Digimon in the USA has always had an odd history. Never quite getting a real release for any of it’s seasons on DVD (minus a single DVD for the first season released nearly a decade ago that had over 10 episodes stuffed onto it and the first three films in their ‘edited into one film for the USA’ version on a different DVD) Well Go USA has teamed up with Toei USA to bring boxsets of the newest season to the USA.
After some lackluster online streaming and video on demand offerings recently, let’s see if this is finally a Digimon release fans can get behind and enjoy.
The packaging is a digipak with a slipcase. I’m generally not a fan of digipaks, but I’ll admit Well Go put together a nice one here. Nice glossy material is used, along with some embossing on the slipcase. The plastic trays for the three disks use a hub I haven’t seen before on a digipak, it holds all three disks very securely, but releases them quite easily. The front cover of the slipcase and digipak itself both use the same piece of artwork and clearly state this as collection one on every side of the slipcase. The show description on the back of the case is a bit off (mentioning the main character teaming up with his best friends, when he teams up with two people he had never met before, and an apostrophe is missing) but it in general is a relatively good description of this particular Digimon series.
The disk menus are quite easy to navigate, although it would have been nice if the menus had some sort of distinction over the three disks minus the disc number changing. It should be noted, each episode is it’s own chapter, and can be selected separately, but the episodes themselves don’t have chapters.
Being a huge Digimon fan, it was nice to see a new series after a few years of being off the air. Data Squad changes the formula quite a bit, using a more standard art style and a slight change in the style of plotting (and considering how the early shows jumped around on plotting, that’s saying something). Overall I’ve seen fans jump anywhere on the scale from ‘hate it’ to ‘think it’s the best season/series of Digimon’. I tend to fall somewhere more in the middle, in that while I like some of the characters, I generally think that character and plot wise, it falls lower than the other shows in the franchise, if only because characterization and interaction seems to happen less often then in the shows where characters were often younger, and often swept up into the events (unlike Marcus, who one could argue dives head first into every every of the series). I still quite enjoy it, I just feel it’s missing that ‘spark’ that made Digimon special to me in the first place when I first saw any given season or film in the franchise. The show still comes highly recommended, and getting the first 13 episodes in a batch like this is quite nice.
Before I move onto video quality, I need to bring up which version of the show is on the disks. This is Digimon Data Squad, the English dubbed, and edited down for TV version of Digimon Savers. Directed by Jeff Nimoy, the dub does change things, and fans will need to deal with that in their own way. Nimoy was largely the driving force behind the show when it was most popular in the USA (it’s first two seasons). These seasons while the dubbing quality itself was quite high, the script is something people argued about. It’s since been found out Nimoy was often micromanaged to the extent that he left the show towards the end of the second season. Seeing his more recent work dubbing Digimon (the 4th movie, and Data Squad) where he isn’t micromanaged as much, there is definitely more a swing to staying serious, although the comedy does sneak in (sometimes very slyly, and other times, not so). The LA area cast (quite a few of which who were suggested to Nimoy at Digimon forum/community With the Will) generally does a great job with the characters, even if instances of overacting occurs at times, if you enjoy LA dubs, you will no doubt find recognizable voices at every turn. Everyone has their own opinion on edited dubs, and Data Squad can jump into any of those camps. I’ve seen people flip out that the character Yoshino is often referred to as a shorter nickname of ‘Yoshi’ in the dub, or that she eats ‘chocolate pudding’ instead of ‘coffee jelly’ in the first episode. While I don’t necessarily agree that any show should be edited, to be on TV it happens, and the one thing I want to point out, the show is still the show. It isn’t like many other edited dubs that people generally go after in that the crew tried to make it something it wasn’t. I’m sure it being dub only will turn off many people regardless of what I say at this point, but I find the dub (like many of the earlier Digimon dubs) enjoyable and definitely watchable.
And yes, BomberNanimon (a giant bomb character) is still edited down to Citramon (a giant orange monster who talks with the dub voice of Don Patch). The animation change is not stilted or even noticeable for the vast majority of it (unlike bad attempts to put underwear on Goku in early Dragonball). The show has some other visual edits that will be obvious (Agumon kicking Marcus in the crotch, and instead of the crotch shot we get a big spinning star onscreen).
Now, onto the video. I honestly wasn’t expecting much video wise from the disc. With Digimon sorta has had bad luck with video quality in the past (movies 4 thru 7 and Data Squad airing heavily compressed on ToonDisney, and the stream/download versions of Adventure 02 having horrible video quality) I was hoping for ‘watchable’ video quality. Instead the disk has great video quality for 480i animation. Colors are bright and vivid and lines are crisp and clean. Artifacts do show up once in awhile (a rain scene on the tail end of the boxset) and Yoshino’s pink outfit does create a few issues once in awhile, but I honestly wasn’t expecting such great video from the set. Digimon fans will likely be quite happy with this, as someone who likes good quality video on my disks, I was quite happy with this, even if it was a step or two under what I imagine could be perfect for the show.
The disk has two audio tracks. A Dolby 2.0 (the TV mix) and a new Dolby 5.1 mix. Both sound about how you would expect for English dubs at this point. The only complaint I have is at times the (newly composed for the dub) music is to loud compared to characters talking. Outside of that, voices are clean and sound effects are crisp.
English Track 1- Dolby Digital, 2.0, 16 bits, 48 kHz, 256 kbps
English Track 2- Dolby Digital, 5.1, 16 bits, 48 kHz, 448 kbps
When I review dubs, I normally review them here, but since for Digimon the dub is an integral part of the show (there being no Japanese track), I reviewed it higher up, so enjoy the extra screencap mid review.
There are no on disc extras, but there is a 14 page booklet included in the set. The booklet is printed on good quality paper and includes character bios, episode summaries, and some artwork. A relatively nice booklet, only thing that would have been nice was to have more info on Data Squad or the franchise itself.
Digimon was one of the more popular anime franchises brought over to the USA (often beating out Pokemon in the ratings when it aired in Fox Kids), and it’s a shame that there hasn’t been a real attempt to give it DVDs before now. While having the uncut and subtitled episodes on the discs would have been preferred, being able to say the show can be had at all is very nice. Hopefully the Data Squad sets will sell well and convince everyone that needs to be convinced to do the older shows also, along with subtitled boxsets for those who want them (such as me, who has the R2 boxsets on his shelf). For Digimon fans, this is a must have, and for everyone else, I definitely recommend a look, especially for the low price this first set is going for.
The Show: B+ (Not the strongest Digimon series, but very enjoyable.)
English Dub: B+ (A strong English dub with it’s main weakness coming from being dubbed for a younger audience. Dub haters, probably need not apply. Everyone else, wroth at least a look.)
Packaging: B+ (One of the better quality digipaks I’ve seen, with very nice disc holders.)
Video Quality: A- (Not perfect, but very close, especially for a franchise that has suffered in this department.)
Audio Quality: A- (Clean and crisp audio tracks, for a DVD I would probably have given it an A if the music wasn’t overly loud at times when it should have been far more in the background.)
Extras: C- (A nice quality booklet with some decent information, but nothing else.)
Overall (not an average): B+ (A good show, that while presented in edited only form, is still a good show, and Digimon fans finally having a set will probably make alot of people quite happy.)
With the Will, Digimon Forum and Community
Gallery under ad. All caps are lossless PNGs taken in VLC 1.0RC, feel free to request more. (Caps are sized 640×480 so as to display properly on computer monitors, as encoded the disks are 720×480, but having the caps be 640×480 emulates how they will appear on your television screen, the caps were changed to 640×480 via IrfanView’s batch conversation tool).
Digimon Data Squad – © 2007-2009 AKIYOSHI HONGO, TOEI-ANIMATION. All Rights Reserved.