“No, I know. It sounds weird to me too,” I assured the mother of my son’s friends. “I did just ask if your kids could come over and I could show them Japanese cartoons and take pictures of them. I get it.”
Let’s rewind back to mid-December: my son and I were Christmas shopping, and Nintendo had a game kiosk set up in the mall. Among the games was one called Yo-Kai Watch. My son and I wouldn’t have paid too much attention to it, except that one of the game’s characters was a butt. Like, literally, a butt. A Nintendo rep asked my son if he wanted a Yo-Kai Watch mask. “THE BUTT I WANT THE BUTT,” my son yelped because he’s seven years old and he’s my son and I love him as much as anything could love anything.
But I digress.
Flash forward to me on the phone with my son’s friend’s mom, stumbling through inviting them to our house for a Yo-Kai Watch party. All I kept thinking was “don’t mention the butt character, don’t mention the butt character.”
“Also, there’s a character shaped like a butt who makes people fart,” I blurted out to the other mom.
Despite this, my son’s friends came over to play with some Yo-Kai Watch toys and watch episodes of the Disney 😄 show.
This Yo-Kai Watch stuff is weird-cool. Like, Japanese weird-cool. And be not fooled, Japan loves it. Yo-Kai Watch beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens in their opening weekend. Dang!
So, the idea is that there are these spirits called “yo-kai” around us in the world, and they make us do mischievous things like fight with each other, fart and jaywalk. You get this watch and it helps you see the yo-kai, befriend them, and I’d assume, control your gas. But this idea of tortured spirits interacting with the living, it’s all very Japanese. Here in the United States, if you do something wrong, it’s all “dude, be a man. Own your screw-ups.” In Japan, they’re like “so you crashed your car, it was probably just a yo-kai! Ho he ho ho!”
Again, I digress.
My son’s friends came over and we tore into the box of toys that Hasbro sent me (disclosure!*). All three kids got watches, medallions that fit into them (and scream out the yo-kai’s name at the press of a button), a binder for the medallions, and a little plastic yo-kai figure that held its medallion. I know that there are also plush figures (and don’t think that I haven’t been babysitting Amazon for a plush of Cheeksqueek, the butt-faced yo-kai).
We watched the show, and I was actually surprised at how many of the jokes landed for me. And so it went, the kids would be playing with the toys on the carpet and I’d laugh at a joke, and my son’s friend would ask “what was so funny, Mr. Rosenberg?” “Please,” I’d reply. “Mr. Rosenberg is my father. Call me ‘Matthew’s daddy.’”
And the confused kids would go back to farting and blaming yo-kai for it, which I was totally fine with because we had pizza and it’s a known fact that my body doesn’t know what to do with pepperoni either.
Anyway, coolest thing about these medallions was that you can download an app, and point your iPad/iPhone/Android device at one of the medallions and it’ll “bring the yo-kai to life” within the camera frame. That’s like magic to kids these days, and after I downloaded the app, I sat back and listened to the kids yell “DO THIS ONE NOW, NOW THIS ONE” for a half hour. They didn’t even notice that I finished the pizza and ate two cookies in secret in the corner. Don’t blame me, man. It was the yo-kai.
The mom was happy too because she and my wife drank Diet Coke and ate pizza and didn’t have to field questions and complaints from seven year olds for one whole Earth hour. Everyone’s a winner here, folks.
(*I was compensated in product and sweet, sweet American dollars for this article, but all words and opinions, as usual, are my own.)