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DIGIMON'S COMING; New monster toys may KO Pokemon.

AFTER Pokemon, a new toy craze is about to hit Britain - the Digimon digital monster.

The cartoon version is already on television via Channel 5 and satellite. Now the big business of spin-off merchandising will arrive in two weeks.

Only losers will be parents, whose wallets may take a hammering as children turn away from Pokemon.

Digimon - latest variety of Japanese pocket monster - are an army of 279 colourful beasts. They range from lizards, dinosaurs and dragons to a cactus with boxing gloves and even a slug.

Like Pokemon, a gang of children try to defeat the forces of darkness.

Unlike Pokemon - whose fans are mainly boys - Digimon is targeting both sexes.

In the cartoon, seven children - Tai, Sora, Matt, Joe, Mimi, Izzy and T.H. - are taken from summer camp to a digital fantasy land called DigiWorld.

They are befriended by tiny Digimons, whom they train to defeat the Evil Digimon.

The toys are the work of Bandai, the firm behind virtual pets Tamagotchi and the Power Rangers.

They have already conquered the US market, six weeks after launch.

Sales of Greymon (a cross between a rhino and a dinosaur), Togemon (a cactus) and Kabuterimon (a mutant insect) have hit pounds 47 million.

Pokemon, which has made pounds 6 billion worldwide, is staying silent.

But Digimon have knocked it off No.1 slot in a US toy chart.

A film is planned for the autumn and PlayStation games and virtual Digimon are on the market.

Now the British Association of Toy Retailers is preparing for an all-out Pokemon-Digimon war.

Secretary Moira Dowrie said: "It could be neck and neck here by Christmas."

Bandai is confident of victory. A spokesman said: "This is going to be even more popular than Pokemon, partly because it is going to be more attractive to girls.

"Digimon is about teamwork, not fighting."

Mum Rachel Cardwell, who has a six-year-old daughter Amy and runs a toy shop, called it "a cynical attempt to exploit children".

She said: "It's time for parents to say enough is enough."
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Author:Sayid, Ruki
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 15, 2000
Words:341
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