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October 21, 2005

Aqua in English

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 9:19 pm

Developing the DX Aquarion Chogokin

In designing the robot protagonist of the Sousei no Aquarion series, Shoji Kawamori set two goals for himself. The first was creating a design that could be dynamically expressed using computer generated animation onscreen. The second was selling a toy that perfectly replicated the mechanical aspects of the character. Enlisting the help of Bandai, with its years of experience in engineering transforming and combining toys, was an indispensable asset in achieving the latter. But turning the design into a feasible product was far from easy.

Kawamori successfully created a mock up of the design using building brick toys, proving that the transformation worked in principle. The prototype was enough to convince Bandai to financially sponsor the animated television series. Still, many obstacles remained in translating this prototype into a mass-produced character toy.

In order to distinguish between the three robot combinations, the design team created a variety of different head designs and color schemes. The main mode, Solar Aquarion, featured a a face grooved with inorganic slits, set with a clearly defined pair of eyes. “All the better to make the robot more expressive, ” said a satisfied Kawamori of the final design. Indeed, the eyes are used to excellent effect in the animated series. The face of Aquarion Mars, with its star-like design motif, proved the most difficult of the three. Kawamori spent two months and hundreds of sketches perfecting it.

Upon reappraising the final draft of the designs it was decided to add wings to the individual Vector Machines in order to emphasize their roles as airborne vehicles. At the same time, Kawamori hit upon increasing the size of the legs of each robot mode in order to “extend the length of the fuselages of the Vector Machines in flight mode,” bringing the design one step closer to completion.

Bandai’s insistence upon a design that “looked good in three dimensions” required Kawamori to push the envelope of his considerable design skills, but that doesn’t mean that the project didn’t go smoothly. One reason for this is that Bandai sent a producer to work in the studio during the animation process, which Kawamori welcomed as “having Bandai participate directly made the production process far more flexible.”

Excerpted and translated from the DX Chogokin Sousei no Aquarion instruction manual


October 12, 2005

Robot Help

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 1:32 am

L.A. Robot Help – Hi Folks – Got a birthday coming up and wondered what the name (and number if you got it) is for the best (good prices, too) vintage robot store in L.A. area. Help me if you can I need some bots! Alan J.

Alan J.

October 10, 2005

Blue Gale BLUES

Filed under: Toy News — Rumble Crew @ 2:48 pm

Back in 2003 when I Rumbled on the funkalicious Clover
DX Xabungle
, there was practically no hope on the toy horizon for anything
more than a couple of PVC Walker Machines in Action – and Bandai gave up
on THAT line after releasing only the Xabungle and Walker Galliar.
Kinda like how every new Gundam toy series has to have the RX-78 and MS-06
first… and then maybe, just maybe… Right!

So when seemingly out of the blue, plans were announced
for a new Xabungle toy – a Soul Of Chogokin, no less – I was really stoked.
This could be the one true, realistically proportioned, perfectly transforming
toy of a classic robot design that had never before been done justice.
I watched the progress in the toy rags, the ever crisply molded gray prototypes;
the anxiety over the status of the surprise inclusion of the WM Brockary
(Will it be a limited edition extra? Will it be diecast? No way, keep dreaming!
Why not? yada, yada…) And lo, October comes ’round and the luckier (quicker)
fans get a hold of the toy. And complain!

“It’s too small.” “It’s too fiddly.”
“Parts fall off too easily.”

Well, I bought it anyway. Mainly because, I had so loved
the old illustrations of this strange hybrid of Super Robot and Super Real
Robot of the 80s era, and no toy ever made had come closer than the
promise of the SOC. So is it really that bad? Yes, there are some terribly
annoying aspects of the toy’s design that Bandai should be properly thumped
over their noggins for, but for the most part, I find it a worthwhile addition
to my realistic mecha collection. Let’s start with the positives:

The main figure is very well detailed for its size, which
I believe is 1/144 scale, based on the box-stated “same scale Brockary”
which happens match up to the old HCM Walker Galliar’s weapons to a “T”.
The Xabungle has diecast in the upper torso, shoulder housings, hip joints
and feet-blocks; there is no sign of PVC except for the hands, and I consider
this a Good Thing™. (I have bad dreams now and then about how my SOC Maz
& friends will turn out in a couple years’ time in the tropical humidity
where I live.) I especially like the clear yellow “headlamp” in the chest
over the Clover DX’s disco stickers. Best of all, it seems, SOC Xabungle
is kitted out with a full array of lovingly-detailed weaponry.

we have
the main rifle, which features a removable
ammo clip(!) and the tri-barreled bazooka which fits on the right shoulder.
The bazooka swivels up and down and has hollow barrels, but the problem
is how loosely it attaches to the shoulder. A simple nudge from the arm
or V-fin and PLOK! Off it goes. Grrrr. Even the PVC WMiA had sturdier attachments!
Still, poseability is good for a design that requires collapsible legs.
Afterall, the Clover DX was a brick.

00.jpgNext up is the quad-barrel cannon, which can be fitted
to either arm, but requiring the removal of the respective wheel housing.
In its other hand is a case of 16 bazooka rounds – which, though nice,
I doubt will see much display time on anyone’s shelves.

03.jpgRounding up the show is the curious
“Potan Cannon” – a gun turret severed from a Land Ship. (Brings up images
of Giant Gorg, another blue robo with a cannon in its hands.) And finally,
the even more troublesome 9-tube missile pod which goes on the left shoulder,
but just BARELY. It is soooo loose I want to question its designer’s parentage.
Also of note is the optional “broken fins” attachment in place of the usual
full fins.

Any other problems? Well, if you play vigorously with the
toy, there might be a tendency for the shin pieces to
pop off
from the
ball-joint in the foot well. Shucks. And the backpack doesn’t want to stay
put either. Blame it on the puny-sized pegs. Double shucks.

06.jpgReady for the henkei? First you’ve got to swap out the
cosmetically optimized wheel housings for the bulkier functional ones.
Just for comparison’s sake, see for yourself. If you’re
like me and would prefer to display the toy in robot mode, the slim-housings
are definitely preferred! Back to the sequence:

Instead of an opening chest compartment, Bandai opted for
total head immersion for the SOC. Neat, but guess what? The antennae gets
in the way AGAIN, but worse than the Clover’s elbow-grease-required mistake.
The instructions tell us to swivel the antennae to the front so that they
angle down into the forward notches in the neck slot, and do not protrude
at all. Can’t do it! The teensy-weensy sticks are brittle plastic
and this
is the best I could do
short of snapping them off:


Last resort
I took off the bleeping antennae and completed the Bugle
. Flip the wheel housings down and swing out the fins for flight
. Kudos to Bandai for figuring out a way to incorporate the
beveled front ends within the arms themselves!


As for the Bungle Rover trailer, it starts off easily enough
by collapsing
the feet
. Small pegs on the inner sides
help to clip the legs together. What’s really interesting is how Bandai
pulls off real Ohkawara Henkei Magic by ingeniously incorporating
a swing arm
to connect the cockpit, plus a trailer cover-hatch that
doubles as a non-canon “rear hip armor” on the robot. The proportions
of the cockpit are perfectly adapted to fit
snugly inside
wing-housings. Attach
the two vehicles together
for some road camping fun!
Rope harness for keeping the rifle in place is included!



So much for the Xabungle. Now it’s over to the BONUS figure
– the surprisingly solid WM Brockary!

15.jpgI have to say it first: The Brockary
is a snap fit KIT
The torso is assembled, with sturdy hip joints and polycaps for the shoulder
pegs. 2 sets of open and closed fists are included, plus one rifle-grip
hand. I might be mistaken, but the figure seems to be made of ABS and not
the usual brittle styrene on cheap kits. The dark blue-gray molding is
solid and what little painted details really shine out in their yellow
and white applications. It is very easy to put together, and if you have
some Gundam Markers handy, a bit of extra detailing for the elbow and shoulder
“flanges”, and perhaps the 4 jet nozzles in the legs will do
wonders for the overall look

16.jpgLittle surprises like the free-spinning
turbine blades, and the swivelling rifle holder add immensely to the
satisfaction level. And when I discovered that the El Limp’o rocket pod
actually fits properly on the Brackary’s rifle holder, I was ecstatic!
Best of all, the bright yellow sand-skis look exceptional when
fitted on the Brock’. SUPER SIDEKICK SAVES THE DAY!!!

If there was any doubt about the scale of the two figures,
this comparison with the HCM Walker galliar ought to dispel them – the
rifles are practically identical
. With that, I conclude the review
with a Team Shot:


Walker Machines Forever! Bring on the SOC Walker Galliar,
Bandai! And throw in more WM surprises if you can. :-)


October 8, 2005

Yodobashi Akiba!

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

Lucky enough to live in Tokyo? Just planning a trip to Tokyo? Make sure to add a stop to Yodobashi Akiba to your list. Located in the freak-magnet of Akihabara, it’s an enormous new department store that’s something like the Otaku Wal-Mart of Tokyo. It’s absolutely huge, having subsumed, amoeba-like, an entire city block. In fact, it’s so packed so full of stuff that visitors are issued a complimentary magazine-like floorguide to navigate through it all. Computers. Cameras. Washing machines. Stereos. TVs. And most importantly, of course, toys. Lots and lots of toys. At far, far lower prices than your average shop on the street.

Of particular interest to TBDX’ers is the soon-to-be-legendary 7th floor, which boasts more square footage than your average corn-fed American-sized Toys R’ Us, and is chock full of (new) kits, toys, video games, and model guns. The selection’s absolutely amazing, and what’s there is often far cheaper than can be found in your average new toy shop. DX Aquarions for 16,000 yen, 4,000 yen off the retail price. Entire pallets of Lord of Byston Well Dunbines at 1,900 yen a pop, less than half of normal retail. (You can almost hear Crazy Eddie in the background chanting “at prices this low, we must be INSANE.”)

On the plus side? Those low, low prices. On the down side? It’s like the Times Square-ification of Akihabara. Family friendly, and minus that shady back-alley funk Akihabara connoisseurs know and love. On the other hand, everyone’s favorite sleaze-merchants, bootleggers, and mod shops will probably flourish in Yodobashi Akiba’s squeaky-clean shadow.

Anyway. Not everything is marked down, but what is can be had for practically wholesale, and the deals get better on holidays, so it’s worth a trip if you’re scouting for new loot for your toy shelves.

(And no, to answer the inevitable question, they don’t do mail order. Get your ass to Tokyo!)

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