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February 18, 2003

Floppy Gun Getting You Down? Here’s a Quick Fix!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:28 pm

Tired of having the Zentraedi kick sand on your expensive perfect transformable Valk, just because it can’t hold his gun straight to save its life?
Well, tire no more! Here’s a DIY quick fix for your Yamato 1/48 VF-1A limp wrists, that will have you grinning from ear to ear.

These are the tools that you’ll need:

A pair of scissors, and your typical more evil than satan twisty tie! (Twistie tie pictured here is from a Gundam Fix box. Oh the irony!) Approximate time needed: less than 10mins.


First disassemble the offending hand. Try to pry it gently, with a little effort in the right direction, it should pop off. 

Then cut a small length of plastic off the twistie tie, do not cut the metal wire along with it, we only need the plastic bit. Strip the plastic like you would any wire. If you leave the metal inside it would be too thick and too hard, not pliant enough to have the “give” that you want. 

Make sure you trim only a small piece, the smaller the piece, the more discreet. Align plastic piece in the centre of the groove as shown. 

Assemble the wrist with the plastic stuck firmly in the groove. It can get a bit tricky, but if Tofu can do it, so can you! 

Get hand to hold gun and shake well before use. As stiff as you’ll ever want it to be!
And the fix is barely visible too! For reference check the top image heading this article, I bet you missed the plastic piece the first time round.

(Please use only as directed and with adult supervision. Author is not responsible for any damages incurred.)


February 14, 2003

Studio Half Eye Simple Change Getter One

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 5:52 pm

Uhm… Studio Half Eye’s latest creation… What can I say… It’s expensive…. very expensive and small… very small…

For 7800 Yen, as soon as I opened the parcel I thought came to my mind: “I want my money back!”, after opening the package… another thought: “That’s even worse than expected!”, but let’s move on.

First things first, this is a “junior” version of the impossible and unaffordable perfect change Getter Robo, you get the 3 ships that combine into the Getter One only…

Material (D) :The actual toy is made of resin (I believe…), which makes the toy feel extremely “dry” and “brittle”, some of the details are painted, but the large areas seem like they have been dyed with pigments before the resin was poured into the molds, which only adds to the “dry and brittle feel” expecially in the red coloured areas. All the articulation have the above mentioned dry and brittle feeling and every time you play with the transformation it feels like you are defusing a nuclear bomb… blindfolded and with both hands tied behind your back… hanging upside down from a flying plane… I could go on forever… it’s just scary.Overall it just feels “cheap”. It would have “felt” much better in more sturdy injection plastic or… die-cast… it could have been a perfect pocket jewel! Anyone who wants to recast this guy in metal has my blessing!

Engineering (C+) : The only explanation I could find to justify the price of this “thing” was the supposedly super advanced over the top engineering, The 3 ship transform all right, but the engineering is not “that” amazing being the 3 ships “pratically hollow”, and talking about engineering a complete turn off were the separate fists and feet, that personally kills completely the “transformation feel”… I was positively surprised by the range of articulation I only discovered when I was posing the little sucker for the pictures for this rumble… I was also surprised that it could stand on his feet “most of the time” even with the custom cape (this one you get only with the first 300 mail order for Japan only), but some metal at least in the feet whold have made it much more stable.

Overall (C-) : When I look at this guy I keep thinking that it could have been so much more… a REAL TOY and not a pre-assembled garage kit (because that’s what it is), this is clearly a miss for Studio Half Eye, I have found myself begging for “plastic” not even metal… The Simple Change Getter One it’s not really worth it’s price… I would be fun to play if you could actually play with it, but it feels just too fragile… If you already own all the toys you ever wanted(!) and you still have some shelf space go for it. If not, for the price you can buy a good SOC or a couple of Fewture Mazinger 1901.



Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 12:21 pm

The Background:

Long, long ago (about 1984) in a suburb far, far away (Silver Spring, Maryland) dwelled a young robot aficionado (who by some strange coincidence just happens to be me). He scrimped and saved his meager allowance to buy robot toys. He read every book with “robot” in the title that he could get his hands on. He dreamed of enrolling at MIT and becoming a robotics engineer, despite his (as yet unresolved) handicap of being barely able to add two single-digit numbers together. He even convinced his parents to get him a subscription to Robotics Age magazine, an odd publication that attempted to cater to robotics engineers, fans, and garage-tinkerer enthusiasts all at the same time. (And without much success, judging by the fact that it folded around the time “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” dropped out of style.)

In the back of one of these issues slumbered a tiny ad offering “Japanese robot books” for sale. It was a welcome respite from page after page of dimly-understood articles with captivating titles such as “Memory Effect Alloys, Optical Encoders, and Wrist Actuators for Robotic Devices.” An order was placed. And when it arrived, the life of our sixth-grade protagonist would never be the same.

110 Models

“Mobile Suit Gundam: 110 Models Memorial” was its name. Hundreds of juicy, full-color shots of perfectly built specimens of Bandai’s “gun-pla” (Gundam models) was its game. Our young hero — oh, fer God’s sake, let’s drop the literary affectation — I spent hours upon hours studying that book and the strange symbols it contained. It seemed an entire nation of people on the other side of the planet found robots just as intriguing as I did. And at least when it came to books full of cool pictures of them, THEY DID A MUCH BETTER JOB THAN ANYONE IN MY OWN COUNTRY. The revalation hit me like a sack of bricks. It was as if an artifact from a distant alien civilizaton had been accidentally to my doorstep.

Screw engineering. I just wanted some of these goddamned robot toys. I had found my calling.

The Toys:

Deep within this bible of gun-pla worship lay a meager two pages devoted to toys. As my model-building skills then and now are on par with an arthritic chimpanzee, my attention inevitably returned to this mysterious handful of images. One series of them really caught my eye. They were plastic and half-translucent, revealing little “robot parts” inside. This sort of thing still drives me wild even today. There wasn’t any way to tell their size, their scale, their price. But I knew I wanted them.

It would be years before I would be able to decipher the text in the book. Even still, the caption under my translucent buddies left more questions than it answered: “Cheap ‘cutaway view’ toys from Clover. Collect ’em all!” That’s it. Great.

Turns out the series is so minor, so unspeakably cheap, that they don’t even HAVE a brand name. No “Chogokin,” no “Pla-deluxe” for these poor souls. Just “cheap toys from Clover,” once and forever. Not much to go on. After I “grew up” and had made some connections to the Japanese toy scene, I tried a few halfhearted searches and inquiries without success. And then I promptly forgot about them for close to a decade.

Fast forward to late 2002. In one of my increasingly, disturbingly regular patrols of Yahoo Japan’s auction listings, I spot an intriguing suspect amidst the usual dross. An auction for a tiny box with a cutaway view of Dom on the cover and (in keeping with fine tradition) precious little description. In what I’ve come to realize is some quantum-physical effect, a blister-carded version of what appeared to be the exact same toy appeared on eBay in America. (What IS it with obscure items always appearing in groups, anyway? It’s like one knocks the others out of the metaphysical woodwork. But that’s a Rumble for another time.) The American auction even contained a second specimen, a somewhat unsettlingly flesh-colored Gogg. Three days and $10 later, the set was mine oh mine. Man, I LOVE collecting stuff nobody else likes.

In the end, it turned out that they’re far from exciting. In fact, they’re positively tiny. Like, palm-of-your-hand size. Ah, well. Size be damned, I’ve finally closed the book on a cheap-ass toy mystery that had been plaguing me (well, maybe just mildly irritating me) for most of my collecting life. Now it’s time to return to the teachings of that Holy Gundam Book that guided me through my early years and “collect ’em all.” Judging from the photo, there’s a Z’gok, GM, Gundam, and lord knows what else is out there. I may never find the rest. But you know what? I hardly care. It’s always more about the journey than the destination.


Shock Impact!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:30 am

Repaints & variants… Ha! They’re just a means to suck away your
dwindling toy fund. Now it’s NORMAL. Now it’s BLACK. Now it’s METALLIC
(and limited). Now it’s ANIME ACCURATE… Hate it! HATE IT! But
once in a while, when the subject matter is right, variants can bring
a real funky kind of joy! And that’s how it was when 6 colorful bugs bit
me and gave a real bad case of chogo-lust.

You know how some toys just sneak up on you? Last December, My brother
came home one day and showed me what he got at a sale: Yet another chogo-costume
Kamen Rider 2 (or so I thought at first).

“Hey, why did you get another one of these? Haven’t we gotten
No. 1 and 2 already?”

‘”Look closer – the boots and gloves are YELLOW!”

“Oh cool. And the scarf is green…”

“GREEN? I thought the box showed it was yellow. Here, see…”

“Hmm… What’s this little label on the back? Shocker Rider
. That means there are more colors involved I guess…”


A quick check in the Kamen Rider mooks soon revealed the dastardly plot.
There were SIX Shocker Riders, the enemy clones created to wipe
out the good guys. And the ONLY thing that differentiated them was the
color of their scarves (or mufflers if you prefer). Yellow, White,
Green, Blue, Purple and Pink
. Even sissy PINK, dammit! Head – same.
Gloves – same. Belt and boots – all the same. Not even a special weapon
for each Shocker. Positively shocking…

But still, we were intrigued and decided to try finding the rest. Disaster!
The store only had Green and Yellow were in stock. You can imagine the
look on the bored store assistant’s face when we asked if more were coming
in… “The stocks all there… it’s all we’ve got.” Helpful

Never mind, we were heading to Hong Kong for a holiday – surely we’d
find some there, right? No such luck. In one store, a frantic Japanese
collector was asking the proprietor if he had any more “Shokka Raidaa?”
“Sorry, all sold out” was the reply. When a seemingly trivial
toy suddenly becomes SOLD OUT, your priorities change pretty quickly!
We found a lot of goodies in Hong Kong, but never did manage to see another
Shocker Rider anywhere.

But this silly tale has a happy ending. Back in Singapore, we returned
to the mall and what do we see but a whole PILE of Shockers. Every
color was in stock. And silly buggers that we were, we gleefully bought
the ones we missed at full retail. I wore that silly smile all the way
home :-)

– drifand


February 10, 2003

A Rhapsody in Red, White & Blue

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:03 pm

Yamato Toys’ VF-1 Valkyries… Some people swear by them, others swear
at them. You’ll seldom find a more polarised situation when it comes to
fan opinion on these finely detailed, but sometimes problematic toys.
I’ve been a vocal critic of it’s shortcomings but I know a good thing
when I see it, especially when it looks as good as these latest iterations
of my favorite Macross mecha!

If you haven’t owned one of these toys, they are basically a modern take
on the fan favorite VF-1 Valkyrie design, featuring a high level of detail
and sculpt accuracy (approved by creator Shoji Kawamori). The biggest
catch is that unlike the classic Takatoku Toys 1/55 Valkyrie, the Yamato
Toys version requires the legs of the robot to be detached and re-assembled
for its three modes (Fighter, Gerwalk & Battroid). In this respect,
the Yammie (as its fans call it) is not so much a toy as a semi-model.
The line began more than a year ago with the less popular variations and
gradually worked its way through 8 iterations.

During its earlier production run, there were sporadic complaints of
design and quality assurance issues. Loose or poorly fitting parts, usually
the Backpack in Battroid mode and the Gunpod in Fighter mode, were addressed
in subsequent versions. Though minor to some fans, these problems made
me back away from buying the toy, especially when I had first hand experience
of similar issues with the company’s earlier Macross Plus products. By
the time the Hikaru VF-1J Super Valkyrie was released late in 2002, most
of the outstanding issues had been resolved. The very popular Max &
Milia Super Valkyries released early this month incorporated all the refinements
for the line, and the confirmed news that Yamato toys would expand the
1/60 series to include other mecha (Destroid Monster and Quedluun-Rau)
finally convinced me to “buy in”. On to the toy…

To me, the angular head and distinctive diamond shaped lens of the VF-1J
defined the face of realistic transforming mecha back in the 80’s. It
is perhaps the most iconic of Macross robots, bar the Skull Leader’s VF-1S.
The one image that always appealed to me was the stylized pose the VF-1J
struck during the pre-commercial “eyecatch”.

While official art for Hikaru’s VF-1J show a white border for the camera,
I have painted mine dark grey out of personal preferance (like the classic
1/55 toy). The “separate-legs” design of the toy allows for
some pretty dynamic stances, but to actually pull off a pose like the
above required some modifications with a sharp hobby knife! That’s because
the shoulders and elbows suffer from a design fault that prevent good
posing. But first here’s my little homage to the eyecatch sequence: Frame
| Frame 2

Here’s what I did to make it work. First I had to fix the restrictive
shoulder blocks. To open the shoulder, you need to pry
off the hexagonal covers
for the screws. The opened
will reveal the halves of the small white polycap that is causing
rotational problems. Putting them back in place to align them correctly,
I used a sharp 30-degree blade to carve away parts
of the polycap along the upper 3/4’s of the protruding rim. The result
is a gain of 5~10 degrees lateral movement, which allows for better positioning
of the shoulders without “popping off” the chestplate locks
as before. Note: some older versions of the VF-1 use only one
screw plus a very tightly inserted peg. There’s a good chance the peg
will break if you force it open.

As for the elbows, Yamato opted for a symmetrical block
design. The upper arms/elbow block are made of hard PVC, while the forearms
are plastic. The original design limited the arms to less than 90 degrees
of bending. i.e. no grasping of gunpod underarm like the last shot of
the eyecatch. To remedy, I simply used my knife to
shave off the excess PVC on the elbow lock, and cut away parts of the
forearm enclosure. I did this surgery on all three VF-1Js.

Another sore point that hasn’t changed in all versions of
the toy is the strange case of the missing thumb. There are 2 types of
right fists included – a normal “grip” type with closed trigger
finger, intended to fit flush inside the arms in fighter mode, and a slightly
distorted “anime” type with angled fingers and opened trigger
finger, but with NO THUMB. For a Real Robot nut like me, this is a Bad
. Basically the normal fist isn’t very exciting and the opened
fist looks odd at certain angles. My solution is to slice
the trigger finger
free from the normal fist. I also cut away some
excess PVC behind the crook of the finger. There’s some distortion of
course, but any other way would require putty and more work.

Lastly, the gunpod needed a strap. Nevermind that it’s quite
impractical if the VF-1 was real, it looks cool! I had a spare strap from
some leftover Dragon Models accessories. So a quick 1-2 with my Tamiya
drill and some elbow grease did the trick. Needless
to say, the gunpod won’t fit under the fighter without some careful jiggling
of the strap hinges. But that’s OK because I hope to display it with a
set of GBP-1S armor (someday). I can’t think of a good reason why Yamato
made the Hikaru 1J a Super Valk. It never appeared as such in the TV series
or film, and will never appear as such on my shelves…

The Super Valkyrie configuration for Max
and Milia’s VF-1Js
is the real deal though. Yamato even molded the
boosters in matching shades of attractive red and blue. The micro-missile
pods are detachable and the cover for the booster engines is also removeable.
The main nozzles are moveable, and a pleasant surprise is that the inner
sides of the leg armor are covered, not hollow like the 1/55’s of old.
The Fighter mode is quite impressive with its load
of Reaction Missiles. And the collapsible handle fix for the gunpod means
it doesn’t drag on the floor like earlier versions.
And while the Gerwalk mode is not it’s strongest
selling point, the toy manages pretty well for static

Overall, these are probably the best looking toys of the
VF-1J ever and a good addition to any Macross fan’s collection. They still
need a bit of work to bring out the best in them, the rest is up to you.

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