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DIGIMON

Please note that this page is still very much under construction, and is going to be expanded upon and revised in the coming weeks. There's unfinished stuff here, so watch your step! I'll also be adding more images (including some original art for this very page!), so stay tuned and eat some garlic granules in the mean time (if you want to that is, I'm not your boss!)

Ah, I see you have stumbled into this little earth I've been digging a little further from the central clearing of this digital forest! You've clearly inferred this is a page about Digimon, one of my most beloved and long-enduring pieces of comfort media. If you wanted to hear me, the bugfox custodian of this (rather appropriately, given the topic) digital forest make excited noises that are then converted into text about their love of Digimon, you're in the right place!

So, what is Digimon exactly?

Digimon is a (depending on whom you ask) modestly popular Japanese media franchise, originating as a series of virtual pets (that is still going to this day!) that then splintered off into a multitude of animated media, manga and video games. Created by an individual named Akiyoshi Hongo (who doesn't actually exist-I'll get into that later), it originated in 1997 as a sister-line to the very popular Tamagotchi virtual pet toys. Whereas Tamagotchi (a franchise I am to this day still very fond of too, mind!) placed a lot of emphasis on cutesy, often extremely charming creature designs, Digimon had not only a similarly very distinct and rich sense of visual coherency but also a distinct edge to its creatures. If you don't know what I mean exactly, take a look at a this small sample of handpicked Digimon species:

(From left to right from the upper row: MetalGarurumon, Devimon, Cyberdramon and Snimon. Image credit to Bandai and the Digimon Reference Book, sourced from Wikimon.)

...Need I say more?

Anyway, the name "Digimon", as you may have likely inferred already, is a portmanteau of "digital" and "monster", and the premise of Digimon was a reflection of this when it first released in 1997; the eponymous entities were first depicted as living computer viruses that appeared in the form of monsters. This was rather pertinent, given that in the latter half of the 1990s, personal home computers and the internet had started to become a lot more accessible in many parts of the world. Nonetheless, this prospect was still quite unfamiliar territory for many people at the time, given that computers were expensive and as such seen as more of a luxury to the average household for many. I do personally rather enjoy this concept, that the international information superhighway was a new frontier that not only brought a truly unprecedented and rapid access to information and connectivity across the world, but within resided a realm in many ways both like our own world and so alien at once, inhabited by ethereal beings...Digital Monsters.


Isn't Digimon just an attempt to cash in on the success of Pokemon?

Now, I can postulate that unless you're a fellow critter like me who has an intense autistic hyperfixation on critters both real and imagined (and you may well be, if you're here in this digital forest!), you may be raising an eyebrow like a character from the promotional material of a mainstream CG-animated movie. "But isn't Digimon just a rip-off of the more successful Pokemon, you silly bugfox?" you ask, brow furrowed and index digit pointing at me (I'm too busy playing with a Patamon plush to notice though).

Well, you could argue that there are a number of parallels, perhaps most evidently the fact both Pokemon and Digimon are focused around a premise involving magical monstrous animals and entities that usually undergo some form of dramatic transformation, usually dubbed as some form of "evolution"; though in both cases it is often closer to holometabolous insect metamorphosis than actual evolution or speciation. You could list certain comparisons or differences for some time, but that's not what I'm here to do-especially as both Digimon and Pokemon are two pieces of media that were and still very much are extremely important special interests to me, even as an adult bugfox (though I will say that apart from Pokemon Mystery Dungeon, Pokemon otherwise died and, like The Simpsons did past season 8, became a zombie in my eyes once Generation 6 began, but I digress...)

So, to answer that question-regardless of whether one of these pet-monster media franchises came into existence is something that I have little care for ultimately, because Digimon was and (in the case of the older media, at least) still enchants me.

What Digimon means to me

There's no question at all about the fact I have always been intensely hyperfocused on monster-collecting (though I prefer the less popular term "pet monster") media since I was a tiny critter, but something about Digimon has resonated with me for such a long time and, as aforementoned, it thus remains one of my dearest hyperfixations.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of things I am critical of with Digimon as a franchise. For example, despite the English dub of the original Digimon Adventure anime from 1999 being magical to me as a preteen, rewatching it (or attempting to, anyway) as an adult was insufferable1. Or the fact that in recent years, a number of the newer monsters, namely the Mega-level Digimon especially, are sadly at best often painfully dull neon-coloured armoured humanoids or at worst, weird uncomfortable "sexy" human designs that outright put me off all modern Digimon media entirely; I don't think I need to elaborate about why this bores, unsettles and disgusts me all in variable measure.

The early eras of Digimon from the late 90s and early 2000s, however? Golden. I cannot get enough of the media from this era that I can get my hands on. The PlayStation title Digimon World, released from early 1999 to the early 2000s depending on the region, is to this day not just my favourite piece of Digimon media, but one of my all-time cherised pieces of comfort media or art. This leads me to the next point of discussion...

What Digimon World is, and what it means to me

Digimon World is a PlayStation title first released in Japan in January 1999,with the international versions being released between 2000-2002, with a South Korea-exclusive PC port released in the latter year. The game is an RPG-virtual pet hybrid game with open-world exploration elements. The premise entails a young human being transported to the Digital World, finding himself in an area known as File Island after they are called upon by a mysterious Digimon known as Jijimon. Together with their beloved Digimon companion, the player must explore File Island and save the Digimon that lost their memories and left their homes at the once-prosperous File City and became feral and hostile. All the while the player looks after their Digimon companion (through feeding, taking them to the toilet and training them, much akin to the actual Digimon virtual pets) and developing a bond with their creature friend, battling monstrous adversaries along the way.

I first played Digimon World as a tiny bugfox, almost 20 years ago as of writing. There is a certain resonance that struck me when I first played the game back then, one that I can genuinely say had never left me (and I am sincerely glad it remained). It's difficult to articulate this in words, and I feel (as with many of these feelings one has when they feel they resonate deeply with a piece of art or media) that attempting to do so would in some cases detract from the points I'm trying to illustrate. Nonetheless, I'm going to endeavour to sing my stridulated love song for Digimon World here.

One of the plethora of gorgeous pre-rendered 3D backgrounds from the game, upon which native Digimon species patrol their territory, which along with the player character and other 3D objects, would be rendered in real-time. Above is the northernmost screen in the Gecko Swamp area of the game, where the player encounters the frog-like Digimon species Geckomon, as the name would imply.

Foremost, I feel that there is a genuinely mysterious and heavily atmospheric feel to the realm Digimon World takes place in. Across File Island are many lavishly-detailed naturalistic landscapes akin to those in this world, but the game never allows the player to comfortably assume that the similarity to our own is a more than an increasingly thin cosmetic veneer; often environments such as forests, plains, swamps and tundras are invariably dotted with elements such as electric plug sockets, cables running along the landscape and even patches of ground with circuitboard segments peaking out from small indentations.

As the game progresses the environments past a certain point become more industrial or inorganic (with the later game area Factorial Town, a metallic town inhabited primarily by robot and cyborg Digimon being an great example), and by the end they become an ethereal realm of luminescent wireframes that no longer try to conceal the fact the Digital World is an extremely unearthly realm. I have always felt that there is a deep but very passive sense of something vast, beyond the scope the game provides of the Digital World and all concealed within it.

There's a certain alien feel to the game because of this delightful aesthetic and the organised dissonance of the world it takes place in, something that is a constant through other means too from the very start of the game. From the moment the player arrives in the Digimon World at the very start, they are greeted by the mysterious, lofty elder of the derelict and run-down File City, in addition to the few other Digimon who had not lost their memories and left the city behind. These Digimon are all friendly and personable to the player, with some providing crucial help at the start of the game, but the manner in which they are all so nonchalant about the perceived oddities of their world (and in turn, the very vocal Player character sometimes expressing confusion about some of what they are witness to) is very charming.

For example, behind Jijimon's house in the north of File City is a farm where the heterotrophic plant Tanemon ploughs and sows fields to provide food for the inhabitants of File City...with said food being cuts of meat on the bone that grow from the soil. This ensues a brief exchange between the Player and Tanemon, with the former baffled by the sheer absurdity of what they are seeing, dropping the notion of questioning it when it becomes very apparent that this is very much a normal, mundane fixture of life in the Digital World. The game is dotted with these occurences, with an especially memorable example for me being when the Player is told of rumours about an alleged invisible bridge leading to the arid Great Canyon area, and them turning out to be completely true as they and their Digimon partner seemingly walk through the air into the inner reaches of the aforementioned valley.

Though the meat farm is very modest at the start of the game, with Tanemon giving the Player a ration of three pieces of meat each in-game day to feed their Digimon partner, there are two ocassions in which the farm is upgraded when other Digimon turn up to File City to help tend to the field, with larger, more filling meats being harvested, culminating in a grandiose-looking facility by the later game.

There is an undeniable demonstration that the Player, in their presence as a human, is an anomalous being in this world they find themself in. The only real stable tether they have being their Digimon partner, whom the Player recognises immediately as the Digimon he was raising on his V-Pet before he was abruptly pulled from the Real World to the Digital World. Unlike the vast majority of the other Digimon found in the game, the companion Digimon does not have any dialogue at all, instead responding various vocalisations and other noises that are reflection of their mood and needs.

This setting alone creates such an enduring sense of heavy atmosphere that I honestly have yet to see many other pieces of media or art create that affects as profoundly as Digimon World has and continues to for me, as an adult bugfox.

(This is all a WIP, and will be updated in due course.)

References and appendix

(This is all a WIP, and will be updated in due course.)

Footnotes

1I've yet to watch the original Japanese version of Digimon Adventure (despite the fact I don't watch anime, I still really want to watch the original subtitled version of the show!), but I feel the US English dub by Saban Entertainment really didn't do the show justice based on what I watched, especially in light of the clips I’ve seen of the original Japanese show. I tried watching the dub in more recent years and I recall getting very annoyed with how every other line of dialogue is some unfunny and immediately forgettable one-liner, including during the scenes that were supposed to be more serious and dramatic.

References

Still collating these, WIP.