I’m going to go out and risk my mentions to speak the truth. The Digimon show was better than the Pokémon show.
It is true. While the Pokémon show is nostalgic for people of all ages, the Digimon show was good in a completely different way. As a kid, I always thought Digimon was some kind of Pokémon knock-off, but that never stopped me from highlighting the show’s slot on our TV Guide so I could watch the new episode every week.
Unlike most children’s shows, Digimon Adventure had a detailed plot. These kids were in obvious danger after being taken away to another world. There, the characters had relationships that developed and you really watched these kids grow up, as opposed to seeing Ash stay ten forever.
The relationships between Ash and his friends were always so plain. He’s friendly with all of them, with the exception of his rival, Gary, whom he doesn’t particularly hold any real negative feelings for. Turn to Digimon, and you see Tai and Matt, a duo who clashed constantly and always had different ways to solve whatever the episode’s issue was. While working together, they were able to combine their partners into one of the strongest Digimon in the show. Fast forward a handful of episodes, and the duo are best friends because of their differences.
There’s also the story of Ken Ichijouji, a.k.a the Digimon Emperor. After blaming himself for his older brother’s death, Ken gets consumed by darkness and begins to take over the Digital World, spreading evil and malice. After realizing that he’s been hurting living creatures — and hearing about all the cruel things he’s done from the reborn baby Digimon he hurt in the past — Ken comes to his senses.
This redemption arc is just part of what made Digimon so good. We saw characters realize that they’re hurting people and that they can change. We learned that people make mistakes, and it’s not too late to apologize and start over. Pokémon had some good lessons in there, but rarely were they taught by exploring the consequences of people’s actions.
It felt like a show you never wanted to miss an episode of. Was Ken going to be able to come to terms with his past and grow up? Did Leomon just die? Is Gatomon ever going to find her partner? These plot-driven episodes made me want to tune in to watch every bit because I wanted these characters’ issues to be resolved.
Don’t get me wrong. The Pokémon movies had sad moments and depth, and, yes, everyone cried at the Butterfree episode. But Digimon’s original TV show really did take the cake. The later seasons of Pokémon, like Sun and Moon, were pretty good and showed the characters grow up and face real issues. Yet the whimsical nature of the original Pokémon show just doesn’t match up to the greatness that was Digimon Adventure.