On Nostalgia and Childhood Favorites (Or, DIGIMON IS BACK)

Screencap of Takenouchi Sora, from Digimon: Our War Game

For many of us, the first stories we truly loved are the reason we write our own today.

For those not in the admittedly niche Digimon Adventure fandom, August 1 is Odaiba Memorial Day. It’s the day the bulk of the action occurred in the first series of Digimon Adventure, and an excuse for the now-adults who grew up with it to indulge in the nostalgia of Netflix marathons, art, and old favorite fanfiction. It’s not something I necessarily participate in. I never really stop revisiting old favorites, so a fan-created holiday, while fun, doesn’t actually affect my engagement with it. I have all the movies worth watching saved on a decrepit external hard drive, the first series on DVD, and all the seasons I care about saved in my Netflix queue for when I care to blind myself attempting to read the awful yellow subtitles.

Digimon was an important thing for me. It was the first time I truly loved a story, and shared that love with others. It represents the best years of my childhood, and the first time in years that I could depend on a group of honest-to-goodness friends without questioning whether they wanted me there. It was the first time I adored a story so much that I tried to continue it myself, imagining alternate endings and scrawling fiction in my school notebooks. We would have entire sleepovers dedicated to writing ourselves into it, imagining characters and assigning ourselves crests and creating partners. It was the dream of being chosen for something greater, and impossibly, feeling as though we already had been.

A lot of people my age credit Harry Potter as being the story that made them love stories, that made them engage with novels for the first time and try to create their own. And I identify with that sentiment. I grew up with Harry too, after all. Harry and I were eleven years old together. We became adults together. But it was Digimon that taught me that my ceaseless and wholly impractical love for a ridiculous fantasy was shared by others, and that it could bring people together in ways that middle school social politics could never touch.

This Odaiba Memorial Day marked the 15th anniversary of the first series release, and at a formal event in Odaiba (which I could not attend because the world is unfair and Tokyo is a 15-hour flight away from Philadelphia) the powers that be announced its return. Unlike the new Sailor Moon reboot, however, it’s a sequel. New stories with the same characters we still adore, who are a little bit older with a little more experience, but still engaged with the world that we all used to dream about. Their childhood experiences changed them, and are still relevant.

Screencap of Yagami Taichi and Hikari from Digimon Adventure.

“I’ll definitely come back.”

The thing about nostalgia is that it’s important. It shows that the experiences we had as children, our loves, our successes and our failures, still inform who we are, even decades later. Even having grown past the show’s original target audience, I still feel a part of it. Like millions of Potterheads across the world will love Hogwarts until they die. And I think about it every time I write, I think about it. I think about the years of my adolescence spent loving fiction so much I wished I could disappear inside of it forever, wanting that Hogwarts letter to come, wanting my Digivice to fall at my feet and take me to a secret world that I had to save, where no adults could follow, and which was important in huge, world-shaking ways that nobody could deny, and where I had a best friend waiting for me.

It’s nostalgia that reminds me of the fun in stories, of my duty as a writer to sweep a reader up into that world, to help them disappear, and give them a place to return when adult responsibility is too much to bear. It reminds me that, for all I want to create Great Literature Of Merit and be reviewed and criticized and adored, that none of that is important. That storytelling, at its heart, is communicative and enduring because, above all, it entertains.

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