new Japanese cartoon, Hamtaro, first aired in August 2002. A story about pet hamsters who have a secret
life of their own, Hamtaro is adorable and sweet, and our
prediction that it was "destined to
be a very popular show for little ones" has certainly come to
pass. While it won't be another Pokemon
(its audience is more limited), judging by kids' reactions to the
first episode (and their continued fascination with the show and
characters), Hamtaro is a winner.
The human main
character, a ten-year-old girl named Laura, has just moved into a
new home along with her pet hamster, Hamtaro (pictured along with
his Ham-Ham friends at right).
While Laura explores her new town, Hamtaro escapes from his pet cage
and meets the neighborhood hamsters (the Ham-Hams). There's Boss,
Cappy, Snoozer, Bijou, and more.
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the first episode, Hamtaro meets the timid, nervous, and
apologetic Oxnard. Shortly thereafter, Boss emerges menacingly
from his tunnel--he's a field hamster who's been around (he
doesn't have an owner to give him a home or food, he explains).
Although gruff and tough, Hamtaro (and little viewers) soon
discover that he's really quite nice. In fact, he has a crush on a
sweet little French number, Bijou. After a fumbled serenade, will
Bijou fall "head over paws" for Boss? Or will she fall
for Hamtaro instead?
A Cartoon Soap
10-year-old girl as the main character, Hamtaro seems to be aimed
at a young female audience. However, little boys should enjoy
Hamtaro as well. The cartoon emphasizes the social interactions of
both Laura and her new friends as well as the group of hamsters.
The hamsters, each of which has a well-defined character, have
budding (and sometimes competing) friendships and love
aspect of the show makes it a little like an animated children's
soap opera. And, it's probably just as addictive!
Books, toys, and even a GameBoy Color game
starring Hamtaro have recently been released. First out was The
Official Hamtaro Handbook, pictured at left. Through this fun
guide, kids can get
acquainted with each character -- Bijou, Penelope, Pashmina, Panda,
Howdy, and more -- through biographies; learn the
"language" (the hamsters speak English, but they have
some special expressions); play with stickers; and learn about the
episodes. See our full
[For more information, or to order: The Official Hamtaro Handbook
More books include Hamtaro storybooks, a Hamtaro Pop-Up
Playset (shown at right) that allows children to play
with the hamsters in a simulated house setting, and Hamtaro Origami
set. We looked at both of these books. They both keep kids
busy "creating", but the Origami book is on the difficult
side. Although the origami projects are supposed to be comparatively
easy, our younger kid testers gave up on them. Even our 12 year old
had a hard time completing them. The Hamtaro Pop-Up Playset,
however, is certainly a fun papercraft for kids. Like many paper
crafts, they don't always last long in many households, but the
process is very enjoyable.
[For more information, or to order: Hamtaro Pop-Up Playset
Kids will love the Hamtaro and Bijou plush toys--they're
toys come in one of two sizes, regular or jumbo. There are also
mini plush dolls of a number of Ham-Ham characters available.
[For more information, or to
order: Hamtaro Jumbo Plush: Hamtaro
The first Hamtaro video game was released for GameBoy Color
last fall and is called, Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite! The game is
still available. Kids need to find the Ham-Hams and return them to the
Clubhouse for a surprise from Boss. In order to accomplish their
goal, they need to learn Ham-Chat, a secret Ham-Ham language. We
have a full review
of this cute, but challenging, game.
[For more information, or to order: Hamtaro: Ham Hams Unite!
Released in April 2003 is a Hamtaro game for GameBoy
Advance, Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak. The story line is fun--kids
need to restore love between Ham-Ham couples (not all male-female,
so perhaps we should refer to them as
This game stars the lead male and female characters of the show,
Hamtaro and Bijou. There are certainly many similar elements to
the game as the Ham-Hams Unite game (it picks up where it left
off, kind of), the graphics are better (naturally!) and the story
is also original. New Ham-chat words are featured, and there is a
photo studio where children can bring their lead characters for
dressing up. Players also prepare the gems they've collected (they
collect more when the bond between Hamtaro and Bijou is strong) in
the "rubrub" room, and then create jewelry accessories
with them. This is a very cute game, but it is very challenging
for young fans of the show! Best for older fans.
[For more information, or to order:
Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak
Now available! An educational software game for
kids starring Hamtaro. This CD-ROM is age-appropriate
for the target audience of the Hamtaro show and educational too! Called Hamtaro: Wake Up Snoozer!,
this CD-ROM features educational games in the areas of math,
logic, language arts, and phonics, as kids go on an
adventure to find the sweet baby Ham-Ham, Penelope. See screenshots
from the game.
Videos and DVDs of the show have also been released.
See Hamtaro Videos
and Hamtaro DVDs.
Many Hamtaro fans will want to re-enact and invent some of their
own stories through play with Hamtaro figurines. We just love
these figures and sets! They are a huge, huge hit with young
children, whether they have seen the show or not.
Set #1 contains Hamtaro,
Bijou, Oxnard, Howdy, Pashmina, Sandy, Dexter, and Cappy; while Set
#2 includes Hamtaro, Pashmina, Jingle, Penelope, Maxwell, Panda,
Snoozer, and Bijou. Each set also includes accessories. Search
to buy: Hamtaro Toys
is designed to be used with the Hamtaro figures and sets shown
approximately 10-inch high playhouse features rooms for
kids to play with their little Ham-Ham toy characters. Our kid
testers really enjoy this house--they used the figure sets (8 in
all) shown above to "furnish" the house with a sink, bed,
fridge, and so forth. We have some complaints: the house could have
been a little bigger! Unless you own only a few sets, it gets
overcrowded fast! Also, we wish the back of the house closed so that
kids could easily store the tiny pieces inside. The little swing
that attaches to the house is quite sensitive (the figures flop out
of it easily). Be aware that there is only one figure (Hamtaro)
included in the set, and furnishings need to be purchased
separately. However, kid testers really enjoy the set-up and details
of the house. It comes with stickers of things like a rug, portraits
of Ham-Hams for the walls, and so forth. There are places for the
Ham-Ham figures to sit, and they can even be placed on the sides of
the walls so that it appears they are climbing the wall of the
[For more information, or to order: Ham-Ham House
Get Acquainted with the Ham-Hams
Currently, the best way to get acquainted with the Ham-Hams is
through the official web
site. There, kids can meet all the characters, read short
bios, print out coloring pages of the Ham-Hams, and learn about the
episodes in the series. And, of
course, the cartoon itself is available on the Cartoon Network
daily (YTV in Canada).
A terrific site for Hamtaro fans can be found at http://www.hamtaro-games.com,
a Nintendo site which has recently been updated extensively as a
result of the new GameBoy Advance Ham-Ham Heartbreak game
release. See screenshots from the game and play some online
games: find gems on the site and bring them to the Rubrub room
for polishing, make a Hamtaro scene (complete with backgrounds
and virtual stickers), and participate in Ham-jams. Very fun and