So, I guess I should let the folks who care know that I'm still here since I haven't submitted any entries since 2013. And that was about Pokemon X & Y. But, rather than talk about how those games were or my thoughts on Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire coming out tomorrow, I'll discuss something near and dear to my heart: that timeless conflict between my other favorite monster franchise and why to do this day it doesn't make much sense.
But first, I will address the aforementioned Pokemon X & Y because it does contribute something to the long-lived competition between the two franchises. Mega Evolution. Mega Evolving is when a pokemon and trainer have a strong bond and the right pair of artifacts (a Mega Keystone fitted into an item worn by the trainer and a Mega Stone held by the pokemon) to allow the pokemon to temporarily evolve further during battle, although they will return to their original form once the battle is over. The comparison between Pokemon and Digimon escalated sharply upon the revelation of this new mechanic.
Fun Facts: The similarity in terminology only existed outside of Japan. In the original version of Digimon the Mega stage is the stage actually called Ultimate (Kyuukyoku) while the Ultimate stage is actually called Perfect (Kanzentai). Digivolving is simply evolving (shinka), although the verbal declarations vary greatly depending on the mechanism and stage being reached. For instance, evolving to the Perfect stage via the power of a Tag and Crest would use the term "Chou-Shinka" (Super Evolve), skipping stages to reach the highest stage available uses the obvious term "Warp Shinka" (Warp Evolve), and using the Digimentals (Armor Digieggs) to armor evolve uses the term "Armor Shinka". Oh, and if you ever wondered why it was dragged out whenever the digidestined called out "Digi-Armor Ener-gize!" in the dub that's because they were trying to match the lip flaps for the very different activation command of "Digimental Up!" that was used in the original Japanese. Obviously, that's a very different configuration of syllables and the only way they could match things up correctly was to really stretch out the word "energize".
While the concept of temporary evolution in battle is a new concept in Pokemon, the comparison with Digimon is simply because that mechanic has been used in the other franchise for years. However, Digimon wasn't always this way. Temporary spontaneous evolution is something that was implemented for the anime to keep the titular monsters more attractive to the target audience and more manageable for their human companions. In the original virtual pets a digimon would evolve through all of its life stages before eventually dying (this was changed to being transported back to the digital world, with the graphical representation of a tombstone being replaced with a computer monitor in the North American version of the original virtual pet). Obviously, the anime embraced the idea of reconfiguration over permanent death for the digimon characters, but some later seasons would prove to be less forgiving.
While evolution in Pokemon and Digimon is a sign of maturation and experience, the process is very different as most pokemon have a fixed evolution path (the obvious exception being Eevee who seems to find a new way to evolve every few years) while digimon evolve down a path related to their upbringing, health, and the volume of data available to enable them to reach the next stage. In digimon with human partners this process is also influenced by the bond between human and digimon as well as the mental state of the human partner. Emotions play a big role in determining what path the partner digimon will follow, although there can be severe consequences for evolving under the stresses of heightened negative emotions (Megidramon and Shine Greymon Ruin Mode both manifested under the influence of extreme anger). Forcing a digimon to evolve is also risky as you might just find yourself on the wrong side of a rampaging Skull Greymon.
So, why is this important? The different ways in which pokemon and digimon evolve actually tells us a lot about how they are different. We all know that by and large pokemon are wild animals, but they can be captured, tamed, and stored as digital information. This doesn't make them the same as digimon, monsters that originated as computer data given form. Pokemon evolution is something that is tried and true. There are few variances and on the whole evolution is a very stable process. Even Mega Evolution, once properly understood, practiced, and honed is nothing to be concerned about. What isn't so commonly known is that digimon are inspired by Kaiju. For those of you who have never seen a classic Japanese monster movie this means that all of that stuff about semi-psychic humans (like Kari), empathic bonds between humans and monsters, and the rampant destruction of Tokyo actually makes a whole lot of sense. Obviously, certain seasons embraced this inspiration more than others by having the digimon become more explicitly monstrous or upping the scale of the battles.
Pokemon is a bright, colorful, idyllic world where the biggest threats are criminal organizations and the occasional more Kaiju-esque legendary monster going on a rampage, usually triggered by one of the aforementioned criminal organizations. Digimon is a bright, technicolor world shaped by the collective myths and ideologies of the human world. Dreams, wishes, and even our worst nightmares are given form based on data that has been compiled on the internet. On the surface the digital world is a bright and cheery place, but those bright cheery landscapes are also inhabited by truly horrific dangers. Dangers that prey upon the thoughts and emotions of those who dare to tread too close.
Something that is also important to note is that digimon have lives and society beyond their interactions with humans. The digital world has its own cities occupied by perfectly civilized monsters with mannerisms that would make them virtually indistinguishable from ordinary people in a human city if not for their outwardly monstrous appearance. Digimon aren't wild animals. In fact, humans and digimon aren't so different. While pokemon are naturally competitive creatures and actively hone their skills to become stronger, both in the wild and with trainers, most digimon don't merely fight for the sake of fighting. The battle techniques inherited by the members of various digimon species are present so that they can defend themselves from the harsh dangers that exist in their world. For the most part the digimon will try to resolve the problems in the digital world on their own, but when circumstances are too severe for the digimon to handle on their own, that's when they cry out to the human world for help.
Just some food for thought. Keep in mind that I'm not trying to argue whether one franchise is better than the other. I'm taking both at face value and analyzing the monsters themselves. As such, this is purely speculative. If you really want to know my opinion though...
I think Pokemon makes for better games and Digimon makes for better anime. Pokemon is where I turn when I just want to have fun and relax (and occasionally torment myself trying to hatch a shiny). Digimon is where I turn when I want some philosophical introspection, drama, and intrigue in my life.
And... I suppose I'll end things here for today. There are still plenty of ways I know these two franchises are different so I'll definitely want to touch on that more at a later point. But for now, I think this is quite enough.
Listening to: holiday music on the radio
Watching: The X-Files
Playing: Digimon Masters Online