Time to start the Digimon vs. Pokemon debate again? Probably not, but let's do it anyway
Mario vs. Sonic wasn’t the only great war igniting the playgrounds of the nineties, you know. Us steely-eyed survivors of those troubled times remember it well. We know that the other great playground debate topic has inched its way from the depths of our minds. You need only read the signs:
Pokemon Go's coming. If you're lucky enough to be Australian, you'll already have signed up for the upcoming beta test and are eagerly awaiting your results. Past that, we have the sublime delights of a new mainline series game to look forward to next year.
And you know what else is back? Digimon. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth has become a bit of a sleeper hit, while Digimon Heroes appears to be gaining players and momentum daily. The franchise as a whole is peaking once more, due to the work put into mark its 15th anniversary last year.
With these two titans of the 90s and early 00s once again looming, it's time for…
A big ol’ nerdy FACE-OFF: Digimon vs. Pokemon!
The Pokemon games need no introduction. They’re massive. The Pokemon Company has stated that more than 279 million of their games have been sold to date. Each title represents a modest improvement over the previous one, building a juggernaut of a franchise.
The Digimon games, unfortunately, have nothing on the consistency and sheer quantity of main series Pokemon games. Nintendo’s great strength is its ability to deliver consistently on a franchise, and Bandai Namco has simply been unable to put up a fight against this.
That being said, the original Digimon World is a fan favorite, and the more recent Digimon World Dawn and Digimon World Dusk enjoyed moderate success. Even more recently, Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth has attempted to draw nostalgic fans back into the fold by including some familiar faces in its cast. Judging by its warm critical reception and sales success, this approach has worked.
The Winner: Pokemon, but watch this space if Bandai Namco builds on the goodwill they’ve established with Cyber Sleuth.
Digimon Tri is some of the most shameless, fluffy fanservice I’ve ever seen, and I have loved every atrociously paced second of it. Toei Animation definitely learned from their bungling of Sailor Moon Crystal and got to the core of what many fans loved about Digimon’s original series: its real, beating heart, and its willingness to take its audience seriously.
The original series dealt with real-world issues such as divorce, adoption, and death. Tri has also presented a strong, character-driven narrative that acknowledges both the growth of its characters and its audience.
(But it has to be noted that Digimon Tri sadly won’t be the same without the legendary Wada Kouji, who passed away earlier this month.)
The Pokemon series, on the other hand, is largely episodic. In contrast to Digimon Tri, Pokemon XY’s target audience has remained largely unchanged since the Indigo League days. Ash’s travel companions cycle with about the same frequency as his team of Pokemon, leaving few familiar faces – but those who are familiar are very welcome.
It’s easy to pick out any episode and immediately be caught up on the particulars, especially if you’ve played the game that the series corresponds to. There’s definitely comfort in this familiarity – especially now that Team Rocket have switched back to their tried-and-true motto.
The winner: Digimon Tri
Let me just show you the sorts of Pokemon toys you can get nowadays.
A belt you can actually clip pokeballs to.
Your very own attack Pikachu!
And Red. Just... Red.
A list of gotta-buy-‘em-alls if I ever did see one.
Digimon, with its slightly different target audience and network of websites solely in Japanese, is a little more difficult to track down merchandise for. My searching yielded:
Which is admittedly great. But then there’s this:
Used hand puppets. Adorable hand puppets, but used. Eesh.
The Winner: Pokemon
If you’re going to be coy and pretend you don’t know what OTP means, it’s short for One True Pairing. In other words: who should smooch who above all else? Who did you want to pair up in Fire Emblem Awakening before the call of fictional eugenics reached you? Whose lip-locking are you prepared to argue about passionately and at length?
That’s your One True Pairing.
Pokemon gave us Ash and Misty, from the Indigo League days, and continuously dropped hints that the two mutually crushed on each other in spite of their frequent clashes. But they parted amicably and as friends. Case closed, seemingly.
More recently, however, Pokemon has dabbled in a time-worn anime tradition: having a character idolized by their childhood friend. Serena, female protagonist of the XYZ games, joined the show as a traveling companion and revealed that she was just that to Ash. Cue blushing.
Digimon, meanwhile, has played host to a slow-burn love triangle from the first series between Sora, Tai, and Matt. This triangle saw apparent resolution in Adventure 02 when Sora kindly but clearly rejected Tai. After this, she made appearances as part of a couple with Matt. Case closed, seemingly?
Digimon Tri seems interested in re-opening this particular love triangle, depicting Sora as indecisive between the two upon receiving an invitation from both to different, but concurrent events. Attention was drawn to this indecisiveness by Mimi, returning from abroad, all but confirming that it will be addressed in subsequent releases of Tri.
In other words: the argument’s back open. Though who ever let something so silly as a show’s canon stand in the way of having strong opinions on fictional characters kissing?
The winner: Digimon
Deciding Round: who would win in a fight?
Pikachu vs. Agumon, every Pokemon vs. every Digimon, how many Numemon would it take to beat Arceus: all of these are great argument starters. The arena? The comment section. Go go go!
(Header image from Screw Attack's Pokemon VS Digimon | DEATH BATTLE!)