Digimon: An Adventure Through The Years
Posted by Yuri Mangahas February 26, 2020

If there’s one Japanese franchise that stood the waves of time, it has to be Digimon. Since its conception in 1997 as a virtual pet toy, the series has spawned multiple anime shows, movies, manga, trading cards, and video-games. Digimon earned a great amount of following, thanks to its variety of themes, stories, and characters. Truly, we can say that the series evolved over the years.

With Last Evolution Kizuna set to hit Japanese theaters this week, we take a look at the Digimon franchise’s timeline and why the series deserves your attention.


The 90s: Digital Monster and Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01

The Digimon franchise started with nothing but a dream and a little virtual pet device. (Source: Wikipedia)


Following the debut of Tamagotchi in 1996, a team of developers started work on a virtual pet device that will cater to young boys and feature creatures that can play and fight at the same time. The result is Digital Monster, a four-button device that allows players to nurture, train, and even battle alongside their pets. Each player starts with a baby-level creature that has a limited number of attacks and transformations. Players are required to do arduous tasks, such as working out, in order to get their pets stronger. The device’s success pushed Bandai to develop follow-up virtual pet toys that featured higher evolution levels, interoperability, and a fusion ability with other players’ pets.


Taichi actually made his debut not in the anime, but in a manga. (Source: Gamespot)


In 1998, V Jump capitalized on the Digital Monster toy and launched Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01. The manga follows Taichi, a V-Pet player who was summoned along with other kids to the Digital World, a virtual realm comprised of various regions and monsters known as Digimon. Taichi and his partner, Zeromaru the Veedramon, are tasked by MagnaAngemon to stop Daemon, an evil entity behind the chaos in the Digital World. The manga ran for 58 chapters and concluded in 2003.


1999 to 2000: Digimon Adventure 01 and 02

The original eight “Chosen Children” and their Digimon partners. (Source: Toei)


The Digital Monster toy and the V-Tamer 01 manga became successful that Toei decided to create a short film based on Digimon. However, the company saw potential with the film’s initial draft that it requested writer Reiko Yoshida, director Hiroyuki Kakudo, and their team to develop a separate children’s television series set after the events of the movie. Thus, Digimon Adventure 01 was born.


Set four years after 01, 02 features a brand-new team of “Chosen Children.” (Source: Comic Book)


Inspired by V-Tamer 01, the show focuses on eight “Chosen Children,” who were brought to the Digital World to combat a threat that endangers the said realm and the human world. The show became a tremendous success, resulting in a second Digimon Adventure film, and a sequel TV series (Digimon Adventure 02) set four years after 01.


2001 to 2002: Digimon Tamers and Digimon Frontier

Digimon Tamers is the first entry in the franchise to employ trading cards as a Digivolution mechanic. (Source: Toei)


Chiaki Konaka, a Japanese screenwriter best known for her work on the psychological anime Serial Experiments Lain, explored with the idea of depicting the primitive side of Digimon, and the potential impact their evolutions could bring to their partners and society in general. He also wanted a Digimon show that incorporates a realistic portrayal of death, along with an evolution feature that allows the fusion of Digimon and their “tamers.” Hence, the creation of Digimon Tamers, a 51-episode anime series taking place in a brand-new setting apart from Digimon Adventure. The show was praised for its mature themes, a grim atmosphere, and an aesthetic inspired by Lovecraftian tales.


The “Chosen Children” transform into Digimon themselves in Digimon Frontier. (Source: Toei)


In 2002, Toei announced the development of a fourth Digimon series inspired by the emergence of the mobile phone trend. Digimon Frontier employed the fusion evolution mechanic of Digimon Tamers, but to a great extent, as it depicted children leveraging the power of ancient spirits to become Digimon themselves. Despite a character-driven take on the story, Frontier received a lukewarm reception from the audience.


2004 to 2006: Digital Monster X-Evolution and Digimon Data Squad

Digital Monster X-Evolution became the first Digimon entry to feature a cast without any human characters. (Source: Toei)

After a two-year hiatus following the conclusion of Digimon Frontier, Toei released Digital Monster X-Evolution, the first film in the franchise to premiere exclusively on TV. It is also the only entry in the series to be produced entirely in CGI, and feature a cast comprised of only Digimon characters. The movie centers on Dorumon, a child-level Digimon who gets imbued with the X-Antibody, a program that provides its hosts with enhanced abilities and immunity to a deadly system called the X-Program. He finds himself hunted by various Digimon, as he ventures to find the truth about the X-Antibody and the supercomputer known as Yggdrasil.


Digimon Data Squad features a group of teenagers as “Chosen Children.” (Source: Toei)


Unlike its predecessors, 2006’s Digimon Data Squad features an older team of Digidestined and carries over a few elements from X-Evolution. Moreso, the show’s 14-year old protagonist literally fights alongside his partner Digimon through the use of his bare knuckles, a feat unseen in the previous entries of the franchise.


2010 to 2018: Xros Wars, App Monsters, and Digimon Adventure tri.

Digimon Xros Wars is the first entry in the series to actually combine various Digimon into mech-like forms. (Source: Toei)


Digimon took another animated hiatus in 2007, but Bandai compensated for the absence of anime material through the abundance of video game releases. Fortunately, the franchise made a splashing return in 2010 with Digimon Xros Wars, just in time for the anime’s 12th anniversary. Serving as a homage to various entries in the franchise, the show centers on Taiki Kudo, a young prodigy who leads a team of ragtag Digimon via the use of the Xros Loader, a device that enables two or more Digimon to combine into various forms. Xros Wars received critical acclaim for its appeal to nostalgia, a diverse cast, and exploration of darker themes.


The original “Chosen Children” are now college students in Digimon Adventure tri. (Source: Toei)


Toei surprised the fandom in 2015 as they announced a third Digimon Adventure entry. The Digimon Adventure tri. film series is set three years after 02 and follows the original Digidestined as they cope with their teenage lives. A series of distortions between the Digital World and the human realm will reunite the Chosen Children and their Digimon partners as they try to resolve the impending conflict.


The App Monsters repel one virus at a time in Digimon Universe: App Monsters. (Source: Toei)

While treated as the seventh entry to the franchise, Digimon Universe: App Monsters deviates from its predecessors as it features a slew of new creatures known as Appmon, or App Monsters. It tackles various internet topics in a quirky way and depicts a fun crossover with Digimon Adventure’s Agumon.


2020: Last Evolution Kizuna

The original “Chosen Children” are now young adults and primed for the battle of their lives in Last Evolution Kizuna. (Source: Toei)


In celebration of the anime’s 20th anniversary, Toei announced the final and concluding entry in the original Digimon Adventure storyline. Last Evolution Kizuna jumps five years after tri. and sees the original Chosen Children as young adults. A powerful Digimon named Eosmon robs Digidestined across the globe of their consciousness, and it’s up to Taichi, Yamato, Agumon, and Gabumon to save the world.


It’s been a long journey for the Digimon franchise, and while we cannot tell what lies ahead for the series, we can be sure of one thing: It will continue to evolve along with its audience as much as it can.


What is your favorite Digimon title? Let us know in the comments!

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