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Digimon: Digital Monsters Season 1 UK Anime DVD Review

16 min read

digimon-season-1-uk-dvdChildhood revisited…but how well has it aged?

What They Say:
Seven kids at summer camp are mysteriously transported to another reality, where they are befriended by a group of strange creatures who call themselves “Digimon”, Digital Monsters. The seven children are now dubbed as the DigiDestined, tasked with protecting the Digital World from evil Digimon like Devimon. Can they save the Digital World and find a way back home?

The Review:
Audio:
Set in 2.0 in English only, in terms of sound quality on the whole there is nothing majorly wrong with it –, the audio is more than acceptable for the majority, and doesn’t seem to suffer than some of the other Manga recently releases of the classic TV shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh in terms of sound disappearing after changing scenes which seem to have been the case with a few releases. Strangely with the fact the original Jap opening and ending are on the extras but no Japanese release would have been great to have however the dub of Digimon is along with shows like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh what got a lot of people into anime so it is enjoyable for the nostalgia and cheese factor considering some of the dialogue, and certainly isn’t problematic in adjusting the sound.

Video:
Video wise, it comes through quite well as the show mixes it’s use of colour from the colourful baby digimon to the dull grey areas of Machinedramon’s lair, there were no issues in terms of video to audio on a 16:9 – 1.78:1 aspect ratio though set NTSC style with top/bottom wide screen, no problem on the whole with the animation (the CGI bits with the Ultimate/Mega forms of Agumon and Gabumon seem out of place with the rest but the animation is still very flowing) – unfortunately, the same problem that hit the Yu-Gi-Oh releases has hit Digimon as well as when you pause, the animation kind of fades and scratches out, making it look blurry – but outside of this the actual show free flowing has no issues I could make out.

Packaging:
There was no packing for this test release.

Menu:
8 discs which each have the same menu on – a menu with the Digimon logo at the top, a Digivice in the center on a blue background, with Play All on the left and Episodes on the right, the only difference being on the final disc where there is an extra selection. Nothing fancy, very basic and easily selectable, and can return to the series easily whilst watching, just really wish there could have been more considering the return of Digimon with the Tri movies now available.

Extras:
The only extra is something that is in most anime releases – the clean Japanese opening and ending – what is strange though is that the show is all just the dub and yet the Japanese op/ed are included – just feels a bit strange and wishing to see the original Japanese…

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
I have a vague memory of Digimon airing in the late 90s in the UK – I had been getting into it by then with Pokemon and Dragonball Z I believe both airing on the satellite channels, this I believe was on Fox Kids at the time and like I’m sure many others, was expecting it to be basically a Pokemon rip off (ironically if you go by the Tamagotchi style games, Digimon technically arrived first) and at the time I was a big Pokemon fan.

Then I decided to give it a go, and quickly released it was quite different – and you can definitely like different things and not go into wars about which is better. Whilst Pokemon and Digimon have the similarity of lots of creatures who have various strengths and attributes, who a kid can use for battle, that is pretty much the only real similarity. Digimon has a huge advantage of being much more of a story rather than a collectable monster game – don’t get me wrong, Ash and the gang made me laugh many times growing up, but Tai and his friends have family drama, leadership issues, ACTUAL DEATHS despite the tendency to dub it as something else (they do try and cover it up a lot but one death, in particular, was near impossible to play it off), this was the first of many variations of the Digimon franchise, and one still so beloved that this year the UK is getting the recent Tri movies released. Hell, Adventure is the only series which got an official sequel and the original cast older and wiser in Tri means that the cast is very fondly remembered (though whether it is the best Digimon series is still up in the air – I’ll wait till Tamers gets a UK release…^^)

So however when I watched it I was in my late teens, early to college years – now in my 30s, does it hold up?

Well, I can definitely say that things will change when you’re watching it as an adult – you enjoy characters you didn’t like as much when you were younger, you realize how obvious many of the dub changes and inclusions are, and you will still sob over the deaths of certain Digimon.

There are I’d say 4 main arcs – the first one pretty much is your introductory arc to all the characters – humans, Digimon, initial villain, etc. The set is there are 7 kids at a summer camp – Tai, the leader, Sora the tomboy, Matt the ‘cool’ guy, Izzy the computer kid, Mimi the fashionista, Joe the upperclassman, and T.K, Matt’s little brother. All of them have their quirks as you will discover, some maybe surprising they go into for a quote on quote, kid’s show (Matt and T.K’s parents being divorced, for example, Sora has her own personal issues with her mother as well, and Izzy’s surprisingly upsetting circumstances with his family forms a big part of his character development) but here, they get caught in a strange blizzard (strange as it is in July) and catch a strange item tossed from an aurora in the sky which sucks them in somewhere. From there, they find themselves in a new world, the Digital world, where several cute and unusual creatures find the kids and claim to be their friends, but more importantly Digimon, digital monsters.

Of course, not all monsters are friendly and when a wild Digimon called Kuwagamon attacks, the tiny creatures try to help but to no avail. However, the quick bonds the kids make with their new friends allows them to Digivolve into stronger forms (a bit different to evolution in Pokemon – digivolving usually requires energy and can be de-volved to a weaker level if use too much energy or just to save energy) – these forms are the ones you see the digimon in the most, the rookie forms – Agumon (Tai), a fire-breathing dinosaur, Gabumon (Matt), an ice shooting dog, Biyomon (Sora), a pink bird, Palmon (Mimi) a rose-like plant, Gomamon (Joe) a smart talking seal-like creature, Tentomon (Izzy) a shocking like insect, and Patamon (T.K) an adorable flying pig like creature. The first arc basically establishes each of the kids and the idea that when they are in danger, their new friends can digivolve further into Champion level, a much stronger digimon. You get to see the kids quirks, like Tai is a hot-headed leader, or Sora is the mom of the group or Izzy is a bit of a computer geek but with a good head, and Joe is the worrier, etc.

The initial arc revolves around something called the Black Gears – they are infecting other Digimon, including ones that are considered good, turning them evil – the kid’s Digimon basically destroy them of one’s infecting good Digimon, and this is caused by the first main villain of Digimon, Devimon. He tricks the kids and separates them around the island whilst also controlling the good Digimon Leomon in his schemes and his lackey Ogremon (these two actually get more time in the last arc and are still two beloved characters despite an ongoing joke involving Leomon – again, if Tamers gets a release it will be confirmed) which leads to clashes with the kids – for example, Matt and Tai are the main characters as it were, and there are clashes over their leadership skills, combined with Matt worried about his little brother T.K, whilst Mimi and Izzy are pretty much polar opposites on the social skills train with Izzy too focused on getting a way out and using his computer, whilst Joe and Sora not as problematic and is more a way of Joe trying not to be such a worry wart and trying to be the upperclassman for Sora.

The interesting thing is that Devimon is trying to take over the Digital World and sees the ‘smallest one’ as the biggest problem that could cause this, i.e. T.K. The interesting this is throughout this arc, Patamon is the only one who hasn’t been able to digivolve to champion level. So when the clash happens between Devimon and the kids (known now as the Digidestined), it is classic storytelling 101 – bad guy is seemingly unstoppable, comes down to the weakest member who at the moment in need, comes through. Patamon digivolves into Angemon, who is easily a far stronger champion than the others (is more Ultimate level in power) and defeats Devimon, though his energy fades away into a Digiegg to be reborn – this does lead to the fact that Devimon mentions there are other evil Digimon, far more powerful than me out there as well….

So the initial arc sets the scene – we know about the Digidestined, their skills and quirks, their Digimon, their champion versions, and the fact that there are other powerful digimon out there with similar goals. This leads to the second arc – where who can take over a devil like digimon in terms of power?

Er…an Elvis impersonating ape apparently. ^^

O.K, I think the fact the next villain is quite the opposite is a bit of a shock, but credit – he actually still is quite threatening and introduces us to our first Ultimate level villain in Etemon – prior to this we get some back-story from a mysterious person named Gennai for the kids to locate some crests allowing the Digimon to digivolve further. Etemon, however, is on the prowl and even has an attack that forces the Digimon to de-evolve. Tai has a mini moment of thinking when he gets his crest to force Agumon to digivolve, and when he does, it’s not pretty. Tai does a lot of growing throughout the series to the point you can see why he is the leader despite Matt, Sora and Joe also showcasing good leadership qualities. Some life lessons are learned when Izzy figures out they are digital data here but if something happens to them here, it will hurt/kill them in real life as well, as Tai’s attitude changes and his crest reacts to his courage getting through when Sora is kidnapped by a Digimon named Datamon used as bait for Etemon. It leads eventually to Agumon changing into his Ultimate form via Greymon to Metal Greymon and defeating Etemon.

At this point, 20 episodes have passed and we’ve had two villain arcs, and slowly the evolution of the Digimon, and indeed the Digidestined has been slow but sure. However, it is here when the show arguably sets the tone with its best arc which is far longer and established. It starts off interestingly enough because Tai and Koromon (Agumon’s in-training form) return back to Earth thanks to the collision of Etemon’s Dark Network, where he reunites with his sister Kari, who will turn out to be one of the most well-known characters of the show. The fact she knows Koromon should immediately scream plot twist as hints have been showcased that this may not be the first time Digimon have been seen before by the kids, and the rift is causing Digimon to be seen in the real world and come through it – realising this, Tai returns to the digital world where time has moved by a lot faster (it is still the same day they left camp when Tai returns) and things have changed as the kids have separated to look for Tai…

This leads to the kids having to reunite whilst trying to release their crest power to evolve their Digimon to the next level – and introduces us to the one villain we all remembered from Digimon, Myotismon, a vampiric like Ultimate Digimon along with his little lackey Demi-Devimon and hoo-boy does the fan hit…unlike the previous two villains, Myotismon actually knows about the other world where the Digidestined came from and is set to take over that – thanks to some prophecy and an 8TH Digidestined child, he intends to find them first and destroy them…with the help of his other Digimon warriors, with two standing out in particular – the one we know at this point is a cat like Digimon named Gatomon…

The story continues as eventually both Myotismon’s group and the Digidestined do return to the real world but this now brings out even more Digimon combined with the confusion that barely any time has passed in the real world despite the months the kids have been in the Digital World, and the link that the 7 of them have – the fact they all saw Digimon before in an attack at Highten View Terrace where they all lived during that time. So the 8th child has to be someone else who saw this…I think at this point it is horrendously obvious who it is (especially as a clue was left just before Tai returned back to the Digital World), the kids reunited with their parents brings back some of the storytelling and relationships with their parents, from the normal ones Tai has, to the eccentric funny ones Mimi has, to the much more serious relationship between Sora and her mother, and the fact that Matt and T.K live with their dad and mom separately, Matt’s dad, in particular, gets a good amount of airtime as he seems to be the first to cotton one what the kids and his sons are doing…

I mentioned that there were 2 well-known minions of Myotismon – Gatomon being the first especially what she becomes. The second, Wizardmon, is the one that ties in the 8th child – not a bad Digimon at all, he is only on Myotismon’s side because of his friendship with Gatomon, and in fact, we see Gatomon’s past, it is pretty harsh, to say the least. Whilst it becomes obvious, it does bring in the fact that Gatomon is, in fact, the 8th Digimon, and the 8th child is Kari. (This is actually well explained in the later arc) – several fights later (by now all but Patamon can digivolve to Ultimate level) and Myotismon has Gatomon and Kari captured, but thanks to one of the saddest moments in kid’s TV, Gatomon Digivolves to Angewomon and seemingly defeats Myotismon…but of course not that easy. There is yet another level – mega level – which Myotismon resurrects as part of a prophecy…which also includes two angels firing arrows of light and hope at their loved ones – which turns out to be Tai and Matt. This causes Agumon and Gabumon to digivolve to their own Mega forms and finally defeat Myotismon’s final form…

…BUT it still isn’t over! The final arc is seeing the digital world look to collapse (the time in the real world has meant years have passed in the Digital World) with the Digidestined having to go save it amid tearful goodbyes to their folks who see what their kids have to do. However, the Digital World has been taken over by 4 Mega level Digimon – known as the Dark Masters, who at first overwhelm the heroes. Thanks to some sacrifices and help from some old favourite Digimon, they take out each Digimon one by one – with Metal Seadramon, Puppetmon, Machinedramon and finally Piedmon being defeated – whilst the midst of a bit of angst and trickery between Tai and Matt, Kari being someone of a holy figure for Digimon, some actual great development as characters for Mimi and Joe concluding, the return briefly of Etemon as MetalEtemon, as well as Ogremon (who as well gets some nice development as he becomes a good guy) and Leomon/SaberLeomon, an infamous cat fight between Angewomon and LadyDevimon, and eventually a final battle against a rather tagged on villain even I had to admit in Apocalymon leads to the finale which is parts sad and parts setting up a sequel (and is the only Digimon series to technically get one though we shall get to that when it is released…)

The Digimon series are all quite long and with what is pretty much 4 arcs, it is established pretty much as establishing the counters, their quirks, their powers, the Digimon, their evolutions and what I called ‘Shonen Jump 101’ with good guys getting beaten, surviving, come back stronger and beat the bad guys. This happens a lot throughout the show or if not, a new element is what causes the good guys to win (Angewomon digivolving after Wizardmon’s sacrifice being a big one for example as is Patamon’s Ultimate digivolve against Piedmon) but gives the audience a lot of characters to work with. The kid characters all have their quirks and issues, but the show is surprisingly deep hence why I still enjoy it as an adult, especially when you get into the kids relationships with their parents, Digimon and each other.

The story is simple enough for kids to follow through of course, and there are a ton of critters to pick favorites, however, what interests me as an adult is how things can change when you judge characters. For example, I thoroughly appreciate the characters Joe and Mimi a lot more than I did as a kid (I did like Joe but he is pretty much my fave, whilst Mimi was annoying but watching her now am older you can see what she is going through and how well she matures – her catching some poop against some Garbagemon is a key one ^^) whilst Izzy is always a fan favourite for the nerds out there – the rest are very dynamic, sometimes not in the best way (Tai is brave but can be too hot-headed, Matt can be too stubborn and Sora can try too hard in being a team mom which causes her own depressing moments) – the dub itself is one that tends to improve a lot and whilst it does actually do well as a translation, you can clearly see that a) dialogue has been added when it wasn’t there originally, b) words were added to get more traits in (Mimi is the worst example, they really add more to the annoying valley girl type character rather than her more positive traits – fortunately this does get resolved a lot better as the series progresses) and c) they actively try to avoid the word ‘kill’ a lot and change things to try and not imply the Digimon have been killed bar the one they couldn’t really hide (a good example is the Dark Masters arc when it is clear that Machinedramon has killed WaruMonzemon, but they show his torn off paw and off camera he screams ‘HE SHOT MY PAW’, or when Myotismon kills Pumpkinmon and Rockmon but instead sent ‘to the dungeon in the Digital World’ – it’s the Shadow Realm all over again…)

However, the characters really make it and indeed the friendships of the digimon and kids, combined with a lot of great returns, subplots, they all tie in – the Leomon/Ogremon rivalry during the Devimon arc is concluded with feels in the return of Etemon, the battle against Piedmon leading to T.K and Kari being the last ones alive and Patamon finally evolving to his full potential (at that point), seeing Digimon like Whamon, Piximon return to help the kids in their hour of need, the entire back-story of Gatomon and how much Wizardmon is an amazing character for such a short amount of screen time he got – the fact the Myotismon arc is so well remembered is partly because of Wizardmon, combined with the history (which is covered in the Digimon movies) of when Agumon had been seen before – the problem I guess is made the Dark Masters arc seem much weaker as whilst Myotismon wasn’t as strong, his motives and characterization was so much better in development that the Dark Masters pretty much only had a couple of episodes each to themselves before being killed with no real development bar taking over the Digital World. And I’m sure people will say the same thing with the Etemon and Devimon arcs as well for different reasons (Devimon simply for not being in it that much, Etemon for being quite a ridiculous villain in comparison to the others)…

That said, nostalgia goggles aside, the original Digimon is still great to go through – it is definitely a more different take of the monster collecting still shows, because it adds story and drama throughout with concrete and non-comic villains (Etemon aside, and even he was a good threat) – just things like divorce (Matt and T.K’s parents) and adoption (Izzy) you wouldn’t think would be even talked about in this type of show, but yes, it’s there. Tai’s mother giving young Tai a slap because he forced his sick little sister outside to play soccer? Even some Digimon getting rather violent deaths (holes torn through their body) are surprisingly graphic without the blood – but still has some fun and goofy moments (the Primary village episode with T.K announcing a tug of war is one of those ‘huh’ moments) to keep it light-hearted when it needs to be. Digimon is a surprisingly underrated franchise in comparison to others but I feel with this one and one of the later seasons, in particular, it is definitely a show that is on par with many top shows reviewed on this website.

In Summary:

Digimon Adventure/Season 1 is one of the first series that was officially anime that aired in UK channels (not just satellite) and still holds up well today – the characters are all unique and engaging, the dub whilst a bit joke dub at times does get better and gets some great moments, there are some surprisingly dark drama and backstory at times, and whilst the repetitive animation of the late 90s is still there, the villains do make up for it (Myotismon in particular). Some rush work and deus ex machinas aside, it isn’t perfect, but it is definitely a road down memory lane I’m glad I revisited.

Features:
English Language, Clean Japanese Op/ED

Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: B-
Packaging Grade: N/A
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: C

Released By: Manga Entertainment UK
Release Date: October 3rd, 2016
MSRP: £28.99
Running Time: 1095 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Review Equipment:
Playstation 4, Sony Bravia 32 Inc EX4 Television, Aiwa 2 Way Twin Duct Bass Reflex Speaker System.

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