The Sparagen Collection: Popinica
by Marc Sparagen
DX Tiger Hurrycane
The world's finest transforming car. The two forms have different drivers-- Tiger Mask II and what looks like Las Vegas Elvis-- and even different license plates!
Go get one! Or contact me if you really want the transformation explained.
To do: some of the black trim needs a touch-up. Also, there is one slight design flaw: the missiles for the
front gun cannot be loaded when the car is in Elvis mode. A minor modification will fix this.
Gatchaman II 'Hound' Tank (motorized version)
This ship has a great 'live' look, the obligatory missile launchers, and a weird beak-launched cannonball attack.
But the best feature is the motor. Wind up Ryu in his cockpit like an alarm clock, and pull the lever to release the spring. The tank rolls forward on its treads and the cockpit spins back around.
To do: one of the missile launchers needs a replacement spring, and Ryu needs to face the front of the cockpit.
Big Scale Yamato
I was a big Star Blazers fan as a kid. That and Battle of the Planets were the only 'Japanimation' shows to make it to my home town (and only via cable TV). It's funny to read years later that the first series is regarded as a "thinly veiled World War II fantasy." Regardless, there certainly are a lot of poorly written or filler episodes. Also, some of the translation is pretty weak, as when Wildstar receives a box of sushi and says, "My favorite! Chocolate cake!" But of course, I still love it, especially the end of the second (American) series where Trelaina thwarts the Comet Empire.
Of the several versions of the toy Yamato out there, none is as intensely detailed or feature-laden as the 20+ inch Popy 'Big Scale.' This ship is very much like the 12-inch DX Yamato, but has three additional features. These, and the larger size, more than compensate for the DX Yamato's metal upper hull and flashier color scheme, in my estimation.
The main features common to the two ships are: a nice display stand, retractable wheels gear-operated turrets, spring-loaded Wave Motion Gun
enclosure, top-loading bow torpedo launcher (featuring a clever deck-mounted launching apparatus that needs to be 'cocked' before the torpedo can be loaded or launched), and retractable spring-loaded Cosmo Fighter launch bays.
The 'Big Scale' also features a hidden missile storage bay in the conning tower, spring-loaded pop-out wings (the DX Yamato's wings need to be pulled out manually), and my personal favorite, rear wheels that fold in and out like an airplane's landing gear.
Double Takes Death Star
That's no moon! Pull a tab and it's Tatooine, push the tab and it's the Death Star again. Quick, easy, fool-proof, (and patented) transformation.
The base (I try to avoid the term 'playset') is also quite richly designed: the Millennium Falcon is a standout. The Tatooine scene includes (among other details) Luke's farm, a Sandpeople ambush, and the Mos Eisley Spaceport and cantina. There is also a Death Star hangar scene inside the top.
A couple of things in the set move up and down if you hit nearby buttons, the farm house opens up, and if you wish to depict a more chilling scene, charred skeletons can appear near the house.
To do: I plan to repaint the inside of the base, especially the peach-colored Tatooine 'sand', and glue the included character figurines in strategic positions (so as not to hinder the transformation of the base itself).
A bit of a one-trick pony, the Getta Robo base Fordam G is nonetheless brilliant, beautiful, and unique.
Turn the crank, and a set of gears raises the upper portion of the dome, while the inner 'beacon' core rises at a slightly faster rate to push out the red and white 'petals' that make up the top of the closed dome.
The signal to stop cranking is when a hidden tab triggers the launch bay to swing forward, allowing the rather tiny Getta G ships to be shot out and lost in the carpet.
Just the look of the base is amazing as well. The attention to detail is superb-- the chiseled mountainside, the snail head entrance, and of course the bizarre 'Death Star / beach ball / vegetable steamer' dome.
I have seen versions of this base in books etc. that have multi-colored metal ships instead of the red plastic ones that mine has. Is mine a later version or a bootleg?
Pull the cootie-bug nose and the head/cockpit opens up, revealing a tiny pilot. Push the tail fin and the wings pop open just like an insect in 'defense mode.' There are even blue fold-out inner wings; unfortunately, these do not fan out automatically.
The primary-colored shell and head (great eyes!) are offset well by the chrome innards, the black spidery legs, and the metallic blue underbelly (complete with firing missile).
Here is a bonus shot of Conchuter facing off against the evil Brass Cricket Knickknack.
Ulysses 31 Astronave
A rare and ingenious Popy piece, L'Astronave di Ulisse or "Navette" was only released in France and Italy.
The three component vehicles, Dardos, Orbos, and Vires, look great both in tandem and on their own. All have their own missile launchers. Dardos is the only one that can launch while attached to the others, while Orbos' launch button is hidden inside its cockpit. Each vehicle also does a slick change once separated.
Dardos has the typical Popy fold-out metal wheels, but it also has a most atypical folding body that transforms it from the broad bow of the Astronave into a streamlined fighter. It's like diecast origami.
It is the Vires tank that is the real prize of the three, though. This is not just because of the 'Viva la France' color scheme or the vintage Chevy fins. Once Orbos is undocked, its holding bay in Vires extends to form a bulldozer shovel -- this and the Bul Vulcan make up a sub-collection of 'heroic construction equipment.' The two sides of the tank compact to surround the shovel's arm, while rubber treads fold out from hidden hatches.
When Orbos is ready to dock, pushing the red button on the top of Vires violently parts the two sides of the tank (note: this feature can actually be hazardous to the toy!). Then, as Orbos settles back into its holding bay, it pushes two rods (visible underneath Vires) backwards, which in turn fold open panels that cover the gaps in the widened back of Vires.
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