Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Digimon: Why Were There Two Kumamons?

Digimon is a multimedia franchise that is constantly evolving as much as the Digimon themselves. As such, there are plenty of errors and inconsistencies to be expected. For example, there are two Digimon with the same English name. What makes this more interesting - if not my favorite Digimon fun fact - is that neither of these Digimon has the same Japanese name. Read on to uncover the peculiar tale of two Kumamons.

Bears aren’t exactly the most interesting creatures in the world, certainly not more interesting than bear Digimon. For example, there exist two Digimon given the English name "Kumamon" but neither of them was named Kumamon in the original Japanese.

It is interesting to note here that there actually is a Kumamon in Japan, but it is just a mascot created by the government to promote a new train line. The character's name does end in the -mon suffix, but it's not actually a Digimon just like Doraemon, Goemon, and the Sistermons.

Kuma comes from the Japanese word for "bear" and both of these Digimon are in fact based on bears. One is originally called Bearmon in Japan, from the English word bear which means... bear. It sounds cooler in Japanese.

The other is called Chackmon or Chakmon (チャックモン) who is more of a polar bear. チャック is, according to Google Translate, read as "chakku." Chakku/Chack/Chak translates to.... a zipper... or a thing that holds tools... I'm not sure what that's about.

Here is what makes this whole thing all the more interesting on a historical level - if you can use the word “history” to describe the creation of video game characters from 15 years ago. Both of these Digimon were created in Japan and brought to the west at the same time.

Bearmon was created as a sorta mascot for Digimon World 3, a video game released in April 2002 for the Playstation. Chackmon was a main character (as much as he could've been in The Takuya and Koji Show) in Digimon Frontier, the fourth Digimon anime series which premiered - also - in April 2002.

In the case of Bearmon, it was totally common for Digimon with English inspired names (which again sound more exotic in Japanese) to be given new names in the English versions of the anime, toys, and video games. Tailmon became Gatomon, for example. So a bland name like Bearmon being translated to Kumamon is totally fine.

The name Chackmon isn't too problematic though, so I'm not sure why they couldn’t just keep that name. My only theory is that Chackmon is too hard to say for a voice actor. Another possibility is that all of the main Frontier Digimon were given new dub names for a more exotic feel. Some had lame names like Wolfmon or Fairymon, others were probably harder to pronounce like Agnimon, so that's probably it.

The game was localized by a completely different group than the one that dubbed the anime and Digimon is notorious for these parties often not talking to each other. Inconsistent dub names are common. Both clearly saw a prominently featured Digimon with a weird/lame name and did whatever sensible person would do. "Hmm... it's a bear... what is the Japanese name for bear? Kuma... okay, moving on."


Kumamon and Kumamon actually met, or at least they share a single piece of media! A Digimon Frontier movie was produced and features an appearance of Bearmon. This movie wasn't dubbed until a few years later so the localization team probably wasn’t even thinking about Bearmon and just went with the Japanese name. To my knowledge, Bearmon's name is never said allowed in the film and I'm not even sure if he shares a scene with Chakmon. I tried verifying this, but finding a dub copy of the film is difficult as it was given very few airings by Disney and it’s honestly not worth looking up.

So there you have it. Two Digimon with the same name that originally belonged to neither of them. Just another fun fact, quite possibly the most fun, to grace the bizarre world of Digimon.