Shounen Step-By-Step: Bakugan Battle Brawlers Episode 1

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Plot: Bakugan is the latest gaming craze across the globe, but it’s not just any old kids game. The origins of the Bakugan are a complete mystery. Cards just suddenly started raining from the sky across the world, and some of the cards contained monsters which could be summoned by the card wielders. A group of kids decided to make a game out of the mysterious cards and monsters, and Bakugan was born. However, the world where the Bakugan originate from is in danger, and it’s up to Bakugan players such as the hotheaded upstart Dan and his friends to save it.

Breakdown: I’m not going to sugarcoat this. Bakugan Battle Brawlers looked like a very dumb show to me from the instant I saw a trailer for it. Hearing the plot synopsis didn’t help. I think I finally understand what parents felt like when we tried to explain Yugioh, Digimon and Pokemon to them. Does that mean I’m a grown up now?

I have a soft spot for gaming anime either way, so I felt like I needed to give it a shot. My opinions ended up…….well, let’s find out.

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Let’s start out with seriously just parroting the opening lines word for word.

Dan: “I know this is going to sound weird, but one day my whole world changed. You see, cards started dropping from the sky; coming down like rain. At first, we didn’t know where they were coming from or who sent them – we only knew they were more than just ordinary playing cards. And it was happening all across the world. The north. The south. They landed everywhere.

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Together with my new online friends from around the world, we invented a wicked new game that we called ‘Bakugan’. That’s when the power of the cards was revealed. Each one of them held their own battling beast which came alive when you threw it down. The battles were intense, and if you chose the wrong card you lost it and the beast inside. But that’s only half the story. An even bigger battle is taking place in an alternate universe called Vestroia. My name is Dan, and together with my friends Runo, Marucho, Mr. Hotshot himself, Shun, Julie and Alice we are the Bakugan Battle Brawlers!”

Did you get all that? Because holy crap that’s a lot of backstory for a first episode plot snippet.

Let’s break this down piece by piece.

Cards suddenly fell from the sky all over the world and instead of being investigated by any government or being confiscated, all the kids just picked up the cards and decided to make a game out of it while the parents and other adults just accepted it. Okay, I guess that’s fine.

The cards held the spirits of monsters and, when released, the beasts took on the forms of…transformable marbles that you could shoot onto a playing field, allowing you to release them into a more formal beast state, and they conveniently also work with the game that the kids made up?

But wait, there’s more!

These beasts also exist in an alternate dimension called Vestroia where they battle each other all the time and might be at war for some reason.

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And what do these kids being the Bakugan Battle Brawlers have to do with it, besides the fact that they play the game?

It’s just so much to take in in a matter of about 45 seconds. That could’ve been an episode all its own.

Anyway, after our intro narration, we get our theme song which is a really mixed bag. I like the melody and instrumentation, but the lead singer just sounds horribly generic and the lyrics are the exact same BS that plagues nearly every show similar to this; never give up, power’s in your hand, blah blah blah.

Our main character, Dan, arrives home and goes through his little marble things that all look exactly the same yet he can tell them apart somehow. He then runs off to meet a little runt named Akira whom he supposedly had a Bakugan match with, but Akira reveals that he’s switched with his big brother, a towering fat thug named Shuji. I don’t know why they’re keeping in all of these Japanese names, yet they altered Dan’s name to being short for Daniel instead of his real name of Danma.

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Anyway, Shuji states that his specialty is subterra space, something Dan’s never even heard of before, and they start their battle.

They each draw a card and call the field to open, which sends Dan and Shuji into another dimension and slows down time…..Why did the many governments of the world not take these cards again?

While in the weird multi-colored purgatory dimension, Dan and Shuji draw one more card each to set their gate cards, which grow to the size of a soccer field and materialize face down. Shuji throws a brown and yellow marble on the field and calls his Bakugan to stand which prompts the marble to open into a little monster form. Out of the field comes a giant praying mantis monster.

Using his….calculator watch (?) Dan analyzes the field and finds out that his opponent is a subterra mantis with a power level of 270.

Dan selects his Bakugan and throws a marble thing out onto the field, calls it to stand which prompts it to open into a little monster form. This summons some giant red snake that is never named with a power level of 320. They battle or Bakugan Brawl and it looks like Dan’s monster will win because he has the higher power level, but Shuji opens his gate card and changes the playing field to a desert – Egypt I suppose if the pyramids are any indication. This gives the subterra mantis a power boost to 420, which allows him to beat Dan’s monster.

Shuji: “Oh man, that was easy. You fell faster than a deck of cards in a tornado.” Is he meant to be too dumb to realize it’s supposed to be a ‘house of cards in a tornado’ or are the dubbers dumb? Decisions, decisions.

High off his first round win, Shuji sends out another Bakugan. This time it summons a giant enemy crab.

Dan isn’t fazed by this and also sends out another Bakugan, this time revealing a…..Male Garudamon?…..Nah it can’t…..B—huh?

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Anyway, Dan opens his gate card, which changes the playing field into a bunch of fire and Garudamon dude easily hits the enemy crab’s weak point for massive damage.

It’s one to one now and they prepare two new gate cards for the tie breaker. They each release another Bakugan and they summon….one green and brown lizard warrior and one red lizard warrior thing. Shuji’s monster has a power level of 320 while Dan’s has 280. They brawl and Dan activates an ability card (?) which makes fire on the ground and powers up his lizard warrior thing I guess to a point where he can take out the brown lizard warrior thing.

Dan has taken the lead and now Shuji only has his mantis left. They set gate cards again (?) and they launch their Bakugan. Shuji summons his mantis while Dan calls out Mr. Garudamon again. Shuji opens his gate card, which creates desert again, and then uses his ability card to give the mantis some sort of super powered slash ability.

However, Dan’s not sitting back and letting him finish his attack as he also has an ability card, a counter ability card to be precise, that gives Mr. Garudamon a shield of fire to stave off the slash attack. This ability card I guess also gives him enough power to take out the mantis and Dan wins.

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Since we’re at commercial, I think now’s as good a time as any to ask what in the depths of fuck just happened?!

Traipsing into Episode One-derland for a minute, first episodes have a lot of work to do. They need to hook us in, they need to establish the world they live in, what the main character is like etc. It has to set a strong foundation for the series to help us understand the story as it unfolds in subsequent episodes. When it comes to gaming anime, there’s an additional factor that absolutely needs to come into play; explaining how the goddamn game is played.

I have no clue how this game is played right now, even after seeing a full match, and that is a huge problem for this type of show. I know some Bakugan fan is probably looking at this now and rolling their eyes at me for not getting it merely by watching, but it is not set up in any way that explains really anything.

Where is our audience surrogate – the character who explains stuff about the plot to unimportant people as a means of explaining to the audience certain aspects of the story? Usually on the side lines as someone marvels at the game?

For example, in Yugioh, our audience surrogate in the first episode was T’ea and to a lesser extent Joey who explained the game’s basics to Tristan. In Beyblade, a completely superfluous character explained the game to another completely superfluous character. In Pokemon, Ash, Brock and Misty usually doled out that information either straight to us or to Ash as he was also a rookie. You get the point.

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I just have so many questions like, why send out two gate cards supposedly every turn if you’re not going to just use them immediately or at all? I was under the impression that two gate cards are set and neither player can play more until both of those cards have been used. They don’t send out more gate cards on each turn at first, they just suddenly start doing it. Can you not use two gate cards at once? Gate cards can also be used to weaken enemies? Are gate cards just like field power bonuses in Yugioh? Who or what dictates the power increase or decrease?

What are ability cards? Why can you just grab them and chuck them out whenever you please instead of having a legit deck and a hand of cards?

Why do these monsters seem to have no names? Mantis kinda sounded like it was being pronounced ‘Mantriss’ but, really, that’s it for a name? Just throw a consonant in there and it’s instant name? None of Dan’s monsters were given names. Shuji’s other monsters weren’t given names. I think some of the ability cards had names but I could never hear them because the other sounds drown them out. (Poor sound mixing is yay)

Why do they need to transport themselves to an alternate dimension to do this? Why does doing so slow down time across at least the whole city? And are the parents of these kids just okay that their children play games in alternate dimensions with real beasts that they keep….in…balls….In fairness to Pokemon, they don’t usually go to alternate dimensions to do that. What is that little device on Dan’s wrist and why does it look so….boring?

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I know that Yugioh is justifiably ragged on for constantly prattling on about what a card does and the rules of the game and certain strategies etc. but you know what, I’d rather know too much about what I’m watching than have really no idea. Dan does have slight inner monologue and the little watch thing helps slightly, but the watch thing only popped up a couple of times, same with Dan’s thoughts. In addition, Dan’s analysis was pointing out stuff that was already pretty obvious. Other than that, absolutely nothing.

I have never felt so lost watching the first game of a gaming anime. No one’s explaining strategies, no one’s explaining rules, no one’s explaining card effects, I don’t know what these monsters are called, I don’t know the names of the cards; things happen and then Dan wins.

Medabots, which is probably the worst shounen gaming anime I’ve ever seen to this point, did a much better job of explaining this stuff to us in its first few minutes. Rules, structure and even some strategy.

To make matters worse is how Dan is portrayed so far. He is just very very very typical. That’s pretty much the perfect word for his character. Typical. A kid who loves a game and is so good at it that he’s never lost. The first match we see him in is one in which he seems to pretty easily win, and he even ends the match by saying it was easy. So great, he’s not even a humble type protagonist, he’s a cocky prodigy type.

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I wanna punch this kid in his goggles.

Even his character design, color scheme, element selection and the types of monsters he usually uses are very typical. Red, fire and lizards/dinosaurs/dragons.

As for the battle in just an entertainment aspect, it was still dull as dirt. Nothing at all in this match was unique or cool. Shuji had a mantis, a crab, and a brown lizard warrior thing. His gate cards were deserts and his only ability card was a slashing attack. Dan’s side was equally boring; fire gate cards, fire ability card and a fire counter ability card with a red snake, a male Garudamon and a red lizard warrior thing. Also, how boring and uncreative are you to have the final match be two nearly identical monsters only palette swapped?

Plus, considering the opponent was the also typical easily defeated archetype of fat stupid cocky thug, there was no question about who would win so it’s even more boring.

Well, maybe we’ll get better as the episode goes on.

After the commercial, Dan is seen bragging to his online friends about how awesome he was in his match earlier and proclaims himself the most awesome Bakugan Brawler.

Runo states that Dan is still stuck at 121 in the world rankings, but Dan checks himself to see that he’s now 117. Runo and Dan have a little argument and Runo really comes off as a jealous bitch. I can’t understand why she’s friends with Dan. Julie chimes in to gush over Dan, and apparently she calls him Danny. Ugh. I can tell from her very first line that I’m going to hate this girl even more than Runo.

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Marucho tells Dan that he should set his sights on Shun as he’s currently ranked number one, and if he tries hard enough he could surpass him in a few years. Alice states that a few years is too long to wait, and that he should find some way to challenge him as soon as possible. Wait, what is the rush? A second ago he was excited to just be at 117, now they’re acting like it’s an emergency to challenge and surpass the highest ranking brawler. Slow down, guys.

Dan yet again gets all cocky and says he’d probably beat him easily because no one has ever even given him a challenge before. Why the like for these cocky main characters? Is it just in the hopes that they’ll get that ever sweet ‘humble pie’ arc where they get thrashed and learn to not be such an asshat?

Also, Dan is a 12 year old boy and most of his group of close friends are cute girls his age, one of which obviously has a huge crush on him and another starting a love/hate relationship deal. I’m getting Gary Stu vibes.

We cut to Shun who is lamenting over the fact that defending his title isn’t even hard. As he wishes for an opponent who will give him a real challenge, we suddenly shift to looming narration I think from a Bakugan as he wishes Dan would understand that Bakugan is more than a game.

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The unknown Bakugan then explains Vestroia to us. The dimension is separated into several sections based on the elements. The earth section is called subterra, and considering this seems like a very basic aspect of the game it seems kinda dumb that Dan is where he is right now in rank and yet never heard of it. Unless it’s just insanely unpopular as an element.

The light section is called Haos. The dark section is so creatively named Darkus. The water section is called Aquos. The wind section is Ventus. Finally, the fire section is Pyrus.

The narration suddenly ends in the Pyrus section as a red dragon, named, again so creatively, Drago, confronts a white dragon named Naga as he tries to stop his relentless pursuit of power. Drago accuses Naga of being responsible for someone named Michael, and Naga reveals that he has a card that opens a portal to Vestroia….wait, I thought they were in Vestroia, just the fire area of it. Oh whatever. Naga escapes and we cut back to earth where Dan is being challenged to a rematch by Shuji.

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Oh joy, a reprise of a boring match. I can’t wait. But hang on, Shuji’s now using Darkus attribute Bakugan. Oooh. Wait, if he was best at subterra attribute Bakugan then shouldn’t this match go even worse? Oh hang on again, apparently now Shuji’s calling himself the master of Darkus. This guy’s an idiot and is obviously going to lose again. Why am I here?

Anyway, he summons a black and purple turtle thing while Dan summons the same red lizard warrior thing from earlier only he summons him behind the turtle thing. Okay, so now we’re adding stuff we didn’t see in the last match as you can apparently summon Bakugan on various areas of the field as long as you have decent throwing or bouncing capabilities. What this does is beyond me. They don’t bother to tell you anything about it.

Shuji throws out another Bakug—What? Since when can you summon more than one Bakugan per round? That never happened once in the first game. Anyway, he summons a Darkus Stingslash, in front of the red lizard warrior thing. The little calculator watch thing explains that the Stingslash has a power level of 330 while his red lizard warrior thing apparently called a Saurus has 280. They brawl and Dan, seeing he’s in trouble, opens his gate card which is just the same fire. This increases his Saurus’ power level to 310.

Class, can you tell me which number is higher? 330 or 310? You’re right! It’s 330, the power increase wasn’t enough and Saurus goes down…..Which means….Dan’s an idiot? I mean, he had to have known that the gate card wasn’t powerful enough to save his Saurus so why even bother using it?

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Oh wait….he wasn’t destroyed….but….yes he was. I saw it happen. He was hit, glowed and then turned into his little marble form. That’s defeat isn’t it? It was before. Why is Dan saying, after the fact, that he needs to increase his Saurus’ power level by at least 20 more points if he should be out of the running? Again, this didn’t happen when the monsters were defeated in the first match.

…..And what was the point of the turtle in that battle? For that matter, what was the point of summoning the Saurus behind the turtle?

We cut back to Naga who is now in the center of the universe as he stares at the two conflicting forces of infinity and silence. The two forces keep Vestroia in balance, and he wishes to absorb their power to, say it with me everyone, RULE THE WORLD!

Of course

He also needs to do this to unite with someone named Hal-G. *shrug* He starts the absorption while prattling on about how much power he’s feeling when something goes awry. Apparently he had an overload of negative energy, which threw the balance that is required off. Without enough positive energy to counteract it, he is absorbed into the silence force as it is corrupted by darkness. Then all hell breaks loose as Vestroia starts falling apart. The various elemental sections that were once separated from each other are now open and collapsing.

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As a Darkus Bakugan attacks Drago, Dan gets a vision of the battle, mistaking Drago for a Bakugan of his as he is confused by what is happening to the dimension. The vision ends and Shuji, using his Stingslash, attacks Dan’s giant red snake thing. However, the snake thing counters him and constricts Stingslash as Dan opens his gate card called Quartet battle. This prompts Drago and the Darkus monster to be transported through Shuji and Dan’s ability cards as marble things. The marble things both roll onto the field, stand and summon themselves as Dan’s ability card turns into a Dragonoid card.

Why do you need a special card to have a quartet battle when you can seemingly summon Bakugan whenever you want?

Drago tries to get the Darkus monster, called FearReaper, to snap out of his rage since he has been influenced by the influx of negative energy. The power builds and FearReaper won’t listen so Drago kills him….and…that’s the end of the match. I guess Dan somehow won because of that. I’m just now realizing that they don’t explain the scoring system either.

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You know what really gets me though?

Dan: “I don’t get it. I thought Bakugan was just a game. But there’s more to it, and I gotta find out what.”

You thought it was just a game…Cards rain over the skies of earth. These cards act as dimensional portals which slow down time in the real world. They also act as portals for one specific Bakugan, in marble form, to emerge, and while in the alternate time-slowing dimension you create, the monsters become real and are under your control. All the while you possess the ability to create elemental powers and other abilities.

You are the dumbest person—nonono, these are the dumbest….entire human population to ever exist if they truly thought there was nothing more to all that than merely a game….that THEY CREATED FROM IT.

This isn’t like Yugioh where magical stuff happened through a legit game that was merely based on magical things originally. You created a game from interdimensional cards and marbles that turn into monsters yet you’re surprised that it’s not merely a little kid game? There’s not enough dumb to go around.

Later that night, Dan tries to get the Bakugan to talk again, but to no avail. He gives up and names Drago, of all things, Drago. Thank God both whomever named Drago initially and Dan are both incredibly uncreative. Come to think of it, I guess the same can be said of Bakugan.

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Dan: “Well, time to hook up to the web.”

When was this show made again?….2007? Yeah, stop that.

Dan enters into a video chat with his friends and explains his experience with a talking Bakugan when Runo reveals that the chat rooms and forums are flooding with people who experienced the same thing. Dan concludes that the Bakugan did indeed talk, though it’s never established that the Bakugan can’t talk to begin with so this revelation really isn’t impacting to us as an audience…actually, why can’t the Bakugan that they’ve been summoning this whole time talk? Why are they different from Drago, Naga and the others?

Dan: “Maybe there’s more to the Bakugan world than we thought!”

You’re still all really dumb.

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This….is awful. Just…terrible. It’s not the worst show I’ve ever seen by a long shot, but it’s definitely the worst shounen gaming anime so far. Congrats, Medabots. You’ve been bumped for now.

What a huge mess, especially as an intro episode. The premise is very dumb, even by gaming anime standards, but it could have been very acceptable had….anything been properly explained or explored.

I have no clue how to play Bakugan even after watching one and a half matches (the second match has a big gap in it and seems to end abruptly). The rules seemed to change in the second match, and I am just completely lost on how it really works. It’s also frustrating that cards, Bakugan and the items for the game like the marbles and Dan’s watch are not given names, at least not now. This fails on multiple levels as a first episode and as an advertisement.

Face it, gaming anime are meant to sell toys or cards or what have you. I know I saw a slue of Bakugan toys in stores when this show was popular. Why would a kid want to buy Bakugan toys if they have no clue what most of the stuff is called nor how to friggin’ play it? I mean, obviously a lot of them did because it was a pretty successful gaming anime, but it really just seems like, basing it from the first episode alone, you’re either focusing on the lowest common denominator who will just want the toys and watch the show because of mindless action and monsters or you’re aiming the show at people who already know how to the play the game, which only exists because of the show….

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The other storyline involving Vestroia, while having more explanation and focus, is also not really given much explanation outside of the elemental areas of the dimension and the forces of infinity and silence being sent out of balance. If Drago was narrating that part where we first get a scene in Vestroia….does that mean Drago knows who Dan is? And why is he so important if he does? I swear, if they turn Dan into some ‘chosen one’ or messiah character I am dropping this series like a hot rock soaked in acid.

Character-wise, we’re also really scraping some barrel bottom. Dan is just blah at best and annoying at worst because he’s such a cocky kid who keeps winning, thus giving him fuel to continue being a snotrag.

Shuji is an idiot who was never a threat, making both battles boring and predictable.

Shun, even though we only saw him for a minute, is the very typical silent loner sitting at the top of his game and will obviously be the rival of the main character. Runo’s a bitch, Julie’s an annoying little Dan fangirl, and while Marucho and Alice are fine so far they also show zero personality in the couple of scenes that they’re in.

Drago is also very typical. As if his name weren’t generic enough, you can tell right off the bat that he’s some largely noble creature trying his best to protect everyone and do the right thing.

Naga is about as generic bad guy as you can get. Two things are revealed about him so far; he has a great thirst for power and he wants to take over the world. Even the destruction of a world due to a lack of balance is overdone.

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Design-wise, the Bakugan are largely uninspired. Even the ability and gate cards are boring. You can’t really tell any of the Bakugan marbles apart except by attribute, which makes me wonder how the Brawlers can make accurate selections without opening them. The summoned monsters are just animals mostly. Snakes, scorpions, praying mantises, dragons, turtles, etc. What is slightly different from just animals is usually just an animal slightly altered like Saurus or Garudamon guy thing.

The character designs are fine, and I will admit that I like the color selections as well as Julie’s design, but Dan’s design is really cut and paste – he even wears goggles on his head.

Animation-wise, it really seems like there are some instances where it’s painfully obvious that they’re trying to make it look like it’s of much higher quality like when Dan throws the Bakugan out on the field. Sadly, these moments just spotlight how bad the animation really is. It juts, they reuse shots like there’s no tomorrow, and even the shots where they make a big effort to look well-animated just look bad. It looks like Dan is trapped in the same dimension that the guy from the Maxell VHS head cleaner tapes is from. Every part of him is just moving so much and so fast, except for his limbs which are purposely animated to be slow to make the animation look better.

While I will continue with this series just because, this really is a terrible first episode. I hope this series gets better over time, and I really hope with every fiber of my being that they start explaining this game more so I can actually follow along. At least become a mindless shounen gaming anime that I can understand and follow without having an aneurysm.

Next episode, Dan brings Drago to school to continue his attempts at getting him to talk, but he gets in trouble with his teacher because of it. Meanwhile, a mysterious guy named Masquerade is challenging Brawlers.

Shounen Step-By-Step: Dinosaur King Episode 1

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Plot: The time of dinosaurs was seemingly over until Max and his friends found a little dinosaur inside of a rock that fell from the sky. With the power of an accompanying card, the dinosaur can both be recalled back into the stone and grow into a huge and powerful dinosaur. These dinosaurs aren’t around for no reason, however. With a threat looming over the horizon, they’ll need the dinosaur’s help to take them down.

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Okay, time to go over my history with Dinosaur King.

……..I don’t have one. 😀

I vaguely remember this being on TV, never watched it and never saw or heard much of it. But it’s a shounen card game ish anime so here I am.

Our story starts off with ugly images of Dinosaurs and a meteor hitting the earth and killing them all before we see our main character, Max, waking up, indicating that the images were merely a dream brought on by his dinosaur book.

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Max is voiced by Veronica Taylor doing absolutely nothing to differentiate her voice from her Ash voice, making this really distracting.

He sees a light in the sky that crashes into the nearby mountains and is excited at the idea that it’s a meteor. He wakes up his friend, predictably named Rex, to go investigate and we get our theme song that has all the marks of a 4Kids theme song. Dumb lyrics? Check. Catchy? Check. Rapping? Major check.

Also, this theme song gives us a sneak peak at the disgusting CGI that is in this show. I really mean it. On its own, it’s pretty okay, but meshed with the traditional 2D style of the anime it’s atrocious.

Max, Rex and his other friend Zoe, who make up something called the D-Team, go to investigate. Max, by the by, has a visor with big horns on it because dinosaur. Also, these horns light up for some reason. They see a bunch of damaged trees and Max thinks the meteor must be in a tree that has a big hole in it.

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Max finds some weird rock in the tree with a lightning bolt on it, so he must’ve found Pikachu. Rex find another stone with a symbol for wind on it while Zoe finds a third stone with a symbol for grass.

Max presses some button on the rock, causing them all to glow for a minute. After the glowing subsides, Max finds another item in the tree that contains two…..trading cards…..Okay. I’ve seen dumber things in shounen shows. Bakugan rings a particular bell in that regard. The cards have equally clashing artworks of triceratops on them, and he notices that the symbols of the backs of the cards match the symbol on the stone. He basically scans the cards with the stone and summons a triceratops.

They freak out for a bit, and Max does something that puts the triceratops back in its card. He decides to scan the card again….because why not I guess, and he summons a chibi-ceratops that he later names Chomp because he bites everything.

Cut to a bunch of dinosaurs fighting in an arena, we’re introduced to who I suppose is our villain; Dr. Z. He wants to be king of the dinosaurs and if he is our villain you can already tell that he’s really no threat. He has a bumbling sidekick and he’s constant comic relief.

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rawr

A T-Rex breaks through the house and starts chasing Dr. Z before it’s turned into a chibi-T-Rex by some little girl named Laura.

A stereotypical German maid woman named Helga storms into the scene scolding everyone and telling them their dinner’s ready, and we’re made aware that Dr. Z is apparently in love with Helga.

Stoic guy with blue hair #24234C named Seth arrives and the story of these people is laid out very blatantly in a few lines of dialogue: they have a time machine, they’re stuck, their time machine’s broken and when the time machine broke Dr. Z lost his collection of dinosaur cards and they were scattered across the world.

Dr. Z uses a device that alerts him to the location of one of the cards and they prepare to leave before the commercial.

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Back with Max and the others, they explain their situation to Max’s dad who happens to be a dinosaur expert. He’s perfectly fine with the dinosaur thing and is actually really excited about the discovery, but wants to keep it a secret for safety’s sake. Max’s mom comes in and they convince her that Chomp is actually just a really odd dog who followed Max home. She believes them because….she’s dumb, and lets Chomp live at their house as long as Max takes care of him.

Dr. Z sends his minions, who call themselves Alpha Gang, off to capture the dinosaurs while Max’s dad and Zoe’s older sister, Reese, do research on the stones.

We get a really convoluted and silly theory as to how these stones and cards work. Max’s dad, Spike Taylor (of course), theorizes that the dinosaurs’ consciousnesses were sealed within the stones right before dinosaurs went extinct. Someone outfitted the stones with microchips that somehow have the ability to turn the dinosaurs into cards. When activated, the cards turn back into dinosaurs and for some reason when they’re scanned again they turn into chibi dinosaurs. When scanned a third time they return to card form.

Back with Max and the others, the Alpha Gang arrives and attacks with their T-Rex….Terry (of course…again)

Spike arrives and tries to capture Terry with a net and obviously fails. Terry keeps trying to get at Chomp and Max. Chomp tries to fight back, but obviously the little guy is no threat to a giant T-Rex in chibi state.

Spike throws Max some fancy device and, get this, it works just like the stone only easier. Yeah apparently in the time frame of a few hours, Spike managed to understand fully how the stones, chips and cards worked, managed to replicate the technology on his own and make the process easier, designed and produced the device…..Not only that, but he also managed to write a manual for it that is like 5000 pages.

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Right. Sure. Then again, I feel really stupid nitpicking that considering this is a show where actual dinosaurs are kept in trading cards and summoned with rocks.

Obviously this device was created so quickly so that they could get the toy line out faster….

Max saves Chomp by recalling him back to card form with the device and then he scans the card into the device triggering a transformation sequence for Chomp into his regular dinosaur form. Considering they did this a few times already without this transformation sequence, I find this to be even more pointless than usual transformation sequences. Additionally, this sequence is segued by a little screen on the device so I’m left wondering if Spike actually programmed this sequence into it….

Zoe: “Another dinosaur!”

Spike: “Where did this one come from?”

What? You mean Chomp? Zoe and Rex have seen him transform three times now. Spike has seen him transform. They know that those cards call a triceratops. They can’t be confused about Terry either because they’ve been well aware of him since he appeared. What the hell are you people confused about?

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Terry and Chomp battle and for some reason the background is mostly changed to CGI while they’re battling. I would say this is welcome, but now that I’ve gotten used to the ugly clashing with traditional animation, this looks even uglier somehow.

Chomp’s losing because, well duh, and Max starts panicking. The device starts glowing red as Chomp gets more damaged because I don’t know and the other card that Max found pops out of it. He scans that card and it….gives him lightning powers? What the fuck does a triceratops have to do with lightning? Why does this card give him lightning powers? Why? All sorts of why?

Chomp beats Terry and sends him flying off, which prompts him to turn back to card form. Chomp, now exhausted, also turns back into card form, but is turned back to chibi-Chomp by Max.

Defeated, the Alpha Gang shows up and introduces themselves; Ursula, Zander and Ed. They’re basically Team Rocket and it’s especially obvious with Ursula. Not only are her personality and mannerisms very reminiscent of Jessie, but she’s also voiced by Rachel Lillis. Eric Stuart also voices Dr. Z, and I will give him credit for increasing his range because I totally didn’t recognize him.

The Alpha Gang runs off and we get a bit more explanation about the device, called a Dino-Holder. It not only acts as the stone but it also translates the dinosaur’s thoughts into words. Sure why not? Also, yay, that means we’re going to hear these dinosaurs talking. Whoo.

Spike gives custom-made Dino-Holders to Zoe and Rex too, despite the fact that they don’t have cards yet, and they start glowing their respective colors as they hear the voices of dinosaurs coming from the devices begging for help. And that’s the end of episode one.

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Bottomline: This show is incredibly stupid so far. I mean, I never expect logic or non-stupid much from shounen gaming anime. I really don’t. But, man, you need to suspend all kinds of disbelief for this show. The premise is so convoluted and just gets more convoluted the more you think about it.

I know this is episode one, but I already have all sorts of questions that I can’t see answered anytime soon, like why do the dinosaurs need chibi forms? Why does Dr. Z want to be king of the dinosaurs? Why did he choose trading cards, rocks and chibi dinos to achieve this? How did Spike manage to do all that with the Dino-Holder in such a small amount of time? What is the point of giving the dinosaurs elemental powers? You really need to buff goddamn DINOSAURS? What’s the logic with the selected elements anyway? Why does a triceratops get lightning? How are these powers contained in cards? Why are these powers contained in cards? Just why on a lot of things.

Also, I really can’t get over how much this seems like a meld between Pokemon and Digimon (Season three in particular) just with Dinosaurs.

None of the characters stand out from the archetypes. Max is the leader, headstrong and curious, never gives up and really cares about his friends. Rex didn’t get much exploration but he seems like the responsible one. Zoe is the girl. Alpha Gang is Team Rocket, Dr. Z is the bumbling evil scientist, Seth is the stoic competent villain and Spike is the bumbling good guy scientist.

The art for the CGI is very dated and it clashes so horribly with the traditional animation that it’s very distracting. If you were distracted by how much the CGI clashed with the regular animation in Duel Masters, you’ll be crying at this, especially considering that the CGI and traditional animation in that show were usually kept separately and hardly ever shared the screen. Here, it’s constantly in the same frame.

The traditional art is fine and the colors pop. Some of the designs are kinda cool, even if Zoe and Rex’s necklaces are kinda distracting. The animation is typical shounen gaming anime fare; just okay.

The OP is catchy, even if ‘Make your move’ kinda seems weird to put in the lyrics if this isn’t a legit game. The BG music is completely forgettable.

All in all I’m really not impressed with this first episode, and I can really understand why this show didn’t take off. Hopefully it will get better from here.

Shounen Step-By-Step: Megaman NT Warrior Episode 1

SSBS MNTW EP1 title

Plot: In the year 200X, everything is connected via a virtual network. In this virtual network, people use PETs which are used to communicate to their NetNavis; their own personal virtual assistants, friends and battling companions. These NetNavis are used to combat an evil organization known as World Three who frequently attack the network with viruses.

In particular, a boy named Lan Hikari and his NetNavi Megaman as well as his friends and their NetNavis, aim to rid the cyber matrix of all viruses and crime.

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Breakdown: Megaman NT Warrior is a show I was very much aware of when watching shows like Pokemon and Yugioh back on Saturday morning anime blocks like Kids WB, Fox Box and 4Kids TV. I was aware of it, and I watched it on occasion, but I never really got into it. I don’t know why. I was and still am a Megaman fan, and I don’t remember really disliking it at all.

This first episode gives us the main background of the world they live in as well as fairly good introduction to Lan and Megaman and his friends.

Lan starts out with a clearly lame basic NetNavi that is somewhat modeled like Megaman. In battle with one of his friends, Dex, and his Gutsman, he tries over and over with battle chip (power ups) after battle chip to defeat him and they do nothing. Gutsman easily wins and Lan’s NetNavi is forced to logout. Dex is solidified as a cocky brute while Lan is the underdog who has to deal with a basic, non-customized NetNavi that can’t stand up against a customized one like Gutsman.

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Lan’s NetNavi is damaged and his PET suggests not using him in net battles anymore, further frustrating Lan. A fish salesman named Mesa acts as our audience surrogate as Lan explains to him about PETs or Personal Terminals as well as NetNavis and net battles – Which really didn’t need to be explained to us because of the prologue, but I’d rather be given too much information than not enough.

As fire trucks whiz by, we learn that there’s been a rash of ovens spontaneously catching fire all over town. Lan worries about his mother’s oven, but she claims she had it checked out by a technician earlier and it’s fine, which means it’s not fine.

Lan gets a letter from his father in Borneo that contains a customized NetNavi disk. It’s never established why he doesn’t have his own customized NetNavi. I can only assume that is costs quite a bit to do so?

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The customized NetNavi is, of course, Megaman. But Lan is disappointed that he doesn’t look like a super cool huge NetNavi warrior and even wishes for his old shitty broken NetNavi back. Wow….Screw you, kid. You whine and bitch and moan over not having a custom NetNavi, you finally get one that looks perfectly fine and could be a great warrior, especially with battle chips, and like a spoiled child you whine that it’s not good enough and basically want to send it back, not even considering that at the very least it’s a more presentable and functional NetNavi than your old one. You should uninstall and send it back, you unappreciative brat.

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Megaman alerts Lan to a kitchen fire and Lan’s mother can’t put it out. Apparently she’s too stupid to grab the fire extinguisher that is literally a foot away. However, even Lan’s use of the fire extinguisher cannot quell the flames so Megaman tells Lan to jack him into the oven’s computer so he can check for problems.

Megaman finds that the oven’s cyber matrix is being attacked by a swarm of computer viruses, causing the intense flames……Why does an oven need a cyber matrix?…..Why does it need to be connected to any network? I will admit, humanity somehow made it logical for a fridge to have Internet access, but an oven? He blasts the viruses away, causing the fire to go out, but sees a weird NetNavi in the flames of the matrix before it disappears.

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Excited about the powers of his new NetNavi, Lan challenges Dex and Gutsman again to a netbattle at school where I guess they just learn about computer stuff.

Dex is that kind of annoying character who’s always an ass and cocky as hell, but obviously has a huge crush on the only girl of the group, Maylu, and constantly hits on her. Even Gutsman has a crush on Maylu’s NetNavi, Roll.

A stereotypical Scottish man (borderline offensively stereotypical as he prattles on about kilts and bagpipes…) who is behind the fire-setting NetNavi gets orders to destroy Megaman from, you guessed it, Dr. Wily. And if you haven’t caught on, Lan and his family, most clearly his father, are allegories for Dr. Light. (Hikari → Light) Lan’s first name is also a reference, though not to the games. It’s in reference to a LAN or local area network – basically a short range network between and a handful of computers.

Dex and Lan have their rematch and Dex is far from impressed at Lan’s new NetNavi. However, Megaman proves that his small stature does not reflect his own strength as he easily bats away Gutsman’s fists.

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The oven bursts into flames at Maylu’s place in the middle of their rematch, and Roll rushes over to beg Megaman to help….because I guess she can’t do a damn thing…or even try. *sigh* Are we seriously doing a damsel in distress story? First Lan’s mom handles a kitchen fire by calling her 11 year old kid down to handle it while she whimpers behind a counter and fails to use a fire extinguisher; now the only other female character’s NetNavi is only good for getting help for her when she’s in trouble – and not even the fire department kind. In addition to the fact that Maylu’s only role in the episode so far is to be drooled over by Dex while Roll’s role has been basically being a secretary for Maylu and being hit on by Gutsman. Sure, Roll smacked Gutsman after, but still.

Lan and Dex rush to Maylu’s house to save her while Megaman and Gutsman go through the Internet to her oven’s cyber matrix to help take down the viruses. There, they meet FAITH AND BEGORAHAGGISREDHAIRANDSCOTTISHTHINGSACH guy and his Torchman after taking down the little viruses that were setting the fire.

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Lan manages to get Maylu to safety, but realizes that Torchman is too much for Megaman and Gutsman to handle. He goes back in the house to plug into the oven directly so he can upload the blaster battle chip to Megaman. Once he does so and with additional help from a cyber sword, he manages to force Torchman and Kilt Boy into retreating. With his victory, he gets a hug from Roll, who wasn’t even participating in any of the fight, not even with the damn little viruses. *huff*

Maylu is safe and Lan expresses his gratitude towards his new NetNavi, the end.

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As a first episode, in regards to understanding the world and the characters, it’s fine. They explain everything well enough, the world seems to function with sufficient logic, barring some suspension of disbelief, and it does what it sets out to do.

In regards to characters, absolutely no one is breaking any kind of new ground here. Everyone is very generic and textbook. Lan is obviously the ‘normal yet optimistic and excitable’ main character. Barring one instance of complete spoiled attitude, he’s as by the book as you get. Megaman is portrayed as a cool and powerful partner, which, while not being as cliché, is still not really interesting.

Dex is the pseudo-antagonist friend who is cocky, fat, and none too bright, but chases after the girl of the group like a steak. Gutsman is a brutish idiot who speaks in third-person.

Maylu is nice enough….plays piano and doesn’t respond to Dex’s advances. That’s about it for her in this episode. Roll is also nice enough, but doesn’t do anything in this episode but remind Maylu of her piano practice and be a stagnant life-alert button. Both are obviously being set up as love interests for the main characters, and looking at Roll’s abilities on her wiki page seems to relegate her mostly to healing and support instead of fighting….

The bad guys are bad guys. And Scottish.

In terms of the story, it’s also been done several times in gaming anime. Main character loves a game but has a crappy version of the thing needed to play the game. He gets something that gives him a better game thing and suddenly becomes awesome. You know, when you think about it, aren’t gaming anime subtly implying to children that they should pressure their parents to buy them more cards and cooler toys related to the game when they see these tropes? “Eh, I have a sucky character that sucks, so I suck, but now I got a super cool rare character and now I’m awesome! It’s a good thing you can get this same character at Wal-Mart for $24.95!” The oven thing is new, but it’s a damsel in distress story just with the battle taking place in the virtual world.

The only thing it really has going for it as a shounen gaming anime is the world itself and the premise as it really doesn’t match many other…..anime…..out……oh hell. It’s Digimon Tamers. Yup, replace the PETs with Digivices, the NetNavis with Digimon and the battle chips with Digi-modify cards and it is pretty much just exactly Digimon Tamers with a new wrapping….only not as interesting.

I did like this episode barring its flaws…..I can’t really tell you why outside of me liking Digimon a lot, and this world as well as net battles seem like fun. It didn’t get off to a great start, but I am actually looking forward to more of this show.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh wait, it’s also Angelic Layer with talking dolls. Shit.

Shounen Step-By-Step: Beyblade Episode 1

Beyblade episode 1 screen

Plot: Tyson is a passionate player in the game of Beyblading. He’s one of the best around, and he’s always up for a challenge. When he’s set to challenge Andrew, another top Beyblader in town, he finds that their match is canceled due to Andrew losing his Beyblade in a bet against the Blade Shark, Carlos. Infuriated that Carlos is collecting Beyblades from his opponents, he challenges him to win them back. However, he needs to find a way to beat Carlos’ incredibly steady heavy Beyblade with some ingenuity and lots of practice.

Characters:

Tyson – The later leader of the BayBladers, Tyson is full of spirit and excitement for Beyblading, and he is willing to work his butt off to get better at it. Bit Beast: Dragoon

The Chief/Kenny – A beyblading expert, the Chief usually provides step-by-step analyses of the beybattles of his friends while also providing them with advice in the field. The Chief is not a good beyblader in practice. He does have a beyblade, but Dizzi, his bit beast, cannot be transferred into it due to her being trapped in his computer, and his skills in actually beyblading pale far in comparison to his analytical knowledge on the subject. Bit Beast: Dizarra/Dizzi

Kai – Leader of the Blade Sharks and a very skilled beyblader, Kai is a cold and stoic loner who holds beyblading in great regard. He appears unemotional and distant, but he eventually grows to care about his teammates as friends. Bit Beast: Dranzer.

Bey-Battles:

Tyson (Dragoon Grip Attacker) vs. Billy (Death Driger)

Victor! – Tyson

Andrew (Unknown) vs. Carlos (Kid Dragoon)

Victor! – Carlos

Tyson (Dragoon Grip Attacker) vs. Carlos (Kid Dragoon….huh, kinda ironic.)

Victor! – Tyson

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Ah, Beyblade. Another nostalgia bomb. I loved Beyblade when I was a kid. I had plenty of Beyblade toys, though they annoyed the living hell out of my mom since they were so loud. Like many shounen gaming anime, I both loved the fact that they were super exaggerated forms of the real thing to make for loads of fun and the fact that you could get a taste of the same excitement with the toys. Like the Beyblades in the show, most of the real Beyblades could be taken apart to the smallest piece and customized with other parts. Sadly, the little bit beasts never emerged from my Beyblades, but I take what I can get.

Beyblade, to me, is still a show that, for the most part, doesn’t stray too far away from just being a fun sport. Sure, ancient beasts emerge from the Beyblades and start wrecking the joint, but that just adds to the fun. Rarely does anyone get hurt or anything severely dramatic happens, and to the best of my knowledge the world’s fate never rests on these spinning tops. In this series anyway; there are many more sequels to cover. There’s even a series airing this year.

Without further ado, here’s the first episode of Beyblade!

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We start out with some blue silhouettes of Beyblades as a narrator tells us that Beyblade is actually an ancient game involving ancient beasts. They must’ve lived next door to Egypt where Duel Monsters was gaining popularity. Now, the game stays popular but the beasts are dormant, ready to be awakened some time soon.

Tyson and his always-trying-to-sound-‘hip’-and-‘cool’ Grandpa are training in Kendo in their family’s dojo when Tyson tries to leave. Tyson’s Grandpa stops him to tell him the legend of the family sword and how an ancient dragon named Dragoon was entombed inside of it. The sword must be passed down to skilled martial artists in the family, so it’s important for Tyson to practice.

Now’s as good a time as any to tackle the concept of bit beasts. Bit beasts are the ancient monsters that the narrator was speaking of before. Nowadays, they take the form of small pieces of plastic that clip into the top of a Beyblade. When called upon, the beasts emerge from the Beyblades and use special abilities like elemental powers or buffs.

Obviously, the beast Dragoon will eventually become Tyson’s bit beast. Dragoon has the power to make tornadoes in battle.

Now, the concept itself, to me, is pretty cool. If I can accept that monsters can be shrunk down and captured in little balls by ten years olds, and that monsters live in pieces of cardboard for a children’s card game, the fact that monsters live in pieces of toys is no problem to me.

However, I do have two issues with it.

The first is, if you have a bit beast and you’re going up against someone who doesn’t, they’re kinda screwed. They really have no chance unless the person with the bit beast just sucks that much at Beyblading. I mean, think about it. A normal run of the mill Beyblade going up against something that can, say, create tornadoes, create lightning, create fire, somehow slash at your Beyblade with cat claws and more. There’s no way a normal Beyblade would be able to compete.

The second thing is, these bit beasts are meant to be rare yet by the end of the series they’re everywhere. Everyone and their brother has one. At least the ones that the main characters typically battle, indicating, again, that people with normal Beyblades stand no chance. If you want to get into the Beyblading circuit, you better hope that you stumble upon one of these ancient beasts or you’ll be toast.

It also bugs me how using these things isn’t considered cheating at any point. They give you a major advantage, yet refs usually act like it’s all part of the game.

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Tyson pretty much blows off Grandpa again and gets suited up for a scheduled Beyblade battle when he’s cornered in the street by a bully (?) named Billy and his two goons. Billy wants to settle a Beyblading score with Tyson so they set up at a nearby Beystadium (which, on the street, is basically just a wok) and start the match.

One of Billy’s goons conveniently has never seen a real Beyblade battle despite Billy, an avid Beyblader, being his best friend. Being a handy-dandy intro episode, Billy’s other goon explains the game to him. It really could not be more simple; you launch two tops, known as Beyblades, into a Beystadium using a launcher and a ripcord or winder. The two tops smack into each other until one Beyblade either breaks, stops spinning, or flies out of the stadium. The game gets a bit more complicated later on, especially in tournaments, where new aspects such as terrain, specially modified Beyblades and more bit beasts start showing up.

Then there’s the whole thing with it seeming like Beyblades actually obey the commands of their players….Not kidding; they act like trained dogs. They turn when told, go where they’re told, attack when told. It’s weird. I imagine this change was made so that the Beybladers actually seem like they’re doing something in battles instead of just standing there and hoping for the best, but it’s still weird.

In this Beyblade battle, since those factors aren’t in place yet, the battle pretty much goes the same way a real one does; you basically just stare at the Beyblades until one of them is thrown out. In real life, though, it’s usually just a matter of the Beyblade losing rotation power and crapping out in the wok.

Tyson wins, and Billy laments that he was unsuccessful yet again. Tyson gives him a pep talk and says he has a great Beyblade, but the difference between him and Billy is that he’s had his Beyblade forever and is constantly practicing with it and perfecting its design. He even dreams about it. There ya go Billy; you keep losing because you’re not nearly as obsessed with the game as Tyson.

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Billy asks for a rematch, but Tyson realizes that he’s late for his scheduled Beyblade battle against Andrew, noted for supposedly being the best Beyblader in town and having a skull design that baffles science to this day, and he runs off. Meanwhile, while Andrew is waiting for Tyson, a Blade Shark named Carlos challenges Andrew and puts up the bet that he has to give him his Beyblade if he loses.

Tyson later arrives to find his beybattle with Andrew canceled due to the fact that he lost against Carlos and lost his beyblade. Enraged that Carlos, the boy with way too many sharp angles in his face, appears to collect the beyblades of all of his ‘victims’, Tyson challenges him to a match next. Carlos states that Tyson was his next target anyway and accepts but is interrupted by the Chief who tries to get Tyson to notice something odd about the patterns left in the wok from Carlos’ beyblade.

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Carlos quickly grows tired of the stalling and leaves while telling Tyson to meet him the next day at the river for a match. If he wins, he gets Tyson’s blade. If he loses, Carlos has to give back every beyblade he’s won back to their owners.

Chief introduces himself to Tyson and also introduces his computer’s AI, a quick-witted bit beast named Dizzi, to him as well. Tyson is weirded out that the Chief has a bit beast trapped within his computer, but is very willing to hear what he and Dizzi have to say.

….Wait, bit beasts are already common knowledge in the beyblading world? And seeing one isn’t even worth a few minutes of awe? Did I miss something? (Technically, yes I did. Dizzi is only a bit-beast in the dub. :x)

Tyson, Andrew and the other kids watch a recording of Andrew and Carlos’ beybattle in which Dizzi explains that Carlos’ beyblade is made to be heavy, thus making it very stable and allowing it to spin longer. In order to combat it, the Chief calculates that a faster beyblade is the solution; a beyblade that is four times faster than normal speed to be precise. The other kids simply want to give up, but Tyson will hear none of that and after a quick pep talk Tyson runs off to build the perfect beyblade to beat Carlos.

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That night, Tyson gets an idea during dinner to put an extension on his winder to make the beyblade faster. I don’t really get why he gets this idea merely from seeing his grandpa hold a fish with chopsticks, but according to the wiki this is something that merely didn’t translate from Japanese to English (and they really didn’t try);

“In (the) Japanese version, as they’re having dinner, Tyson sees the fish that his grandfather is holding with sticks ‘duplicate’ itself three times, making a longer series of fish. That is what originally gave him the idea to lengthen his ripcord.”

However, even with the extension, the beyblade only spins twice as fast as normal…..I don’t really get how that works. I mean, even with a longer winder, isn’t it the speed in which you’re pulling the winder that affects beyblade’s speed and not the winder’s length? Even if I had a long winder, if I pull it at the same speed the speed of the beyblade wouldn’t be affected. If you rip the thing out of the launcher like it owes you money, it would go faster.

After Tyson gives up in light of his only idea being a failure, he is visited by Dragoon who transplants himself into Tyson’s blade. With a newfound enthusiasm, Tyson goes out for some intense practice to get his beyblade up to speed before his match the following afternoon.

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Tyson arrives late to his match and shows up covered in bandaids. As they prepare for their match, Tyson backs away from the beystadium. As the match begins he gets a running start to launch his beyblade. Now, this always confused me as I never understood how merely getting a running start and jumping could affect how fast a beyblade spun…..I still don’t, but watching the scene again and seeing him perform the launch…I’m assuming it’s because he puts all of his body into his launch while in the air and thus allows him to pull the winder much harder? I really don’t see that working very well, but that’s the only way I can add logic here. Also, you could’ve made the beyblade lighter….

I’m not getting why a faster blade is best against a heavy one. The faster speed does make for better power, but if Carlos’ blade is all about stability and lasting power while the faster blade is more unstable and has little lasting power then shouldn’t it just be a matching stand off? I guess it’s an effort to out-muscle the heavier beyblade, but I’d bet on the heavy blade in that match, to be honest.

Also, wouldn’t making a beyblade heavier give it less lasting power? Heavy blades require much more energy to spin because weight makes movement difficult. Being more stable, I can get behind, but lasting much longer than a lighter blade? I sincerely doubt it.

The match seems pretty equal for a bit until Carlos’ blade is shot out of the wok, making Tyson the winner. While Tyson and the others celebrate, Carlos tries to make off with the beyblades only to be stopped by the leader of the Blade Sharks, Kai. He states his disappointment in Carlos and smacks him to the ground. As Kai leaves, Tyson stops him and challenges him to a match. The Chief tries to stop him as the Blade Sharks are the toughest Bey-gang in town (apparently bey-gangs are a thing…), but Tyson won’t listen. Kai accepts his challenge and gives him ample warning about his beyblade as well as his bit beast, Dranzer.

As they start their match and launch their blades, the episode concludes.

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This as a first episode is a pretty good one. It explains the game very well, allows us to get plenty of insight into Tyson as a character and even as a beyblader, plus the development of the strategies, even if they sometimes don’t make much sense to me, was always a part of the show that I really enjoyed. However, this episode has several problems.

First, let’s address something that’s a problem with the entire series. The art and animation are horrid. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, and you have to take shounen gaming anime art with a grain of salt a la Yugioh, but dear god, this is disgusting sometimes. Carlos’ face looks like it was drawn with rulers, Andrew’s face looks like it was molded with silly putty, and Tyson’s face looks huge. The details are sparse, though they are much better than, say, Metabots, and everything just looks ugly. The animation is stilted and the mouth flaps never match up with the words properly. I know it’s a dub, but this is bad even for dub syncing.

The music is great, and it has one of the most memorable and catchy OP’s of the bulk of shounen gaming anime I’ve watched.

The voice acting is….ech….Everyone is just okay at best (Kai, Chief and Tyson) and laughably bad at worst (Carlos). Also, the line reads are so incredibly awkward due to the poor lipsyncing efforts. There’s so much stalling for no reason in the middle of sentences or saying things oddly just to try to get the line to fit.

The characters….Okay, I’ve always liked Tyson because, despite the fact that we’re starting off with him being a super awesome beyblader who is undefeated, he definitely has plenty of growth and problem areas to work out through the series. He works his ass off to figure out ways to beat his enemies, and he definitely doesn’t end up scoring wins around every corner, something we’ll see very soo—oops spoilers.

However, there’s not a lot to make him stand out much. He’s a hardworking optimist, and that’s great, but I’d never see one anime character and instantly think ‘yeah, he’s a lot like Tyson from Beyblade.’

I’ve also always liked the Chief. I kinda think his role on the sidelines constantly giving advice to the team is cheating a little on occasion, but his role is necessary to both provide the audience with detailed information on what’s going on and why and as technical support for the group. Dizzi is funny and memorable, though I am kinda weirded out that she seems to have a crush on the Chief…

Carlos is just a terrible first antagonist. He’s a laughably bad poorly written thug who just takes beyblades….in a pretty fair manner. He’s not forcing these people to put up their beyblades, nor is he forcing them to battle him, they agree to beybattle and put their beyblades up as an ante if they lose. They could just refuse the terms, but no; they decide to put their precious beyblades on the line against a psycho with a sack of blades. Also, his horrible laugh and bubble gum are just cliché and silly.

Kai is a bit more interesting, though we don’t get much insight into him right now. His kinda-ish rivalry with Tyson is interesting because they are indeed friends and teammates and not sworn rivals like Kaiba and Yugi.

The story as a whole was fine, but not terrible creative. The cliffhanger was also fairly decent especially considering that Tyson is rushing into this mostly blind while relying on modifications he made purely to battle someone else. I also appreciate how beybattles are relatively short instead of going on for ages like how some games do in these shows. However, that won’t last forever. Beybattles will get pretty long and crazy in the future.

Rating: 6.5/10

Next episode, we conclude Kai and Tyson’s match.

Shounen Step-By-Step: Zoids (Chaotics Century) Episode 1

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Plot: Van is young boy who wants nothing more than a Zoid of his own to pilot, just like his late father. After being chased down by some crooked Zoid pilots, a Guysak pilot in particular named Bull, Van becomes trapped in some old war ruins. He finds a secret passage that leads him to two pods, and he accidentally opens one of them, revealing a baby raptor-like Zoid that he names Zeek. Bull returns to finish him off, and Zeek tries to protect him to no avail. Zeek takes Van and flies them out of the ruins, leading them to an old ruined Shield Liger. Zeek amazingly fuses with the Shield Liger, bringing it back to full form and Van manages to scare off the enemy. After the battle concludes, Zeek leads them back to the ruins where he prompts Van to open the second pod. Thinking it’s another Zoid, Van excitedly agrees only to find that the pod contains a strange girl.

Breakdown: Zoids was a show that I definitely followed when I was younger. Here’s the thing though, outside of the bare basics, I remember nothing of the story. I remember Zoids, I remember fighting, I remember Van, Fiona and Zeek, that’s about it. I don’t know if that says something about the quality of the show. Hopefully it’s just my crappy-ass memory.

As for this first episode, it’s pretty good. Not great, but pretty good. They establish basically what Zoids are without going into expositiony detail. They introduce Van quite well, and he’s a really likable character so far. You click with him near the end when you see how excited he is to win his first Zoid battle. His relationship with Zeek also starts out pretty strong.

The enemies…..are….the biggest weak point of the episode. The other two, who pilot Command Wolves, are just blah, which is not at all helped by their completely bored voice acting. Bull, however, is just nearing ridiculously evil. He whines about not getting one of the cool Command Wolves from whoever his bosses are, so he takes command of a stray Guysak, a scorpion-like Zoid, and tries to prove its worth by killing Van….Yeah I’m sure you’ll look so impressive killing a small boy with a 20 ton battle robot. He justifies it by saying he witnessed something or other, but it’s pretty flimsy.

The other weak spot of this episode would probably be the scene with Van’s sister at their father’s grave. It’s just a big fat exposition dump.

The art is usually pretty good, and even the CGI Zoids look pretty nice and don’t clash too much with the traditional animation. However, there are a bunch of scenes with silly and odd facial expressions. Nearly every shot of Bull is a screenshot for the books, and even Van gets some laughable faces.

The music is pretty good, and the ED has stuck with me throughout the years. Something interesting about this series is that, unlike a crap ton of English dubbed shows, this one keeps the next episode previews, which I greatly appreciate even if they have a habit of spoiling episodes every now and then.

The voice acting, English, is a mixed bag so far. Van’s VA is pretty good and Bull’s is alright, but the silver haired Command Wolf Pilot was just horrible. He could not sound more bored. Van’s sister’s VA also isn’t a very good actress.

All in all, a pretty good first episode that leaves a nice cliffhanger-ish ending to have you chomping at the bit a little to see what’s up with both Zeek and the girl, Fiona.

Rating: 8/10

Shounen Step-By-Step: Medabots Episode 1

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Plot: The biggest ‘sport’ in town is robattling; pitting two medabots against each other in combat. Nearly everyone (every kid anyway) has a medabot and while some medabots are meant for mundane tasks, practically everyone with a medabot robattles. Ikki is the odd man out in his school. While he loves watching robattles, he doesn’t have one himself and this leads him to be the subject of ridicule. However, when his friend Erika is cornered by a bunch of medafighters who have been forcing other medafighters into submission battles (battles in which the winner gets a part of the loser’s medabot), Ikki spends every penny he has buying an old model medabot that he names ‘Metabee’ to save her and her metabot Brass.

Medabot Debuts:

Peppercat: A CAT type medabot, Peppercat has electric abilities and high speed.

Dr. Bokchoy: A BOK Type medabot, Dr. Bokchoy is good at scanning, making him effective against enemies with cloaking abilities, but he ultimately has no combat capabilities and is mostly used for research.

Brass: An SLR type, Brass is ultimately unimpressive. She has weak weapons and poor aim, but her aim can be increased substantially by her variablehair.

Metabee: A KBT type, Metabee is an older model medabot with a focus mostly on projectile attacks.

Phoenix: A PHX type, Phoenix mostly employs fire attacks.

Blackram: A DVL type, probably poking at the term ‘devil’, Blackram has powerful physical attacks but virtually no defense.

Cyandog: A DOG type medabot, Cyandog is a mediocre medabot with a focus in shooting. Cyandog in itself is known along his master as being awful in battling because its medal is a monkey type, meant for hand to hand combat, and his body is meant for shooting. Spyke refuses to get a hand to hand combat model body due to a preference for shooting models and doesn’t want to get a new medal, so he remains in suckage.

Battles:

Samantha Vs. Student Council President: Winner – Samantha

Spyke vs. Rockers: Winner – Rockers

Ikki vs. Rockers: Winner – Ikki

Breakdown: Medabots was a show that I caught while watching Digimon on Fox/ABC family. I was never really too into it because something about the show never really sat right with me. Maybe it was the aspect of robots over what I was normally used to in these shows, animals or spirits, but I really kinda liked a bunch of the Medabots. Maybe it was the main character who really has nothing unique to his name. Maybe it just seemed like nothing particularly important was ever happening. I don’t know, but despite this I still watched fairly frequently as it usually came on right after Digimon.

Getting into the first episode, they really waste no time introducing us to robattling as our very first scene is of a robattle. The two contenders, Samantha and the Student Council president are battling to see if Samantha and her crew should be allowed to use the Student Council room as their own personal meeting room. How odd that so much is concerning the Student Council when I can bet anything that robattles and medabots aren’t allowed on school grounds. If they are, that’s BS. I couldn’t even bring my Pokemon cards to school. 😦

I would say this battle explores the rules of robattling, but it really doesn’t. It just shows the average structure of robattles, which is the exciting twist of ‘give them commands and watch them fight’. Mr. Referee’s only job, at least at this point, is to declare a winner and make sure no one gets hurt. But nearly every robattle I remember is merely decided from the medal popping out and I don’t know what Mr. Ref would do if any dangerous situation did arise. Submission robattles involve handing over one of the losing medabot’s parts to the victor, so yay we also have pseudo-gambling.

This battle also introduces us to Samantha, the screws, Ikki and Erika, and their rather shallow character traits are pretty much laid on a platter. Samantha’s a bully, the screws are mindless followers of her, Ikki’s bland and a bit of a jerk, and Erika’s obsessed with journalism and is also a bit jerkish.

The first battle of the series is at least pretty interesting, but the fact that Ikki points out that there’s no way Dr. Bokchoy can win before the battle even starts is pretty lame, even if he does get off a hit. It also showcased some strategies of these battles such as sacrificing all armor for speed.

Ikki is mocked frequently because of his lack of medabot and it pisses me off more than it should. Erika asks why he doesn’t just do what she did and ask his parents to buy him one, but Ikki says his parents think they’re too expensive and want him to save up the money and buy one himself.

Now, we can all relate to some degree. Most of us as children have asked our parents for something expensive and been denied, but his tight-assed shrews of parents won’t shell out probably hundreds of dollars, maybe thousands, for a sophisticated robot that is only destined to be damaged and destroyed 15 minutes after he purchases it. And what’s worse is that they actually want to teach him the meaning of a dollar and make him buy one himself after saving up. Why is no one calling child services?!

Henry, the owner of a local Medabot shop, kindly offers to give him an older model medabot with the money he can offer, but Ikki and Erika laugh in his face and mock the thing. See what I meant about jerkish? Even an old discontinued medabot is better than no medabot, Ikki, and you were lucky to find someone willing to basically give you one with the pittance in your piggy bank.

This episode also introduces us to the Rubber Robo Gang and the Phantom Renegade, neither of which you can really take seriously at this point, but the main thing is that they try to steal a rare beetle medal, but the Phantom loses it in the river only to be found later by Ikki, meaning he has an advantage by default and just so happens to be offered a medabot that is perfectly compatible with the medal since Metabee’s a rhinoceros beetle, KBT type.

While Ikki bitches some more to his mom about not having a medabot, they see a news report about a group of thugs forcing people in submission robattles while Spyke, one of Samantha’s crew, loses a new part of his to these thugs called the Rockers.

Erika and Ikki learn of this, follow Samantha and the screws to see them confront the Rockers and end up getting in the middle of it. Since Ikki has no medabot, they leave him alone, but they try to pressure Erika into battling with Brass.

Ikki runs off to buy the KBT model he was offered earlier and we’re shown the mechanical aspects of medabots as Ikki puts his together. It’s nothing that complicated, just a skeleton and external parts that are interchangeable. The main aspect, however, is the medal, which is the mind and soul of the medabot.

By the way, I never realized that Metabee’s name had nothing to do with a bee. It’s metal and beetle combined….In my defense, he IS yellow.

Ikki’s return and first battle are pretty predictable. Metabee won’t start up, he starts getting his ass kicked because of it, Ikki yells at him and then Metabee kicks all of their asses. Ikki doesn’t even really do much besides yell at Metabee and change him into attack mode, which I’m fairly certain he was in either way.

Erika is completely ungrateful saying that Ikki merely ran away and him doing so made her lose the chance to get pictures, which is a total lie considering all of her film was used up by the Rockers before Ikki even left.

And the final kicker is when Metabee finally speaks and expresses outrage at his master calling him a piece of junk and starts shooting him. I should mention that I hate Metabee. His voice, mannerisms, catchphrases, all of them. Hate hate hate.

Final Notes:

Entire Show – The art and animation are appalling. The art is not detailed in the least and we’re not even blessed with any shading most of the time. It’s also sometimes hard to tell what’s going on in robattles because of the sloppy art and animation.

Entire Show – The English dub, while not being that bad, is just blech because there are so many moments when you see the characters screaming or yelling something but the actors just refuse to put any emotion or additional volume into their voices. Also, Samantha’s voice is really irritating.

If these Rockers are such douches, why don’t they take all of the medabot’s parts when they win?

This episode was a fairly formulaic intro. There are some funny, albeit predictable, moments, and I find it strange that the most unique and funny characters are ultimately the bad guys save Mr. Ref.

Next time, Ikki and Erika become popular targets for robattle after Erika runs a story about him beating the Rockers, so Samantha and the screws decide to have a shot at him too.

Shounen Step-By-Step: One Piece Arc 1 (Romance Dawn/Captain Morgan)

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Plot: Coby wants nothing more than to be in the Marines (or Navy if you follow the 4Kids dub, but why do you like suffering?) However, he’s been held captive and forced to work for the awful pirate Alvida. A strange pirate boy named Monkey D. Luffy decides to help him out. His desire is to find the legendary treasure, One Piece, and become king of the pirates; a dream that many people find to be suicidal and impossive. He has a bittersweet ability in being able to make his body structure like rubber after eating the devil fruit, Gomu Gomu no Mi (The Gum Gum Fruit), but it comes with the price of being unable to swim.

Meanwhile, we get the backstory of Luffy and the first addition to Luffy’s crew in the legendary pirate hunter Zoro.

Breakdown: Let’s set sail on the One Piece review! Yes that line was awful, but I don’t care.

Ah One Piece…Holy freakin’ crap. What an insanely huge franchise you are. As of this writing, it has 771 episodes and counting as well as 83 volumes for the manga. The only two shows I can think of that have longer runs are Detective Conan and Pokemon, and it stands as the last of the ‘Big Three’ shounen shows since both Bleach and Naruto ended their runs (Though the new Boruto series is keeping Naruto technically afloat). I’m not sure how close One Piece is to ending, if it is at all, since I have insane amounts of trouble keeping updated with long shows such as these. Part of the reason I wanted to do these long episode by episode and arc by arc reviews was to keep me motivated to actually get updated on these series.

Despite the fact that I haven’t kept up with this show in many years, I still really enjoy it. I love shows about pirates and the added ‘magic’ abilities make for some fantastic battles. The characters are also pretty memorable and fun, even if a few tend to fall of into cliché-land.

This arc serves as a backstory to Luffy, an intro to the series as a whole, shows off some of Luffy’s abilities and style and finally gets him a boat and at least one crew member. The relationship between Luffy and Zoro actually starts off pretty strong. Zoro is definitely an interesting and likable character, and his introduction was certainly badass and even touching. His chemistry with Luffy is also really good, and they tend to have good banter.

Luffy’s backstory was cool but mostly just in regards to Shanks. Luffy eating the Gum Gum fruit is pretty much how you’d expect he’d eat it, and him getting into trouble with those pirates again was also pretty much par for the course. His rescue as well as the departure of Shanks’ crew was the most memorable part in that regard. I wish we could’ve seen more of how much Shanks and Luffy meant to each other considering they seem to know each other pretty well in this backstory, but I assume we’ll explore that further as we go on.

Even though Nami didn’t join the crew quite yet, this is also the introduction of Nami as she is seen following their adventures while trying to score some treasure as well as the map to the Grand Line, the area where One Piece supposedly is. I’m usually somewhat annoyed when we get character introductions with no interactions with the main characters, but her roles were pretty okay.

Coby’s side-plot was fairly memorable, and it did serve as a cool introduction to Luffy. I kinda wish Coby had stuck around for a while, but, considering his goals, it really wouldn’t make sense for him to be a bigger part of the plot unless they made some sort of ‘friends with the enemy’ type of deal.

Alvida’s not that great of a villain and Helmeppo’s a parody of himself, though he’s meant to be more of a jackass over a legit villain. Captain Morgan is more imposing and is the main centerpiece of this arc, enemy-wise, but he’s also not terribly interesting.

Final Verdict: These first few episodes do a great job of introducing the characters, the world they live in and the backstory of our main character and the main story as a whole. It also has some entertaining battles, good attacks, funny jokes and it’s just a lot of fun at times. The art and animation fit this show perfectly, even if some of the mugging shots can be a little too goofy. The music is great, even if the ED is a little forgettable to me, and the voice actors (Japanese) do a great job here as well. I especially love Zoro and Luffy’s voices.

Welcome aboard! Now let’s find One Piece!

Arc Rating: 9/10

Recommended Audience: One Piece can get pretty bloody at times. The worst that happens in this arc is Shanks getting his arm torn off, but the actual removal isn’t shown, and there’s, oddly, not a lot of blood there.. There’s obviously a lot of violence and some minor swearing. No sex or nudity or anything, even if there is some minor fanservice with Nami. 10+

Coming up next, the Orange Town Arc (Captain Buggy).