A Reflective Look-Back at Digimon: Part 1 - Digimon Adventure

How do you make a show based on a toy line accessible to a general audience? This is the question in the back of any studio’s mind when making an anime series based on cards, action figures, video games and, hey, even Tamagotchis. So it’s no surprise that when Toei decided to capitalize on the then-popular Digimon property in 1999, this was the question they asked. Their resources weren’t the greatest, their time constraints were harsh, but what followed was perhaps one of the more interesting franchises to take on the form of “narrative advertising” in the East and, shockingly, the West.

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Digimon Adventure, or Digimon: Digital Monsters (as it was known over here,) made its debut in Japan on March 7th, 1999, with a conditional release stateside in August of that year. I say “conditional” because everyone involved, be it Japan, Saban Entertainment, Fox Kids, wasn’t sure if it’d actually take off when its original 13 episodes, later known as the “Devimon Arc”, were shipped over for primetime viewing. Keep in mind that Nintendo’s own marketing vehicle, Pokémon, had already had a full year’s head-start in North America, a fact not helped by the ever-growing popularity of its toys, cards and video games, so no one expected much success for this still unknown “wild card”. Regardless, they took a gamble anyway, crossed their fingers and hoped for the best.

And you know something? It worked.

To clarify, the Digimon franchise didn’t topple the dynasty Pokémon had already created. That was never gonna happen anyway. It DID, however, put a dent in the market, proving that, like the Genesis/SNES war of the early-mid 90’s, there was room for competition. To the average kid, Pokémon was the fun, kid-friendly show about a 10 year-old discovering the world, while Digimon was the cooler, edgier show about seven children fighting off baddies with their neat-looking, animal-like companions. In other words, the former was Mario, the latter Sonic. And to anyone watching TV at the time, myself included, that distinction made a whole world of difference.

I’m not gonna spend this entire piece deconstructing every itty part of the puzzle that was Digimon. It’d take too long, be too exhausting and, let’s face it, I wouldn’t be able to anyway. However, since 2014 marks the show’s 15th anniversary, a fact that I’ve been reminded of with Netflix Canada recently uploading the franchise’s first three seasons to its library, I’ve instead decided to reflect on it as a whole, infusing my childhood memories of the series with my older, more mature sensibilities and seeing whether or not said memories hold up. I feel it’s important to do this because, honestly, childhood can be misleading, and a more mature set of eyes is often necessary when examining if your nostalgic sentiments are purely nostalgic. I’ll also only be tackling the first four seasons, since my memories never extended beyond that.

But enough rambling, it’s time to dive into the first iteration of the show: the 54-episode series known as Digimon Adventure (or Season 1, for us Westerners.)

Digimon, Digital Monsters (Version 1)

The first point to make, before discussing anything else, is how it tried so hard to be different from its competition. Nowhere was this more apparent than its opening song. Yes, like Pokémon, its original opening was lost in favour of a catchier, more Americanized jingle. Yes, like Pokémon, it still resonates in the minds of viewers to this day, being one of those tunes you hum when you’re bored or with your friends and have nothing better to do. Yes, like Pokémon, it fit the show’s tone quite well. But while Pokémon’s theme was a ballad that has been sung to, at least for me, ad nausea, this show’s theme was simple, perhaps even generic, yet catchy and cool enough to never really wear out its welcome. Even to this day, I still find myself belting out/humming it without even knowing why:

“Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Change into digital champions,
To save the Digital WORLD!
Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Digivolve into champions,
Digivolve into ultimates!
Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Digimon, digital monsters,
Digimon are the champions.
Digimon, digital monsters,

Sorry, it’s catchy.

Anyway, the show never let you forget it either, even playing the damn jingle without words in the credits sequence and during the actual “Digivolutions”, i.e. the transformation sequences, in-episode. It was initially more upbeat and whimsical in-show too, but once Episode 14 rolled around and no one had anything to hide anymore, the production staff went, “F*** it, everyone likes the song anyway!” and decided to use the tune we know now. Essentially, this show didn’t want you to forget that it was extreme, and hip, and...perhaps a little more dated than its competition, but I didn’t care! I was 9 years old, had no friends to speak of and was struggling in school, so this was my “Zen” theme. It was 60 seconds of escapist nirvana, it didn’t matter if it was goofy or stupid.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the insert theme during battles. See, around Episode 23, Saban’s music man created a substitute song for the Japanese “Brave Heart”, since, as you may have not known, the English version was unable to get the license for it. So he invented “Hey Digimon!” and-to this day-it’s still dumb. I don’t remember being put off by it when I was 9, and even now it’s cute in a “so bad it’s good” kind of way, but when you contrast it with the opening...it doesn’t compare...at all. Also, while it’s catchy, I still think a lot of those replacement themes from the 90’s and early-2000’s were catchy, so don’t consider me an auteur in quality music. Maybe Classical music, but nothing else.

Moving back to the show, the story revolved around seven kids at camp who, like Alice from the famous Lewis Carroll story, were sucked into a digital realm inhabited by weird creatures and dangers alike. These kids, ranging from 8-12 years of age, had distinct personalities and character arcs that, while not terribly deep, allowed them to grow as the series went on and they bonded with their Digimon companions. This allowed for the viewers to pick favourites, which was nice considering how few kid's shows allowed for that. Essentially, you had the fearless leader (Tai,) the stubborn loner (Matt,) the motherly tomboy (Sora,) the cowardly voice of reason (Joe,) the frilly, flower girl (Mimi,) the techie (Izzy) and the little guy (TK) who was also the younger brother of the stubborn loner. The show would later introduce an eighth character, Tai’s sister Kari, but for now there was more than enough variety.

So whom did I attach to then? TK. Perhaps because of my age, being 9 at the time, or how TK was the embodiment of a little kid’s greatest fantasy, but he really spoke to me. Izzy was where I got my vocabulary from, but it was TK who reminded me that it was okay to be young and carefree. Plus, he had Patamon, who was the coolest Digimon ever, as a partner.

Now, whom do I attach to as an ADULT? Surprisingly, TK’s older brother. Because while TK is still a fun character, Matt is the one who went through the most drastic character change in the show. Tai had the most screen-time to himself, no doubts about that, but Matt I feel grew the most throughout the show’s 54 episodes, going from a cool-headed, angst-ridden contrarian at the beginning to a wise, loyal friend in the finale. He also had the darkest back-story, which never hurts.

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It’s simple: their mother is French. But you only learn that in the second season...

As for my attachment to the show? Well, it wasn’t instantaneous. I remember seeing the pilot episode on YTV, which is the Canadian-equivalent of Nickelodeon, thinking it was cool...and then promptly awaiting the next episode of Pokémon. For whatever reason, it didn’t click. It wasn’t until months later, when I caught an episode on Fox Kids and noticed their awesome commercials, that I decided to give it a second chance. By that point that show was 2/3 of the way through the first arc, so there was more to grab onto and stay invested in. I’d be forced to catch older episodes through reruns, a fact helped by YTV being several episodes behind because of licensing disputes, but by then I was enough of a fan that I could manage.

Did I mention how awesome these commercials were?

I wasn’t alone either. In my immediate family, my younger brother and two of my cousins were also fans of the show, and we’d exchange thoughts about the upcoming episodes whenever we got together. My brother’s friends were fans too, and we’d role-play whenever we went home from school. But there was a difference: to them, Digimon was a show. To me, it was a hobby. It was a place to escape from my crappy childhood for 20 minutes at a time, as ridiculous as that was, and it allowed me to be something I wasn’t. So it was inevitable that I’d argue with everyone over where to draw the line, as I couldn’t do it without being reminded that, yes, life sucked.

Anyway, as the show progressed, I heard more about this idea of “destiny”. It was something that kept getting thrown around, so much so that I accepted it and moved on. These days, when one hears of destiny, a certain skepticism tags along. This is because “destiny” stories usually build up the destiny aspect without grounding it in reality. It also doesn’t help that stories like the Harry Potter series have run the trope into the ground, although-to be fair-this series came out long before the idea was even cliché. Plus, it grounded the protagonists under the notion that all they wanted was to go home, only slowly accepting their destined path as they realized that embracing it was the key to getting there. In other words, the show was aware of how tired the concept was if left alone and not dissected.

For example, the Devimon Arc, i.e. the first 13 episodes, gave the false illusion that defeating the big baddie would allow the children, who were nicknamed “The Digidestined”, to return to the real world. This anticipation even carried over after Episode 8, whereupon the kids, having been together up to this point, were scattered about by Devimon to make it easier to defeat them. It failed, but it added a personal element to this quest and made it so that arriving home would mean that much more. It also marked the first time that the kids had to work individually, which fleshed them out more and made them relatable to the viewers. It’s also the point in which I started to give a damn, as I was now able to see the kids as kids and not a collective body. Call it a bad case of loner’s association, if you will.

The bonus to these episodes was that you got to see more of the Digital World: its history, its different locations, its ground of beginnings, i.e. The Primary Village, and even what the kids’ palm devices, which they were given in the first episode, really were. It’s all stuff that e-personality JesuOtaku has covered in her retrospective, so I’ll save you the technical mumbo jumbo and let you watch her videos instead. All I’ll add is that the show would’ve been too repetitive, even in retrospect, had it not been for these four episodes wedged between being separated and reuniting to fight Devimon. The story had mostly been a repetition of “travel to new place, find danger, kid’s Digimon Digivolves to next stage, danger is defeated when black gear is destroyed, rinse and repeat” up to now, so switching to “okay, use what you already know” made for a nice change of pace.

I’m forgetting something here. It’s a key component to-OH, RIGHT!

The show’s biggest selling point was, obviously, its Digivolutions. Again, without retreading too much ground, the Digivolution process was a carry-over from the toys this show was based on. The idea would become more fleshed out and built upon in future seasons, but for now there were six stages of Digivolution, Baby, In-Training, Rookie, Campion, Ultimate and Mega, that could be switched back and forth from when the kids were in danger, like aging or leveling up. I’d go on to discuss it further, but I think this chart does the job better than I ever could:

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This is merely 1/1000 of the possibilities available.

And right here’s one of the reasons why I connected better to Digimon in the long run than Pokémon: the options were endless. In the latter’s case, you had a linear chain of possibilities with maybe, MAYBE, the odd abnormality (see Eevee.) In the former’s case, every stage was an abnormality. You never saw the full potential because of in-show limitations, even in later seasons, but for a creative mind like mine this was like walking into Willy Wonka’s candy factory. It’s funny how I could remember something as complicated as Digivolution, yet constantly struggled with math all through grade school, but that’s for another day...

Anyway, the kids reunited in Episode 13 to fight Devimon. And, honestly, I didn’t get to see this fight for a while. Actually, I didn’t get to see many episodes, even in full, until years later. Given my upbringing, Saturdays were prayer days. I still watched TV in the morning, we weren’t fully observant then, but there were many instances where, due of timing, I had to miss an episode or two. And this made me angry. Digimon wasn’t only a hobby, it was a PASSIONATE hobby, and any attempts to remove me from it, directly or indirectly, didn’t bode well. Still, the show was always on reruns, so I caught the fight a few years later...

...And it was scarring. Because Patamon finally became Angemon for three minutes, only to then sacrifice his life and turn back into an egg. Yeah, you thought TK was upset to see his partner die? My 11 year-old self was devastated. But I’m getting ahead of myself. And besides, I’m still on 9 year-old me, so...


Devimon was defeated, Patamon became an egg and we got our first hint that the show’s not over via a mysterious man named Gennai (or “Jedi”, as I used to call him.) Remember the whole “destiny” point I brought up? Yeah, it turns out that defeating Devimon wasn’t enough for the kids to return home. After all, there were still 31 episodes left to this bad-boy! So yeah, more time to flesh out the characters and their world. I’m all for that! (Seriously show, you’re an a**hole.)

The kids then travelled from File Island, where they started, to the continent of Server, where they’d spend their remaining time in the Digital World. Fun fact: I used to think File Island was called “Vile Island” and Server “Serber”. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered that everything in the show was related to computers. Silly me! TEN SMACKS ON THE FOREHEAD!

They met up with a giant whale named Whamon, who had a black gear wedged in his stomach, and he helped them travel to an underground department store containing the kids’ next objective: their tags and crests. Or it would’ve had their crests had Devimon not scattered them on Server. So yay, more repetitive episodes, this time to the backdrop of another Digimon villain, Etemon, whose weird fascination with music always reminded me and my brother of the song “Drift Away”! I know it’s a bizarre correlation, but listen and tell me it doesn’t fit:

See what I mean?

Yeah, Etemon always felt like he should’ve been a rocker and not a bad-guy, since that’s really all his plans focused on: he wanted to defeat the kids with rock ‘n roll. He used rock ‘n roll as his weapon. His Dark Network looked straight out of a rock concert. He was always practicing his jams. He even sounded like Elvis in the dub. Don’t tell me he became a villain because he “wanted to”, okay?

Regardless, I liked Etemon. Sure, he wasn’t terribly memorable outside of his eccentricities, but it was always fun watching him try to kill the Digidestined, fail miserably and throw hissy fits. He was bizarre, silly and definitely helped move along these next few, much slower episodes revolving around finding the crests. Still, because I was such a big fan of scavenger hunts as a kid, my birthdays were always themed around them, I never minded these episodes. They were bizarre, repetitive, but never boring.

And a lot happened in them: Tai went through a big ego trip in Episode 16, leading to the introduction of “Dark Digivolution” with SkullGreymon (I never liked Tai in that episode anyway,) the kids wound up on a cruise ship helmed by a crazy bird, the kids met a wise old Digimon named Pixiemon, the kids discovered pyramids and, yes, Tai’s Digimon even got to Ultimate level in the arc’s final episode. I know fans of the show consider this part of Season 1 its worst, and I don’t disagree, but I never found it boring either. It had enough suspense and humour to keep me engaged, and I’ve yet to hear anyone be actually turned off by it. Also, there was Etemon. PLAY THOSE JAMS, YEAH!

With Etemon defeated, and Tai sucked into a vortex because of it, we ended up at the one episode of the show I never even knew existed until the show’s 5th anniversary reruns in 2004 on ABC. It’s the one episode that legendary director Mamoru Hosoda directed, meaning that everything looks grey, nicer than the rest of the show and, yes, kinda boring. Or, it was...when I first saw it at the age of 14. Nowadays I appreciate its dull colour palate and lack of conflict, but back then I was too impatient to appreciate something slow and atmospheric. I guess it’s aged like fine wine, even though I hate alcohol.

On a more personal note, and this is something I’ve noticed recently, it’s the one episode in the dub of the season that I’d consider broken. It’s not as bad as Episode 23 from the next season, which is also my favourite in the franchise, but it’s still pretty bad. The soundtrack is always blaring in the background, the lines are read too fast and energetically and it never shuts up to let the information sink in. The only saving grace is the action scene in the finale, because-save that-I’d have probably given up on it halfway and switched to the Japanese instead.

On another personal note, this was Kari’s introduction episode. And, to be strictly honest, I don’t like Kari. I was indifferent to her when I was younger, and now, as an adult, she’s freaky. She was thoughtless to the point of sainthood, and she never grew as a character. Yeah, she was cute and sweet and all that jazz, but I always felt like she’d submit herself entirely to the enemy if it meant “taking one for the team”. And she was completely reliant on her older brother, and I say that in a “sexist, moe-Freudian” kind of way. I apologize if she has fans, but I’m not one of them.

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Pictured left: Jesus incarnate.

Tai finally returned to the Digital World and discovered that, despite having been barely gone in the real world, he’d been missing for months there. Remember the whole destiny and trying to get back home issue? I stopped caring by this point. Because if time worked differently there than in the real world, then everyone might as well have spent forever in the Digital World, no one would’ve really missed them anyway! Again, a clever subversion of the destiny trope: start out wanting to leave, get attached to the world itself and give up once you discover that it doesn’t mean anything in the long-run. Future seasons would tackle this idea in different ways, but this one set the standard.

The next few episodes were another scavenger hunt, this time of the individual Digidestined who’d gone looking for Tai. They were also the point at which the dub, which had been struggling to try and sound natural and authentic, finally hit its groove. It’s here that we saw that another evil was at play, this time in the form of a vampire Digimon and his conniving bat-henchman. Again, due to family observances, I missed quite a few of these episodes, only catching them later during reruns. But looking back as an adult, I’ll give the rundown in lighting round fashion:

Episode 22-A cute story about friendship mistrust. It’s an idea that’s been played with in other shows, but it’s handled nicely between TK and his Digimon. Also, thanks to said Digimon’s expository narration, the episode’s tone is kinda sad.

Episode 23-I used to watch this episode all the time as a kid, presumably because of its popularity. I hated it back then, but as an adult it’s a nice retread of friendship mistrust from the previous episode. It’s also the first time “Hey Digimon!” is used in an episode. Damn that song to Hell.

Episode 24-The “weird” episode. Not much to say other than, “A, B, C, D” and “Pabu-Pabu.”

Episode 25-Probably my least-favourite episode as a kid, largely thanks to Mimi’s bratty behaviour. I’m not against Mimi like many other fans, but even I couldn’t stand her here. Not as bad on re-watch, but that song sucks a** in English because it hammers out its lesson in a generic pop-ballad. Oh, and that’s not Mimi singing.

Episode 26-I didn’t see this one for the longest time. And once I finally did, it’s okay. Sora’s meltdown was sad in a silly way, and the end fight/lesson is really intense, but outside of that? Well...at least everyone’s finally back together again!

With the show’s newest baddie, Myotismon, having finally revealed himself to the Digidestined in Episode 26, the writers must’ve decided to spice it up a bit, since Gennai appeared to the kids and told them that there was an EIGHTH Digidestined that he so carelessly forgot about. Considering Gennai’s selective memory prior to this revelation, that he forgot this information wasn’t surprising. What WAS surprising was that there was an eighth child at all, as it began a 2-episode trek that led to the best part of the season. Seriously, ask any Digimon fan what his or her favourite part of the first season was, and chances are that it’s something along the lines of, “The part where they travel to the real world.” But that’s still a bit of a way off.

The next two episodes were a stretched-out race to get to the real world before Myotismon. I say “stretched-out” because the episodes could’ve been condensed into one. Digimon Adventure never had filler episodes, it couldn’t afford to waste time with its crappy budget, but it certainly had filler moments. These two episodes, when factoring in that body-building Digimon getting drunk, the labyrinth scenes, the repetitive battle with future ally Gatomon, Mimi’s freak-out over her hair and the repetitive tension surrounding who should open the portal to the other side, wasted enough time that there could’ve been room for another episode in the real world if these filler moments had been cut. But we had to have room for racist jokes and a dub reference to disco being a mistake, so who am I kidding? Besides, the writers had to advertise those cards that I could never figure out how to use!

To make a long story short, the portal was finally opened, the kids made it back to the campgrounds where they first began their adventure, and the real fun began.

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50/50, huh? Those are some odds!

From here, it was a race to find the eighth child before Myotismon. The first detail the kids discovered was that, due to the Digital World being on a different time than the real world, only about 2 or so hours had really passed since they’d left. This confused me when I was younger: how does time work differently in another world? It was only once I started learning about astrology, and subsequently began reading the Narnia series, that I realized this was possible. Also, fantasy. You don’t question fantasy logic.

The seven of them convinced the camp staff to let them off near Highton View Terrace, for reasons of “they all lived there at some point”, and immediately had flashbacks to an event that’d happened four years prior when Sora’s Digimon faced off against one of Myotismon’s henchmen. From there, we got to one of my favourite episodes in the season: Episode 30. It had some of the best jokes, including one involving a baby and a subway ride, it had one of the most tense moments involving a stra-I mean, “Sora’s cousin Dwayne” and it was great seeing the regular citizens of Japan interact with the Digimon around them. It actually has my favourite joke in the entire season, although you’d never know since it was cut from the dub. Remember this?

Courtesy of Everyellow.

We all remember Matt getting hit on, right? Actually, no...because it wasn’t in the dub. It’s not like I’m against everything that was cut, there was a really mean-spirited joke in Episode 8 that I’m glad was removed, but this was hilarious. And I’d be fine if it was edited out entirely, but the show kept Matt’s reaction and changed his dialogue to something stupid. What are you afraid of, Saban? What, kids can hitchhike, but not get hit on by rich people? Then again, Dwayne was a dub invention, so I guess hitchhiking is a no-no too. CHILDREN’S TELEVISION!

Anyway, the next few episodes were pretty much the kids looking for the eighth child. It’s funny because, while Fox Kids was promoting the h*ll out of this search, YTV was still stuck in the early episodes of the Myotismon Arc. So it was always cool to see an older episode, followed by a newer episode that no one in carpool had seen yet. It gave me bragging rights, which was always fun. The episodes themselves weren’t anything too exciting, the highlight was the one where TK and Matt bumped into two of Myotismon’s goons, but it was fun, exciting and allowed for the traditional red herrings that any good search story is known for.

The search reached a feverish high in Episode 34, when the eighth child was revealed to be Kari. Because that wasn’t a given already. Surprisingly, I didn’t know this, so missing this episode and coming in to the next one, where everything started going crazy, was a complete shock: what? Kari is a Digidestined? Gatomon is her partner? Everything is going crazy? DID I MISS SOMETHING HERE?!

It’s no exaggeration to say that this was my favourite part of the show growing up. H*ll, me still having a VHS copy of Episodes 35-39 is proof enough! It was like reading tons of build-up in a thriller novel, coming to the big twist halfway and seeing everything unfold. Suddenly, the story was interesting again! The pay-off was more than worth the previous episodes, even if they did briefly show Angemon again, and that was exciting! Even now, looking back as an adult, it’s still a great part of the show, a fact helped by one, really important detail:

The kids’ parents came into play.

Up until now, the show was merely a somewhat-clever, yet incredibly entertaining romp for kids. That’s fine, but, like JesuOtaku mentioned in her retrospective, kids see the world of their parents and don’t consider them monsters until they hit puberty. I’d further argue that they still don’t completely shut them out of their lives, constantly going back to them when they need help. And as a 20-something year old, I’m finding now, more than ever, that my relationship with my parents is really precious. Confusing, troubling, but precious nonetheless.

I mention this because, honestly, having the parents, fully-developed and all, was a nice change of pace, and it allowed for the kids to reconcile their long-standing issues with their folks; for example, Izzy finally made peace with being adopted in Episode 38, right after his mother and father explained why they adopted him in the first place. Joe had a similar reconciliation with his brother in that same episode, this time over whether or not he wanted to be a doctor. Matt finally let go of his grudge against his mom in Episode 39, while Sora, long hinted to be at odds with her mother, finally made peace with her in Episode 36. Not to mention, the ways the parents interacted with their children, while silly at times, was entertaining and added colour to an already intense run of episodes. Oh, and the dub showed Matt’s father light a cigarette, a rather unusual decision considering what it’d cut out prior.

Right at the heart of this conflict was Kari. Kari, a gentle soul, decided that she was done with the violence and willingly gave herself to Myotismon. Around this time, Joe and TK met up with a wounded Wizardmon, a character that’d briefly helped Gatomon reunite with her partner and was taken out by Myotismon as punishment. Seeing Wizardmon for the first time was confusing to my 9 year-old self: who was this guy, and why should I trust him? Better yet, how did everyone know him, especially if he was never properly introduced? It’s a question that, even on re-watch, was never answered, making it a plot-hole.

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Seriously, how does everyone know who you are?!

But the show had no f***’s to give, so it instead focused on getting Kari’s tag and crest to her so she could defeat Myotismon. A huge battle ensued with everyone taking on the vampire unsuccessfully, save Angemon, whereupon Myotismon decided to send out one last blast in an attempt to take out Kari. That’s when this happened:

0_0! (Courtesy of user Glenn Cross.)

Under normal circumstances, this’d simply have been another casualty that could be rectified. Digimon Adventure had established a Primary Village for Digimon rebirths, so any deaths, while sad, were minimized by the reality that they’d turn back into eggs and hatch again. But Wizardmon died in the real world, so that wasn’t an option. He was gone permanently, and that made even my 9 year-old self, who still had no clue who he was, blubber like a baby. The good news, however, is that his death allowed Gatomon to Digivolve to her Ultimate form and, with everyone else’s help, impale Myotismon with an arrow-

Wait, he wasn’t dead yet, was he?

It turns out that Myotismon still had his final form to reveal at the hour of 6:06:06. See, Gennai neglected to mention a prophecy, which was devilishly similar to that of The End of Days:

“The sky will be darkened by the wings of many bats. The fallen people will invoke the name of the undead king. When the clock strikes the hour of the beast, it will reveal its true form as the beast. Angels will shoot arrows of Hope and Light at the loved ones of those they had been sent to protect. And a miracle will happen. Please always recycle.”

No Christian allusions there! Also, way to sneak in a dumb joke again, writers!

This fight was played up like no tomorrow on Fox Kids. This was it, the epitome of the show. It was so ingrained in my mind that I’d even end up incorporating it into a really crappy story I’d write several years later. THAT’S how built up it was. And yes, the way the pieces played out was ridiculous.

So VenomMyotismon, an Ultimate-Mega Digimon hybrid (that’s quite the mouthful,) showed up and started rampaging, hoping to use the energy from everyone in Japan to fuel his power and rage. Angemon and Angewomon were enough to stall him, but even they couldn’t defeat him alone. So they decided, via Izzy’s bizarre calculations, to shoot arrows at Tai and Matt in hopes that it’d provide an answer to the prophecy, which it did in the form of two Megas: WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon. The two proved to be useless...until VenomMyotismon showed his crotch as an opening.

And yes, that was his crotch. I don’t care what you say, VenomMyotismon had a talking wang.

The two Megas decided to use the dome of a nearby convention centre as a soccer ball and shot it at his wang before proceeding to blast him through it. It defeated him, but also left behind a weird rift in the sky. Sure enough, that was the Digital World, albeit in twisted form. And after seeing that it could do real damage to an oncoming plane, the kids bid an emotional farewell to their folks and decided to go back. Returning to the whole “destiny vs. choice” issue, at least now the Digidestined, with Kari joining their team, were going back because they WANTED to, not because they HAD to.

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Or maybe they had to as well? Either way, it was a more conscientious decision this time around.

As it turns out, the Digital World’s then-current shape was mangled and deformed. After an encounter with a Digimon named Chumon, whom Mimi had bumped into early on in the season, the kids learned that a new evil known as “The Dark Masters” had taken over and turned everything into a giant landmass called “Spiral Mountain”. But then The Dark Masters showed up to take them out then and there. From here, we met the hotheaded MetalSeadramon, the cold and calculated Machinedramon, the devious Puppetmon and the clown of evil, also their boss, Piedmon. All four were Mega-level Digimon, which meant that the kids’ Digimon, now at their highest states, save Patamon, had to be more strategic with their battles. The show made it easier by having them take them on one-at-a-time, but it wasn’t a cakewalk either.

Now here’s something that’s always bothered me, even if it’s dumb: the order of The Dark Masters’ introductions doesn’t fit with how they were defeated. Remember how I introduced them as MetalSeadramon first, Machinedramon second, Puppetmon third and Piedmon last? Well, the kids fought them in a different order, with Puppetmon and Machinedramon switched. Why? It might have been a matter of priorities, especially considering how Spiral Mountain was formed, but I wish the show had stayed consistent. Oh well!

From here on in, it was a series of mini-arcs involving each of The Dark Masters, the tactics they used to try defeating the Digidestined, the casualties along the way and their eventual defeats. Since it’s difficult to talk about them as a whole, I’ll do so individually:

MetalSeadramon-The “arrogant prick”, he also roamed the seas. I remember relatively little about him as a kid, probably because I was away at overnight camp when his episodes were shown, but even as adult he wasn’t too memorable. In fact, his goons were more entertaining than him, as you saw more of them. Also, a good chunk of these two-and-a-quarter episodes, dub-wise, took place inside Whamon, who turned out to be quite helpful before getting killed off by MetalSeadramon. Also, the whole “defeat by shredding” was awesome.

Oh, and we got this great line once Matt scolded Tai for being dick over Mimi’s decision to pay tribute to their fallen friends:

“We all miss our friends, Tai. Not everyone has ice running through their veins like you do!”

Puppetmon-The “I really want friends, but don’t have any” Digimon, as well as the one focused on the most. I remember Puppetmon quite well as a kid, and even now I think part of that is because the show spends nearly six episodes on him. You felt bad for him on one hand, since he was always lonely, and despised him immensely on the other hand, since he was a prick. Puppetmon kept trying to mess with the kids, first literally, then psychologically and then individually once the group’s morale had been compromised and everyone split up. There were a lot of memorable moments with Puppetmon, including a fight between Matt and Tai that was hyped like h*ll on Fox Kids under the assumption that Matt had turned evil. It wasn’t the first time he’d challenged Tai anyway, the two had been fighting as early as Episode 7, but this was the apex of that and Fox Kids wouldn’t let us forget it.

Also, this happened:

Score 1 for Mimi.

Anyway, after the fight was interrupted by a weird sequence involving Kari and the Digital World’s back-story, the group split off into three, Matt alone, Mimi and Joe together, everyone else as a unit, to cope with morale issues. It was around this time that MetalEtemon (oh brother!) made his appearance, fought with Mimi and Joe’s Digimon, got defeated by the same Leomon that the kids had befriended early on the show, whom he also fatally injured, and even managed to begin Puppetmon’s slow descent into fatigue. Puppetmon then met up with the other kids, finally bumped into an angered Matt and, in a really memorable scene, was blasted by his Digimon after a really sad reminder that he’d never have friends because he cared about nobody other than himself. And then he died, causing the forests of Spiral Mountain to disintegrate. Two down, two to go.

Machinedramon-AKA “the nightmare of the city streets”. We spent two episodes with this guy, but he really made an impression. I didn’t get to see these episodes as a kid, and that always made me bitter because, honestly, he was the coolest of The Dark Masters. As an adult, he’s still awesome because of his no-nonsense attitude. I’ll admit that some of the story decisions in these episodes are awkward, including further confirmation that Kari is the creepiest part of this show, but it’s infamous for one of the saddest moments involving Kari’s immune system. Also, like MetalSeadramon, Machinedramon’s “sliced like an onion” death is awesome, even if it required sacrificing some Numemon to make it happen.

Piedmon-The “trickster” and overseer of the mountains. My thoughts on this guy haven’t changed at all since I was a kid: he was an a**hole, he always would be. He started by sending one of his goons into a catfight with Kari’s Digimon (remember that?) and proceeded to f*** with everyone once she was defeated. And then, right as the kids regrouped and gained the upper-hand, he started turning everyone into key chains for sh*ts-‘n-giggles. I can’t begin to describe how satisfying it was to see TK’s Digimon Digivolve to his Ultimate form and take the clown out.

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With the kids having defeated The Dark Masters, we got another indication, after a back-story that contradicted the in-universe history, that the show wasn’t over yet when Spiral Mountain crumbled and the true enemy was revealed: Apocalymon. Apocalymon was formed from the leftover data of other Digimon, and he was ANGRY. He decided to mess with the Digidestined by using their former foes’ attacks on their Digimon, followed by de-Digivolving them to their Rookie states. He then snatched the kids’ tags and crests, broke them, made a really bad joke about “holding onto their receipts” and then proceeded to turn them into zeroes and ones. (Don’t question it.)

While in bit-form, the eight kids reflected on their time as Digidestined, and this always annoyed me: yes, you have a quota to fill. Yes, you’re short on budget. But did you have to wedge in this forced reflection? It’s boring, pointless and only delayed the inevitable moment where the kids realized that, surprise: they didn’t need their crests! Their crests were already inside their hearts, and-uch! Whatever, at least it moved the plot forward, so I won’t complain much.

The next episode began with the “new and improved” Digidestined taking on Apocalymon’s claws like enemies in a video game, which was probably the best fight in the season too. Then Apocalymon got mad again, and-like any poor sport-decided to blow himself up instead of admitting defeat gracefully. So the kids montaged their thoughts and annoyance #2 happened: the Digivices enclosed the explosion in a cube so that it only affected himself. Blow me. It made sense contextually, but still...blow me.

Anyway, with Apocalymon gone, NOW everything was over. The Digital World was reborn, everyone was happy...and then we got news from Gennai that this’d be the last time the kids could see their Digimon friends, as the portal to the real world was closing. The next season and the movies that follow would contradict this, however, something Fox Kids would remind us of constantly. But for now it was a teary goodbye to the critters we’d grown to know over the past 54 episodes. It was a fun show, filled with its share of awesome, dumb and downright ridiculous, but it never lost sight of what mattered: telling a good story for kids.

So it’s a shame that what’d follow would ruin everything that was built up prior, but that’s for next time...


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