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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Digimon: The Official Seasons 1-4 Collection
Digimon: The Official Seasons 1-4 Collection
New Video // Unrated // October 22, 2013
List Price: $229.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted November 13, 2013 | E-mail the Author
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Digimon DVD 1-4 Review


Digimon
is one of the best children's anime series around and it's one of those rare series that won the hearts of children and has managed to stay just as meaningful and well-made for that audience over the many years since the original incarnation of the show was completed. This creative and energetic anime focuses on a group of kids (known as DigiDestined) who have become intertwined in the Digital World and must save it, teach Digimon how to Digivolve, explore the newfound world, and eventually find their way home.  (At least, that was a big concept in the early seasons of the show). The series continued to expand and offer up new characters as it went on and appealed to both a continuing fan-base and a whole new group, tuning in for the first time during later seasons as new Digimon iterations arrived onto the airwaves. This newly created box-set collection, herein reviewed, contains seasons one to four of the show  in their complete form (with English audio) and is sure to delight both returning fans and newbies in one swoop of Digi-awesomeness.

Digimon (Digital Monsters) received a lot of negative responses when it first premiered on US airwaves, at least from those who didn't tune in to see the premiere. The series appeared to be nothing more than a cheap Pokemon derivative at first sight and many people were probably convinced they could dismiss it as an obvious attempt at making some money off of the big popularity of the Pokemon franchise.  However, Digimon has much more to offer than just imitation: this series is a genuine creation and it is creatively smart, and it became another success in America and it even went on to receive a theatrical film release stateside (that complied several shorter Digimon films from the Japan versions). 

The first season of Digimon did a tremendous job of introducing all of the central characters. In the first outing, the series focused on introducing the entire main cast of characters, including Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Mimi, Joe, and T.K. The characters learned that they were transported directly into the Digiworld to save it and they set out on a journey to do so and to return to "home" after becoming mysteriously transported into the DigiWorld during summer camp.

The first season introduced the central characters within the first iteration of the series, and it introduced the concept of "Crests" that help the DigiDestined in the process of getting their Digimon to Digivolve (which gives the Digimon new appearances, strengths, and abilities to protect and defend each other and the kids from Digi - baddies).

The season also focuses in on the storyline involving Myotismon, who acts as an enemy to these heroes, and who attempts to stop the DigiDestined from activating their special crests and from discovering who the eighth DigiDestined member from the real-world is, so as to prevent these kids from saving the digital and real world.  As the season progresses, it covers a lot of territory, growing the storyline and characters until it reaches its remarkable conclusion.

The series is often lighthearted and silly in tone and sensibility. Much of this has to do with Digimon's English language adaptation, which takes many liberties, but most of which are suitable for bringing the show to American audiences. I typically prefer for shows to be as authentic in keeping to the Japanese version as possible, but as I grew up myself watching (enjoying) and loving the American version of Digimon and all of the quirky one-liners in Digimon's English language scripts, so I guess I've always enjoyed this edition. It has the charming qualities necessary for this sort of fantastical story.

The series could always shift into dark and serious themes as well (at least for a children's series), because it involved some themes about growing up and the setting of having these characters be away from home and having to find their way back was always a bit weird, mysterious, and Narnia-esque. The journey wasn't so simple.

The second season is a bit of a mix-up compared to the first outing as it's without an entirely new group of characters thrown into the digi-mix as it's a nice combination of characters: it introduces some new characters to the proceedings with Davis, Yolei, Cody, and Ken and doesn't toss the old cast aside either. There is room for expanding upon the original main characters and to add some new ones in that are also interesting.

The journey continues for the characters four years after the events of the first season. While it appeared as though everything was good in the Digital World at the end of the first season, it's certainly something that faces new challenges this season. The Digiworld now has an Emperor who is determined to rule it and eventually take over the world. The new quest involves many returning characters and character-specific moments for the original DigiDestined team but it also begins a new storyline that involves the other new characters, who are to become newly appointed DigiDestined. The stakes this time around are not of the fate of the Digital World alone or in finding a pathway home (one of the main areas of importance the first year) but saving the entire world.

The second season of the show offers some good similarities and differences to make it distinct enough and with its own charm as separate from the first season outing. The return of the main characters from the first year of Digimon was a great choice. While the first season reached an acceptable level of closure for those characters, it still didn't feel complete in an ideal way for fans and it was a pleasant return to revisit these characters. This allows the show to give more closure to fans looking for a new adventure with Tai, Matt, Sora, Izzy, Mimi, Joe, and T.K.

Some fans felt the second year of the show was a major disappointment and yet there was also tremendous support from fans who felt everything about it built upon the first outing in an interesting and satisfactory way. The series does build, but in an unexpected direction. It dramatically shifts focus as it brings the natural world to the forefront. Characters can be transported back and forth between the two worlds this time, and the stakes involve both environments. The series also brings back the signature brand of silly humor at times but everything has a newly added coat of darkness that surrounds the intense plotlines, as the DigiDestined have to bring back peace to the DigiWorld and save Digimon from the new "Digimon Emperor" determined to make Digimon evil and to take over our natural world.

The series is just as delightful in its second season as it was in its first. The show is great entertainment for kids because it offers an opportunity to see characters of both genders undergoing challenges with intelligence and skill, and it's a well-written storyline that dramatically excels in the craft of storytelling in comparison to many other creations.

This season marks the end of the original Digimon era of storytelling, because with the conclusion the writers managed to wrap up the main storyline well for both the original characters introduced and for the new characters just appearing this season. I definitely appreciate the efforts of the writers to bring closure to fans. This essential element is a fundamental reason the show is successful artistically. Future seasons featured all new characters.

Digimon Tamers is the third season of the popular ongoing Digimon anime franchise. It was produced by Toei Animation and the series aired in both Japan and  in America between the years 2001 and 2002. It marked another successful season entry in the Digimon universe. This outing represents Digimon's continuation as a saga and also as the entirety of a standalone show within a similar universe of storytelling.  It can be viewed as a sort of spin-off  from the main series that unfolded  in Digimon Adventure 1 and 2 (the first two seasons in this collection).

Unlike previous seasons of Digimon, the show was a bit of an artistic departure from what came beforehand as with this season the show began a min-reboot of sorts creatively and the storyline focused on an entirely different group of characters. This was a departure which was met with a variety of responses: some fans greeted the change and others thought it wouldn't match up to a series they beloved (in part) because of how wonderful the characters were in the first two years of the franchise.

The season is directed by Yukio Kaizawa (Zatch Bell), who takes over the reins of former series directors Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and Hiroyuki Kakudou (One Piece) as the primary creative filmmaker involved in the project.

The new kids of Digimon Tamers help to make up a cast of characters inhabiting an even darker world than the one the previous DigiDestined were a part of -- and the storylines are darker as a result, sometimes with a higher degree of occasional complexity that some fans probably hadn't expected, and the show doesn't allow for as much comedy or breaks from the action as the other seasons had. Furthermore, the show's element of DigiDevices has shifted somewhat from what was found earlier as previous devices helped to bring out the power of the Digimon but are now gone and have been replaced instead with a D-Power device.

The D-Power component can bring forward the Digimon (including some imagined ones that come forth through the creativity of the characters), but most of these new Digimon characters are actually able to appear after cards are swiped on the devices (then bringing them out to help to save the day). This aspect seems to have been added as a tie-in to the card-game aspect of the show's success (as the Digimon trading card game was popular at the time), but it blends in with the show's style reasonably well.

The main characters of this season entry are Takato, Henry, and Rika: three young children who have the ability to train and work with Digimon within their real world. In previous series of the show, characters would sometimes go back and forth between the real and digital world to help save Digimon and the fate of the entire universe -- and the results of this led to break-times for characters to have outside of the digital realm. On Digimon Tamers, the show actually mostly takes place outside of the DigiWorld.

Takato envisioned his own Digimon and through his artistic side helped lead to the creation of the Digimon he partners with. Somehow, he winds up becoming the main group leader of the characters, and the rest are inspired from his bravery. Henry is a kung-fu expert, often quiet, emotionally intelligent, and his Digimon came to be with him from the video game creation connected to the Digimon. Rika is a tough and  skilled Digimon trainer who battles with the absolute strongest Digimon around, and she is a champion card player who is a loner before becoming more involved with Takato and Henry as friends.

The season is fun, inventive, and beautifully animated: all trademarks of the Digimon brand. Storytelling-wise, this season feels more leisurely paced at the start, and while it builds into reaching for more action and a big season finale it does have some good characters to keep things more interesting along the way. Anime fans who appreciated the prior seasons will certainly enjoy the season for its overall creativity.

Digimon Frontier is the fourth season (and final outing included in this collection), and it similarly takes the show into different directions. Unlike previous Digimon seasons, the DigiDestined don't find and train Digimon characters, but actually merge their bodies in connection with ancient spirits to become Digimon themselves. This is a big difference, conceptually. The Digmon world has become over-run with evil and the new characters eventually must form into a cohesive unit to restore the Digi-World to its former glory; successfully defeating the threat.

The fourth season of the show takes things into new territory story-wise while keeping everything intact in terms of the appeal of Digimon's human characters, Digimon, and a interesting visual style that is complemented by quality filmmaking for a children's show. Everything about the series remains very much in the same mold of high-quality television.

Directed by Yukio Kaizawa, the fourth season is sure to entertain, even if the new changes implemented onto the show aren't necessarily going to impress as much as the early seasons managed to by introducing the entire Digimon world in one swoop of anime awesomeness. I imagine fans will be pleased getting to continue along the Digimon journey, though, as it's an enjoyably creative and fascinating animated world full of creative possibilities. This element (and the appreciation of the characters) is at the heart of it all and is a big reason for the show's ongoing success, legacy, and dedicated fandom.

The DVD:


Video:

Digimon Season 1 and Season 2 is presented in the original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33.1 (full frame) and it looks about as good as it did when it was broadcast on television. The sources can be inconsistent occasionally and it's clear that the episodes as presented on this set come from a couple of sources.

Most fans won't notice the minute differences in the encodes but it does appear as though some episode feature more in interlacing and edge enhancement than other episodes: some episodes are softer and others featured greater clarity in focus. It's a mixed bag, but it's consistently an agreeable (if unremarkable) presentation for the first two seasons.

For Seasons 3 and 4 of Digimon, the 1.33:1 4:3 full-frame presentation presents the animation wonderfully. The art is bright and vibrant with good depth. The animation also looks colorful without appearing over-saturated in presentation. It's a decent improvement over the first two seasons, with quality transfers that are impressive. The transfers show the clean and notable buoyancy of the video quality on these seasons.

Audio:

The 2.0 English language audio preserves the original English dubbing and its accompanying sound mix, but the original Japanese language version has not been included (which is likely because of a combination of licensing issues and because some moments were edited in the North American version). The sound quality is decent: clean, clear, and easy to understand. There isn't much to this sound design but it gets the job done. Season 3 and 4 are sonically improved, if only by a small margin, as the standard Dolby Digital 2.0 audio is more crisp, defined, and engaging. The dynamics are a bit better and smoother with regards to sound quality.


Extras:

There are not a lot of supplements included on this release (not that there was on the individually released season set's either).  The Digimon: Official Seasons 1-4 Collection retains the standard season set offers of 32 page long character guide books for each season and on-disc galleries of photos. That's all there is for the specific 'season' extras included. The collection contains a slip box covering that holds all four seasons (which replaces the individual season slip-covers from each separate release, which cannot fit inside the box with its dimensions) and an exclusive new poster featuring human characters and Digimon from the four seasons included in this collection. The poster measures 20" by 30" and is folded inside of the set. (Personally, I wouldn't hang this poster up, but I think some Digimon fans - especially younger ones - would really enjoy having this inclusion).

Final Thoughts:

Digimon: The Official Seasons 1-4 Collection is a great value for what you get with the set. It contains all 205 episodes from the series first four seasons, which are in English. It amazes me to see the show receive such a nice gift-box release. It's perfect for gift-giving or perhaps as a gift to oneself if you're a big fan who has held off on buying the releases. If you already own the separate season sets I don't see much of a reason to buy this collection, unless you prefer a gigantic slip-box to slipcovers and plan on hanging up the included poster. But it's definitely a well-made and fan-tastic set (pun intended: this set is one made specifically for the fans). New Video Group has put together an extensive set with much to offer longtime Digimon fans.

Highly Recommended.

Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema, and a student who aspires to make movies. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.

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