The original series was at its absolute best point creatively. During its first two seasons (known simply as Digimon Adventure), the anime involved director Mamoru Hosoda (Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) and everything felt conceptually great. I still am amazed by how unique and creative the original series was despite it's similarities to Pokemon. The show was more interesting and unique than most other anime series and it's impressive original run is the main reason the franchise has continued to be considered as important as it is today. The characters of the series beginning years remain as favorites, particularly amongst longtime fans.
Following four years without a new Digmon production underway, Toei Animation in Japan finally decided it was worth bringing the franchise back. The idea was to bring in both a new audience and to keep some of the original Digimon viewership. The company decided to bring back some of the series original Digimon while bringing in new, older characters to try to be appealing more to original viewers of the first two seasons. Yet they also wanted a different spin on the series so that it could invite new viewership. The end result is Season 5, otherwise known as Digimon: Data Squad (also known as Digimon Savers, which was the original title in Japan).
Over the course of the Digimon franchise's lifetime, the producers decided to change things up and began introducing new characters, storylines, and a number of new Digimon (in the same vein that Pokemon would often decide to expand upon how many Pokemon there were in the world of the series). Yet, as previously mentioned, some fan-favorite original Digimon return (including Agumon, the first Digimon to fundamentally begin it all).
This season of the series centrally focuses upon an older teenage boy named Marcus. He finds himself accidentally stumbling into the Digimon universe when the stray Agumon meets him within the normal human world. Augumon escaped from D.A.T.S. (Digital Accident Tactical Squad), an organization that was formed specifically to keep Digimon and their world out of discovery of normal, ordinary human beings. The Data Squad witnesses the connection that Marcus and Agumon have and notices the guidance and strength Marcus offers when they become faced with a Digimon duel. Satsuma, the commander of the squad, decides that a recruitment of Marcus into their team could be important.
Marcus works alongside some fellow Digimon Data Squad recruits such as Thomas Norstein, who is considered a genius, and Yoshino Fujieda, who is a strong-spirited and tough natured member of the team. The three of them must work together to help protect the digital world: keeping the goals of the Data Squad in check while befriending Digimon along the way. As things progress over the course of the series, there are enemies to be dueled with and a evil, powerful foe in the Digimon world who seeks to destroy the human world - because of the similarly evil humans who seek to endanger Digimon. The series builds to a climatic end: wrapping up the storylines for this season's characters and their place in the saga.
Unfortunately, this season presents a incarnation of the series that I do not find as interesting compared to previous seasons. For starters, there are fewer lead characters and thus their fundamentally isn't as much for the series to do in characterization. The storyline doesn't necessarily grab me as interesting as previous stories either, sharing some similarities with previous seasons (in terms of the basic structural approach that builds to the ending), which primarily differentiates itself conceptual in terms of the 'Data Squad' approach to this saga's story. The concept of the Data Squad itself is a huge reason to like or dislike the season as it essentially is the biggest element to try and reinvent the wheel for this long-running franchise. Luckily the animation quality is consistently a impressive aspect of the series as it continues to be a notable production with regards to the character designs, background details, and the overall visual aesthetic.
I wouldn't suggest this season as a starting point for new viewers but longtime fans will be understandably interested in seeing it. It's a series that I feel many will find some quality entertainment value within - it's just on a different playing field from the original series. Undoubtedly, viewers will still find entertaining qualities in this revamped season of the franchise as this is a series that still contains many action-packed adventures. It's not as breathtaking or as bold as the original incarnations but fans should find something worth considering here nonetheless.
Digimon: Data Squad arrives on DVD in its original broadcast aspect ratio of 1.33:1 full frame. The series arrives on home media with pleasing and generally satisfactory results. The picture quality is quite strong with good color and detail. The image is clean and lacks compression issues that can be quite common on DVD, but that were overcome on this release with high quality bit-rates and with the help of a proper number of DVD's in the set (as the season was spread across 8 DVD's). The only issue I really had with the season was some interlacing problems but it's not a big enough issue to seriously detract from an otherwise impressive presentation.
The audio quality is not quite as impressive as the video presentation but it gets the job done quite well for the series. The standard 2.0 Dolby Digital audio is adequate at reproducing the dialogue and the stereo sound effects are reasonably impressive for this action-packed anime production. The series is only presented with the English language dub (which was a slightly edited down version of the series). The Japanese language version is not included (which was also a characteristic of other Digimon DVD releases from New Video Group).
This is the only area where the quality of these New Video Group Digimon season sets has been a bit disappointing. There are barely any supplemental materials on the release. The set includes a twenty page character guide booklet and on-disc galleries displaying sketches of 40 different Digimon villains. That's all, folks!
The season of the show was released before on DVD in North America in segmented sets that contained only a part of the entire run. The run of these sets was never finished. This was something that disappointed Digimon fans who were either collecting the releases or who were waiting for the entire series to be made available. The good news is that the wait is now over for fans who were hoping to own the entire run.
New Video Group, who put together stellar releases of previous seasons of Digimon on DVD in recent months, has continued the trend of making the series available to fans with this complete collection of Digimon: Data Squad, which is now entirely available in North America (albeit in an edited form that was the only way the series dubbed version was released). Those of you who are already big fans of Digimon: Data Squad and who want to own the entire run of episodes should consider this release a must own collection.
Even though this season is generally not as well-liked as previous incarnations, some fans will undoubtedly want this set so that they continue to own the complete series run. It has certainly received a quality DVD release by New Video Group. I imagine fans will feel quite satisfied by the quality presentation and the reasonable pricing. Hopefully season sets of Digimon Fusion are not too far away from release on DVD considering the exceptional quality of these New Video Group released Digimon season sets.