There is one particular difficulty in reviewing Digimon: it’s not just one show. It is, in fact, about half a dozen shows. There are commonalities, but there are also some pretty distinct differences to be found between them.
What is generally true of a Digimon show is that it tells the tale of some kids and their adventures in the digital world and their conflicts with unfriendly digital monsters. Most of the time, with the exception of the fourth season, they’re paired with a digimon partner who taps into their energy, like their chi or whatever, and digivolves to grow stronger and overcome their enemies. Whatever they’re doing, one or both worlds are threatened with complete and utter destruction by a great evil, often ancient, and always overwhelming. They’ll fight, and fight, and fight, and get backed into the tightest corner imaginable, suffering grievous losses and losing friends, but just when things are finally at their worst, they’ll come back stronger than ever and win the day! Oh, and the digital world gets destroyed and reborn. A lot.
That’s the basic gist of it, at least.
Differences include types of digivolving and nuances between the various plots, but the true distinction is in the texture. The first show was a fun adventure that can appeal to all ages, though mostly younger ones. The second was a sequel, and it suffered from poor plot, poor dialogue, and an unending supply of bad jokes. The third was another adventure, even more gripping and personal than the first. The fourth pretty much gave up on anything that wasn’t campy. I haven’t seen the fifth, and know next to nothing about it. And the sixth, and latest, Digimon Tri, seems to have gone in the direction of being more dark and gritty and horrifying, and how’s that for “celebrating the fifteenth anniversary?”
Thus, the difficulty in reviewing the entire franchise as a whole: each new addition is a completely different beast from what has come before. As the latest show completely rewrites over the second season, I can’t help but think of it like, “Digimon warp-digivolve to… Digimon Tri!”
So, how can one encapsulate the entire franchise at once?
Digimon is an anime geared towards kids, sometimes enjoyable for adults as well when they’re in the mood. It’s about children who are, in some way, chosen to fight evil and save the world(s). Whatever their differences, they come together as friends in the face of adversity, and they grow considerably through their shared experiences. There is laughter, and there are tears. There are evil villains and noble heroes. Most of all, there is wonder and joy and friendship and hope to be found even in a dangerous foreign world. Some seasons are better, and others are worse, but Digimon is, at its core, a story about growing up, and it’s usually pretty fun. The characters are lovable, the monsters are cool, the music is sweet, the animation is appealing, and the fights tend to be fairly entertaining.
All in all, pretty good.
I personally prefer the first and third seasons.
Rating: 8 stars out of 10.
Grade: solid B.
(with reviews for individual seasons having to wait until another time)