How could anybody possibly forget hearing the iconic theme song for Pokemon for the first time as a kid, or loadin' up that old Gameboy to play Pokemon Red or Pokemon Blue for the first time and being like, "Woah this is so sick, I'm gonna catch six Caterpie, I'm the best at this game. Wait, why did I lose this gym battle?" (Can't relate, wasn't allowed to play video games 'til Ruby and Sapphire were out, but I know some of y'all did this).
I distinctly remember the moment I was watching 4Kids and it came on for the first time. I was like, "WOAHHHHH, what is this? What is this yellow mouse thing? Is that a dragon?" I was sold. That was the beginning of the end for me as the Pokemon kid (another story for another time, though).
Rinse and repeat reactions with slightly altered character descriptions for Digimon, YuGiOh, Cardcaptor Sakura and Monster Rancher. I was obsessed with monster shows and games. It was bad. However, so was everybody else at the time, albeit only with Pokemon and YuGiOh, mainly (had I but a dollar for every kid who told me that it's time to "d-d-d-d-duel").
Anyways, you know how it went. We grew up, people lost interest, the diehards kept playing, and anything involving collecting monsters was quietly shuffled back into the shadows.
Or, at least, so we thought.
I've shamelessly played every core Pokemon game and watched it grow from "small child stops crime syndicate" to "small child saves world" and now to "small child saves world and other people." In the same way that Disney aggressively marketed to our generation and imprinted itself on us forever, Pokemon did the same thing, and similarly has grown alongside of us while still appealing to younger kids.
The plots are more complex, deal with more serious issues and things that we can relate to even as young adults. Not to mention that they had some killer marketing with Pokemon GO's popularity.
With that being said, it turns out all those other franchises I mentioned (except Monster Rancher, RIP) are still alive and kicking, too. Digimon was probably my second fav, and a sequel film series to the OG one, called Digimon Tri, started airing in late 2015. Naturally I watched it, and I... cried?
The original characters from the late 90s are about to graduate high school, and suddenly dealing with things that are relatable for our age group - not to mention the Digimon nostalgia hits hard.
Not only is it, like, teen angst, but the characters are suddenly so much more aware of and actually struggle with their actions and the damage they cause, which is such a change from everything just blowing up all of the time with no consequence in the original.
Side note: They also put out a PS4 game last year called Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth that was low-key my favorite game that year (and it's getting a sequel).
I won't go too deep into it so I don't continue this dweeb ramble for too long, but it's fascinating that these franchises that were so cool and important to so many kids has chosen to re-route and grow alongside of us, rather than simply try to stick to a younger demographic. It doesn't feel like anybody's trying to cash in on the nostalgia, either, but give something that the kid in us wants to see and the adult in us can appreciate.
They might not be at the forefront alongside of Pokemon anymore, but they're all still thriving and sticking with their fanbase the same way that Disney has.