Monday, January 23, 2012

Somebody explain Bakugan to me?

Okay, I have a pop culture question: can somebody tell me what the deal is with Bakugan?

To be fair, I have only a limited interaction with the milieu. Firstborn owns a mess of the toys, mostly in the form of oddly-colored little golf balls that pop open into easily-broken robot/animals when placed against a ferrous metal. These toys came with cards, but we've mostly lost those. I presume, therefore, that it's basically a game, similar to Magic: The Gathering or Pokemon, but built around these toys. That's not what puzzles me.

No, what puzzles me is the cartoon.

By way of explaining, let me offer a bit of contrast. We own one Pokemon DVD, and one Bakugan DVD. Both feature kids who carry around tiny balls which, when opened, produce full-size monsters (or aliens, or something along those lines) who then do battle.

Now, coming into the Pokemon movie with no prior context - I think the one we have is Pokemon Heroes - it's pretty clear that the monsters exist in real life, and can be captured and trained. They can apparently be kept (for storage and transportation, I guess) in the little Pokemon balls, but they don't have to be. And when they battle, it takes place in the real world. The monsters have powers, and those powers can be used to affect real people and real things, so it's pretty obvious why people would want them.

Now, with Bakugan I'm getting a lot less of the complete story. We don't own a movie, we own four episodes of Bakugan Battle Brawlers. So I have, if anything, even less context than I do for Pokemon. But in Bakugan, the monsters only manifest their full-size forms during a battle - and the battles only start when the two opponents throw down "gate cards", which create a sort of temporary extra-dimensional battlefield. Beginning a Bakugan battle effectively takes the contestants out of the real world: they can't affect real-world things, and no time passes in the real world while they're battling. In the real world, the monsters are only ever in the form of little, mutant golf-balls. Some of them can talk to their owners, but that's about it. Unlike the Pokemon monsters, Bakugan monsters are apparently pretty useless.

But the cartoon keeps treating these Bakugan contests as if they were vitally important - not just a sort of extradimensional football game, where we want the right team to win, but something where the question of who wins could actually change someone's life. One of the taglines for the show is "One Goal, Two Worlds." And while that sounds all nice and dramatic, I admit I'm at a bit of a loss. What's the goal? Is there something about the Bakugan monsters that could possibly make some sort of difference to the larger world? As far as I can tell, if all the Bakugans disappeared, the worst that would happen is that some people would have to find new hobbies.

So what's the deal? Am I missing something? Or is there really just this huge disconnect in the way the show is set up?


  1. The only real premise I've found for the entire Bakugan empire is marketing. Personally, I was originally a fan of how nice and small the critters are, because they made in-flight surprises and entertainment so much easier.

    Outside of that? I got nothing.

  2. Yeah, it had occurred to me that the "one goal" in the tag line might be "to sell more toys."

  3. Never seen the show, but... Maybe the games in our world map onto actual battles between people (or, well, monsters, but monsters can be people) who exist in some parallel world, sorta like TRON? And maybe there's some sort of villain in that world whose evil scheme could impact our world?

    There is a Digimon movie that does this general concept pretty well. Except then the director went and made Summer Wars, which is exactly the same story, minus the Digimon characters, and with far better real-world subplots, so I would just go watch that.


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