|Digimon Adventure: V-Tamer 01, Chapter 16. The sign reads "Jump D-1 Grand Prix." Volcano Oota appears in the back.|
My other purpose is cultural transmission. I wish to pass down to newer fans the things that they were not present to see. It seems apropos to talk about them now that -next 0rder- is upon us. Of course, the world is not divided into just Japan versus an abstract "west." There are many more perspectives that could appear here, but I cannot speak from the perspective of the Korean fandom, or of the Puerto Rican fandom, or any of the myriad other groups that exist in this history. I will write this from two perspectives that until recently only existed on the periphery of one another; Japan and the United States. These are the two stories that I feel qualified to tell.
|Oota Kensuke in-character as "Volcano" Oota at a 2014 anniversary event. Original image uploaded by totuzenhi.|
|Maita Aki in 1997, age 30.|
These days the fact that it was Maita who came up with the idea of a portable pet is often forgotten, and in Japan she's primarily known for the Ig Nobel Prize she was awarded for "diverting millions of person-hours of work into the husbandry of virtual pets." She's presumed to still work at Bandai, and occasionally modern photos of her with new models of Tamagotchi surface.
|Takeichi Hongō, Japan Times.|
Portuguese Wikipedia suggests identifying Hongō Akiyoshi with five people: Hongō Takeichi, Maita Aki, Hiroshi Izawa, Yabuno Tenya, and Nakatsuru Katsuyoshi. Hiroshi is the original writer for the manga Digimon Adventure V-Tamer 01, while Yabuno is the illustrator, and Nakatsuru was responsible for the character designs and animation direction of Adventure, Adventure 02, Tamers, and Frontier. The Hongō name in general is associated with Digimon's evolution into a multimedia franchise.
The reason these five are identified with the Hongō pseudonym is because of how closely the related Digimon properties were being developed prior to their launch in 1998~'99. The preproduction phase of Digimon involved V-Tamer 01, Adventure, and the theatrical film all being developed simultaneously by intercommunicating staff. This is how the decision to make Yagami Taichi the main character of all three works came to pass despite several different companies having their hands in the various works. Regardless, the Hongō group isn't very relevant to where we are beyond their overlapping membership. Its formation took place around the time that Digital Monster Ver. 5 was launched, when the first plans for an anime series were being laid.
Digimon World -next 0rder- character designer Taiki once recounted standing in line at a department store on launch day for the virtual pets, a moment that still stood out for him eighteen years later. One month after, Hiroshi Izawa and Yabuno Tenya published the one-shot manga C'Mon Digimon in Shounen Jump NEXT!!'s 1997 summer special. The comic was later reprinted as an omake chapter in V-Tamer 01.
Bandai also took in fan submissions during the creation process of these pets, resulting in Hououmon (originally Kujimon), Kabuterimon, Angemon, Yukidarumon, Birdramon, and Veggiemon all being selected from a pool of 50,000 entrants in a December 1997 design contest. There were also seventeen different colors of v-pet: two versions of red (Ver. 1), two versions of blue (Ver. 1), green (Ver. 1), yellow (Ver. 1), black (Ver. 1), white (Ver. 1), smoke (Ver. 2), clear (Ver. 2), purple (Ver. 3), orange (Ver. 3), clear purple (Ver. 3), clear orange (Ver. 3), clear blue (Ver. 4), clear red (Ver. 4), and clear green (Ver. 5). In addition to these, a number of limited edition virtual pets exist.
A Primer on Pendulum EvolutionFor various reasons, the majority of the western Digimon fanbase is unfamiliar with the form of evolution used in Digimon's null canon. Nicknamed "Pendulum evolution" after one of the more popular later virtual pet models, unlike the evolution featured in the anime series, these evolutions are permanent changes that take place as a Digimon matures into increasingly more battle-oriented forms. What a Digimon evolves into in the virtual pets is controlled by how well it is raised, just as was true for the Tamagotchi pets that served as the inspiration for the LCD games. A "care mistake," failing to respond to a Digimon's needs like hunger or sleep quickly enough, will impact which of the three or more possible stages it can evolve to. Evolution is not reversible; the only way to go back to the Child stage after attaining Adult, or back to Adult after attaining Perfect, is by dying and raising a new Digimon. If a Digimon has been raised well at the time of its death, it reincarnates into a "traited egg," a Digitama that will hatch into a new Digimon but with improved probability to survive to its subsequent evolutionary stages. (Usually this is a 10% bonus; in the console games it manifests as inheriting a percentage of the deceased Digimon's stats.)
When the pets were brought over to the United States in 1997, the Japanese names for the different evolutionary stages underwent some creative translation. Where the Japanese names reflect the idea of maturation throughout a lifecycle, the American names framed Digimon as competitors and gave a boxing-like overtone to the series.
Japanese stages (Romaji) / American "translations"This later created problems with the official translation of the Ultimate (Kyuukyokutai) stage when it was created in 1999-2000, as a result of Perfect being translated as Ultimate for the United States. The English translation adopted by Bandai US for Ultimate ended up being Mega, which isn't really a translation at all. Kanzen has a meaning of "completeness/perfection" while Kyuukyoku means both "the strongest" and "the last."
Baby I (Younenki I) / Fresh
Baby II (Younenki II) / In-training
Child (Seichouki) / Rookie
Adult (Seijukuki) / Champion
Perfect (Kanzentai) / Ultimate
Ten thousand of these special edition devices are known to have been distributed, as well as gold tamer tags. Elementary, junior high, and high school students were all eligible to participate.
According to V-Tamer's Residence--an unofficial but highly respected Japanese source for information on Digimon--the first D-1 tournaments actually began in April (announced on March 26th, 1998) and ended on August 23rd of the same year. At this time D-1 included the Digital Monster Ver. 1 virtual pet (May 1997), Ver. 2 (December 1997), and Ver. 3 (March 1998) bringing in a total of 42 Digimon to the tournament series' roster, though in practice only the nine Perfects were viable for winning a D-1. The tournament series started out with Weekly Shounen Jump & V Jump magazine's Spring Digimon Festival (春のデジモン祭り Haru no Dejimon Matsuri) on March 26th, which took on the title of J D-1 Grand Prix (J・D-1グランプリ J D-1 Guranpuri). A panel from chapter 16 of the V-Tamer manga shows the D-1 labeled as "Jump D-1 Grand Prix," and seeing as the two Jump magazines were the tournament's co-sponsors, this explains the appended J.
These initial D-1 tournaments were acknowledged on the Digimon Channel website (prior to its revamp in 2002) as collectively part of the "D-1 All Japan Tournament." In chronological order the first events were;
D-1 All Japan TournamentSadly, the official tournament reports for every event listed above have been lost to time. The Internet Archive never captured those pages prior to the site's revamp, so the names, ages, photos, and partner Digimon of the winners are presumably gone forever. There's no use dwelling on this; unless Bandai or WiZ still has the old site information on file or someone with archives of the pages magically appears, we'll never know the results. At this time Bandai was also making some efforts to coordinate the Digimon brand through the official website, in their first BBS system "DigiCafé." Moderating DigiCafé proved difficult as both the toy and home internet exploded in popularity, leading Bandai to close the BBS' doors within a few years.
Jump D-1 Grand Prix II
D-1 Grand Prix Regional Tournaments 1998.11
Mac Donald Adventure Digimon Tournament 1999
Although the monster Etemon was introduced in the Ver. 3 pet at the beginning of the month, the current personality we recall when we think of Etemon was put together as a promotion campaign for the D-1. "Digimonkey" was a mascot character that first appeared in Shounen Jump's Digimon-centric column Weekly Digiki (週刊デジ聞 Shuukan Dejiki, using the character 聞 ki for "to hear"), promoting the D-1 tournaments. Various incarnations of Digimonkey would continue to appear until the mid 2000s.
|Oota Kensuke, "WoodWoody" Takabayashi (developer of the Ver. 15th), and Watanabe Kenji in 2014.|
Digivice Ver. 15th. Exactly why Oota stuck with the brand for so long is unclear, but in a 2002 in-character interview he stated that his final goal was for "Everyone in the world to love Digimon." Was Oota being sincere? As the man who was continually listed as the project leader to the present day, he's always had a vested interest in promoting his creation to the world. And given his enthusiasm for being an entertainer, it seems Oota had a genuine love for the children he worked with.
Several months after the close of the first D-1 tournament, D-1 was used as a supporting element in V-Tamer 01 (Taichi and Neo were both participants) and an "Etemonkey" version of Etemon, based on Digimonkey, was used as a key antagonist. This version of the character comes off as more sympathetic in V-Tamer when you're already aware of Digimonkey's positive role in promoting D-1. In the manga, Etemonkey was an Etemon motivated to go to the real world so he could play with human children, and served as a minion of Demon in hopes of achieving that. Izawa and Yabuno's readership would have been exposed to Digimonkey on the very pages of the magazine that was serializing their manga, creating a media link between the different portrayals of Etemon.
|Originally uploaded by Devilixir.|
As a result of the tie in advertising campaign, we have a semi-complete list of tournaments held from June through September, comprising fifteen regional qualifiers and the national finals. The names on this list imply the existence of at least two other tournaments that were held prior to June, in Kantō and Kyūshū. Given that five tournaments per month were being held throughout the remaining season, it's likely that there were at least five tournaments held in both April and May, and only one in March. Hence the number of regional tournaments was somewhere around 26 in total, capped off by the finals. (The April 1997 issue of V Jump magazine should have a complete listing of all D-1 tournaments for '97 and '98. However, scans of that issue are nowhere to be found and it's questionable if any copies have survived to the present outside of V Jump's own personal archives, which have not been digitized.) All of these locations are still in operation today, and in the case of the Sogo department stores this is somewhat miraculous. Sogo collapsed in the early 2000s as a result of poor investment policies, and not all of its locations have persevered under the current Sogo & Seibu management.
Each regional qualifier followed a single body of rules. Japanese manuals for the Digital Monster pets identified the preliminary rounds of each D-1 as a best-of-one games Battle Royale format, and the top cut as a best-of-three tournament bracket. This meant that participating tamers only needed to win a single game each round to proceed initially, but anyone that lost a game during the preliminaries would be cut from the tournament entirely. Exactly how many tamers the top cut consisted of is uncertain, but it must have contained at least two. Those tamers would then play a best-of-three set, with the Digimon that won more games coming out the winner.D-1 SERIES LOCATION SCHEDULE06/06/98: D-1 Hokkaido Tournament 1 (北海道) Sapporo Tōkyū, 250 participants
06/07/98: D-1 Hokkaido Tournament 2 (北海道) Toys' Yoshida in Asahikawa, 500 participants
06/14/98: D-1 Naka-ku Tournament 1 (中区) Fuji Grand Hiroshima Shopping Center, 250 participants
06/21/98: D-1 Kantō Tournament 2 (関東) Machida Tōkyū Department Store, 250 participants
06/28/98: D-1 Tōhoku Tournament (東北) Shirobotan Kids Walker (白牡丹キッズウォーカー) central plaza 2, 250 participants
07/19/98: D-1 Kansai Tournament 1 (関西) Kintetsu Department Store (近鉄百貨店), third event space, 250 participants
07/26/98: D-1 Kantō Tournament 3 (関東) Seibu Department Store (西武百貨店), fourth floor festival space (4階まつりの広場) 900 participants
07/26/98: D-1 Naka-ku Tournament 2 (中区) Hiroshima Sogo (広島そごう), rooftop (屋上) 250 participants
07/28/98: D-1 Hokuriku Tournament (北陸) Kanazawa Meitetsu Marukoshi Department Store (金沢名鉄丸越百貨店), 250 participants
07/30/98: D-1 Kantō Tournament 4 (関東) Kashiwa Sogo (柏そごう), rooftop (屋上) 500 participants
08/01/98: D-1 Kantō Tournament 5 (関東) Yokohama Sogo (横浜そごう), second floor pedestrian deck (２階ペデストリアンデッキ), 500 participants
08/06/98: D-1 Chūbu Tournament 1 (中部) Matsuzakaya Flagship Store (松坂屋本店), 250 participants
08/09/98: D-1 Chūbu Tournament 2 (中部) Meitetsu Pare Department Store (名鉄パレ百貨店), 250 participants
08/16/98: D-1 Kyūshū Tournament 2 (九州) Tsuruya Department Store (鶴屋百貨店), first floor satellite studio, 250 participants
08/16/98: D-1 Kansai Tournament 2 (関西) JR Kyoto Department Store (JR京都伊勢丹), 500 participants
08/23/98: D-1 JAPAN (All Japan Tournament) (全日本大会) Seibu Department Store (西武百貨店), fourth floor festival space (4階まつりの広場) 1000 participants
|The second Naka-ku D-1 qualifier was held here 17 years ago. Photo taken by Kitaro. Bird's-eye-view by tamahata767.|
|Original image by Let's Enjoy Tokyo.|
|Chinese guide to the twelve groups and their respective probabilities.|
We do not know the name of the first D-1 Grand Prix national champion, nor do we know their partner Digimon, or how the final game played out. But we can infer some facts about it. Each Digital Monster pet was essentially a cosmetic reskin of the Version 1 pets, with no gameplay differences under the hood save for one fluke involving Deltamon's care requirements in Ver. 4. Battle thus played out identically across different models; each Digimon spent three rounds firing shots at one another and taking the opponent's blows, then in round 4 the winning Digimon fired a double shot and dodged the opponent's. The influence of protein items really came from how protein influenced power level, a hidden value ranging from 0 to 2. Eight proteins raised power level by 1, and became ineffective after the first sixteen proteins were given. The structure of the D-1 effectively selected for whichever tamers were using group L Digimon, and from among those whichever ones fed their Digimon the most protein. (For additional reading on the first generation virtual pets, With the Will user BladeSabre did some further research, primarily confirming the existence of power level and verifying current knowledge of how protein influences a Digimon's likelihood to win. His data generally matches up with that published by V-Tamer's Residence.)
defeating an Andromon in an official tournament on a Ver. 1 Digital Monster pet versus a Ver. 3, which only had a base probability of 6% to happen at all. At each of the D-1 events Bandai began selling tamer tags--also referred to as tamer licenses--each of which featured a unique serial number, the D-1 logo, and a different Digimon on the front. The serial numbers were wholly unique, and like the virtual pets themselves were designed to give each tamer a distinct identity. They were intended to be worn with the keychain pet attached to the chain, and for added security Bandai also produced a line of "cages," plastic hinged cages equivalent to the modern phone case that protected the screen behind another layer and left open access to the buttons.
This type of material culture helped spur the early growth of the Digimon community in Japan, and the tournament series as a whole was pivotal to helping Digimon gain steam with the general public. The virtual pets were primitive, rough around the edges, and very chancey; but they were also wildly popular and captured the public imagination just as Tamagotchi had done a year earlier. Bandai helped foster community further through the internet, using their official Digimon Channel website to host "Digimon Café," a specialized chatroom for tamers. Café would remain in operation until early June 2003.
Having played Ver. S I can attest to its quality and general faithfulness to the original gameplay mechanics, though it's debatable as to whether it's more or less so than Digimon World. It was also the first Digimon product to feature File Island, and a concrete storyline, pioneering a minimalist BBS/e-mail/system error mode of storytelling three years before Uplink and twelve years before Digital: A Love Story would make this device famous. (And when Ver. S was using these narrative conceits, the technology was new rather than retro.) The story in Ver. S is delivered in chunks of messages read in the player's inbox and seen on simulated webpages, with dialogue only appearing when confronting one of the hackers the player is competing with.
Seeing the massive Digimon sprites plead for food, express anger or happiness, and go head-to-head is a delight. However, as video game Ver. S hasn't withstood the test of time. The novelty of seeing virtual pet sprites done justice as detailed full-body animations on par with arcade tech and rendered on a home console has been done better by later games. The storyline is thin, the music dated, and the controls are made for another era. The game's biggest sin is its lack of multiplayer options, as the core storyline makes for a ~5 hour maingame and the primary appeal of the Digimon pets as opposed to Tamagotchi is pitting your own best work against your friend's best work. Digimon World would remedy this, leaving Ver. S in obscurity.
|Screenshot from Digimons World|
The simplicity of the Digital Monster pets was a weakness in gameplay terms, but later years would show that it was that very simplicity that made it appealing to a significant audience of consumers in the first place. Having taken off with elementary school children and junior high students, Digimon was well on its way to becoming a major media presence. During the development of the Ver. 3 Bandai began commencing the first major talks with Toei and Shueisha that would branch into the creation of a multimedia franchise. Plans for the second Grand Prix were in the works as the first one was ending. October of 1998 would bring the first major revisions to the digital pet formula, beginning a move away from flat gambles on percentage chances, and towards a more skill-based, tamer-driven system for commanding Digimon.