Digimon or Pokémon: Which Came First?


Both Digimon and Pokémon are among the most popular children’s anime franchises. Both came out during the 1990s and have since become household brands. But, despite having some similarities, the two franchises are very different and cannot be considered as rip-offs. Still, you might have been wondering as to when each of the franchises appeared and if you have – we have the answer for you!

The Pokémon franchise appeared in 1995, while Digimon appeared in 1997. This means that the Pokémon franchise is a little bit older than the Digimon franchise, which came second.

In today’s article, we are going to tell you when each of the franchises actually started and answer some related questions about each of them. So, keep reading to find out more!

What is the Pokémon franchise?

Pokémon, short for Pocket Monsters, is a Japanese media franchise created by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori in 1995. The franchise is owned by The Pokémon Company, a company founded by Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures. It started off as a series of video games, before expanding to trading card games, anime TV shows and films and a lot of other merchandise.

The franchise is focused on fictional creatures called “Pokémon”, which humans, known as Pokémon Trainers, catch and train to battle each other for sport or competitive tournaments.

Pokémon has, without a doubt, become one of the most popular brands in the whole world. Millions of fans are still enjoying different Pokémon-related products, despite the franchise being more than 20 years old. From the initial Game Boy games, via the ultra-popular anime series, to the modern 3D games for the Switch, Pokémon is a franchise that both children and adults adore, since it defined the childhood and adolescence of a whole generation of children around the world, still managing to attract new fans every day.

What is the Digimon franchise?

Digimon, which is short for Digital Monsters, is likewise a Japanese media franchise created by Akiyoshi Hongo (which is the collective pseudonym of a series of unknown individuals) in 1997. Digimon started off as a series of virtual pets, akin to—and influenced in style by—the contemporary Tamagotchi, which was a global hit.

The Digimon franchise focused on Digimon, creatures that were created and evolved as sentient beings thanks to the development of human digital networks. They inhabit the Digital World, where human children usually come to save it, and along with it, their own world.

The Digimon franchise started off quite small, but once the anime series became a global hit, it slowly expanded into other video games, trading cards and other merchandise. The franchise is quite possibly one of the earliest globally popular examples of the isekai genre, which revolves around a normal person from Earth being transported to, reborn or otherwise trapped in a parallel universe or fantasy world, which also speaks of its historical importance.

Chronology

Now that we know what the two franchises are, let us see the chronology of their appearances.

As we’ve said, Tajiri and Sugimori created Pokémon in 1995, with the concept being a tad older; the first idea of such a franchise was created in 1989. But, it wasn’t until February 27, 1996, that the first actual product came out – the Pokémon Red and Green video games for the Game Boy. Since then, the franchise has expanded, with the ever so popular anime series debuting on April 1, 1997.

Digimon is a bit younger. The general concept was inspired by the Tamagotchi, which was released in 1996. A year later, in June 1997, Akiyoshi Hongo (a pseudonym for several people, inspired by the names of the creators of the Tamagotchi) marketed the first Digimon Virtual Pet (V-Pet) in Japan, helping launch the Digimon franchise. As the V-Pet evolved, the company decided to expand the franchise, launching an anime series that started off with the short anime movie Digimon Adventure (March 6, 1999) and continued with the first season of the successful series, which debuted on March 7, 1999 on Fuji TV.

So, there you have it. Pokémon came out about a year before Digimon, but the initial concepts are so different that it is very difficult to compare them properly.

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. The games were initially owned by Nintendo, 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.

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 that 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.

And that’s it for today. We hope you had fun reading this and that we helped solve this dilemma for you. See you next time and don’t forget to follow us!

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