In 1996, the world was introduced to a juggernaut.
That unstoppable force was the Pokémon series, and its worldwide popularity gave rise to what can now be called the “Monster Collecting” genre. Valiant challengers such as Beyblade, Medabots, and Monster Rancher tried to squeeze as much money as the Pocket Monsters from parents around the world, but didn’t have the same stamina. Yet among the competition, two outliers, the Yu-Gi-Oh trading card game and the Digimon series, have managed to survive – and even fight – against the undisputed king.
A perennial question runs through all of pop culture: “Who would win?” That’s why we’re dedicating an entire week to the debates that have shaped comics, movies, TV, and games, for better and for worse. Get ready for Polygon’s Who Would Win Week.
Pokémon, Digimon, and Yu-Gi-Oh are now the global “Big Three” of the monster-collecting genre. As such, each series’ mascot has earned its own fame: Digimon’s Agumon, Yu-Gi-Oh’s Dark Magician, and Pokémon’s ubiquitous and effortless Pikachu have all taken over. And fans, as they do, have long debated which mascot would win the W in an old-school drool knocker.
So, in the spirit of Polygon’s Who Would Win Week, we’ve decided to end that speculation. Let’s start by breaking down the monsters and their abilities.
Dark Magician is a spellcaster who was made famous as the ace monster of the original (and most popular) protagonists of Yu-Gi-Oh, Yugi Moto and Yami Yugi. Dark Magician can transform into several powerful variants, including Dark Magician of Chaos, Dark Magician Knight, Dark Eradicator Warlock, and Dark Sage. However, each of these transformations requires items not normally equipped to the base character in the card game, anime, and manga. For the purposes of this battle, we will follow the same rules. (We’ll also avoid the blatant rule-breaking the magician sometimes does in the anime.) So while Dark Magician has a few transformation tricks up his sleeve, it’s just that: tricks that can’t and can’t. not be taken into account. in this particular fight.
The Yu-Gi-Oh cards don’t go too far into the monsters’ actual abilities, so it’s hard to know their exact stats. However, using anime and manga, we can compile some useful details. Dark Magician has many abilities that he can use to completely attack anyone in battle, including his Thousand Knives ability, with which he hurls an excessive barrage of literally 1000 knives at his enemy. He can also fire dark magic blasts and open black holes to redirect incoming attacks. These offensive powers, coupled with a speed that could stun even the Diabound monster, which was powerful and fast enough to defeat six of the Pharaoh’s Holy Guardians, make him enough of a threat. On the other hand, Dark Magician is not very durable – he takes massive damage from strong energy blasts and, in the Yu Gi Oh manga, was knocked through a pillar by Diabound. It’s basically a glass cannon with ancient Egyptian powers, and while that might be badass on its own, it might not slip here.
Then there’s Pikachu, which is a force to be reckoned with, even in its base form. The Electric Rat has shown various examples of Mach speed, firing fast electric bolts, using high power in its tail, and the ability to jump multiple floors. None of this is to mention its high durability against even Legendary Pokemon. He can also (apparently) dispel dark energy with his Thunderbolt attack, like seen against Mimikyu in the Sun and Moon anime, when he launched a Shadow Ball attack into nothingness. It sounds very stupid, but if you take into account that we are talking about a rodent with electrical powers, it makes perfect sense.
Despite all his strength, Pikachu is also easily caught off guard by surprises, such as when he was caught by his own deflected thunderclap. in the anime X and Y. He can’t break anything because hard as a diamondas seen in a battle with Golispod in the Sun and Moon anime, and he’s super vulnerable while he’s charging Thunderbolt (something many of you might know from spam low-b in Super Smash Bros.).
Finally, there is Agumon, the weakest of the three. Agumon is basically a cooler Charmander (yes, I said that) and has a small Pepper Breath fire breath, quick kick, and sharp claws. The problem? Digimon has the latent ability to Digivolve into new forms, but is not always limited like Pokemon are. These transformations can take place through age, training, a Digivice forcing change, or, most relevant to the purposes of this argument, anger and the will to survive in an uphill battle – say, against Pikachu and the Wizard. black.
This allows Agumon to transform into his stronger Greymon form, as well as later more powerful forms such as Metal Greymon, SkullGreymon, or RizeGreymon. For this fight, we’ll be focusing on the transformations most likely to occur: Greymon and SkullGreymon.
Agumon’s first evolution, Greymon, is an aggressive yet intelligent dinosaur Digimon, which is pretty scary on its own. He’s also huge, has a protective shell on his head, and can fire blasts of heat that turn anything they touch into ash. None of this is to mention Greymon’s very tough body, which allows him to tank various attacks from other powerful Digimon.
Additionally, if Greymon begins to lose his footing and cling to life, he will most likely shed all non-combat intelligence – as well as his literal flesh – and become SkullGreymon. This ultimate-level Digimon can fire tracking missiles from its spinal cord, move at high speed (why wouldn’t a giant skeleton be quick on its feet?), and launch planet-level attacks. It can also paralyze and poison opponents. Isn’t that broken enough for you? Well, don’t worry: SkullGreymon can transform back into BlackWarGreymon. This Digimon has even more speed, durability, intelligence and power. No wonder it’s the show’s mascot!
Now let’s get down to business: the battle begins with Agumon getting washed away, whether by Dark Magician’s wide range of attacks or Pikachu’s overwhelming speed. And while Agumon undergoes his first desperate transformation, the fight essentially becomes a one-on-one between the electric rat and the purple-clad magician.
The two are evenly matched at first: Pikachu weaves through the Wizard’s Thousand Knives with ease, thanks to quick reactions and lightning speed, and the Mage takes a bit of damage each time Pikachu hits with his Iron Tail. Dark Magician can respond with dark energy attacks, but as we’ve seen, Pikachu can dispel dark energy with his bolts, making that a non-issue. Despite Pikachu’s valiant efforts, however, it’s clear that the Dark Magician eclipses Pikachu in power and durability, as it has battled foes far more powerful than a starter Pokemon throughout its martial tenure. Ultimately, Pikachu must dodge volleys of explosions, constantly jump to Dark Magician’s air height, and lower his defenses to charge up his Thunderbolt attack. Eventually he will run out and Dark Magician will emerge victorious.
Although Pikachu is out of the way, the battle is far from over. Agumon would have transformed into Greymon at this point, which could have easily taken down Pikachu like I would an ant on the sidewalk. However, while Greymon is an extremely powerful Digimon, his power isn’t quite on par with a spellcasting monster that attacks near-God-level enemies. The result? A 6-4 match in favor of Dark Magician ending with him standing, beaten and victorious, over a sleeping dinosaur. All of this brings us to the next transformation. (See where this leads?)
SkullGreymon’s combat mentality and barrage of homing missiles would finish what his previous forms had started. Even if he was unable to paralyze or poison his target, his nigh-unbreakable durability and gigantic size would ensure victory, despite the cost of his mind. And of course, if all this somehow was not enough to deserve the dub, it can continue to evolve. Agumon’s ability to transform into so many shattered messes rivals that of your favorite Dragon Ball character. And we weren’t even close to its final form.
The battle of the three great monster collectors ended with the victory of the initial underdog of the trio. Pokémon, for all their greatness and ubiquity, first lost their mascot. That must count for something, right?
Pikachu may be laughing as it makes its way to the bank every day of the year, but Greymon tramples that bank and uses the remaining rubble as a shakedown.