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Beyblades, a Japanese Phenomenon, Invade American Homes

AT a time when pretty much every toy includes a screen, buttons and batteries, the must-have diversion among elementary school children is positively primitive: a top.

But not just any top. Exotically named plastic-and-metal tops called Beyblades.

A Japanese phenomenon, these tops have erupted into American living rooms, with more than 30 million sold in the United States within the last 18 months, an old-school onslaught that’s left some parents finding Beys (as they’re known) atlanta divorce attorneys nook and cranny of the house.

Just ask Teresa Palagano, an editor in Tenafly, N.J., whose son, Jay 7, can be an undeniable convert.

“We have Beyblade play dates, and a Beyblade stadium beneath the couch in the living room in the event anyone wants to wander by and challenge him,” she said, sounding a little frazzled. “It’s funny till you’re living it.”

Tapping into an age-old childhood need to gather and compete, Beyblades really are a surprisingly simple game: just make sure that your top spins longer compared to other tops after battling and bumping in a shallow bowl called a Bey Stadium, or some other makeshift arena. And while there’s a Beyblade-inspired game for hand-held devices, among the main appeals among the SpongeBob set is apparently that the Bey is something you can actually touch.

“It’s real life,” said John Luk Payne, a second-grader at P.S. 261 in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, where students successfully petitioned to add a “Beyblade Mania” club to their after-school programs. “It’s not just looking at something.”

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The showdowns typically work in this way: two or more children load the tops in to a special launcher, feed in a plastic rip cord and then send them flying into the stadium — atlanta divorce attorneys direction — after screaming the ceremonial battle cry: “3, 2, 1, allow it to rip!”

And because such skirmishes usually last less when compared to a minute, there’s always time for another. And another. And another.

“I hear ‘3, 2, 1, let’em rip,’ in my dreams,” said Sara Andersen, an architect from San Francisco who has two Beyblade-obsessed boys, 8 and 6.

Ms. Andersen said her home has essentially become a Bey — and Bay Area — battleground on the weekends, as her kids wake early to play, often, it should be noted, with mom still dozing.

“I’m going to be asleep downstairs on a Sunday morning,” she said, “And I’ll hear, ‘3, 2, 1. …’ ”

You obtain the idea. With increased than 100 models — including a few with remote controls and flashing lights — Beyblades were the top-selling “battling” toys in the nation this past year, in line with the NPD Group, a market research company, surpassing well-known brands like Star Wars and Bakugan, another Japanese fighting franchise. Youngsters scramble to locate rare imported models, swap them on schoolyard black markets and mix and match parts to generate hybrid super-tops for battle.

Annie Talbot, a former actress in Palo Alto, Calif., said her 6-year-old son, Liam, had taken up to customizing his tops and battling other kids at school or on pretty much any patch of available asphalt. “In the beginning I didn’t want to get another item that would definitely sit at home,” said Ms. Talbot, who compared the tops to a fancy dreidel. “But I really do that way they often do it outdoors.”

Beyblades have topped the toy charts in France and Germany, and have sold a lot more than 120 million tops worldwide, according to Hasbro, its American distributor. And that global frenzy can come to a directly Sunday, when young competitors from 25 countries gather in Toronto for the first-ever Beyblade world championship.

“In Slovenia, I won without a problem,” said Gal Veselinovic, a confident 9-year-old reached by e-mail at his home in Ljubljana, about qualifying at a national tournament there. “But I will practice a little bit more intensive right before the planet championship.”

The American contender is Zakiah Garcia, a sixth-grader from Rialto, Calif., who out-spun your competition at the Comic-Con convention in New York last fall to be named national champion.

“Beyblade is really a heck of a way to unite kids from throughout,” said Zakiah, who has been getting pep talks from his friends. “They’re like, ‘Win it for the U.S., Zakiah.’ ”

Parents are not immune to the mania. Pilar Beccar-Varela, a teacher who lives in Oakland, Calif., said she had even ordered a really hard-to-find model from South Korea to make sure her 7-year-old son, Tavi, was ready for battle. And she is now hooked herself, occasionally competing against her husband after Tavi visits bed.

“It’s tactile and it’s simple and it’s quick,” Ms. Beccar-Varela said. “And there’s something really satisfying about the feeling of pulling that rip cord.”

It’s not really a new sensation. The ancient Greeks used tops, as did the Romans, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. The toys were also big in Asia, where they were manufactured from a range of materials, from conch shells to bamboo.

TODAY’S Beys take their name from the Japanese fighting top referred to as a bei-goma, and they’re an unusual case of a fad catching fire twice. Beyblades were first sold in the United States in 2002, in an easier, mostly plastic form. In 2008, the brand was reintroduced in Japan with a number of changeable parts — energy rings and spin tracks and fusion wheels — and more metal, which added heft and created a satisfying clanging noise if they collide.

The new-and-improved Beys didn’t reach American shores until August 2010, in accordance with Hasbro, coinciding with a brand new anime series on the Cartoon Network, made by Corus Entertainment in Toronto, that will be hosting the entire world championships. But with names that produce them appear to be heavy metal bands — Poison Zurafa, Evil Befall, Thermal Lacerta — and with various strengths (some are best at attacking, others at such things as defense or stamina), they have proven to be always a potent collectible for children.

And a potent draw for parents buying a relatively cheap — usually significantly less than $10 — kind of bribery.

As Ms. Palagano use it, “We haven’t experienced CVS for 2 yrs without getting one.” But she added that she’s impressed by her son’s loyalty to the toy. “He’d his superhero phase, his Star Wars phase. But nothing else lasted more than six months.”

The craze has some elementary school officials cracking down on classroom competitions, and the tantrums they could inspire, but others are embracing Beyblades as a training tool for a range of subjects, from astronomy to mythology. (With the Beyblade called Galaxy Pegagus, presumably you can certainly do both.)

It’s a disagreement that resonates with people like Susanna Yurick, assistant director at the Honors Center at the City College of New York, who was apprehensive about letting her 7-year old son, Niko, play with Beyblades. But she said she has been impressed by the “experiential lessons” the toy taught about physics. Her son now features a dozen Beyblades.

“Obviously, maybe I’m just searching for a gold lining,” Ms. Yurick added in an e-mail.

Most Beyblade fans are boys, but some girls seem eager to join the club. Maleah Frances, a first-grader in San Jose, Calif., admitted: “The boys are slightly better. But I’m practicing.”

Affirmed, at P.S. 261 in Brooklyn, the majority of the two dozen approximately children who signed up for the after-school Beyblades club were boys. The club was started this past year by three students, Taiyo Myrthil, Sampson Owens and Jackson Boutin, who gathered enough signatures to sway school officials.

On a recent Wednesday, Danielle Brocco, the teacher in charge, tried to manage the chaos as Beyblades flew across the floor, the hallway and tabletops to the chorus of “3, 2, 1, let it rip!”

One of those in the fray was Eamon Moogan, a 6-year-old who said he started using the tops in December and now has an increasing collection.

“I like it because it’s really fast,” he said. “And because even although you lose, you are able to always get it done again.”

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