Although this third season in the long-running Digimon franchise is a standalone entry, 2001’s Digimon Tamers has the same basic premise as its fellows: a group of kids discover the existence of Digimon and must do battle against a big bad who threatens both the real and digital worlds. In this case, we’re following young Takato, Henry and Rika as they discover the meaning of friendship, hope, love and whatnot in the company of their Digimon partners Guilmon, Terriermon and Renamon.
Tamers’ episodes take a (digital) monster-of-the-week approach, while also attempting to progress the overall storyline – although until the end of the series, character arcs rarely stretch beyond an episode or two. The show’s supporting cast also seem something of an afterthought, frequently employed as handy dei ex machina and then left on the sidelines until they’re next needed for MacGuffin reasons, whereupon plot-significant characters appear out of nowhere like Digimon bio-emerging into reality.
A blast from the past, the script of the English dub (the only option on this release) has not aged that well either, tending towards the cringeworthy – especially when its humour tries to appeal to little kids. An odd contrast between the writing and what we’re actually seeing on-screen makes it feel like someone saw Tamers’ original content and decided to dumb it down, glossing over the themes of death, loss and family struggles. None of it is handled especially well, with the ending coming over as particularly half-baked.
All that said, Digimon Tamers will still be fun for its young target audience. Sure, the Digimon theme is repeated for every Digivolution. And sure, the anime’s opening and closing themes are both lacklustre, with the first three minutes of each episode being eminently skippable. But when the hero moments do happen, Tamers can still raise goosebumps …and the show’s pantomime-like cheesiness should wring a smile from the stoniest of faces.
Despite being controversial at the time for its darker undertones, Digimon Tamers now feels like a fun romp for the family. You’ll have to get used to the letterboxing – the show comes with an old school 4:3 ratio – but otherwise Tamers is a middling entry in the Digimon canon; no more and no less. Reviewed by Owen Chan.
Release: Out Now
From: Manga Entertainment
Age Rating: PG