SSBS – Beyblade Episode 4: The Qualifier Begins

Plot: The Regional Qualifiers are underway and people are already dropping like flies. The dialogue is a bit weird, though, because both the announcers and the Chief make it sound like Kai is personally beating all of these kids in the qualifiers, but the animation makes it clear that they’re just mass Beyblade battles against whole groups of combatants with about ten people per group.

One of the announcers, Brad Best and AJ Topper, actually brings up an issue I have with this format, and that’s, once enough Beyblades fall, won’t the losing blades kinda get in the way of the remaining competitors? Apparently, once enough blades fall, they stop the match, clean them out, then restart. Why not just do smaller groups in the first place?

One thing I’ve always thought was a lot of fun about Beyblade was the tournament format where the audience basically follows the action as if they were watching a real Beyblade tournament. We get cheesy (and sometimes very funny) announcers, overlay graphics, everything outside of sponsorship plugs.

Back to the action, Max manages to win his qualifier, and now Kenny is up next in block C. He manages to do pretty well, even if the animation continues to show off how much of a non-sport this actually is because the bladers just stand around doing nothing while their blades either get knocked out or destroyed or they wait for the other competitors to fall.

Somehow, someway no one noticed that Kai has been in this block the whole time even though they were just talking about him incessantly when he wasn’t actually there and they keep bringing up that Kai is the reigning champion trying to defend his title.

And since Kai is in the Chief’s block, you can bet any hope you might have had for our bespectacled pal to actually get a win are now nonexistent. You can also clearly tell how ridiculously stacked battles are against blades that don’t have bit beasts in them because Kai’s blade is clearly changing direction sharply and aiming specifically for other blades.

Tyson: “Wait a minute, I bet Kenny and Dizzi have something up their sleeves. King Kai’s gonna lose his crown.” It’s really nice of Tyson to have such faith in Kenny and Dizzi, but I couldn’t help but be DBZ distracted when he called him King Kai….

Kenny is now the last one standing against Kai, and…..I gotta call out Kenny on his Beyblade. The Chief’s Beyblade is an odd duck. He uses a green blade called Jumping Base (Or Einstein in the original version). It’s a Beyblade…on a spring.

Okay, please bear with me because I am far from a physics major, but…isn’t this design bullshit?

They don’t really explain what they’re going for with this Beyblade, but just from looking at it, it doesn’t look like it could stay spinning for more than a second or two let alone be the last blade standing in a mass battle against Kai.

First things first, the whole blade is spinning, not just the top. That means that the little point at the end of the spring is the main point of contact and what is allowing the blade to spin.

Springs work by storing kinetic energy when they’re compressed. However, when compressed, the little bit on the end would obviously get force imposed on it as well. Since that bit is spinning, that means it’s generating friction on the surface it’s spinning on. That friction is gradually slowing the blade until the energy runs out. The force of the spring’s compression and eventual expulsion of energy would cause so much friction that I don’t think the blade wouldn’t be able to survive one bounce.

Not to mention that bouncing springs are kinda hard to control, and a wok/BeyStadium is probably one of the worst smooth environments you can find to control a bouncing spring. If you’ve ever used a pogo stick, imagine trying to use one in a half-pipe. And that’s with the spring wrapped around a pole, giving it stability and a rider being able to control a multitude of variables. This is just a free spring, allowing it to flail back and forth, with no one having any control over it.

Speaking of flailing, it might be able to take a hit pretty well, considering it has good ‘shocks’ so to speak, but the energy from a hit would just send it flailing, probably knocking itself into the wok blade first, which would drastically slow down the spin if it didn’t just fall over anyway.

You’d have to call in some sort of Beyblade Mythbusters to really debunk this, I’m just doing off-the-cuff research, but as far as I can tell, this Beyblade shouldn’t be functioning in the least, and the idea that Kenny, of all people, is using this goofy-ass design, and that it was Dizzi’s idea, is insane.

Sometimes lack of animation is too funny depending on the dialogue. “I can’t look!” Tyson says while making absolutely no effort to close or cover his eyes or look away.

“OoOhh! Kai’s attack is going to totally destroy that young man!” Says Mr. Dickenson as he doesn’t move, is smiling and posed in such a way that he might as well be feeding bread to pigeons in the park.

After taking a ridiculous amount of time for Dranzer to reach Jumping Base with its attack, Kai talks some smack and then defeats Kenny with no issue. (Kenny said he needed a lucky bounce to withstand the attack, but what was he hoping for? Jumping over Dranzer? He’d just attack again. This blade is really stupid.)

Golly, who could have predicted this?

Wanting to avenge Kenny….I guess, Tyson runs out into the arena, but he, Mr. Dickenson and Kenny are amazed that Dranzer is continuing to spin with no signs of stopping. According to Kenny, this should be impossible. Right. Right….THAT’S impossible. But your Tigger-esque Beyblade is somehow not.

Tyson is about to take Kai on, but Kenny stops him, telling him he lost fair and square. He merely underestimated Kai, and challenging him now will just get him kicked out. Tyson backs off, Kai throws more smacktalk and walks away.

It’s a little weird that Kenny underestimated Kai. He’s usually the one who errs on the side of caution the most, and he had no confidence in himself when he went out there in the first place.

Next up, group D starts – Tyson’s turn. And who else was to be his main opponents for this qualifier than Carlos and a bunch of other Blade Sharks? Tyson and the sharks manage to make it to the second part of their round, which introduces them to a new BeyStadium, an obstacle dish, which is just a sneak peak at the many, many, many ridiculous BeyStadiums they’ll come out with over time. It’s basically just as it sounds – it’s a dish with obstacles in it.

May I ask, however, why Tyson’s group gets this dish in their second half, but Kai and Kenny’s wok was extremely normal?

AJ: “It’s going to take more than skill to maneuver around those obstacles.” It’s going to take luck, because that’s all the control you’re supposed to have over your Beyblades once they’re launched. You can’t steer them. This will most likely be the last time I bring this up, because I have a feeling we’re now entering ‘Somehow we can control the Beyblades with our minds and commands and no one will question why this is or how this works’ territory.

The Blade Sharks obviously gang up on Tyson, and somehow, even without Bit Beasts, the three Blade Sharks I didn’t care to the learn the names of just so happen to not only be able to control their Beyblades telepathically, I guess, but their Beyblades can also generate electricity when they’re close together. I know I just said I’d refrain from mentioning stuff like this, but they don’t have Bit Beasts to sort of explain this away, so I was a little confused.

Tyson manages to maneuver away from them, and in a twist, Carlos picks off his teammates one by one (Though you only actually see him take out the purple haired one on-screen). Now’s as good a time as any to say that the three other Sharks have terrible voice acting. Nothing else to add there, I just don’t think we see them again after this and I wanted to get that out.

Anyway, Carlos tells the three of them to get lost because he’s flying solo now. It’s just him and Tyson now. They’re entering into a third round, which I find strange. Kai and Kenny were only in a second round, not third, and considering Tyson’s blade was still spinning when Carlos’ crapped out, I’d saying this is Tyson’s win, but whatever.

Tyson: “It’s a game and it has rules – rules you follow!” Yeah…..and in none of those rules does it say you can’t take out your teammates when it’s a free for all brawl with only one victor moving on to the tournament. They’re treating it like this is some terrible thing to do, and it is shitty, but they would’ve had to have fought each other at some point, Carlos just sped up the process.

Carlos: “I’d say you’re just jealous!” Trust me here. Amazing line delivery. All the effort of a sleeping infant.

Also, jealous of what? Again, Tyson would’ve won that match if they didn’t call for a third round here.

Tyson: “Better watch it, Carlos, cuz the rules are out the window!” 45 seconds prior to this you were literally looking down on Carlos, proclaiming that he knew nothing of Beyblade because it has rules that need to be followed. Now you’re saying ‘Ah, well, fuck the rules then!’? Come on, Tyson. Be better than that.

Carlos: “All my life, I’ve wanted to taste victory on my own. Now you’re the appetizer. *licks lips*” Uh, you’ve never won a match on your own? That is extremely incorrect. You alone were known around Tyson’s town as a bully who went around destroying or stealing other blades….on his own. Yeah, you were a member of the Blade Sharks, but they weren’t there helping you gang up on other kids.

Also, really could’ve done without the overly evil and gross lip licking.

They start the match, and Tyson shows he’s not messing around. Dragoon quickly vanishes before everyone’s eyes. Carlos is thrown for a loop, and Tyson uses this opportunity to knock his blade out of the arena…..well…that was underwhelming. The second round lasted much longer and, in my opinion, was better because it had Tyson using the field to his advantage to get away from the Sharks. Here….he somehow made Dragoon vanish and he just, boop, knocked him out of the ring…and broke his blade apart. (Also, Kenny explains that, somehow, Dragoon is now so fast that it’s invisible to the human eye. I would roll my eyes a little harder at that, but, again, that’s just the tip of the goofy ice berg.)

As Carlos collapses on the ground in defeat and mutters due an animation problem, I assume, Tyson is declared the winner and moves on to the tournament.

Tyson’s a good sport, though, and hands Carlos the pieces of his Beyblade.

Tyson: “Wicked battle, man.” Carlos’ blade did nothing. That battle was one-sided and terribly boring. Also, it was really weak as a chance to either redeem Carlos or turn him into this big threat. Maybe this is just a measuring stick match since Carlos thrashed Tyson once before and still gave him a bit of a run for his money on the rematch, so him completely spanking him now is a sign of how much he’s grown, but it’s still disappointing.

Bottomline: Qualifier rounds of shounen gaming anime tend to be mostly entertaining filler. You know the main characters (barring Kenny, because he’s the tech guy not a Beyblader, really) are going to advance, and the enemies this time around are rematches with people Tyson’s already beaten before.

The whole episode was building up to Tyson’s match, but all of the gameplay I saw there was rather boring. Like I said, the group match against all of the Sharks was more entertaining than his battle with Carlos, which was so short and uneventful it was almost a joke.

I was a little bit more preoccupied with Kenny’s match vs. Kai, because, well….that Beyblade, man. That bouncing little kangaroo Beyblade. That is some marvel of physics. And by ‘marvel’ I mean ‘marvelously insane.’ How did Kenny even make it as far as he did with that defy-er of all things logic Beyblade? Did he just bounce in place and managed to not get hit by anyone? Did he somehow manage to bounce above everyone when they tried to hit him? The more I think about it, the more confused I become.

This episode as a whole maxes out at ‘okay’ and I’m being a little generous there.

Last note, but this episode had noticeably worse animation than usual. Like…bad bad. I understand that the budget is typically reserved for bigger episodes and qualifiers basically are filler episodes, but wow. Some of those shots were beautifully bad.

Next Episode….

….Previous Episode


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CSBS – Rocket Power Episode 4: Happy Luau to You-Au/Rescue Rocket

Plot: Happy Luau to You-Au – Reggie’s planning to have an awesome birthday party at Madtown Skate Park, but her plans are ruined when Otto gets all of them temporarily suspended from the park.

Rescue Rocket – Sam and Twister are forced into joining a junior lifeguard program. Despite a rocky start, they eventually find themselves enjoying the experience, much to Otto’s dismay.

Breakdown: Happy Luau to You-Au – Sometimes, Otto can be really full of himself. And other times, he can actually be pretty sweet.

Trying out a new game he came up with for Reggie’s birthday party in which everyone holds hands and skates in a chain, the group gets suspended from Madtown for one week. Despite being clearly a bad idea (maybe a fine idea in a skating rink, but not in a skate pool) Otto had innocent intentions here, and it would’ve been fine, technically, but their people-chain ended up knocking down basically every other person at the park.

They really should have stopped the instant one person went down because of them, since that’s just what most normal people would do, but they didn’t for whatever reason. As a result, they got suspended from the park for one week, which is honestly pretty lenient if you ask me, but it’s made all the worse because Reggie was planning on having her first big birthday party at Madtown. Usually she has ‘lame’ parties at the Shore Shack, but she’s finally breaking free and having her party somewhere more exciting. Since she’s suspended, she can’t have her party there.

Reggie is devastated and very angry, especially at Otto, and for once Otto is genuinely sorry. He doesn’t argue, he doesn’t try to make excuses – he just accepts that he screwed up and feels very remorseful about it.

Reggie, on the other hand, is being a bit of a brat throughout the entire episode. Yeah, it’s understandable that she’s being a brat, but it’s also just slightly annoying.

In his guilt, Otto tells Mrs. Stimpleton about what happened. She takes it upon herself to throw Reggie a huge birthday bash – and if you know Mrs. Stimpleton, you already see why this is a big problem. She has a very kiddie and lame idea of what a teenager’s birthday party should be. She ends up hiring a really awful clown (who is even named Lame-O) and a terrible band that uses accordions.

When Reggie learns about this, she becomes even angrier and vows vengeance on the person who told Mrs. Stimpleton about her party – making Otto feel even worse. As if that weren’t bad enough, Mrs. Stimpleton is going to ridiculous lengths to get the word out on Reggie’s party. She’s put out a full-page ad in the paper and is driving around town with a huge loudspeaker announcing the party.

Otto, Twister, Sam, Raymundo and Tito set out to make things right.

Mrs. Stimpleton goads Reggie into coming to the party, and Reggie is shocked to find that the party is actually really cool. It’s being held at the Stimpleton’s pool, the band is using ‘cooler’ instruments, there’s good cake, the clown is basically being taken as a doofy street performer and everyone’s having a blast.

Reggie gets her awesome birthday party, Otto makes up for his mistake, he and Reggie make up and everything’s great……….This isn’t really a luau, so I dunno what the heck the title’s on about, but everything’s great otherwise.

This was just a really wholesome episode (Well, wholesome barring one scene where they’re clearly making that joke about a character ‘drinking’ their problems away at the bar, but in this case it’s Reggie eating fries and Tito cutting her off. He even asks if she’s driving home. Kinda surprising how many kids’ cartoons make this joke.) that, for once, didn’t center mostly on extreme sports. Otto’s being a sweetheart, and even his big mistake was just that – a mistake. It’s something a kid would totally do without realizing it’s a bad idea. Reggie’s being a little bit of a brat, but, again, it’s understandable, and she never goes too far with it.

I also really like that Otto didn’t slam Mrs. Stimpleton for what she was trying to do. He worked with her to turn her ideas into something Reggie would like instead of hurting her feelings and taking everything over himself. It was also really sweet how everyone came together in the end to help make things right for Reggie.

Overall, this is a really good and sweet story. I fully enjoyed it.

Breakdown: Rescue Rocket – Sometimes, Otto can be really sweet. And other times, he can be a dumbass.

Story B of today’s episode involves Sam and Twister being signed up for a junior lifeguard course by their parents. They’re both bummed about it at first, but Sam quickly takes to it, and even Twister eventually starts making a really solid effort to succeed in the course.

Otto and Reggie, however, are bummed because this course is eating up all of Twister and Sam’s time and energy, so they’re left to skate and play hockey by themselves.

Both Reggie and Otto express disdain towards the class, but Reggie soon starts showing interest and is even impressed by the feats they’re pulling off.

Otto, on the other hand, stays firm in his stance that lifeguards, and especially kids partaking in the junior lifeguard course, are all weenies and losers. He’s being totally in character here, both as a kid and just as Otto, plus I get his purpose in trying to show the audience, who may share his views, how cool and important lifeguards are, but he is being flatout annoying.

You’d think a guy who was practically born on a surfboard and was raised by an avid surfer right next to the ocean would have more respect for lifeguards, but he could not respect them less. Even after hearing Tito’s dramatic explanation (according to him anyway) about how, many years ago, lifeguards started out as wise people who respected the power of the ocean so much that they spread the word to people who worked and played in the waters and kept them safe from harm, Otto’s still not impressed. Reggie, however, is so impressed that she asks if she can join the junior lifeguards near the end.

Left on his own as the class winds down, Otto laments that everyone he knows is giving into the idea that the ‘lame’ lifeguards are interesting and cool.

As he mopes, Tito, who claims he’s collecting some seawater with a bucket on a rope for a secret recipe, suddenly falls from the pier and into the water. He’s tangled in the rope and can’t swim to safety.

Twister and Sam instantly grab their gear and establish a plan to save Tito. They work together to untangle Tito from the rope and tow him to safety.

…..And yeah, he was faking the whole time. It was Twister and Sam’s final test in the course, which is fine and cool and all, but….like….what about everyone else in the class?

Tito was actually a lifeguard back in Hawaii, a fact that makes Otto eat some crow when he realizes how he was accidentally insulting Tito when was slamming lifeguards. Otto has now gained a better appreciation for lifeguards and even compliments Twister and Sam for their skills in saving Tito.

I really liked this episode, too. While Otto was annoying, he was realistically annoying. Most kids think lifeguards are lame, and it’s understandable that Otto, hater of all rule enforcers, would be one of those kids. I just feel like, given how much of his life revolves around the ocean and extreme sports in the water, that he’d have a decent appreciation for lifeguards by now. Has he not ever witnessed anyone being rescued before?

I would say maybe he doesn’t have a grasp or mortality either, but….uh….his mom’s dead…..

Like many other times, this episode also shows the significant difference between Otto and Reggie, and that’s simply in the fact that Reggie is more mature and open-minded than he is (Uuuuuuusuallyyyyyyyy.) They both started out ragging on the junior lifeguards, but Otto did it more, worse, and Reggie warmed up to them much sooner.

This was a great episode for both Sam and Twister. It gave Sam some confidence, which I always love. Once he actually got invested in it, Twister also had some nice moments. It showed that he really can learn and do great things if you manage to keep his attention. Plus, I really like Twister and Sam’s friendship. They make a great team when Twister’s not being a jerk to Sam.

There were several funny moments in this episode, particularly when Sam and Twister were trying to save Lars and Sputz. Twister refuses to save his brother, and Sam actually stands up to Lars when he, predictably, starts mocking him. I loved when Sam said “Please grab the rescue can, MADAM, and I’ll tow you to safety.” Then Twister returned without Sputz because he couldn’t understand what Sputz was saying (He’s basically the Boomhauer of the show – speaking in mostly gibberish only a few select characters can understand.)

I love the overall message of this episode as well. As I mentioned, while connecting with Otto, it helps kids who think lifeguards are lame to gain a greater respect for them. It also encourages kids and teens to take safety courses and become lifeguards. That’s really great, especially for a show that puts so much focus on extreme sports in water. Any kid who wants to partake in these sports due to the influence of this show should take safety courses to ensure they stay as safe as possible and help other people. Admirable job, Rocket Power. You did good.


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CSBS – Rocket Power Episode 2: Secret Spot/Ice Queens

CSBS - Rocket Power Ep 2a

Plot: Secret Spot – Ocean Shores is overrun by tourists, so Otto and Reggie decide to take Twister and Sam to their father’s legendary secret spot – an incredibly secret beach where the waves are always perfect and they have the whole area to themselves.

Ice Queens – Otto, Reggie, Sam and Twister are heading to Winter Fest to participate in a hockey championship. However, their practice keeps getting sidetracked by Reggie and Clio, Twister’s cousin, constantly fighting. Clio looks down on Reggie for liking hockey and not being feminine while Reggie continuously bites back with little respect towards Clio’s girly views and sport of choice – ice dancing.

Breakdown: Secret Spot – Goddamn this episode is boring…and it’s another episode I remember like the script was burned into my brain.

Seriously, this episode….is so boring. Nothing of interest happens. The one running joke throughout the whole run time is one of the characters telling the other where the secret spot is and the information is blocked out by some loud noise so the audience, whom this information would be useless to, can’t hear it, because it’s just that secret.

They act like them going to the secret spot won’t divulge the information either. Like, why does Twister absolutely need to know where the spot is before they go? Why does Lars need to threaten the location out of him if he basically just follows him there?

The only other running gag is a really, really, really drawn out dialogue where a character will ask if they’re talking about THE secret spot and then go on to ask questions that are variants of ‘You mean the secret spot that’s really secret?’

If there’s one thing I can say for this episode it’s that I liked the little moment at the end where Otto and, especially Twister, apologize to Sam for yelling at him for accidentally spilling the beans to Lars about the secret spot (Twister gave him the information the night before, so he already knew anyway) and Sam responds by calling Twister a Squid. The look Twister gives after that and the scene as a whole shows that they’ve really grown as friends, which is saying something because Twister tends to rag on Sam the most.

I guess I also liked the twist where they explain that they never actually told them where the secret spot is – they left out one big detail, so Lars and the others end up thinking a rocky nightmare beach is the spot.

That does not make up for the boring tedium of this episode, though.

Can I ask a question that’s been bugging me for over a decade though? Is ‘shoobie’ a real word in beach-side towns? It feels like it could be, but it also feels like something they made up.

CSBS - Rocket Power Ep 2b

Ice Queens – Hey, if you want a nice taste of ‘dated’ Sam refers to a 12GB hard drive as ‘huge’ in this episode. Fun fun.

If there was one episode I was simultaneously looking forward to and dreading, it was this one. Looking forward to because I really related with this episode when I was a kid and dreading because I was really worried it would be one of those episodes that is actually horrible in hindsight.

I was, and still am I guess, a tomboy, if such a phrase is still used today (Goddamn, this whole episode is making me feel old) I was never really into extreme sports or anything like Reggie is, but being into geeky things, having mostly male friends, dressing more boy-ish, watching shows more directed towards guys and being a little rough earned me the moniker.

I never minded. I was quite content with who I was. It wasn’t like I was inherently averse to girly things, either. I had plenty of Barbies and stuffed animals and such. I even had my own fake kitchen, which I feel awkward admitting because I feel like I’m being sexist…to myself………I also had a toy vacuum, what the shit? Uh, anyway, I liked ‘girly’ things, I just wasn’t as interested in them.

Still, I was mocked for being a ‘tomboy’ by some of the more popular girly girls, and sometimes it was irritating to hear that I couldn’t do this or that or have this or that because they were ‘meant for boys.’

Something I always give my parents credit for, however, is, despite their conservative and religious natures, they never had a problem giving me ‘boy’ things like wrestler toys, Power Ranger merchandise or encouraging me to do ‘boy-ish’ things like watch and play basketball. My mom got a little irritated that I never ‘grew out of it’ when I got a lot older, but she never really made me feel bad about it.

That’s why I related so much to Reggie. She’s an awesome, intelligent, kick-ass girl who can do anything the boys can do, and many times do it better.

Here, her femininity is called into question by a clashing girly-girl, Clio, Twister’s cousin, whose name spelling annoys me. Clio is here for an ice dancing competition, because of course she is. She’s even got the pink tutu and everything. Let it be known that I am not ragging on Clio for being a typical girly-girl – that would make a hypocrite – I am ragging on her a little because she’s acting like being a girly-girl makes her better than Reggie.

I’m 100% certain Reggie would have no issue with this girl if she wasn’t acting like enjoying pink and being preoccupied with fashion made her better than Reggie. Even if they don’t like the same things, Reggie is a very level-headed and kind girl. She’d likely make friends with her anyway if she were actually nice.

This clash of the estrogen culminates in Reggie and Clio making a bet that the other can do their sport just as easily as the other can, which I’m cool with – walk a mile in the other’s shoes and all. I also appreciate that the others don’t make fun of Reggie when she’s ice dancing. They cheer her on and are impressed with her skills. Otto even says that he thinks ice dancing is cool. I liked that.

All that said, the climax of this episode is ridiculously dumb.

1 – Clio has absolutely no experience whatsoever in hockey. How was she skilled enough to make all of those great moves and even score the winning goal? Just because she’s a skilled ice dancer does not make her a skilled hockey player.

I thought I could justify this by saying she’s been hearing the others go over plays the entire ride over and she’s seen them practice, but that’s nowhere near enough to warrant that kind of jump in skill.

2 – Reggie has absolutely no experience whatsoever in ice dancing. How was she skilled enough to (nearly) win an ice dancing competition? (I say ‘nearly’ because she was DQ’d for standing in for Clio.)

Where did she learn how to do all those moves? How did she know Clio’s routine so quickly? Yes, she’s a skilled ice skater, being a hockey player, but, like with Clio, that does not make you an ice dancer.

3 – How were Otto and the others not also disqualified? Clio took Reggie’s place in the match without telling anyone. Isn’t that also cheating?

While we’re on the subject, while Clio may have agreed to risking her championship for a dumb rivalry, why would Reggie do the same? She could’ve nearly gotten her team DQ’d and wasted all of their hard work for, again, a petty rivalry.

4 – How does this fix their problem at all if both of them were insanely good at the other’s sport with barely an ounce of trying? The argument was –

Clio – “Hockey’s easy! Anyone could do it!”

Reggie – “Ice dancing’s insanely easy!”

If they both won championship level competitions with, maybe, a few hours of practice, that kinda just proves to themselves that they were right about their positions. It would’ve been better to have them in situations where there was nothing official on the line and had them try their hands at the other’s sport there. Then have them both fail miserably and gain a better respect for the other’s sport.

Maybe have them be super determined to learn more about the sport so they can show the other up then develop a real interest in it through the research and practice.

5 – I don’t quite understand how Otto and the others are even in some hockey championship. First of all, they don’t even have enough players for a true hockey match. They have four players, counting their goalie, and the usual minimum is six on each side.

Do they even have an official team in the first place that somehow lead to them being here? They only play against one team during the entirety of Winter Fest and win trophies because of it.

Finally, why does it seem like the opposing team is made up of 16 year olds? Otto and the others are about 10-12. Are there not age brackets? This hardly seems fair.

All in all, I like this episode, but it kinda feels like the ending screws everything up. It’s nice that Clio and Reggie have found some mutual respect for the other, including their chosen sports, but I just think they did it in a way that both didn’t make sense and was extremely contrived.

This episode did spawn one of my favorite, seldom used, insults, though.

Otto: “Hey! Why don’t you pick on somebody with your own steroid dosage!?”

Ratings:

Secret Spot – 1/10

Ice Queens – 6.5/10

Next Episode….

…Previous Episode

SSBS – Beyblade Episode 1: The Blade Raider

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.

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)

Victor! – Tyson

Breakdown: 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 spinning tops 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.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 Bey-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 owners….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 Bey-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 Bey-battle against Andrew, noted for supposedly being the best Beyblader in town and having a skull design that baffles medical 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 Bey-battle 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 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.)

Tyson, Andrew and the other kids watch a recording of Andrew and Carlos’ Bey-battle in which Dizzi explains that Carlos’ Beyblade is made to be heavy, thus making it very stable and allowing it to spin longer, which doesn’t make much sense.

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. 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 a 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 from his training. The match begins, and Tyson gets a running start to launch his Beyblade. 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 that allows him to pull the winder 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 spinning 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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Thism 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 Yu-Gi-Oh, 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, Medabots, 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 Bey-battle 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 terribly creative. The cliffhanger was 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 Bey-battles are relatively short instead of going on for ages like how some games do in these shows. However, that won’t last forever. Bey-battles will get pretty long and crazy in the future.

Rating: 7/10

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

Episode One-Derland – One Outs

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Plot: Kojima is an all-star professional cleanup batter who has won many awards for his achievements in baseball. However, one achievement still alludes him – a championship victory.

In an effort to make this year the year that they finally win a championship, Kojima has brought his team to an off-season baseball camp in order to pinpoint their problem areas and address them. When his pitcher, Nakane, injures his finger in practice, he and another member of the team go out to find a replacement pitcher to help Kojima and the team practice.

They find no luck on the streets, but a woman leads them away to a batting cage where a bunch of guys are playing a game called One Outs. In this game, bystanders bet on either the pitcher or the batter. The pitcher wins if he manages to strike out the batter or if their hits land within the infield. The batter wins if they manage to hit one ball in the outfield or further.

Nakane makes a few minor bets for a few rounds, resulting in what he believes to be 4000 yen, slightly less than $40 USD. However, he fails to realize that the bets are in American dollars, meaning that he owes $4000.

Believing that he can beat the pitcher, Toua, that has been up for the entirety of their betting string, Nakane bets that his debts be erased if he can beat him. However, Toua wishes to up the stakes of their bet from $4000 to $40,000. Nakane accepts, but under the pressure of such a high financial stake and realizing that there’s more to Toua’s skills that meets the eye, fails. They give them everything they have in their pockets, including credit cards, and are forced to leave with the remaining debt over their heads.

The next night, Kojima arrives at the One Outs game to call Toua out in order to erase the remaining debt. However, Toua again wishes to make the bet more interesting since Kojima’s such a professional player. This time the bet is $400,000. Kojima accepts and the game begins.

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I hate baseball. And this isn’t just the typical moanings of someone who doesn’t like sports entirely. I really like hockey, and I’m pretty okay with watching football, soccer and even basketball, but baseball is just horrible to me. There are no redeeming aspects of it in my eyes. It’s boring on top of boring slathered in boring and goes on for so long you have to think some of the players believe they’re stuck in baseball purgatory. You could not pay me to sit through a game of baseball unless I’m allowed to sleep through the whole thing.

With that out of the way, the baseball aspect of this first episode really is the most trying for me. Especially considering that I didn’t get half of the terms. Luckily, fansubbers are awesome and add notes for that crap. ~~kisses2fansubbers~~

Other than that, though, it’s an interesting enough sports anime. Our main character is incredibly passionate about baseball to the point where he even states that it’s sacred to him. You can definitely tell that even those who don’t outwardly appear as passionate about the game as Kojima are still immersed in it fully……I can’t relate, but I still understand.

It’s so weird how I can relate to and understand a show where the main focus is a game based on poetry that I’ve never heard of or played better than one based on America’s past time…

Toua is interesting. He’s a bit too good to the point that it worries me. By all means, the characters point out how weak his pitches are, yet no one can get a damn hit off of him. Plus, he’s one of those quiet yet obviously cocky types that irk you the wrong way.

Nakane’s a moron. He means well in trying to find a replacement pitcher, but putting all those bets down on the batter because ‘he has to win eventually’ and not clarifying if the bets were in Yen or dollars when a lot of the players at the game are seemingly American? Come on.

Also, he’s not really dumb for taking on Toua despite seeing him win all those times since he states that he was a cleanup batter on his high school team, but he’s still a pitcher, meaning his batting game has to be rusty, and he’s seen how good Toua is.

One thing that bothered me a bit was the narrator. He’s one of those busybody narrators who cuts into the story to tell us stuff like backstory, primary goals of the plot, what’s going on in a montage, recapping stuff we just saw etc. Guys, it’s show don’t tell. Even if it’s not one of the characters doing this, it’s really annoying. He pops up all the time and won’t shut up. It really breaks up the flow of the episode.

The story is not all that great so far. Big time star is training to win a championship and needs a replacement player with an incredible one found just around the corner mixed with a plot where characters are swindled out of money and need the main character to clean up their mess (well, I guess he is the cleanup batter.) The only seriously interesting part is wondering whether Kojima can beat Toua, but since the episode ends before the game even starts, the rug gets pulled out from under you there.

The art and animation, done by Madhouse, are….okay. Most of the character art is good, if not somewhat ugly. Toua’s hair is cool, but his eyes are freaky and his body is almost grotesquely detailed and skinny. That part in the OP where you see him nearly naked is more worrying than attractive. Why he’s nearly naked in the opening, I do not know. I’m almost certain you usually wear clothes in baseball.

The animation is alright, but I don’t believe it’s some of Madhouse’s better works.

The music is fantastic, with particular notes to the awesome OP done by Pay Money to my Pain.

Final Verdict:

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This was nearly an ‘undecided’ but I think the characters could be strong enough to support this show even in spite of the baseball snoozefest. Despite not liking baseball, I do have a soft spot for sports anime.

Episode One-Derland (Cartoons): NASCAR Racers

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Plot: In the near future (?) NASCAR racing has evolved substantially. Instead of oval tracks, there are huge complex and winding tracks that even go on walls and include loops. Likewise, the cars have been improved by including gadgets, a much higher rate of speed and even flying capabilities. Team Fastex is testing out their new recruits; Mark “Charger” McCutchen, a skilled racer hailing from several generations of NASCAR drivers, Steve “Flyer” Sharp, a fighter pilot, Carlos “Stunts” Rey, a ladies man and constant show-off, and Lyle “The Collector” Owens, a shady driver who is known for purposely crashing out opponents and taking pieces of their cars as trophies.

After purposely causing a crash in the simulation, Owens finds himself fired from Team Fastex and it’s revealed that he was secretly working for a rival team, Rexcor, the whole time to steal secrets from Fastex.

Breakdown: My relationship with NASCAR is alright. My dad is fan and I used to follow it with him, one of my first memories of the fandom being, sadly, the crash that ended Dale Earnhardt’s life. It’s okay, but I just find it a little dull. Plus I’m not one for sports much anyway (oy the girl stereotype; I am shamed). I’ll watch hockey on occasion, maybe football and I used to play soccer, but I don’t really follow any sport.

I honestly think this series is aimed at hooking in younger viewers to NASCAR by futurizing it up as much as possible. I mean, the twisty-turny, loop-de-loopy track is fun, but I can’t imagine some of these car mods aren’t cheating. Like, a flying car? Jumping off the top of the bundle of loops and using a parachute to fall way ahead on the track? A hook that shoots to puncture other drivers’ tires? NASCAR just gets more and more restrictive with their rules; I can’t imagine a world where they’d be cool with this.

But, hey, it’s just a cartoon and it’s obviously sci-fi, so I can’t be too harsh. If the aim was to hook in younger fans with this stuff, though, I can imagine many kids were disappointed to see cars with no gadgets racing in an oval.

I will say that the cars and tracks being CGI does not work in its favor because it makes it look like the cars are going slow, and that’s definitely not something you’d want in a racing show.

The characters are completely forgettable with all of them mostly amounting to cocky fun-loving gear heads so far. Stunts is a ladies man, and Flyer seems to have some form of PTSD from some accident, straining his relationship with his girlfriend.

Another character, Megan, who is totally not this mystery driver who had great lap times that her father wants to hire, nosiree, is a smart and tough girl who is obviously going to be the love interest for main character guy, Charger.

Lyle’s a boring antagonist who, realistically, should’ve been banned from racing if he’s notorious for causing crashes.

Rexton, owner of Team Rexcor (get it? Fastex is for fast and Rexcor=wrecks? It’s about as clever as any other name in this series like ‘Miles’ ‘Stunts’ and ‘Flyer’.) is also a typical boss antagonist. All he’s missing is an evil laugh.

The story of the episode is really nothing. They race in the simulator, Lyle causes a simulated crash, he gets fired (and I have to wonder why he hired him in the first place if he knows his reputation), the team races motorcycles, Flyer crashes and makes his girlfriend mad, but he’s fine, they race for real (with cars that have numbers in the hundreds instead of 0-99 because whoo it’s the future.) against the mystery driver who is totally not Megan and we end on a cliffhanger after Marks’ little cousin or whatever causes a crash because he stupidly walked onto the track mere seconds after getting out of audio range of the cars, believing them to be gone because not like there are miles and miles of track in this version.

The cliffhanger is Flyer zooming towards a wrecked Charger and Miles. Ooh I wonder if he’ll hit them and they’ll die. Or maybe he’ll activate the flying mode and go over them instead. I haven’t watched the second episode, but I’ll put money on that.

All in all, it’s kinda neat-ish, a little, but it’s far from anything new and outside of mentioning NASCAR, this series has nothing NASCAR-ish in it.

The animation is passable at best, sad at worst. It’s definitely dated, and the traditional 2D animation does not mesh well with the CGI.

The music is also bland and uninspired, which is a bigger problem than usual because you’d think they’d use the music to help pump you up for the racing and stuff. You can barely even hear it half the time, too. Even the actual theme song at the start.

The voice acting is just okay. There’s not much to emote about except with Flyer and he does okay.

Final verdict:

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It just doesn’t give me any reason to keep watching. It’s borderline boring it’s so cliché and uncreative, and they don’t do a good job making the racing exciting at all.

Recommended Audience: E for everyone!

SSBS- Medabots Episode 1: Stung by a Metabee

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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 a Medabot 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 Medabot, 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 variable hair.

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 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.’ Submission robattles also involve handing over one of the losing medabot’s parts to the victor, so yay we also have pseudo-gambling.

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.

This battle 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, and the title doesn’t really help….

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.

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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.

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.

Rating: 5/10

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.

Episode One-Derland: Chihayafuru

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Plot: Chihaya is the younger sister of a famous and gorgeous model, and while she has become a beautiful young woman in her own right, she is known as a wasted beauty in school since she is tomboyish, naive, blunt and obsessed with Karuta, a card game based on poetry.

She has loved the game for years and tries desperately to get people to play with her like she and her friends Taichi and Ayata used to when they were kids. However, not many people play, Taichi seems uninterested and Ayata no longer goes to the same school or communicates with Chihaya often. Despite all of this, she is still determined to keep the game not just alive but thriving.

Breakdown: Wow, this was probably the best entry in Episode One-Derland so far. This anime not only does a fantastic job of establishing the main plot as well as the characters, but it also explores why Chihaya is so ecstatic about the game and why it means so much to her.

In just this one episode, we connect strongly with all three characters, even the abrasive Taichi who, while seeming like a jerk in the flashback, acts very much like a believable guy with a crush on his good friend.

But the real highlight of the episode is the game between Ayata and Chihaya. Ayata is an outcast at school due to his odd manner of speech, quiet nature and the fact that he’s fairly poor. Chihaya, being the kindhearted individual that she is, wonders why everyone seems to be making an effort to be mean to him when he’s done nothing wrong. That and the fact that he has a job and an incredible memory intrigue Chihaya to him, leading him to inviting her to his house after they both get soaked in the rain thanks to Taichi.

He reveals that he loves the game of Karuta, but not many people play the game in Tokyo unlike his hometown. His dream is to be the best Karuta player in the world.

He mostly plays by himself with a tape player helping recite the verses necessary to play. He has trained to be a fantastic player, swiping away cards so swiftly that they end up getting embedded in the wall several times.

Chihaya is not familiar with the game and has only memorized half of the poems that the game focuses on, making her fall far behind very quickly until she realizes that she has a chance to get at least one card that she knows fairly well, which she achieves in doing.

While the game was horribly one-sided, Chihaya and Ayata both have a great time with the game, and Ayata commends her for being able to take even one card away from him. Chihaya ends up more excited than ever since she has been able to crack Ayata’s shell and catch a glimpse of his passion, allowing her to finally make a dream that is for herself.

One of the best things about this episode is that it really does capture passion for a particular activity perfectly. This showcases two sides of that coin – someone who is incredibly good at the activity and someone who is new and not that good.

Ayata has a great love of the game simply because it means a lot to him and because he has such a good time playing it, even by himself. While he does compete in it and is incredibly good, it really seems like his passion flows purely from the game itself and not simply striving to be the best.

With Chihaya, she has never played the game before and has only memorized half of the poems for the game. Note that the game involves swiping away cards with parts of a poem verse when the start of the same poem is recited by the reader, or in this case a tape. In order to be really good at the game, you need to fully memorize all 100 poems. Despite this, she is amazed by Ayata’s moves and gets psyched when she is simply able to take one card from him, despite the complete loss either way. True enjoyment, even in the face of utter defeat, is also a root of passion.

Finally, making a strong connection with someone because of a passion makes the activity more enjoyable and creates bonds that much stronger. I can see why current day Chihaya is so bummed that her efforts to revive Karuta completely fail, even when Taichi shows up at her school. She still holds onto that great passion for the game, but feels alone in her passion, much like Ayata used to when they were kids.

I really like both Chihaya and Ayata as characters. They hooked me in with one of the best character and friendship/relationship budding scenes I’ve seen in ages. While Taichi might take a while to warm up to, he was also relatable and tugged at the heartstrings a little bit since it’s obvious that he never got over his crush of Chihaya, yet can’t bring himself to admit it to Chihaya, especially since she still seems somewhat hung up on Ayata. I don’t know how current day Ayata is personality-wise, but right now I’m really pushing for Chihaya and Ayata to get together.

The art and animation are simply beautiful with well-detailed and memorable character designs as well as beautifully designed environments. The music is just alright, which might be the only weak spot in this show so far.

Final Verdict:

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I’ve heard great things about this show and I can’t wait to continue it. It’s not your typical ‘gaming’ anime, if it even qualifies for such a thing, but it’s definitely worth a watch.

 

Nine Puzzle (Manga) Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: Mika Sawamura is a very cheerful, nice and friendly teenage girl who is popular in school and liked by nearly everyone that she meets. Kaede Mirakami is almost her polar opposite. He doesn’t seem to have any friends, always wears a cold look on his face and never really talks to anyone.

One day, Mika sees Kaede playing billiards in a local shop, and more surprisingly she sees a big bright smile on his face as he plays. Curious, she enters the shop to see why this place seems to cause such a drastic change in Kaede and ends up giving the game a shot herself. She adores it and instantly becomes a regular at the shop, much to Kaede’s dismay. The two take each other on as competitors and eventually friends, but their love of billiards may end up causing them just as much trouble as it does enjoyment.

Breakdown: This manga is a bit of an oddity because I don’t think I’ve ever seen billiards be the main focus or even a slight bit of focus in a manga or anime before. They’ll sometimes include the game in more adult anime and manga, especially those with a more noir vibe, but it’s just not a common set piece in many features. To have it be spotlighted in a show starring 14 year olds is also pretty unique.

This isn’t really much of a sport/gaming manga. While it does focus a good deal on billiards, they don’t explain much about the game nor are there the typical tropes of gaming/sports manga like tournaments, training, working through a particular problem you have in the game etc. There is a game against a bunch of assholes to show them up and make them leave the shop, but that’s really it.

It’s mostly just about enjoying the game, and I actually find that quite refreshing. Even if Mika sees Kaede as her rival, they’re very much friendly rivals. In fact, by the second volume, they’re pretty good friends. I would actually border into best friend territory a bit.

Mika isn’t that good at billiards, but she does have some specific talents suited for the game such as being able to shoot in very straight lines. Because of this, she’s definitely not Kaede’s equal competitor in the game or anything close to it. She sees him as a challenge in always getting better, much like Kaede sees Yoh, the store owner, as his challenge in always improving.

Mika and Kaede’s dynamic seriously reminded me a lot of Sana and Akito from Kodocha. Their characters do match very well. Sana is a very popular, likeable, optimistic girl who always tries to see good in everyone, like Mika, and Akito, like Kaede, is the rough cold loner who always gets into trouble, but has one thing that he loves and practices all the time (with Akito it’s karate). And over time the female lead slowly gets him to open up and they eventually become good friends and then love interests.

Another parallel is the fact that Kaede has a fairly rough home life. Not as bad as Akito’s, but still. He is mostly ignored at home since his parents focus all of their energies on working or his younger brother, who is much more skilled in academics than Kaede is. His little brother also doesn’t give a crap about him and frequently belittles him as well as anyone who befriends him.

While being an obviously shoujo-style manga focusing on a fairly close duo, they don’t really put any focus on any sort of romantic angle outside of little shots here and there until the very end. This is also something that I very much appreciated because I liked seeing their relationship develop as a friendship without feeling the need to rush into romance.

The story overall isn’t anything epic, so don’t go in expecting it to be. It’s somewhat short at two volumes, and nothing really huge or dramatic happens. Dramatic events do happen here and there, but it never tries to border into soap opera territory. It’s definitely not all seriousness, either.

There are plenty of comedic moments and fun cartoony panels to lighten even already light moods. The dramatic events that happen seem very real, barring maybe one instance involving an assault which I just found to be a little too much, and they add to the story very well, highlighting not only how important billiards is to Mika and Kaede but also how much the shop itself means to them.

Speaking of the shop, another character that should get some spotlight is the owner of the shop, a man named Youhei “Yoh” Ueda. Yoh is incredibly good at billiards and taught the very skilled Kaede everything that he knows. Kaede admires Yoh very much and they have a really great brother-like relationship that jumps off the page. Yoh is a very nice guy who always welcomes Mika and Kaede into his store and helps them out with practice whenever he can.

The art fantastic. I love Mayu Sakai’s ability to draw clothing and hair. Her anatomy skills are also really great, but the faces bother me a bit. I know shoujo style really calls for even bigger eyes than usual, and I’m fine with that, my problem is the faces when drawn from even a slight angle. It looks like the chin just gets shoved towards the character’s throat while forming a weird triangle shape. The eye shapes at angles also don’t look right sometimes.

Bottomline: This a great and quick read for anyone who appreciates a good friendship/kinda romance story, or for anyone who has a hobby that they really love. You definitely don’t have to be a billiards fan to get into this manga. There’s not a lot of technical jargon to wade through, and even the simplest aspects of the game are explained clearly.

BONUS: Nine Puzzle includes two side stories (Three technically, but the third is canon with the rest of the manga and basically falls under the main review); one called Platinium, another called Strawberry Tears. Both of which don’t include anything about Mika, Kaede, billiards or anything in the main manga.

The first story is about a girl named Kasuga who is a bit quirky and tends to make stuff like jewelry out of everyday objects. She befriends a boy named Miyanaga, a handsome guy and model student that many girls have a crush on. However, they don’t tend to approach him because he wears a ring on his hand that people believe is from his girlfriend. Kasuga starts to fall for Miyanaga, but is conflicted by the fact that he supposedly has a girlfriend. When she learns the true and tragic meaning behind the ring, it changes everything for the both of them, leaving them with an important decision to make.

I liked this story. I would’ve liked a little more on the story behind the ring. They mostly just gave the bare bones of the story to let us get the gist and then teetered off. However, it’s a nice story about healing and moving on from a tragic event and learning to live life fully again. Seems a bit abrupt at the end, but nothing too bad.

The second story is about a girl named Yuu who basically treats guys like toys. All she does is get boys to take her on dates, bats her eyelashes and acts all sweet to get them to buy her stuff that she wants. She’s a gold digger, basically. She’s so cold in her ‘relationships’ that the first time we see her, she’s scamming some poor guy out of 8000 yen, roughly $60, for a choker only to completely blow him off minutes later. She also finds dating itself to be purely for stuff or, in a guys’ perspective, to show off their pretty girlfriends.

She meets up with Houjou, the class representative, as he’s shopping in the same mall as her. He’s looking for a nice birthday present for a girl who is very precious to him, but not yet his girlfriend. He picks out hairclips with little strawberries on them, but Yuu scoffs at the gift saying it’s lame and childish.

Houjou, not knowing what girls like to get, starts crying at her criticism of his gift idea and in an effort to keep him from embarrassing her, she offers to find out what his crush would like better and shops with him for a gift.

Understanding Houjou’s genuine love for his crush opens up new windows for Yuu’s perspective on love and dating.

I’m not a huge fan of this story, to be honest. Yuu really comes off like a bitch in many parts, especially in the intro, and they really don’t put any shame on the fact that she’s playing with these poor boys. You could make the argument that it’s their own faults for falling for her feminine wiles and thinking with their human horn, but that doesn’t seem right to me. Is this a ‘don’t hate the player, hate the game’ kind of thing? Because that always seemed dumb to me too.

There are two instances where her actions are brought into a negative light; when she claims Houjou’s crush isn’t as pretty as she expected, thus hairclips would’ve been fine as it’s a lame gift for a lame person. She continues on to say that she’s not really the type of girl that you could really show off in public. Houjou gets angered at this and says that he’s not trying to date her so he can show her off, which rattles Yuu’s views on his intentions which clash with those of the guys she normally dates. Though, to be honest, we never really got a good lock on Yuu’s ‘typical guy’ view. Guys and girls alike think with their hormones a lot, yes, but we never see her in a situation where that’s the only thing on their minds. Even the guy in the beginning, despite falling for her cutesy flaunts, never had a moment where it seems like he’s just in it for the hot chickness.

The second is when she explains what she usually does with her dates and Houjou says she’s worth more than that, making it seem like the situation is really just that she doesn’t have the self-esteem to get into a real emotional relationship and instead uses boys as playthings to get expensive stuff. I guess that’s fine, but really is no one just going to flat out tell this girl that it’s wrong to manipulate others for your own gain?

The ending is alright, though I would have preferred it to just have Yuu’s experience with Houjou teach her to pursue more meaningful relationships while Houjou ends up with his crush. But I suppose the real ending is just as realistic and a little sweet. It does definitely show character development for Yuu and Houjou, but the whole story doesn’t really sit right with me.

Additional Information and Notes:

Nine Puzzle is written and drawn by Mayu Sakai. It was published by Ribon Magazine.

Volumes: 2

Chapters: 11

Year: 2002

Recommended Audience: Some mild violence, a little tragic story in the Nine Puzzle canon side story, but overall nothing that bad. 7+