Pokémon is all the rage these days, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that its old crosstown franchise rival, Digimon is also making its own return to popularity. To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Digimon, Toei animation brought back older versions of the original DigiDestined and their partners in Digimon Adventure tri. It’s been a hit in Japan and is being dubbed to head stateside this October!
Digimon may not have had the same staying power in the mainstream as Pokemon, but it carved out a special niche by producing quite the legacy, with six different anime series and eight additional movies. We are big fans of the series and could not pass up the chance to look back at our very favorite Digimon moments.
Prepare yourself, because Ash Ketchum isn’t the only cool kid on the block with great “mon”stories to tell. Here’s Every Season And Movie of Digimon Ranked From Worst To Best.
Honorable Mention: Summer Wars
Summer Wars may not carry the Digimon name, but everything about it looks, feels, and acts like an extension of the original series. The film is more more less a more fleshed-out retelling of Mamoru Hosoda’s second Digimon film Our War Game. The film centers on an online virtual reality program called OZ that connects all of the world’s infrastructure together. A rogue A.I. codenamed “Love Machine” uses a teenage OZ moderator named Kenji to hack into the network and begins sabotaging all of the world’s computer databases, including multiple military weapons systems.
Beat by beat, the plot of Summer Wars is almost identical to Our War Game. What makes Summer Wars special is its expansion on the themes of family, teamwork, and unity that longtime Digimon viewers are familiar with. Like Digimon series, the film finds clever ways to bring the adult characters into the story in meaningful ways that further reinforce the importance of working together to defeat evil threats. Despite treading familiar digi-territory, Summer Wars benefits from a bigger budget and the freedom to adhere to its own visually charged brand of spectacle. If you’re one of those kids who put away your Digimon fandom years, Summer Wars is the perfect film to put you right back in that Digimon adventuring mood.
14. Digimon Data Squad (Season 5)
Digimon Data Squad was another attempt at reinventing the wheel of the franchise. Following Digimon Frontier, the popularity of the series had dropped off significantly in the US. There was even a question as to whether or not the series would receive an English dub before Disney eventually struck a deal with Toei animation. After more than 18 months of anticipation building up to the US release, Digimon Data Squad arrived and the results were… just alright.
The series aged up its characters for its now-teenage demographic. It featured a group of teens working with their team of Digimon to keep the peace between the human and digital borders. It deserves credit for going full blown science fiction with its Stargate-esque premise, but the attempt to handle more grown up characters really never clicks. The exploration between Marcus and Agumon comes across as less like a partnership and more like a pair of buddy cops bro-ing out as they enforce the law. Digimon Data Squad is not a total misstep, but we would be hard pressed to recommend it above any of the other entries in the franchise.
13. Digital Monsters X
Digital Monsters X was a fun little standalone experiment exploring Digimon in 3D animation. It was set entirely in the digital world and exclusively starred Digimon characters. There was not a single human in the cast and the story was driven more by the politics of ruling the digital world than the heroes’ destiny to save it. Think about it as a standalone Game of Thrones–style Digimon movie.
Toei animation’s willingness to try new things with the brand is applaudable, but unfortunately Digital Monsters X just hasn’t stood the test of time. Like many of the earliest shows using 3D animation, the low polygon style just hasn’t held up. Outside of being hard on the eyes, the lack of human characters makes this story especially difficult to connect with. The Digimon characters in the franchise were always meant as foils to help teach us more about the struggles the DigiDestined children were working to overcome. Without the humans in the picture, what’s left is a number of cool but completely unrelatable characters. It gets points for being so wildly different from anything else we’ve seen since, but Digital Monsters X is going to be a hard pass unless you are a diehard Digimon fan.
12. Digimon Hurricane Touchdown (Digimon the Movie Part 3)
Better known in the US as the third part of The Digimon Movie, Digimon Hurricane Touchdown took season two’s DigiDestined stateside to help an American tamer named Willis fight the mysterious Wendigomon. The more Davis, TK, Kari, and the rest of the gang venture into the conflict, the more they realize Willis isn’t quite the innocent tamer they thought.
Though it would eventually be retconned as non-canon due to some pretty problematic series continuity issues, the movie still features great character interactions and a compelling exploration of Digimon‘s obsession with youthfulness and the past. The film laid the groundwork for Digimon Adventure 2‘s use of the Golden Digi-eggs and introduced one of Digimon Tamers‘ main players, Terriormon. It’s not the brightest of the bunch, but Digimon Hurricane Touchdown still remains a fun side adventure for die hard fans of the series.
11. Battle of Adventurers
Battle of Adventurers is a fun, if unnecessary, side quest featuring the Digimon Tamers team as they vacation to Okinawa for the summer. After arriving, a Digimon named Mephistomon emerges and activates a virus that’s been disguised as a V-pet app on phones across the world. The virus begins weakening the barrier between the real and digital worlds and wild Digimon begin running rampant.
Despite it being the longest standalone movie on this list, it does very little to further flesh out its characters or bring anything new to the mythology. What’s worse is that it is never even referenced in later episodes of the series, which makes it utterly inconsequential. Battle of Adventurers is loaded with crowd pleasing easter eggs, including the appearances of Omnimon and Apocalymon, and delivers on the super-baddie-crushing action people like to see. Regardless, Battle of Adventurers is still one of the more forgettable entries on this list.
10. The Revenge of Diaboromon
The Revenge of Diaboromon has the unique distinction of being the only sequel to another Digimon movie on this list. It takes place three months after Digimon Adventure 2 and serves as a follow up to fan-favorite film Our War Game. Three years after Diaboromon’s failed attempt to take over the internet, he reemerges with an army of Kuramon at his disposal. After the Kuramon invade the real world via text messages, Matt and Tai realize that not even the super powerful Omnimon is enough to stop the impending threat of the newly-formed Armageddemon.
In many ways, The Revenge of Diaboromon serves as the ultimate piece of fan-service. It brought back everything people loved about its predecessor and even found a few cool ways to incorporate the widespread popularity of cell phones into the plot. There are a number of things to enjoy about the film, but in the end its themes of unity, teamwork, and the power of dreams had already been covered extensively the final act of the Digimon Adventure 2 series. If you lack the time for the full run of Adventure 2, The Revenge of Diaboromon is just the film to scratch that nostalgic itch.
9. Digimon Adventure Movie (Digimon the Movie Part 1)
This one is the granddaddy that started it all. The Digimon Adventure Movie served as Digimon‘s 1998 introduction to Japan. The film stars Tai and Kari in their first encounter with a Digi-egg after it emerges from their computer. The egg quickly hatches and the Digimon inside begins digivolving until it grows into Tai’s future partner, Agumon. Before Agumon can fully grow into Greymon, a rogue Parrotmon appears and begins destroying the city.
In hindsight, the pilot film plays things safe by sticking pretty close to the tried and true “kaiju battle” formula. That said, it’s a short, sweet, and to-the-point version of the kaiju story, as directed by the critically acclaimed anime director Mamoru Hosoda. There may not be much to this film on the surface, but it plants the seeds for what would eventually grow into the full-blown series mythology, making it a must see film for fans.
8. Digimon Frontier: Island of the Lost Digimon
Digimon Frontier often gets the short end of the stick in terms of popularity and acclaim, which is a bit of a shame. The series’ movie Island of the Lost Digimon is a surprise treat that gets more political than just about any other entry in the series. The Frontier DigiDestined team are traveling through a barren desert when a mysterious floating island appears. Upon arrival, the group find themselves in the middle of a humanoid vs. beast Digimon civil war. Each army is lead by a general seeking complete domination, but as our heroes begin investigating, they quickly learn that the war is fueled by something even more malicious than discrimination.
Digimon is usually remembered for tackling loftier themes than its Poke-rival and Island of the Lost Digimon is no exception. This entry is doubly interesting thanks to its portrayal of the malicious inner machinations of war. Both sides of the conflict are painted fairly. Like many of the worst wars in human history, the real villains of the story are the wealthy and powerful Digimon who profit off of the bloodshed and loss of their brethren. It may not be the definitive Digimon experience, but if you’re looking for a good alternative to this summer’s disappointing Warcraft, look no further than Island of the Lost Digimon.
7. Runaway Locomon
Runaway Locomon is the second Digimon Tamers film and was intended to serve as a final epilogue for the series. The film follows our team of tamers after their surprise party for Rika is derailed by a Locomon. The train Digimon emerges from the digital world with a cargo full of mind warping Parisismon. The Parisismon uses its special mind control power on Rika in order to infiltrate the team. While the rest of the team is fighting to free Rika from the spell, she’s stuck living in a dreamlike vision where she’s reunited by her long-missing father.
Like the third series, Runaway Locomon isn’t afraid to venture into darker territory to explore its characters. Rika’s absentee father is never directly addressed in the series which makes this an especially interesting look at what makes the tough girl tick. The only real drawback to this movie is that it removes ambiguity from the outstanding Digimon Tamers series finale.
6. Digimon Adventure 2 (Season 2)
Digimon Adventure 2 had the impossible task of following the overwhelmingly popular first series. While it never quite hits the same heights as the original run, the sequel series brought a number of great contributions to the franchise. The biggest being the moral ambiguity in its villains: The Digimon Emperor, BlackWarGreymon, and Mr. Oikawa are all tragic and sympathetic characters. The sympathetic edge and complexity of their motivations make them among the most memorable villains in the history of Digimon. These villains matched with the new and old DigiDestined makes for some of the most memorable character work on the show to date.
The real achilles heel of Digimon Adventure 2 is that it’s often too similar to the plot points of the original series. The entire first act of the 50 episode run uses the same formula as act one of the first adventure. Every episode drops our heroes into the digital world to destroy another one of the emperor’s dark towers. Rinse. Repeat. Things eventually pick up in spectacular fashion in the second and third acts, but the opening batch of episodes is a real chore. Digimon Adventure 2 also ends on a somewhat controversial note by closing the book on the lives of all of our favorite characters in a very Harry Potter-esque epilogue that nobody was really asking for.
5. Digimon Adventure Tri (Sequel to 1-2)
We’ve been living in the era of nostalgic revivals for a while and it was only a matter of time before Toei Animation decided to revisit what had been one of their most successful franchises. Digimon Adventure Tri picks up three years after Digimon Adventure 2 and puts the spotlight back on Tai and the rest of the original team. Everyone has grown up and is going their own way when a number of infected Digimon begin to emerge into the real world. The fractured team struggles to work together in order to stop the yet-to-be revealed evil from destroying the real world.
The ongoing Digimon Adventure Tri series takes on a darker more somber tone in order to connect with it’s now grown up audience. The DigiDestined are in a very different place in life, being less interested in embarking on an adventure and more concerned with becoming functional members of society. Like Captain America: Civil War and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, this adventure is interested in reflecting on the collateral damage caused by the Digimon battling in the real world. With at least one more episode due out this fall, we’re still not sure how high Digimon:Adventure Tri will rank, but so far it’s already among the series’ very best.
4. Our War Game (Digimon the Movie Part 2)
The second Digimon movie, Our War Game, did everything a good anime movie should do. It delivered an organic, self-contained story that continued pushing its characters and also brought in a number of new ideas to the Digimon mythology. The film begins when a rogue virus Digimon named Diaboromon emerges on the internet and begins sabotaging the world’s computers. Tai, Izzy, Matt, and TK are emailed by Gennai, who tells them to upload their Digimon partners to the internet in order to end the conflict.
The end of the world scenario makes way for some grade-A digi-romance between Tai and Sora and adds to the mythology by being the first Digimon story to use the internet. Our War Game also marks the first appearance of the fan-favorite DNA-digivolved character, Omnimon. The impact of the events in this film was felt for years, with the showdown on the internet being referenced several times in the later series. Despite it being such a crucial piece of the mythology, director Mamoru Hosoda’s was still able to craft a wonderful standalone adventure that even the most casual fan can enjoy. If you are a newcomer looking to get a proper taste of the digi-series, make Our War Game your first trip to the Digital World.
3. Digimon Frontier (Season 4)
Digimon Frontier is the often overlooked entry in the franchise, due to its attempts to shake up the Digimon formula. It abandoned Digimon partners in favor of a type of “spirit digivolution” that merged the DigiDestined with the power of ancient Digimon warriors, it completely cut ties with any of the other series that had come before, and in the US featured a brand new theme song. It was clear from the get go that this wasn’t going to follow in the footsteps of the other series.
Digimon Frontier deserves credit for telling a lighter and altogether different story about a new group of children who get swept away in their mission to keep Churubimon from absorbing all of the Digital World’s data. The Digimon partners were missed to be sure, but having fewer characters gave our cast more time to develop. In many ways, the struggles these kids faced as social outcasts was more relatable than what we had seen in the first three series. Digimon Frontier also brought a whole new meaning to the theme of unity by having all six of our heroes spirit-evolving together into the all powerful Susanoomon. It is an underrated Digimon treat that you won’t want to miss.
2. Digimon Adventure (Season 1)
The original Digimon Adventure is what put this whole late ’90s craze into the mainstream spotlight. Easily mistaken for a cheap knock-off of the already massively popular Pokémon, Digimon Adventure separated itself by telling a self-contained 54 episode story featuring an ensemble of fully fleshed out “DigiDestined” children. The series featured a number of crazy cool digivolutions and a memorable slate of bad guys, including the terrifying Myotismon. Digimon Adventure further set itself apart by tackling more mature themes about growing up with its characters confronting their broken homes and troubled family lives. They may have been similar in name, but the Pokémon and Digimon series could not be more different.
Digimon Adventure laid the foundation for what was to come by establishing the ground rules and distinct tone that every series would adhere to in one way or another. Even though there were often violent conflicts or feuds amongst the team, the series always sought to reinforce the ideas of love, unity, and friendship as the answer to defeating evil. These ideas were represented through each member of the eight DigiDestined as they struggled to find their identities and places in the world. Like any long-running anime series, Digimon Adventure had its weak moments, but overall, it still holds up remarkably well.
1. Digimon Tamers (Season 3)
It’s always tough to outclass the first entry of any beloved series, but Digimon Tamers does one better by telling an altogether different type of story. This series is set in the “real” world where the first two Digimon Adventures are fictional cartoons designed to promote the card game. That is until our lead character Takato finds a mysterious blue card that brings his creation Guiomon to life. Takato eventually teams up with his friends Rika and Henry to take on a mysterious shadow organization named Hypnos. As the story progresses, our team of tamers quickly discover that there’s more going on than meets the eye.
Digimon Tamers is easily the darkest entry in the franchise. The story kills off a number of main characters, often puts the adults front and center, and presents our heroes with conflicts and mistakes that can’t be fixed with a simple apology. The kids in this series experience true defeat and the long term consequences of their actions. This gives the story a real weight and the highest emotional stakes of any of the Digimon series. Despite its darker themes, Tamers still delivered the whimsy and redemptive character arcs fans had come to love. Digimon Tamers is the definitive Digimon experience and captures all of the franchise’s greatest strengths with an emotional resonance.
Digimon Adventure Tri is being dubbed for home video and On Demand release this October.
What is you favorite Digimon series or movie? Let us know by sounding off in the comments.
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