Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen » 2000 » March
Eternal and Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen: random japanese toy collecting nonsense

March 8, 2000


Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 9:30 pm

Info Minister Alt lands in Boston for a tactical detente! Before picking him up, I charge the Dustbuster and stock the bar.

Logan Terminal B: as he slams the door on the Beetle, I pop the clutch. We squeal off towards the Ted Williams tunnel, in search of arms. Over the river at the Cambridgeside Galleria, we acquire the Fuji MX-1700 digital camera.

From there, a short hop to Porter Exchange for Katsu-don and Calpis. Finally, at my place, we make our first toast [Drambuie], accidentally smashing the snifters. Cinematic foreshadowing! The time is 14:03 EDT. Time to get to work.

A necessary moment spent with SOC Grandizer. I have to slap Alt’s dirty fingers off my Jumbomachinder Astro Robo. We retire to the “GekiGo” G3 to study Igarashi’s Microman CD-ROM, then make some decisions on the website nav bar. Over the hours, plans of attack crystalize. Finally, the clock reads 16:15. Time to hit Day-Old Antiques.

My relationship with Day-Old thru the years has been rich. Highlights have included “going up the ladder” and “manning the counter.” I’ve answered the phones, and also seen Every Collector’s Nightmare : stray Valkyrie guns, Shogun fists, and Godaikin missiles left like gum-wrappers twisting in the mid-bay storage-room. But despite all I’ve been privileged to see and do, I have never, in all my four years as a customer, ever…been…to…


The Basement! A collector nullspace: a mental construct of everything that’s been lost or misplaced throughout the dim years of youth. Ask Mike Z for a missing box, or an old accessory, or about a vaguely remembered toy, and invariably it’s been “in the Basement.” Or worse, he “used to have a case of those in the Basement.”

Enough. I am in the twilight of the Boston experience. I can take no more.

We negotiate for over an hour. Mike is merciful and agrees to a brief glimpse. No Cameras Allowed.

Like Orpheus down the fire-escape to Hades, we descend into the darkness. Sweet Mother of Nagai, it’s EVERYTHING I IMAGINED!!! Like Yin and Yang, the negative space of the parallel toy-buying universe upstairs unfolds! No counters, no shelves: only cardboard boxes and plastic bags, stacked Warren Schwartz-style and strung from the low beams. A single dim 60 watt bulb illuminates a Jersey-like landfill of mylar-bagged and carded toys. And while the glory days of diecast are over
and tomb raiders have beaten us to the high-end loot, the real treasure reveals itself: a resonating faith in the unknown, in the power of crap, and its indelible ability to pile up in basements and attics across the universe, regardless of time or the political inclinations of man.

5 minutes later we emerge. In a daze, I begin to grab things from the normal store counters: a carded Popy Ground Zero vinyl with “obscuring eye” action. A Takatoku Gattiger plane in the weirdest “Generic-Gokin” style box. A Takara Diaclone robot with heavy metal limbs. And finally, one of the Chinese Mazinger Z GA-01s. I mutter something about the three major foodgroups (diecast, vinyl and plastic.)

Along the counter, Alt’s playing with his own stack. Piled with plastic bags, we tumble out into the sparkling lamplight of Mass Ave, looking like a few gals back from Bloomies’s. Dusk descends. In a dream, we point northwest and walk, stumbling back to the homestead.

Back in reality, Alt “accidentally” pours himself three drinks — all at the same time. We carry his gin, his beer and his whiskey to the shelf, breaking out the Fuji and beginning to document the loot. But the metal and styrofoam have become secondary.

We have passed through the spirit of the desert — are filled with the wonder of the unknown…

Alt’s POV:
Sausage and Bottom-feeding Boston

“I was a bit tight money-wise on my last trip to Boston. I knew I didn’t have enough in me for one of those fourth-of-July-style grand-slam purchases, the Machinder or original Bullmark or Popy Slutroid or whatever. There was only one course to take: aim low, and never look back. There’s no way in hell I’d have walked out of Day-Old Antiques empty-handed, anyway, and sure as hell not with a head muddled from the expensive vodka I’d swilled straight from the bottle I’d found in Alen’s liquor cabinet. All I had with me was $150 in cash, most of which I quickly spent on the stupidest toys imaginable, pieces I’d never have DREAMED of picking up on a normal, straight day. Desperation purchases from the bottom of the character-toy food chain: Japanese-boxed Machine Robo ‘Battle Armor’ spaceships, dirt-cheap Bandai kaiju vinyl, fully-variable disco-colored Takatoku Sasuraiger ‘Batrain’ C-3. And on the way back I managed to cajole Alen’s ‘military color‘ version C-3 out of him, too. Plus the extra parts to complete my screwed-up ST Sasuraiger back home, to keep my recently acquired giant-ass Sasuraiger company. Jesus, what was I THINKING? It’s not like I NEED all of these transforming-train toys, but once you get yourself locked into a serious Sasuraiger collection, the tendency is to push it as far as you can.

“Actually, after taking stock of the situation, the only thing that really worried me were those Batrains. Not the fact I’d just dropped nearly $50 on what was undeniably a Gobot, not the fact that Alen seems to have developed an unhealthy attachment to cheap-ass deluxe Diaclone robot sets. Ever since my childhood, my relationship with Sasuraiger has been tinged with the scent of disappointment. At the tender age of thirteen, I clearly remember stumbling across the aforementioned standard-sized diecast at the local Asian ‘Gift Gate.’ The robot-into-locomotive concept was mildly amusing, and the action-packed box art of Sasuraiger on the prowl was enough to manhandle any doubts into submission. It would be another three or four hours later, when I finally returned home, that I realized that the stupid motherfucker not only was about as articulated as a piece of wood, but didn’t transform into ANYTHING AT ALL.

“I can’t really blame Takatoku; as a giant-robot character, Sasuraiger’s always ridden that thin rail, if you will, between being charming and just plain stupid. But for God’s sake, if you’re stuck with a license as retarded as a transforming train, you a least owe it to yourself to build in SOMETHING that makes it remotely attractive to buyers. At least the poor bastard contained a pinball-style bullet-launching mechanism, an eye hazard the likes of which must’ve cost Takatoku thousands in cash and untold numbers of cheap hookers to bribe past the Japanese ‘ST’ safety commission.

“You’d think after all I’d been through, I’d have learned my lesson. Yet there another one was, calling my name from a dusty shelf, begging forgiveness for the sins of the past. In my alcohol-weakened condition, I was a sucker for a charming line and I fell for Sasuraiger yet again, this time in the form of the aforementioned fully-transforming Batrain C-3 Sasuraiger 1:55. Hell, it’s a window box this time, I figured; there’s no way this train’s going to take ol’ Matt for a ride again. It wasn’t until three or four hours later, when I finally returned home, that I realized that the stupid motherfucker not only was MUCH DUMBER THAN I’D EVER IMAGINED IT BEING, but it actually FELL APART THE FIRST TIME I TRANSFORMED IT.

“This time, though, things were a little different than when I was thirteen. I’d learned how to read Japanese. And as Alen attempted radical surgery on the Batrain in the background, kind of like ‘ER‘ minus the good-looking actors and drama, I thoughtfully turned the package over and over in my hands, looking for a clue on that beautifully rough-hewn Takatoku cardboard. Suddenly I spotted it, down on the lower left-hand corner of the box. I brought the box closer, squinting at the tiny characters as the sound of screwdriver against cheap plastic filled the air.

“‘Height, 24.9 meters; Weight, 72.5 tons; Output, 80,000 horsepower; Armament, Beam Rifle and Drum-machineguns. Please understand that there may be differences between the images on the box and the actual product.’

“Jesus Christ, they weren’t kidding. I took another pull on my beer, picked up the phone, and begin to dial: I’d heard that Duban’s got a line on another Sasuraiger piece, and I don’t want to miss it.”

— Matt

March 1, 2000

Freed at Last! Soul of Chogokin Grandizer

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 9:23 pm

Two years as a black bag consultant make me soft: driving a company wears me down, and I’m forced to cope. The quicker fix: a constant intake of sake. The holistic solution: riding the Redline to Harvard to walk an extra mile and a half home.

Through no fault of my own, the midpoint of this route passes the front stoop of Day-Old Antiques.

While the constant fog of hot alcohol has improved my concentration, the nightly revisits to the store have reconciled me to my faith. Today, I bring home a piece of the new testament: Soul of Chogokin UFO Robo Grandizer.

I’m eating a crow pie, filled with Ramble. All recent digs against Bandai are renounced. This may the finest quality toy I’ve ever had the honor to unwrap. I’m such a freak that I minimize the “wear” I have to apply to the Japanese scotch tape binding the tray.

Preliminary raves describing the baroque ornamentation and excessive armament are correct.

The jet-glider alone has a classic Popinica aura; its magnetic locking mechanism primly folds into a double-doored cavity. The scale and quality of the figure itself is tight: rattles less than the keyboard I’m typing on, and (almost) makes me forgive the cruddiness of the GA09R. The spring-loaded knees collapse with a push, and pop out with a (pulse-quickening) tug. The fist attachments and halberds are dead-on. Everything else intimidates me too much to desprue. And while my personal philosophy normally demands that I “play” with it, I’m going to refrain from assembling and using the precious Spacer. At least until I get another one.

In the presence of such mind-numbing physical perfection I have nothing intelligent or articulate to say. I’m going to wipe the drool off my chin and go rearrange the entire shelf…