Every parent dreads the day they can no longer relate to their kids.
Every parent worries that, sooner than later, their kids will transition out of interest in the things their mom and dad are interested in and begin cultivating their own unique pursuits and hobbies. Every parent dreads the day their kids make them feel old and out of touch.
All three of those days came for me over the weekend, courtesy of Yo-kai Watch!
I don’t say “sensation” lightly. This is a cartoon that hit the theaters with a film version the same weekend as The Force Awakens… and it outperformed the new Star Wars movie. To quote my son, “Star Wars is the best! How did it beat Star Wars?”
I don’t know, son. I don’t know. In order to find out, I opened the box for my five-year-old and his Jedi-obsessed friends and watched as Star Wars quickly became a distant memory in the face of the strange new toys.
The box couldn’t have come at a better time. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and the adults were hoping to watch the game without that pesky “I need to parent my children!” distraction. We were upstairs watching the game, hoping the kids would stay occupied and not bother us, and the Yo-kai gift box did the trick! They stayed downstairs and had a Yo-kai Watch viewing party, checking out a few episodes of the show and exploring their new toys at the same time.
Officially, the show is about a young boy who gets a special watch empowering him to discover and summon mysterious Yo-kai that help him solve problems in his daily life usually caused by other trouble-making Yo-kai. As such, each of them got a comically large watch that doesn’t actually tell time but does allow for the insertion of character discs that say different things and make different sounds and look ridiculous on their tiny wrists. They loved them! Apparently there are all sorts of ways to integrate the toys and discs with video games and smartphones and etc., but my son and his friends didn’t need any of that. They took the watch and the discs and made their own stories up, and they had a blast doing it.
Despite my fears about my son graduating past my influence into hobbies, programming and toys that I have no awareness of, interest in, or understanding of – and despite the fact that the Yo-kai Watch show didn’t seem to make any more sense to the kids than it did to me, I loved seeing him and his friends being so creative with this new universe. Maybe it’s because the Japanese style of the show is so different from anything else he has watched in his young life, but Yo-kai Watch fired my son’s imagination like few things I have seen before.
My son immediately gave his own names to the characters: Music Man, Super Catman, Bug Music Man, Lightning Man, and Half-Slime Water Purple Man. (I have no idea what their actual names are, but I’m pretty sure “Half-Slime Water Purple Man” isn’t a direct hit.) Over the course of the evening, the watch was put into action as a walkie-talkie, a blaster, a spaceship, a freeze-ray, a noisemaker, and more. It was hilarious to see the different uses these kids found for their watches. Detective Munch and his friends put their new toys to work in exactly the way every parent prefers toys to be used, to spur imagination, rather than dictate it.
I won’t lie; I’ve been thrilled to watch my son develop a passion for the superheroes that I love and the movies that I love and all the other stuff I love that I’ve been brainwashing him into loving. So it’s definitely a little bittersweet to watch him evolve past those things and start finding interests of his own.
But at the same time, I’ve been waiting for his individuality to emerge, and while I didn’t exactly expect that individuality to it express itself via a Star Wars-destroying Japanese cartoon I’d never heard of, to each his own!
If, like me, you’ve never heard of Yo-kai Watch before now, you can get more information here:
Disclaimer: I was compensated both financially and in product by Hasbro for the #YokaiWatch campaign. All opinions remain my own.