Before my mother-in-law was rushing frantically from store to store this past Christmas, desperately seeking that which is called Bakugan, I had no knowledge of the latest children’s "collect ‘em all" fad. Now that I have an intimate knowledge of the game, the world, and the characters, I can happily report that the story and plot are at least somewhat more interesting than various other copycats and this book is a decent, if shallow and cheaply formatted, read.
Bakugan Battle Brawlers Vol. 1: The Battle Begins!
Adapted by Elizabeth Hurchalla, Designed and Lettered By Tomas Montalvo-Lagos
$7.99, 96 pp.
Upon first glance, Bakugan seems to be the same as past (current?) fads like Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh; we follow a young boy, in this case named Dan (what, Danny was taken?) as he takes on other warriors in throwing down cards and balls with animals in them. Everything is colored in bright, rich tones and Dan is obviously an up-and-comer in the game who will be utilized by whatever forces to become the greatest Bakugan champion ever. Yawn, snooze, but what makes this different than all the other card-and-ball fighting franchises?
The book itself is laid out somewhat like a comic book, with still grabs from the TV show spread out on the pages and word balloons conveying all the dialogue between characters. Sure, it sounds like a comic book, but when no one takes the time to come up with original art for the imagery, I’m instantly put off by what appears to be nothing more than a quick, cheap cash-in. And though I’ve not actually seen an episode of the show, I can only assume that this book is basically just a summation of that first episode, with following volumes to be more of the same. Overall, the presentation of the book left a lot to be desired.
The content itself, on the other hand, is both familiar and fresh; Dan, who most of the focus falls on, runs around starting battles with a game that seems to be a mash-up of Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh, with flying balls containing all sorts of creatures and augmenting cards to enrich the details of each match. The story follows that Dan and his friends battle as many people as they can, hoping to gain the #1 rank in Bakugan around the world. A twist is introduced, however, when it appears that some real-life, sentient (stick with me) Bakugan in other dimension (or realm or maybe even continent, it’s not made clear yet) are battling as well and that their struggle has upset the balance in the real world, forcing them into capture balls around the globe.
So by the end of the first book, Dan and the gang are just being introduced to their new, more intelligent, stronger Bakugan friends and a portent of evil things to come looms over the peek at the next chapter in the story. While the setup is certainly nothing new (or exciting, for a man of twenty-seven), the slight twist gives this an edge over the simple rivalries and repetitious battles Bakugan’s predecessors offer. As a simple adaptation, this book serves its purpose as an introduction to the world of Bakugan and speaking as a kid at heart, I’m sure these TV episodes in book form will find their audience, most likely in massive, Kool-Aid fueled mobs.