Show: Digimon Tamers
Genre: Action-Adventure, Science Fiction
Studio: Toei Animation
Director: Yukio Kaizawa
As a 51-episode anime for kids, there is a long, slow-moving plot with many predictable twists and frequent, lengthy flashbacks. As a result, you really can’t write proper a review unless you consider the entire plot, so spoilers beware!
Digimon Tamers is the third season of the Digimon animated franchise. If you’re not familiar with the Digimon universe, just imagine Pokémon, except that the “creatures” chiefly exist within the “digital network” of communications between computers and electronics and are considered incapable of materializing in the real world. However, each season of Digimon presents an entirely different perspective of the “digital” world and Digimon themselves. In Digimon Tamers, Digimon are actually trading cards that are played with using a “Digivice” and can be interacted with on a computer. Three children, however—named Takato, Li, and Ruki in the Sub; Takato, Henry, and Rika respectively in the Dub—have their Digimon “bio-emerge” into the real world—Guilmon, Terriermon, and Renamon respectively. They soon team up to stop other Digimon that have begun appearing in the real world as well to uncover the secrets behind a shady organization called Hypnos. The three “Tamers” meet up with some side characters—including Takato’s crush, Juri (she becomes quite important later)—and Digimon Culumon (Caulmon in the Dub) and Impmon. They eventually have to journey into the Digital World to rescue Culumon who has been kidnapped where they find that there is a computer program, called the D-Reaper, which has been threatening the digital world for ages. The team eventually leaves the Digital world only to find that the D-Reaper has invaded their own world. It takes the efforts of the once evil Hypnos organization, the original programmers of the Digimon trading cards, and the Tamers to defeat the D-Reaper and ensure the safety of the Digital and Real worlds.
QUICK PROS AND CONS
Pros: The character designs are interesting and surprisingly relatable for children, there is a meaningful over-arching plot that has deep implications and interpretations, the jams are pretty sweet, and the overall feel of the show is a somewhat serious, which is unique for a children’s show, from my experience.
Cons: You could seriously cut the number of episodes in half and maintain the same consistency of plot. There is a lull in the action in the 20 or so middle episodes when the Tamers are have to go up against a group of Digimon called the Deva, an arc that really unnecessarily extends the story. A few of the characters provide little to the plot development but are given significant screen time and there are a few scenes, like a few battles, which seem overly convoluted and unexplained. However, I imagine that all of these can probably be attributed to various contracting deals demanding a longer season and the fact that Digimon Tamers is for younger audiences.
One thing I really enjoy about this show is the amount of effort that was put in to maintaining a childlike simplicity while concurrently devising a meaningful plot with occasionally dark situations and characters. For example, you can compare visually some of the posters for Tamers to the first series of Digimon: Digimon Adventure. It’s clear that Tamers takes on a darker and more serious approach. The focus on the three central Tamers is apparent throughout the show and they occasionally deal with problems that really resonate with our own, like social acceptance, forgiveness, empathy for others, and refusing to face the real world. The soundtrack of the series is excellent as well, employing many genres of music to convey each character’s beliefs and personality.
Here is a video of each Digimon’s “digivolution”. It’s like Pokémon evolution, except that it’s temporary. You can just watch it to 2:08 to get the gist: the art style and music is pretty dark and intense. Also, each Digimon is not necessarily hero material. Guilmon is supposed to be a virus type Digimon and is very mischievous, and Renamon is pretty much a tsundere character that likes being alone.
]This is a dark and somewhat disturbing scene from one of the later episodes, where Juri is recalling the traumatic experience of discovering her mother’s death while the D-Reaper overtakes the city.
Digimon Tamers also communicates quite a few ideas on technology. The plot itself is propagated through the interaction of a technological world and a real one. The fact that Digimon are coming to life is not just a neat idea, it’s a sign that technology and humanity are merging and changing. In the end, the ultimate enemy is a creation of humanity, the D-Reaper, which, interestingly, alludes to the real life program of a similar name that was used to eliminate the world’s first computer virus—a tiny bit more on that here:
Kind of makes you think about where technology is headed in today’s world
The great computer scientists of the mid-20th century like John von Neumann and Alan Turing recognized the life-like attributes of a digital network of computers and the possibility of “digital organisms” existing in the invisible matrix of signals and electronics, obscured from our view—even before the Internet was invented! On an even higher interpretive level, I feel that the Digimon franchise, and especially Digimon Tamers, is a realization of this idea. In both the Digimon universe and ours, the digital world as a whole is, in a sense, autonomous and is often beyond the control of humans, despite our daily reliance on it for communication and entertainment. Therefore the name Digimon “Tamers”.
If you like the simplicity of children oriented material but also enjoy deep plots and relatable characters, then you should try this anime. Just be patient, as it is a children’s show, so not all of its 51 episodes are mind-blowing! If you stick it out, you’ll find that Digimon Tamers is an exceptional anime by the standard of kids’ shows and is a wonderful show in itself as well.
Max Dunevitz is a UF student who enjoys meaningful and insightful anime and video games that challenge the status quo. His hobbies include programming, the arts, music composition, mathematics, and community service.