After who-knows-how-many years, and at least one partial DVD release back in the day, the first season of Digimon is finally available in its entirety in the UK, courtesy of Manga Entertainment. This DVD-only release contains the entire 54 episode series, dubbed only, spread over 8 discs. Manga have opted to, unfortunately, use Madman’s PAL masters of the series rather than Flatiron’s NTSC masters as they did with Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds. This isn’t a dealbreaker for an anime that is dub-only and aired on UK TV prior to release, but it is a slight annoyance. If Manga decide to release seasons 3 through 5 of Digimon, they will likely have to switch to the NTSC masters anyway.
Alongside Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Monster Rancher –DVD release please Manga– I also enjoyed Digimon as a child, back in the days when I watched actual television. Sadly, before now the UK has not had a complete release of any Digimon season, so Manga’s announcement back at MCM London in May had me rather excited. I only rewatched this season just last year, in preparation for Digimon Adventure tri Movie 1, but despite that, I had no issue watching through Manga’s release of it over the last week for this review.
Digimon is an anime about 7 children being transported to the Digital World (DigiWorld at first, though it does suddenly change mid-dub), a digital world populated with a variety of digital monsters, or digimon. The group, led by Tai, quickly befriend a group of 7 digimon (we learn more about their origin later in the series) and soon find out that they are the Digidestined, children chosen to save the Digital World, and later the real world, from great evil.
The best part of Digimon is easily that the pacing is very nearly perfect. There’s one instance where it feels like they rushed something, getting the tags for their crests too quickly in an episode, but in the grand scheme of things, it took one episode out of fifty-four, which is appropriate. The Digidestined are tasked, on multiple occasions, with defeating some great evil in order to save the world, and each time then go on to have to defeat another. While you’d think this would seem repetitive and boring, it changes things up enough to make them of great interest, by having short arcs with the group splitting up to work on tasks, or just shifting the whole story to the real world in order to show how the Digital World is linked to the real world.
It would’ve been nice if the series could’ve explored some more of the alternate digivolution routes as in the games, as it stands we only see one alternate route – Tai’s Agumon digivolves to SkullGreymon via Greymon instead of to MetalGreymon. The lack of this by no means harms the show, but without it, it can feel a little like it’s just Pokémon with an undo button. The multiple arcs in Digimon are all enjoyable to watch, with none of them feeling sub-par in comparison to the others.
I’m usually quite opposed to dub-only releases, but Digimon is one of those exceptions I’m okay with–I watched it dubbed as child and the nostalgia pangs hit harder with Joshua Seth’s superb characterisation of Tai than they do with Dan Green’s Yugi in Yu-Gi-Oh! That isn’t to say that the rest of the cast are bad, but Joshua Seth is clearly the overwhelming star of the show. Despite being an English dub, it still deals with real-lfie issues such as divorce, being adopted and pressure from parents. A small dubbing mistake does, at first, imply that Matt’s mother cheated on his father, but it’s later confirmed that it was the result of divorce. I am impressed by Saban that they allowed these very real issues to remain in a children’s show. The music used throughout this release is incredibly catchy, a symptom of late 90s/early 00s dubs that I’m surprisingly okay with. I didn’t once attempt to skip the theme while watching this, it’s far too enjoyable. And the insert song, “Hey Digimon” by Paul Gordon is one hell of a guilty pleasure – the movie soundtrack is still on my iPod. As a nice extra, the Japanese OP and ED are included on the final disc–Butterfly is almost as catchy as the english theme.
Visually, there are some issues due to the PAL conversion, with some episodes being affected by slightly lower quality than the others, and in the worst case, a few short instances of image ghosting occurring, most notable in the final episode of disc 1. Additionally, due to the only remaining masters for some episodes being from the actual TV broadcast, some episodes have the occasional US TV rating appear temporarily. Overall though, for the price Manga Entertainment are asking, this release is well worth picking up. While some may lament the lack of a blu-ray, it’s really not necessary; Digimon is an early digipaint show and as such the upscale on the Japanese BDs is incredibly disappointing. Now, if Manga could somehow pull off a blu-ray release of that American Digimon movie using the Japanese BD masters to recut it from scratch, that’s something I’d be interested in, as that actually had film prints in Japan.
It's 2016 and Digimon holds up remarkably well, despite its status as a children's anime. It's the best-paced anime I've watched this year easily, and the dub is still pretty impressive, especially Joshua Seth as Tai. If you enjoyed Digimon when you were younger, buy this release. If you want to seen an example of excellent pacing, buy this release. If you're looking for a good anime dub, buy this release.
I look forward to rewatching the second season when Manga release it later this year and the first of the Digimon Adventure tri movies next March.