Two of Japan’s most popular children’s anime franchises are Pokémon and Digimon. But many people wonder which franchise is better, Pokémon or Digimon?
The Pokémon franchise is certainly more popular globally, but we cannot straightforwardly say which show is better, because they are quite different and it all depends on your personal preferences.
In the rest of this article, we will make a detailed comparison of Pokémon and Digimon franchises, by first giving a short introduction to both franchises, and then by comparing different aspects of the franchises. We will talk about animation, popularity, story, characters, continuity and development, and franchising
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.
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.
The question of which franchise is better raises the following issue – how to determine whether any franchise is better than the other? There might be some objective criteria (popularity, awards, revenue, reviews), but we all know that not all of them can be properly applied when artistic works are in question.
Blade Runner was a commercial flop that won only a handful of awards, but is today considered to be one of the best movies in history. Van Gogh’s works were practically worthless during his lifetime, but he is today revered as one of the greatest painters of all time. And these are just some examples that show how difficult it is to evaluate the quality of an artistic work.
This means that comparing them is even more difficult, but we are going to try to do our best for your enjoyment.
The first thing we are going to compare is the animation of these two shows. An important thing to know is that the animation changed over the years and that the standards are now completely different than during the 1990’s, when both these series actually began.
As for Pokémon, the series didn’t experience much change until season 20 – Sun and Moon – which began in 2016; the franchise was in its 19th year of broadcasting at that point. The animation of the original concept (1997-2016) was surprisingly good for a children’s anime.
The landscapes might have been a bit generic, but the characters and the Pokémon were really good. Since fights took up a lot of screen time, the animators had to and did do a great job to make them look realistic. Wherever they could, they avoided static and generic moves, so the fights really did look great, even for that time.
Certainly, the quality of animation improved as the years passed, but the original concept was kept the same until 2016, when the animators decided to change the visual look of the characters. We still think that the original design was better, but we do understand that they wanted to refresh the whole thing after almost 20 years. All in all, for a children’s anime, Pokémon had surprisingly good animation.
As for Digimon, this franchise made more changes as the series developed and while not every change was for the better, most of the shows kept a high level of animation. The first four seasons had an identical animation style, with a lot of creativity invested in the landscapes, but the battles weren’t all that dynamic and there were several generic moments during each of the seasons, with some characters looking too static during fights.
Data Squad delivered a drastic change in the style of animation and it was so popular that it was scrapped after just one season; Xros Wars and even Appli Monsters had their distinct styles, but were more similar to the original design and more modern. The 2020 Digimon Adventure: series brought back the original design, but with updated animation features and more dynamic sequences, which looks just brilliant if you ask us. Generally, Digimon did change its style more often, but kept a high level of consistency throughout.
It is tough to state which series had better animation. Pokémon did have a more consistent and generally more dynamic style of animation, but did not improve much on it and the recent changes are, in our opinion, not as good as the original design. Digimon, on the other hand, changed the style more often, but generally showed more boldness in its animation and has now (especially after tri.) reached an impressive level that is even better than that of the Pokémon franchise.
This one’s actually pretty easy to determine, since we have a clear winner in this category.
The Pokémon franchise is not just one of the most popular anime franchises, it is one of the biggest pop-culture brands in general. Thanks to the popularity of the video games, the animated material and the numerous merchandise (trading cards, figurines, clothes, plush toys, etc.) the franchise has, Pokémon is without a doubt one of the most popular series ever.
Some of the reasons include the availability of the franchise around the world, the consistency of the whole concept and the kid-friendly idea that was completely new and original when it first came out (although it had some similar predecessors). The owners of the franchise really did their best to keep a consistent level of availability for the franchise and it paid off.
Digimon was never so popular and could be described as somewhat of a cult-classic of the isekai genre and a show that, despite the depth of the stories, never really reached the level of popularity Pokémon have. Branding was never really a thing for the franchise and while it did publish video games, toys, and even trading cards, the franchise lacked the consistency of its “rivals”. Digimon have a following, they are a global brand, but they don’t really have so much mainstream influence.
As we said, there is no room for debate in this category, as the Pokémon franchise is clearly more popular and has a much larger fanbase than Digimon.
We think that the story is by far the most important concept of an artistic work, such as a TV show or a movie. Some people don’t give it much thought, but for us – the story is essential. And this opinion is going to shape our comments on this topic.
The whole Pokémon franchise is based on the concept of catching, training and fighting with creatures called Pokémon. This is what one does in video games, with the trading cards and – surprise, surprise – in the anime. Ash Ketchum and his friends travel the vast world of Pokémon, where they meet different people, catch and discover new Pokémon and battle other trainers so that they can become the best trainers (or whatever else they want to be) in the world.
This concept was introduced in the anime’s 1997 debut and for 23 years now (and running), it has remained completely unchanged. The movies do add some substance to the whole mythos, but the anime – however interesting and fun it might be – offers almost nothing new with each new season. Sure, there are new Pokémon, new characters, new worlds and new adventures, but it always amounts to the same thing – Ash collecting and training a team of 6 Pokémon to become the regional champion of whatever region he is currently in.
Again, the writers generally do a great job and the anime series has managed to remain popular, but there is really no real depth or emotional investment in the show, since you already know how things are going to play out.
Digimon is very different in this aspect. Sure, the basic premise of “Children + Digimon save the world” is there, but the level of creativity the series has is truly admirable. Over the years, the writers have not only added depth and seriousness to each of the series (especially Tamers), but have also explored different concepts of the mythos in brilliant ways – just think Digimon Adventure tri. and Last Evolution Kizuna.
The stories from the Digimon franchise always had more depth and there was a real sense of danger to each of the children’s fights against their enemies, even in those seasons that were weaker, like Data Squad. You could emotionally invest yourself because the danger – the destruction of two worlds – was very palpable. The writers also managed to make each danger original and different from the other, which is what makes the franchise’s story so great.
Objectively, Digimon have a far better story than Pokémon. The story has more depth, real emotions and a palpable sense of danger. In addition to that, the ideas were always original and every season managed to offer something new and original. Pokémon, on the other hand, have been using the same formula for 23 years and despite still being popular, we have to say that it tends to get a bit less interesting after so many years.
Seeing how both franchises are more than 20 years old, you can just imagine how many different characters have appeared throughout the years. Yet, the way the characters are shaped is very important as it speaks to the overall quality of a show. So, let us see how things stand in this category.
The world of Pokémon is so big that the exact number of characters, both human and non-human, would be very tough to count. Although the series has provided us with a plethora of different characters, a lot of them have been recycled version of older characters – both human and Pokémon – with little to no actual development; just remember that Ash’s Charmander, Chimchar and Tepig all had the same origin stories, with little to no changes in them.
The same issue that we discussed in the preceding chapter about the story – the iterative character of the narrative – also translates to the characters. The protagonists did get more emotional development throughout the series, but even that was usually just a variation of some previous thing. When it comes to characters, the Pokémon franchise could certainly do better.
Digimon have done a lot more for their characters throughout the years. While a group of human characters is generally restricted to just one season, the writers still managed to give them depth and make them realistic. They do seem like real children caught in a dangerous situation and their reactions and their development look very realistic.
The Pokémon franchise never had that. Certainly, Digimon also has some types of characters it (re)uses, but they always seem real and not like copies of their former counterparts, with some seasons even breaking this tradition and being bolder. Just remember how much effort was put into the development of the original Adventure DigiDestined and how good of a job the writers did with Digimon Tamers; we’ve never seen that in any Pokémon anime and this is why Digimon is so great in this category as well.
In addition to that, the Digimon characters are also great (just think of BlackWarGreymon from 02 or Beelzemon from Tamers) and it is obvious that much effort was put into the villains as well. We did not manage to find any such elements in the Pokémon franchise.
To conclude, Digimon are far superior to Pokémon when it comes to character development and design, just as they are when it comes to the story.
This category is related to the former two in the sense that it shows just how the whole story and the characters fit into the general picture and how it all adds up to one narrative unit.
With Pokémon, there are practically no continuity issues since the whole narrative is one single unit where the series and regions just follow each other in a linear fashion. Everything that happens, happens according to a classical narrative structure and everything is part of a single narrative continuity.
The movies might cause a bit of confusion from time to time, but if you read up on them, you’ll be able to fit them into the continuity without any problems. This is a great thing for every fan because you won’t have any problems following the story, but Pokémon does have a problem with its non-problematic continuity. Namely, Pokémon is one of those “endless anime” stories with no predetermined goal and with the possibility of adding new creatures and regions – forever.
There is no common threat, there is no goal except to be the best in each region and this means that there is no development whatsoever. Once a region is “done”, the same thing starts over in the next region and this is a circle that keeps repeating itself since 1997.
Digimon, on the other hand, have some continuity issues and you need more in-depth knowledge of the whole franchise to put everything in its place. The Adventure continuity (Adventure, Adventure 02, tri. and Last Evolution Kizuna) seems to be the main narrative continuity, with the other seasons being part of a different universe within a larger multiverse; for example, in Tamers, the original anime was just a TV show.
The existence of a multiverse was confirmed during Digimon Hunters, when characters from all the previous iterations appeared during the final episodes of the show. Appli Monsters, a spin-off from the main franchise, further complicates things because we haven’t managed to deduce how that season is related to the main series and it remains to be seen how the current Adventure: series, which is a reboot, will fit into the multiverse.
But, where there are continuity issues, there is a great development. Namely, the creation of a multiverse enabled the writers to not only explore different concepts and ideas, but also to develop them. They were able to dig into the mythos of the world of Digimon and explore different narrative elements. The writers were bolder with every new season and despite not being equally successful with each season, that did not stop them from experimenting and each experiment – whether successful or unsuccessful – was a step forward for the franchise.
This is really a personal choice. If you prefer more consistency without much development, Pokémon are definitely for you, but if you prefer development over narrative consistency and an entertaining multiverse, you’ll like Digimon more.
As far as franchising goes, it is a process of expanding a certain brand and both Pokémon and Digimon have made some moves in that direction. We are now going to see how successful they have been.
Pokémon started off as a monster collecting video game and soon produces an anime series, trading cards, figurines, spin-off video games, different types of merchandise and even a live-action movie. As far as franchising goes, Pokémon has really done an amazing job and has become one of the foremost brands in modern pop-culture. This is shown in their revenue (est. $103 billion), which makes them the highest-grossing media franchise in the world.
Like Pokémon, Digimon also started as a Tamagotchi-style video game but soon expanded in a similar way as the Pokémon franchise, having the same categories of products as them. Still, while Pokémon’s video games remained as popular as the anime, the Digimon anime became and remained the franchise’s most popular product, with all of the other products not being nearly as popular, despite earning more money for the franchise. With an estimated revenue of $6.36 billion, Digimon is far below Pokémon when it comes to this category.
As far as franchising goes, Pokémon are clear winners when compared to Digimon. Not only is the whole franchise more popular, but it also earned around 15 times more money, which is enough for us.
We think that we have given you a thorough analysis of the two franchises and that we have compared every relevant category. The Pokémon franchise clearly wins when franchising and popularity are concerned, while the Digimon franchise wins in the story and character categories. The animation and the continuity categories are pretty much tied and depend on your personal preferences.
So, which franchise is better?
Well, this is a tough question, really. The author of this text prefers Digimon over Pokémon personally – and he has grown up watching both – but he wanted to give an objective insight into the two franchises and he hopes that he has done that. This is why at Fiction Horizon think that there is no real answer here, i.e., that the answer depends on you and your own preferences.
What is important is that you know what to look out for and what each of the franchises offers. But whether you’re going to like one or the other, or both, is really up to you and your personal preferences when anime is concerned. The important thing here is that you enjoy your choice, whatever it may be.
And now, for our epilogue of the story of Pokémon and Digimon, we are going to give you an answer to one question you have certainly asked yourself, and that is – are Pokémon stronger than Digimon, or vice versa? In short – Digimon are way stronger.
Both Pokémon and Digimon divide their creatures in different groups, which could be summed up as “regular” and “special”. The “regular” creatures are common and have a normal evolution pattern with regular powers. “Special” creatures are specific for some reason – mostly because they are both rare and especially strong – and fall out of the normal category. We are now going to see how we can compare these two categories for each of the franchises.
In the Pokémon, “special” Pokémon are Legendary and Mythical Pokémon. These Pokémon are very rare and extremely powerful. The strongest among them is Arceus, who is considered to be the creator and god of the world of Pokémon. The Digimon franchise has more such groups – e.g. Four Sovereigns, Legendary Warriors, Royal Knights, etc. – and each group consists of extremely powerful Digimon whose powers can reshape reality as we know it.
If we took Arceus, who is the most powerful Pokémon, and put him up against Huanglonogmon, the god of the Digital World, we would easily see just how powerless Arceus would be. Namely, Huanglongmon is so powerful that it can disassemble and reassemble the world as it wishes, or can disassemble and destroy its opponents for eternity. This is such an enormous power, the power of creation, something Arceus seems to have had when he created everything, but something he does not have anymore.
So, Huanglongmon could beat Arceus in a fight, and this is notable because Huanglongmon is not even close to being the strongest Digimon (according to our analysis, there are six Digimon that are even stronger than it). All of the names on the list that are above Huanglongomon could easily defeat Arceus and ZeedMillenniummon, the strongest Digimon, would obliterate Arceus in the blink of an eye.
So, if the “special” Digimon are so strong, are the “regular” ones equally more powerful? Well, yes… they are. Let’s just consider the Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon, which are considered to be the strongest “regular” Pokémon, and compare them to some “regular” Digimon like WarGreymon, MetalGarurumon, Piedmon or Machinedramon. The Pokémon we are talking about are the best you can get without becoming Legendary or Mythical. All of them have three evolution stages, while some also have a Mega evolution and/or a Gigantimax form, which are additional forms that make them stronger.
On the other hand, each Digimon has an average of six evolution levels (Fresh -> In-Training -> Rookie -> Champion -> Ultimate -> Mega), with some additional Mega level variations, a possibility of DNA Digivolution or a DigiXros, and also a separate form when exposed to the X-Antibody. So, if we take a regular Mega level Digimon (which is a Digimon’s highest level) and pit him against a Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon, the latter would be completely destroyed.
Mega level Digimon are just enormously powerful and they have such strong attacks that they can cause destruction on a massive scale (just think of Machinedramon’s Infinity Canon); not to mention that most of them are so big that even the biggest Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon could not even give them a scratch.
Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon could defeat lower-level Digimon, but everything after the Champion level would be a challenge, with Mega-level Digimon being absolutely unbeatable. Even some Ultimate level Digimon are enormously strong and could easily defeat a Pseudo-Legendary Pokémon.
And there you have it – this is why Digimon are definitely stronger than Pokémon, so don’t believe your friendly neighborhood Pokémon trainer if he says otherwise.