grating audio aspects, though, has to be the theme song. It wouldn't be too bad if it was just a theme tune, but every time a Digimon Digivolves… it plays. After a few thousand times, it could invoke psychotic episodes.

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10
It's easy to see why Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 1 was so popular. It's a great story for children, with plenty of enjoyable characters, exciting stories, and great monsters in the form of the actual Digimon. Fans who watched this when it originally launched may have their own little 'uns by this point, youngsters who may already know all about Pokémon, but Digimon may have passed them by. This is a great box set to pick up to introduce them to something they may never otherwise have the opportunity to see, filled with exciting adventures and life lessons worth learning.

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