The Digimon vs Pokemon debate has been one of the biggest anime rivalries since time immemorial. While both Digimon and Pokemon franchise has “mon” in their name, they’re independent and successful in their way.
Our team took the liberty of researching and compiling the differences and similarities of both popular children’s anime.
How Is Pokemon Different From Digimon?
The Japanese franchises came out at very similar times, albeit pokémon (or Pocket Monsters) anime came out first, Pokémon fans have accused Digimon (Digital Monsters) of imitation. However, these are baseless accusations, and if you watch them, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.
For one, Pokemons exist as real-world creatures like regular animals, while Digimons hail from a digital realm. Both Digimon and Pokemon have unique storylines, themes, character designs, and even toys and video games. We’ll explore each of those aspects in the points below.
A Closer Look At Their Differences
History & Origin
Most people know Digimon and Pokemon because their anime aired on TV in the late 90s. However, they didn’t actually start there.
The Japanese version of the Pokémon video game came first in 1996 for the Nintendo Gameboy and led to trading card games in the same year. It cannot be denied that their popularity earned the right to be a standalone Pokémon anime . But when do fans celebrate Pokemon Day?
On the other hand, Digimon started as virtual pets like Tamagotchi - the only difference is that Digimon creatures could engage in combat with others. It gained similar popularity, which resulted in a Digimon anime in 1999.
The question of popularity is debatable. There are avid fans from the two franchises who argue theirs is better than the other. Unfortunately, if we look into the sheer number of fans, Pokemon takes the cake vs Digimon.
New fans are added to the roster thanks to the continuing seasons up until the time of writing. Plus, the Pokémon storyline is easier to follow, unlike Digimon, which taps into multiverses. Pokémon games are also much more popular.
Continuity & Development
As mentioned above, the Pokémon story is an easier franchise to understand. It simply follows the life of Ash Ketchum and his trusted Pokemon named Pikachu as he engages in training and battle to become one of the best Pokémon trainers in the world. But how many Pokemon are there, really?
Meanwhile, Digimon episodes focused on a group of young teens sent to the digital world, inhibited by Digimons. The “DigiDestined” protagonists, as the show puts it, are set on a quest to save the real world and digital world from evil.
Pokemon trainers are the people who catch, train, care for, and combat with other Pokemon trainers. An example of this is the main protagonist, Ash Ketchum.
For the Digimon franchise, the generic term to call people who partner with Digimons is tamers. On the other hand, they’re called DigiDestined when benevolent beings select a child to protect the digital world. Based on the strength of the DigiDestined, the Digimon may undergo “digivolution.”
The animes have their strengths, but their approach is very dissimilar.
Unlike the fun, lighthearted, and adventure-filled Pokemon, Digimon gets darker as the season progresses. The show tackles mature themes like depression and evil, so it ages well and gets more interesting for some.
Although Pokemon has some evil villains like Team Rocket, they don’t amount up to Digimon’s level. The Pokemon series focuses more on friends, battles that are more like a game than a fight, etc. But what's the proper way to watch Pokemon in order?
Power & Abilities
Both Pokémon and Digimon have their powers and abilities. For Pokémon, their nature influences their power. Say an electric-type Pokémon like Pikachu attacks with electricity or “thunderbolt.”
On the other hand, Digimon has their set of abilities too but not as pronounced or declared as with Pokémon. Tamers don’t command their Digimon to make certain moves; say, Taichi doesn’t need to scream “Agumon spit fireballs!” for the latter to attack.
Most of the time, tamers or DigiDestined fight alongside them.
Characters & Creatures (Natures & Types)
The natures of Pokemons and Digimons are entirely different. Pokemons are like animals endowed with special powers, but they can’t talk or interact like normal people do. Meanwhile, Digimons are created from data that live in virtual realms.
Pokemon types refer to the elements associated with the creature. Each type has strengths and weaknesses. For example, a fire-type like Charizard is weak against a water-type like Gyarados. For the most part, these rock-paper-scissor relationships make the quality of play more interesting and cool.
Death & Re-generation
When a Pokémon dies, it stays dead. Remember that they’re only powered animals with bones and flesh. On the other hand, Digimon may also die. Still, since they’re made of data, they can reconfigure and reboot back into a “digiegg” and undergo the same growth and development process as they gather data and experience.
Story Line & Concept
Both Pokémon and Digimon have amusing stories and plotlines that impart invaluable lessons like friendship and compassion.
However, Digimon features more mature themes and related topics to what happens in real life. Conflicts and battles against evil villains are more emphasized. While for Pokémon, albeit there are some villains too, each episode is more lighthearted and fun rather than conflicting.
Even fans of Pokémon will agree that Digimon is darker. Especially in Ken’s Digimon Emperor arc or Jeri’s possession by the D-Reaper storyline.
In terms of character design and villain quality, Digimon is way better. Since the central theme of Digimon is darker, the villains pose a greater threat to the world, they talk in a more mature theme, and they get increasingly better with every passing episode.
On the other hand, Pokémon villains are less ominous. You certainly won’t feel chilly every time Ash goes against Team Rocket.
Pokémon evolution and Digimon digivolution have their similarities. For one, they increase in strength and power as they evolve.
Digimons power up through Digivolution, which is affected by their tamer’s age, inherent strength, and energy. When strength is depleted, or Digimons are mortally wounded, they revert from their “digivolve” state back to normal.
Pokémon evolutions, on the other hand, are independent of humans. The characters evolve naturally in response to age, strength, battle experience, or the stone used on them. An example is Pikachu evolving to Raichu.
As for the games, Digimon games have had successes with the Digimon: Cyber Sleuth, but that one game is incomparable to the many successful Pokémon games.
What intrigues fans most is the real-world connection that Digimon has over Pokémon and that Digimon VR cohesive to the anime is more likely. Albeit Game Freak and other developers can produce better Pokémon VR than Pokemon Go; we’re hopeful for more future Digimon gaming. So, who's the best Pokemon player ever?
How Are They Similar?
Pokémon and Digimon, despite their differences, share slime themes. One of the most notable is the connection between a Digimon with a tamer and Pokémon with their trainers. Although the former are virtual creatures, the idea of having a super-power companion is uncanny.
Both also have the concept of evolution, except for the fact that Pokémon evolution is more permanent than Digimon’s.
Lastly, fans of their animes and games will talk smack to defend the shows to the death.
Is Digimon a ripoff of Pokémon?
No. Pokemon did come first before Digimon, but the latter is not a ripoff of Pokemon. They’re unique in their own ways with distinct characters, storylines, and plots. It’s safer to say that Digimon is a rip-off of Tamagotchi as the popular monster show is indeed based on Tamagotchi .
Which is older Digimon or Pokémon?
Pokémon is older as the games were published in 1996 - a year before the Digimon gameplay was released as the “masculine” counterpart of the female-oriented Tamagotchi. The anime for Pokémon was also released in 1997, while Digimon became a show in 1999. Given the slim time difference, it’s safe to say no one ripped the other off.
Digimon vs Pokemon is one of the longest-running comparisons between two successful franchises. Contrary to popular belief, the level of similarities ends with the “monster” in their names because they follow very distinct paths.
Although both have achieved successes in their own rights, one is clearly more successful than the other based on sheer numbers. Many argue that Digimon’s story is better, but this is subjective and debatable. The merch, games, fans, and popularity ascribe to Pokemon from an objective standpoint.
Nonetheless, both are awesome shows, and we recommend you watch both!
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