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July 30, 2003

It’s a boy!!! No… It’s a toy!!!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:52 pm

I could have written three different rumbles about this, since technically I bought 3 different toys. But since this is only my second rumble (the first one being the one about the amazing Baltan figure I ordered from Eric Chan), I think I should keep it short. I just want to share my joy about the new addition in my collection.

In 1998 when I resumed my toy collecting habit with a Soul of Chogokin Combattler V, a gift from my god brother, I thought: Wow, this is huge!

When I got my Isis Megazord (well, at least this is how they call it in North America) last year in my local Toys ’R Us, I thought: Wow, this is impressive!

When I got my shipment of Soul of Chogokin Dancougar earlier this year, I thought: Wow, this is incredible!

But nothing can compare to this, a combined order of Senpujin, Goraijin, Tenkujin, Furaimaru and Tri Condol from Japan arrived yesterday. Even though I have heard so many hypes on the web saying how impressive Gouraijin is, the fact that I purchased a shitty U.S. version of Senpujin from a local Toys ’R Us convinced me that hypes are just… hypes. Obviously after I opened the boxes, I realized I was wrong. And since last night I have been yapping about my new toy on emails to my friends like a proud father who just got news that the doctor has delivered my newborn son… Congratulation, it’s a boy!!! Or is it a toy??

I have to admit I like Goraisenpujin more than Tenraisenpujin though, maybe the big cross just look a little too stupid. Nevertheless, I am still in awe how big the Goraisenpujin is comparing with most of my other toys, including the Dancougar I got not long ago. Yes, that is the vinyl turkey I got from the first release of Unifive Cho-shin-gokin God Phoenix. And no, this is not my entire collection…

One thing I learn through all these: Never buy any toys from Bandai U.S. again ;-). It’s better to save up and spend the money on the authentic ones from Japan. I really mean it. :-))


July 29, 2003

New Zakka Corp. Shop

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:51 am

Ever been to a store where you could pick up a design book, incense, a CD of TrueType fonts, and a vinyl monster toy all in one place? Zakka Corp. in NYC is just such a place. And for those of you who can’t make it there in person, the Shop section of their web site has been updated with new functionality and tons of new items. Looking for Pantone Kubricks? They’ve got ’em.


July 27, 2003

Optumis Prime advertising opportunity

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 4:59 pm

While going about my business at my place of employment (I don’t want to plug it, so lets just say that it starts with a Barnes and ends with a Noble’s) last night, I happened upon something strange in the children’s section: A Transformers sticker book. A generation one Transformers sticker book.

Yes, that generation one. “I’ve got the touch, I’ve got the power,” generation one.

Finding myself rather disconcerted by the event, I decided to buy the seemingly generation-skipping book and do a rumble on it. Which brings us to the present.

It’s a whopping eight pages long, and boasts a cast featuring “the legendary figures Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Snarl, and many more!” The front proclaims that it contains over 60 full-color stickers, but nine of ’em are Optimus in a variety of poses…

Not only that, but it prominently features a suitably phallic megatron on the cover (and on, like, every page). Yeah, it’s ok to advertise for the bastard, just not to sell him. You know, gun laws and everything. That’s ok though, ’cause my Japanese one has a cool purple mace!

To me, this all seems like some Toys ‘R’ Us conspiracy to sell some more of their hideously over-priced re-issues. I mean, come on! The Optimus Prime doesn’t even have his original smoke stacks!

Seriously though, we’re having a pretty nice time right now, as far as the nostalgia wave is going. Everything old school seems to be marketable again. Take a look at Animeigo’s too-cool-for-school release of Macross on DVD. That was a gift from Jesus! And ADV just started putting out its re-mastered DVDs of Aura Battler Dunbine (which is executed very nicely-check it out)!

Don’t even get me started on ADV doing the recently released Mospeada and soon-to-be-released Southern Cross. Oh, and we can’t forget that they’re also doing Mazinkaizer, now can we?

Stuff is so crazy lately, that I can’t even walk up to my mail box to get the new month’s issue of Newtype without the neighbor kid running over to tell me about how they call the whiney kid at school Amuro, or about the cost-effectiveness of waging wars using giant robots.

The future of anime indeed.

As I was writing this just now, a guy looking exactly like the detective character on every anime I’ve ever seen came up to my door and said he was investigating a government plot to bring giant robot anime into the forefront of pop culture.

I told him to get lost. I think he was just trying to steal my Gaiking ringer T-shirt, the asshole.


Gundam ZZzzzzz…

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 3:42 am

Okay, okay, so we all wanted another “First Gundam” design like Dom, or Guntank, or even Haro. But there’s no getting around it: the next Kado Senshi diecast Gundam toy is the Transformer-wannabe Double Zeta Gundam. On the brighter side, I guess, sorta not really, is that finally, Gundam completists to will be able to round out the “Double Zeta trio” with the previously-released Kahen Senshi Zeta Gundam and Kado Senshi Hyaku Shiki toys.

At any rate, the newest prototype happened to be on display at Hobby Japan’s Tokyo Hobby Show 2003 this Sunday, and I happened to get groovy pictures. Go on, ogle it in all its unpainted glory.

ZZ will be hitting the streets in November at a suggested retail of 6,500 yen.


Thunderbird Two is Go!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 3:36 am

Check it out: hot pics of Aoshima’s latest Shin Seiki Gokin: the TB2 from the classic (and somewhat disturbing) all-puppet “Thunderbirds” series.

TB2 is big — about ten inches of hot, green love — and will be hitting shelves in November at a retail of (ouch!) 14,000 yen. Look for the individual mini-vehicle sets at the same time for 2,300 yen each.


July 25, 2003

Last Chance

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:29 am

I know its hard to believe, but some of us can’t buy shiny new Japanese toys every month. So, in times of desperation, us poor kids have little choice but to take the old and make it into something new.

Enter the Mobile Suits in Action (MSiA) RX-78, version 1. It has the distinction of being the first MSiA figure ever made, beginning a lineage that would allow poor collectors and completists alike to horde cheap PVC likenesses of their favoritee MS’. It also had the “distinction” of being a complete and utter piece of crap. Even when the series first started, this figure was known to suck. With the release of the Second Version RX-78, the craptacular nature of the original figure became even more apparent.

I’m not quite sure why, but one day, while browsing the local toy shop in my neighborhood in Japan, I saw the original MSiA RX-78 and decided it would be agood idea to buy it. It wasn’t until afterwards that the regret set in and…anyway, since I (and I’m sure a lot of other people) have this rubber turd in the collection or in a box in a dark corner somewhere, I’ll show you a EASY mod so that you too can have a classic Gundam moment on your shelf!

The first thing you want to do, as illustrated in the pictures is remove the left arm — this will be easy as the joints are loose on this toy. Secondly remove the head. Since the head plug is inside of the body of the 1st RX-78 as opposed as mounted on a ball-joing in the 2nd version, this might take some effort.

Got it? Okay, I’ll wait…

Now? Okay, finally put the beam rifle in the figures right hand and turn the arm completely up so that the rifle is pointing to the sky.

Congratulations! you’re now the proud owner of your very own Last Shooting Gundam as seen in the last TV episode or in Gundam III.

(Yes, I know this wouuld look cooler with the recently released “Battle Scarred” RX-78, but do you really want to buy ANOTHER Gundam?



July 21, 2003

The Corruption of youth

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 8:08 pm

This is a brief tale of how juicy pictures and slick words can corrupt the youth of America.

For a while I was your run of the mill otaku, I watched anime, read manga and tried to eat sushi. When I reached the tender age of 14 I was given my first Master Grade gunpla (Gundam plastic model) kit and the floodgates opened.

Soon one model turned into several dozen. And for a while this was all that this young otaku did with his time. Go forward 2 years when I was shown my first episode of Mazinger Z. I thought, “Wow, this is a cool show — who cares if it defies most laws of physics?” Mazinger Z soon became Getter Robo, then GoShogun, and Combattler V, the titles just piled up. Then one fateful day I was wandering the Internet when I stumbled upon a website that changed me in ways words could not describe from that day forward. That website was called

I was amazed; I spent hours pouring over the pictures of the colorful and amazingly crafted gokins, machinders, and vinyls. After looking through some of the older rumbles I found myself looking through the links section and found another amazing site, called

This site seemed to revolve around one genre of toy collection in particular, those towering goliaths of polyethylene, Jumbo Machinders… my mind was overwhelmed. “Do you mean to tell me that they actually made gigantic figures of super robots, that I could actually own a 2 foot tall Mazinger Z?!?”

I clutched my chest and fell out of my chair…. Yes, my friends, it was this moment that the old gunpla building fresh-faced otaku died and the new hardcore Japanese toy nut was born.

This was a little over 2 years ago, and in this time I’ve purchased a few chogokins, and a couple of gunpla kits, but my main passion was, and still is, the machinder. And so we see how shiny pictures, and tales of hefty gokins can twist and warp the mind of anyone, be it a hardcore middle aged Generation Force Fiver, or a young whippersnapper who up until a few years ago, didn’t even know what Chogokin was.

Well, there’s the end of my first, and hopefully not my last, Rumble.


The Grail

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 4:29 pm

(with apolgies to Steve H)

There was a time in my youth when Japanese toys were things that I revered from a vast distance.  Price, language, geography and accessibility all conspired against me.  Life was frustrating for this budding chogoholic in the early 80’s.

I lived in rural Canada in a tiny town of 2500.  None of my friends gave a crap about anything that wasn’t a Star Wars action figure. Of course none of them had ever been to Toronto and visited the holy land that was the Silver Snail. With walls lined with Gundam, Dougram Macross and Xabungle kits, glass cases with Godaikins and other imports, the place blew my mind every year at Christmas when we made the trek.  Of course, I couldn’t hope to pretend that I would ever be able to afford any of that stuff on my dollar-a-week allowance.  The occasional 1/144 Gundam kit was all that I could manage, and of course that left me hungering for more.  Every year I would place the Godaikin Tetsujin 28 atop my Christmas list, and every year I would be disappointed.  Who the heck was I kidding?  The thing ran over $90 and there was no way in hell that my folks could ever have afforded to shell out for it.

My father did, however, realize the sort of thing that I was interested in.  So, thanks to birthdays and the like, I did manage to amass a small collection of lesser gokin; 1/72 scale Dorvack, small Xabungle toys, and even a Destroid Phalanx.  It was the latter that really sent me down this dark road.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  Unless you’re a Macross completist, there’s not much reason to give the Takatoku Phalanx a second look.  The design itself is rather goofy and without its related Destroids to keep it company, it looks even more ridiculous by itself.  But it wasn’t the toy that held my interest.  It was the catalogue.

The old Takatoku catalogues were curious things to a child.  They represented a tiny slice of that ineffable Japanese toy mystery that only a juvenile gaijin can experience.  Here were a few postage stamp-sized pictures of crazily designed toys that I knew from the moment I first laid eyes upon them, I would never see on this side of the ocean.  These were the days before the Transformers stormed down the toy aisles, mind you.  I remember feeling party to some secret knowledge when I first spied a Jetfire and recognized it immediately as the VF-1S pictured on the reverse side of this very same leaflet; I knew where all the cool new toys were coming from.  In fact, I correctly predicted that Mugen Calibur and friends would make their appearance soon after.  Not that anyone else cared, mind you.

Early on, I realized that the Transformers and GoBots lines would never re-brand the stuff that I longed for; Super Robots just didn’t jive with the concept of intelligent transforming robots.  Eventually, the Godaikins and other Japanese imports disappeared from the comic stores and importers and I was left awash in domestic bastardizations.  Then “maturity” came along and banished all toys and robo-related thoughts along with them…

Of course in the late ’90’s I fell off the wagon and was back into the Japanese robot toy collecting scene in a bad way.  I was hunting down my childhood grails with fierce determination backed by a .com salary.  My memory was spotty at best, but I was grabbing stuff left and right at toy/comic shows and making my first tentative purchases on eBay.  Strange days when every purchase was the “last one” and ToyboxDX didn’t even have a DNS entry.

Of course all that changed as the “scene” became more organized and communities started to form online.  As I was confronted by gratuitous jpegs of other collector’s displays, I came to realize just how spotty my memory was.  I would often spy toys that I’d spent hours with or drooling over as a youth tucked into a small corner, crowed-out by Jumbos and Godaikins.  Dai Battles, Gats Blocker, Xabungle, VOTOMS…the memories all faded, like chrome on a well-loved gokin…

So it really shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise to me when I stumbled across a scan of a Takatoku Toys catalogue similar to the one that I had spent all those hours obsessing over 15 years before.  Of course I still didn’t have any clue what it was, but a call for help on the BBS was quickly answered.  Close on 15 years later, I finally had a name to attach to my “elephant gattai thingy”.  Now I just had to find one.

The Sankan-Oh Mammoth Gaisshin represented a new area of collecting for me; a toy that was truly rare, obscure and much sought-after by Japanese Z Gokin completists.  Having never collected things like vintage vinyl, jumbos or tin, I had never experienced the frustration of checking eBay and Yahoo daily for days…weeks…months…years without even so much as glimpsing the object of my desire.  Occasionally, a C-5 would show up on Yahoo missing both fists, the mammoth and an arm (I can’t read much Japanese, but I bet it was “great for display!”).  It would close at 40,000 yen.  Sigh.

Then, after 2 years it happened.  An MIB example showed up on Yahoo.  It zipped past 100,000 yen on the first day and I resigned myself to the fact that I would never actually see one of these guys in person.

Six months later, it shows up on eBay.  Hell, I’d even forgotten that it was still in my search string.  I realized that there was no way in hell that I would win with all the eyes of the Takatoku Otaku on it, but I went ahead and bid anyway, remembering that most domestic fanboys have no idea who Sankan-Oh is…

There’s not much more to tell.  I bid; there wasn’t much competition and I won easily.  The toy arrived a couple of weeks later from Hong Kong and I was as happy as a little girl for at least a week.  I would like to tell you all how this is the greatest toy ever and how it cured my alcoholism, and how you must track down one of these puppies for your very own…  But I can’t.  Like so much in this hobby, Sankan-Oh’s appeal lies in what he represents, rather than what he is.  For me, the mystery, the unobtainability, the coolness, the soul of Japanese toys can be found by simply staring into two clear blue, googly eyes…

My friends think I’m nuts for dropping that kind of dough on “the worst toy I’ve ever seen”, but I just sit here grinning at my Visa statement like Tom Smykowski in his body cast from the movie Office Space; “You see, good things can happen…”


July 20, 2003

Oh, Danny Boy

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:41 pm

If you’re an American, chances are you’ve never heard of Dancougar. Actually, if you’re anyone other than a twenty-to-thirty year old resident of Japan with a fond memory of ’80s anime, chances are you’ve never heard of Dancougar. So let’s start with a little description of the show, courtesy of Japanese toy historian Koji Igarashi’s “liner notes” in the Soul of Chogokin Dancougar’s instruction manual:

Dancougar’s first televised run was in 1985. It featured a bold structure for a robot anime, weaving the appearance of the the individual capabilities, transformations, and combinations of each of the “beast machines” into the show’s overall storyline. This meant that the show unfolded at quite a slow pace: the machines didn’t even make an appearance until episode 5, their first transformation into “humaroid” forms until episode 11, and their first combination into Dancougar until episode 16, which served to cement Dancougar’s appeal as an indestructible robot all the more… In essence, the show was a re-examination of the combining robot genre based on concepts from “real robot” shows. Dancougar is the representative giant robot of the late-’80s Japanese anime scene.

And there you have the answer to the burning question of “why Dancougar?” Like so many things in life — old jeans, schoolgirl sailor outfits, and used panty vending machines — it may not sound like much to us, but it’s a big deal in Japan.

If you’re an American and DO remember Dancougar, chances are it’s from the dorky mid-80’s Godaikin release, which is a shame. A shame because that particular toy is, quite possibly, the ugliest and most finicky diecast robot toy ever created. In contrast, you have the Soul of Chogokin Dancougar, which is, quite possibly, the coolest-looking and most finicky diecast robot toy ever created. This is the transforming robot to end all transforming robots. It is the robot you show your “Transformers“-fan friends to prove your superiority as a collector and human being. It is an engineering marvel. It is a transforming puzzle wrapped in an enigma packaged in gloriously old-school styrofoam. It is origami in diecast and plastic.

The towering (nearly 15″, fully loaded) Dancougar is comprised of four smaller robots: the delicate, bird-like “Eagle Fighter,” the chunky and elephantine “Big Moth,” and the supple, feline “Land Liger” and “Land Couger” (sic). Each of these is capable of transforming into three distinct forms (“aggressive beast,” “aggressive tank,” and “aggressive humaroid”) in addition to forming one of the components of the aforementioned towering Dancougar. Most transforming toys are two-fers. This one’s a thirteen-fer!

Head spinning yet? It should be. If nothing else, Dancougar is easily the single most complicated robot toy you’ve ever handled. Besides the individual transformations, it’s loaded with features. Translucent plastic for the cockpits. Fold-away missile batteries. Rotating and elevating cannon barrels. And an enormous, detachable “Booster” with a wingspan as broad as the robot is tall. Even the enormous “Daigan” (literally, “big gun,” natch) features four separate components; it’s built up from the individual small-arm “wepons” (sic again) of each of those pathologically aggressive “humaroids.”Dancougar is a robot toy as envisioned by the guys who brought us the Rubik’s cube. Or the jigsaw puzzle. Or mind-altering drugs.

Alas, you can’t have your mind-altering drugs and eat them too.This complexity comes at an extreme price. If you’re expecting a fun-to-fiddle-with “action figure,” ala the previous Soul of Chogokin toys, you are cruising for a major disappointment. Dancougar isn’t something to just pick up play with. Oh, no. You’d better block off some time in your schedule book, because wrestling it into a pose often entails limbs flailing, feet detaching, and/or heads rolling — and more than a fair amount of swearing. (The connection mechanism — or lack thereof — for the head is a surprising blight on an otherwise outstandingly engineered toy.) Placing the Booster on the already overloaded back virtually guarantees a face-first tumble. And good luck getting Dan to take any sort of pose while sporting that bazillion-ought-six Daigan hunting rifle of his; it literally needs to be bolted into sockets under one arm for support. In fact, once you get the damn thing looking the way you like, you’ll probably collapse in exhaustion and call it a day. It’s that kind of “toy”: more of a beautiful display piece than any sort of a plaything. (Three cheers for Tim, who had to fight his way through every single mode in an attempt to get usable shots.)

In short: this is the ultimate Transformer. A testament to the sheer insanity, willpower, and ambition of Japanese toy-designers. A combining Eighth Wonder of the Robot World. If that sort of thing doesn’t float your boat, you’re probably going to find yourself more than a little ways up frustration creek without a paddle — seething at the many, many trade-offs in balance and sturdiness required to bring this engineering marvel to fruition.

A very special thanks to HobbyLink Japan for their assistance with this Rumble!

Matt Alt & Tim Brisko

Now that’s just “Prime”?

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:50 pm

Transformers has now come full circle with the reissuing of the G1’s, we first enjoyed them when they first appeared in the early 80’s. We even endured when other gimmicks came out. G2 and Machine Wars was almost a decent attempt to produce the classic and bring in new ideas, Beast Wars and Beast Machines for the animal lovers in all of us, Car Robots/R.I.D. made us homesick for vehicle based Transformers of the bygone days of yester years and, Armada gave us the nostalgia of G1 but more of the “blocks”. Yet all never trully looked as good or has came close to the original as possible in the cartoons till now.

These are the “new” old school Transformers with more detail and style… so far there is Smokescreen and Optimus Prime. But just looking at the images gets me all tingly with excitement… and broke even more, when I buy these… so can someone lend me some cash?

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