‘Pokémon’ vs. ‘Digimon’: Which Franchise Came First? 

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Pokémon‘ and ‘Digimon‘ are both loved franchises by adults and the youth. The ‘Pokémon’ anime has followed Ash and Pikachu’s adventures for over 25 years. Meanwhile, the ‘Digimon’ series went through several protagonists over the years, and sometimes fans even get to revisit some of the older DigiDestined from past series. Both anime are considerably old, so which one of them came first?

  • Article Breakdown:
  • Both the ‘Pokémon’ franchise and anime are older than ‘Digimon.’
  • The ‘Pokémon’ franchise started in 1995, with the anime airing in 1997.
  • Meanwhile, the ‘Digimon’ franchise began in 1997, with its own anime airing in 1999.

Both anime seem strikingly similar in the concept of having a monster partner and battling other monsters throughout the course of the shows. However, the Pokémon and Digimon anime are severely different, especially if fans are to look at the concept and origins of each anime.

When and how did ‘Pokémon’ Start?

While the idea of ‘Pokémon’ was around as early as 1989, the franchise wasn’t made official till 1995. The first product they released for the franchise was finally released in 1996. ‘Pokémon’ started with its first two video games, ‘Pokémon Red’ and ‘Pokémon Green’, that were released for the Gameboy.

The idea of catching monsters was inspired by the creator Satoshi Tajiri’s childhood. According to the creator, he enjoyed catching tadpoles and insects as a child and wanted to create a game of his own about catching creatures. He went on and pitched the idea to Nintendo and dedicated a number of years to developing the game till its first release.

The game’s original name used to be ‘Pocket Monsters,’ but as it grew and accumulated an international fan base, the game’s name was later changed to Pokémon. It was so popular that a trading card game and anime were later added to the franchise.

When and how did ‘Digimon’ Start?

Meanwhile, ‘Digimon’ came into the picture in 1997, also coming in as a game or, instead, a digital pet patterned after Tamagotchi. Eventually, the ‘Digimon’ franchise released a video game called ‘Digimon World’, leading to the first anime of the franchise, ‘Digimon Adventure,’ in 1999. 

The anime ‘Digimon Adventure’ combined elements of Digimon World and Virtual Pets. In the anime, the DigiDestined get transported into the Digital World, where they have to take care of their Digimon Partner to unlock stronger evolutions, or what fans of the series would call Digivolutions.

Are ‘Digimon’ and ‘Pokémon’ made by the same company?

Despite some people thinking that ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Digimon’ are the same and are part of the same brand, they’re not. They were created and are owned by two completely different companies.

‘Pokémon’ is owned by The Pokémon Company, a joint venture founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures, Inc. Nintendo initially owned the games, but the franchise expanded on April 23, 1998, when Nintendo formed a joint venture with the above-mentioned companies and created The Pokémon Center Company, which later changed its name to the current one. The Pokémon Company is also in charge of the franchise’s international distribution.

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On the other hand, ‘Digimon’ is a franchise that is owned by three different companies. The first owner is Akiyoshi Hongo, the pseudonym of an unknown number of individuals who actually founded the whole franchise. Toei Animation owns the animation segment of the franchise, while Bandai owns the games and merchandise department.

As you can see, there is absolutely no connection between these two franchises when ownership is concerned.

Is one or the other a rip-off and have there been lawsuits?

As far as the copyright goes, a lot of people think that ‘Digimon’, given the fact that they appeared second, ripped off ‘Pokémon’. But is there really enough to substantiate that claim?

When ‘Pokémon’ started off, it was a creature-catching/battling RPG, while ‘Digimon’ started off as a Tamagotchi-style game where you raised your monster and cared for it. There was absolutely no initial similarity between the two, save for the names, both of which included the abbreviation “-mon” (which stands for “monster”).

When the anime series came out, the concept was also largely different – ‘Pokémon’ followed a trainer who wanted to catch, train and battle with multiple creatures (it was, essentially, a road series), while ‘Digimon’ followed a group of human children who, with their partner Digimon (one each), needed to save the world. So, why do people think that ‘Digimon’ is a rip-off of ‘Pokémon’?

Well, mostly because of the name, but also because the shows started at about the same time and were a competition of sorts at the time. There are some similarities between them (children as main characters, partnering children with creatures, some creatures are similar in design), but these similarities are quite superficial and don’t actually indicate that ‘Digimon’ ripped-off ‘Pokémon’. So, no, ‘Digimon’ is not a rip-off of ‘Pokémon’; the whole concept behind these two shows is so intrinsically different that there is no basis for such claims.

This also answers the second question. No, The Pokémon Company never sued any of the companies owning the ‘Digimon’ franchise simply because there is absolutely no basis for a lawsuit, as there is no copyright infringement.

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In what ways are ‘Pokémon’ and ‘Digimon’ Different?

Many fans think that ‘Digimon’ and ‘Pokémon’ share too many similarities, but the truth is both anime shows are vastly different from each other. Aside from both franchise titles having different origins and purposes, the anime themselves can clearly set them apart. Here are some examples.

Storytelling style

The ‘Pokémon’ anime is more episodic, with each episode usually having a unique goal that may or may not contribute to the story’s primary goal. As a result, fans do not have to watch every single episode of the Pokémon anime to understand everything. In some ways, Pokémon is similar to some American cartoons that tend to follow a loose plot.

Meanwhile, ‘Digimon’ has a straightforward plot and purpose where characters progress the story every episode to reach the goal. The ‘Digimon’ anime shares more similarities to traditional anime stories that would often focus on saving the world.

Plot-wise, ‘Pokémon’ is more light-hearted, with love and friendship being central themes in every episode. ‘Digimon’ is also very big on the idea of friendship and partnership, but the anime focuses on the survival of both the Human World and the Digital World. 

Monsters 

The creatures you find in both anime are different. Pokémon are actual biological creatures that live and exist in the same plane of existence as the main characters. They cannot talk like humans and seem to have a similar role to common animals in the world. They live alongside humans and are accepted as a part of everyday life.

Digimons, on the other hand, are virtual lifeforms that live in the Digital World. A world separate from the human characters of the anime. They are not considered “normal” and are not accepted by most of the human race. Hence, in the shows, their human partners are often seen trying to hide the fact that they exist.

Digimon or Digital Monsters are capable of Human speech and seem to hold a good level of intelligence as they are capable of creating villages and even complex machinery in their own world.

Evolution

Both series have some form of involvement in them. In the ‘Pokémon’ anime, evolution is simply called evolution. When a Pokémon evolves, it stays in its new form, with most of its skills heightened. However, not all Pokémon can evolve, and a few require certain items or skills before they can evolve.

Pikachu, an extremely popular Pokémon in the franchise, cannot evolve if the trainer does not give it a thunderstone. There are also Pokémon like Absol that do not evolve at all. In fact, most legendaries in the franchise do not evolve.

First meeting

In ‘Digimon,’ all Digimon are able to evolve over time, and they are capable of reverting back to a form they are comfortable with. The anime shows that the main Digimon are most comfortable in their Rookie form, except for Tailmon, who chooses to stay in her Champion form. The franchise also calls its evolution Digivolution. 

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