My experience with the Digimon series consists of fuzzy memories of the first and second Digimon Adventure seasons from my childhood, fond memories of the Digimon Adventure, Children’s War Game! and Hurricane Touchdown films, and a fervent love for the third season, Digimon Tamers, which I waxed poetical about in my review of the series last year. In general, I’m fond of the Digimon series, particularly its stories about kids trying to keep their Digimon friends on the downlow when in the human world and the neat creature designs that start of fun and minimalist but quickly reach levels of absurdity as they become more powerful and various guns and knives are glued to their bodies. Even though I’ve never really pursued additions to the franchise since the Digimon Tamers finale, it’s still a series I enjoy. Digimon Data Squad is the fifth season in the Digimon series, and my first new Digimon experience in years.
The Digital Accident Tactics Squad (or DATS for short) is a secret organisation made up of humans and their partner Digimon who work together to stop Digimon that escape from the Digital World into the real world from wreaking havoc. While tracking a rogue Agumon, DATS member Yoshino Fujieda and her partner Lalamon come across Marcus Damon, an arrogant punk obsessed with fighting who picks a fight with the aforementioned Agumon. Agumon and Marcus bond over a fist fight and Marcus joins DATS with Agumon as his partner in order to keep the Digimon from being sent back to the Digital World against his will. Alongside Yoshino and her partenr Lalamon, DATS prodigy Thomas Norstein and his partner Gaoman, and the other DATS members, Marcus and Agumon must learn to navigate their new responsibilities as protectors and figure out how to work with their new team to keep the world safe from threats involving the Digital World.
The opening of the fifth season feels like something straight out of Digimon Tamers (minus the excellent tone and pacing which managed to create some excellent tension – I will eventually stop bringing up Tamers I promise). A mysterious organisation is tracking a wild Digimon that has entered the real world, when the main character stumbles across and then subsequently adopts said Digimon as a companion and friend. The first two episodes set up the series quickly and lets you know what to expect right off the bat. In the beginning, Marcus, Agumon and the other DATS members live their day-to-day lives and get into whacky hijinks involving their Digimon, until a threat involving the Digital World rears its head and they have to come up with a plan to stop it. This usually involves Marcus doing something rash and messing things up for the team, only to prove himself by the end of the episode. There is a sprinkling of subplots such as the usual best friends falling out episode, and a birthday episode for Marcus’ sister Kristy, but otherwise it’s your standard fun with a side of cheesy jokes and one-liners that is present in each season of Digimon.
Funnily enough I have always found the Digital World to be the least interesting part of each Digimon series. For me, the series shines when it remains in the real world and explores how Digimon live and function there. My favourite part of the first season of Digimon Adventures is when the kids return to the real world with their Digimon partners to search for the eighth DigiDestined, and the majority of Digimon Tamers takes place in the real world. Digimon Data Squad jumps between the two worlds constantly throughout the series, with a majority of big plot moments and confrontations taking place there. While it wasn’t the kind of Digimon story I’m used to, the season had some good set-ups and twists that made visiting the Digital World pretty engaging, and managed to tell a story that balanced fun with some darker concepts involving the history of conflict between Digimon and humans.
Although the series was a cheesy kind of fun, there weren’t many characters in Digimon Data Squad that I genuinely liked. Marcus is kind of insufferable and brash for a majority of the series, Yoshino and Thomas aren’t particularly memorable and even some of the main partner Digimon like Gaoman and Lalamon don’t really have any time to develop an arc which is in direct contrast to Digimon Tamers (last time, I swear), which felt like all characters, including Digimon, had a story that was theirs. The best arcs concern Keenan, a human raised to believe he was a Digimon in the Digital World alongside his brother Falcomon, and Marcus’ sister Kristy and her partner Digimon Biyomon. These were the most engaging parts of the show, and I felt like the Kristy and Biyomon episodes, although short, had a lot of heart while simultaneously delving into some neat back story elements about DATS and Marcus’ family.
Digimon Data Squad is a mixed bag for me because while it balances light-hearted fun with some interesting and frankly quite dark ideas, I wasn’t invested in the characters too much outside of Kristy, Keenan and their partner Digimon. Overall, it wasn’t a bad re-introduction to the Digimon series, and the show definitely got stronger the further into the episodes I delved. It’s worth a watch for fans of Digimon, especially those like me who have had a long hiatus from the series and are looking for an excuse to jump back in.
A review copy was provided by Madman Entertainment to the author for the purpose of this review.
©2006 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved ©2007 Toei Animation Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved ©Akiyoshi Hongo, Toei Animation