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June 25, 2004

Chronic Addiction

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 10:42 pm

Chogokin Chronicle: Selected by Katsushi Murakami is hands-down the glossiest (and, at more than $50, the most expensive) coffee table book on Chogokin ever produced. The presentation is stunning. It’s large-format — at 8 1/2 by 12 inches, it’s even larger than the previous heavyweight, THE Chogokin. It’s hardcover and slip-cased. And it also contains a DVD packed full of interviews, old Chogokin commercials, and an oddly alluring video gallery of the toys featured in the book set to (kinda lame) music.

The scope of the book is quite small: the evolution of the Japanese robot as seen though the eyes of Popy’s head designer Katsushi Murakami. As such, it focuses on just 22 of the Chogokin character lines, each selected to illustrate the sense of evolution and personal one-upmanship within Popy. (The last few pages of the book contains a “thumbnail” gallery of every Chogokin toy, arranged in chronological order, but it’s all in black and white.)

Visually, there isn’t a whole lot of new information here. (In fact, if anything, the photographic style echoes that of Tim Brisko’s work.) The twist comes from getting to read a personal take on the design process for each of the featured toys. (A full seven are dedicated to the hallowed Chokinzoku Tetsujin 28, which Murakami designed himself.) Perhaps the most fascinating aspect is realizing just how much of a fundamental role Popy played in creating many of the classic robot character designs. According to the book, Murakami and his design staff either proposed or finalized the specific layout and color scheme of nearly every giant robot character that Popy produced in toy form.

Do you need Chogokin Chronicle? To answer that question, you’ve got to know thyself. Are you an inveterate, obsessive completist? Or a laid-back sort who only enjoys the occasional ogle of shiny robo-porn? If you’re looking for a visually-oriented field guide, Igarashi’s Encyclopedia of Chogokin and Popinika is a better bet. And if you’ve already got THE Chogokin, you may find yourself disappointed in the narrower scope. Then again, Chogokin Chronicle does feature superior photography, interesting (albeit totally Japanese) commentary, and that nifty DVD of vintage Chogokin commercials. Pick yer poison!

Matt

June 18, 2004

Chogokin Insider

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 9:27 pm

Inside Report: Soul of Chogokin

Adults in touch with their inner children, challenging themselves to re-create the robots they loved as kids!

Chances are you have at least one favorite anime robot. These overwhelmingly powerful, invincible defenders of Earth left a deep impression on those who watched their exploits. Bandai gave these feelings solid form with the Chogokin series of toys, which were made available to viewers all over the country.

In 1997, more than twenty years after the birth of the Chogokin series, a new toy series designed to stoke the spirit of the generation that loved the originals appeared: “Soul of Chogokin.” They’re made for adults and portray the exact same anime robots as the original Chogokin toys. Just how does Bandai make these Soul of Chogokin toys? We sent an undercover reporter into their laboratory to throw some light on the subject.

The Soul of Chogokin production process:

1) Deciding on a character (1 – 2 months)

2) Rough design and blueprints (2 – 3 months)

3) Detailed blueprints for each part ( 2 – 3 months)

4) Deciding on gimmicks via prototyping and re-design (1 – 2 months)

5) Creation of molds and final adjustments (1 – 2 months)

6) Manufacture

7) Packaging and sale

An Explosion of Ideas! A Passionate Debate Over Robots!
The Project Starts!

The Soul of Chogokin series is reknowned for its realistic renditions of animated robot designs. The series builds on the incredibly popular first series of Chogokin from the 1970s. Much attention is paid to improving the detail, articulation, and functionality over the original toys and to replicate the “coolness” of the original animated designs to the ultimate degree. Although they’re toys, they’re intended for adults rather than children. Why aim for an adult demographic? And why pick Chogokin for this sort of treatment? We spoke to one of the people responsible for guiding the Soul of Chogokin series: Hiroaki Tanaka from Design Team 3 of the Bandai Character Toy Division.

Tanaka:Even before the Soul of Chogokin series, there were people at Bandai who wanted to develop “Chogokin for adult consumers.” Circumstances dictated otherwise and it never actually happened.

Around 1995, the popularity of high-quality action figures from series like Spawn and Star Wars created a market for toys intended for adults. People began re-discovering Chogokin at the time, and more and more people within the company began saying that they ‘wanted to create a Chogokin for my generation.’ So there was a match between what fans and the staff wanted, and the result was the beginning of a new chogokin project. The first toy in the Soul of Chogokin series was Mazinger Z. Mazinger Z was the character at the vanguard of the Chogokin series in the 1970s. We wanted to create the same excitement among people in their 20s and 30s as the original Mazinger Z Chogokin had created among kids in the 1970s. That’s why we picked the character to kick off the series. Ever since, we’ve picked a new design every year based on what we hear from the consumers.

As I look over the design proposals on my desk, I discuss them with colleagues who happen to pass by: “I’d like to see this gimmick,” “I’d like it to be able to take that pose,” and debate the kinds of things I’d like to see in the toy myself. Sometimes we get wrapped up in reminiscing about the show, though. (Laughs) Occasionally, I’ll get mad at someone: “how could you NOT remember that line?” or “you don’t remember that weapon?” (Laughs) And of course, I re-watch all of the related material on DVD. My parents used to yell at me for reading comic books as a kid, but now that I’m an adult and it’s part of my job, they yell at me for not reading them enough. It’s kind of funny, actually.

The thing is, you really have to understand exactly what would make you happy in a toy rendition of a given character before you start working on it. If you don’t, you’ll never make something that will please the fans. So it’s very important for me to watch the show again and try to recall how I felt about it as a kid.

Matt

June 15, 2004

Tokyo Toy Show Redux

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 4:36 am

Mo’ show photo.

Matt

Tokyo Toy Show 2004

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 3:57 am

Another year, another Tokyo Toy Show.

Not much to report this time around. Although there seemed to be a lot more people this year — last year, the organizers actually told people from China and Southeast Asia not to come because of SARS concerns — there wasn’t a whole helluva lot of “wow” to go around.

About the biggest surprise — well, to me, anyway — was the announcement that the next Shin Seiki Gokin toys will be a 1:72 APC and Dropship from the film “Aliens” and a 1/48 scale rendition of “Airwolf” from that ’80s TV “hit” of the same name. SCRAPE THE BARREL, BABY!

On the Bandai front, buncha chunky Dekaranger stuff. Some random SD figs. Some decently detailed plastic toys from the upcoming Thunderbirds flick. Also, a Kado Senshi Zeta Gundam in black-and-blue “Titans” colors was on display. Alas, alert security men tackled me as I tried to photograph it. I also had my first view of the new Soul of Sofubi figures, which turned out to be the exact same size and quality as standard Bandai Ultraman vinyls.

And that’s about it. Enjoy a random-ass sampling of shots from the show. Highlights include some nice shots of the Yamato’s upcoming Koenig Monster and Scopedog toys (and lemme tell ya, that Scope Doggy Dog is biggie big. A good 12″ tall, easy.)

Bear in mind that the toys photographed represent my frighteningly short attention span and in no way indicates the complete range of stuff on display at the show.

Matt

June 14, 2004

Ultr@?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 3:36 am


You know youíre in trouble when you canít figure out which fetish youíre responding to: Łber-cool, designer kitsch or your favorite character license. Whatever the reason, Medicomís ursa ultras have invaded.


Initially available only at various JP toy festivals, three sets have now been released: Ultraman, Katokutai, Dada, and Zetton arrived last year, followed by Ultra Seven, Ultra Keibitai, Eleking, Metron, Imit Ultra Seven, Kingjoe, and Pegassa in two similar releases this year.


There really isnít much more that can be said.


Be@rbricks are sturdy (if ridiculous) little things that will stand there obligingly enough. You can position their arms and hands, balance them on one foot, pivot them at the waist -what have you. You can wonder when more will be released and whether youíll be able to find them at a reasonable price. Then, of course, youíll get to fight off that nagging suspicion that youíve been had -all the fun you’ve come to expect as a collector!


I tell myself I buy these for the kaiju but another, stronger voice says that, with the purchase of this kind of pap, It’s too late for simple excuses.

cae

Ultr@?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 3:06 am




                You know youíre in trouble when you canít figure out which fetish youíre responding to: Łber-cool, designer kitsch or your favorite character license. Whatever the reason, Medicomís ursa ultras have invaded.


 


                Initially available only at various JP toy festivals, three sets have now been released: Ultraman, Katokutai, Dada, and Zetton were in the first set last year, to be followed by Ultra Seven, Ultra Keibitai, Eleking, Metron, Imit Ultra Seven, Kingjoe, and Pegassa in two similar releases this year.


 


                There really isnít much more that can be said. Be@rbricks are sturdy little things and will stand there obligingly enough. You can position their arms and hands, balance them on one foot, pivot them at the waist -what have you. Then, of course, you can wonder when more will be released and whether youíll be able to find them at a reasonable price. Every once in a while youíll get to fight off the nagging suspicion that youíve been had -all the traditional toy collector fun!


 

                I tell myself I bought them for the kaiju but another, stronger voice says that, with the purchase of this kind of pap, Iím beyond needing a simple excuse.
cae

June 12, 2004

Props to Pro!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 12:37 am

The specs for the High Complete Model Progressive line, Bandai’s sequel to their old ’80s-vintage HCM series, are pretty impressive.

1500 yen a pop. Just three and a half inches high, yet jointed out the wazoo, with fun details like little hydraulic pistons and removable armor plates. Sturdy styrene plastic construction with none of that floppy flacidity you’ve come to associate with PVC toys.

And yet it’s the same old tired handful of First Gundam characters. Look, I love Gundam. He’s a great guy. He got me interested in Japanese toys in the first place. But man, even I’m starting to get tired of the status quo.

Never fear. As it turns out, the HCM-Pro are modular! Was this intentional? Beats me. But they’re kinda like Gundam lego! (Or perhaps “Gundam Ark“?) At least, within their own little families. The Zeon and Federation suits feature ever-so-slightly different ball joint and peg diameters, effectively preventing cross-breeding. Incest is best, I guess! (Uh.. did I just type that?) But don’t take my word for it. Check out these nutty combinations.

How ya like me now?

Gundamcannon!

Who am I?

Gorilladam!

Here’s to hoping they keep it up for future releases — and if Bandai P.R. is any indication, there’s plenty more to come. I really dug the play value of the l’il suckers. If you’ve got even a teensy, tiny bit of interest in the things, pick up a handful and get combinin’!

Matt

June 4, 2004

Kazutaka Miyatake

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 11:12 pm

I became involved with the design of Zanbot 3 at the beginning of the process, when it was still a five-unit combining robot. I recall the flow of work being that first Kunio Okawara drew a rough sketch of a three-unit combining base, then Ryouji Hirayama smoothed out the lines, and then I went in and added various details. Yasuhiko Yoshikazu and Hirayama did the final clean up.

This project marked the first time Studio Nue worked with Sunrise, and this is where I learned one of the fundamentals of robot design, ďone point, many directionsĒ (note: a method of design that places emphasis on the lines that radiate from the center of the design outward.) We were specifically asked to use it to design Zanbot. We used the technique to shape all of Zanbot 3ís lines. For example, the fins on the waist were initially positioned higher and were round, but if you do that, it disrupts the flow from the center of the design. Thatís why they have the shape they do and are positioned where they are.

We were incredibly busy at the time and did a lot of rough sketches. Studio Nue was capable of cleaning up its own roughs, but we just didnít have enough time to make them good enough to use in animation. I remember us begging Sunrise to let us off the hook just before having to turn them in. (Laughs) During that process I created the perspective drawings for each vehicle and designed the cockpits. I had originally drawn different cockpits for each of the three vehicles, but circumstances dictated that we only use a single common cockpit in the end, which is a shame.

The Zanbo Magnum was created with the help of then-president of Studio Nue Kenichi Matsuzaki, who was a total military fanatic and came up with all sorts of ideas. It feels like I tried to incorporate every single one of them into the drawings. I came up with the Holster Jet myself.

I didnít put too much thought into how Zanbot 3ís head would be stored away. At first I drew a picture of the Zanbird with the head poking out of the tail, but even I felt like ďthis doesnít really cut it.Ē In the end it was decided to store the head in the body, but manufacturing costs, the limits of technology at the time, safety considerations and such meant that Clover (note: the toy company that sponsored the show) couldnít replicate the feature in their toys. It was Cloverís first animation production as well, so they made all sorts of design requests to Sunrise, who told them what was possible and what wasnít, and there was a lot of back-and-forth fumbling around. That was the era.

But now, thereís a toy maker whoís willing to give their all to make a perfect three-dimensional representation of the character as seen onscreen. It really shows how times have changed. Itís also miraculous that thereís an older audience out there willing to buy the toys, and this project and production is a reflection of that. You know, Sunrise and we put our all into making something for the kids, whoíve grown up to be fathers and now adult customers. Itís really touching.

[Credits: Interview conducted by Akira Tanizaki. Appeared on page 3 of the guidebook provided for the Bandai Soul of Chogokin Zanbot 3.]

Matt
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