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Friday, January 27, 2017

Digimon Tamers Review!

You know, considering that Digimon World: Next 0rder is right around the corner (as of the writing of this post), I feel it's needed to talk about Digimon while the hype for the digital monsters is still fresh in my mind. At first I thought about doing a "Top 10 Favorite Digimon" list... But I already did that and my opinions haven't changed at all since then. So I'll be reviewing Digimon: Digital Monsters. More specifically, Digimon Tamers, which is actually Season 3 of the Digimon cartoon.

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"But wait!" you ask. "If this is actually Season 3, then why aren't you reviewing seasons 1 and 2 first!?". The answer is simple! The way the Digimon universe works is that only seasons 1 and 2 have anything related to each other (season 2 is a direct sequel to season 1). Season 3, however, is completely self-contained and has literally nothing to do with the rest of the franchise save for a few references and, well, the fact there are Digimon. Oh yeah, I should explain what this franchise is about. While the exact details vary from incarnation to incarnation, the general gist stays the same. Basically, a group of kids befriend the titular monsters and have to save the world from some kind of evil mastermind. Also, I like Season 3 a whole lot more so I'm being biased.

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While Season 3, better known as Digimon Tamers, does fit into the that basic synopsis quite well, it does do some things that stand out. The basic premise of Tamers in particular is once upon a time there was a kid named Takato (pictured above, left) who was playing a Digimon-themed card game with his friends, But during that game, one of his toys transforms into the Digivice, a handheld gadget that marks whoever owns it as a Tamer, basically meaning they can get a real live Digimon. But does Takato get a Digimon we've seen in the previous seasons!? No, because he gets the bright idea to use his Digivice on the drawing of a fan-made Digimon he created just before this incident, which brings it to life, and inadvertently creating my all-time favorite Digimon ever, Guilmon.

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But it doesn't stay all rainbows and sunshine for long (what kind of story would it be if it did?), as evil Digimon start invading the human world while a mysterious organization known as HYPNOS plots to eradicate every Digimon ever, including the good ones.

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To further thicken the plot Takato and Guilmon encounter Rika and Renamon (both of whom pictured above!), who basically serve as the Seto Kaiba/Vegeta of Tamers. If you have no idea what the heck I'm talking about, Rika is Takato's rival, and is much better at him... In basically everything. Renamon is Rika's Digimon of choice (or rather, her only Digimon, since Tamers are only allowed to have one Digimon at a time) and, almost effortlessly, became the most popular character in the franchise. Why? Either you find Renamon to be a cool and interesting character with a likable personality, or (BAD PUN ALERT!) you think *she's.... FOXY!!! Geddit? Because Renamon is a 6 ft tall fox-woman... Yeah, I'll see myself out now...

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But it's not a completely uphill battle as Takato is being mentored by long-time Tamer Henry and his partner Digimon, Terriermon. Also, forget "Hakuna Matata", Terriermon taught us a lesson that not even Timon and Pumba could hope to teach... Moumantai!!! What does Moumantai mean? It means "take it easy". And considering that Hakuna Matata means "no worries", I think we can say that Moumantai is the superior bilingual catchphrase. But on a more serious note, I always found Henry an interesting character due to being a pacifist due to a traumatic incident I will not spoil.

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Now something I LOVE about Digimon Tamers is it takes almost every trope associated with the previous seasons and deconstructs it to the 9th dimension and back again. You see, normally, the good Digimon can get away with trashing entire cities when they're busy fighting bad guys. Not here! Plus it kind of reverses the order of things, since normally, the kids' (and their Digimon's) adventures start in the Digital World and they end their adventure with a showdown in the Human World. But Tamers is like "Nope! We're starting in the Human World cuz we be hipster trash!".

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Speaking of Digimon Tamers' story, it is BY FAR the best story in the Digimon franchise. It has a slightly slow pacing, though understandable from a story stand point because none of the kids realized how serious their adventures with their Digimon friends really are until the Great Devas arc comes rolling in.

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Also, this marks the official debut of Beelzemon, who, as I said in my Top 10 Favorite Digimon list, is completely and utterly awesome.

Speaking of characters, I actually like literally EVERY character in this season. And that includes the human characters. Takato is such a departure from the usual main lead, who are brave and confident, while Takato is a lot more chill and unsure of himself. Henry, like I said, is a pacifist as well as more experienced with Digimon than Takato and arguably Rika, And Rika stands out for being the first and (as far as I am aware) only female rival character in the franchise, as well as being **Tsundere BEFORE IT WAS COOL!!! Guilmon is a lovable, bread-munching goofball who happens to be voiced by Steve Blum, and given that actor's track record, just about any time he voices a character that character either becomes my all time favorite or one of my favorites for that series (Orochimaru, Amon, and Green Goblin, just to name a few). Terriermon is both adorable, and cool because he will always be there to tell you to Moumantai. And Renamon is a Digimon battle rule breaker because she can somehow kill Champion level Digimon while staying at the lackluster Rookie level, despite the established lore of "You have to be either the same level or higher as your opponent just to be able to stand a chance". So either Renamon is actually the strongest Digimon who ever lived or she's a dirty cheater, though given the fact Renamon is established as an honorable warrior, I doubt she's cheating. Or it's a case of the Ash's Pikachu Effect where she is only as powerful as the story-writers want her to be and continuously buff and nerf her accordingly. Probably that last one actually...

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Oh yeah, we also have Ryo and his Digimon, Cyberdramon. He shows up ridiculously late into the show, and is basically the Green Ranger of the team. Personally, while he was a good character, he was introduced way too late into the show, and HOW he's introduced feels a little bit forced. But then again, he was added into the show last minute to tie-in to the then brand new video game, Digimon World. Like if you wanted to learn Ryo and Cyberdramon's story in full you would have to play a video game for a console that doesn't even exist anymore. Ah, early 2000's marketing. Giving us deliberately incomplete stories just to milk money out of popular franchises! Thankfully, we live in a day and age where we can Google stuff when we're stumped. But aside from being a victim of bad marketing, Ryo was cool. Bonus points for having the punniest name ever once Cyberdramon reaches Mega-level (he becomes Justimon, which is pronounced "Just-a-mon").

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There are also three supporting characters, Kazu and Kenta (pictured above), along with Jeri (pictured below). Kazu and Kenta can be best described as the Team Rocket of Digimon. If, you know, Team Rocket wasn't evil. Basically Kazu and Kenta are those two guys who aren't really good at anything and are mostly there for comic relief. Heck, when they become Tamers themselves the role they play in the grand scheme of things is so small that it feels like the writers just kind of forgot about them. It would've been nice to see these guys digivolve their Digimon to Mega-level so they can help out in the final battle (to be fair, Kenta's Digimon, MarineAngemon, is a Mega-level by default. Too bad MarineAngemon is strictly a support-based fighter...). As for Jeri, she was hilariously funny, from her adorable Funtime-Foxy looking sock puppet to literally spending an ENTIRE EPISODE convincing Leomon to become her partner Digimon. Then Leomon dies. Then Jeri becomes an emo. And THEN the D-Reaper uses her emo-ness as a battery. You had one job, Leomon. You had one job. Also, what is with the Digimon story-writers and killing off Leomon? I swear, if I had a dollar for every time they killed off Leomon I could have bought a brand-new car. So next time they make a new Digimon season/show/movie, please let Leomon survive from beginning to end.

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But those are all the heroes. What does Tamers have as far as villains go? Well, let's start off strong with one of the single most terrifying things created in the history of modern entertainment, so terrifying in fact that it begs the question of why Digimon is considered a children's cartoon! So terrifying that it makes Freddy Fazbear look like a chump! SO TERRIFYING the only thing I consider scarier are the dreaded Redeads from the Legend of Zelda franchise! Enter...

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...The D-Reaper! Now I know what you are thinking. Why do I consider this thing scarier than the single most legendary horror character ever? Well first up is the D-Reaper's motivation. It exists to delete excess data, but it's A.I. has evolved (digivolved?) to the point where it cannot give an exact meaning to "excess" data and decides to just erase EVERYTHING. Oh, and how could any kid growing up in the 2000's forget the Jeri's Nightmare scene? I did consider putting a picture of said scene but I don't want to ruin the surprise for you. >:}

But before the D-Reapers time in the spotlight, the villains were the Great Devas as well as their leader, the Sovereign. But they pale in comparison to the D-Reaper. Although they're well-intentioned extremism was a little bit cool, the Sovereign gradually becomes less like a well-meaning but completely misguided extremist who almost started a war with humanity (a war we would lose by the way) to just a whiney brat who's racist towards humans. So The D-Reaper > The Sovereign.

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On another note, Digimon Tamers fixes the biggest problem I have with the franchise... The human characters are actually useful. Early on in the show Henry, Takato, and Rika can buff up their Digimon partners with Digi-Modify Cards, which can improve the Digimon's fighting skills, give them armor, or just straight up let them fly around. And while the Digi-Modify cards were awesome, once the gang reach Mega level they kind of forget about the Digi-Modify cards. So that's a shame. But on the bright side the humans are still useful even after they ditch the Digi-Modify Cards, because in order for the Digimon to reach Mega-level, they have to combine with a human.

And I think that covers it for the story and characters, but what about the graphics and music? Well, the visuals are MOSTLY good. I mean sure, the show uses a lot of stock footage, but at least said stock footage isn't bad... Until Guilmon and Terriermon reach Ultimate-level because the show suddenly shifts to CGI instead of the traditional art style when animating the transformation sequence for those characters (same applies to their Mega-level forms). And that CGI has not aged well at all. Seriously, it's almost comical how bad the CGI was. Thankfully, Renamon's transformations remain in the show's art style, and and such as the best animations for her forms.

Speaking of the Mega-level Digimon, I have to point out the sheer insanity that is the logic that went into the Mega-Level Digimon, especially since (SPOILER ALERT!) the Mega-level Digimon this time around are actually half human. Henry is a pacifist, yet his Mega-level Digimon, MegaGargomon, is covered form head to toe in a variety of guns, flamethrowers, and rocket launchers. And Rika is the cold-blooded warrior of the team (she literally spends 65% of her screen time hunting down and killing Digimon to make her own Digimon stronger), yet her Mega-Level Digimon, Sakuyamon, specializes in defensive abilities like healing and setting up force fields. Shouldn't the combat roles be reversed? I mean, I don't have a problem with Gallantmon (Takato's Mega-Level Digimon) because Gallantmon's combat role actually makes sense!

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As far as music goes, the theme song is an ear worm (Digimon, Digital Monsters, Digimon are the CHAMPIONS!!!) as per usual. Also, although I question the logic of the Mega-level Digimon, I will admit the music that plays during the Mega digivolution scenes is actually really good. But I honestly can't remember what the rest of the soundtrack sounds like at all. Then again, the last time I actually watched the show was about two months ago, so yeah.

Anyway, I give Digimon Tamers a 9/10, I REALLY want to give a perfect score but the fact the writers seemingly forgot about Digi-Modify Cards along with Kazu and Kenta as well as the insane logic of the Mega-level Digimon just lower the overall quality of the show JUST A TINY BIT. Oh, and the laughably bad CGI for Guilmon and Terriermon's Ultimate/Mega-level transformations. But you should go watch it anyways because Digimon is better than Pokemon. Actually, no, it's not better. Digimon has a better TV Show, than Pokemon. Yeah, that's more like it.

*The reason I refer to Renamon with feminine pronouns is because Renamon views herself as a female, despite the fact that all Digimon are genderless and as such do not need to breed to reproduce. They ARE living computer programs after all. Digimon Tamers! Teaching kids about gender identity since 2001!

**Tsundere is the name of a character development process where a character is a complete jerk to the main hero(es) but eventually warms up to them and sometimes becomes a major love interest (or best friend, depending on how it's being used). The reason I say Rika was Tsundere before it was cool was because Digimon Tamers came out in 2001, long before the term was officially coined and this particular story telling method became popular, and the term sums up Rika's entire personality in a nutshell. Aside from, you know, becoming a major love interest. Although, some of her dialogue implies she might have a thing for Ryo...

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