Here is a post explaining why Digimon Tamers is the best ever, for louchan and everybody else who hasn’t watched it yet, for shame.
*Digimon Tamers does not give a shit about your shounen anime tropes.
It is nothing like the other parts of the franchise, and it is nothing like any shounen anime I have seen. One thing I love about Adventure is that it takes existing tropes, builds on them and expands upon them, to make them into well-rounded, lovable and relatable characters. What I adore about Tamers is that it takes existing tropes and throws them out the fucking window. It doesn’t conform to any of the pinnacles of the genre, not character-wise, story-wise, or atmosphere-wise. (More on the characters shortly.) It doesn’t constantly throw unnecessary battles and explosions in your face just to be more “cool” or “exciting”. Its pace is slow and it has this warm, soft atmosphere, especially for the first half, which is basically just a slice-of-life anime with Digimon in it. And I love it. It takes the time to properly and lovingly develop every character and give each one a complete, meaningful growth arc – and the characters have always been the heart of the Digimon franchise.
The kids are all incredibly fleshed out – from their family lives, to their relationships with each other, and their ties with their Digimon and what it means for them to be a Tamer. They are all unique and wonderful and you will absolutely love them or your money back.
And the Digimon?
*Digimon Tamers does not take the Digimon to be talking animal mascots.
The Digimon get an amount of attention wonderfully close to that the kids do. While in Adventure, they all had their own personalities and were all very likable, I felt like not as much effort went into building the relationships between them and the kids – since they were their destined partners, they were completely dedicated to them from the start, and cared for them dearly before even properly getting to know them. Tamers doesn’t take that shortcut. It builds the relationships between the kids and their partners from the ground up, and what’s amazing to me is that, despite all of those bonds being incredibly meaningful and close, they’re different in nature, and develop in different ways along with the characters.
(Vague spoilers in this paragraph!) We get to see Guilmon grow up from a literal baby who’s incapable of thinking his actions through into somebody more responsible and mature, and Takato go from being part-excited, part-horrified at having his own real-life Digimon, just like in the anime!!, to really valuing and needing Guilmon in his life. He goes from being a distraught babysitter to Guilmon’s partner, completely on equal grounds with him. We get to see Renamon come to be more in touch with her feelings, and the supposedly emotionless relationship between her and Ruki grow into a bond of mutual trust and support. We get to see Terriermon grow from the cheeky, unruly little thing that never stops to consider the consequences into someone who actually cares about how others will be affected by his actions, and his relationship with Jian become more equal and positive for them both, as Terriermon begins to take Jian’s levelheadedness and cautiousness into consideration and Jian learns to maybe not worry so much all the time.
The Digimon are just really great. Unlike just about every other season, you actually get to see them have significant interaction with each other, and with Tamers not their own! One storyline had Ruki and Renamon go through a crisis – and you equally see both parties trying to deal, with Renamon seeking advice from others, including Jian. That bit just really stuck with me, because it showed that the series really considers the Digimon to be important characters on their own, not just add-ons for their Tamers.
There’s also an added layer of realism I rarely see anywhere else, where the Digimon are actually presented as kind of frightening. Because you bet your ass that a ten year old kid who sees a bright red dinosaur at least as big as him shoot a massive fireball out of his mouth and burn a hole through the wall in right in front of him will not react with ‘wow, so cool!’ but more likely with horrified, borderline-hysteric tears. And that’s exactly how Takato reacts. And when that dinosaur evolves to be bigger than a building? Yeah. It’s not an awesome power-up. It’s scary. And the show actually acknowledges that. I love that.
*Digimon Tamers does not give a shit about your gender roles.
No, it really doesn’t. To elaborate on my “throwing tropes the fuck out the window” from earlier:
The main character is a ten year old boy without a drop of shounen fighting spirit in him. He is not the hotheaded, brash-but-courageous, yells-a-lot type, which 99% of all shounen protagonists seem to be. Instead, he is a complete and absolute sweetheart. He’s incredibly sensitive and gentle, his family runs a bakery and thus baking is one of his main hobbies, he’s a giant Digimon nerd who sits around in class doodling his original Digimon all day until the teacher kicks him out– not to mention he cries incredibly easily, and isn’t ever ashamed of (or shamed for) showing his feelings. He’s the most refreshing male lead I have seen in anything, ever, and I love him so much. And you know what’s really amazing to me? Sure, he creates Guilmon with all those awesome fire-breathing, ass-kicking abilities, thinking about how cool he’d be in battle – but once Guilmon becomes a real, living creature, the last thing Takato wants is to have him fight. He wants him as a friend, not a tool to be used for fighting.
Then you have Jian, the other boy in the main group. Jian is pretty much the team mom. Like Takato, he’s very sensitive and gentle, but in a more mature way – he’s always thinking things through, often even overly so, and is as careful with his Digimon as he is with himself. Like Takato, he doesn’t want to use his Digimon for battle, and is even more ardently against it – he strictly forbids Terriermon from evolving, you know, the thing that’s usually considered a Tamer’s goal, because he feels like it turns his dear friend into a fighting machine. He hates violence. He is all about self-restraint and looking out for those close to him.
And then you have Ruki, the main group’s girl. Who is the polar opposite of the other two. She is harsh, rude and unpleasant, as well as emotionally cut-off from her surroundings; she has a rocky family life, rejects the typical 'girly’ things her mother’s constantly trying to force on her, and outright denies the idea of Digimon being anything more than tools of war. For her, the only thing that matters is growing stronger, beating more enemies, and becoming the best. Needless to say, she eats the other two kids for breakfast, and is a complete badass. But like with the rest of the characters, there’s more to her than it at first appears, and she goes through a lot of growth over the course of the show. She really is an amazing character – they all are.
The show’s female-to-male ratio is pretty good, too, for a Digimon series – 1:2 isn’t half bad for the main cast, but of course there’s more than just the one token female. Juri is also a character of major importance, and she is wonderful but I will not go into detail about her here beyond saying that she is a flawless proof that 'strong female characters’ don’t need to be un-girly, powered-up, or typically 'hardcore’ to be really, truly strong. Other than her, Shuichon is more minor but still gets her time in the spotlight to be adorable and kick major ass. Ruki’s family is all-female, too – mother and grandmother – and a fair amount of time is dedicated to her family life.
*Digimon Tamers deals with some seriously dark shit for a kids’ anime.
Seriously. I won’t go into detail as to avoid spoilers, but it has an arc dealing with severe depression and grief, which is more than often unsettling as well as heartbreaking, but it is beautiful and you will cry. This series has a lot of really significant, uplifting, well-conveyed messages, some of which really aren’t common to come by, and even those that are still manage to be done in a wonderful and meaningful way.
You are going to love everything and everybody, and you will cry.
*You want to be watching Digimon Tamers fucking seriously what are you still doing here.