20th Century Fox presents
Digimon—Season 1 (1999)
"Will this nightmare never end?"- Joe
Stars: Tai, Koromon/Agumon/Greymon, Sora, Joe
Other Stars: Izzy, Matt, Mimi, T.K.
Director: David Walsh, Wendee Lee, Michael Sorich
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (cartoon fighting action)
Run Time: 04h:28m:32s
Release Date: 2000-12-05
DVD ReviewOne of the golden rules of pop culture is that any popular phenomenon perceived as "faddish" will inspire a host of cheap knock-offs, rushed to market to capitalize on the fame of their successful inspiration. Nintendo's popular Pokemon has spawned games, toys, TV shows, movies and a couple of blatant imitators—Tecmo's Monster Rancher videogame and Toei/Saban's Digimon animated TV series, the first 13-episode season of which is now available on DVD courtesy of Fox Kids.
Let's start with the similarities—Digimon features a group of seven kids, each of whom is adopted by a "digital monster" after a strange storm comes up at their summer camp, trapping the group in DigiWorld. The main character is Tai, a boy whose Digimon starts life as the cute Koromon, "digivolves" into the lizardlike Agumon, and powers up into the ferocious Greymon (this name-changing habit is one of the more confusing aspects of the show). The kids spend the bulk of each episode wandering around DigiWorld looking for a way home, with the quest periodically interrupted by battles between the good guys and nasty, oversized Digimon (the word applies to both the plural and singular case). When a Digimon's owner is in peril, the situation triggers the little monster's transition to its more powerful form. Each monster (friendly or unfriendly) is introduced briefly onscreen with its name prominently displayed, giving a blatantly promotional feel to the show.
There are, fortunately, some positive differences. The Digimon (after maturing out of their initial cutesy-pie phase) are a good deal less annoying than some of the Pokemon can become; they're soft-spoken most of the time, but quite capable of forming complete sentences. And the friendly, cooperative nature of the kids' relationships with their adoptive monsters seems to me much healthier than Pokemon's "trainer" approach, which always leads me to wonder if we'll see a "Generation Z" revival of the inhumane sport of cockfighting. The enemy Digimon are attractively designed, with an H.R. Giger or Toho Godzilla feel in many cases, and the battle action is dramatically staged, with reasonably solid effects animation and choreography given the production's low frame rate. There's even some continuity from episode to episode, a true rarity in North American children's television, and the DVD presents the episodes in proper order.
Adults will find some of Digimon's repetition irritating, as major events are often played out for each and every one of the seven kid/Digimon teams, and commercial breaks have not been edited out—dramatic cliffhanger moments are often followed by a fade-out, a fade-in, and a repeat of the last few seconds. The animation is somewhat limited, with overuse of walk cycles over scrolling backgrounds, and anime fans will be disappointed by the English-only presentation, which often leads to excess syllables as the US version's writers try to fill out the characters' mouth movements. The show is also inconsistent from a creative standpoint—its imagination level swings from wildly inventive to paint-by-numbers without warning, as though some sequences were well thought out and others are just there to fill time.
But kids will find much to enjoy here—every child can identify with at least one of the sympathetic characters; the rewritten English scripts have a good sense of kid-targeted humor; and the show plays to youngsters' power fantasies without seeming needlessly violent. Positive morals about friendship, teamwork and responsibility are expressed, and I found the show surprisingly watchable as an adult—it's fluff, to be sure, but each episode wings by quickly enough to be briefly entertaining in small doses. Fox's 13-episode, complete-season DVD is a very good deal (the content originally filled four VHS volumes) and young fans of the show will have a great time watching and re-watching their favorite episodes.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C+
|Aspect Ratio||1.33:1 - Full Frame|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: Digimon is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio as created for television. The program originated on 30-frames-per-second video and thus suffers no pulldown conversion problems, but the digital transfer is obviously fighting to cram 13 episodes onto a single dual-layer disc, with ringing artifacts, dot crawl and softness turning up frequently. Color is solid and the image is clean and steady, just visibly over-compressed; it's probably a reasonable tradeoff in this case.
Image Transfer Grade: C-
Audio Transfer Review: Digimon features a typical TV audio mix, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround. There's a bit of panning and rear surround usage, with mild rumbling bass here and there, but the mix is generally centered with very limited dynamic range. Dialogue is generally clear with decently dubbed though desperately syllable-heavy voice acting, but anime fans will be disappointed at the absence of a Japanese audio option. Nothing spectacular audiowise, but the digital transfer is competent.
Audio Transfer Grade: C
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 13 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 TV Spots/Teasers
- 8 Digibloopers
The disc also features 8 "Digibloopers", half-hearted attempts at imitating Pixar's bloopers from A Bug's Life which shamelessly lift many of the "bug blooper" gags. These might have been funny with better execution; as it is, kids may enjoy them, but the stiff animation, unconvincing voice acting, needless repetition and generally lousy timing drives each and every gag into the ground.
Extras Grade: D
Final CommentsDigimon—Season 1 contains the first 13 episodes of Saban's amiable Pokemon- copycat animated TV series. Fox Kids' four-hour-plus DVD suffers from middling transfer quality and strictly-English audio, but the price is right, and complete television seasons (even for kidvid) ought to be encouraged.
Dale Dobson 2000-12-11