It’s a lazy Saturday morning and you can’t be bothered to do anything other than sit and watch whatever crap happens to be on TV. It’s a situation most of us have been at one point or another in our lives, and it is in these weak and lazy moments that the likes of Beyblade creep in. One minute, you’re a respectable anime fan who can hold your head up in the most pretentious of online communities, the next you’re watching a budget series with a cheesy English dub about boys who are so obsessed with spinning tops that they’re prepared to miss school in order to travel around the world entering tournaments. Yes, this is truly the dark side, the place where Beyblade awaits, and it is at this moment that I have to admit that yes, I have seen all 153 episodes of it, god have mercy on my soul.
As a series designed for the sole purpose of selling toys, Beyblade toils under the necessity to making spinning tops look like the next big thing, and thus takes place in a world where everyone in their early teens is obsessed with the sport. There are Beyblade Federation buildings all over the world, Beyblade shops in every town, even special Beyblading academies where children can hone their skills. Now, being the obvious novitiate at spinning top games that I am, I assumed that there was very little that could be done in the way of training- after all, after you’ve built and launched the thing, all you can do is sit there and hope for the best, right? Not so, it seems, in the world of Beyblade, where everyone can inexplicably exert a conscious control over one’s spinning top (or blade, as they are known in the series), directing them to move as they will. Then again, in a world where spinning tops are all the rage (a fact which the characters feel obliged to comment on every few minutes), perhaps it shouldn’t be considered odd that everyone who plays it has telekinetic abilities.
Even so, it is clear this in itself isn’t enough to lure impressionable viewers into the world of blading, and so an extra hook is given in the fact that the Beyblades of most named characters are not mere spinning tops- instead, they are imbued with special powers. Inside these blades dwell animal spirits known as Bit Beasts, who can be summoned during the ‘Beybattle’ to perform special attacks, which, together with novelty ‘Beystadiums’ containing special obstacles and different terrains, helps to disguise the fact that spinning top contests are ultimately rather boring. And lest anyone snort in disbelief and underestimate the incredible power of these devices, it should be made clear that not only have certain personalities in the series wished to harness the power of Bit Beasts in order to take over the world, but they have even proven capable of creating entire parallel dimensions.
So, having convinced children everywhere that spinning tops are amazingly cool, and that they too can have exciting battles with their own super-powered Beyblades, the next step is to provide something for them to actually buy. Naturally, every kid will want the same blades as their heroes, but once they’ve collected everything from Tyson’s Dragoon to Tala’s Wolborg, how do you keep them coming back for more? Introducing more named characters can and does work, but an even better method is to have the leads continually upgrade their blades. Why settle for just a Dragoon when you can also pick a negligibly different Dragoon Phantom as well? Be it training or tournament, each new arc will see our heroes rebuilding their blades, ensuring that there is yet another model the kids will be clamouring for.
For all the cynicism and low budget attempt to shift plastic toys, however, it has to be admitted that on some level, Beyblade is actually quite entertaining. From unintentional hilarity to cheesy dialogue and even the occasional genuinely funny joke, there is some quality about that ensures that whilst the series overall is actually rather poor, it somehow remains watchable for episode upon episode.
Know Your Beybladers- dub version
Beyblade is a world filled with Beyblading teams, some generic, some named, and to be honest, I cannot even remember them all. The situation only gets worse in seasons two and three, where a raise in the animation budget allows for more polished character designs and ugly CG Beyblades, not to mention the addition of a whole host of new sense and continuity defying characters. Not that Beyblade makes a great deal of sense at the best of times; after all, this is a world where named characters can continue to participate in tournaments even after they get knocked out in earlier rounds.
Bladebreakers: Our heroes, the Bladebreakers initially consist of Destined Hero Tyson, Cheerful Defense Specialist Max (you can tell he’s half American since he’s blonde), Cool and Calm Ray and Anti-Hero Kai, the perfect combination of generic shounen personalities. Nerd Kenny supports them from the sidelines, using his high-powered laptop to suggest such brilliant strategies as “if you want to win this match, you have to beat the other guy!”. From season two, the team gains a token female cheerleader in the form of Tyson’s classmate Hilary, whilst in season three Max, Ray and Kai all leave to join different teams, forcing Tyson to bring in Chirpy and Immature Hothead Daichi.
White Tigers: A Hong Kong team composed of Ray’s childhood friends, there is a rift between them and Ray at the beginning of season one, but after they are defeated by the Bladebreakers, they see the error of their ways and instantly become good friends with him again. The White Tigers consists of Gruff and Angry Hothead Lee, Ray’s Love Interest Mariah, Sneaky Prankster Kevin and Large and Dumb But Well Meaning Gary.
AllStars: Who else but an American team would call themselves the Allstars? A team of gifted sports talents specially trained by Max’s mother to channel their skills into Beyblading, they become rivals of the arc for the Bladebreakers until they too are defeated and decide to become friends with the main characters. The team consists of Too Smart for Her Own Good Emily and three annoyingly shallow (even by the standards of this series) Sports Jocks.
Demolition Boys: A Russian team with a past connection to Kai (are you seeing the pattern yet?), the Demolition Boys are harshly trained and highly skilled bladders who are the final bosses of season one- their leader is even placed in a vat and upgraded to become the ultimate Beyblader (luckily his skill is no match for Friendship and Destiny). Naturally, after being defeated, they become allies of the main characters.
Majestics: The obligatory European team, the Majestics are incredibly wealthy and somewhat eccentric even by Beyblade standards, although they do prove worthy opponents for a training arc between tournament matches.
Saint Shields: One of the main antagonists for season two, the Saint Shields have apparently been tasked with the mission of sealing away all Bit Beasts, although somehow they missed all the ones seen in season one. Although they are initially stronger than the heroes, they kindly give our leads time to level up and become powerful enough to defeat them.
Team Psykick: Another season two enemy, these children are so accomplished in Beyblading that they have already travelled around the world to teach others. On their return, they are programmed for evil and given dark copies of the heroes’ Bit Beasts, but thankfully, the power of friendship wins through after some lengthy Beyblade battles.
Zeo’s team: The final bosses of season two, Zeo’s team consist of two blade hunters who steal rare parts from their opponents, one generic power-crazy hothead, and Zeo, a boy who starts out friendly until he learns that he is an artificial being built to replace his ‘father’s’ real son. From that point onwards, he becomes evil, and only the power of Beyblading to save him.
It can hardly be said to be very good, and I wouldn’t go so far as recommending it to anyone, but compared to much of the complete trash aimed at children, Beyblade at least offered entertainment of a sort, unintentional or otherwise. Let it forever be known as a guilty pleasure that some of us have indulged in on dark days of boredom.