So my boyfriend and I have been watching Digimon on Netflix for fun and reliving our childhood. We pretty much skipped over the first season because we’d already seen those episodes plenty of times, and so we began with season 2, which if you didn’t know (or perhaps didn’t remember) sets up with the new main characters battling a villain called the Digimon Emperor.
There is a scene in the third episode that I found to be particularly interesting, because it almost seems to be a commentary on Pokemon. The Digimon Emperor, who is a real life kid named Ken, uses his computer to go to the Digital World, where he is shown chasing down a small red dinosaur-like Digimon, and beating it with a whip while it cries and hides in the grass. He tells the Digimon there’s no use running and calls another Digimon who obeys him because he has a black slave ring around his neck, hops on top of his enslaved Digimon, and pursues the little dinosaur, beating it some more with his whip. He even makes a comment, “It’s not as fun if I catch it right away.” Ken then kidnaps the little thing and throws it into a dungeon, sits on a throne atop an arena and watches it battle with other Digimon for his own amusement, turning it into a slave as well. The two Digimon even battle each other with electric shock moves strikingly similar to Pikachu’s abilities.
The Pokemon commentary continues, though. There are three rock-humanoid Digimon that look suspiciously similar to the Pokemon Onix commenting about the Digimon emperor, and through conversation between themselves explain to the viewer what the Digimon Emporor is doing, and even say they don’t want to be caught and comments “Digimon who are friends would never hurt each other! What a terrible person!” Two of the three rock Digimon are whipped and caught by the Emperor and then forced to battle, while the third crouched in the bushes, crying. The Digimon Emperor later goes on to say that the Digital World belongs to him and that he’s going to capture all the Digimon and make them his slaves.
The parallels between this very misguided Digimon character and the world of Pokemon are pretty striking. Now, I’m not going all PETA here or anything, and I don’t think that Pokemon advocates animal abuse or animal fighting or anything like that. Pokemon itself even points out the somewhat twisted nature of capturing Pokemon and making them battle in it’s Black and White games. I’m really only pointing out that this episode is a very clear commentary on, or parody of, the Pokemon series, intentional or not. It’s funny that I never noticed this as a kid when I was watching Digimon, or drew any parallels between the two worlds. For what it’s worth, though, Ken does eventually come around, stop hurting Digimon, and become one of the heroes later on in the series. I don’t know if Digimon purposefully parodied Pokemon in this episode or not, but considering the extreme rivalry that existed between them in the 90’s (or at least the supposed rivalry kids were led to believe by their marketing campaigns, despite the fact that the two series have very little in common), it’s kind of interesting to know that there was an episode that showed a darker perspective on Pokemon’s “gotta catch ’em all” and creature battling concepts.
But the most important thing to note here is: why the hell can’t Gatomon beat all the other Champion level Digimon when she is in fact as strong as they are? The world may never know.