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December 20, 2004

Yamato VOTOMS News

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 10:47 pm

News from Yamato about future VOTOMS products:

The second Scopedog will be the Melkian soldier version. This is the
purplish-greyish variant you see in the first episode. Aside from the
color, the toy will be identical to the green version, and include the
same accessories.

The first accessory pack will include the ATP-BP01-ST Parachute Zack
and the GAT-22C rifle. The former will not actually deploy a parachute
(not that any of us are willing to throw ours off a roof), and the
latter is the short-barrel version of the rifle that’s currently
included with the Scopedogs.

The second accessory pack will include the ATC-BR01-S Round Mover
backpack for space missions, and the SAT-03 Solid Shooter bazooka.

The ATM-09-GC Brutishdog and a Fyana figure are currently being
designed. It hasn’t been decided whether these will be sold together
as a set, or separately.

The first exclusive Scopedog, the Odon Battle version (used by Chirico
in the Roots of Treachery OAV has been reported at Zinc Panic here:
Zinc Panic Radar


The second exclusive Scopedog will be a box set including a Red
Shoulder Scopedog with Chirico and sold at Toys R Us stores in Japan.
Aside from the one red shoulder, the toy will be identical to the
green version, and include the same accessories.

No price information is available on these, nor have any of these been
slated for American release yet, but keep watching this space for
updates!

Roger

December 14, 2004

TOTY 2004 Voting Begins

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

The 2004 Toy of The Year voting process begins now.

TBDX Rumble Crew

December 9, 2004

Review: Yamato 1/12 Scopedog

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 11:42 pm

You want details, huh? Well, you’re going to get ‘em, because Yamato’s 1/12 Scopedog is all about the details…


First Impressions


This time, instead of going for a straight window box presentation, Yamato put a huge illustration of the Scopedog on the front cover. The cover flips up, revealing the ‘dog inside and some product shots. The back of the box has statistics about the Scopedog. Most of the text on the box is in English.


The first thing that strikes you about this toy is the size of it: 12 1/2″ tall, and about 7 1/2″ wide. After picking it up, though, it feels very light, and it weighs in at 2 lbs, 3 oz. This is due to the construction: aside from a couple of small die-cast parts and vinyl in a couple of places where it’s needed, the toy is completely unpainted matte-finish styrene.


The Nitty Gritty


Legs: Each foot has a “roller-glide” wheel embedded in the sole that retract when the robot is standing. This way, the robot’s foot stays nearly flush against the ground, preventing it from roller-skating away. There is a removable “turnpick” braking spike on the side of each foot. The housing is plastic, and the spike is die-cast. The upper and lower legs can have the armor removed, a feature repeated on almost every part of the toy. If you want to disassemble the entire thing and play “AT Garage”, you can do so. The rung on the right knee is die-cast.


The front of the legs allow the Scopedog to assume the “down form” position, allowing the pilot to get in and out easily without having to climb up the front of a robot. The feet are articulated so that they can flex and arch. Ankles move freely from side to side and front to back. Knees bend and ratchet. Hips swing and ratchet, and can pivot inwards and outwards slightly. Legs are removable. All five hip armor skirts are hinged, as well as those on the front and back of the feet. The hip racks that hold the “armor punch” magazines can be removed and replaced with the magazines for the rifle.


Arms: Each arm has an “armor punch” feature. There is a plastic magazine in each forearm, and pushing it out through the bottom activates a spring-loaded punch. Using the feature is a little strange, but the way it’s implemented allowed them to avoid hiding a button somewhere on the arm. The arms are removable, and articulated at the shoulder, elbow, and wrist. There are rungs mounted on the shoulders, and hinged armor flaps on the wrists. As with the legs, armor on the forearms and biceps can be removed. Two pairs of fists are included, open and closed. The thumbs on the open fists detatch so the rifle can be inserted easily.


Torso: The hatch on the belly can be opened (a couple of people have asked me what function this serves, I don’t know, I never saw it used on the show). The rung on the belly hatch is die-cast. The cockpit opens and stays that way due to two metal hydraulic-style struts in the back. Inside the cockpit, the control joysticks flip up and down, the steering column swings forward and back, and the headrest moves. Most of the machinery inside has painted detail. The torso can be separated from the hips, and the belly portion of it can also be removed. An armor panel on the lower back can be removed, revealing machinery underneath.


Head: The head turns and the visor can flip up, revealing the pilot inside. The scope can slide back and forth along the visor, the entire scope assembly rotates, and the main scope can be focused. Small translucent blue, red, and green pieces are present for the lenses, and there is also a translucent green sensor on the back of the head. The antenna is hard vinyl. The head can be removed from the torso, and the visor can be removed from the head. Molded and painted detail can be seen inside the visor.


Accessories: The rifle has a removable butt, barrel, and magazine. The forward handle flips up, and there is an auto-selector switch on the rifle that can be set to three positions. Two additional magazines for the rifle are included. In addition to the two armor punch magazines in the forearms, six additional ones are included that fit into the racks on the hips.


Paperwork: A 12 page full color glossy manual with Japanese text illustrates every feature of the toy. The final two pages of the booklet show line art used in the show, as if to say, “See? We got it right.” Two 8 1/2″ by 6 1/2″ sheets of matte-finish pre-cut decals are included with various squad insignia, including one for the Red Shoulders.


Tuning The Toy For Maximum Toy Satisfaction


One thing to look for when opening the box for the first time are the “ear” pieces that secure the visor to the head. These are small flat 1/2″ grey pegs, and both of mine popped out during shipping. Since putting them back on the toy, only one has popped out once. If this persists, a possible fix is to glue the pegs in, but that would prevent the visor being removed.


If there’s a seam showing on the bicep armor, just give the two halves a little squeeze to get them flush against each other.


One of the arms fell out once. If this persists, a possible fix is to cut out a small patch of fabric softener sheet, wrap it around the peg, and push it back into the socket. So far, though, the fit is nice and tight.


When standing the robot up, make sure the feet are flat against the ground for maximum stability. Sometimes the articulation in the feet will cause them to arch upwards. Unlike Matt’s, the ankles on mine are nice and tight. At any time I’ve been concerned about the toy toppling, I’ve given it the Harkavy Labs Stability Test (pounding on the table next to it for about a minute), and it has not fallen once. Even if any problems with the ankles develop, I’m confident they can be easily solved (perhaps another “fabric softener solution”).


In summary, my toy has a couple of very minor issues that have all been easily dealt with and haven’t detracted from my enjoyment of the toy.


Complaints (Because that’s what the internet is all about, right?)


It would be nice if the armor flaps on the wrists had some detail on the underside. It would be nicer if the lens piece in the main scope was a little less opaque. It would be nicest if the barrels came off of the rifle to make the stripped-down version that the Marshydog uses. And the ultimate wish for this toy would be the inclusion of a red shoulder piece to match the decals on the sheet.


In summary, half of my complaints are obsessive-compulsive nitpicks, and the other half are fanboy wishes that could be fulfilled on my own with a small amount of effort. Again, these issues haven’t detracted from my enjoyment of the toy.


Overall


It’s no secret, I love VOTOMS. This is the toy I’ve wanted since I held the little 1/60 Takara Scopedog in my hand 20 years ago. Putting all that aside, though, I have to say it’s an excellent toy. It’s the size of an infant, sturdy, as poseable as the design allows, incredibly faithful to the source material, and it does almost everything the “real” Scopedog does (short of walking around by itself and shooting things). I give it a solid A, I’m going to buy more, and I strongly recommend this toy if you’re a VOTOMS fan, a collector of mecha toys from the 80s, or if you’re someone who just likes big robots.


How To Get One


I got my Scopedog from Hobbylink Japan here. It shipped via EMS and arrived here in about 72 hours. Due to the dismal exchange rate (roughly 100 yen to the dollar), it cost about $220. To me, the price is justified, but I realize other collectors may balk at this price tag, understandably. If you have to have it now, though, this is the cheapest way to go.


Yamato-USA will be releasing the toy domestically in April through several distributors, including Diamond. You can see a list of retailers carrying the toy here. At least a couple of them are pre-selling it for under $100, and that’s how I plan on getting my second one.


As far as the future goes, the Chirico figure that goes with the Scopedog will be released in about a month, and future accessory packs and exclusive color variants are being discussed. More details on these as they become available.


Conclusion


Sorry that there aren’t many photos to go with this review, but hopefully these three pics will give you a size of the scope of the thing (pun intended). Rest assured, quality toy pr0n is on the way…


Ya done good, Tofu, real good.


(And Mike Johnson, eat your heart out.)

Roger

ScopeDOG = Scope GOD

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 7:10 pm

“Review”? Huh? C’mon. If you’re enough of a freak to be reading this, you’re enough of a freak to have already seen the photos on Japanese fan-sites like Yaco’s Log and the Toy Warehouse. You’ve already read the endless news-scoops and speculation and bitching on the BBS. Now you’re just going to have to take my word for it: pictures simply don’t do Yamato’s massive 1:12 ScopeDog toy justice. To wit: just BUY it, you hobo.

Not since the hallowed Jumbo Grade Zaku — yet another giant-sized toy I never expected any company to be crazy enough to produce — have I been so completely wowed by the physical presence of a product. This is one piece your thoroughly-whipped self won’t be able to sneak onto a crowded shelf in the hopes that your wife/husband/S.O./dominatrix/etc. doesn’t notice you’ve just dropped a week’s grocery money on (another) plastic robot.

The big difference here is that rather than a big-ass sofubi statue, you’ve got a big-ass “full action” toy that puts a lot of smaller and cheaper renditions to shame.Then again, size means weight, and that does introduce a new set of problems. ScopeDog’s Achilles heel — no pun intended– is a pair of precariously weak ankles that send it lurching forward or backward with the slightest finger-touch, particularly if you’ve posed it with the rifle pointing forward. (If this sounds familiar, it’s because Yamato’s Queadluun Rau suffers from the exact same affliction.) And the unrepentantly boxy design limits the number of natural-looking poses it can take. C’est la vie, I suppose.

In a world of companies that toe the line with blandly engineered “action figures” and the like, I’m glad someone had the balls to step up to the plate with such a luxurious representation of a relatively obscure robot character. I suspect nary a focus group played a role in the decision to make such an insanely, obsessively “luxe” plaything. Good for them.

Will it sell well? At close to $200 retail in Japan, even minus any sort of pilot figure (the sort of oversight that sends legions of “serious” collectors into a teeth-gnashing, panty-twisting conniption fit), perhaps not. Then again, perhaps Yamato’s onto something here with this finger-flipping, who’s-the-mack-daddy-now approach to toymaking. More power to ‘em. “Kado Senshi”? Nice try, but now there’s a new king of the real-robot hill, and it wasn’t made by one of the majors. Make all the excuses about “no diecast” or “Yamato QC” that you want. Even if you don’t actually shell out for one, this is the must-see robot toy for 2004.

Matt

December 7, 2004

At LonGGG Last!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Rumble Crew @ 1:08 pm

Written ostensibly for a young male audience, Yuusha Ou (King of Braves) Gaogaigar featured loads of old-school Super Robot daring-do set within a formulaic plot outline, where the men were macho for the most part, females eyebrow-raisingly risque at times, and the baddies, Deliciously Evil. And through it all, over-the-top robot fighting action, with piston-pumping gattai-sequences, innovative CGI effects; and time and again, hot-blooded heroic sacrifices with enough angst to rival Evangelion at times. Kids and grown-ups lapped it all up… To them, the GGG team of humans and semi-sentient AI-driven robots truly embodied all that was Heroic, Good and Brave about humankind.

It’s no wonder then, that toys and garage kits of GGG characters enjoy a great popularity amongst fans. For the longest time, the best GGG toys were those made by Takara. Big and colorfully molded in tough durable plastics, they bore clunky proportions (by today’s standards), eschewing better articulation for kid-pleasing combiner action that closely matched what was shown on TV. Fearsome Gaogaigar lost quite a bit of its presence in the translation, but nevertheless, the various original Japanese toys or Korean-licensed editions alike were eagerly sort after by collectors.

In more recent years, fans have been blessed with more choices from Yujin, Kaiyodo and Kotobukiya. These companies first offered beautifully proportioned and articulated PVC figurines of the various hero robots – then followed up with tougher ABS and ABS/diecast editions for Gaogaigar (and variants). So fans could finally own a beautiful rendition of their strong>King of the Braves… except that none of them could transform. That, was a deal killer for fans like myself, who really enjoyed the excitement of seeing the gattai sequence before the ultimate robot showdown. When Studio Halfeye showed-off a gorgeously sculpted full-gattai prototype, fans salivated once more, only to have the carpet yanked out from under them when the outrageously high (estimated) price was revealed. Could no one make the right compromise of aesthetics versus playability and affordability to make GGG fans’ dreams come true?

Well, it seems that CM’s Corporation has come to the rescue! Who are they? I don’t know much beyond that they’ve released a few sets of very well-received Macross mecha figurines (among others). I really didn’t know if they could successfully make the leap from PVC miniatures, no matter how nice, to full-fledged diecast/ABS construction. Still, their prototype photos promised GGG Heaven (I tried not to think of the corresponding Hell should it prove to be an ignoble failure), and so I placed an order for their Brave Gokin 01 set back in July ’04. I was not disappointed when I finally laid hands on the massive 17″ x 6.5″ x 6.5″ box last Sunday. Nothing to shout about on the outside, but the double-stacked styrofoam trays inside brought about instant Soul Of Chogokin deja-vu. They even threw in an SOC-styled accessories stand!

On to the toy proper… First up is Galeon, the white cybernetic lion that becomes the robot Gaigar – the core of Gaogaigar. I was pleased to note the generous use of diecast in the thighs and torso. The quality of plastics and the finishing were also of a high standard. The joints have been much-improved over the old Takara DX, although to say poseability is “superb” would be stretching it. I’m just glad Gaigar doesn’t look like a steroid-pumped freak anymore! On closer inspection, CM’s Corp’s attention to detail comes to light – especially around sharp, pointy areas like fangs and the like, which Takara had to make child-safe before. In Lion-mode, the new Galeon is a sleeker, less muscular cat. Other things to note: 2 PVC tails are included for Galeon, a short version which folds up neatly inside its waist/skirt armor, and a slightly longer one for tail-swishing poses. Also worth noting: the use of PVC for Gaigar’s head is slightly disappointing, but no different, really, compared to a majority of Bandai’s SOC toys. It’s just that the white material is quite obviously different from the rest of the body. Consolation? It’s gonna spend most of the time hidden under GGG’s nicer head/mask anyway.

Next up is the B2-bomber lookalike, Stealth Gao. From the top, they look mostly the same, but flip them over and, Aha! What’s this? The new plane has sneaked in a streamlined panel to hide the unsightly hollowed-out innards of old. The panel is “optional” – it has to be removed for the Final Fusion combination – otherwise you can’t attach Gaogaigar’s head to the red post. With the head attached, alas, the panel won’t fit in anymore. Small quibble anyway when you spot the cool new additions, like the swiveling wing-edge nozzles and proper jet-intake covers over bare-fists of yore. (Note also the diecast armatures which clasp the sides of Gaogaigar in Final Fusion mode.)

Making yet another point for details are the pair of Drill Gao machines that obviously form the main robot’s feet. Check out those pointy, chromed rotatable drills; and how about real rolling rubber tracks? Mmm Good!

In the earlier episodes, Gaigar used to “fuse” with Drill Gao and Stealth Gao to form a good-but-not-great intermediate form. The new Gaigar can rotate its shoulder-intakes 90-degrees to form pegs which attach to slots on the Stealth Gao. Honestly, I can’t remember if the old DX could “wear” its Stealth Gao like that, BUT the older toy had a much more secure means of attaching the drills to Gaigar’s hands, by way of a flip-out latch on the drill. The new toy relies on 2 small spring-loaded studs inside the “foot wells”, which clip onto indentations on Gaigar’s forearms. For my toy, the right arm attached nicely, but the left side tended to slip off. A small plus: the clip used to attach the two drills together can be recessed for a cleaner silhouette.

Then, we have the Liner Gaoanother singularly purpose-made vehicle, existing solely for that moment when Gaigar calls for Final Fusion. The older version is very simply constructed – no add-ons. Just insert into Gaigar’s chest cavity and click the halves into a “V” to lock in place; the upper arms are then lowered to align with Stealth Gao’s jets/forearms. The newer version again offers a cosmetic part: the middle portion has to be removed to expose the V-hinge. Not a bad idea, but just more kibble to keep track of! More importantly, as Gaogaigar’s arms, the shoulder joints feature 6-degrees of freedom for great articulation. Plus, the upper arms also turn in the vertical axis. Excellent improvements!

We come at last to FINAL FUSION. Permission has been granted; the GGG seal stamped; the safety glass smashed to smithereens by Mikoto on the bridge. How does CM’s Corp’s Brave Gokin stack up against the previous King of GGG toys? The answer is “Very well indeed!” The Takara may tower over the newcomer at 12″ versus 9.5″ at the wing-tips, but there’s no denying which toy has the better overall looks. True, there are other GGG “toys” out there with even better sculpts, and even higher quality of finish and diecast content, but THIS toy does the best job of balancing looks, gimmicks and playability. The provided accessories give a fan ALMOST everything one could wish for to recreate those famous poses in the show. “Almost” because while we do get a very nicely chromed and detailed Dividing Driver, we are deprived of the company of the all-mighty Goldion Hammer. (But you knew that already if you’d been following the prototype pix.)

The Dividing Driver attaches a little iffy-ly to the left arm by a single peg in the slot where the first would go. The old DX had the benefit of a latch-lock, but its useless legs could never achieve anything close to a cool pose, like the CM’s can. Sure to be a hit with
fans is the Protect Shade force-field, complete with a commanding “STOP RIGHT THERE!” palm. Equally intriguing is the “spinning-in-motion” Broken Magnum rocket-fist (which can actually be shot off from a spring loaded arm attachment, but would you?), which comes with a rocket exhaust cloud, AND a supporting stand for the lengthy set-up. I opted for a simpler solution: Just turn the upper arm 90-degrees so that it doesn’t swivel up/down and you can get some really solid poses; but don’t blame me if yours breaks off after prolonged display! Despite the lack of Goldion Hammer, Gaogaigar CAN pull off its more dangerous finishing move, the soul-draining HELL AND HEAVEN by way of a clasped-fist attachment. You can even choose to show the retrieved Zondar Core, if you want to…

What more can I say? Is it everything a GGG fan has hoped for? Perhaps…
It is certainly my dream representation of the King of Braves. It incorporates SOC, or near-SOC levels of detailing, quality of material and finish into a pretty reasonable collector’s price (approx US$150+). Arguable minuses include the need to remove cosmetic parts, and the rather immobile waist section. Even with a 5-part hinged skirt armor, the contraption only serves
to obstruct more dynamic leg poses. Don’t blame CM’s Corp for that; blame Ohkawara’s original design. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing some obvious repaints and variants soon, like the addition of space boosters to make Space Gao, and even an all golden or green-chrome version. What I do hope is that Goldymarg gets it’s own Brave Gokin release (No. 2? Please?), so that these two titans can face off more fairly on my desktop. :-)

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