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Digimon fans still exist – and they are the custodians of its future

in an era When everyone wants a behind-the-scenes look at the development of their favorite games, it’s harder than ever to separate the final product from the news of its development cycle. This is especially true with Digimon survive, the latest installment in the monster-collecting franchise, announced in July 2018 for release the following year. Of course that didn’t happen. A 2019 release became a 2020 release, a 2020 release became a 2021 release, and a 2021 debut became a 2022 finish line. Pandemic delays, a game engine overhaul, and a complete change of production teams made the waiting time seem endless.

Of course, this is nothing new for Digimon fans. For years, a lack of official releases and scattershot localization of the anime meant that the franchise was kept alive solely through the passion of fans in America. It doesn’t have the almost almighty branding of Pokémon, where every big release is a big pop culture event. Instead, Digimon is only as strong as the will of its fan base. But in 2022, this fanbase is more than excited to see their favorite monsters thrive.

A far cry from the Digimon explosion of the late ’90s, by the end of 2002 the number of games bearing the Digimon logo on store shelves would be reduced to a trickle. When anime finally reappeared in the US, it was on short-lived programming blocks like Disney’s Jetix, and some series never completed their runs. Even now, the last three series have never been dubbed and aired on American television, although fans can find the Japanese versions on streaming services like Crunchyroll.

But even if the landscape looks barren, “what allows Digimon to continue to grow today is this passion of the fans,” says Ravel Carvalho Monte, a notable Digimon enthusiast and the researcher responsible for the blog Digital World Archive. Monte’s love for Digimon actually blossomed during those lean times. He was first introduced to the franchise through a DVD of the second anime series, which he watched over school holidays in 2006 while “hundreds of kids were playing with different things” around him, he says. Nearly a decade later, he was pounding fanbases on Facebook and other platforms even as Digimon breathed his last on network television outside of Asia. (The latest Twitter post for the brand’s TV efforts was in September 2015.)

Monte has delved deep into the history of the franchise, often aided by The Digi-Lab, a one-person labor of love by the site owner. The site translates everything from Japanese chats with artists and writers to CD synopsis, allowing fans to stay connected and learn the intentions of the franchise’s creators. “Even though Digimon isn’t airing anime, there’s already so much content out there that these fans just keep creating new fan content,” says Monte.

Interviews aren’t the only thing that fans translate. In 2013, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of anime, a Digimon adventures Game was published by Bandai Namco on the PlayStation Portable. It seemed like the game was destined for a wide release in Europe and North America. But when that didn’t happen, fans jumped in and created a full English translation patch for it in 2018. Fans treated the similarly region-locked Digimon World Re: Digitizeand while there is a wide spectrum of Digimon games that have not been officially or otherwise translated or patched, fan persistence continues to fill in the gaps.

The Digimon community remains strong, albeit on unofficial platforms. The With the Will forums are a popular hub for news and discussion, you can find threads that are almost 20 years old in Neoseeker’s still working Digimon section and the Podigious! Podcast regularly picks up older eras of Digimon along with the latest subtitled episodes. For years, the Digimon Forum Roleplay has served as a hub for fans looking to re-enact their stories about a Digimon partner, and as I write this, the latest piece of Digimon fanfiction on Fanfiction.net was updated 12 hours ago. (The oldest, 1,673-page stories before that, are from December 4, 1999. That’s less than four months after Digimon first appeared on American television.)

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