Digimon, short for “Digital Monsters”, is a Japanese media franchise encompassing virtual pet toys, anime, manga, video games, films and a trading card game. The franchise focuses on the eponymous creatures, who inhabit a “Digital World”, a parallel universe that originated from Earth’s various communication networks.
The franchise was created in 1997 as a series of virtual pets, akin to—and influenced in style by—the contemporary Tamagotchi or nano Giga Pet toys. The creatures were first designed to look cute and iconic even on the devices’ small screens; later developments had them created with a harder-edged style influenced by American comics. The franchise gained momentum with its first anime incarnation, Digimon Adventure, and an early video game, Digimon World, both released in 1999. Several anime series and films based on them have been released, and the video game series has expanded into genres such as role-playing, racing, fighting, and MMORPGs.
The Digimon anime series was produced by Toei Animation and Bandai of Japan. Beginning in 1999, an anime series was green-lit as the first of the Digimon films aired in theaters. Originally, Digimon Adventure was supposed to be a short film, but after the storyboard was finished, a request for the film to become a children’s television series was made. Several anime series have since been produced, with the first six series localized into English for release in Western markets.
Several Digimon featurette films were released in Japan, with some of them seasonal tie-ins for their respective television series.
- Digimon Adventure / Digimon: The Movie (1999)
- Digimon Adventure: Our War Game! / Digimon: The Movie (2000)
- Digimon Adventure 02: Part 1: Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!! / Part 2: Supreme Evolution!! The Golden Digimentals / Digimon: The Movie (2000)
- Digimon Adventure 02: Revenge of Diaboromon (2001)
- Digimon Tamers: Battle of Adventurers (2001)
- Digimon Tamers: Runaway Locomon (2002)
- Digimon Frontier: Island of Lost Digimon (2002)
- Digital Monster X-Evolution (2004)
- Digimon Savers: Ultimate Power! Activate Burst Mode!! (2006)
- Digimon Adventure 3D: Digimon Grand Prix! (2009)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 1: Reunion (2015)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 2: Determination (2016)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 3: Confession (2016)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 4: Loss (2017)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 5: Coexistence (2017)
- Digimon Adventure tri. Chapter 6: Future (2018)
- Digimon Adventure: Last Evolution Kizuna (2020)
Distribution and localization
In the United States, Digimon Adventure premiered in August 1999 on the Fox Broadcasting Company. An English-language adaptation of the series produced by Saban Entertainment (later Sensation Animation), the series was broadcast on Fox Kids. Saban would dub the first four anime series in the franchise, which were collectively retitled Digimon: Digital Monsters. Some scenes from the original version were modified or omitted in order to comply with Fox’s standards and practices. The show also featured more jokes and added dialogue, along with a completely different musical score. As a cross-promotional stunt, 2001 and 2002 saw Digi-Bowl specials co-produced with Fox Sports; NFL on Fox commentator Terry Bradshaw provided interstitial segments in-between episodes as if the episodes were actually a football game.
The Walt Disney Company would acquire Saban during the third series, Digimon Tamers. Reruns of the first three series began airing on the cable network ABC Family, while the fourth series, Digimon Frontier, premiered on UPN as part of a deal between Disney and UPN. UPN aired the series until late August 2003, when they severed their ties to Disney. Frontier aired on ABC Family concurrently, and also aired in reruns on Toon Disney under the Jetix branding.
An English version of Digimon Data Squad, produced by Studiopolis, would premiere October 1, 2007, on Toon Disney. In September 2012, Saban Brands, a successor to Saban Entertainment, announced it had acquired the Digimon anime franchise. Saban would announce that they would be producing an English dub for Digimon Xros Wars, retitled Digimon Fusion, for broadcast on Nickelodeon in the United States starting September 7, 2013. After three episodes, the show was moved to Nicktoons starting October 13, 2013.
Previously, Funimation Entertainment had online streaming rights to subtitled versions of Digimon Adventure 02 and Digimon Tamers. Digimon Adventure, Adventure 02, and Tamers, would later begin streaming on Netflix in 2013 and 2014 with Japanese audio and English subtitles. Crunchyroll began streaming the English-subtitled version of Digimon Fusion outside Japan in November 2011. The English-localized version of its first season became available on Netflix starting September 13, 2014, with the second season arriving on March 8, 2016. After Crunchyroll acquired streaming rights to the dubbed versions and Funimation acquired rights to the subtitled versions, the dubbed versions of Adventure, Adventure 02, and Tamers were briefly removed from Netflix.
After the buyout of Saban Brands by Hasbro on 2018, the rights of Digimon in the United States are currently owned by Shout! Factory.
In Canada, the English versions of Digimon were broadcast on YTV, with the exception of Data Squad, which aired in Family Channel’s Jetix block. YTV would eventually acquire Digimon Fusion, but only the first 26 episodes were shown.
In the United Kingdom, Digimon first aired on Fox Kids. ITV’s children’s slot CITV would broadcast Adventure, Adventure 02 and several episodes of Tamers during after school hours from 2001–2002. The rest of Tamers aired on Fox Kids from 2002–04. Digimon Frontier was originally announced to be broadcast on Jetix, but the series was later dropped. The series eventually saw a release on October 29, 2018. From 2011, Digimon Data Squad airs on Kix!. According to Fox Kids’ (2000–03) and Kix’s (2010–) BARB Television ratings, Adventure, Adventure 02 & Tamers have been the most popular series’/seasons in the United Kingdom and was consistently in the weekly top 10 broadcasts for both channels for new episodes. Broadcast rights and merchandising sub-licensing rights for Digimon Fusion in the UK have been acquired by ITV Studios Global Entertainment. Digimon Fusion has aired since Spring 2014 on digital terrestrial channel, CITV.
The Digimon series has a large number of video games which usually have their own independent storylines with a few sometimes tying into the stories of the anime series or manga series. The games consists of a number of genres including life simulation, adventure, video card game, strategy and racing games, though they are mainly action role-playing games.
In late 2009, Bandai created a webpage in Japanese showing a new game to be released in 2010 called Digimon Story: Lost Evolution, which uses the same engine as their predecessors Digimon World DS and Digimon World Dawn and Dusk and was released on July 1, 2010. In February 2010, a website for the online multiplayer game, Digimon Battle Online, was launched, showing it to be based primarily in the world of the Tamers saga and its characters.
On September 22, 2011, online game publisher Joymax announced the release of an MMORPG game called Digimon Masters, which was developed by the Korean publisher DIGITALIC.
In 2011, Bandai posted a countdown on a teaser site. Once the countdown was finished, it revealed a reboot of the Digimon World series titled Digimon World Re:Digitize. An enhanced version of the game released on Nintendo 3DS as Digimon World Re:Digitize Decode in 2013.
A new fighting game for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 was revealed in the summer of 2014, named Digimon All-Star Rumble. It was released in North America, Europe and Australia in November of the same year. Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth, a role-playing game in the Digimon Story sub-series, was released in 2015 for PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4 in Japan. It has also been released with English subtitles in North America and the rest of the world in 2016.
The Digimon Collectible Card Game is a card game based on Digimon, first introduced in Japan in 1997 and published by Bandai. The third season (Digimon Tamers) utilized this aspect of the franchise by making the card game an integral part of the season. Versions of the card game are also included in some of the Digimon video games including Digital Card Battle and Digimon World 3.