Digimon Tamers Anime (English)

March 8th, 2011

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.

Ratings:

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.

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4 Responses

  1. Donald says:

    Said it before but I’ll say it again, this was the “War and Peace” of the Saturday morning fighting animal shows. Great story, great characters, the English dub was smart and funny and fit all the characters perfectly.

    My one criticism is that the middle third, where they are in the digital world, drags compared to the rest of the show, but that’s a minor nit in such a first-rate series.

    WHEN will it be on DVD?!?

  2. @Donald – well put. The early bits in the Digital World were especially slow, as we re-ramped up to where we needed to be, but I really was moved by Juri’s (Jeri’s) experiences in the Digital World. The ending was epic, but kind of harsh, IMHO.

    We may not have it on DVD (which I would also like) but at least we have it on Hulu. ^_^

  3. Donald says:

    Oh yes, the Jeri stuff in the Digital World is absolutely crucial to the show, I just think that part could have been paced better overall, it felt like there was serious filler there.

    How much do I love that back in the Real World even *Guilmon* figures out that there’s something wrong with Jeri before Takato does.

  4. @Donals – Yeah, well Takato is the classic “last to know he likes the girl” type. Jeri’s story was tragic and moving.

    The thing I think just blew my hair back, though, was when the kids have to come out to their parents before taking on the D-Reaper. That is nothing I have ever seen since and Ruki’s coming out was just that much more powerful, since it has to cover 3 things at once.

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