Man, even now that I'm actually sitting down to write one of these, I'm STILL not sure how the heck I should approach it. I could have gone by just the evolutionary tree of each original virtual pet first, then maybe reviewed remaining Digimon one by one, but that would have already ballooned our first entry into several dozen monsters on a single page.

It's an idea I still kind of like, but...no, we gotta keep this simple. Simple and sweet! Let's just start with Agumon's most recognized lineage, as established most of all by the anime....


This begins with a freshly hatched, almost defenseless Botamon. In Japan, this stage is known as "BABY I." In English translations, it's known as "fresh." I think we're gonna stick with the Japanese terms.

Botamon is one of the most adorable of the baby Digimon, in my honest opinion, but I am fairly biased towards very dark things with luminous eyes and especially to things with extremely minimal facial features. I would want 5,000 Botamons and I would never ever want most of them to stop being Botamons.



What we called an "in-training" Digimon in the west is known as "Baby II" in Japan, which isn't terribly creative, but has a special sort of charm. It would be so much funnier if we did this with actual babies, like instead of calling it a "toddler" once it starts walking. "Oh yeah, this is my son, as you can see he's a Baby II."

It's kind of unfair to call these things babies, though, when it's at exactly this stage that a Digimon becomes capable of fully fluent conversation.

I like Koromon, because it's an adorable little bunny-eared pink blob-head, but it's still kind of fearsome looking with the protruding fangs and red eyes. If you saw that TV spot on the last page, you know this franchise was saturated in "THIS IS FOR ROUGH AND TUMBLE BOYS" advertising, but all us kids and teens at the time were honestly still suckers for cute shit regardless of what capitalism tried to tell us. Everybody wanted something like Koromon to give a big fat hug to, don't none of you lie to me.



Now we get to the main event, the little yellow dinosaur and "child stage" Digimon most recognize as the entire face of the series. Even compared to today, almost nothing flew off the toy shelves of the 90's quite like any kind of carnivorous dinosaur, and Agumon really distills the "ugly-cute" vibe that sold so many on Digimon's debut.

Agumon shows off several design quirks that actually remain signature to the franchise even today, notably the colorful irises and the flaring, mole-claw forelimbs they stick on virtually everything they possibly can.

In the anime, of course, Agumon's uncanny veins and muscles were a little toned down, but he still had that hilarious little beer-bellied human body with freaky dinosaur limbs on it. He was, if you hadn't guessed, the Digimon partner of our main hero and leader of the "digidestined," both of them basically the same sort of naive, over-eager but pure-hearted hero figure, which I know sounds super boring and is usually super boring, but they really did a good job of making every single kid and every single monster in the show incredibly likeable.

It's especially nice how the characters, no matter how cookie-cutter they may seem, show off a whole lot of carefully planned emotional growth over the course of the original series, with Tai and Agumon helping one another mature into more responsible leaders by the end of it all.

This statement will also be completely meaningless and devoid of myriad in-jokes to the majority of you, but my spouse and I at least were fairly delighted to discover that Agumon has the same Japanese voice actor, performing the same voice, as Anpanman's friend Tendonman here, and you only have to listen to his song once to know that we say "friend" in more of a "grudgingly tolerated" sense, the only sense in which anybody has ever been Tendonman's friend.

Anyway, I'm gonna rate Agumon a three out of five, because it's pretty much the most basic possible measure of a Digimon you could point to.



Next, of course, comes the "adult" stage, who is no longer Tendonman's soul shrieking from the body of a dinosaur where he was no doubt imprisoned for the protection of the rest of the world, but Greymon DOES have a cool natural skull-helmet and breathes fire.

If you know nothing at all about Digimon, now is a good time to tell you that Digimon evolutions are not permanent. Digimon can, and often do, cycle all the way back to their baby stages, and main Digimon in the anime are especially prone to treating their evolutions more like temporary power-ups, reverting back to their more portable baby and child forms after expending so much energy in combat.



We now veer off into what is not actually the natural next stage of this line, but a mindlessly destructive beast first appearing in the anime (I think) when Tai pushes poor Agumon much too hard and too fast into evolving further.

When I first saw this happen back in the day, I honestly didn't realize that Greymon would have a "more correct" evolution than this. My initial takeaway was that the rampaging, uncontrollable Skullgreymon would remain one of Agumon's transformations for when they really, really needed that level of power, which I still think would have been wicked as hell.

You've probably noticed right away that this thing doesn't even follow Greymon's body structure whatsoever, and also that it has a shark sticking out of its back. This is actually a missile it can launch, and there were actually quite a few Digimon back in the day whose projectile weapons were drawn as organic secondary creatures, another feature largely forgotten by later designs.



See? There's another rocket-shark! Metalgreymon isn't nearly as interesting as Skullgreymon, but it is the more accepted, more stable "perfect" stage of the Agumon line. In the west, this stage was known as "ultimate," but then Japan went and added a sixth stage of Digimon evolution they call the "ultimate" one, and the west was left calling that stage the "mega" stage. This is what you get when you make completely arbitrary dub changes, guys.

Another interesting thing about this one? In the original virtual pet, it had a blue-skinned, more sinister design and was said to have been corrupted by its attempt to evolve into a machine. It wasn't until the anime that they decided to make a somewhat healthier version, but they'd keep this one around anyway as a "virus" version.

...Did I neglect to mention so far that Digimon are sorted into three groups? "Viruses" are destructive, "vaccines" are more protective, and "data" are more neutral, though these categories do not necessarily indicate a Digimon's moral compass. There are plenty of villainous vaccines, heroic viruses, and more politically aware data monsters.



Siiiiigggh. Now we come to that "ultimate" or "mega" stage I mentioned, and it unfortunately marks the beginning of the artistic shift I was talking about in our intro page. This more anthropomorphic, more armored, more toyetic dinoman isn't too bad on its own, but its look and feel would sort of become the base template for almost all Digimon and especially all higher-level Digimon introduced in the years to follow.

It's a design that has its place and appeals to a lot of people, don't get me wrong, but even Digimon's original creature designer has said that he was aiming for a visual feel similar to dark American comic books and horror films, something we will be exploring in much further detail over the pagesto come, whereas Wargreymon here is a very, very "anime" kind of design.

It's not "bad," but it's also not what I signed up for, and it wouldn't bother me if not for the fact that those more "monster movie" kind of designs would eventually fall almost entirely to the wayside in favor of armor-plated anthropoids.

There are, of course, other agumon variants and spinoffs we could review here, but we're going to be keeping these as simple as we can for now.

I guess it's kind of ironic that I went with Agumon's evolutionary line, from Koromon to Wargreymon, as our 5-star rating meter, when Wargreymon itself isn't actually going to earn a 5/5 score. I'm sorry, Wargreymon, according to my hare-brained rating scheme you apparently aren't worth yourself. I'll at least give you a three, acknowledging that you are fairly popular and you at least communicate the idea of an ultra-powerful super-duper gray man well enough. That's honestly all I can really think to say about the design itself, except that I'm glad it kept the weirdly human red hair hanging out from under the helmet...or maybe those are saurian feathers?



So, after doing ten of these review pages, I decided to go back and expand a bit on this one. I know I said I'd be trying to keep these reviews simple, but I don't think there's any more appropriate place to talk about the Tyrannomons than here, since they were exclusively evolutions of Agumon and counterparts to the Greymon line in their original appearance.

Greymon's beetle-like helmet is more interesting than anything Tyrannomon's got going on, but I do like that Tyrannomon has such massive, scary claws, and I kinda just feel bad for it, having the spotlight so thoroughly ripped away by the Greymons.

Also worth mentioning is Tyrannomon's cousin, DarkTyrannomon, introduced later as a virus type and most distinguished by its large number of goth belts, something you will soon see is a major Digimon tradition.



And then, we've got the Tyrannomon version of Metalgreymon, and it goes even harder with the "cybernetics gone awry" aspect, looking almost like it's ready to fall apart in a heap of rotten meat and scrap!



So what if you DON'T want your Tyrannomon to become a half-metal abomination? Then don't worry! Tyrannomon can also JUST get bigger, fatter, older and more battle-scarred!



A relatively recent addition to the franchise, this final stage for the Tyrannomon line that may be almost an unreadable mess of Transformer-like detail but certainly feels beastlier and more interesting to me than Wargreymon. The fact that it's specifically a rusty mechasaurus is far more appealing to me than some clean, bland non-rusty mechasaurus.

And besides, I already like Dinotrux.



Due to the "Dramon" suffix, I originally placed this guy in the Betamon family, but after some deliberation, it's obvious that Machinedramon is tied much more to the tyrannosaurs than the dragons. This Digimon was actually cast as one of the four "Dark Masters" in the final story arc of Digimon Adventure, a band of villains who had conquered the entire digital world while the heroes were busy saving the real one.

Machinedramon's design is interesting primarily because it "fully mechanizes" itself by borrowing cybernetic parts from a bunch of other digimon, and at the time, a completely robotic monster was considered a pretty big deal for this series.

Machinedramon is actually fairly frightening, too, even in the dub! SPOILER WARNINGS, obviously, if you were only just going to start watching this show, and you may also want to brace yourself for Agumon's English voice if you weren't already familiar with it, not to mention that series theme song they replay for every single evolution sequence:



This is another I forgot to review for over a year into this series, but I've gone back and tried to do good on this guy. It's actually not so much an alternative Ultimate to the Agumons and Dramons as it is an alternative form for Machinedramon, who just keeps upgrading and improving himself until he qualifies as this whole new monstrosity - and it certainly does look pretty ghastly! Actually more "organic" looking than Machinedramon, but I guess that's just because its mechanical components have gotten that much more streamlined and life-like. I really dig how nasty those teeth are, and the red wire-frame pattern of its underlying body is a nice effect!