Anime is always a hard genre of entertainment to transfer into another media platform. We have witnessed great Anime series whose transference into western live action adaptations have been horrible such as Dragon Ball Z, Kite, Gundam. Any Western adaptation of an Anime is always met with these reactions: Fans hate the adaptation because so much of what made the series great is either watered down for western audiences or removed all together, Mainstream audiences don't get it since we live a spoon fed-near Americanized society that Anime and Japanese culture references are too much of culture shock, and Critics just don't care because they feel like it's cash grab on a trend.
There has never been a great adaptation of Japanese manga or anime or video games by western filmmakers and studios, but what if you find a series that can be a very popular anime yet has enough western culture to connect with US and European Audiences?
You get Digimon.
What is Digimon?
Before I explain what is the series of Digimon, allow me to say this. Digimon and Pokemon are two different franchises both originating from Japan. Digimon started in 1997as a V-Pet (Virtual Pet) device much like Tamogachi but for boys. The V-Pet was so popular that it spawned several manga, six anime series, several films including the recently announced Digimon Adventure Tri Film Series, video games, card games, toys, and more. Digimon stands for Digital Monsters and the digimon come varying looks, forms, group and personalities.
We are mainly focusing on the Anime series. The anime focuses on a group of kids who get sent to the Digital World and become digidestined or in season three and five, Tamers and Data Squad Officers. They partnered with digimon whom they befriend and grow stronger with through Digivolution using a Digivice to save both the Digital and Real world from evil as the two worlds are connected.
There are six seasons of the anime and each season, with the exception of the first two differs in some way. We will be mainly focusing on a particular season for this discussion: Digimon season three-TAMERS.
Digimon Tamers is the third season of Digimon and by far the most powerful season of the franchise dealing some serious real life situations almost on the level of a primetime teen drama. The series focuses on three kids: Takato, Rika, and Henry who all live in Tokyo where Digimon (Season 1-2) never happened and is in fact a TV and massive franchise (Very Meta, right?)
Each child is presented with a Blue Card and is given a Digimon but unlike previous seasons, how they get a Digimon is very unusual. First, Takato , the main focus of the season is a digimon fanatic. So much of a fan, he created his own digimon called Guilmon. One day, Takato finds a blue card and swipes it in his card reader. The card reader becomes a Digivice and then gives birth to Guilmon, a red dinosaur who is very much like an infant at first. Henry receives his digimon, Terriermon, from playing the Digimon PC Game and swiping the blue card. Henry get traumatized by seeing Terriermon in his injured state that he really becomes a pacifist. Rika, on the other hand, is avid professional digimon card game player and is distant from people. She is so distant that she is given the name Digimon Ice Queen because of the way she battles with no remorse. She receives a blue card and has mass group of digimon who want to be her partner but the femme fatale fox digimon, Renamon comes forth.
Though starting out rough, the trio of tamers soon became a team but had opposition from Digimon bent on taking over the world and HYPNOS, a secret government organization run by Yamaki, whose sole goal is to destroy Digimon permanently. The team soon expanded with more tamers like Jeri and her partner Leomon, Kazu and Kenta-Takato's best friends, Susie-Henry's younger sister and Ryo, a boy who was lost in the digital world. The Tamer team had many great adventures in both the real world and Digital world, and even learned the art of Biomerging with their Digimon.
Tamers is very much relatable to mainstream audience due to its concept, story elements, and themes. The concept of things from our imaginations being real and discovering that another world exist. When the season was promoted by FOX, It was promoted as Digimon gone real. if the kids in the show were watching the first two seasons of the series, playing games, buying the merchandise like us and figuring out that it is all real. They find out that having Digimon in the real world is not only hard but very terrifying. The story elements of Tamers is very dark, almost too dark for a children's series. There's a whole story arc about one of the tamers, Jeri witnessing the death of her partner and going into utter depression so much so that she is possessed by a digital entity known as D-Reaper hellbent on destroying both the human world and the digital world.
The element of government secrecy and surveillance is heavy throughout the first half of the season with HYPNOS as the main villain of that story arc. It is relatable due to the NSA tapping, National security, and government transparency. Yamaki is a great example of people who obsessed with their mission and will do anything for God and Country. The second half deals with Coexistance vs Superiority. Digimon who feel like humans are beneath them and shouldn't be their masters rather than learning to coexist. Themes of the season deal with heavy subject matter such as abandonment, feeling inadequate, depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Rage, death,mental stress Multiple Personality Disorder (Jeri) and feeling the pressures of family (Rika). The themes just make the series feel right at home with modern audiences.
How would it work with Cultural Differences?
With only minor changes, a live action film based on the third season is easy to adapt. The Kids can be Asian American teenagers living a place like San Francisco or Los Angeles. There would only a be a few changes to the names like Yamaki. The things shouldn't be changed like Digimon and what they are based on. The 12 Devas are a great example of things that should not be touched. The DEVAs are based on the Chinese Zodiac. Other than that, nothing has to be dramatically changed except the technology references
How will the film work?
Digimon Tamers is Jam-packed with enough material for a film series. The whole story is split into four arcs/sagas. The first arc is the Origins Arc, where we are introduced to the characters, digimon, villains and how the world works. The first movie should be an adaptation of Episode 1-14 ending when Guilmon digivolves into his ultimate form, WarGrowlmon and defeat the first Deva, Mihiramon.
The Second Arc know as Rise of the Devas immediately starts the day after where the first arc ends introducing a secondary villain group known as The Devas and their master, The Sovereign. The second arc expands on the character development of the main characters, introduces us to new tamers and digimon, and witnessing the fall of HYPNOS, The destruction of city,the kidnapping of Calumon and the kids leaving for the Digital World. The second film would adapt Episode 15-24.
The Third Arc know as The Digital World Arc shakes up the status quo. The Team is separated once landing in the Digital World and going on separate journeys. The third arc will introduce Ryo, bring Susie into the team, Kazu and Kenta get partners, The three main digimon get mega forms, The Sovereigns appear, Leomon's Death, Jeri's depression and possession, the introduction of the new enemy, the return home and the cliffhanger with D-Reaper in the real world. The third arc is the longest of the four arcs running from Episode 25-42
The Fourth and final arc is the D-Reaper Arc. The D-Reaper is now in the real world and the tamer must destroy before it deletes the whole world. The final arc brings the story full circle returning to the real world, finalizing character arcs, witnessing the final battle between Jeri and her demons, Takato's quest to save Jeri, The team's final attack against D-Reaper, and the epic conclusion adapting episodes 43- 51.