There is no hobby more expensive than trying to recapture one’s childhood. Well, besides collecting double-decker yachts or buying property in Sydney. But I think you know what I mean.
Pokémon cards can sell for thousands of dollars on eBay. Yu-Gi-Oh cards, not much better. Even the humble act of jumping from a tree could cost your adult ankles a fortune.
However, there is still one playground game that has escaped the woes of inflation. A game cheaper than medical bills. Which brings us to the subject of Beyblades.
Beyblades debuted in July of 1999, but they only became popular across Australia in the mid-2000s. As it stands, these toys are no longer the rulers of the cultural zeitgeist.
Yet, while this brand is past its peak, it still has a trick up its sleeve. As previously stated, these toys are incredibly cheap.
According to Big W, an official Beyblade currently costs $12. Meanwhile, a Nintendo Switch would be $399.
What’s more, Beyblades are the only childhood toys that have embraced their counterfeit counterparts. In 2003, if you turned up to recess with a stack of fake Yu-Gi-Oh cards, you might have been booed off the monkey bars. Yet, if you came to school with a Taiwanese Beyblade knockoff, people would have thought that was lit.
You see, Beyblades were never about branding, but rather, the kinetic action of “letting it rip.” The joy came from being amazed by a spinning top, not owning the right type of equipment.
In fact, you can buy a cheeky box of knockoffs for a stellar $45, making Beyblades one of the cheapest childhood experiences one can attempt to recapture.
However, just because Beyblades are affordable doesn’t mean they’re good. After all, some experiences should be left in the past — maybe these spinning tops are only fun when you’re 10.
Obviously, I had to buy some Beyblades and put them to the test. Would owning these toys fill me with childlike wonder? Or was I just wasting my hard earned bucks? I just had to know.
This is my Beyblade adventure. An adventure of violence, war, and betrayal.
Part I: Beyblades vs. Bureaucracy
On 24 April, I bought a bunch of counterfeit Beyblades. At the time, I believed that reviewing them would be a pinch — all I had to do is was the Beyblades, invite a few mates over, and then critique the experience.
Oh, how innocent, how incorrect I was.
On 3 May, my Beyblades were delivered to me. This was preceded by my pal, Kristian Bonitz, coming over. Kristian is infamous for being a gremlin, a goblin, and a troll.
Soon after Kristian arrived, I sat on my living room floor and began setting a game up. Kristian was standing, inspecting the cheap plastic box my Beyblades had been shipped in.
I asked Kristian if he wanted to join the first ever Beyblade Council. This council would be responsible for setting up Australian Beyblade tournaments.
Did I want to create a council so I could add some sick facts to my Linkedin profile? Perhaps. Do other groups create Beyblade tournaments? Yes. But their organisational structures lack prestige. My council would be the first of its kind.
I thought this council would strengthen my friendship with Kristian. There was no way to predict the grave horrors that lay ahead.
“Who else is on the Beyblade Council?” Kristian asked.
“Oh, just you,” I replied, with the kind of breezy offhandedness that comes with naivety.
“Just me?” Kristian queried, before dropping the bomb. “Then I’m therefore the Leader of the Beyblade Council. From now on, all Beyblade activities must be approved by the Leader.”
Kristian refused to play the match that I was setting up. He said that he’d only compete in the Beyblade tournaments that his counsel was responsible for. This was then followed by a set of tournament-adjacent demands. I was suddenly, and unceremoniously, demoted from Beyblade Council Founder to Errand Boy.
“But —,” I protested.
Kristian cut me off.
“Come on, Joel,” he said. “It’s time that we get some dinner.”
And as our conversation wrapped up, the thesis of this piece shifted. It was no longer about analysing a childhood joy. I was trapped in a story all about revenge.
Part II: Beyblades vs. Deutschland
From 5 May onward, I did everything in my power to try and grapple the Beyblade Council from Kristian Bonitz’s callous claws. My first move? Well, I tried to get some other folks onto the council. That way, I could create a number of formal alliances, make an anti-Kristian block, and stage a coup.
However, Kristian only ever ordained one other council member besides myself — my fiancée, Isabel Moon. Additionally, Isabel thought it was hilarious that I had lost control of this shindig. She quickly rose up the ranks to become Kristian’s right-hand woman.
What’s more, in the middle of my next scheme, I received some terrible news. On July 28, Kristian was moving to Germany, and he was taking the council with him. Our organisation would then become synonymous with pretzels, rational thinking, and blimps. Suddenly, my mission had a serious deadline.
At this point, I realised the only way to reclaim the Beyblade Council was through honour. I would have to win it back in a Beyblade tournament. I then ditched my legal team and asked Kristian if we could organise one.
He replied, “Yes.” The two of us got right to work.
Part III: Beyblade vs. Beyblade
It was June 23, and I was walking down the stairs of Behold Games in Ultimo, Sydney. There was a pack of Beyblades rattling around in my stomach. Although Behold Games was kind enough to give us a gaming room, I was nervous. I worried I’d lose it all.
When I entered the room, Kristian Bonitz was already there. He was also nervous. However, Kristian wasn’t nervous that he’d lose. He was nervous that our tournament, The Burrows + Bontiz Beyblade Bonaza, would be boring. He even purchased some cards from Behold Games, just in case our event was a flop.
What’s more, our guests didn’t know what to expect. I invited Isabel Moon, Katie Marre and Andrew Summerfield. Kristian invited his mates Daniel Roche and David Nitneth. As we all stood around our small, green, plastic Beyblade arenas, the tension was buckwild and thick.
Isabel and I took the first match. We turned to face each other. We drew our blades.
“Three! Two! One! Let it rip!”
With that, everything changed. The tension amped up. The room was drenched in a childlike euphoria. As our spinning tops collided, Isabel gasped, I giggled, and others started to scream.
Humans are funny creatures, aren’t they? We can get emotionally invested in a coin flip. We’re dazzled by skipping stones across lakes.
When Isabel’s blade tried into smash mine, I became my plastic ballerina. I don’t know if it was being propelled by skill or luck or by selecting the right equipment. But, by George, I didn’t care. I just wanted to win. Everything else faded away.
Isabel’s blade toppled. I gave a melodramatic victory lap. Behold Games’ Owner, Teena Hanson, came to check out the fun.
What followed was a round-robin of glory. Everyone battled everyone in a gauntlet of competition-fuelled carnage.
Beyblades were broken. Much stress was shed.
Additionally, while playing this game, I recaptured a long-lost feeling. The kinetic energy of making a Beyblade spin made me feel 10 again. Like I was at recess, savouring that window of playtime. I believe that this feeling holds up.
At the semi-finals, the mood shifted once again. It was Kristian versus Daniel, and it was David versus me.
At this point, I asked Kristian if he wanted to raise the stakes of our Beyblade tournament. I proposed that if we both got to the finals, we could battle for the rights to the council. Kristian, caught up in the spirit of the game, agreed.
“Three! Two! One! Let it rip!”
Kristian lost to Daniel. In straight sets. It was a bloodbath.
I was able to crush David, but I also succumbed to Daniel’s skills. Daniel hadn’t been sure if he was going to participate on that night. But here he was, ruining my plans.
I guess sometimes you don’t get the fairytale ending you hoped for. Sometimes your recess ends in defeat.
Part IV: Beyblades vs. Coda
As it stands, I have no Beyblade tournaments under my belt. The Beyblade Council now resides in Deutschland. All my schemes have turned to dust.
Despite this, I genuinely loved this experience. I’m so grateful that I got to hold a lit Beyblade tournament. Grateful that these toys hold up. I’m even grateful for Kristian Bonitz.
If you loved Beyblades as a kid, I strongly recommend that you hold a tournament. Just don’t make a council with your loose unit friends.