I was at my LCS a few weeks back and found this manga among their relatively small section. Little Battlers Experience has been like finding a small new world. I read the first volume and wondered why I had never heard of the series because it seemed like a perfect mainstream series to make into a million offshoots. Upon further research, that is pretty much the case.
Littler Battlers Experience, LBX for short, came out in 2011 (a decade ago!). However, it is pretty tough to say what the initial idea was. Wiki claims the series is based off of a game developed by Level 5 (one of my favorite video game studios). The first game came out on PSP in June of 2011. The manga predates that by 5 months. But maybe Level 5 wanted a manga out to introduce kids to the series before the game’s release? The anime came out in March of the same year, both predating the original game. By my calculations, there’s no ongoing anime, but a series called LBX Girls just wrapped up their first season. It has spawned several video games, spin off mangas and anime adaptions.
So, what is Little Battlers Experience? This game came out late in what I call the “kids anime” genre. Think Pokemon, Digimon and even Bakugan. A lot of those animes came out in the late 90’s and early 2000s. Most kid animes did not take off after that time period. Bakugan is probably an exception, coming out in 2007. And it just missed the DS/3DS revival. Yokai Watch kind of became the next generation’s Pokemon in a way. The DS and 3DS helped give a lot these made for kids animes a place to branch off into games. LBX tells the story of how little robots were built for kids to battle with. They’re customizable robots and the stages are cardboard dioramas. Our main character’s, Van, father was a creator of LBXs. He would die in a tragic airplane accident. 5 years later a woman holding a mysterious briefcase shows up being chased by 3 men. She hands the briefcase to Van and tells him to run. The briefcase is revealed to have an LBX created by Van’s father. Later it is also discovered that Van’s father hid a blueprint to an unlimited energy source in the robot. Van’s father is also alive and being held captivate by the evil organization introduced earlier. Van must win a tournament to claim the key needed for the infinite energy machine. For exchange of the key, the organization will release Van’s father.
The story is nothing special or groundbreaking, but it does not need to be. The manga is mostly for kids and to help sell the video game. On that front, I think it does a fine job. The art is good, the characters are likable but not really unique and the story doesn’t drag on. In fact, one of my complaints is the story progresses pretty quickly. Another knock is that, for now, the characters are only passable. The good guys are heroic with reckless abandonment and the villains are corny levels of cliché. This won’t matter to kids who are just enjoying robots killing each other. Volume 1 is fine as far as the setting, the scope, and grand scheme of the story. I feel like volume #2 may help in those departments as the LBX tournament is about to start.
But on the plus side, this is a great starter manga for kids. It only ran 6 volumes so it should be easy to collect. It is pretty action pack to keep the kids’ attention. The battlers are similar to Pokemon or any of those kind of mangas. There’s no foul language, no blood and guts, no perverted comments or degrading of women. It is just a good, clean fun manga.
Recap: To reiterate, this a fun manga if you are into series like Pokemon, Zatch Bell or anything that seems similar to those. If you like those adventures, you’ll feel right at home with this one.
Action: This manga has action in every chapter. And its robot action too!
Romance: No hints of romance currently.
Plot: Again, this is a kids series. The plot is deeper than say Pokemon, but it is not the main draw here.
Characters: I like the characters. Right now, they are all pretty stereotypical. We have the stubborn hero, the jaded grandson, the cartoon villain, the buddies through it all pals. But they are likable and well written for what they are.
The World: The world is like ours, but with mini fighting robots.
Humor: This isn’t your typical edgy humor Shonen but it has moments of being funny.
Verdict: 7 out of 10. It is not perfect but I enjoyed my time with it. My LCS has 2-4. I’ll probably pick them up at some point. I recommend checking this one out for sure if it sounds interesting to you.