“Inexplicably popular” is a phrase that gets bandied around a lot. There’s plenty of books and movies and so on that achieve monumental success despite being, by any fair assessment, fucking terrible. But what about things that are inexplicably unpopular? What about those works that attract passionate, fiery loathing despite being very, very good indeed?
Because the Adam West Batman series is just the tops. It is genuinely one of the best tv comedies of its decade. It’s smart, it’s funky and it just captures the vibe of the sixties so well.
No, no, no. Not THOSE sixties. THESE sixties.
There, much better.
And yet, for the longest time it felt like the Adam West series was loved by everybody but Batman fans. And sure, having to listen to the millionth tired joke about “BIFF BAM KAPOW!” and shark repellant got real old, real fast, but that wasn’t the show’s fault.
Less forgivable was the frankly toxic level of vitriol that a subset of the Batman fandom had towards this show. Not quite Phantom Menace levels but close. And this rejection of everything that even vaguely resembled Batman ’66 was, I would argue, a big reason why the nineties in comics were so fucking try-hard and asinine, as the medium went through its angsty adolesence loudly proclaiming that comics are ACTUALLY REALLY DARK AND MATURE, MOM.
Thankfully, things seem to have turned a corner. As comics became mainstream and lost their stigma, the show has undergone a reappraisal as younger generations have discovered the series and realised that
a) It’s fucking hilarious.
b) It’s supposed to be fucking hilarious.
c) This shit is meme-tastic.
So remember The Clone Wars?
No, not that one.
Not that one either.
Yes, the CGI movie that preceded the 2008 series. The ’66 Batman was originally intended to be the same thing only slightly less camp and not terrible.
The movie was originally intended as a launch for the TV series. However, the studio told the creators that they wouldn’t pony up the budget for a whole seperate movie. Instead, the movie ended up being a kind of feature length finale for the first season of the TV show, albeit one that was shown in theatres. The script was written in ten days and…honestly that shows. Not that it’s not hilarious, but it very much feels like a series of incidents strung together rather than a single cohesive whole. It also absolutely feels like a TV episode padded out to feature length. Let’s take the opening.
We open on a shot of a yacht with the narrator (producer William Dozier) telling us that this boat is heading to Gotham with some kind of amazing scientific invention but that Batman has received an anonymous tip that the yacht is in grave peril. So we get shots of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson driving towards Gotham (I don’t know if the series even attempted to pretend that this isn’t California, it could not look less East Coast if it tried), arriving at Wayne Manor, changing into their costumes, getting into the Batmobile, driving to an airport, getting into the Bat-copter (which apparently has a full time staff working at the airport who just look after this one helicopter for Batman) and then we get shots of the Bat-Copter flying over the city towards the yacht. Was all that needed? No. Is it padding to puff up the runtime and also allow the producers to show off their cool new Bat-copter? Yes.
But it also provides some invaluable word-building. Every version of Batman has to make a choice; how does society feel about Batman? Is he a mere urban legend? Is he a recognised superhero with the somewhat wary respect of the police? Is he a wanted outlaw? And as this sequence makes clear, in this universe, Batman is not simply out in the open, a recognised ally of the police and government. He’s basically a super scientist hero king to all humanity. He’s Jesus with pointy ears. Just look at how these cops react to seeing the Bat-Copter flying overhead.
Our heroes fly over the yacht and Batman prepares to board the ship when suddenly the vessel disappears and Batman is attacked by a shark.
This of course leads to the best line in the movie, and indeed, in fiction, with the caped crusader ordering his young ward to provide him with a bat-themed aerosol specifically designed for the deterrence of carcharadons. And Adam West didn’t get an Academy Award for this because the Oscars are bullshit. In the nick of time, he’s able to repel the shark and it explodes.
We cut to a press conference in Commissioner Gordon’s office which Batman has apparently called just so he can refuse to answer any questions about the vanishing vessel or the exploding shark. One of the journalists is a Russian named Miss Kitka, and with a name like that you can probably guess which of Batman’s rogues she actually is.
So this is Catwoman, played by Lee Merriweather replacing Season 1’s Catwoman Julie Newmar who was unavailable for the movie. Fun bit of trivia, in the comics continuation of this series, the depiction of Catwoman randomly switches between Julie Newmar, Lee Merriweather and Eartha Kitt and they never explain or even acknowledge it. Kitka asks the dynamic duo to take off their masks so the good people of Russia can see what a smile looks like but Gordon is shocked at the suggestion, saying that disclosing their identities would “completely destroy their value as ace crimefighters!”
The press conference over, Batman, Gordon, Robin and Chief O’Hara (oh faith and begob ’tis himself) discuss the recent attempt on Batman’s life via exploding shark. I love that I got to write that sentence. Batman reveals that while he and Robin were being lured to the vanishing yacht, the real yacht containing the invention and its inventor, Commodore Schmidlapp, were captured. Batman asks Gordon what “super criminals” are currently at large and they learn that Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman are all currently on the lam. This then leads to…look, just see for yourselves:
It makes just as much sense as the detective work on Sherlock, these guys are just honest about it.
We cut to the Benbow Inn, where the four villains have set up a cosy little Legion of Doom called United Underworld. Riddler angrily berates Penguin for the failure of his exploding shark and Penguin replies “how was I to know they’d have a can of shark-repellant bat spray?!” which…I feel he’s answered his own question there. Who else would have a can of shark repellant bat-spray? We also learn that the group have kidnapped Schmidlapp and are keeping him the basement, having convinced him that he’s still on board the ship and that they’ve just been waylaid by fog.
Meanwhile, Batman and Robin have deduced that the vanishing yacht was a hologram (“similar to the common desert mirage”) and find the projector on a floating bouy. Unfortunately, they’re unable to get any fingerprints due to “salt and corrosion! The infamous old enemies of the crimefighter!”. Suddenly, the bouy becomes magnetised and they’re pinned by their utility belts.
The Penguin shoots torpedoes at them from his war-surplus “pre-atomic” submarine (the movie keeps reminding us that it’s pre-atomic and I have no idea why). Batman is able to destroy two of the torpedoes with his radio-detonator but then…
Fortunately, this Batman has the kind of plot armour that would make even Grant Morrison blush, and the pair are saved by the noble sacrifice of a porpoise literally throwing itself in front of the torpedo to save his life.
I LOVE THIS MOVIE. IT IS THE BEST MOVIE. PERIOD.
They take the Bat Boat back to the Bat Shore and contact the navy to learn that they recently sold a war-surplus submarine to a Mr. P.N. Gwynne who didn’t even leave a forwarding address.
So in case you were worried, it’s not just the police, the military in this universe is also basically helpless without Batman.
The villains come up with a fiendish plan, to kidnap a millionaire and lure Batman to their base where he’ll be finished off with an exploding octopus (okay that’s three ocean animals in this movie that die from heavy explosives. Who wrote this thing?).
They choose, of course, Bruce Wayne. Disguised as Kitka she goes to Wayne Manor and he ends up asking her out to dinner because, for all his reputation as a stuffy square, sixties Bruce Wayne is smooth AF.
Batman asks Robin to help him deduce another riddle; “What has yellow skin and writes?” which Robin immediately answers “a ballpoint banana!”
They deduce from the riddle that the villains are going to make an attempt on Miss Kitka’s life so he has Alfred and Robin tail him on his date with her and
forces them to watch has them as back up. Unfortunately, so incensed with jealousy no, actually that’s the only way to read this, so incensed with jealousy that he turns off the video feed, Robin misses Bruce Wayne getting abducted by the villains.
They take him to the United Underworld headquarters but Bruce escapes his bonds and just goes HAM on all of them and escapes through the window and dives into the sea. He returns to Wayne manor where Commissioner Gordon and Dick Grayson are hard at work rescuing him by pacing around the room looking concerned. Bruce and Dick change back into Batman and Robin and head over to the United Underworld headquarter looking for Miss Kitka. Instead they find a bomb which leads to Batman running around the wharf to find a safe place to dispose of it.
Robin is stunned that Batman risked his life to save the drunks of this slum (because Sixties Robin feels about drunks the way Forties Robin felt about Asians).
They get waylaid by the Penguin, transparently disguised as Commodore Schmidlapp and decide to take him back to the Batcave to verify his identity. However! It transpires that the villain let himself be captured because he knew they’d take him to exactly where he wanted to be to enact his devious plan!
See, it turns out that Schmidlapp’s device is a de-hydrator capable of sucking all the moisture out of a human body and turning them to sand, which can then be re-hydrated elsewhere. Penguin uses water from the Batmobile’s supply to reconstitute five goons. Unfortunately, the water he used was radioactive which causes them to vanish the second Batman and Robin punch them. As Batman sombrely tells Robin, they won’t be coming back “in this universe” which I think is the superhero equivalent of telling your sidekick that his dog has gone to live on a nice farm upstate.
Batman pretends that he believes that Penguin really is Schmidlapp and they drive him back to town. Penguin gasses them and steals the Batmobile and drives off. Batman and Robin, however, were actually inocculated against the knock out gas have the Bat-Cycle stashed nearby. They ride to the airport and then take to the air in the Bat-Copter, tracking the Batmobile.
On the submarine, the Riddler fires off another clue rocket over Joker and Catwoman’s objections and here I must pause to comment on just how damn perfect Frank Gorshin’s Riddler is. There’s a moment earlier when the villains think they’ve killed Batman and they’re celebrating, but the Riddler just looks stunned. As if he can’t believe the game is over and he doesn’t know what to do now. And this line he gives when the Joker (of all people) tries to talk him out of giving Batman any more clues:
“Oh, but I must, I must! Why, outwitting Batman is my sole delight, my heaven on earth, my very paradise!”
Don’t tell me this movie isn’t accurate to the comics. Don’t even try.
The Riddler launches his rocket which causes the Bat Copter to crash…onto a massive pile of foam rubber and Batman and Robin are able to deduce from his clue that the villains are attacking the United World Organisation.
They’re too late to prevent the villains from dehydrating the UWO Security Council consisting of the ambassadors of Japan, the U.S, the U.S.S.R., Israel, France, Spain, West Germany, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria.
Batman and Robin chase the Penguin’s submarine in the Batboat and fires a laser at the sub, forcing it to surface. We get a big BIFF BAM KAPOW fight on the deck of the submarine and the villains are defeated. But, to his horror, Batman discovers that Catwoman was actually Miss Kitka the whole time.
The dynamic duo recover vials containing the dehydrated ambassadors but Schmidlapp barges in demanding tea and knocks the vials over and it’s all “You got the Ambassador of West Germany in my Ambassador of Japan! Well you go the Ambassador of Japan in my Ambassador of West Germany!” basically it’s a mess.
The world waits with bated breath as, in the Batcave, Batman and Robin labour to seperate the grains of Ambassador grit into their constituent parts. This tone, they head back to the United World Organisation and rehydrate the vials.
I mean, they’re all talking different languages and are now effectively entirely different human beings but. Y’know.
This is a far better result than anyone could reasonably have expected.
Batman muses that this may actually do more for world peace than anything the not-UN has been able to achieve so far and they quietly leave through the window.
The Dark Knight Detective
Let’s face it. He is the best Batman. If you had to choose an onscreen version of Gotham city to live in, I know which one I’d pick. The one with the sunny beaches, throngs of girls in bikinis and no serious crime. West’s Batman isn’t really all that different from the “Bat-God” of many modern Batman stories; hyper-competent and supernaturally prepared. As for Bruce Wayne, one of Adam West’s stipulations for the movie was that he get to spend more time out of the cowl as Bruce Wayne to show off his range and boy does he. Perhaps unexpectently, West nails the “playboy heart-throb” aspect of the character better than any live action actor apart from Bale.
The Boy Wonder
Give Burt Ward his due. To this day, his portrayal of Robin is the most iconic and influential take on the character there has ever been. Plenty have tried. Chris O’Donnell. Joseph Gordon Levitt. Brenton Thwaites.
They try. Oh how they try.
His Faithful Manservant
Unfortunately, while the movie is overall a very good showcase of the strengths of its parent series, it regrettably gives very little for Alan Napier’s Alfred to do. But rest assured, ’66 Alfred was a fucking BOSS.
In many ways, Commissioner Gordon is the Watson to Batman’s Holmes and often with the same results. Whereas in the comics Gordon is usually a heroic cop so badass that he’d be the hero of any other story, Neil Hamilton plays the commissioner as a kindly but dim patrician who couldn’t tie his shoe-laces without Batman’s help. But he does it so well.
The Clown Prince of Crime
The first movie appearance of Batman’s arch-enemy is frankly bizarre to a modern comics fan. Joker actually teaming up (and others being willing to team up with him) is odd enough. But the fact that he’s clearly the junior member of this partnership (and the least crazy by far) is just weird. Plus, Cesar Romero refusing to shave off the moustache and forcing them to just paint over it looks gross. It always looked gross. He doesn’t want to shave the moustache to play the Joker? Maybe he doesn’t get to play the Joker then, how about that?
The Prince of Puzzles
The Riddler is one of the most famous Batman villains and that’s entirely down to Frank Gorshin, whose manic, gonzo, portrayal took an obscure villain with around three comics appearances and rocketed him into the A list of Batman’s rogues. It kinda makes me wish he’d played the Joker instead as he’s simultaneously funnier and scarier than Romero’s Joker.
That pompous, waddling maestro of fowl play, master of a million criminal umbrellas!
Penguin fans, enjoy your moment. It was never this good again. If you never read a Batman comic but only knew the character through the sixties TV show and movie (and, let’s be frank, that was probably the case for the vast majority of Batman fans between 1966 and 1989) you would be forgiven for thinking that the Penguin was Batman’s arch-enemy. In the United Underworld, Catwoman is the femme fatale double agent, Riddler is the ideas-man, Joker is…honestly just a lackey who brings the hostage his tea. But Penguin is the leader. The Penguin is one of the most malleable of all the main rogues. Catwoman, Riddler and even Joker remain broadly consistent across depictions but the Penguin will frequently be taken apart and rebuilt from the ground up in any new Batman continuity. Sometimes he’s a disgusting sewer monster. Sometimes he’s an old money WASP. Sometimes he’s British, sometimes American. Now he’s a radical anarchist preaching class warfare, later he’ll be a semi-respectable nightclub owner. But Burgess Meredith’s Penguin is a capital S Supervillain. He’s got gadgets, an army of lackies, a submarine headquarters and a plan that wouldn’t have been out of place in a Roger Moore era Bond movie. I actually remember being genuinely scared of the Penguin as a young child, but that was probably because he bore a passing resemblance to the Child-Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
The Queen of Criminals, the Princess of Plunder
It’s one of the eternal questions: who was the best sixties Catwoman; Newmar, Merriweather or Kitt? Personally I think Newmar was the best at portraying the character’s sexual charisma, whereas Eartha Kitt was better at bringing out Selina’s swagger and ego. Merriweather is more of a well-rounded Jill of all Trades. She’s probably the weakest of the three but make no mistake, she’s still a fantastic Catwoman.
Batman NEVER kills, except:
It is with regret that I must report that we have our first and second confirmed killings by Batman onscreen. Neither his fault, to be sure. He didn’t know that the springboard he knocked that goon onto would catapult him into the arms of the Penguin’s exploding octopus. And, he wasn’t to know that the Penguin re-hydrated that goon with heavy water which caused him to become atomically unstable and turn to anti-matter at the slightest impact (I really appreciate that all the science in this movie is airtight). But still. There it is. Batman has blood on his hands. Hopefully this was a once off.
Where does he get those wonderful toys?:
So many gadgets! The Batboat! The Bat-Copter! The Shark-Repellant Bat-Spray! And of course, most importantly, the Bat-Ladder!
It’s the car, right? Chicks dig the car:
Finally! A Batmobile that actually looks like a mobile that would be driven by a bat. The sixties Batmobile had a (not) surprisingly epic backstory. A one of a kind concept car built by Ford, the Batmobile began life in 1954 as the only Lincoln Futura ever built. Its sleek body was (according to the Batman wiki which I have decided I trust totally) was fabricated by Ghia of Italy, whose artisans hammered the car’s panels over logs and tree stumps (I mean honestly, how ELSE would Batman’s care be built?). When the time came to create the Batmobile, legendary Hollywood customizer George Barris bought the Futura from Ford for a princely $1 and remade it into the Batmobile. Unfortunately, because the car was a prototype and by this stage over a decade old, it frequently malfunctioned, with the engine overheating, the tyres blowing and, (I swear I’m not making this up) the batteries frequently dying.
FINAL SCORE OUT OF TEN:
NEXT UPDATE: 20th April 2023 (need to focus on some writing, sorry folks)
NEXT TIME: Obscure British animation? Legendarily terrible? One of the biggest flops of all time? Is it my birthday?!
That episode where Alfred captures the Joker just might be my favorite one of the entire 60’s series. I always found it amusing that both of my parents grew up hating this show, yet one of them still bought the movie for me on DVD when I was little. (And I wasn’t even a big Batman fan at the time!) That’s the power of this silly, ridiculous movie!
I never saw much of Adam West Batman, but when I was around 22 I borrowed this from the library, and I was amazed at how great West’s acting was. I cannot wait to read about you praising him more when you get around to reviewing Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face (there are only like 40 Batman movies).
See you in 2079!
Even if you are reviewing the live action movies only, an exception must be made for Mask of the Phantasm.
Even if you are only reviewing the live action movies, an exception must be made for Mask of the Phantasm.
I’m going to go through the live action movies first then loop back around to cover the animated films
Come August and I will have been here for ten years. Good chance I can make another 56 years.
“I don’t know if the series even attempted to pretend that this isn’t California, it could not look less East Coast if it tried”
Confound that treacherous rodent! 𝙄 was going to make that joke!
Adam West was just perfect for this era of Batman. Goofy, outlandish, unashamedly camp. But also sociable, friendly and not an emotionally-stunted child lashing out at friends and family for not getting his way. Somewhere in the multiverse, there’s an occasion where Adam West’s Batman teamed with Christopher Reeve’s Superman and their ridiculous adventure is the thing of legends. Ah well.
Oh, Mouse. Have you ever considered looking back at certain Disney or Marvel films and see how your opinions might have changed or things you might’ve missed?
He did redo his review of Snow White. In his review of The Iron Giant he said he should have been harsher on the ending of Wreck it Ralph.
Always nice to see ’66 Batman get the respect it deserves. It’s certainly more common now, but I remember so many times as a teen where I was the odd one out in liking it, having to endure mockery from people who somehow didn’t understand that it was a deliberately funny show!
Adam West is TOTALLY the best Live-Action Batman, he just inhabits the role in a way that none after him have managed. It’s seriously impossible for me to read a Silver Age Batman comic without imagining his voice (though Diedrich Bader’s creeps in sometimes.) Burt Ward is also the best Live-Action Robin, which sounds like fainter praise, but I enjoy him just as much as West. Alan Napier’s Alfred is also my favorite Live-Action Alfred, which is impressive considering the massive competition he’s got there. I’d say he pretty much defined Alfred’s personality as we now know it, even the comic book Alfred didn’t become a snarky badass until after him, at least from what I’ve seen.
I definitely agree on all of the villains, Meredith as Penguin is so great and imposing (but still funny), it amazes me that the character became known as such an embarrassment in the fandom. I feel like Romero’s Joker being oddly the weakest of the four doesn’t get touched on enough, his is the only performance that doesn’t do much for me. Gorshin’s Riddler was more or less the basis for the comic book Joker’s personality later on, so I kind of just consider him an honorary Joker, he’d definitely rank a lot higher than Romero on my Joker ranking! As for Catwoman, Merriwether is great, though I think she may just stand out a little bit less than the other two Catwomen, if only because she had to share the screen with three other villains in her only appearance.
Anybody who doesn’t like the Sixties Batman is a cad, a bounder, and a contemptible fink, says I!
Yeah, this show is good fun. And it was the Silver Age, it’s not like the comics were much more serious*. The cast was great, and it could be pretty clever. ’89 Batman and Animated Series Batman will always be MY Batmen, but reruns of this show have a place in my heart too.
Freddie Frog, eh? Can’t say I’ve had the pleasure. Used to pass that one in the video store, but even as a kid I’m pretty sure I could see stink lines coming off it. Ran across it on Letterboxd a while back and added it to my Watchlist** out of morbid curiosity. Since you’re reviewing it, I may finally have to pull the trigger and watch it.
* Exhibits A and B.
** To be completed by 2036, assuming people stop making movies.
Crud, my exhibit B didn’t work. It was this one.
Oh man, I used to watch this show all the time as a kid! We had a DVR which none of us knew how to use, and every time a part one ended on a “Same Bat-Time, same Bat-Channel!” cliffhanger we all went charging up the stairs to beg Mom to set up the next part to see how Batman escaped.
I also think my fascination with both Catwoman and Batman might’ve been an early sign of my impending bisexuality.
The Impending Bisexuality is my superhero name.
It’s possible to prefer other versions of the Batman, but any Bat-fan who can actively demean BATMAN ‘66 has a cold, dead heart and is not to be trusted in the slightest.
I will say that Mr Frank Gorshin is too darned perfect as The Riddler for me to wish that he had played The Joker (It might be amusing to see more versions of Mr J who have committed such thoroughly appalling crimes in the past that they’re perfectly happy to spend the rest of their career as lazily as possible, relying on Past Glories to leave their audiences appropriately terrorised).
Also, when it comes to determining the winner in that Catwoman ‘66 derby, the correct answer is always “The audience”.
Oh, and every single actor who wants to get Bruce Wayne in Public (aka “Brucie”) just right will always do well to consult Mr Adam West – who somehow manages to be the last person you’d suspect of being Batman despite being stone-cold perfect in the role.
I would also like to say that a crossover between BATMAN ‘66 and SUPERMAN ‘78 would be much less amusing than a crossover between the Batman and Lois Lane from those productions (with Big Blue showing up for that episode’s cameo floating outside a window).
Bonus points if Lois uses the alias ‘Vicki Vale’ throughout.
I tried to include a sacrificial porpoise reference in the beginning of Batman Inc. when Selina was bound during the confrontation with Lord Death Man, but Mike Marts vetoed it.
If you are actually Grant Morrison and you actually read my blog and don’t tell me you are EVIL.
Grant Morrison is bald, eccentric and has spent most of their working life coming up with ways to bedevil superheroes – how could they NOT be a Super Villain?
Please tell me that’s the real GM.
“It is genuinely one of the best tv comedies of its decade. It’s smart, it’s funky and it just captures the vibe of the sixties so well. ”
Well, the first season and the movie are. The show goes downhill very fast from the second season, although I think that actually, the third season is an improvement. Nowhere as good as the first one, but Batgirl really did a lot to lift the series.
1966 Batman “predicted” a lot of later stories used for “dark Batman”. The Dark Knight had Gordon thought to be dead only to turn out he wasn’t? “The Bookworm Turns”, starring future Mad Hatter Roddy McDowall to boot. One episode “predicted” both a scene from 1989 Batman and Harley Quinn: https://bullyscomics.blogspot.com/2011/02/harley-67.html
I never watched the series, but this movie is goddang hilarious.
also this superior version of The Dark Knight is far superior to the actual movie.
Next is a… secret agent frog? Called Freddie? Inexplicable a walking, talking, human-sized frog among humans?
Darn it… I’ve SEEN this movie! It must have been 30 or more years ago, but I swear I must’ve seen it on VHS at some point. Seeing that character triggers some dim memories that, yes, there WAS such a movie…
Damned if I remembered anything else about it though.
Why else do you read this blog?
He has a car! Some sort of old-timer car I think! I definitely remember there being a car!
Yeah, Frank Miller and Rob Liefeld did some real damage to comics long-term, I’d say.
can’t beat the exploding shark or the henchman getting catapulted through the air with the photon torpedo sound effect this one will always be a classic
Mouse, I gotta be honest: It’s nice to see you reviewing something that makes you happy. WIth both your big things in big flop eras, I feel like things have gotten pretty…Downer-y around here, it’s nice to see you praise a classic that reminds us why, despite all the ubiquity they hold today, we still love these things called superheroes.
Yeah, I feel ya. Been a bit of a negative Nancy to be sure.
Amazing review as always, Mouse.
I don’t want to repeat myself, but I really want you to read my proposals.
So, in a quick refresher…
I would like you to review the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts series, please…
And Yellow Submarine too, if you can do that as well…
Alright, let’s do a little math here. There are 52 weeks in a year. I do one longform review every two week. I have around fifty requested, paid-for reviews to do. That would take me around two years. If i didn’t also have my regular series (Disney Canon, MCU, Batman and Bats versus Bolts). And my writing projects (aka, my actual job). And two kids. And holidays. And occasional bouts of illness. So it’s more like 3/5 years solidly booked. So apologies, but I’m not taking requests at this time.
i love Bats vs. Bolts, glad to hear there qre more in the pipeline!
I would like you to do reviews of the Digimon series.
Of ALL the Series.
Look, in order to make it easier for you to orient yourself, I’m going to give you the laydown on all the series, so you can know at least as much as what the ordinary person who wants to get into Digimon should know.
You should know that the first series began in 1999 and the serieses (?) have been ongoing ever since then, even if admittedly with some pauses between series being longer than the others (to guess why, read on). These series are, formally speaking, videogame adaptations, or more correctly speaking, adaptations of a videogame-like thing developed by Bandai Namco (this before the merger, when they were solely Bandai, (well, I think)): what, exactly, was the thing they were adapting, is something that I’ll admit I may not have completely gotten and I feel would be too complicated to even try to explain now, so if you do look it up and understand it better than me, then hats off to you. The (series’, at the least) franchise’s high point was at 1999-2002, and while at least some of the later series hAve gotten just as high reviews as the first ones, it’s pretty much agreed that the franchise was never as good as in its early halcyon days (however, bear also in mind that I’m only quoting a common collective consensus and that I haven’t even watched the larger part of the series’ overall content and thus I couldn’t even speak truthfully how true that might be, so it’s all in on you on how it is).
Now, the series in question are:
You must understand that each series’ official first word is Digimon, so here I’ll post the words that follow it, in order to keep this from being too repetitive. In some cases, I’ll slightly modify the title in order to make some necessary (why necessary you’ll understand as you read on) clarifications, generally using more-or-less terms used by the fandom at large.
These series are all (as far as I have ascertained) set in Tokyo, at least as far as our human protagonists are concerned.
You should also know that although like the first half series do have official English dubs, I’d still want you to keep in all cases to the original Japanese, because after all, nothing like the originals, right?, and thus, I would also prefer if you’d use the original Japanese terms for, like, the human characters and Digimon (The one exception, in my opinion? Use the term Digidestined, as I find it better than the original’s Chosen Children). However, I also wouldn’t mind if you’d mention the dub names as a…. as a….. well, just as a nod.
So, here are the series, ordered in such the way as I found it to be clearest to understand, in my opinion. These come also with their respective movies and other assorted pertaining content such as I know or remember*1, as well as their further explanatory notes as personally considered necessary, alongside personal comments stemming from experience.
Adventure, which, due to developments further down the line (keep reading to learn what these were!), should be more accurately be termed Adventure1999, Adventure 01, or (in my personal choice) OriginalAdventure (2 movies: one is a short film that clocks in at (I think) less than 30 minutes and which serves as an overall prequel to the series: I think I heard somewhere that it was released simultaneously with the first episode of this series on the same day, in order to serve as a dual moving-pictures debut of Digimon (if you want some advice, I would suggest watching it at around the same time as a new human character joins our cast; however, I have neither seen this mini-film in question nor gotten as far along the series to that part so this not actually a closelly-scrutinized advice, I’ll have you know); the other film is called Our War Game and is set after the series ended: this film introduces an element considered key for our protagonists from this point forward and everything I have read about this film clearly tells me that it is a must-see before moving on to the next series. THE quintessential Digimon series par excellence, the one where it all began, and a definitive fan favorite; the main human characters (our prime Digidestined, as it were) and their Digimon partners are THE Digimon characters as far as pretty much anybody is concerned. I have watched this series up to episode 14, which means that I finished the first arc, and in my opinion the series can’t get any better than this arc: Matter of fact, it may even be a personal favorite due to its handling of characterisation and general(ish) sense of story direction (better appreciated on hindsight, admittedly speaking). Yet, for all these good words, I also have to say that this series also has something of an overall grItiness that sometimes makes it a bit of a chore to watch.)
Adventure 02 (2 movies, the exact spot to watch them I’ll admit that I still don’t know; nevertheless, from what I’ve gathered, the second one*2 has a plenty good reputation and would seem to be practically a must-watch. This series is a sequel to the previous one, where the human characters of the first one have now grown past elementary school and serve as low-key mentors to a new generation of Digidestined (of Digiheroes perhaps?). Incidentally, two of the members of this new generation are actually the youngest members of the previous Digidestined, now grown just as old as their elder companions were back then (also, one of these two is the new human character I mentioned above in the previous entry). I haven’t watched this series because I have decided that in order to fully appreciate it, you have to watch all of what the first Adventure has to offer. You might do likewise.)
Tamers (2 movies, set after the series is finished, or at least the second one is, serving as a neat little series epilogue from what I heard, even if it was done without the participation of the man responsible for the series’ greatness*3. Widely agreed to be the best Digimon series ever, it is even considered as going far beyond the rest in terms of quality. Ecstasically lauded for its sense of realism and characterisation, as well as for its masterful tackling of mature subjects as dealt by young characters, this is the one Digimon series I wish the most for you to watch. But you’ll have to watch the first two series in order to fully appreciate this one (this is not absolutely mAndatory, mind you: the series is not a sequel to them or even set in their same world: watching them first will only make them even more resonant in here*4). I watched all the way to episode 13, which, if my scanty knowledge*5 of animé is right, would seem to mean that I have here also completed this series’ first arc as well, and I have to say that I’ve found this series to be actively engaging and alluring and an all-in-all interesting experience in both ideas and execution.)
Frontier (1 movie, set in the first half of the series: I admit I haven’t watched it (matter of fact, I have seen none of the Digimon films). This series is often labelled as the one that killed Digimon’s mainstream popularity and reduced the franchise to being the niche classic its perceived as remaining to this day, and even if it wasn’t*6, it’s still generally panned by the fans due to its premise, even if it’s also true that it has plenty of stalwart defenders as well. I’ll admit that I like its premise very much on principle, finding the whole this-time-the-human-characters-transform-into-the-Digimon*7 thing to be the next big bold logical step in the franchise’s evolution and even the best thing to do because it gave the humans a much more believable way to be a part of the story; the tagline I received when I first saw this series on TV sums my feelings on the matter perfectly: “This time, don’t let anybody else do your job” (Is this how it is? I’m not a native English speaker and I don’t know if it’s the same in other languages and it’s been so long since I’d heard it, but even so, I’m certain I have gotten it right.). This is the only Digimon series I have seen complete all the way through to the end, and I must say that I have found a fun, amusing, and enthralling ride, particularly in the first half, even if it also has glaring structural issues, most noticeable in the second half (some of the protagonists don’t have real arcs, just for one).
Savers/Data Squad, one’s the original, the other’s the dub name: still don’t know which is which (1 movie, exact placement within the series unknown: it flopped so badly it put an end to any and all Digimon movies, thus making things easier for all of us. (Also, between the end of Frontier and the beginning of this one, there was released a standalone computer-animated film that is not actually part of any series. This is a film without any human characters at all. Right now, I don’t remember what’s its exact name. If it please you, you can watch it right before Savers/Data Squad.) This series’ intent can be summed up as “Digimon grows up”, and so, this time the human protagonists are generally older than they have been so far and the relationship they’ll have with their Digimon as well as the setting where they’ll partner up will now be made considerably more… prOfesional. I haven’t watched any of this series at all, but the recaps I have seen do have left me particularly invested.)
Xros Wars: pronounced Cross Wars (The longest of all Digimon series, last I checked; so long indeed that it can be fairly divided into seasons, 3 to be fair. The first season can be said to be a carefree forerunner of the second one, which is a serious story with what might easily be Digimon’s most daunting villains. (Matter of fact, the gimmick and the conceit for this series are remarkably complicated for me to try to explain, so all I’ll say is that it’s something of an epic about nationbuilding, diplomacy, and, more particularly, leading armies in warfare; either way, it seems they didn’t try any of that again.) The third season, however, is a remarkably peculiar case, having a shift in tone and subject and the erstwhile protagonist of the series is now more of a sidekick to a wholelly new protagonist just introduced for this season. Matter of fact, the season’s so overall different from the rest of its series that it even has a new title all of its own: Digimon Hunters; thus confusing many into thinking it’s an altogether different Digimon series, and, to be honest, they can’t be completely faulted for that. I have only seen, complete, the first episode: the several things I’ve read about this series*8 do not particularly entice me to proceed After Savers/Data Squad didn’t quite prove to be the franchise’s revitalization, for this one, they went back to making it a kiddie show as usual*9. KID DUMB is how they went in here, if we are to believe the things I’ve read about this series. Matter of fact, this series is known as the one that killed the overseas dubs*10 and very nearly killed the franchise itself*11. However, upon closer inspection, it would appear that several of these harsh criticisms actually apply to its third season, which I’ve heard described as annoying and dumb and its protagonist as childishly unbearable, and which actually never got a foreign-language dub*10. And yet, all things considered, it has a nothing-short-of-epic conclusion that in my opinion is utterly guaranteed to make it all worth it.)
Adventure Tri (A plenty intersting series in more ways than one. Originating as a way to commemorate the 15th anniversary of (Original)Adventure’s original airing, a slew of executive meddling decisions (and likely other reasons I’m right now forgetting) meant that it took 4 years for this series to finish releasing all of its content. This was supposed to be a six-seasoned series to be released in television but the people from Upstairs decided instead to release it as 6 feature films each, with each film being one of the intended seasons, which would make them among the world’s longest feature films. However, it seems there was also a series release after all, for at least I know there are ways to see it in a half-hour-long episodes format. So, the way I see it, this is both a film and television series. Yes, I know it’s confusing, but it’s after all a Digimon series. This series is the third and final chapter in the story of the (Original)Adventure folks, showing them having one last Digimon adventure even as they stand on the cusp of adulthood. The series is noted for how it deals with growing up and maturity and how that changes your relationship and perceptions of Digimon, being often draped in grayer and more muted colors than is usual in Digimon series. I have seen this series being mightily lauded, even if it’s solely due to the nostalgia factor, but I have also seen it widely panned due to establishing facts that contradict things seen in earlier series, its sense of characterization, and how the overall story turned out, with particular emphasis being given to how the main new human character was handled. After this, a feature film called Last Evolution Kizuna was released, bringing the long story of the (Original)Adventure cast to a resounding end. The things I have heard of this film portray it as nothing short of an emotional tearjerker. (I’ve read somewhere that this film was actually supposed to be the first of a 5-films series but the reception to this one ensured that did not happen.) Of this whole business, I have seen only the first season/film and to be honest I found it to be a bit of a slog, a bit boring, thus keeping it from actively seeking out the rest of it; however it’s also not lacking in the iNteresting.)
Universe: Appmon*12 (Formally speaking, this is actually a spinoff, only tangentially related*13 to the Digimon franchise at large: it would appear that some official sources don’t even want to consider it a Digimon series at all; however, I am among those who do consider to indeed be part of the official Digimon series list, and so should you. This series is based on the premise of “how would our Digital Monsters (or, to be more accurate within the parameters of this series, digital beings) fare in today’s supertechnological age of Smartphones and ever-ubiquitious AI?”*14 Airing during the middle of Adventure Tri’s run, a deriding lack of promotion ensured that few people saw it, thus scuppering any potential continuations, and even to this day not every Digimon fan has heard of it, much less seen it. And I must say that it’s a real pity, for having seen it all the way to episode 43 (of 52), I have found this series to be a really interesting and enthralling one and a worthy addition overall to the Digimon experience. And the comments I have seen from those who have also seen this series do largely give credence to my opinion.*15)
Adventure2020 (A reboot of the original Adventure (now you know my preferred use of terminologies) that updates the setting to the present day of 2020, hence the use of this moniker (after all, this series’ name is officialy just Digimon Adventure, so you understand why we have to use clearer terms). I have seen this series all the way to episode 44 (of around 66, which means that this series is a bit longer than the ordinary animé (IF indeed I am right in my supposition that animés must usually last 52 episodes)) and the way it seems to me, it seems that this series aims to tell a new and more clearly plotted story about the cast of characters from the original Adventure, angling for a more logical progression of the tale freed from the improvisational trappings of the previous one and avoiding its’ errors even as it takes leads from every (or most every) single series that came before: thus, it would seem to me that this series aims to do The Ultimate Digimon Experience. I have seen this series often derided as soulless, as little but a cashgrab that is little but nostalgia pandering that keeps a unduly focus on a single character to the detriment of the other protagonists and that it has structural issues with whatever story it’s trying to tell among other problems. I can tell you from my experience that I can see a bit of where the criticisms are coming from, but I have personally found this series to be an enthralling, engrossing experience that you can hardly keep your eyes from even if it’s also prone to dragging: my personal judgement is that if you loved the Digimon world and its’ myriads of different inhabitants as shown in every past series, particularly those of the previous larger Adventure arc, then you’ll find yourself lavishly rewarded here. And I have to say that this series did find enough popularity so as to open a window for any future series to continue in the same direction as Adventure2020: indeed I know that there’s going to be released a reboot form of Adventure 02, if it hasn’t already; I’d first heard that it was going to be a series, but now it seems clearer to me that it’s going to be a sequel film to Adventure2020 (however, a reboot series of Adventure 02 might still happen; the gist of all of this is that I’m not completely certain of anything on this front). This series is also going to be the first one to get an English-language dub for the first time in a long while.)
Ghost Game (The latest and current series, still ongoing last I heard, and like Adventure2020, it’s pretty much shaping up to be another long one. This series is noticeable among other things because it’s the first one where the main protagonist doesn’t have a “Ta” or a “Da” anywhere in his name*16 and is also the first one not to wear any goggles anywhere at all (usually every Digimon protagonist must wear some form of goggles at some moment in time, sometimes for no real reason at all; it’s a trait very ingrained in the public image of Digimon, to the point of it being considered a franchise hallmark). This series also aims to be Digimon’s most episodic yet, what with it being a SF/F detective show operating on a Case of the Week basis (indeed, the creators explicitly stated that they meant for this show to be one where casual viewers could drop in at any point during the show’s run and not bother to catch up with much if anything), a modus operandi that has drawn it it’s fair share of criticism. However, there seems to also be at least something of a sense of a larger, arching plot at play (or at least so I hope). All things considered, this series has pretty much met with a positive reception, to the point that it could be believed that we are now pretty much living in a Digimon Renaissance*17. I have watched this series only up to episode 7, back when it had only just started: I can tell you that it does have charm and that you’re bound to like the characters (or at least find them amusing), but the episodic format has by-and-large stalled my drive to actively continue with the series and what I have told you above about it remaining episodic throughout has certainly ensured that I am in no hurry to binge-watch this series. However, I shall say again that people have been garnering goodwill again towards Digimon so that should give you (and me) something to look forward to.)
(I think I’ve heard also that they are planning on making a Frontier sequel/remake (dunno which) in the future as well.)
So that’s Digimon to you. A time-consuming enterprise should you decide to undertake it but one that shall also handsomely reward you. I’ll admit that there ARE parts that may be a bit too silly but it’s overall a treat for the technophile in you. You won’t be disappointed, I’m certain.
*1 If there’s more content than mentioned in here that doesn’t appear, it’s because I either don’t know about it or have forgotten.
*2 At least I’m certain it’s the second one.
*3 After that, there are also audio dramas with the series’s VAs reprising their roles and likely some other content I right now don’t remember crystal clear. All I’m saying is, if you REALLY loved Digimon Tamers, then it’s well within your rights to keep looking some more.
*4 And matter of fact, after this, every Digimon series stands alone in it’s own universe, so it’s no longer necessary to watch any previous series to fully understand them (except in cases of sequel series). From here on out, the only things you shall have to keep in mind are the overall mechanics.
*5 And it’s only recently that I have begun to take a closer look at a genre I have traditionally held in utter contempt. And even then, I have not taken rEally dEep immersions even in knowledge.
*6 Exactly why Digimon declined sharply in popularity around the time of Frontier’s airing is a long text that may not have a clear or satisfactory answer and for which there is no occasion to indulge in at the present.
*7 They wouldn’t do that again and for every subsequent series they went back to giving the human protagonists their own Digimon partners apart.
*8 That and it’s length.
*9 Yes, pretty much every Digimon series have been, formally speaking, shows for kids: however when they’re good (and they usually are) they have such marvellous and well-done writing that grown-ups can enormously appreciate as well: after all, didn’t you review every film in the Disney Animated Canon?
*10 Or at least the/an English-language dub. (Remember the original language is Japanese, so every other spoken iteration of these series are actually the foreign-language dubs here, even the English dubs, much as it may pain some of us in here to admit it.)
*11 Or at least the animated series’ franchise.
*12 You may use whatever shorthand term you may wish for this one: I personally call this one Appmon for short, but I have been also mightily surprised to see people also call this one Universe for short.
*13 This time, the digital critters are referred to solely as Appmon; matter of fact, the word Digimon doesn’t appear anywhere at all outside the title as far as I have seen. However, it still has several Digimon conventions and mechanics.
*14 Indeed, the series poses several interesting questions and perspectives about living in today’s technological world that might resonate with you (matter of fact, I even came to be reminded a bit of Black Mirror in some aspects, although it mercifully doesn’t share that series’ ever-seeping negativity all that much (of course, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen Black Mirror, in which case I could have tried to think of a better example)).
*15 Indeed, this series DID influence future series (how that happened, you’ll learn if you pay close attention), so this entry may well be more important than we might all think.
*16 At least if TvTropes is to be believed.
*17 Indeed, it’s being said that we are currently living in a Digimon Renaissance, which began, at the earliest, with Adventure Tri. Now, how big this Renaissance is, I can’t say with complete certainty, but if they’re bringing back English-language dubs, that’s a good sign.
Owlay, please note that post Mouse made about being booked solid for the next few years – your love of the fandom is admirable, but the poor reviewer has to sleep sometime! (-:
Your criticisms and your concerns are all very understandable and justifiable. I’ve never had the intention of forcing your hand in any way and accept the fact that you can’t take requests gracefully.
Tomorrow at the most I’ll send a fuller and more formal apology to you in Gmail, along with an explaination for why I sent you these requests and why I have to say what I’m saying even if I don’t see any hope for positive feedback for a year or two. But in the meantime, you can rest assured that when I’m finished with what I want to say, I shan’t be swamping your site with my comments.
Until then, may you and your family have a most delightful day! Consider this, even if just for once, a message of goodwill from an Owl to a Mouse! ;*
That’s really not necessary. We’ll say no more about it.
My problem with Batman 66 discourse is that no one hated it for the right reason. I’m going to write something what’s really evil about it someday. The problem isn’t that it’s silly but that it’s cynical.
Dear Mouse, please keep in mind that this is intended for your amusement rather than as a request: it struck me, while contemplating Mr Biden’s visit to Belfast, that at the start of your ‘Ranking the Taoiseachs’ series you mentioned being more familiar with the US Presidents than with certain historic heads of government in the Irish Republic.
Out of curiosity, have you ever considered ranking those US presidents who have served during the lifespan of the Irish Republic by how well they might have done the job of Taoiseach? (If you want to have a really good laugh, imagine how some of those American Presidents might have suffered in the much, much less powerful role of President of the Irish Republic).
I hope the House of Mouse had a very lovely Easter and wish you all well.
Also, I have just discovered that the current Taoiseach – member and Big Man of Fine Gael – started his political career as a member of the Fingal county council.
I will be deeply, deeply disappointed if the actual Gaelic pronunciation of these names means that this sounds less hilariously-appropriate when spoken than it seems when read.
Here’s the post I was gonna write.
Dear Mouse, just popping in to recommend RENFIELD as a bloodily hilarious hour-and-a-half at the cinema: it’s quite messy, but it also has a surprising amount of empathy, a game cast (Nicolas Cage as Dracula absolutely WORKS*), some spectacular mayhem and a nicely compact running time.
Also, I really love this film’s take on Dracula’s teeth: they’re a little comical, a little nightmarish and entirely in keeping with the novel’s continuing allusions to The Count having a whole mouthful of sharpies.
So if you have a yen for a little horror cinema, you could do far worse!
*I recently re-read your BATS & BOLTS article on the Classic Universal movies and (While I certainly can’t argue that FRANKENSTEIN didn’t deserve to win that match-up) I feel more than ever that your grading of Mr Lugosi’s iconic performance Vs that of Mr Boris Karloff makes no sense, given that The Count and The Daemon are so very different from each other (Especially in the Universal adaptations, where The Daemon is almost wholly inarticulate).
With Dracula you absolutely NEED a quintessentially larger-than-life performance because Count Dracula is at all times EXTRA (His ‘drunk history’ rant, the famous “Children of the Night” monologue, his flying off the handle when the ‘Brides’ nearly devour Mr Harker without his permission, his waving poor Jonathan towards the exit while summoning a pack of hungry wolves to the other side of the door, going to the trouble of breaking a wolf out of London zoo so he can use the poor beast as a living battering ram, taking time out of his escape from well-armed, ANGRY hunters to rant about how Doomed they are … and this is just the highlights reel).
Honestly, Bela Lugosi was a brilliant Dracula because (A) He could chew more scenery than a termite colony (B) He could simultaneously convey the impression of an immortal so inhuman it HAD to overact, because it could only barely remember how to ‘people’.
Also, The Voice didn’t hurt: there’s a reason it’s still THE Dracula Voice and it’s **** Good reason.
N.B. This is meant to point out that BOTH performances are equally great in very distinct ways, not that Mr Lugosi should have won out.
I mean, if I was comparing him to Nicholas Cage and Nicholas Cage is a great Dracula, surely that’s a compliment?
Hmmm… on the one hand your original comparison was clearly not meant for the benefit of Mr Lugosi, on the other hand it would be churlish indeed to pretend that (A) It is not immensely funny that you accidentally peered into the future with the Power of Comedy or (B) That Mr Nicolas Cage is not, in fact, Wicked Good as Count Dracula.
Ah well, who am I to argue with TV TROPES (Hilarious in Hindsight)? (-;
Accidentally nothing. Mouse sees all.
Who am I to argue with the Power of TV Tropes? (‘Hilarious in Hindsight’).
Honestly Mouse, you really do deserve all the credit in the world for seeing into the future with the Power of Comedy! (-;
Apropos of very little, I must admit that it’s a pity your BATS VS BOLTS series never got to YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN Vs DEAD & LOVING IT – whilst I agree the former is a clear winner over the latter, I’ve been giving some thought as to why the former is a classic and the latter is merely amusing and it would have been interesting to see your own thoughts.
Also, I genuinely feel that “But I’m not in-engaged” is PEAK HARKER and Mr Mel Brook’s Van Helsing keeps sneaking into my Top Three takes on the Good Doctor (and even challenging for the Top Spot!), so it’s always nice to be reminded of old friends.
(Now I’m thinking of a BATS VS BOLTS article on RENFIELD Vs VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN: at this point I shall have to stop before the white rabbit drags me all the way to the Queen of Hearts.
I love Dracula Dead and Loving It, it was a massive improvement of Mel’s previous film.