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July 19, 2003

San Diego Comic-Con 2003 Report

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:45 pm

What is there to say about San Diego Comic-Con, other than that it really is the biggest geek-fest in America?

Of course, I felt right at home. The exhibitors’ room wasn’t as good this year as it was last year if you were looking for Japanese super robot or mecha toys, but there was a very strong presence of kaiju toy dealers, with a good selection of both vintage and new items.

The Super7 Magazine crew was there in force, with a show-exclusive variant of Bear Model’s Godzilla ’74 figure for sale. I finally got to meet editors Mark Nagata and Brian Flynn face to face, after trading and corresponding with them for years. StrangeCo was also there, showing off their Cosmouse vinyl as well as all three versions of the Dorbel vinyl I reported on last week. Kaiju lovers, take note: Dorbel is solid vinyl, and truly impressive in person.

As for the toy news, let’s break it down by license…

Robotech: The big news from Toynami was the Masterpiece Alpha, which features an excellent sculpt, die-cast content spread throughout, and a little fold-up Cyclone that fits in a hatch behind the cockpit. Scale is 1/55 (about 6″), price is $80, release dates start at the end of this year, and if sales are good they will make a Beta for it, so use your dollar votes if you want to see this happen. And it has a waist joint! The Robotech panel also told us that an SDF-1 toy was considered by Toynami, but not deemed worth the effort since the molds could only be used once, unlike the VF-1 and Alpha ones. Aside from the new Super-Poseables, no other toys were annoucned.

Gundam: Bandai showed us the first episode of Zeta Gundam in English, which filled my heart with blood. Although they weren’t displayed at the show, the Arch Enemy Gundam and Gelgoog are still scheduled for release. I asked if a green Gelgoog exclusive was in the cards. Since the average Zeon grunt really doesn’t fit into the category of an “arch enemy”, they said they didn’t plan on doing this.

Maschinen Krieger: Diamond had a huge display of these little Yellow Submarine 1/35 guys, including prototypes for a new set of Working SAFS, and two versions of the Fireball SG. Pooyan’s Halloween suits have also been confirmed for production. All of these look great.

Five Star Stories: Kinokuniya Books had what was probably the most impressive display of the show, dozens of completed Five Star Stories models being shown off to promote their translation of the manga. The centerpiece was the huge Jagd Mirage kit, which was probably about three or four feet tall. No toys announced, though.

Transformers: Hasbro showed off a Unicorn toy. It was weird, it didn’t look like a unicorn, because it had not one horn but two.

Star Wars: Why am I writing about Star Wars on Toybox DX, you ask? Because if you haven’t heard already, a 13″, six pound die-cast Millenium Falcon is coming down the price for the not-so-low price of $300 from Code 3. It looks very impressive, and will probably appeal to die-cast addicts. An X-Wing is also being released, but it isn’t to scale with the Falcon. Why? I have no idea.

So there you have it. Not a complete report on everything that was at the show, just the stuff I care about. And in the end, isn’t that what’s important?

And now, the pictures:

Die-Cast Code 3 Millenium Falcon
Toynami Herculoids toys

That Transformers Unicorn thing
A Star Wars toy I’m sure none of you care about
Mark Nagata of Super 7, with Antoinette and Jim of StrangeCo

The sleeper hit of the show: Playwell’s Titanium figures
Ugly Dolls in garbage cans
Die-Cast Code 3 X-Wing

Maschinen Krieger display at Diamond
More Maschinen Krieger
Even more Maschinen Krieger

Gigantic Jagd Mirage kit at Kinokuniya display
Killer Tomato schmoozes with booth babes
Brian Flynn of Super 7 poses with vinyl booty
Ken stands up to the Victory
Roger stands up to the Victory
Harvey stands up to the Victory
Corey’s new fixation: Junkyard Dom
My sole toy purchase: an M-1 Go glow mini Greenmons, complete with waist joint!


July 18, 2003


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 7:09 pm



July 17, 2003

TBDX just got nerdier!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:22 pm

Inwards and I just raised the Geek level of ToyboxDX a few notches. There is now an RSS feed for the rumble. That feed can be found here.

For those of you who are already using these, you know how rad this is. If you don’t, this is basically a whole new way to use the web. You can subscribe to the ToyboxDX feed with a news aggregator, many of which can be dowloaded for free here. (Mac OSX users take note!)

What this program will do is maintain a constant watch on the news feed, in this case the Rumble, and alert you when it’s updated. Gone are the days of checking the rumble every few minutes for an update! Your news aggregator will let you know when there’s something new, at which point you can either read it right there, or follow a link to read it in a browser. This gets really cool when you realize that most other news or blog sites you probably read have these feeds too, and if they don’t they will soon.

Still not convinced? Here’s a story that ran on CNN the other day which should back up some of this hype.



July 11, 2003

Popy Page!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:17 am

As you may have heard, long-dormant Popy, masters of all things Japanese robot in the 1970s, is back. And now their official website is up and running! Check it out for yourself at:

Popy’s new motto, according to the site, is “low cost, high value.” In fact, they’re even using the same “P-in-a-circle” logo they used for their “cheapie” toys back in the early ’80s. And just glance over the the most recent releases! Nothin’ but appallingly cheap bottle-cap figurines, candy toys, and glow-in-the-dark plastic renditions of Gundam, Abaranger (see left), and Kamen Rider characters. If nothing else, it all seems specifically designed to torment old-skool Popy fanatics who crave nothing more than metal, metal, metal.

Popy, we hardly knew ye! It’s too early to throw in the towel yet, but it seems the Popy of the 21st century is shaping up to be a catch-all for Bandai’s bottom-of-the-toy-barrel offerings. Stay tuned for more info!



Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:09 am

And now it’s official: the next Jim Woodring vinyl figure, the Dorbel, is currently being previewed at StrangeCo’s web site. In addition to the standard version, it will be available as a Hong Kong brown version, and a Super7 exclusive grayscale version.


July 10, 2003


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 5:00 pm

Designer vinyls, boutique vinyls, whatever you call them, they’re really not my thing. But then I met Mantra.

Mantra is the clumsy, but well-meaning monster brainchild of cartoonist Jim Woodring, and he was born when Japanese gallery Presspop approached Jim to do a vinyl figure. “They asked for designs, I sent them a few,” he told me. “They chose Mantra. I drew him from four angles and did color schemes. The sculpture [by Presspop’s artisan Kondou] looks exactly like the drawings. I was floored when I saw it.”

This isn’t the first time Jim Woodring’s work has been realized in plastic. Six of his designs were part of Sony’s Time Capsule series, which made various artists’ creations available in gashapon toy form. Nonetheless, he was still impressed by the painstaking attention to detail during the creation process. “Presspop and Kondou were very conscientious about getting everything just right. There was considerable last-minute cogitation about what color the orifice between his tentacles should be.”

I asked Jim where the design came from. “I don’t know. The idea was to make a figure that could stand among the well-known Japanese movie monster toys. He came out a little clean and pretty for that, though.” Kaiju fans might see him as what Gezora would look like if he attacked the Yellow Submarine.

“I really like the thing and am thrilled to see this poor creature brought into existence like this,” but Jim admits, “God only knows what people who contemplate him see.”

Like most collector-oriented vinyl figures, Mantra comes bagged with an header card based on Jim’s paintings. He’s 22 cm tall, the same size as a standard Bullmark, and is available in both “cool” and “warm” color variations. The vinyl isn’t as thick as an M-1 Go figure, but the paint job is very impressive.

Mantra is available directly from Presspop, and sells for 6800 yen plus 2400 yen shipping for one or two figures. Buyers outside Japan who want to adopt Mantra should contact Presspop via the email address on their web site, and they accept international postal money orders.

Jim hints that there may be more Woodring-themed creations coming down the pike, so keep your eyes peeled.

Jim Woodring:
Mantra figure:
Mantra art:
Mantra page:


Fight! Claritin Robo!!!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 4:52 pm

Fishing through the murky depths of pop culture never gets old for me, especially when an anachronism like Claritin Robo turns up in the net. It was given to me by my friend Matt, a graphic designer who worked at a company that developed promotional items and found it in a bin at his office. Unfortunately he didn’t have answers to any of the obvious questions like “Why the hell would someone do something like this?”

I recognized the toy’s design. It came from a set of toys by Masayuda called Alphabots, transforming alphabet letters aimed at preschoolers (a set of Numberbots is also available). I’d also heard stories about how they were given away as toy pack-ins at Dairy Queen and Burger King in the 1980s. How did this one end up with the Claritin logo on it, though? A few phone calls got me in touch with the Marketing department at Schering-Plough, and the story, once told, was almost too much to swallow…

I’m always entertained by the lengths some companies will go to in order to grow brand awareness among children ( beyond giving your product an “extreme” name like Blastin’ Green Ketchup, Xplosive Pizza Goldfish, etc.). Keith opened my eyes to the mind-boggling Tooth Protectors, an Atari 2600 cartridge given to kids by Johnson & Johnson. More recently, I read about Mosquito 2, a Playstation title that will be sold at drugstores to promote Ikeda Mohando’s Muhi anti-itch cream.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when I found out that Claritin Robo was intended as a tie-in for a cartoon feature to be distributed through pediatricians’ offices. I kid you not.

It was 1999, and Schering-Plough was facing a tough crunch. The patent for Claritin was going to expire in three short years, and now more than ever it was critical for them to gain ground against newcomers Zyrtec and Allegra. Claritin Syrup for Children was going to be launched soon, and Claritin Robo was seen as their last, best hope for breaking into this market segment.

The faxed material that I received describes a 15-minute VHS tape (remember, DVD wasn’t a widespread format yet) that would be packaged with the Claritin Robo toy and a sample of Claritin Syrup. A description of the plot isn’t included, but I can only imagine that it involves some “rad kid” who has allergy problems and encounters Claritin Robo, who helps him overcome his respiratory distress and win a skateboard contest, or something.

One of the pages even had the lyrics to the theme song. Here are the ones I can make out:

Flowers, plants, and leaves,
making it hard to breathe…
Claritin Robo, he works fast,
to help us breathe, at last!
Claritin Robo!
Claritin Robo!
Claritin… Rooooooboooooo!!!

After reading this, I was convinced: there was no doubt that the whole concept of this was uncompromisingly lame, but I had to get my hands on the remaining pieces of the puzzle. In addition to the video, a promotional poster and cardboard display is shown in the materials I was sent. I’ve been scanning eBay, but so far, no dice. If anyone has any leads, I’d really appreciate it. My appetite has been whetted, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop me…

Fight! Claritin Robo! For the abolition of pollen and the integrity of our capillaries!!!


July 5, 2003

Diecast EVAloution

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:30 am

“Ever since I was a kid,” says anime series creator Hideaki Anno in the instruction manual for the Soul of Chogokin Evangelion figure, “I’ve always preferred toys that look just right over toys that contained a bunch of gimmicks that had nothing to do with the show.” And there you have it in a nutshell.

Do ya like the “new wave” of diecast figures? The uber-“anime-accurate” Chogokin Hyaku Shiki? The super-articulated Kado Senshi series of diecast Gundams? You’ll love Chogokin Evangelion.

Or have your tastes devolved to the point where you not only don’t care, but actively seek out toys with gimmicks that had nothing to do with the show? An old-skool toy gangsta all the way? If that’s the case, it probably won’t do a whole helluva lot for you.

Don’t get me wrong, now. It’s incredibly well done. It’s heavy. It’s beautifully sculpted. It’s jointed up the wazoo — literally. The waist and thighs alone have more poseability than some toys have in their entire bodies. Hell, it’s even got bendable toes! Evangelion’s more of a bio-mechanical monster than a giant robot, and Bandai even managed to get the Eva’s organic-looking, slouched posture down pat. And unlike a lot of other super-posable toys, it’s solid. No worries about breakage with this baby (even if the horn on his (her?) helmet does pop out with annoying frequency.)

And those accessories! It’s got the Rambo-esque “progressive knife.” It’s got the pair of samurai swords. It’s got the light machinegun, plus a handy “briefcase” to store it in. It’s got the bazooka. It’s got the swappable shoulder units (one pair for looks, the other “functional.”) For god’s sake, it even has what appears to be a 9mm handgun (my personal favorite, especially when held sideways, “Boyz in the Hood” style.)

One additional accessory: a stand that actually looks like something more than a plastic tray. Unlike the stands for the other S.O.C. toys, Evangelion’s is a dead ringer for the “launch rack” used to store him/her/whatever in the show. Nice touch.

In fact, much like the show itself, S.O.C. Eva’s almost disturbing. Disturbing because no toy this heavy and metallic should be this poseable. Bottom line? It’s an honest to goodness toy (albeit a slightly expensive one at $50 MSRP in Japan.) A (gasp) diecast action figure! Perish the thought.

For full sized, Brisko-directed, hot ‘n sweaty EVA-on-EVA action, check out the photos directly at

Matt Alt & Tim Brisko

July 2, 2003


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 11:19 pm

AnimeExpo 2003 starts tomorrow at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California, and its surrounding hotels, the Mariott and Hilton.

Last year, the Expo was at the Long Beach Covention Center. There was a problem with the fire marshalls restricting entries into the vendor area resulting in long lines of frustrated fans outside, as those who had waited in line early got in and wouldn’t leave. Once the room was at capacity, no one else could get in, so the back of the line waited all day for nothing. Hopefully this year the room will be bigger, and the fire marshalls (from a different county, this time) will be nicer to us.

Go to their link for event schedule, premiere cartoons, contests, panels, workshops and other information.

According to the schedule, they will be showing Astro Boy episodes 1-5 at some god foresaken hours like 5:30 in the morning. If these are from the new series, I will be there. By the end of the day, I will be a walking zombie.

And, have I mentioned the vendor area? This is the chance to buy toys without shipping charges. You can actually hold them in your hands before forking over your hard earned money. O joy.

Hope some of you can make it this year.



July 1, 2003


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 8:12 pm

Wondering what’s up with this strangely avocado-esque rendition of Garamon? This alluringly internal-organ-esqe rendition of Takkong? They’re reissues of toys from Popy’s “King Zaurus” series of kaiju vinyls — major hits in 1970’s Japan. Why do you care?

Because they’re being sold by Popy, that’s why.

Yeah, THAT Popy. It’s true — Bandai’s dusting off the hallowed Popy brand-name! What this means in the “bigger picture” isn’t exactly clear. Details are scarce at the moment. For the time being, however, it appears that Popy will be taking the place of “B-Club,” the brand Bandai has used up until now when reissuing ’70s vinyl toys.

Garamon and Takkong will hit the streets later this month at 2,800 yen a pop; look for Ultraseven and Eleking to follow shortly thereafter.

Will Popy remain a marginalized brand of reissue vinyls? Or will we start seeing some diecast reissues, too? One can only hope… Stay tuned for more info!

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