Thursday, March 23, 2006

Back to my Bitter, Bitter Roots

Well, I'm fairly certain that this marks the longest delay between posts since this blog's inception, but I wanted to leave the post regarding my move to SP 2.0 up for a while longer than usual, in order to give everyone a chance to read it before pushing it down. I'd hate to think that someone might visit, read only the most recent post, and then remain blissfully unaware of my newly expanded personal space in the rant-o-sphere (although I'm hoping that my not-quite-subtle sidebar redesign might alert a few of those potential people), thinking instead that I'd simply started posting less. Also, I couldn't think of anything to write about that wasn't about video games, which, as I stated below, is what I hope to use as a guide for division of content between this and SP. And a time-consuming 2000+ word essay on Secret of Mana over on SP last week didn't leave me particularly inclined to spend yet more time writing. I suspect that posting every other week might become the norm here from now on. If anyone's feeling at all slighted by my recent move, please let me know, as I can't help but feel that I've betrayed some kind of blogger/reader trust by abandoning this blog to some degree after what I feel was a moderately successful 8-month start. But hopefully that's just my usual unjustified social guilt/paranoia complex. Anyone who can't get enough of me should be able to find more Jordan than they could ever want over at SP 2.0, if the first couple of weeks of activity are any indication.

Anyway, on to new content. I was struck by inspiration earlier today when I recalled a Conan O'Brian sketch that I quite enjoy that he may or may not still be doing (I rarely find time to watch Conan these days): Pierre Bernard's Recliner of Rage. Essentially, this small nerdy angry fellow sits on a chair and rants at length about trivial shit that most people could care less about, like Robotech DVDs or Stargate: SG-1 plot holes. I quite enjoy that sketch, and I've been told that I'm generally at my funniest when I'm writing some kind of rant about something trivial that fills me with rage, so I though it would be a good model for a brainstorming session. Within minutes, I recalled a conversation I'd had with Stefan and Aiden recently in my car. I was ranting and raving like a lunatic, and they seemed vaguely amused, so it occurred to me that it would probably make a great post topic. So, in an attempt to recapture the spirit of the name I chose for my URL (as opposed to the name I chose for the blog itself), I bring you: Why I Fucking Hate Beyblade. Enjoy.

What is Beyblade, you ask? If you just asked that, give yourself ten points: you're a better person for not already knowing. Beyblade is a children's cartoon that's about five or so years old now, I think. It was one of the many Japanese cartoons that were re-dubbed in English and played on domestic television stations in an attempt to market a line of cheap toys to children by heavily integrating those toys into the plot (See: Pokemon, Yu-gi-oh, Duel Masters, The Mattel Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour, The Merch, etc). But what makes Beyblade special is just how stupid those toys are. By design, one can't talk about either the toy or the cartoon without talking about the other, so I'll have to talk about both in order to properly convey just how awful this show is. Or was, I guess-- I don't know if it's still on, and I don't want the government to have a record of me Googling "Beyblade". That sort of shit might make me unemployable for life. It certainly would if I were the one doing the hiring.

So, anyway, yeah, Beyblades. Beyblades are tops. That's it. You know, like that stupid Mega Man boss. No, not Crash Man-- the other one. No, not Clash man either-- don't make me come over there (also, if you get that joke, give yourself twenty points). That's right-- tops. The same old wooden toy that your grandpa used to play with (only he didn't have to steal and pawn mommy's jewelry to get one). The show tries to make kids invest a lot more value in them beyond that, but kids are dumb-- they're tops. But these tops aren't your grandfather's tops-- these are EXTREME. What "extreme" means in this context is that they're ludicrously expensive, they're covered with gaudy paint, and they can be wound up with a serrated cord that you pull through their centre and then dropped into a mini arena to do battle with other Beyblades. Also, they're named after a knife, despite obviously being a top-- how cool is that? However, all of the top, the cord, and the arena are made of cheap plastic, and a "battle" consists of watching the tops bump into each other once or twice, at which point one stops spinning. Your grand-daddy's cord-free solid wood top could kick these pussy tops' asses.

At this point, you may be asking yourself: why in hell would anyone with half a brain waste good money on this shit? Well, they wouldn't. Unfortunately, kids have less than half a brain, and this cartoon makes them dumber for every moment that they watch it (it's the children's cartoon equivalent of watching Entertainment Tonight). See, in the cartoon, these aren't just tops-- they're MAGIC tops. Each top is imbued with an ancient animal spirit that gives it magical powers, and these spirits are identified by stylized representations of the animal, printed on the top's core. And, wouldn't you know it, the "real" tops have these useless pictures printed on them as well. Does the fact that my animal is printed off-centre mean that it's super-powerful? No? Shit. Not that it really matters. You see, these "powers" aren't of the Marvel or DC variety that we've been conditioned to expect over the years-- no, Beyblade's magical spirits are able to accomplish such amazing feats as, um, spinning fast, and, um, spinning very fast? Oh, and who could forget being difficult to prevent them from spinning. I guess they forgot to include the magical power to stop sucking ass. Still, you have to give the show points for keeping the power set realistic. Oh, wait, no you don't-- fuck you, Beyblade. Minus 100 points for being the worst goddamn show ever to be on television (and that's saying a lot given that this is the medium that continues to bring us "Joey").

What blows the mind is that, despite how lame these powers are, whenever they're activated in the show we're treated to spectacular power struggles between giant colourful manifestations of these animal spirits. I guess the show's creators realized that none of these amazing powers can change the fact that it's just lame-ass tops bouncing into each other over and over, so they hoped that all of the pretty pictures would distract the kids. I really wish they hadn't been right. And, to be honest, I still don't hate the show all that much for what I've described up until this point. It's not a very good show, but it's no worse than all of the other similar shows-- until you consider the characters. Now, again, these characters are, on the surface, no worse than those of other shows. They happen to be a walking book of clich├ęs, with the loud, inexperienced, and earnest main character, his nerdy friend, and his angry enemy turned friend turned enemy, but, again, that's pretty much par for the course. But what really drives me over the edge and turns me into a raving lunatic is how they view these Beyblades. You have to watch to really understand what's so maddening, but I'll do my best to explain it.

You see, all trappings aside, these are still just tops, and all of the characters in the show, from the major to the minor, give every indication that they are entirely aware of that. However, despite that fact, they all treat every battle as if the fate of the very world itself were at stake, and, in the most grievous offense of all, they refuse to admit that they lose control of these tops once they let go of them. And they do it with such utter conviction that it makes me want to stab someone in the eye. The series starts off innocently enough, with the meat of the strategy revolving around Beyblade construction (they can be geared towards offense or defense, apparently, although since they're just goddamn tops one would think that the two would be the same) and launching techniques. One early match has the spectacularly stupid but instantly rewarded idea of a running start, wherein the main character runs up to the arena (read: plastic bowl) and then pulls the cord and drops his top in (I take solace in the fact that a lot of children probably hurt themselves and broke their Beyblades in an attempt to emulate this running start). However, these early strategies quickly fall by the wayside, and all but the first few battles of the series turn into epic multi-episode drawn out exchanges of blows with different maneuverings and attack techniques.

The problem, of course, is that you can't control these fucking things after you let go of them, so all of the moves and attacks are just random movements of a pair of tops-- but you wouldn't know it to watch the characters. While these tops are spinning around, the participants are screaming with exertion, waving their arms around, having inner monologues as to their continuing strategy, and having ideological debates with each other. And every time those damn tops bump into each other, they compliment each other on their superb strategy or explain what they just did. I'll tell you what they did-- NOTHING, because they let go of the tops at the start of the match and lost all control form that point forward. So pretty much every episode of Beyblade I ever watched began with me repeating "they're just tops" quietly over and over, my anger slowly building with each unreasonable implication of control, and the speed and volume of my claims steadily increasing, until by the final climactic battle of each episode I was screaming at the TV like a madman, shouting "They're FUCKING tops! They're fucking TOPS. YOU DON'T HAVE ANY CONTROL OVER THEM, YOU BASTARDS! THEY'RE FUCKING TOPS! TOPS!!!!! AAAAAAAARGH!" And so forth, until I was reduced to an angry twitching puddle on the floor. Fuck I hate Beyblade.

I guess all of that raises the big question: why in hell did I watch it? Well, I didn't just watch it-- I watched all kinds of these shows. Entire seasons of them. I guess a lot of it has to do with that instinctive human inclination to look at the train wreck. Not to mention my own fascination with evil clever money-making schemes, like credit-card scams or the church of Scientology. Also, it was first year, aka High School 2.0, so I had a lot of free time. All of that is to say: I was a childish masochist with too much time on his hands who was bizarrely fascinated by an evil cartoon marketing clusterfuck. And right at the centre of the clusterfuck, representing, all at once, the best and the worst, was Beyblade.


Anonymous NOS said...

I find it amusing that you expressed fear at having a government record of you *searching* for this show, but no qualms whatsoever about ranting on at length *about* the show, discussing details that suggest you are very familiar *with* the show *and* the toys, on a blog easily retrievable by Googling your name, something employers likely do all the time now.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 2:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Im not Aiden said...

Shhh they are listening now. Run while you can!

Thursday, March 23, 2006 11:12:00 PM  
Blogger Stefan Robak said...

It's even more depressing when you think of all the people who put a lot of time and energy into creating multiple seasons of this show.

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I find it amusing
Yeah, but at least this isn't embedded right in a URL that would show up in a log as would happen if I Googled it here at work.

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:22:00 PM  
Anonymous vern said...

This entire show is definitely supposed to be someone's analogy of life.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 4:20:00 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

I foolishly rant about a cartoon at length, and yet Vern somehow manages a remarkably insightful reply. Well done.

Monday, March 27, 2006 12:07:00 PM  
Anonymous Vern said...

It wasn't foolish ranting, just ranting. And if you hadn't ranted in the way you had, the life analogy probably would've never have occurred to me. And definitely was definitely a poor word choice on my part; I know nothing about the intent of the making of the cartoon.

Monday, March 27, 2006 10:38:00 PM  
Blogger Winter said...

But I thought it was foolish..

Thursday, March 30, 2006 1:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Beyblades are pretty and they have nice colors and stickers. Maybe you didn't get all the stickers with the ones you bought.

They are fun to use with Warhammer. You should try it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006 10:25:00 AM  

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