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January 31, 2004

Solid Snake!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 8:58 pm

I’ve been a fan of Kow Yokoyama’s S.F.3.D. series of model kits even before their re- christening as “Ma.K.: Machinen Krieger” several years ago (due to trademark and copyright issues, I hear.) Always loved the gritty and obesessively geeked-out look of his vehicle, robot, and “powered suit” designs, with their sci-fi-meets-WWII theme. Always hungered for toy versions of ANYTHING by the guy, hampered as I was (and am) by my pathetic model-building skills. Last year’s “capsule” Ma.K. figures were nice, but it’s tough to get into un-poseable figurines the size of your thumb.

Finally, after all these years, there’s IS something to get excited about: Max Factory’s all-new series of 1:16 scale “Snake Eye Super Armored Fighting Suit” figures. Unlike their capsule buddies, they’re a satisfying six inches tall. They’re made of a combo of ABS plastic and soft vinyl. They’re fully assembled, painted, and lovingly detailed. They’re available in six variations (three colorations with three sets of markings). And you know what? They’re great.

Kado Senshi they ain’t, but neither are they statues. Joints include shoulder, elbow, and wrist rotation, a rotating waist (though highly constrained by the various hoses and armor plates), rotating knees, and ball-and-socket ankles. It’s also stuffed full of hidden hinges that let the sucker open up to reveal the pilot (alas, only a head and torso. Could enormous, egg-shaped powered suits be the future of quadruple amputee therapy?)

Downsides? The connector for the hatch is really half-assed and kludgy, an obvious holdover from Ma.K.’s model kit origins. Rather than a hinge, it’s a separate and tiny little… dongle, for lack of a better word. I mean really tiny, like a millimeter square. And it only holds the hatch closed, weakly, on one side. (You can pose the hatch open, too, but you’ve got to swap one dongle for another.) If you’re the type to fly your Super Armored Fighting Suits around the room while making rocket noises (aw, go on, admit it), be prepared for the hatch to go flying off and the connector skittering under your sofa. And our stalwart pilot dying a horrific death due to vacuum exposure. Space war is hell, man.

Bottom line? It isn’t an “action figure,” but it’s sturdy and “playable” enough to qualify as a bona-fide toy (albeit an expensive one at 4,800 yen.) That being said, it’s painted so exquisitely, you’ll swear it stepped off the pages of your favorite hobby magazine. If “realistic” (ha!) robots turn your crank, the Snake Eye is fer you. Big thumbs up!

Extra-special thanks to HobbyLink Japan for “breakin’ me off,” as the kids say these days.


January 30, 2004


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:49 am

Everyone has (or should have) that one toy on their list… the one that’s been so elusive that you begin to wonder if it really exists. For me, it was the Dougram Magnetype.

I first heard about this toy from a fellow collector back in 98, who heard that a dealer had it, who supposedly sold it before my friend contacted him (or something like that). The second time it slipped away was 3 years ago, I found it for sale on Masato’s site, but was gone before I contacted him.

Then a few small pics of the box appeared in the Dougram datafile. It was for real, I had hope. Fast forward to a few weeks ago, one appears on eBay, probably for the first and last time.

I had heard very little about this toy, and considering how fanatical people can be about Dougram toys, I wasn’t expecting much. But what I got was everything I hoped it could be.

First of all, this is not a dual model. Plastic and zinc diecast, yes; but this is a TOY. It has several shortcomings that will put off many folks in regard to posability, but I don’t care. It’s got GIMMICKS, and plenty to boot. I think the reason I like this toy so much is because it’s a companion peice to the other Dougram toys, not a replacement. It has everything those toys don’t have, and doesn’t have a lot of the things that they do.

The toy comes disassembled, and I originally thought the magnetic feature meant that its joints were magnetic, when in fact they are not. You attach the body to the waist with one magnet, a similar one on the back attaches to the backpack. The arms attach in the same way as the dual model, avoiding magnets entirely. Notice the lack of an elbow joint. And see that big, ugly red lump on his shoulder? We’ll get to that in a bit…

The legs are attached using a peg, which prohibits any movement at the hips. I can hear the articulation freaks closing their browsers…

Ok, now that only the hard-core are left, let’s get to the good stuff:

First, the design is spot-on, and the proportions match the dual models (he’s in the middle). The scale is not mentioned, but it looks to be around 1/60.

The cockpit, while opaque, opens on a hinge. There is a figure included, but that’s still sealed in the bag. But wait! Takara went one step further, and lets you lift up the chest armor to see the part of the inner skeleton.

Flip the big guy around, open the backpack, and store his arm weapon in there! I have no idea if this is show accurate, nor do I care. Note the stubbiness of the gun, that is because it fires long missiles. These can be stored in the red holders inside the backpack, and also in missile racks on each leg. Once again, those parts are sealed in a bag.

Moving on down, check out the lower legs… shiny… and HEAVY! Solid zinc here, folks. And it’s a good thing, too; because this toy lacks the moving suspension system, which is a mainstay in DX Dougram toys. There is articulation in the knees, and the ankles. All the joints are metal as well, which for those who are keeping track are: Shoulders, Knees, and Ankles. That’s all (no waist joint!).

Then there is the box. Beautiful artwork, and a window so you know what you’re getting yourself into. There are also several PVC rubber mini figures: Dougram, Soltic, Bushman, and Blockhead. There is a pic on the back of the box suggesting that you should fire the missiles at these little guys. Notice how the styrofoam around each of these figures has been melted and eaten away. See people? PVC is evil!!

Anyway, this is a great toy; at least to me. This is not one for the casual collector, and you really should track down all the other large scale Dougram toys first. But as you can see, he fits in quite well with his brothers.

A chapter in my life as a collector is now closed. What’s next? I hear Masters of the Universe is pretty cool…



Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 12:25 am

Yeah, I got all the THE Chogokin toys. And I’ve played with the 1:48 Valkyries. Not to mention the SOC Dancougar. And the S.C.M. crane-game prize robots, the R/C Doms, the Soul of Chogokin Getta Dragon and all the other great stuff that came out this year. So why’s the “Kahen Senshi” series ZZ Gundam tops in my book?

Yeah, I know. Hard-core fans of the Kado Senshi (“Movable Warrior”), the similarly-named series that spawned the Kahen Senshi (“Transformable Warrior”) line, eternally pine for more First Gundam designs. But put that disappointment aside for a moment and just take a look at this thing, willya? It’s a beautifully built, heavy-ass chunky-monkey mother of a robot toy. (Just look at how much bigger it is than its predecessor, the Kado Senshi” RX-78 Gundam.) But what really sends ZZ over the edge is his cross-cultural appeal. Just consider:

– He’s a super robot! (What? A Gundam design by nature CAN’T be a super robot? Oh, forgive me — a blazing red-white-yellow-and-blue machine that transforms into three separate forms and breaks down into three different components — hell, four, if you count the gun — oh, and did I mention said gun has an actual little tiny cockpit? Yep, reality television at its finest…)

– He’s a “real” robot! (Did someone just say “super robot?” What the hell?! C’mon, he’s like… like… like the original Gundam’s great grandson!)

-He’s a transformer! (Note the lack of the uppercase T. I’m talking conceptually, here. Philosophically, even. Whoa.)

-He’s a gattai-combiner! (I don’t have anything to say here, but wanted to balance out my carefully considered use of parenthetical comments.)

Am I getting through? Are you understanding what I’m telling you? That’s all four collector-recommended Japanese toy food groups! All in one toy! And he’s metal! And he comes in a glorious styrofoam tray! And he’s poseable! (Sorta!) All in all, ZZ Gundam’s practically as complex as the SOC Dancougar — albeit at half the size, but then again you’re paying only a third of the price. Which means, in this case, a surprisingly reasonable 6500 yen. What are you waiting for? Buy! Buy! Buy!


January 28, 2004

Super7 #4

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 5:11 pm

Super7 #4 is out! Devilman! Funky vintage clear cyborg vinyls! The History of Optimus Prime, Part 2! Mechagodzilla! Exclamation points! And subscribers are getting a bonus: Mark Nagata’s Toy Karma postcard, redeemable throughout the universe! Pick up your copy or subscribe at their web store, or hit up your local Barnes & Noble! Do it NOW!!!



Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 6:54 am

Ever wonder where all your money’s been going? I’m not talking about the cash you spend on liquor, hookers, and McNuggets, but rather the coin you’ve been forking over on a regular basis to Scott Hards’ HobbyLink Japan. “New Jack City” style, I penetrated his operation in an undercover sting.

Posing as a dim-witted toy journalist (a major stretch), I made contact with Hards on an overcast afternoon in chilly Tatebayashi, an hour north of downtown Tokyo. I convinced the man I was on the level. I even managed to convince him to treat me to lunch. After that, I was in.

That’s right — I saw it all. The HLJ campus and control tower where Hards issues his dastardly wholesale orders. The server farm where illicit toy-purchases are handled. The warehouse floor where the orders are processed. The attack dog. The Hardsmobile (a.k.a. the HobbyLoader). The war room where industrious coders craft & care for the web site addicts love so well. The dolly full of orders ready going out (including a suspiciously adult-male-sized schoolgirl outfit being delivered to a Roger Harkavy of Morristown, New Jersey. Not a word, Rog — I promise!) The Air Lady that poops out those air-pillows that so lovingly cradle your orders in transit. The cases upon cases of expertly built-up models, most at the sinister hand of Hards himself. Like Wug! Wug! Wug! Even a few vintage surprises lurking in the back (alas, not for sale, chumps!) And did I mention Wug?

Total sensory overload. My mission complete I hailed a taxi and got the hell out of there. It had been a close call — I had barely escaped with my wallet intact. And my stomach was acting up from those damned liver treats.


January 24, 2004


Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 1:33 am

What more can I say about Takara’s 1/72 scale Dual Model Combat Armor toys? Every self-respecting mecha fan should make a pilgramage to the sacred Dougram Datafile at least once in his life! The 1/144s may have been more varied, but the 1/72s were undoubtedly some of the coolest mecha toys one could own, with superbly realistic designs, detailing and mechanical gimmicks.

Usually, fans get introduced to the series through the first two toys in the series, Dougram and Soltic H8 Roundfacer. Getting these two is a stroll down Easy St, but to complete the line-up, one has to track down the much rarer Abitate T-10B Blockhead. This, I managed to do for a pretty hefty price around 5 years ago.

Opening the signature slipcase was an awesome experience. While keeping to the established high quality of printing and materials, the Abitate case eschewed the understated elegance of the earlier two toys to include a brawny illustration of the mecha on the front. Perhaps Takara figured out that kids wanted to see what was in the box instead of relying on a small drawing on a slipband over a cryptic black box. :-)

Anyway, as I poured over the instructions for applying the decals, I came across the painting guide for doing a customized ‘desert’ scheme. Truth be told, I really preferred the grittier tan/brown scheme to the original’s factory-showroom glossy red. But when you’ve shelled out over 300 bucks for a hard-to-find toy, a custom paint job isn’t exactly an easy thing to consider!

It wasn’t until a couple years later, when Lady Luck smiled on me and I came across a mislabled 1/72 Blockhead on eBay (“Japanese Robot”… or something like that). It was missing its gun but the armor was all there, even the rocket launcher, except for the two shoulder pieces. What the heck, it was only $40, so I grabbed it! With a little Gunpla experience under the belt and a lot of determination, I managed to scratch-build the missing armors by measuring and tracing the originals from my first Blockhead. About the only thing I wish I could have done better was to replicate the hollow in the ‘bolt extensions‘ on the shoulder armors, but all things considered I was pretty happy with the finished work.

It was also a while later when I learned on the BBS that this ‘desert scheme’ was in fact the ‘X Nebula‘ version of the mecha, the moniker referring to an upgraded onboard computer that rivaled the equipment on the good guys’ Dougram. Well, I never got to watch the show, so I don’t know if ol’ Doug won or lost… but I’m sure Nebby and gang would’ve gone into battle with a cry of “We never approve your independence from our Federation!” :-)


January 6, 2004

T O T Y 2003

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 3:27 pm

2003 was an interesting year for Japanese toys. When we began the ToyboxDX Toy of The Year awards back in ’98, the number of new toys that sparked the interest of the “typical” Japanese toy collector were few and far between. Bandai had released a couple of SOCs, but the collector’s market itself was generally untapped. Each year since then, the number of worthy competitors on the ballot has grown at an alarming rate. Who would have expected that 25 different toys would have garnered enough fan support to make it onto this year’s official ballot? Heck, who would have thought that we would have five different SOCs splitting the gokin vote this time around? This year also featured some rather tough quiz questions, with not a single person managing to get a a perfect score. Due to popular demand, the answer key is provided at the end of this article.

So, without any further preamble, here are the results:

24th placeSOC GX-16 Eva-00
Much beloved by fans of the Evangelion series, GX-16 is the first of two SOC Evas on the ballot. Not really robots in the traditional sense, these new-style characters seem oddly out-of-place in Bandai’s flagship collectors series. So much so, that many SOC completists chose to skip them entirely. Still, even if you don’t happen to be a fan of the series or design, it’s hard to find fault with these diecast, super-poseable, accessory-packed renditions.

23rd place (tie)Machine Robo Rescue DX Wing Liner
Machine Robo Rescue is a line that doesn’t have much traction in the ToyboxDX community, as the vote certainly proved. Remembered less-than-fondly by North American fans as Tonka’s Go-Bots, as big and as cool as the Wing Linger is, it didn’t really have the chance to make the kind of impact needed to garner serious votes. It did, however, manage to beat out an SOC this year, which is no small victory.

23rd place (tie)Takara Tidal Wave
This huge, plastic Transformer certainly turned a lot of heads when it was released domestically — even managing to make to beat out Takara’s satisfyingly-large Unicron. Of course, new Transformers are an acquired taste and despite the toy’s innate coolness, it suffered the same fate (and ranking) as MRR Wing Liner.

22nd placeGundam FIX Figuration: Crossbone Gundam X-1
As far as Gundams go, Crossbone is certainly one of the more interesting-looking and it is recreated faithfully as part of this year’s FIX line. Its low ranking, however, shows that tiny, unposeable PVC Gundam toys with price-points aimed squarely at collectors do not garner much love with domestic fans.

21st placeMSiA Qubeley Mk-II
Low-cost, poseable and with an updated design, the Qubeley is certainly a standout Gundam character. However, both the material and the choice of character make it a long shot for the TOTY crowd, particularly on this already-crowded ballot.

20th placeSOC GX-19 Getter Liger
For reasons that can only be guessed at, rather than release the Getter G team individually rather than as a deluxe set as they did with the original (and 2001 TOTY winner) Getter team. Forcing fans to choose between Dragon, Lyger and Posiedon almost certainly cost the much-beloved trio any shot at the TOTY crown…although we’re pretty sure that Bandai isn’t losing any sleep over this fact. Lyger is as nice as you would expect, however. Lots of diecast, faithful sculpting (although the head seems a bit large), accurate gimmicks and superb poseability.

19th placeM1 King Ghidorah (Post-Heisei)
Anyone who has been following TOTY over the years knows that vinyl kaiju tends to fair poorly on the ballot and this year was no exception. No matter how well Ghidorah was rendered, it will take a seriously innovative vinyl toy to finish anywhere in the top ten on TBDX.

18th placeYamato Escaflowne Guymelef
The only reason that the Yamato Escaflowne deserves to be on the ballot at all is because it’s a diecast, transforming version of this much beloved mech. With glowing reviews such as; “Ass” and “It sucks but I love it anyways”, it was evident pretty early on that Esca didn’t have a snowball’s chance this year. The toy itself comes three years late and is a complete disaster in just about every aspect of execution. Whereas one can generally feel the love that went into designing most Yamato products, Esca feels like its designers gave up on it in frustration and then decided to go ahead and release it anyway.

17th placeBandai 1974 Godzilla vinyl figure
Because we just don’t have enough vinyl Godzillas.

16th placeBandai FIX Figuration Zeta Plus
Although a well-received entry in the FIX line, this creamsicle-colored contender just got lost in the shuffle of new toys this year.

15th placeBandai Kahen Senshi ZZ Gundam
After last year’s rather disappointing KS Zeta, Bandai’s follow-up ZZ shows that perhaps the do sometimes listen to their fans. ZZ is solid, with loads of tight joints and easily 10x the diecast of the Zeta. If you’ve ever transformed the original HCM (or given up in frustration halfway through), the new KS will renew your faith in this mech’s design. Pushed out of the crowded toy spotlight late in the year and generally over-looked by diecast and henkei fans, this is perhaps the sleeper toy on this year’s ballot.

14th placeBandai Machine Robo Rescue DX Siren Garry Robo
Although it managed to climb nine places higher than it’s Wing Liner brother, the curse of Machine Robo managed to keep Siren Garry from reaching the top ten toys.

13th placeBandai Saint Cloth Pegasus Seiya
After years of being neglected, Saint Seiya is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and Bandai has stepped up to the plate with all-new diecast renditions of everyone’s favorite effeminate boys in metallic armor. Unfortunately, although the toys are undeniably cool in and of themselves, SS isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps with the airing of the show in North America this year, we may see these characters score higher next year.

12th placeKaiyodo Gungrave
Large, heavy, superbly articulated and incredibly detailed, Gungrave is perhaps the nicest Japanese action figure since Monev the Gale. If you’re into action figures. And if you’re reading this, then you’re probably not surprised that Gungrave sits smack in the middle of the entries.

11th placeKado Senshi Hyaku Shiki
Diecast, superposeable and all chromed up, the Shiki was well received by diecast Gundam fans everywhere. Sadly, this seems to be a surprisely-small demographic.

10th placeBandai 1974 Chogokin Mecha Godzilla GD-57
After last year’s solid Mechazilla, fans were highly anticipating the diecast rendition of the original character. While the clamshell styrofoam box was an huge improvement over the molded cardboard used last year, the toy itself is rather underwhelming. Low diecast content, uninspired sculpting, drab paint scheme, and non-existent gimmicks all helped push this big guy to the bottom of the top ten.

9th placeBandai FIX Figuration 0013 Deep Striker
Even if you don’t happen to be interested in Gundam or FIX stuff in general, you certainly have to appreciate a line that generates anything as nutty as Deep Striker. Even though FIX is only 1/144 scale, DS is huge at just about any scale and really shows just how far Bandai is willing to push the limits of PVC and this collector’s line particularly. The fact that a FIX toy was able to break into the top ten at all, particularly in this year of diecast abundance, is in itself a testament to the toy.

8th placeBandai Metal Material Model Strike Gundam
After the brittle New Material Turn A Gundam, many fans didn’t expect much from Bandai’s new 1/100 scale diecast Strike Gundam. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. With a sturdy diecast, Master Grade-level endoskeleton (the likes of which have not been seen in toy form since the days of Takara’s Dougram line) and dozens of pieces solid removable ABS armor plating, the MMM Strike is a heavy ultra-articulated surprise. With two recolors on the market already (and pink variant seeming likely as well) Bandai appears to have found a winning formula in this design.

7th placeYamato 1/48 Super VF-1J Hikaru Type
After last year’s spectacular VF-1A (TOTY 2002 winner), Yamato’s Super 1J represents an evolutionary step forward in their 48th-scale line. Featuring much beefier hands, some highly-detailed FAST packs, and overall improvements in quality control, this is the Yamato 1/48 example to own. Special points awarded for replicating the exact hands needed to replicate the famous VF-1J stance from the original Macross intro. Although this toy garnered some significant votes, there was unquestionably some “been there, done that” consensus among fans concerning this piece. After three years running with a Hikaru Valkyrie near the top of the ballot, even hardcore fans are beginning to grow a bit weary.

6th place Mega House Panda Z
Holy crap! How the heck did a vinyl toy get this many votes? And a cute one, no less! If you’re into Japanese super robots, there’s something strangely compelling about Panda Z. Perhaps it’s the sheer ludicrousness of the little panda pilot taking Koji’s place. Or maybe it’s the way that the Robominal line has managed to instill the essence of giant robots into such a simple design while still managing to preserve important details (robo paw-prints, detailed cockpit, removable fists, the pilot’s scarf, etc.) Whatever the reason, little Panda Z’s got nothing to apologize for.

5th place Bandai GX-14 SOC Eva-01
The first in the SOC Evangelion line was met with the same mixed reaction as GX-16. A diecast Eva? A metallic-looking Eva? Where are the simple lines and primary colors? Where’s the love? A somewhat polarizing toy in the Japanese toy community, you either Get It or you don’t.

4th place Takara Transformers BT-01 Binaltech Smokescreen
You know Takara has to be doing something right when even people who usually avoid Transformers toys like the plague all rushed out to pick up the premier entry in the new Binaltech line. A large, heavy, highly-detailed, diecast, transforming Subaru. What’s not to love? Well, the spotty QC for one thing. The initial run of this item featured some overly-thin paint in a few crucial places causing moderate to severe paint chipping, which quite literally took the shine off this guy for quite a few collectors. Still, if you got your hands on version two, you have to dig pretty deep to come up with a criticism of this piece.

3rd place Bandai GX-18 SOC Getter Dragon
It took a few years to get here, but much to Mario’s delight Bandai finally delivered the first of the three Getter G robots. Managing to place third all by itself, you have to wonder how TOTY would have looked if all three had come as a set. Still, there’s very little to complain about here. All three figures have interlocking stands; both for robot and vehicle mode as well as the full arsenal of weapons that were used in the original show. Dragon is surprisingly large; more so than the comparison pictures floating around on the ‘net would lead you to believe. Still, as great as Dragon is, his popularity was no match for…

2nd place Bandai GX-13 SOC Dancougar
Arriving early in 2003, when big Danny-boy finally shipped he was greeted with near universal acclaim. A massive diecast transforming, combining monster of a toy, it was reminiscent of the Godaikins of old. Folks lauded the amazing attention to detail and the superior engineering. Fans were declaring the TOTY vote over in March. And here we are at number two. What happened?

Well, besides the obvious advantages that this year’s winner had, the fact is that Dancougar is not exactly perfect. The major problem was, as our own Keith put it; “The biggest problem with Dancougar is that it’s Dancougar.” Most non-Japanese SOC collectors weren’t really fans of the Dancougar animation or character. And for all the praised heaped upon its engineering, while the transformations were reasonably complex, the final gattai was criticized as being a “hat and shoes” gimmick. In fact, Dan resembles a diecast Brave toy with significantly more articulation. Not that this a bad thing. Dancougar still owns the number two spot by a comfortable margin, and he is still certainly one of the most beloved SOCs in recent history. However, he just was not powerful enough to overcome the the irresistible force that was…

1st place Takara MP-1 Masterpiece Convoy
Arriving 2 days before the nomination window closed, MP Convoy completely, utterly, totally destroyed the competition. Let’s get this out of the way to right up front. Convoy’s landslide win occurred due to a number of factors:

  1. He arrived right at the beginning of the vote, before his shine had time to wear off. Hell, people were voting for him before they’d even seen one up close.
  2. Convoy (or “Optimus Prime” as he is so fondly know hereabout these parts) has an enormously large and, um, enthusiastic domestic fanbase. It probably didn’t help that most of the top Transfan sites made it their mission to see that Convoy’s presence on the ballot did not go un-noticed. Convoy got more votes by himself than all the votes for every previous TOTY vote combined. The quiz results tend to suggest that these votes did not come from ToyboxDX regulars.
  3. Convoy rocks. See below.

It doesn’t matter whether you hate the show or the comic or the character or the fans that have surgically attached themselves to the canon, there is absolutely no denying Masterpiece Convoy’s worthiness to wear the ToyboxDX TOTY crown. He’s bigger than just about anything else on the ballot. He’s heavier than all of them. He’s got lots of nice working chrome pistons and pressure activated vents. He looks amazing in both modes. And he’s less than half the price of SOC Dancougar. In short, if you like big, diecast transforming robots, Convoy is your daddy.

After years of letting Bandai and the independents milk the collector’s market, Takara has finally made their first impressive foray into this already crowded field. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful game of one-upmanship between the Soul of Chogokin and Masterpiece lines.

ToyboxDX TOTY 2003 Quiz Answer Key

1. Which of the following was NOT designed by Go Nagai?
a) Getter Robo
b) Mazinger Z
c) Robocchi
d) Grendizer
c) Goriking

The correct answer is “A”. Although Go Nagai’s company Dynamic Pro was responsible for the Getter Robo character designs, Go Nagai himself had virtually nothing to do with them. Ken Ishikawa is the most likely culprit.

2. Which of the following was designed by Shoji Kawamori?
a) Escaflowne Guymelef
b) Gardian
c) Gold Lightan
d) Mugen Calibur
e) Queadluun-Rau

Answers “B” or “C” are correct. Although he did supply Yamane Kimitoshi with some suggestions about making Guymelef transform into a dragon, Kawamori did not design any of the Escaflowne mechs. And although he is often credited with Mugen Calibur from Dorvack and the Queadluun-Rau from Macross, he had nothing to do with either of those designs. However, he can claim some fame by being the original designer for Gold Lightan and the Russian-doll like Gardian.

3. The first Gundam toy was made by:
a) Clover
b) Bandai
c) Takatoku Toys
d) Yamato

The correct answer is “A”. As the vintage toy lovers among us know, Clover created the original Gundam toy merchandise…which the kids summarily rejected in favor of Bandai’s more accurate models. Sadly, Gundam would spell the end for Clover, but the beginning of the Gunpla empire for Bandai.

4. How many anime-realized designs does Kunio Ohkawara have to his credit?
a) 10 – 200
b) 201 – 400
c) 401 – 800
d) 801 – 1000
e) 1001 – 1500

Ohkawara has had roughly 819 robot and vehicle designs used in animation and toy designs, making “D” the correct answer. Really.

5. Which of the following was NOT proposed as TOTY category?
a) The toy most likely to end up stuck in someone’s bum during an arguement about which is more important: Wednesday or rice.
b) Reissue of the year.
c) Best waist joint.
d) Best toy that does not use the color red.

The correct answer is “D”. But now that you mention it, go to your toy shelf and try and find a robot that doesn’t have the color red on it anywhere. And in case you’re wondering, it was our very own Corey who proposed answer “A”.

6. Which of the following have NOT been bootlegged (yet)?
a) Bandai Mazinger Z GA-01
b) Bandai Mazinger Z GX-01
c) Bandai DX Gold Lightan GB-37
d) Bandai’s Robotack line
e) Takara’s Brave series
f) Takatoku’s 1/55 Valkyrie line

The correct answer is “B”. Bandai’s Soul of Chogokin line is the only toy line listed above that has not been bootlegged yet.

7. Which of the following toys has a waist joint?
a) Takara Giant Gorg DX
b) Takatoku Big Dai X Blitzkreig Combination
c) Bandai Robocon GA-14
e) Yamato VF-1A 1:48 scale
f) Bandai Tetsujin 28 GA-63

Aw, c’mon; this was an easy one. The only toy on the list that has a waist, let alone a waist joint is “A”; Takara’s Giant Gorg DX.

8. The opening chest on the original Diaclone Convoy Over Commander (G1 Optimus Prime) was for:
a) Breast Fire!
b) The Matrix.
c) Pilots.
d) Storing the fists.

“C,” Pilots. The original Diaclone toys were meant to be manned robots.

9. Which of the following original Japanese toy lines was NOT used in the creation of the American Transformers toy line?
a) Microchange
b) Macross
c) Beetras
d) Machine Robo

Microchange gave us Megatron and Soundwave; Macross brought Jetfire; Beetras was reborn as the Deluxe Insecticons, and Machine Robo gave us Tonka’s Go-Bots, making “D” the correct answer.

10. Who was responsible for MOST of the robot/vehicle designs used in Super Dimensional Fortress Macross?
a) Miyatake Kazutaka
b) Kawamori Shoji
c) Go Nagai
d) Kunio Ohkawara

The correct answer is “A”. Although everyone remembers Kawamori’s Valkyrie designs, 16 of the 23 mech designs from Macross belong to Miyatake Kazutaka.

11. If the pride of collection includes such icons as “Love Melody”, “Daisy Sweet” and “Ruby Lips”, then you must be:
a) Mad
b) Matt Alt
c) Corey
d) Alen Yen
e) All of the above

“Love Melody”, “Daisy Sweet” and “Ruby Lips”, are, as I’m sure everyone knows, characters from My Little Pony. Which means that the corrects answers could only be “A” and “B”.

12. Which fist is NOT in this picture?

a) Getter One
b) Getter Dragun
c) Daidenjin
d) Voltes V
e) Daimos

The correct answer is “E”, Daimos. If you wish to appeal this answer, go search the BBS for “Fist Master”. Go on. I dare ya.

13. If the price you’re willing to pay for a vintage piece comes down to the shape of the tail, you’re probably…
a) Corey
b) A vinyl Godzilla collector
c) Mark Nagata
d) A Beanie Babie speculator

The correct answer is “B”. Various versions of vintage Godzilla vinyls are dated by the shape of their tails. If you didn’t know the answer to this question, head on over the and subscribe, now!

14. Which of the following is NOT a subsiduary of Bandai?
a) Uni-5
b) Banpresto
c) B-Club
d) Bullmark
e) Volks

Correct answers would have been “D” or “E”. Although Bandai does distribute some of Volks’ toys, they are still a seperate entity.

15. This year’s TOTY nominees Eva-00 and Eva-01 were designed by:
a) Anno Hideaki
b) Kawamori Shoji
c) Todd McFarlane
d) Go Nagai
e) Ohkawara Kunio

If nothing else, you should have been able to guess this one through process of elimination. Correct answer is “A”.

16. This year’s Metal Material Model Strike Gundam most closely resembles which vintage toy line:
a) Popy Jumbo Machinders
b) Takatoku Z-Character
c) Takara Dougram line
d) Hasbro G1 Transformers
e) Takatoku Kahnzen Henkei

With its cool removable armor and detailed endoskeleton, the MMM Strike is most similar to Takara’s vintage Dougram line with which it shares the same clip-on armor concept. Correct answer is “C”.

17. Which Japanese toy collector achieved totality this year?
b) John Paras
c) Corey
d) Matt Alt
e) Inwards

With Bandai finally getting around to immortalizing the Getter G robots in their much-beloved Soul of Chogokin line, our very own MARIO’s collecting days have come to an end. After this, everything else is irrelevant.

18. Which of the following is NOT the name of a real Transformer?
a) Destruction Emperor Megatron
b) Air and Sea Defense Warrior Broadside
c) Interstellar Transport Warrior Skylynx
d) Giant Heavy Combination Soldier Predaking
e) Strongest Over-Commander Convoy Prime
f) Heavy Corps Combination Warrior Raiden
g) Super God Combination Over-commander God Jinrai

Don’t you just love the Japanese names given to the Transformers? The correct answer is “E”; the Japanese rarely, if ever call “Convoy”, “Prime”.

19. Jumbo Machinders are made from the same material as:
a) Dinky Cars
b) Transfomers RiD
c) Vinyl Kaiju toys
d) Shampoo Bottles
e) MSiA

Jumbo Machinders are made from polyethylene; the very same material used today for most shampoo bottles, making “D” the correct answer.

So ends the 2003 Toy Of The Year wrap-up. Fight amongst yourselves.

TBDX Rumble Crew

January 5, 2004

Review: Marmit Mini Metal VOTOMS, Wave 1

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:18 pm

I have Marmit’s VOTOMS toys in my grubby little paws. Here’s the lowdown on the first batch, which consists of:

V-01 Standard Scopedog
V-02 Red Shoulder Scopedog
V-03 5th Unit Scopedog
V-04 Konin’s Scopedog

(I’ve given up trying to take good pictures, so accept this crude size comparison shot of a household item, the Takara 1/60 Scopedog, and Marmit’s toy. Roger Patterson, eat your heart out.)

Construction: Gotta whole lotta PVC. Hernia sufferers, ignore the “TOO HEAVY!” warning on the box. There is zinc, but it’s minimal: only the nine leg and waist armor skirts are metal. The head and shoulders are articulated, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort before they come off due to the gashapon-style straight pegs. The large scope rotates, too, but that may not have been intentional.

Accessories: Each one of these comes with a rifle. That’s it. The rifle plugs into the hand using a peg in the palm, letting the robot cradle it. The two mounting rungs on the back actually come out, leaving rectangular slots where (presumably) future Scopedog variants will have their backpacks inserted.

Detail: The sculptor absolutely nailed the robot depicted in the line art by Okawara. Every little rivet and outline is there. The paint job is flat, with no weathering or panel lines, which is a good thing in my book.

So are they worth 1600 yen each? Maybe. I think they’re some of the best looking VOTOMS toys ever, but they’re really just gashapon figures with some metal bits stuck on them. The first four are identical except for the paint job, and I’m probably not de-carding the remaining three because of this.

I prefer these over Kaiyodo’s figures, though. The card back shows the Berserga and Diving Beetle, and they both look excellent. I’ll definitely be getting the other entries in this series so as I get more, you’ll be hearing about them here.

(And for those keeping track, they were shipped from HLJ via SAL for 880 yen and arrived here in 17 days.)


January 4, 2004

Big Blue Fun

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

Ok everybody, here goes my third rumble! As per request of Inwards, I decided to do a rumble on the amazing and fantastic Giant Gorg Jumbo Machinder !!!

Yeah….amazing and fantastic…that is if I was trippin on brown acid or something….. seriously though, this guy has his good points and his bad points, I’ll go over those in a bit but for now lets just look at the jumbo itself.

Giant Gorg was made by Takara In 1980. It is based upon the Nippon Sunrise giant robot Giant Gorg. It stands approximately 63 cm tall. Articulation is limited to the head and arms (to sum it up, the posebility of a rock). Unlike most other jumbos, the feet aren’t weighted, making this a guy you want to have propped up against something. In addition to that, it doesn’t possess the familiar “rollerskate wheels” (a good thing for mecha purists, a bad one for old-school lovers).

The stance is quiet yet dynamic, which is a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because it makes Gorg look cool and different from other jumbos, a curse in that it makes it hard to display this guy along with them (kind of like the problems you find when displaying the jumbo megazords or the animal jumbos like “Dol,” “Ryu Sei Oh,” or the “Daiku Maryu”)

It shoots…..nothing. You’d think a company that could pull off the Jumbo Jeeg would do better. The color is quite different from the other Jumbo Machinders and makes it really stand out in a line-up, whether it’s in back or up front. The paint job on the head is quiet breathtaking I– that gold against the deep, almost midnight blue is quite a good look.

After that, though, the details pretty much stop. There are some gold stickers around the neck and on the shoulders, and a pair of orange stickers on the chest, but other than that this thing is fairly devoid of any other color than blue (let me clarify that — there ARE other stickers on the legs and such, but they’re practically the same hue as the jumbo itself, making them hard to see from a distance).

In terms of molded detail this thing is pretty well loaded down, giving it a nice “real type” look.

Ok, so your thinking “Hey Jerilock, what your saying is that this thing has no articulation, it’s all one color, and doesn’t shoot anything, so why the heck should we try to pick one up??” I’m getting to that, just hold up a second!!

The one saving grace of Giant Gorg is also its only “feature.” Its eyes light up!! That’s right, pop the cap off it’s head, drop in a AA battery and with a simple twist, the s eyes turn into two burning orbs piercing the darkness with their brightness… And since the plastic of the head is fairly “thin”the rest of the head also glows a bit (think glow worm).

A note: I’ve discovered that if you twist the knob on the head just right you can also get the eyes to blink…something that made it quite annoying when trying to get a shot of the eyes for this rumble!

Moving onto the box, this thing is HUGE. It’s significantly wider and taller than the regular Popy jumbo boxes, making it hard to display with other boxes.

I hesitated to pick up this guy for a while, but finally decided to get one off Yahoo Japan Auctions. I’d heard good and bad things about it, but I found you can’t judge a book by what others say about it. Personally I like him. He has a charm that just grows on you the more you look at him (and I should probably note he was the first boxed Jumbo I ever got).

If you’re looking for cheap polyethylene thrills or an oversized, dim flashlight I’d say this guy is perfect for you. And if you enjoy Giant Gorg, he’s a piece you can’t miss out on. And being the kind of jumbo it is, if you collect them, he really is kind of like a basic necessity for any line up. Hope you enjoyed this review!



Clearly Clover

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 3:17 am

Stone-Cold Clover Lover

If you’re a shut-in, permanently strapped to a chair in front of your computer, or just don’t have much of a life, chances are you may have read the chronicle of my decades-long quest for the not-so-greatest Gundam toys ever created. (Remember? Rumble last year? Remember? Hello?)

For the rest of you, my name is Matt, and I have a problem. The problem is that I can’t stop spending my hard-earned money on cheap-ass plastic Gundam toys sold by Clover in the late 1970s. I can’t explain why I find myself driven to spend hard-earned money on such appallingly cheap, inch-high renditions of otherwise popular characters, but I think it has to do with the jolly, candy-like translucent shell covering their nougat-y, robotic insides. That and all the drugs. And that I was spanked too much as a toddler.

Or something. Let us not dwell on the sordid psychodrama playing out on the twisted landscape of this collector’s psyche, but instead revel in the fact that I have reached that mountaintop, have found that plasticy grail, have made the power of ten into one: BEHOLD THE (slighly chewed) CLOVER MECHANIC BEST TEN MOBILE SUIT GUNDAM SET! The power of plastic complels you!

Clover 10

As sets of Gundam goodies go, it’s pretty comprehensive. You’ve got a Gundam, natch. And Zakus both new and old. But that’s not all — you also get a pleasingly flesh-colored GM! And the underwater brothas, Gogg and Z’gok. Not to mention Gyan, Gouf, Char’s Dom, and a portly smurf-blue rendition of Gelgoog. Who said they never make toys of the minor guys?

There isn’t much to say here that I haven’t already said poorly before, but let me say this: only the Japanese would go to such lengths on the packaging for such an unrelentlingly low-class series of toys. I spent hours going over photoshop settings before realizing that no, it wasn’t the pictures, but the very toys themselves that were blurry. Go figure.

I don’t mean to sound down on the poor little guys. In fact, I was absolutely ecstatic to stumble across the set — although not particularly so about the bidding war that erupted across the shoulder of Yahoo Auctions, my yen lost like tears in rain. Yes, I’ve bought toys you people wouldn’t believe. But you know what? It was all worth it.

Anyway, that’s done. Now to collect all of Clover’s translucent Ideon toys…!

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