Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Digimon Tamers

Plot: Takato Matsuke seems not to be anything special, he just likes Digimon, the card games, the cartoon shows, the video games. He even makes up his own imaginary digital monster and imagines being a real digimon tamer. Life does not care too much for these trifles of his, then his imaginary monster becomes real, and it turns out he is not the only one. It might just be the coolest thing ever, or maybe perhaps not.

Verdict: Though this is my, and many other's, favorite nostalgia trip, even I have to admit at times this series is a noble flop. It is a science fiction...thriller, I think is the most appropriate term, that moves fairly seamlessly from being light-hearted to dramatic in tone and from intimate to epic in scope as the series progresses. This series is a master of building towards a payoff and rising action, and as such does not really have any filler in its long running time. Best comparison, for more than one reason, is five movie build-up to the Avengers. Each episode (set) works great on their own, but the climax is the climax.

The series falls because it is a science fiction thriller full of big ideas about artificial intelligence  good and evil, fate and destiny, along with nuanced and subtle yet empathetic characters. It also contains enough terrifying and truly depressing moments to be what Neon Genesis: Evangelion is for giant robots, and Madoka accidentally is for magical girls, for Pokemon. Unfortunately this is a show that was marketed, aired, and aimed at seven to twelve year old children. When I watched it as a ten year-old, a lot of big ideas and reasons why characters behaved the way they did went over my head. I could feel what each character was feeling and what each idea meant, but not really understand them, also the the nightmare fuel that still haunts me to this day.

Still, the heart that went into making this series makes it great. Find a way to watch it. Watch both the dub and the original Japanese if you can. The original's script is better, but like the show itself, the dub is a noble flop with an all-star cast that brings their A-game. Buy it if Disney ever releases it on DVD.

Facts: 51 half-hour episodes, that are "unfortunately" filled with a lot of stock footage and morphing sequences. Disney now owns Digimon. Digimon Tamers is the third season in this series, and they have not officially released it yet. The other seasons have been like the first season, which is alright, and season two, which is not. Season four and five are of similar quality to season two. None of the other season are needed to get this show. Stay away from the American movie; watch Summer Wars instead.

 The English cast is fantastic: Brian Beacock (in his best vocal performance) leads Wendee Lee, Mona Marshall, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Jamieson Price, Derek Stephen Prince (in his best performance), Melissa Fahn, Bridget HoffmanSteve Blum (playing three of the main characters, including his best performance: Guilmon), and moreChiaki J.Konaka was the main writer, and he put a lot of effort into this, and it shows. There are two different sequels: a movie and set of audio CDs, both are non-cannon. There is a canon prequel series called Digimon Tamers 1984 about the original creation of the Digimon that is far more philosophical and science fiction heavy than the series.


Bechtel-Sarkessian Test: Passed, but not a lot and usually it is only the actions of one (of two) leading girls and secondary characters associated with her. 
 (Rika Nonaka unimpressed by her mother Rumiko's attempts to parent.)

 (Of the cast, Rika has the most unique relationship to here partner Renamon)

 (Rika teaching Jeri Kato how to play the digimon card game.)

(Rika's grandmother Seiko whose presence for both Rika and Rumiko often goes unappreciated.)

Better than Star Wars: It does alright. One of the three (four) leads is half-Chinese, half Japanese, in a way that develops him as a person. The rest of the extended cast is not cookie cutter generic either, in a lot of ways, but nothing too significant...

 (The original creators of the artificial intellegence programs that became digimon are all international. In order from top to bottom and left to right, they are: Gorou "Shibumi" Mizuno, Babel, Aishwarya "Curly" Rai, Janyu "Tao" Wong, Daisy, and Rob "Dolphin" McCoy.)

(Henry Lee Wong, pictured here with is partner Terriermon)

(Not sure if it counts but both Takato Matsuki, pictured with partner Guilmon, and Jeri Kato both come from somewhat working class familes, bakers in his case, pub owners in her's, while Henry and Rika do not.)

Die Hard Test: Not sure how to grade this, as no human characters die during the events of the story. I suppose it is a fail if we consider not being human a "minority status", but when the main character who valiantly sacrifices himself to save the children looks and talks like Aslan...

(This is Leomon, it is a trope of the Digimon franchise that he dies saving the children. Context of that is SPOILERS!)

Awkward Angle Syndrome: None, because this show's demographic was children. 

Suck it Disney: Another lead, Rika Nonaka, is the child of a single parent family that in the end becomes functional without conforming to patriarchy. Rika is herself a masculine straight girl and never ceases to be, as in though she has problems, her masculinity is not the source. Her family is all older women, and they both do play large named roles in the story, her's at least...

(Rika at the start of series.)

(DevianArt rendition of Rika at the end of the series.)

(I am also going to mention here, Takato takes a lot of criticism from fans and other characters for wearing his emotions on his sleeve. I have to disagree. That Takato is in touch with his emotions, while the other leads are not, ends up being what helps him become someone other people just naturally follow.)

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