Judge Adam Arseneau...activate!
Yell it loud! Yell it proud! Bakugan!
When powerful cards from an alternate world start falling from the sky, kids everywhere collect them and begin using them for a new battle game called Bakugan. Unknown to them, the cards have special power that ties them into an alternate dimension called Vestroia, where giant monsters battle for the entire universe.
In case you hadn't realized by now, Bakugan is more than just the latest in a never-ending stream of Japanese cartoons to make it to American television. It's a fully functioning toy franchise, with kids all over the world nagging incessantly at their parents to buy them all manner of crap. Could you imagine a better premise to sell merchandise? Cards, dropping from the sky like rain…that you can purchase in retail stores right now, kids!
Bakugan, Vol. 1: Battle Brawlers contains the first five episodes of the series on a single DVD:
• "01: The Battle Begins"
• "02: Masquerade Ball"
• "03: A Feud Between Friends"
• "04: Dan and Drago"
• "05: Runo Rules!"
Here's the thing, kids. I hate to be the one to that tells you this, but Bakugan? Yeah, it's Pokemon. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but it's just Pokemon updated for a new generation with lousy techno music.
Completely devoid of originality or relevance, Bakugan is the unholy love child of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh! come to life to steal our money. Kids get into battles with tiny little plastic balls that spring to life as giant battle monsters who rumble and tumble about shooting fire and such, and the winner of the fight gets to keep their "battle brawler." The entire show is just a loosely disguised delivery system to sell trading cards and toys to kids. Oh sure, there's a plot, or at least what passes as a plot, but it's utterly immaterial. All you need to know is that to be a fan of Bakugan you need to nag your parents incessantly to buy things called "Dragonoids," "Robotallians," and "Garganoids," whatever the crap those are.
If you could take a big sharp axe to the franchise and cut out all the product placements, all the tie-ins, all the trading card collecting and the toy figurines, you might find something that resembled an okay franchise in the making here. While the character designs are horrendously clichéd and look like the protagonists from a Square-Enix videogame set to a Sesame Street color palate, in the right hands there might be a half-decent story to be found here. Too bad the battle sequences are utterly ridiculous, and characters say unintelligible things like, "You beat my Gate Card, but you won't be able to beat my Ability Card!" I'd really like to see the show in its original Japanese, because often these kinds of shows get cut, edited, and dubbed into juvenile ridiculousness upon adaptation in America. Unfortunately, this DVD is straight English—no original language of any kind to be found.
Bakugan is like a wet dream for toy vendors. The entire cartoon is devised not just to sell one toy, but numerous toys—imagine mixing the transforming robots of Transformers, the card collecting of Yu-Gi-Oh!, and the obsessive collecting of Pokemon into a single franchise of profitability. To play, you need to spend money. A lot of money! A simple search of the word "bakugan" on Amazon revealed the franchise has over eight hundred individual items for purchase. Better get collecting, kids.
If I was like, eight years old? Maybe, just maybe, Bakugan would be compelling, but I'd have to be an awfully bored eight-year-old. Judged solely on the merit of the anime, this is a boring show, borrowing heavily from other, more successful ventures into product placement and child manipulation. There's something downright sinister about toy manufacturers getting into bed with cartoon makers to devise half-hour commercials for their product. Back in my day, we never had that—we had quality franchises like G.I. Joe, and Transformers, and…um…oh. Never mind.
Judged solely on the cartoon itself, Bakugan is lousy. I think I'd actually rather watch Pokemon. It tries to sell me less product. Guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Cartoon Network
Review content copyright © 2009 Adam Arseneau; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.