I’m known for taking everything with a grain of salt, but I really can’t stand people trapped in the past. I know, some things might seem worse now than back in your day, but they actually weren’t that good and nostalgia plays a pivotal role on our perception of the quality of certain things. I know, I’ve been there too. That being said, there was something really special about the last years before the Internet became the “force of nature” we know today. Ironically, Digimon was a phenomenon before our world embraced the digital side, and I was there to see it.
The truth is, Digimon is, and has always been, the only one who posed any threat to Pokemon’s status as the sovereign of the trained pets’ franchises. Even though nowadays it’s a pale shadow of what it once was and Pokémon reigns invictus (no matter what they say about Yokai Watch), Digimon had one of the best opening runs ever. Coming in soon after the Pokemon anime’s debut, Digimon was initially tagged by media as a cheap clone, one of the many expected to surface after the product’s success. This simple classification already divided the target audience in two blocks: Pokémon fans who weren’t going to give audience to the cheap knock-off, and those who wouldn’t judge without seeing it first.
The benefit of doubt payed off rather quickly, as Digimon turned out to be a very solid anime and gathered fans with every new episode that aired. Many fans (including myself) still think to this day that any season of Digimon can easily outmatch a season of Pokémon. Recess bloomed with the first crossovers between franchises, and playgrounds shifted from debates about “which Pokémon starter was better” to “who would win in a fight between Greymon and Charizard.”
Both sides had their strong points. Digimon had a much better anime with a better plot and its characters were more charismatic, but Pokémon was much bigger were its opponent lacked firepower: Merchandise. True, it was easy to find Digimon toys, cards, Digivices, and even plushes, depending on where you lived, but Pokémon was like a plague. We lived and breathed Pokémon. Clothes, apparel from the show, toys, furniture, food, movies, school supplies, and everything you could think of, but most importantly: Games. To most kids, this was a deal breaker. The Digital Monsters were cool and all, but they either had no games, or had some that were notably weaker than Pokémon. It almost seems unfair: Pokémon games were widely praised RPGs with or without the rest of the franchise behind them. To me, it seems like even if Digimon had released good games back then, that fight was over before it even started.
Digimon surely hit with perfect timing, coming along the beginning of the new millennium and the popularization of personal computers and the internet to the general public. Although it has an older place in the market (let’s not forget that Tamagotchis are a bit older than Pokémon‘s first appearances), its main product, the anime, couldn’t compete with Pokémon‘s flagship, the games, which ultimately led to its loss in popularity while Pokémon still ranks among the top rated games of every generation. Undoubtedly, Digimon is by far the one “PokéCopy” with most fans to date, even after great series like Monster Rancher, Zatch Bell!, or Medabots.
Even being the inarguable winner of that era, I think no product is ever perfect and Pokémon has its fair share of flaws even where it succeeds. True happiness is at reach if one learns how to appreciate the best things each moment has to offer, and to me that has been key in loving both franchises. I just wish that with the new wave of popularity Digimon Tri is surfing, we can have a chance to revive the days where it all started. I’ll always be a Pokémon Master, yeah, but my heart is encoded deep into the Digital World. I miss the days when we could find toys and merchandise in the mall (and not only at some obscure place on the internet), or when we could watch Digimon on TV. Not because “things back in my day were better”, but because Digimon deserves a chance to shine again.
Do any of you remember what this was like? Do you have any Digimon-related stories you may want to share? Have you ever pretended you were Kuwagamon and sliced your parent’s white leather couch?* Because I’d love to hear any of those stories! Hit the comments below and spread your wisdom.
Also be sure to check Digimon Adventure tri now available free to watch on Crunchyroll!
*Disclaimer: At YattaTachi we cannot guarantee that your parents won’t read this, and as a result, you may still be grounded for that couch. If you decide to say something, we advise you to use a pseudonym.
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