As nostalgia likes to creep up on us every so often on social media, we can expect people to take stances on the topics that come up. It’s human nature. We’ve all heard the big ones like MJ vs. LeBron, Nickelodeon vs. Cartoon Network, hell – Old Cartoon Network vs. New Cartoon Network and so many more. Just recently, the nerdy depths of my timeline presented me with a “debate,” in which I thought shouldn’t have been a debate in the first place:
Pokemon vs. Digimon.
Anyone who’s been exposed to the franchises should know that Digimon is, in fact, the superior “mon.” I can try and view this objectively, which is my writer’s intuition, but Nah. Though there are other small similarities, these anime/game franchises stood on their own once the stories and characters began to mature. I will be the first to admit that Pokemon definitely rose to stardom much faster than Digimon. I will also be a strong advocate that, although not as successful, Digimon was a better franchise for several reasons.
I heard several arguments for both sides, but if we break it down to physical capabilities, the human partners, and the respective anime for each franchise – Digimon is the clear winner here.
Let’s say in a perfect world where Pokemon could fight Digimon, who’s winning? Who would you rather have at your side if the world was in danger? If we matched up just the OG versions of these shows, we know that Ash and his trash Pokemon don’t want any smoke. Gabumon (my personal favorite from the original) would give Squirtle the hands. The mon designs in Digimon seemed to have been a bit more detailed and well thought out. In terms of uniqueness, Pokemon may have a bit of an advantage. Influences for the mon designs come from everyday animals, mythical creatures, and more. An unofficial count has Pokemon at over 700-800 different mons (not including Mega-Evolutions and Alolas ← whatever the hell those are.) Digimon has almost 1,000 but there is a key detail that makes the Pokeverse a tiny bit more expansive, and that goes into their evolution powers.
Digimon “digi-volve” to boss ass creatures when they are ready to scrap. Their power-ups are temporary – and can have several iterations. (Armor, Fusion, Digi,) After a depletion of energy, they return to their “Rookie” form. For Pokemon, if they desire evolution it is a permanent change for the mon. Recently, Pokemon added “Mega” and “Alola” forms which are temporary forms for high-level Pokemon. *Cough* biters *Cough*
Speaking of, why does most evolution have to be permanent for Pokemon? That’s a big decision if you ask me. Digimon also more useful. They can transcend reality, fuse with other Digimon, and hell they even fuse with their trainers (Digimon Tamers). Pokemon need to literally be raised and then are domesticated for human use. Let’s also not forget that if a Digimon is killed, they come back reconfigured, hence their “digital” nature. These creatures literally overcame physical biology the same way Amazon is slowly going to rule the world drone by drone. If Pokemon die, they die – sort of how like Netflix demolished Blockbuster. The end.
The Human Partners
Let’s break down both sides here:
A key aspect of both franchises is the partnership between human and mon. What do Pokemon trainers do? Keep their pets in space-time reality prisons across their belts. They literally chuck them at other Pokemon and watch them fight. C’mon now we all know that’s cruel. Cute ass Pikachu said f$%k it though.
That being said, Pokemon aren’t always blessed with real ass humans like the Digidestined. They get stuck with weak ass, terrible trainers like Ash
Chokem. I mean Ketchum. There is no way I am going to let Pokemon stans turn a blind eye to Ash’s lack of a clutch gene. Now, I do not have all the facts but if we are referencing the first few seasons, this dude won all the badges (even if it took a few rematches) then chokes in the playoffs EVERY TIME. For 19 years, he still hasn’t won a league. <- Analysis of this from SoraNews. For the super stans, the Orange League season does not count because 1) It was only four badges and 2) It is not canon.
LeBron is going to win another ring with Lonzo Ball on the roster before Ash takes the championship home for once. I will give credit and say that in one of his predictable losses we got arguably the best Pokemon battle ever – Blaziken v Charizard (vid of the whole battle, Charizard steps in at 18min courtesy of Dailymotion). He’s also just made it finally to 2nd place, most recently in 2016 in Pokemon XYZ in the Kalos Championship.
Ash was also incredibly soft. Would any of YOU let your CHARIZARD go? Ash is hands-down one of the WORST pokemon trainers in the Pokeverse. He literally goes through hell to catch these Pokemon. He imprisons them, levels them up and gets them right then sends him to some remote poke-farm for his old teacher to babysit. How, please explain to me, HOW is this productive? This plot structure is a capitalist machine though. Every time he loses he starts over with new friends and Pokemon and does it all over again! (sarcastic tone)
He has had some success over the years, but c’mon we all know Red is the GOAT. Red, for those of you unfamiliar, is the original character in the first lineup of Pokemon games for the GameBoy. In the later reiterations of the games, Red is a boss fight that we all loved and dreaded. Red is the GOAT because he got his squad of Pokemon, won mad shit, and then went to a cave waiting for someone to finally beat him. Pokemon released his story in a short series in 2013 – Pokemon Origins.
Now, Tai and the rest of the DigiDestined were about that smoke. In Digimon, we typically see a 1:1 ratio between mon and human partnerships and do not have to be summoned. The idea of the partnerships over a domesticated pet relationship became key in the Digimon-universe. Who remembers that epic fight with Omnimon from the Digimon Movie?
The bond between the humans and the Digimon allowed THE HUMANS to go digital.
If anyone dared disturb the peace, it was squad up time. They also had to fight wild Digimon and threats to TWO WORLDS (Real and Digital). If any of you have been keeping up, they just expanded the original two seasons with a movie series the past two years, released as Digimon Adventure: Tri. The original DigiDestined are grown as hell and when Digimon showed up to mess with Tokyo they take up arms. Tai literally goes from worrying about no one coming to his soccer game to squaring up with a 50 ft flying beetle in the middle of downtown.
What threat does Ash have to worry about? Team Rocket? Other teenagers? Him coming home and Professor Oak is now his stepdad? No comparison.
Now despite both shows being catered to children, they are still anime. This means we’re going to have visual and creative depth American animations could only dream of. These two shows took the US by storm in the late 90s and early 00s. In my opinion, Digimon had a more depth in terms of the story. The corny messages on friendship and trust were plenty without a doubt, but grueling action and drama between the characters surfaced as well. Digimon originally follows a group of teens at camp who are suddenly taken to the Digital World, where the children juggle trying to get back home while saving the world they were thrown into. Pokemon, on the other hand, follows the travels of a 10ish-year-old boy (yes, 10 – bad parenting?) who is given a pet Pikachu so he can travel the country and battle others on his way to becoming a Pokemon Master. I will say though, the Pokemon movies nearly brought me to tears with the dramatics.
All in all, you can easily say that Digimon never achieved the long-term, mainstream success that Pokemon did. Mainly because Pokemon’s marketing plan is ingenious. Every new season/league we get a new lineup of Pokemon, with more Nintendo games (handheld and console). Pokemon has been set up for generational success and no one is going to stop it.
How do I know? Who remembers this? Who remembers grown ass people running around your town/office chasing Pokemon?
Nonetheless, if we strip away the commercial success, we have a clearly superior franchise in Digimon. We have stronger mons, more capable human partners, and a more fleshed out and dramatic storyline. On top of that, Digimon introduces new and original stories as the seasons are released, while Pokemon still follows Ash’s assy self as he explores the globe.
Debate me if you want to.
Under-promising and over-delivering,