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June 21, 2003

It’s “Revenge of the Gobots”!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:54 pm

I discovered Gobots/Machine Robo as a kid when I got a few Robo Machines (Europe’s Gobots, which actually were a bizarre mix between Machine Robo and the American Gobots with various sticker and color variations, and which were released by Bandai themselves) from a friend. I also bought some myself, but of those early toys, only one survived my childhood – An A-10 named Bad Boy.

When I started collecting Transformers again, I did a lot of fleamarkets and came across the odd Robo Machine. These were usually snapped up at once, and gradually I began to appreciate the design that Bandai had put into the various Machine Robo toys, which was usually a lot better than what Hasbro put(s) into Transformers. Especially the later Machine Robos had very interesting designs, and transformations that made a Rubik’s Cube look simple.

However, when Transformers are already rare on the Dutch market, Machine Robo/Robo Machines/Gobots are even rarer, and the occasional find could not quench my Machine Robo-thirst.

So when Bandai announced that it would be releasing a brand new Machine Robo toyline, together with an accompanying anime series, I jumped on it. The first pictures looked promising, with designs based on older toys, a new combining concept with interchangeable limbs, and huge carrier vehicles that transformed into equally huge robots. This new line was to be called “Machine Robo Rescue” and would have a strong ‘rescue vehicle’ theme. It appears the line is currently going strong in Japan, as far as I’ve been able to gather it from various sources, and when you look at the toys, you can understand why.

The main toys in the Machine Robo Rescue line are the Hyper Robos, combining teams consisting of one Team Leader and four drones. The Team Leader lends the Hyper Robo its name, so if the Team Leader is named “Jet Robo”, the combined mode will be called “Hyper Jet Robo”. The four drones share the same design, the only way to differentiate them being their number. The Team Leader is Robo #1, the drones #2, #3, #4, and #5. The drones can combine with the Team Leader to form the Hyper Robo. Each drone can become any leg or any arm, thanks to the shared design. Each Team is named after the Team Leader (eg. MRR Jet), and belongs to one of the following subgroups: Red Wings, Blue Sirens, or Yellow Gears.

Currently I own the Hyper Jet Robo, the Hyper Police Robo, the Hyper Drill Robo, and the Hyper Fire Robo, which make up the first 4 Hyper Robos released. The Jet and Fire teams belong to the Red Wings, the Police team to the Blue Sirens, and the Drill team to the Yellow Gears. The Jet Robo and Drill Robo designs are both clearly based on the original Machine Robo Jet Robo (Fittor) and Drill Robo (Screwhead) toys, while the Police Robo reminds me of Turbo and the Bike Robos vaguely ressemble the original Bike Robo (Cy-Kill). The Hyper Fire Robo appears to be a completely new design. All of the toys have very simple transformations and articulation, making them fun to play with, and preventing the hassle of posing them. The toys are nicely detailed, and each Team Leader’s head is styled after the team’s subject. The Hyper Jet Robo comes with 4 missile pods that can attach to the connectors used for the combining feature, while the Fire Robo has two guns. The toys have pre-painted parts and the sticker sheets include spare stickers in case something goes wrong.

Some pictures:

MRR Jet, Police, Drill, and Fire Teams in robot modes

MRR Police, Fire, and Drill Teams in vehicle modes.

Hyper Fire and Hyper Jet Robo

Hyper Police and Hyper Drill Robo

The combination feature is probably the best thing about these toys. The arms connect to pegs on the Team Leader Robo, while the legs have their own pegs to which the Team Leader connects. This means that each drone has at least two connections points. All of the drones can be interchanged. The connectors used for the combination feature provide an interesting and fun possibility, namely that of creating your own superrobot modes, or using the missile pods in ways they weren’t intended to (hoverboard!).

In short, these toys are simple, yet fun!

Now onto the other Machine Robo Rescue toy I currently own, the DX carrier vehicle known as Siren Garry. Siren Garry is the Blue Sirens’ motherbase vehicle, and is a giant car carrier. I was quite shocked when I received him, as he weighs quite a lot, even though he doesn’t have any diecast parts. This toy is, simply said, HUGE! Measuring a wopping 40 cm long (more than a foot!) in vehicle mode, he is a fully articulated semi-truck. The trailer can be disconnected from the cab. There’s actually two holes in the trailer, to allow the whole thing to execute the sharp turn that is shown on one of the pictures. There’s also an additional wheel under the trailer to prevent it from tipping forwards when it’s disconnected. Both the cab and trailer open up, ramps folding down to allow the MRR Police Team to roll in and out. The other Teams also fit into Siren Garry, but might require some folding of parts. The guns on the trailer fold down to allow the cab to open up.

The transformation is simple, and the resulting robot a block. Siren Garry only has shoulder articulation in robot mode, although he gains a bit of articulation by using his transformation joints. Sorry, no waist joint on this guy, BlazeEagle. The looks make up for the blockyness, as Siren Garry looks like one bad Mothafucka. He has a jet pack, and those claws gotta hurt when he grabs thing with them. All the details on Siren Garry are tampo-printed on, so no hassle with giant stickers. Just like the smaller Machine Robo Rescue toys, he is loaded with details.

But that is not all! One of the possibly coolest features of Siren Garry is that he includes non-transformable vehicle mode versions of the Police Robo and the Bike Robo from the MRR Police Team (Hyper Police Robo). These are less detailed than the transformable versions, but they do offer you the chance of playing with this toy and all his features without actually having to buy one of the Hyper Robo teams. I think this is one of the best ideas ever.

I think Bandai’s doing a great job with these, and I’ll certainly be buying more of them in the future. From an online interview I gathered that the idea behind this line was to save the Machine Robo concept (Yes, it appears ‘Machine Robo Rescue’ has several meanings at Bandai), and this certainly seems the way to do it.


June 19, 2003

East Coast Summit 2003

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 3:19 pm

It’s that time of year again. Time to sit back on the porch and throw back a few cold ones. Time to throw some meat on the grill. Time for grown men to get together and talk about toys. Time for a summit.

The 2003 East Coast Summit will be held at my house in Chelmsford, Massachusetts on Saturday, August 16, 2003. This is a great opportunity to meet fellow Japanese toy collectors. Wether you’re into Chogokin, Gundam, Vinyl, Jumbo Machines, or Transformers, all are welcome.

There will be a BBQ, with beer, so please be over 21. There will be a trade table, so bring your unwanted toys. There is also going to be a trip to Robozone, so bring your credit cards.

Feel free to bring your toy widow as well. She will not be alone.

More information, Directions, and accomidations can be found here.

RSVP soon, because space is limited.


June 18, 2003

Toys “L” Us

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 4:56 am

Ever wonder what a Toys “R” Us looks like in Japan? Me either, but I happened to drive by one in Odawara, a city about an hour and a half away from Tokyo.

Y’know what? Turns out, TRU Japan is disturbingly similar to TRU America. In fact, I nearly had reverse culture-shock walking in the door, thinking for a moment I’d slipped through a wormhole to my trusty ol’ Toys “R” Us in Rockville, Maryland.

In fact, it was EXACTLY THE SAME, down to the usual aisles full of party favors, diapers and formula, and racks upon racks of barbie dolls and board games. Only everone spoke Japanese, there was a halfway decent sushi joint next door, and they had Yamato Valkyries on the shelves. The end!


June 16, 2003

Tour de μForce

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:36 pm

“Time has flown by since the birth of Microman in 1978

Now in 2003 he has returned to us in a new form

We entrust him to the care of those who have a child’s heart in order to

explore the unforeseeable future.” -from the Microforce Capsule

The Microforce has finally arrived. They’re the Fire breathing, 0 to 60 in nothing flat, carbon-fiber, radar absorbant, everything and a bag of chips 2003 year model of Takara’s microman line. Their proportions are athletic. Their posability is not quite Stikfa/Yoga level. They’re Shiny, over accessorized and I haven’t been able to leave them alone.

I heard Takara was doing a new line of micromen. Oh, ok, neat. I pre-ordered some to support my favorite foreign toy company. No further thoughts on the topic until they arrived at my house a couple weeks ago. Their individually packed Space Capsules were nearly impregnable. They must have braved quite a trip, because I couldn’t get them out without breaking out the heavy duty X-Acto knife. Of course, I could have just set off the explosive bolts and destroyed the craft to get the poor lil guys out, but I decided they might want their little ships in case they wanna take another trip sometime.

There is a Commander. He is Red and Smoke-translucent base plastic. He’s equipped with chromed armor, Machine gun, Combat knife and Large caliber pistol (for a tiny guy, that is.)

There is a Ninja. He’s Purple and Smoke. He also has a funky little “Dairy-Queen” hat. I’m not a ninja connoisseur, but he’s gotta be a serious badass to get away with wearing that hat. He comes with a ‘bleedin `uge’ curvy sword, A straight, double edge sword, armor and two Teenie, tiny shuriken.

There is a Gunner. He’s Teal and Smoke. He’s got ‘Ghostbusters’ or Jin-Roh Style Goggles, and some micro-dreadlocks. He’s equipped with a Minigun. Yeah. And a huge harness to support the minigun. and, just in case… four concussion grenades on his frame. Drake/Vasquez custom anyone?

And lastly, there is the Spy. He’s the White and smoke oddball in my opinion. He’s equipped with a dual manipulator backpack, a grappelling launcher, and the Claw that my ninja totally beat him up and stole for this photo set. I think of him as the unknown element in the group. The Macguyver, or Mad-Dog Murdoc… He can do anything and everything, but only if you trust him to.

That’s about it. I hear reports that this line has already sold out it’s initial run, and there may be vehicles, enemies, etc if this line is a good seller. If ya’ll want, I’ll do the Tatsunoko heros later.


June 11, 2003

TBDX Does Tokyo (Toy Show 2003)

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 5:19 am

Kill me. Kill me.

The words float through my dazed mind, and not for the first time today at the 2003 Tokyo Toy Show.

I’m stuck in a cage of “Mega-Bloks.” Bandai executives are torturing me, slowly. Just as they’re about to finish me off with the coup de grace — a “Maxi-Blok” rectal exam — my elbow slides off the armrest, jolting me awake. Thank God, it was only a dream.

Or was it? I realize I’m still stuck in the middle of the Bandai 2003 Mega-Blok Spectacular, a thirty-five hour– I mean, minute — explanation, at great and undeserving length, of the upcoming marketing strategy for the release of the block toys this August. We have to sit through it to get to the show proper, it seems.

And they’re serious. Apparently, an intriguingly never-specifically-named L Corporation has cornered 75% of the market for interlocking brick toys in Japan. To hear Bandai tell it, they are the only ones who can stand up to such marketing tyranny. Screw the L Corporation — Japanese children love and need Mega-Bloks. The great nation of Japan loves and needs Mega-Bloks. Fight, Bandai! Mega Bloks will be the plastic cornerstone of an all-new Greater East Asian Toy Prosperity Sphere.

Wait a second. On close inspection, these Mega-Bloks sure look a lot like those sold by the They-Who-Shall-Not-be-Named L Corp. In fact, they’re totally identical. D’OH! Looks like someone in the ol’ intellectual property department of L. Corp is going to be swabbing toilets at L-Corp-land in Denmark for a while — the patent for their interlocking brick toys seems to have expired. Whoops! Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.

The best part of the presentation? I found out at the end that we didn’t have to sit through it after all. I’m just a stupid, stupid gaijin. Ah,the joys of being a half-assed toy journalist. At least we got free Anpanman Mega-Bloks.

Welcome to Tokyo Toy Show 2003.

Anyway. On to the SERIOUS, HARDCORE commentary for all you SERIOUS, HARDCORE collectors.

Due to SARS prevention measures and, from what I hear, some sort of small-scale war between the Toy Show promoters and the exhibitors, the show was being held, literally, all over a several-square-mile area of Tokyo this year. Half the exhibitors were either in secret underground bases or totally absent. Bandai insisted on — I am not making this up — taking the temperature of sick-looking people “to prevent the spread of SARS.” They didn’t specify which orifice said temperature would be taken in, but the woman behind the counter was so cute I was thinking of faking a case to see where she’d stick–

Ahem! Back to the toys. The shots are in no particular order and are far from complete, mainly because, well, quite frankly, I’m not getting paid for this and don’t give a damn. But the pictures I did take, I left nice ‘n large for everyone to ogle. The cool ones, anyway. Interesting highlights: that’s a nifty all-chrome version of the

Chogokin Mecha-Godzilla. Look for it in July at 5,800 yen. I also had a chance to handle the not-so-anticipated THE Chogokin toys with my own hands. They’re actually a lot better than you might think; they’re metal in all the places the originals were, and quite substantial — easily 3/4 the size of the real deals. And they’re cheap — Bandai sez they’re aiming for a (roughly) 1,000 yen price point so that (I’m not making this up, either) manly men such as ourselves won’t have to justify our purchases to our better halves. Yes, these are the first Chogokin designed from the ground up to prevent marital strife. Man, those guys think of EVERYTHING! (And before I forget, that wooden case is being given away to 1,000 lucky THE Chogokin buyers who enter a special drawing.)

Finally, those dang FIXes just get me every time. The new Heavy Gundam was there in all its glory, as were prototypes of the Zetaplus and Zetaplus Booster Type. Sculpted in jolly, candylike pink resin to boot.

That’s the R/C Dom in that one shot, and the 13,000 yen, practically-a-Jumbo-Machinder sized White Base kit in the other. The actual item won’t be weathered (or assembled), but the sprues will be painted and molded in the appropriate colors. Perfect for you gashapon collectors, if you can handle the price.

That’s about it! I’m sure other sites feature better coverage, but then again, other sites aren’t drinking heavily during the entire show like I am. Enjoy!

Extra-special thanks to Scott Hards of HobbyLink Japan for forging my health credentials to get me in. That dry, hacking cough I had was just a cold, man. I swear.


June 10, 2003

This is a stick-up!!!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:33 am

The Philippines in the late 1970’s: I was in elementary school, and super-robot shows had just become the rage. Mazinger Z, Voltes V, and Daimos led a super-robot invasion of the airwaves that would later be suppressed by a dictatorial government. I was caught in the 5:00 p.m. habit, when each day the two major TV stations battled for ratings with a daily fare of different super-robot shows.

Chogokin and godaikin toys were also taking over the department stores, eager to siphon off the hard-earned income of parents wishing to please their Rocket-Punching and Laser-swording kiddies. But they were mostly awesome playthings only the few and privileged kids on the block proudly showed off to the rest of us mortals. I wanted them, too, I was a kid after all. But that was a problem: my folks couldn’t spend so much on toys. My daily allowance was about a peso a day, which back then was worth 50 US cents; that already included my lunch money. Even when my allowance increased to 5 pesos a day in high school, I couldn’t satisfy my thirst for super-robot toys.

What was I to do?

From the pushcart-store vendors that regularly plied our school grounds, my craving found sustenance. I couldn’t collect toys, but I found something that provided equal fascination and encouraged endless hours of imagination: stickers.

I don’t know where they came from, or who made them, what the arcane characters written on them meant, and often, what was actually shown on them, but they were 5 pesos per 7” x 10” sheet, or less than a peso for just one picture/stamp: they were within my very limited reach. The Japanese sticker-sheets contained artwork from all the super-robot shows of the time, and opened my eyes up to an imaginary world even bigger than what was being shown on TV. The art was of many different styles, made by many different and unknown artists, from manga-like renderings to those that look like museum aviation-paintings. They showed stylized interpretations of various cartoon characters; arcane cut-away drawings of the machines; or dynamic images of famous fight scenes; photos and collages from live-action proto-sentai, masked rider, and ultraman shows; professional-looking paintings of memorable events in the cartoons; photos of the toys; and more.

I collected either small cuts of stickers of various sizes, no smaller than a regular stamp, or entire sheets. Some I used and stuck to my old desk, but most I carefully kept hidden away lodged between the pages of a diary. I must have over 150 assorted little postage stamp-sized stickers. In addition, I accumulated 40 complete sheets, and they are well-preserved and are as beautiful and captivating as ever. Later on, I found mini-booklets devoted to a single series or character, and was able to collect 10. Each is unique, having different drawings and subjects; each is like a puzzle waiting to be solved. In my childhood, I could identify maybe only 30% of the characters portrayed. Now, they still pique my curiosity.

They are toys of a different sort. Just as the solid 3-D die-cast sculptures held a child’s attention, these 2-D images captivated me and kept me busy for hours, looking and admiring every drawing and photograph, trying to discern the tiny details as if they would reveal the secrets of the universe. I used to spend a lot of time just looking at them over and over. And more than 2 decades later, with the help of the Internet, I have just begun to unlock the mysteries they contain…



Workin’ Hard for the Money

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 1:19 am

Work sucks, but It’d probably be a lot more fun if we had power armor to do it in!

Working S.A.F.S. is a line of 1/35 scale figures that are of the ‘trading figure’ variety which is all the rage in Japan these days. You buy a figure which is randomly packed in hopes cf completing a set. Working S.A.F.S. are produced by Pooyan toys and distributed by Yellow Submarine They’re based off of the Maschinen Krieger 1/35 scale suits, but instead of fightin’ these suits are for working. Unlike a lot of trading figs, and even unlike the Ma.K line that it is based on, Working S.A.F.S. come in a larger window case so you’d get to pick what you wanted (assuming you could buy these in a store)

The series has 5 suits, A Rescue, Construction, Fire, Police,, and Ranger suit. Each comes in either gloss or matte finish. The figure I got was a gloss finish ranger. Each fig comes with a bonus hand–so the more of these you get the more mix and match possibilities you have.

I’ll admit The Ranger was the last fig I wanted, but these are still cool. Lots of diarama are possibilities avaliable

In addition, if you’re in Japan, you can go to the Lawson’s convenience store chain and buy a 6-pack of these. The 6th figure being a Lawson convenience store clerk suit, witha  barcode scanner as an arm!

Each Working S.A.F.S. figure is 500 yen and they are avaliable at Hobby Link Japan and other fine importers.

If I had to do it over again, I think I would have ordered at least one more of these. I think everyone should get at least one of these if for nothing outside of the novelty value one of these’ll have on your desk at work


June 9, 2003

Valkyrie Reissues: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 5:33 pm

You can never keep a good toy down, as Bandai’s Macross and Macross 7 Valkyrie reissues are showing. I recently picked up the VF-1A (brown variant) and VF-17S on sale at Hobbylink Japan and here are my impressions:


The Good: I had an original Takatoku VF-1A, so I knew what to expect with this toy, and Bandai delivered the same chunky, solid toy I remember, with the addition of a nifty heat shield attachment. The decals are now painted on, and I’m still amazed at how Bandai managed to find a way to print “BEWARE OF BLAST” in 1mm text. The gunpod hasn’t lost any of it’s potency, either, and it launches the missiles across the entire length of my apartment (which really isn’t such an amazing feat now that I think about it).

The Bad: Even though the spring-loaded wheels are reproduced in all their finger-bruising glory, the wheel bay cover on one of the legs keeps popping out. Also, the front wheel takes a little fiddling to lock into place.


The Good: This toy carries on the chunky and solid style of it’s predecessors, and even though the transformation is very similar to the classic VF-1 the battroid mode is almost completely devoid of identifiable jet parts. As opposed to being an F-14 clone, this one turns into something more like the F-117. I’ve been having a hard time putting this toy down since I got it.

The Bad: The landing gear are simply static molded plastic wheels, as opposed to the metal ones of the classic VF-1, and there’s no place to stow the gun in fighter or battroid mode.

The bottom line is this: I’m not big on transforming toys, but the VF-1A is a mecha classic that I had to get back on my shelf, and the VF-17S is a new favorite of mine (too bad Bandai didn’t take this opportunity to make the Miriya variant they planned). Take your “collector models” somewhere else, at the end of the day you still have a big kid playing with these things. I recommend them both, especially if you can get them at half-price like I did.

So what’s “The Ugly“, you’re asking? My pictures, which you can see by clicking on the thumbnails. If you want awesome product shots, look to Tim Brisko. I’ve given up.


June 8, 2003


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:03 pm

I was walking through the backstreets of Harajuku on my first day alone in Tokyo. I took a few turns and next thing you know I am lost in the back streets of this hipsters paradise. Luckily I had the toy-radar on, and I found a little store called Pook et Koop

I found Panda-Z Waiting for me there, its cuteness demanding me to purchase it. So I did.

Panda-Z is manufactured by Megahouse, a small Japanese company. It is about 6 1/2″ tall, and made out of painted vinyl. It comes blister carded. The packaging is nice because it allows you to re-seal the figure, although i’m sure Panda-Z will never want to be put away. The card opens up to reveal some nice artwork, including some sketches of other characters in the Panda-Z universe. Will we ever see figures of them?

Panda-Z Features articulation at the neck, arms and legs. The pilot is removable, as is the “Jet Scrander.” You can remove the fists to simulate “Rocket Punch” action, but they do not fire. There is nice detailing on the ends of the fists. The bottom of the feet have nice paint detail, too.

I don’t know if Panda-Z is limited or not, but I saw empty display stands for it all over tokyo. HLJ has them, so get them while they last.

Panda-Z is awesome!

Pook et Koop is located at Cat Street, 6-15-9 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5466-8504. Open 11:30am-8pm.

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