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July 30, 2004

Plankton de GO!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 12:58 am

That’s the great thing about living in Tokyo: just when you think you’ve seen it all, just when you think they can’t take things any farther, you stumble across something that upends your complacent little worldview.

Zooplankton gashapon. I rub my eyes. This has to be a dream. My long, long wait for toys of microorganisms, each carefully suspended in a vile-looking fluid that appears to be mint jelly cut with turpentine, is over at last.

And it’s all thanks to Epoch. Man, I love Japanese toy-makers. Even if they’re only making gashapon. With a trembling hand, I put my hundred-yen coin in the slot and spin the wheel, placing my fate in the hands of the toy-gods.

My heart’s in my throat as I reach for the jolly, candy-like capsule that drops into the machine’s cold yet welcoming orifice.

Branchiopoda. The “chase microbe.” Clutching the vial in my hand, I can sense the minty, translucent love of the Lord of Gashapon radiating down upon me from his throne on hallowed Mount Polyvinylchloride. This is a message. I can feel it in my bones.

It’s time to get back on the crack.

I dig another hundred yen out of my pocket, spin the dial again, and pray for a paramecium.


July 26, 2004

Uchusen #113.

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 10:48 pm

Lookie here, Toybox DX got a mention in Uchusen Magazine #113 as part of their April Chiller Theatre coverage. Under this photo of Betsy Palmer (Jason’s mom in the original Friday the 13th) with a scruffy jet lagged gaijin, the text reads:

“This is Roger, who helped us coordinate our coverage of the event. He’s a staff member at the American website, which is a site for collectors of Japanese toys.”

Props to our homie Tadayuki Osumi for getting Roger’s ugly mug and our URL in the mag. Ladies of Japan, start writing those fan letters. If it worked for Josh Fraser, it should work for Rog…

(Uh, huh-huh-huh, “staff member”.)

Roger and Matt

July 17, 2004

Kaneda Rides Again

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:10 pm

Sometime in July 1988, the first ever incarnation of Kaneda’s Bike from AKIRA exploded into existance in the form of Bandai’s 1/35 scale toy. Years later, the fame and popularity of AKIRA grew tremendously. Europe, America, Asia… the world of SF/anime/manga fandom was blown away by the superb story, art and breathtaking animation in the various translated editions. And for most part, the fans wondered: “Where are the toys??!!!”

There was no eBay then, folks. The few who knew about the BANDAI 1/35 scale still had to go toy-hunting the old-fashioned way… Friends-of-friends(-of-friends), grubby middlemen, ruthless convention dealers and Major Moolah.

Then a couple years back (2000/1?), we got a pretty decent and affordable McFarlane Toys version. Still, I decided to shell out the bucks (85 clams) for the dinky little BANDAI… mostly for the thrill of having the most accurately reproduced decals. Probably because of licensing issues, McFarlane Toys could only settle for names like “CORRUPT” instead of “CANON“, and “IMMIGRANT” instead of “CITIZEN” and a “radiation sign” instead of the “BMW quadrant“… etc. You get the idea ;-)

Now finally in July 2004 (16 years later!), BIG-B has bestowed upon us a truly brilliant gem of anime-memorabillia: The Soul of Popynica PX-03 Kaneda’s Bike!

Words fail me in trying to describe the giddy excitement upon laying hands on the box. The stark red & black styling of the package instantly recalls the bold graphic design Otomo pioneered with AKIRA in the 80s. The window cutouts display the sleek profile of the bike, fully covered from the front, and with removed panels to show off the remarkably detailed diecast structure from behind.

True, there’s no fetishistic styrofoam tray to hold the goodies, but the silver-foil coating on the insides do add a touch of class. Equally amazing is the lifelike sculpt of Kaneda himself, in his trademark insouciant slacker’s pose. And who could forget the drug capsule and motto emblazoned across the back of his jacket? “GOOD FOR HEALTH / BAD FOR EDUCATION” is not only punkishly cool, it’s even grammatically correct Japlish. :-)

No doubt, this review is mainly about the PX-03, but I thought a little comparison with the old 1/35 toy would be interesting. First up there is the matter of size: The old 1/35 measures a mere 10cm in length while its big brother stops the tape at just over 20cm. Nonetheless, it seems the 1/35 holds its own interms of accurate scaling when you compare how Kaneda fits into the seat… PX-03 seems a tad too small for its infamous delinquent owner.

But once you get down to DETAILS… there’s no question about it, the PX-03 is hands down the winner. I mean, there’s just no way hand-applied stickers could match up to solid-colored tampo printing, especially on devillishly curvy surfaces! And while the 1/35 bike could do the mecha toy equivalent of a strip tease, with the PX-03 you get the Full Monty. Wheels covers front & back, side farings, wind shield, side covers, rear shroud, top hatch… everything comes off. You’ve got to give points to the 1/35 designers for giving a fine effort back in 1988, but the PX-03 simply takes the cake! This is like the Dougram of anime vehicles! Check out the detailing that went into the diecast parts… I never get tired of pouring my eyes over the superb craftsmanship!

More details… Rolling rubber wheels (of course), spring loaded suspension front and back, front wheel/fork assembly telescopes up (for maintenance) and actually steers. Flip out stand underneath, flip up front light. Bandai even included 2 sets of side fairings: one-piece L/R parts, and 2-piece L/R parts for showing the bike in semi-disassembled state. Personally, I prefer the 2-piece version – the almost unnoticeable seam line where the halves meet adds a neat measure of realism for me.

Oh yes, the instrument panel. Whereas I had to settle for a pretty nice sticker on the smaller toy, BANDAI has seen fit to go all out with properly molded buttons and see-thru covers over neatly printed speedometer and navigation displays. Is that a smirk I see on you, Kaneda?

To sum it up, if you enjoyed AKIRA, the PX-03 is a no brainer. Kaneda might be too big for his bike, but that’s a real minor quibble next to all the goodies you get for (a measely) 6500yen. But don’t write off the smaller toy either… I find it an excellent (and highly durable) companion piece for any chogo-connoisseur or AKIRA fanatic. Will the success of the PX-03 see other SOP releases for AKIRA (like the flying attack craft, for example)? I sure hope so. Thanks for the ride, BANDAI!


July 3, 2004

Hakone Toy Museum!

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:34 pm

A surprise trip to famed toy-collector Teruhisa Kitahara’s tin toy museum in scenic, mountainous Hakone Japan yielded this handful of photos.

Unlike Kitahara’s tin toy museum near Yokohama, which focuses on tin robots and spaceships, the Hakone annex is largely filled with tin cars and airplanes. But that being said, no hall of Japanese toys would be complete without a few selected robots and monsters, and the Hakone Toy Museum delivers.

Check out those Bullmark tin kaiju! And the life-sized (well, human-sized) Tetsujin 28 and
Astroboy statues! The anime-style renditions of long-gone American movie stars! And who could forget that krazy-looking Kute Kitty?

It’s a lot of fun. Unless you’re a tin toy maniac, though, I’m not sure if the museum is really worth making a special trip from Tokyo. (It’s a good two hours away.) But it sure is a nice respite between taking dips in Hakone’s famed hot springs!

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