I’ve been here in Malaysia for eight months already (!) so maybe I’m out of touch with what’s happenin’ on the playground back in the States. But I can tell you what is on the minds of every 4- to 7-year-old kid I’ve met here: BeyBlades! What’s a beyblade? To my son, “A beyblade is when you get your beyblade and you fight ’em and you see whose is powerful. Mines is powerful!”
It is a spinning top, gasing in Malay, that you battle your friends with. There’s no batteries necessary, they’re not easy to break, and a kit of a top, a ripcord and a spinner only costs 2.50RM. By contrast, a single old GI Joe retails for 20RM+! That’s a starter kit of course, and you can trick them out endlessly from there: longer ripcord, arena, heavier weight ring. It’s a great toy. In fact, it’s not just the preschool set; kids as old as 10 or 12 play too. One of the cooler accessories is a weight ring with little bits of flint embedded in it. A good collision and the sparks will fly, literally.
Now I’ve been told that these beyblades are really just a new version of an old kampung favorite, the wooden top with a nail embedded point-down for spinning on. Those are spun with a length of string, and can be similarly tricked out with broken glass, fearsome war paint and so on. Good fun too, I’m sure, though I think it would take a little more dexterity than a five-year-old has.