Digimon (Japanese: デジモン, Hepburn: Dejimon, branded as Digimon: Digital Monsters, stylized as DIGIMON), short for "Digital Monsters" (デジタルモンスター Dejitaru Monsutā), is a Japanese media franchise encompassing virtual pet toys, anime, manga, video games, films and a trading card game. The franchise focuses on the eponymous creatures, who inhabit a "Digital World", a parallel universe that originated from Earth's various communication networks.
The franchise was created in 1997 as a series of virtual pets, akin to—and influenced in style by—the contemporary Tamagotchi or nano Giga Pet toys. The creatures were first designed to look cute and iconic even on the devices' small screens; later developments had them created with a harder-edged style influenced by American comics. The franchise gained momentum with its first anime incarnation, Digimon Adventure, and an early video game, Digimon World, both released in 1999. Several anime series and films based on them have been released, and the video game series has expanded into genres such as role-playing, racing, fighting, and MMORPGs.
In 1996, the Tamagotchi was released, created by Akihiro Yokoi, Aki Maita and Takeichi Hongo. The Tamagotchi was one of the inspirations for the first release of the Digimon franchise, a device marketed in June 1997 with the name Digimon, short for Digital Monster. Aiming at the male audience and created by Akiyoshi Hongo (a pseudonym that refers to the creators of Tamagotchi), this device shows to players a virtual pet composed entirely of data and designed to play and fight. In February 1998, the DigiMon fighting game, compatible with Windows 95 and developed by Rapture Technologies, Inc., was announced. The one-shot manga C'mon Digimon, designed by Tenya Yabuno, was published in the Japanese magazine V-Jump by Shueisha in 1997.
A second generation of virtual pets was marketed six months after the launch of the first, followed by a third in 1998. Each player starts with a baby-level digital creature that has a limited number of attacks and transformations and to make the creature stronger by training and nourishing the creature; when the player is successful in a workout, the Digimon becomes strong, when the player fails, the Digimon becomes weak. Two devices can be connected, allowing two players to battle with their respective creatures, an innovation at the time, however, the battle is only possible from the moment the creature is in the child level or bigger. Playgrounds and subways were where the majority of users of the apparatus were concentrated; The virtual pet was banned in some Asian schools by being considered by parents and teachers as very noisy and violent. The first Digimon were created by Japanese designer Kenji Watanabe, influenced by American comics, which were beginning to gain popularity in Japan, and as such began to make his characters look stronger and "cool." Other types of Digimon, which until the year 2000 totaled 279, came from extensive discussions and collaborations between the Bandai company members
Digimon hatch from types of eggs which are called Digi-Eggs (デジタマ, Dejitama). In the English iterations of the franchise there is another type of Digi-Egg that can be used to digivolve, or transform, Digimon. This second type of Digi-Egg is called a Digimental (デジメンタル, Dejimentaru) in Japanese. They evolve via a process called "Digivolution" which changes their appearance and increases their powers. The effect of Digivolution, however, is not permanent in the partner Digimon of the main characters in the anime, and Digimon who have digivolved will most of the time revert to their previous form after a battle or if they are too weak to continue. Some Digimon act feral. Most, however, are capable of intelligence and human speech. They are able to digivolve by the use of Digivices that their human partners have. There are currently over 1400 Digimon.
The Digimon anime series was produced by Toei Animation and Bandai of Japan. Beginning in 1999, an anime series was green-lit as the first of the Digimon films aired in theaters. Originally, Digimon Adventure was supposed to be a short film, but after the storyboard was finished, a request for the film to become a children's television series was made. Several anime series have since been produced, with the first six series localized into English for release in Western markets.