Thursday, April 23, 2015

Why 'Digimon' is Objectively Better than 'Pokemon'



I’ve grown up enjoying both Pokemon and Digimon.  But though Pokemon is the bigger and more popular franchise, I’ve always held the belief that – at least with regards to anime series – Digimon is better than Pokemon (but with regards to games and other products, I have no say on the matter since I’ve only got the chance to play Pokemon video games and card games and never with any Digimon games, though I’m familiar with the gameplay of Digimon World 2).

As far as premise is concerned, there is more substance in Digimon’s than Pokemon’s.  Both shows involve humans directing “monsters” to battle.  However, in Pokemon, the whole battling is primarily intended for human amusement.  It’s basically a reinvented form of cockfighting.  On the other hand, in Digimon, the battling has a nobler purpose – usually, to protect the world or humanity from evil threats.  Moreover, a Digimon acts more of a partner to the human in battle rather than just being a pawn as with the relationship of a Pokemon and its owner/trainer.  

Pokemon tells the story of a boy named Ash Ketchum who left home to travel the world to find and collect as much Pokemon as he can, then oblige them to battle with other people’s Pokemon, so that he can be the greatest Pokemon master ever.  The charm of Pokemon is hinged on the appeal of collecting, and as a collector of stuff myself (comics, books, toys, etc.), I understand the thrill of collecting things.  But, seriously, even if all these Pokemon don’t mind or even fancy being collected and used by humans for sport, there’s something selfish and petty about Ash’s motivation as well as the concept of Pokemon collecting and battling.   

Actually, I disdain Ash Ketchum.  Though he has some likable qualities, like genuinely loving his Pokemon and sincerity in offering friendship to everyone (even his antagonists), he is, nevertheless, an incompetent, dumb, bland, and annoying character.  It’s so frustrating how he is easily gullible and lacks some form of tactical talent as a Pokemon trainer (especially when you get to play his doppelganger, Red, in the games.  Red is a more interesting character and makes much smarter decision than Ash – primarily because Red is your virtual avatar.  Also, the characters in the manga – including Red, who happens to also star on a Pokemon manga series – have more personality and more interesting Pokemon lineups).  And there hasn’t been much character development with Ash either.  He’s basically what he is now as he was about eighteen year ago.            

And that’s another thing.  Ash – unappealing of a character that he is – has been the central character of Pokemon all this time.  That’s 18 seasons being stuck with this character.  And his characterization and purpose is basically intact all this time: travel the world, collect Pokemon, have mediocre adventures, battle with other trainers, so that he “can be the very best.”  Yada, yada. 

In Digimon, there are diverse protagonists, so you have the option of choosing which character you want to root for or relate to.  In the first series of Digimon, there were seven (which became eight later on) main protagonists.  And that’s just the first series, there have been more series after that, hence, more characters.  Moreover, actual character developments are happening with these characters.  They are not stagnant, but dynamic.  These characters grow up.  These characters change.  New characters are introduced.  It’s just like the character pool of Power Rangers

As what was already mentioned in the previous paragraph, Digimon also has the advantage of having different series like the Gundam franchise.  With each Digimon incarnation, there is a different set of characters and premises and rules.  Again, just like Gundam.  It keeps everything fresh and exciting.       
 
In terms of strorytelling, Pokemon is dumber, goofier, and more light-hearted, which is actually not a problem, but it makes the extent of its storytelling limited.  It doesn’t help either that the writing on Pokemon is just plain bad a significant amount of time.   On the other hand, Digimon’s storytelling is smarter and purposeful.  Yes, there is some amount of campiness on Digimon, of course, but that’s just for the sake of creating humor (it’s still a kid’s show after all).  Nonetheless, because of its more substantial premise, Digimon is able to have much more depth and stakes (i.e. death and tragedy happens) in its storytelling. 

And because there is more maturity in its storytelling, Digimon’s villains are often more interesting.  Digimon’s villains are more ambitious and ruthless.  Most Digimon villains are consistently in “global menace” level.  In Pokemon, though Ash encounters some serious threats once in a while (especially in the movies), the campy Team Rocket serves as the regular antagonists.  Now, I like their trademark chant and member Meowth (since I have an affinity to cats), but Team Rocket is just a pesky group of antagonists that we just can’t take seriously. 

Speaking of Meowth, he is one of the rare Pokemon that can communicate by human language.  Almost all other Pokemon merely utter their names (or syllables from their names).  But all Digimon can talk!  The ability to talk does not only give Digimon more personality and appearance of intelligence and independence, but also establishes better relationship between the Digimon and his human (again, they are partners).

The nature of evolution is also more interesting with Digimon than Pokemon.  A Pokemon evolves in a ladderized manner, and once it gets to the next level, it permanently stays at that form.   On the other hand, a Digimon’s evolution to a higher form isn’t permanent.  It can always go back to its status quo. Moreover, aside from evolving into a higher form, there are other varieties of Digimon evolution.  For example, Digimon can combine (temporarily, of course) with another Digimon to form a new Digimon form.  Also, humans can even (temporarily) combine with or transform into Digimon.  Evolution is definitely more exciting and complex in Digimon.   

Simply put, Digimon has the superiority in plot, premise, characters, and even in some other small details – like, Digivices and tags and crests are aesthetically cooler, more personalized, and has much more utility than Pokedexes and gym badges.  So those who say that Digimon is just an inferior imitation of Pokemon don’t really know what they are saying – either they haven’t watched enough episodes of both shows or they simply lack good taste.  Pokemon might have come first, but Digimon is objectively better. 

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