And I will tell you why I'm part of it, but not before I illustrate to you, dear non-existent readers, the injustice of media.
I remember back in the day when my favourite character was Rei. I was a young'un back then, replacing terms and names of great beings and deities with Rei's name. I had shipped him with Kai, I recall, and watched and rewatched each and every one of his episodes wherein he shines the greatest. I had friends who shared with me these glorious views and our cult was flourishing across the vast lands of the early Internet. As an old relative of yours may have once said, those were the days. We marched forwards in pride, hoisting our flags high as we declared our love for our one true ship, defending it from what the future may hold. The first season and especially V-Force were kind to us, aiding us in our battle whether they knew it or not as the friendship among the two blossomed. It fueled our massive battleship and propelled it through the seas. We were invincible! We were triumphant! We were the rulers of the Beyblade sea!
But I was not an OG member of this ship or even this character. Oh no. My first love, the being who brought me onto these perilous lands in the first place, invading a peaceful space for little ambitious boys to buy their toys and empty their parents' wallets. I remembered as I kept my salutes high and my loyalty in place, a smaller, more modest, more grounded ship across the bay that I had took my first steps on when I first came to this great land. It called to me and my heart reverberated. I boarded a boat that very night and said a silent heartfelt goodbye to my comrades on the ship as I sailed to a home I held dear. There it stood, as I sailed for many hours, a smaller, older, lightweight ship. It was not the battle-heavy beauty wherein its bow and stern seemed to stretch from sunrise to sunset, with hundreds of thousands of cadets and sailors ahoy, proud of their daily duties. But as I recalled, it was home.
Though a humble abode it won not many battles, it controlled not much territory, but it existed and welcomed new members with open arms. The friendliness of the embraces that I had received on this very ship brought tears of powerful memories to my eyes. I could not bring myself to ever return to the glory of where most of my comrades stood. This was where I belonged. And so, as I scan through the rich history of this small ship's few records, I can begin my actual rant.
I remember being very annoyed that this series was the Takao and Kai show. It wasn't quite like that at the beginning, but by the time G-Revolution rolled around you knew which characters were focused on the most. As I was a fan of Rei, I languished in the knowledge that so long as Rei was not on Takao's team, he would lose. Heck, even if he was on Takao's team, he'd still lose more than usual. In the first season his Driger (I will call it Byakko to differentiate it from the blade) had left him and then later on sacrificed itself to shield Rei's body. (How it came back as it wasn't part of Tala's army of beasts, we will never know) Then in season two he had it stolen from him by the Saint Shields. Takao in the meantime has never lost his bit-beast (unless the movie is canon) despite being the least experienced Blader of the two and somehow rising to the highest ranks the fastest. Kai has lost it once, to Zeo, but otherwise he kept a firm grip on Suzaku and aside from the time he willingly cast it aside for a stronger, edgier version, such heartbreak was not often felt. When you were without your bit-beast, you were weaker than the others. You had to wait until the rest of them fight the opponent and eventually return your greatest ally, your bestest friend, your bit-beast. But Rei was lucky.
Of the four bit-beasts, Byakko probably had the greatest autonomy among them all. Or at least it had demonstrated the greatest autonomy. Not once did the other bit-beasts leave or shield its owner. Kai had desperately needed it in G-Revolution, but the bit-beasts barely existed that season. Yet Byakko has saved Rei's life not once but twice, and has re-evaluated his owner's worth as well. Meanwhile the few times Dragoon has been uncooperative with Takao (unless the movie counts, again) it simply remained in its blade like a poorly-trained Pokemon as opposed to literally running away. Byakko was quite the bit-beast, I must say. And so even though Rei was given the short-end of the stick in season three, he still had moments where he was the star of the show. He was such a radiant light that he, and only he, had these type of episodes that were largely unique. He had episode forty-nine of the first season, where he almost died trying to tie the best-of-three match against the Demolition Boys. He had episode thirty-eight of the second season, where even though he lacked Byakko, he fought valiantly anyway because a bit-beast wasn't everything to his beloved sport, but that he would do anything to get it back anyway. They were wonderful episodes that showed the viewer how amazing of a character Rei was. He was diligent, stubborn, and never gave up. He had the wins and unique situations to back it up.
So why did I sail away on a little boat back to where it all began?
Rewatching the show reminded me of the one character who instantly took my heart the moment I set eyes on him. Cute adorable little Max. And unlike Rei and definitely unlike the other two, he has no moment to shine at all. At least, not a moment where he beat the indescribable odds and won some ultra-important match that was of great significance to his growth as a character. That doesn't mean he didn't have episodes that focused on him; they just didn't make as much of an impact like the other ones. Max did not fight a battle without his bit-beast to earn his partner back. He did not almost die to keep a series going. He wasn't the one responsible for defeating the Big Bad of the season. His so-called magnum opus performance ended in a tie. Max's episodes were the ultimate "throw-the-dog-a-cookie" episodes. Oh, he'll never win the race. He'll never be the favourite, but by God we gave him a cookie so at least he'd still be happy. He'd still be his optimistic, cheery little self despite winning the least of the four main characters. No wonder he became more serious as time went on (Maturity? What do you mean?) No wonder his final battle was laced with the beginning steps of angst and depression, but even that battle was just throwing the dog a bone. He will never have the prize. He'd have to remain satisfied, in the background, with his participation award.
And well, we all should have known this pattern was going to remain when we see his very first official battle. Max vs. Kai. This battle is all about Max because Kai was obviously going to win. The entire thing was set up so Takao could get his just desserts in defeating the cocky, sourpuss, cold Kai. Yet this was also the battle Max received Genbu. Now unless you're one of Takao or Kai, if you have personal investment in a battle it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to win. First Kai defeats Max easily because he's Kai. Then Max shows off his strategist, tactical nature by launching his blade in the other direction to absorb Kai's finishing move and thus winning the second match. By the third match, Max has replaced his bit-chip with one within his pendant given by his grandma, which is rather convenient. Now, if you were the main character, this would be the catalyst to victory. You now have this great new power that no one has seen before. You'd think by that logic Max would win this match or at the very least tie, since that's exactly what happened when Takao's Seiryuu first appeared and at that point Takao was still less experienced than Max. But no, Max's Genbu shows up and all Kai has to do is summon Suzaku and the whole trump card was for nil. Max loses. Oh, but at least he has a bit-beast now, so it's all okay! Max isn't too sad. In fact he even tried to give Kai a handshake after which because he's such a preciously nice boy. So nice that even the cold-hearted Kai couldn't simply just walk away from. It's amazing what this boy can do.
Now repeat this formula over and over again and you have Max's battles in a nutshell. Sure, he beats Michael during his character-focused arc, but everyone gets their own character-focused arc where we learn of their backstory and motives. It's not unique only to Max. And frankly the PPB All Starz are the most forgettable team of that season anyway. The most interesting character was Max's mom. They even introduced some new guy in season three because of how boring this team was. Beyblade's American stereotypes are awful. Then Max gets an upgrade to his Beyblade, the infamous Draciel F, and I will educate you plebians of Draciel F's might despite winning like practically zero battles during its existence.
It was Draciel F who held back the ridiculously edgy and somehow powerful Black Dranzer (with its fifty-thousand stolen bit-beasts to boot!) during the Kai-redemption episode. Max doesn't actually win on his own though since the whole point was for original Dranzer to knock some sense in his owner's head. Then, as soon as we saw Draciel F's ability Max loses Genbu to the Demolition Boys right after and we never see Max's Beyblade again this season. Welp. They realized how little it was used in Season 1 so by the time V-Force arrived Max was the only one of the four to keep Draciel F for the entirety of the Psykicks' arc. Seriously he doesn't get Draciel V until over halfway through the season! And here, he gets to beat the random scrubs Team Psykick sends out (while losing constantly to Mariam and co. mind you. Kai tied with Dunga and Rei eventually beat Joseph, but noooooo, little Maxie can't win any of his early battles unless it's a random kid!) and finally we have Max's little nonsensical battle with Jim at the tower. Like holy crap, this fight.
I have very mixed feelings about this fight. You see, of the four Max is the only one who doesn't have personal investment in this Tower Arc. Kai's fanboy friend died and he needs revenge. Rei's chasing after some girl because girls. Takao always has personal investment because he's the main character and he fought Kane in a super even and non-cheating heated battle earlier. Besides Takao has abandonment issues, of course he has investment. But Max? Well, too bad so sad. Regardless despite Max's outdated Beyblade and his lack of any plot-related reason to win, he still pummels Cyber Draciel like a little squishy bug over and over and over and over again. And for some reason does this with such reckless and wrathful intensity it's like Max should have had some sort of personal reason! Seriously! For no reason at all Max gets really mad and expressive this battle! FOR NO REASON AT ALL! He acts stubborn and unlike himself...FOR NO REASON AT ALL! Was his friends in danger? Did someone betray him and now he was unleashing his hidden fury unlike anything before? Max has never looked so angry! He has never looked like he wanted so much to win until this fight! BUT WHY!?
And of course, being the water Blader and the smart one, Max begins to suffer from Mercury Syndrome.
What is Mercury Syndrome? Well if you've seen Sailor Moon you may know what I'm talking about. Sailor Mercury was famous for her seemingly-useless bubble attack in the first season. This was justified by how Mercury fought with her brains and with tactics instead of sheer force like the others. Her bubbles would distract or impede the monster somehow and give the team the upper-hand to destroy it. In the finale of the first season, Jupiter has just died and Mercury stayed behind to hold the somehow unbelievably powerful DD girls back. (Why they weren't used at the very beginning we may never know) Jupiter being the strong one killed two of them in her kamikaze attack. Venus would take one later on after saving Moon, whereas Mars gets a badass "I'm not done yet!" scene where she torches the last two. Mercury gets none because the girls were constantly falling for the monsters' illusions of their loved ones being taken hostage. Even if it was obvious that this was just an illusion, it was effective enough to make the girls' hesitate and it ended up being Jupiter's downfall. So instead of killing off one of the DD girls', Mercury's last stand was to break the jewel on the monster's head to stop these illusions. She then dies, fulfilling her role as the smart one.
Congratulations Max you get to sacrifice Genbu in the name of tactics! He destroys the bit-beast repair system that was allowing Jim to battle Max over and over again. (And like the illusions in Sailor Moon, even if you could just CHOOSE to not accept the challenge again it was still better to rid of it entirely) I mean imagine if Cyber Dragoon was revived over and over again. That's a Godzilla movie waiting to happen. Then of course, his endurance runs out and Max isn't able to defeat Cyber Draciel a third time and he loses his bit-beast. Of course he does. It's just how it works. How do you demonstrate to the audience how dire the situation is if someone doesn't actually lose their bit-beast? I mean sure they had to cheat over and over again to do it, but Max didn't have a plot-related reason to win so even though he absolutely pulverized his competition, he has to sit in the sidelines just like at the end of Season 1 and wait to get his Genbu back. The sad tale of Draciel F ends here, in heartbreak and tragedy. You were a tough Beyblade, Draciel F. You just suffered from terrible luck.
Oh yeah and Max gets punched in the face. That was cut from the dub, but between Dunga and Rick in season three Max sure suffers from assault more often than the others in this series. By the way the two of them share the same voice actor in the dub, so if it weren't for the cuts you could just designate this guy as "the person who voices all the Max abusers".
...Moving on. The series knew it shafted Max during this arc, so he got one all for himself in the next two episodes! The first one was promising. Max reunites with his old friend in America, Alan. We get super adorable glomping and flashbacks. Then it turns out Alan is a little jealous beetle and steals the super amazing bit-beast rock from Max's mom's laboratory and Max is betrayed! It's set-up rather nicely. There's even GTA-esque chase scenes, bazookas, and machine guns all over the place because MURICA yo! Except the machine guns were cut in America. Yeah I don't get it either. Then the second episode was the let-down of all let-downs. Like come on! So Max finally receives Draciel Viper, and isn't behind the times as he used to. (Takao gets V2 like two episodes later. This getting obscene.) He uses it to defeat his friend Alan and...ugh. Let me rewind a bit.
First of all, Alan did this so he could get a cool bit-beast and be on the level with Max, but the person he was working for of course didn't actually do their end of the bargain, so Alan just has a boring normal Beyblade during the impromptu tournament. Also this announcer has a cap with the letters USA on it and the most awful of accents you could ever hear. I know dubs hate silence in Anime and need to fill it up with as much obnoxious dialogue as possible, but geez he was already a terrible stereotype in the original Japanese version. Why would you make it even worse when you're the Americans!? So anyway, during the actual battle Max fights his old friend but he's so incredibly distracted he almost loses to a normal Beyblade used by a criminal. Wow, Draciel V that is not a good first showing at all. Draciel F may not have won much battles but it had spunk! It was tough! The fact that Max had a whole new upgrade to his Beyblade for this battle and still ties with Normal McNormalson is very worrying. Then eventually he realizes how stupid he's being and destroys Alan like the little insignificant character he is. (Seriously nobody cares about this guy) And no bit-beasts ever appear.
It was very anti-climatic. Because Alan was ripped off, he wasn't using some massive dangerous force which would've been a great foreboding preview of the next obstacle our main characters would face. Instead it was just a normal Beyblade that made Alan seem all the more pathetic. Meanwhile Max expresses himself greatly and is all the more pumped up for the JIM battle several episodes before, but not this one with the emotional and personal investment. I just don't get it! I just don't get it at all! The first episode set it up so perfectly! The build up was amazing, but the actual product was a crippling disappointment! No wonder no one remembers or cares about you, Alan! I even read a story that had to use an OC to be Max's stray friend instead of Alan! Gah!
Luckily this season isn't all bad for Max. I mean aside from his adorable design upgrade. The best part about the Saint Shields arc was undoubtedly Mariam. When we saw our first female blader in season one it was the sadly stereotypical Mariah, who was as pink as she could be and was basically a girl version of Rei. We finally see another in Emily, but she's only slightly more memorable than the other sports-related characters of the PPB All Starz. Hiromi shows up in season two but she doesn't even beyblade which is frankly disappointing. Mariam is our first good female character in the entire series and is probably the only good female character in the entire series! (Alright Salima was okay as well, but really aside from the two) I will not get into how bad G-Revolution was in developing a character outside of the ones directly related to our main cast until later. She had snark. She had personality. She clashed with her teammates (mostly Dunga) and she had character development too! (Too bad in Beyblade when you have character development you automatically become GOOD IS DUMB and become the next victim of the Worf Effect to the next bad guy in line) And yes, that is how I got into Beyblade! I watched the Max and Mariam episode when they got stuck in a building! I saw a really cute awesome male character with a really beautiful awesome female character! Their designs were nice! The plot of the episode wasn't mindless tournaments and top spinning! We had character development for Mariam! Max gets to be a protector despite being the weakest/cutest-looking of the group! It was different! It was great! IT WAS THE ONLY ONE OF ITS KIND IN THE ENTIRE SERIES! AND THIS IS THE EPISODE I SAW THAT HOOKED ME! THIS EPISODE IS WHY THIS RANT EVEN EXISTS! THIS EPISODE IS WHY I AM HOW I AM NOW!
Why if you went back in time and did something seemingly harmless and insignificant, but it was enough for me to miss this episode I may never have met the friends I have. I may never had joined fanfiction and continued my beloved hobby of writing! What could I have been instead? This was the best episode in the entire series.
Then Max beats Mariam, she finishes her character arc and all is downhill from here.
Well okay, not necessarily. I do think my least favourite arc of V-Force is its finale however. We get introduced to King and Queen (and no one likes them @_@) because we need characters to fill up a tournament. Do you know how much I hate that? Introducing characters to fill up a tournament? They did that tenfold in season one, but it was okay because each tournament was a setting for each character's backstory, so not only do we learn a great deal about character of the arc, but also the team they face and are associated with. (With the sad exception of the PPB All Starz) Unfortunately we do not really have that for this season except for Zeo and only Zeo. This arc was just ZEO ZEO ZEO ZEO ZEO. The entire season we've had this theme with fanboys and friends who you thought were your friends, but ultimately they fall to the wayside because of their great jealousy of the Bladebreakers. They end up saying YES to drugs (Don't tell me the Psykicks weren't a euphemism for a drug cartel. All those kids were high as fuck) Yuuya/Wyatt dies. Alan goes to jail. And now we have Zeo! Zeo is different because he's actually a robot that Zagart wanted to turn human with the divine power of the sacred four bit-beasts. You know the manga story is a lot more deep and tragic. Zagart stole the first rock thirty-some years ago, but Zeo could not have possibly existed back then. Did he already have the ambitions to bring to life his own mechanical creations way back when? It was a lot more sloppy than the manga story, where Zagart lost his first son, Zeo and forced his second son Leon to adopt the name Zeo so he'd basically become Zeo in his place.
Anyway, Max teams up with Takao (with Rei and Kai being together) in this sudden tag-team tournament. HOLY CRAP! MAX IS WITH THE MAIN CHARACTER! He's bound to win now! No, he's bound to be tie-breaking fodder so Takao can get all the more glory. :|
Max beats Queen though, somehow. His mind can make his Beyblade spin the other direction just like that. Hey remember way back in season one when he had to slot in his ripcord backwards to make it spin backwards so he could beat Kai? Remember when these tactics actually existed? Yeah they're not coming back in G-Revolution either. Anyway we didn't have the screen-time nor the significance to give Kai and Rei their own super powerful semi-final/quarter-final victims, despite the numerous characters introduced this season. (They were Worf Effect fodder to King/Queen and Zeo, sadly) Oh Zeo has a partner, but he has no characterization whatsoever. He's just there to be his partner because this arc is ZEO ZEO ZEO ZEO ZEO. Then Kai loses to Zeo (Rei has to tie because it'd be absurd if he lost Byakko even MORE) and then we get to the finals match. In some form of crazy miracle, Takao went up first with Zeo's cardboard cutout partner that Rei couldn't beat. So we got Max up against Zeo! YAY!
And he proceeds to DESTROY Zeo! YAY!
And then Zeo summons Suzaku. Not yay.
WHAT HAPPENED TO DRACIEL F'S AMAZING RESISTANCE VERSUS EDGY DRANZER WITH HIS ARMY OF BIT-BEASTS IN SEASON ONE!? Draciel V you suck! (Despite this, Heavy Viper Wall is forever my favourite attack from this series. It's so beautiful) But yeah Max goes first against the biggest threat so the threat's trump card defeats him and makes the situation even more dire. Oh and Max loses Genbu AGAIN. The poor boy just wants to keep his turtle, man! Why is that so hard to ask? And then Takao the main character wins yadda-yadda boo hoo wah wah wah.
Season three is a clusterfuck. I know lots of people love this season, but they mostly like it for the DBZ-like action and the non-childish (AKA incredibly attractive) designs of the characters. I mean yeah, season two had far too much animal wrestling, but this season didn't really fare better with its stock footage attacks. What is this, Sailor Moon? Basically whoever has the most optimal timing with their stock footage attack wins. I would reiterate back to season one when we had actual real tactics that might really work if these spinning tops were real, but those days are long gone. The first half of the season is a tournament arc and then the second half is a matchup against the BEGA characters. Sigh. Remember when I said I hated tournament arcs for introducing characters solely for the tournament? Unlike season one we don't get the "tournament is a setting for the character backstory". Instead the so-called appeal of the season is that the Bladebreakers are no more and must fight one another. Therefore, Takao needs a Takao-clone to be his new tag-team partner (AKA Daichi) which is really what this series needs. I mean, really. I will never understand these shounen shows.
Max gets a brand new character because of how boring the PPB All Starz are. And since we need our regular serving of Max assault we get the Dunga expy, Rick. Rei and Kai return with their old teams, their partners becoming the heavily nerfed Lee and Tala. (Because they can't outshine our main characters after all!) For whatever reason we need to replace the Majestics with the Barthez Battalion. (Why? I have no fucking clue. There was nothing wrong with the Majestics. They have lovely personalities and probably would've been my second favourite team if they were ever given screen-time.) Aside from some awkward abusive coach arc with these four characters we literally know nothing about them. Whose favourite character is Claude anyway? The only reason someone might like them is because of their designs. Matilda has a fucking hedgehog bit-beast. That's fucking amazing. F Sangre had potential to give us a brother-sister duo we wouldn't hate with all our might, but they didn't really go anywhere either. Am I forgetting any team? Were there really only six teams in this tournament? This is sad. All of this is very sad.
You got this sloppily organized tournament with characters we really don't care about (unless you like their designs!) all so in the end we have a Kai and Takao rematch. Wow. Amazing. Max and Rei aren't allowed to win against either Kai and Takao (who must WIN ALL THEIR MATCHES!!1!!!! Unless of course Takao isn't actually trying and loses in a non-epic intense manner) and when you pit Max and Rei together instead of some intense epic battle of who is NUMBER THREE in the Bladebreakers, we get a "teach Rick teamwork" episode. Don't get me wrong I like the episode, especially Lee randomly winning, but that's so sad. I thought the appeal was to see the old team fight one another, but we don't get to see who of Max or Rei are better? It just emphasizes all the more how much this tournament is just to show off Kai and Takao before they fight one another. (If you really didn't want to reveal who was better make Max and Rei tie and have Rick and Lee be the tie-breaker. THAT'D BE INTERESTING AND DIFFERENT!) THIS IS SO SAD. WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS SEASON!?
Well I imagine it'd be for the BEGA arc if anything. Did I mention Takao's brother by the way? I find his character absolutely pointless for this season. He makes sense in the manga because he shows up in the VERY BEGINNING when Takao is a rookie beyblader. Why would Takao need a goddamn mentor after he's become a two-time Beyblade World Champion? Where the hell were you when he needed you way back in season one? He's just here to be a cryptic (and random) ninja who decides the best way to make Takao better (when he's already the very best) is to train the BEGA bladers. In terms of personality he seems rather bland. He's just there to be eyecandy and the generic mentor person. My god. Oh and after we had such a great character in Mariam in season two we are given an insulting excuse of a female character in Ming Ming. She just sings, magically transforms to be older (like some sort of pseudo-magical girl transformation) when she Beyblades. What is her personality? To be cute? What the fuck.
Then you got Moses (and the dub finds renaming him Crusher the smartest of ideas. WHAT PERSON NAMES THEIR KID CRUSHER!? I mean sure, what person names their kid Dunga or even names their kid Moses, but you tell that to the millions of dudes named Mohammed) who is given a whole sob story about his ill sister, so now Rei's OPPONENT has the personal investment instead of him, so he's destined to win instead. Even though we're all supposed to be sympathetic and such to him, he is still technically working for the BAD GUY. His side isn't supposed to win!
Then there's Mystel! Who is he? Where does he come from? We don't know! His name is Mystel! That means he's mysterious. His entire persona is being mysterious. Yay. Oh, but god forbid this mysterious gentleman loses because Max ties against him. Max has to tie so Kai can get his revenge against Brooklyn and Takao wins. (God forbid Takao loses or ties!) That way a tie-breaker between Brooklyn and Takao could happen (this entire battle was so what) and it's just. RARGH. You know what I would've done? Max would've WON and then Takao would've tied against Garland. Then Takao and Brooklyn could be the rematch! THEN EVERYONE GETS SPOTLIGHT! Because Max never wins a battle he has an emotional investment in, unless it's that piss-poor of an excuse fight he had versus Alan in season two or the one he had in season one that everyone pretty much had anyway! MAX. WAS. GYPPED!
Yes. That Max vs. Mystel battle was another THROW THE DOG A BONE battle. Max didn't win. He doesn't get to win. He's not the main character! He tied so the plot can go on, but he couldn't get the elusive victory no matter how hard he tries. He's always the underdog in every battle but that doesn't seem to do anything for him in terms of helping him win! The crowd cheers for him anyway (and the dubbing of this crowd is so sad I just want to melt into a drain and disappear into the ocean) because that was his bone. He didn't technically lose and the people still like him anyway so he can be back to his happy, cheery self. NO WONDER ALL THOSE MAX FANFICTIONS I TRIED TO READ DEPICTED HIM AS SECRETLY DEPRESSED ALL THE TIME! WHO WOULDN'T BE AFTER ALL THIS!? You can't win! You don't win! Yet you keep up your cheery shell anyway! That's probably why Rei GOT ALL ANGRY this season because he too doesn't win as much and he had to let out such a humongous amount of frustration trying, over and over again, to win. Even if he had the backing of his team and the little symbolism tied around his arm that for ALL ACCOUNTS AND PURPOSES, if this was ANY OTHER SHOW, Rei would've won and defeated Kai! BUT NO! THE PLOT SAYS, KAI MUST FACE TAKAO! IT DOESN'T MATTER WHAT BONE YOU THROW OR WHAT PERSONAL INVESTMENT YOU HAVE!
YOU! WILL! ALWAYS! LOSE!
And that is why there isn't a season four of Beyblade.