Did Digimon Plagiarize Pokemon?

I knew I would be traveling this week, so I asked my friend Evan (of the “Cerebral Faith” blog) if he had any ideas for another guest post. As it turned out, he had indeed been mulling over something, and he dashed off a new anime-related piece for me — or, really, for you — lickety-split. Enjoy!


Did Digimon Plagiarize Pokemon?

by Evan Minton

“Digimon is just trying to cash in on Pokemon’s success”, “Digimon is just a poor man’s Pokemon”, “Digimon is just a Pokemon copy”. I’m sure you’ve heard these statements and others like them before. It is commonly thought that Digimon is just a copy of Pokemon. This is what many Pokemon fans say about the franchise. However, Digimon fans make the opposite charge; i.e., that Pokemon is a copy of Digimon. As a big fan of both franchises, I have an excellent vantage point from which to judge the validity of these charges of plagiarism, and I can tell you with certainty that neither franchise copied the other.

Why Do People Think One Copied The Other?

First of all, let’s get the question of why people think any copying is involved out of the way. There are, no doubt, similarities between the two franchises that do stick out.

1: They both have “Mon” at the end of their names.
2: The “Mon” in both cases stands for “Monsters”.
3: The Monsters fight each other and evolve to get stronger.

From looking at these similarities, it’s understandable why some would think one copied from the other one.

The Differences Outnumber The Similarities

However, the three things listed above comprise an exhaustive list of the things Pokemon and Digimon have in common. The differences far outnumber the things they have in common.

Pokemon – live alongside humans in the same world.
Digimon – live in a world by themselves and only interact with humans when humans go to the Digimon’s world or when Digimon come into the human world.

Pokemon – are the animals of the Pokemon world. There are no other animal species in the Pokemon world. The Pokemon themselves are the animals. This is why farmers get “Moo-Moo Milk” from Miltanks instead of cows, why Officer Jenny uses Growlithes and Herdiers instead of regular dogs, and why it is stated by Professor Oak at the beginning of the first two games that “Some people keep Pokemon as pets…” Now, in the first season of the animated television series, you do see some real-life animals making appearances (e.g., fish), but this is due to the fact that it was originally intended for Pokemon and Animals to exist side-by-side, but that was quickly rejected and retconned out of the series.
Digimon – They don’t act as the animals of the world. In the human world, real-life animals exist (e.g., Tai’s pet cat), and they have Digimon counterparts in the Digital World (e.g., Gatomon).

Pokemon – Either say their names (the anime) or make various noises/cries (the games). There are a few exceptions, such as Team Rocket’s Meowth in the Pokemon anime, but this is not the norm.
Digimon – Speak human languages.

Pokemon – Are generally amoral creatures, like real-life animals. If they commit crimes, it is only because their trainers commanded them to. This only applies to the games’ canon, though. In the anime, there have been some Pokemon (like Team Rocket’s Meowth) that have a moral compass and choose between good and evil.
Digimon – Can be good or evil, regardless of canon. In fact, some Digimon are inherently evil (like Devimon) and others are inherently good (like Angemon). Others can evolve into evil Digimon via “Dark Digivolution”. For example, a Greymon can become SkullGreymon, and an Angewomon can become Ophanimon Falldown Mode, which is basically a rogue Ophanimon with a Light Yagami mentality. Still others can choose between good and evil of their own free will.

Pokemon – When they die, they die. There are places in the games and anime where trainers buried their deceased Pokemon (e.g., Lavender Tower in Lavender Town in the Kanto region).
Digimon – With the exception of the Digimon Tamers’ universe, when a Digimon is killed, they revert back to Digi-Eggs and are essentially reincarnated.

Pokemon – Pokemon Trainers are given a “Starter Pokemon” and catch other Pokemon by battling them and detaining them in capsule spheres called Poke Balls. In fact, one of the goals of each installment of games is to “Catch Em All”, because catching Pokemon adds their data to the Pokedex (an encyclopedia-like apparatus), and the goal is to have data on each Pokemon currently in existence.
Digimon – People who have Digimon are either called Digidestined or Digimon Tamers. In the former case, because the sovereign ruler of the Digital World drafted them, because the Digital World was in danger. There is no goal for the human protagonists of either the Digimon games or the anime to obtain every Digimon in existence. In fact, in most cases, the human characters rarely have more than one Digimon. There are exceptions, such as Willis in Digimon: The Movie, and the player characters in some of the Digimon World games.

Pokemon – When they evolve, they cannot go back. The only exception is Mega Evolution, which was introduced in the X and Y games released in 2013.
Digimon – The Digimon belonging to the Digidestined can Digivolve on command with the use of a Digivice, and they can go back to their Rookie form after the battle is over. This applies only to the anime, though. With the original virtual pet series, Digivolution was permanent.

Pokemon – Their names are usually a combination of actual words. For example, Venusaur is a combination of Venus (probably referring to the Venus Fly Trap) and the second half of the word “Dinosaur”, because Venusaur looks like something from prehistoric times. Charizard is a combination of “Charcoal” or “Charred” and “Lizard”. This makes sense as Charizard is a fire breathing reptile.
Digimon – usually is a real word with “Mon” attached to end, like Terriermon or Agumon. “Agu” is the Japanese onomatopoeia for biting. Every Digimon has “Mon” at the end of its name, but no Pokemon does.

As you can see, there are many more differences between the two than similarities.

Let’s Hear It For The Boys!

Digimon was actually invented to be the “boy version” of Tamagotchi. Bandai made both Digimon and Tamagotchi, both started out as a virtual pet franchise, but Digimon evolved (pun intended) into a much bigger franchise than mere virtual pets. They noticed that most of the consumers of Tamagotchi pets were little girls, and they wanted to make a virtual pet series that appealed to little boys to make up the difference. Digimon was that virtual pet series. Digimon were primarily targeted at males, so they made one of the first Digimon a fire-breathing dinosaur (Agumon) because what little boy doesn’t think a fire-breathing dinosaur is cool. And they made it to where one boy’s Digimon could spar with another boy’s Digimon by linking the devices together, something Tamagotchi pets didn’t do. So, you could say that Digimon was trying to cash in on Tamagotchi’s success, but not Pokemon’s. And it wasn’t technically plagiarism, since Digimon and Tamagotchi have the same creators (i.e., Akihiro Yokoi, Aki Maita, and Takeichi Hongo).

Conclusion

Digimon wasn’t created to “cash in on Pokemon’s success”. It was actually created to make up for Tamagotchi’s lack of appeal to boys. There are obvious similarities between Pokemon and Digimon, which explain why charges of plagiarism exist, but the differences between the two make charges of plagiarism untenable. If the makers of Pokemon ever took the makers of Digimon to court — I don’t know if they ever did, but if they did –, they obviously lost, as Digimon still exists, and they probably lost because of the reasons I’ve given in this article.

Makes sense to me!

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