As I noted a few weeks ago, the anime Digimon Tamers is now available on Hulu.com. This has provided me a chance to revisit one of the most remarkable Saturday-morning cartoons I’ve ever watched.
Digimon follows the same formula that made Pokemon a hit – young people “collect” creatures, and participate in fights so the creatures can “evolve” to higher power levels. In Digimon Tamers, which was the third anime series of the franchise, there is a card/computer game version of “Digimon,” which is played by all of our principle characters. As a result of several plot complications, actual Digimon are transported from the “Digital World” to our world. The plot follows these Digimon and their human counterparts, their “Tamers.”
The Tamers are Takato, the Digimon anime franchise equivalent of a energetic young tenor in opera. Distinguished by his goggles, every-so-slight cluelessness and energy, he is the de facto leader of the group. Jian (called Henry in the English dub) is a Chinese-Japanese, whose father was part of the team that originally created the Digimon. The third member of the group is Ruki (called Rika in the dub,) known as the Digimon Queen for her card gaming skills.
Takato appears to have created his own Digimon by force of will and, like his Tamer, Guilmon is guileless, cheerful and energetic. Jian appears to have had his Digimon, Terriermon, for some time and they already have a history and some traumatic experiences behind them when the anime starts.
Ruki is typical of many girls in gaming – she works twice as hard as the boys, ekes out a little respect and about the same level of derision, and is, at 10 years old, already quite jaded and cynical. At first glance, there’s no way not to peg Ruki as a babydyke, from the leg holster and the broken-heart t-shirt she habitually wears, to her passive-aggressive relationship with her Digimon, Renamon.
Renamon is eight kinds of awesome as a fighter, she’s smart and, compared with the other Digimon, she’s mature. (To be fair, Terriermon is more mature than Guilomon, partially because of Jian and partially because he is older and more experienced than Guilomon.) Ruki and Renamon’s relationship is as full of denial, recrimination, poor communication and tenderness as any real-life relationship. It’s almost embarrassingly realistic.
I first watched this series as it played out on American TV, during a Saturday morning cartoon block. Now, watching the original anime in Japanese with subtitles, I’m amazed how *little* was changed for the dub. I’m amazed – and impressed. Scenes, tone, dialogue are all exactly as I remember it.
I am not impressed by the subtitling on Hulu, however. It has exactly the same lack of quality control that plagues Crunchyroll’s subtitling. It really would be worth hiring an editor, purveyors of streaming subtitled anime. Instead of seamless translation, there’s typos, grammatical and syntactical errors, and an overall sense of middle-schoolers or non-native English-speakers having been put in charge of the project.
Nonetheless, I’m thrilled to be able to watch Digimon Tamers again, and watch Ruki slowly, reluctantly, come to realize what Renamon really means to her. If you missed it the first time around on TV, I hope you’ll give it a try this time. It’s a surprisingly excellent franchise cartoon.
Art – 7, with flashes of 9 and moments of 5, when the budget runs low
Story – 9
Characters – 9
Yuri – really depends on how you interpret Ruki and Renamon’s relationship. Let’s call it a 5
Service – 1
Overall – 9
It’s not a “Yuri anime” but is an excellent anime, with Yuri potential if you want to go there. If not, it’s a great cartoon.