My personal experience with Digimon
The short but sweet history
I would say "despite" being a life-long Pokemon fan here to start with... but to be honest -- it's really because of being one that I never found myself in close contact with anything Digimon as a kid in the early 2000's. As most of you probably remember - there was a rampant attitude of "Pokemon vs Digimon" back then, and everyone had convinced me that Digimon was just a cheap knock-off of the series I already loved! As a result, I never ended up giving Digimon the chance it deserved. All of the designs looked so much "gaudier" and "weirder" at first glance compared to the Pokemon I'd known for so long, and it just strengthened the idea to my child self that Digimon was nothing but a weird rip-off. I mean, some of these "Digimon" aren't even Creatures! Some of them are big robots, or big piles of sludge... and little did I know that (mostly) all of them can even talk! That's just toooooooo weird!!! Of course, now as an adult I find all of weird those little oddities a large part of what makes Digimon so endearing!
I remember a friend trying to show me a few episodes of the first season of the anime, Digimon Adventure, through a part-segmented shoddy youtube upload (those were the days... ironically, we're still close friends now, and she doesn't even like digimon. she was confused when i told her this story, lol). Even though I know I was most likely put-off by it at the time, the fact I still remember seeing the intro on my shoddy CRT monitor despite being someone with severe memory issues makes me feel like it made some sort of impression on me still, deep down in my 'soul'. I still can feel how I felt then... which is rare for me. It was a digital wonder! As a kid though, I was too stubborn to budge from my autism-fueled Pokemon obsession to admit if I even liked it or not, or to even try. Little did I know how much Digimon would have actually appealed to me deep down during my childhood, and how much the series tackles so many messages I wish I had seen back then as a weird and troubled kid. If I had just kept watching, or just kept reading, my life may have been very different.
Even though I clearly was reluctant to delve into learning about any Digital Monsters, it wasn't really completely avoidable as I was growing up, either. I still remembered the English theme to the anime regularly, and of course would run into a Digimon fan now and again as I delved into my own digital hell starting around age 8/9. The next clear memory I distinctly have of encountering anything Digimon related overtly must have been around the time that Digimon: Cyber Sleuth released around 2015, or maybe a few years after. I distinctly remember seeing some friends at the time play it and talk about how Digimon is "for adults" now, compared to Pokemon. I would have been around 16 at the time, and definitely would have outgrown the childish stubbornness that led me to believe Digimon was a dumb rip-off. Though all of this piqued my interest, I didn't follow through in learning more about it. Digimon ended up becoming one of those pieces of media that just sits on a bookshelf in your brain labelled something like "I'll get to it one day, maybe", and just sits around and gathers dust.
Jump forward about 7-ish years, and the year is now 2022. By this point, I've long since met my best friend Coda back in 2018, and they had similarly heard interesting talk about certain seasons of the Digimon anime. Unlike me though, Coda had learned more actual specifics about aspects of the Digimon franchise by absently reading through Bogleech's Digimon Reviews (which are hosted here on Neocities, and are super great!). Over the past few years, they'd mention little tid-bits they'd learned that made the series sound more interesting. Things like Digimon evolving based on how you treat them, and that the third season of the Digimon Anime was directed by the same director of Serial Experiments Lain. (Crazy, I know!) We had both tossed back and forth the idea of getting into Digimon eventually, but trying to introduce yourself to such a large franchise from scratch is really tough. By 2022 though, Coda and I finally decided to watch "Digimon Tamers" together and see if we could try to see what this Digimon thing was all about, and if this season was really as "dark" as people online say it is. Little did either of us know that this would be a decision that would radically alter both of our interests and the course of the next year!
As I said above, getting into such a massive franchise as an adult is totally different from being raised with it as it grew during your childhood. Where do you even start to learn about something that's as old as you are? I will say, Watching Digimon Tamers has to have been the most ironic place to start becoming a Digimon fan, as most of the typical "rules" of the Digimon franchise are turned on their head in that show. Actually, the Digimon franchise itself exists within the Tamers universe. This actually made it a little more immersive to me as someone who'd only ever interacted with Digimon on a level where I saw it as "another franchise"... In Tamers, Digimon can actually die too! This must have been such a shock for kids in 2001 to watch, but for me it actually made going back to the earlier seasons (specifically season 1) have less impact in some places... oops. Needless to say, Coda and I were definitely going about learning Digimon in sort of the "wrong" way - but I'm glad that we did. If we'd started with the earliest season, or forced ourselves through things we didn't understand, I think we may have just given up early. I'd like to give my thoughts on all of the anime seasons, but that's not for this page!
After binging Tamers at an incredible rate, Coda and I have watched most of the first 4 seasons of the anime, played multiple games, collected cards and V-pets, and gone fully, completely autism-fueled crazy over Digimon many years too late. I don't really care though, because it's so much fun to learn about all of the weird little things this franchise has been holding right under my nose for so long. To be honest, I can't really blame anyone, not even my child self, for thinking that Digimon is super "weird" and hard to understand. That's because it really kind of is sometimes, but that's what makes it fun!