• Sun. Apr 14th, 2024

Japan Subculture Research Center

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Beyblades: A toy, or much more?

By Henry Rogers

Two children sit in a dark basement with stern looks on their faces. Between them sits an arena, a place where only one victor will be decided. Three, two, one, and boom, they’re off. The clash of metal and screams of encouragement fill the air. As the dust settles there is only one left standing.

What is this? What are these children doing? They are playing Beyblade: an international phenomenon that has been bringing children joy since the late 90’s.

Beyblade is made by the Japanese toy conglomerate Takara TOMY, which you might know for its plethora of toys ranging from Beyblade to the Game of Life. TOMY has just announced a new generation of Beyblade which they plan on using to revolutionize the “gear sports” industry.

Gear sports are defined by TOMY as “a competition that requires players to improve their skills, such as practicing shooting and acquiring knowledge of customizations and reconfigurations using gear with meticulous setup possibilities.” While the idea of Beyblade becoming a sport may seem ridiculous to some, it is not to those who attended the Paris World Championship in 2018. 

Poster for the Paris world Championship Tournament in 2018

Beyblades are spinning tops made of plastic and metal designed for children ages six and up. The goal of the game is to be the last top still standing. The players simultaneously launch their Beyblades into an arena (often sold separately) and gain points if they knock out, knock down, or even explode the other top. As TOMY explains, Beyblade requires “heart, technique, and physical strength.” The mechanism to launch the Beyblade has the grip of a gun and a long plastic tab, which, when pulled, causes the toy to launch into the arena at a high-speed toward its opponent.

The tops themselves vary in looks as well as ability. Currently there are four categories of Beyblades: attack, stamina, defense, and balance. Each one is designed to have its own play style and an opposing style that counters it. With its strengths and weaknesses, the Beyblade that a player chooses is very important to the game. For example, the defensive Beyblade has features such as sloped sides to deflect blows, but its heavy frame causes it to struggle to push other Beyblades out of the arena.

While the Beyblade is relatively new the concept is not. The spinning top game is based off of the traditional Japanese game beigoma. This traditional game was extremely popular in the early 20th century but fell off as new toys entered the post-war market. Beyblade is the clear continuation of this traditional game as beigoma uses metal (or even earlier seashell) tops to battle. What is interesting is that since beigoma tops were manufactured in a time where metal tops came with imperfections, the players would customize them. They would use wax, lead, and other materials to balance their tops in an attempt to gain an edge. These early customizations are most likely an inspiration for the wide range of customization and flexibility within modern Beyblade.

Beigoma tops with the string used to spin them.

There have been three generations of Beyblade stretching back to the initial launch in 1999. The first generation holds the product name “Beyblade,” followed by the “Metal Fight Beyblade” seven years later in 2008. The third and most recent rendition is the “Beyblade Burst,” which hit stores in 2015.  Why is this important? Well, because TOMY has just announced the fourth generation: “BEYBLADE X.” 

From a product standpoint the company will be releasing 12 new products on the market at launch on July 15th, 2023. This will include four new Beyblades: the Dran Sword, Hells Scythe, Wizard Arrow, and Knight Shield. This new generation is set to have the X(extreme) Dash gimmick. This is boasted to enable special moves “just like in anime.”

BEYBLADE BX-02 Hells Scythe

The company is planning on doing more with this launch than just release the next generation of their product. They want to change the culture. TOMY is attempting to do this through one main goal: the development of gear sports. This is being pushed through media sponsored by TOMY, such as new manga that will be released monthly and a new animated show set to release later this year. On top of this, Beyblade is pushing into the realm of active media, collaborating with the video game Roblox to bring Beyblade into the digital world. While at the same time showcasing Beyblade battles in real time through XR (extended reality) with the help of Litpa Inc.

The corporation has released a short movie which encompasses the new competitive spirit they are trying to bring to Beyblade. The short film is directed by Kosei Skine, a decorated short film creator. The movie is described as: “an edgy and unique world of gear sports.”

Following the roll out of the Beyblade-X campaign and the push for gear sports, TOMY will be holding a “Masters Tournament” this winter. This is the suspected culmination of the gear sports campaign. There have been many Beyblade tournaments in the past, most notably the 2018 World Championship in Paris, but the masters tournament is attempting to be the greatest. The event is boasting “large and luxurious” prizes in an effort to drum up more competition than ever.

TOMY is expecting this new generation to be quite profitable, as past rollouts have been, with the previous generations bringing in around a couple billion yen each, each one surpassing the previous. With the BX-07 start dash kit costing 5,720 (tax included) while including everything a player, needs this prediction should not be far off.

BX-07 start dash kit

Will this new generation of Beyblades change the game? Will gear sports take over as TOMY is pushing for?

We won’t know the answers to these questions until July 15th. But what we can be certain of is that Beyblade has a great past. We’re excited to see what it does in the future.

subcultureist

Managing editors of the blog.

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