July 6: The Tale of Two Events

Today, there are many birthdays celebrated all over the world. Aside from that, many holidays are also celebrated, such as the independence days of Comoros and Malawi.

Today is also a special day to two entities: a person, and an anime series.

As some of you might have guessed (and known), today is my 22nd birthday. Another year older, and another age closer to death. How pessimistic an idea a celebrant to think about, you might say, but sadly, that’s the truth: anybody (and every living thing) eventually dies, so why the hesitation?

This day last year, a relatively very important gift was given to me by Bandai and Toei, an anime that originally aired on Japan at 7:27 PM (Japan time) via Asahi TV. This time would be always remembered with joy, not only by me but also by numerous fans of the aforementioned series (though I have no idea about what their cardinality would be). This series is the sixth season of Digimon, known formally as Digimon Xros Wars.

Digimon Xros Wars poster

Digimon Xros Wars poster (from Wikimon)

Digimon Xros Wars, currently on episode 43, is the sixth season of the Digimon series, aired on July 6, 2010 at 7:27 PM, Japan local time. That translates to 6:27 PM Philippine local time, approximately the time I would be at the course of eating dinner.

I admit I am an avid fan of the Digimon series, finding considerable enjoyment in its plot twists and emo scenes than its well-known rival, Pokémon. Of course, we are entitled to our own opinions, and I don’t want to start the ever-present Pokémon vs. Digimon flame wars (although I once downloaded an image from the Internet; I forgot the source (sorry), but I’ll share the image here).

Pokemon vs Digimon

Pokemon vs Digimon

As an interesting observation by many fans, the seasons have the characteristic that (a) odd-numbered seasons have the best plots and a good overall storyline, while (b) even-numbered ones have the worst plots and storylines. Well, I have high hopes that Digimon Xros Wars would be different, and in some ways it is, and in some, not.

For starters, here are some goodies the sixth season introduces:

  1. The season is broadcast in high-definition, meant for televisions with a resolution of 1280×720 widescreen, which translates to more vibrant colors and awesome effects.
  2. The digimon characters are simply AWESOME, from the aptly-named cutemon to my now-favorite Dorulumon. Digimon “crossed over” from the other seasons were given a remake as well, examples of which are Beelzebumon and Starmon.
    Cutemon

    Cutemon (from Toei)

    Dorulumon

    Dorulumon (Bandai Image)

    Beelzebumon (Digimon Tamers)

    Beelzebumon (Digimon Tamers)

    Beelzebumon (Digimon Xros Wars)

    Beelzebumon (Digimon Xros Wars)

    Starmon (Digimon Adventure 02)

    Starmon (Digimon Adventure 02)

    Starmons (Digimon Xros Wars)

    Starmons (Digimon Xros Wars)

  3. Even if scaled down to 704×396 and 640X360 resolutions (which are my avi and xvid videos’ resolutions), the pictures are still crisp and clean (of course, they are still rasterized when expanded to 1366×768 resolution of my 15″ LCD monitor). This makes the viewing experience more engaging and much more exciting.
  4. Awesome sound tracks are again used, ranging from the very good first opening song (Never Give Up! by Sonar Pocket) to the songs used during digixros (one is We Are Xros Heart! by the ever-famous Wada Kouji).
  5. This series also is unique by the absence of an ending song, opting instead to eventually putting the opening song during the 10:00 – 11:30 minutes of the program (in other words, during the MIDDLE of the anime episode).

With regards to the plot, some good changes include:

  1. The story focuses more on strategies than the power of the digivices, cards, or crests the generals (as what the human characters are called) own. Maybe that’s why they were called generals… (duh…)
  2. The characters are somewhat more mature than that of the previous series (with the exception of Digimon Savers, which I still haven’t watched).

Of course, the season has its own flaws, especially the plot and storyline:

  1. The storyline progresses VERY QUICKLY. Missing an episode is always obvious to the viewer, as there are no filler episodes (there are fillers inside the episodes, but they are not really that noticeable; in fact, they add more sense to the episode(s) they are in).
  2. Maybe as a consequence of its being high-definition, the season shines with its profusion of grand special effects with each episode (especially during the digixros), which is not a bad thing. However, maybe primarily because of its predominantly shounen orientation, much focus is given to battles than to character development (which, as with previous seasons, is definitely connected to the battle(s) they are having). This is not a very bad thing in itself, but most of the times the battles conclude to the protagonists winning because of some not-that-good reason. Episode 9 (battle between Kiriha and Tactimon) is a very good example.
  3. Much emphasis is given to team Xros Heart and their escapades, so much that team Blue Flare and team Twilight can be taken away from the series (with the exception maybe of Dark Knightmon) without damaging the plot so much.
  4. Consequently, much emphasis is given to Taiki, to the extent that team Xros Heart won’t win without his direction (maybe with the exception of episode 24, where Zenjirou at least takes the spotlight), and that Kiriha and Nene won’t be able to defeat their first Death General without Taiki suddenly appearing back to the digital world after months (in digital world’s time) of not being back there.
  5. Also, much emphasis is given to Shoutmon, the digimon leader of the group. Replace “Taiki” with “Shoutmon” in the previous item; the outcome is essentially the same.
  6. The main difference of this series with the previous ones is the absence of evolution levels, which were replaced by digixros with several digimon combining and the reintroduction of the single-level evolution in episode 30 and the double digixros in episode 33.
  7. Another main difference is the attachment of more than one digimon to a single general, the best example of which is Taiki “owning” 12 (and increasing!) digimon:
    • Shoutmon
    • Ballistamon
    • Cutemon
    • Dorulumon
    • Beelzebumon
    • Chibikamemon
    • Bastemon
    • several Pickmonz
    • Starmon
    • Sparrowmon (shared with Nene)
    • Dondokomon
    • Wisemon

    The effect is like that of Pokémon monster-hoarding.

  8. Absence of computer science-related stuff, which is very abundant in Digimon seasons 1, 2 and 3. As a computer scientist, I lament this loss.

Since the anime series is released as HD video, another issue, but mostly technical, concerns computers trying to play those videos in fullscreen (mine’s audio and video tracks become unsynchronized after prolonged playback, with the additional treat of slowing down my computer), but is addressed by low-screen subbers’ releases (thus the mention of the 704×396 and 640×360 resolution sizes).

Being the sixth season, Digimon Xros Wars also borrows from, and references, the other seasons:

  1. The extension of jogress shinka from season 2, used extensively to cope up with the lack of evolution levels, and also for the joining of OmegaShoutmon and ZeekGreymon to form Shoutmon DX.
  2. The use of a dark alter-ego in the form of Nene and Kiriha, much like that of Ken in season 2 and Ruki in season 3.
  3. References to the main digimon characters of the previous seasons, not accidentally but purposely, with them having very important roles (and promoted to “legendary” status):
    • Agumon
    • Impmon
    • Garurumon
    • Tailmon
    • Guilmon
    • Patamon
    • Veemon
  4. References to villains-turning-protagonists, which was introduced in Digimon Adventure 02 and also “adopted” by Digimon Tamers.

Overall, in terms of:
a. Storyline: sucks
b. Visual: rocks
c. Soundtrack: rocks

As for conclusion… Actually, the purpose of this blog entry is not to review Digimon Xros Wars but to provide an overview of what is new with this series. Thus, I apologize for the verbosity of this blog entry. However good and/or bad critics might view it, I am still grateful for the gift Bandai has given me last year.

Today, we both celebrate our birthdays with joy. I do still hope that after the current season ends, another begins: this time maybe better and more grandiose than the current and previous seasons were.

So to both of us: Otanjoubi omedetou gozaimasu!

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