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On a spinning spree

The first thing that Judhajit Mukherjee’s mother says when you mention the word Beyblade to her is: “This game is turning moms into paupers.” As the 12-year-old La Martiniere student weighs his options between a remote-controlled Beyblade and a metal one at Forum ' a shopping mall in Calcutta ' she looks on anxiously, wondering which one would tug harder at her purse strings. Judhajit finally settles for the former.

There are many like Judhajit who are on a spinning spree. Day in and day out, they sit quietly around a Beyblade stadium trying to hone their skills at what boils down to spinning a top. The Japanese version of a spinning top called Bei Goma, Beyblade is at present the reigning indoor sport among youngsters. Beyblade aficionados would have you believe that reflex, timing and a sense of speed are essential for this game.

Says a Funskool India spokesperson: “The reason Beyblade is so popular is that unlike a GI Joe or a Barbie doll, kids can actually play with it.” According to class VI student, Ankur Guha, of St James’ School, the best part about playing with Beyblade is that “many can play at the same time, compete and try to outdo one another”.

Funskool India is the sub-licencee for Beyblade products in India. The company claims to have sold over 40,000 pieces in Calcutta alone. The figure would be 10 times more nationally, adds the spokesperson. In fact, he says Funskool India is flooded with so many requests that it has to ration the supply of Beyblades to retailers across the country.

Cashing in on its popularity are the speciality stores which have now begun organising Beyblade tournaments on a grand scale. At the Landmark store in Calcutta, 800 children arrived on August 15 this year for the Beyblade tournament played in tailored Beyblade stadiums. Funskool India says that for the different competitions held in the city not less than 150 children have turned up each time. And each participant is geared for the battle, well-versed in all the strategies. As Soham and Rohan Bhowmick, students of Class IV and Class I respectively in South Point School, point out excitedly, “A great way to size down your enemies is to wait for two seconds after your opponent launches his/her Beyblade top. Then launch your Beyblade directly at his/her Beyblade towards a penalty pocket, and you will win!”

The animated series on Beyblade heroes telecast on children’s television channels is also partly responsible for the buzz around the game. Beyblade is an anime (Japanese version of a cartoon) that revolves around young Tyson and his desire to become No: 1 in the sport of spinning tops. The series lays stress on important strategies and techniques to become a champion in a Beyblade battle.

The twist in the plot comes in the form of special powers that are bestowed on select tops by ancient beasts. As Soham points out: “I love Dragon’s powers, especially storm attack and dragon attack. The best thing about this particular character is that it has the power and swirl to nullify the strengths and powers of your opponent. Since I own a dragon Beyblade, I am Tyson, and I like the idea of being Tyson.”

A basic Beyblade consists of five parts ' bit chip, attack ring, weight disk, spin gear, blade base. By changing the parts, one can affect a top’s attack, defence and endurance attributes. And this is where the unique selling proposition of the toy lies.

The manufacturers of Beyblades-Hasbro Japan have made several varieties of Beyblades and their parts are interchangeable. There are the metal ones, the magnetic ones, the plastic ones and the remote-controlled ones. It is no surprise then that at the moment, when the Beyblade fever is at its peak, Mukherjee owns at least eight Beyblades at the last count and is waiting for the HMS series (the toy collection inspired by the television series).

At a premium

Speed bumps: Beyblades do not come cheap. They range anywhere between Rs 299 and Rs 699. However, the market is already flooded with fakes from China, which are priced anywhere between Rs 40 and Rs 60.

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