Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen
Eternal and Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen: random japanese toy collecting nonsense

November 22, 2009

nekosaur sofubi preorders hit 60 in 36 hours

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 10:18 am

Awesome response! We had originally planned for no more than 50 units in the Crystal run, but thanks to the amazing word of mouth in the first few days, it seems like we’re going to blow through that number easily. We’re increasing the run to accommodate some last minute interest, and extending the pre-order window till Thanksgiving. If you were thinking about snagging one of these, now would be the time to mention it.

After that, it’s on to, er, “colorways” and the ass-kicking paint masks we have planned. In keeping with the incubot philosophy / idiocy, once something’s made that’ll be it. No turning back.

Color Concept: Ich Bin Ein Nekosaur

Thank again for all the positive feedback, and for everyone who’s throwing down to support this ridiculous endeavor. I cannot wait to to get these into people’s hands. They’re totally sexy, and everything I could have hoped for. Thank you Ikeda!

November 19, 2009

Incubot Day 1

Filed under: Endless Ramble,incubot — admin @ 7:57 pm


So I’ve been dicking around with the incubot mark, incorporation papers, and ecommerce nonsense for about a month now, on the edge of my seat waiting for products to show up. Everything — and I mean EVERYTHING — was late. I had expected USB drives, prototypes from Gargamel, boxes and all other sort of nonsense to show up by my birthday in October. You want to talk about disappointment? about not getting what you wanted? Try shorting yourself 500 robots of various sizes and configurations. Sucks.

Luckily, a ton of crap came in just before the Morphy’s auction last week. I think it was better this way. I’d had the Garga-neko in my hands for only 20 hours before I got to share it with the crue from TBDX. Which of course made it way better than just hiding under the sheets with it on my own. So thank you everyone for helping to rock the debut.

Last night, after all this muddling around and stressing about minutiae and bullshit (paint masks, financial modeling, fulfillment, price point) I just said screw it and launched the domain. I figured too many pics were going out, and the crystal lite version of the sofubi was kind of looking at me and saying “WTF are you waiting for?”

After I flipped the switch here, lo — tons of traffic almost instantaneously. In the last 20 hours, an awesome number of preorders on the Sofubi have come in. I am blown away, grateful and psyched.

Much thanks to Hillsy, who leapt to Add Cart buttons almost instantly, and who put up a Facebook page nigh-instantly. Roger and Sjoen jumped in and started spreading the word on skullbrain and other places. Matt has been working behind the scenes to move the japan end of things. And Sanjeev has been giving me remedial lessons in sofubi funk.

There are a shit load of people who have been involved with test marketing, and advice too: Nekrodave, Mason, and too many others to thank.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate every person who’s thrown down for a Nekodrive or done a preorder. I never thought I would enter into any kind of endeavor feeling doubt; I’m just too stupid and obsessive to usually care. But based on the capital outlay for all of these projects, I’ve definitely been considering whether or not I’m sane. I still don’t actually know if I’m fucked in the head or not, but I appreciate everyone else who’s got the same dents in the brain that I do.

So thank you.

This is now going to be the incubot ramble, since I have something to say again. And this was incubot: day 1.

[BBS Discuss]

April 1, 2007

All That Glitters: Bandai Lightan Gold

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 9:06 pm

Bandai SOC Lightan Box
October 2006: an anonymous alcoholic author/localizer/translator sends me a surprise birthday present. A Soul of Chogokin Lightan? 14k Gold? OK, I’m piqued. I cut the tape, pop the box flap with my special chogokin butter knife, and slide out the trays. One look at this thing and I shut the box and walk away.

It’s too nice, too special. I’ll savor it after I finish the site redesign, and more importantly after I get a reciprocal b-day present in the mail. Put it in the “patience” pile and forget about it for awhile. Let it come when it will come…

4 months later, I finally manage to get my own birthday package out the door. The non verbal part of my toy lobe celebrates by subconsciously gathering shiny, yellow Bandai things into a single pile. Can’t seem to be straightforward with this stuff anymore. Everything’s got to be a stupid dance.

For over 8 years now Josh Fraser’s been grimly shaking his pretty head at my air-exposed robots. He’s warned me — what? — about a dozen times about tarnishing and oxidation. I’m horrified to tell you that he’s 100% correct. Anything chrome or gold-plated that I’ve touched frequently has tarnished. The worst casualty is Gold Baron: the finish is dulled, even though he still stands strong and “displays nicely!”

So I get out the gloves. Yes, white, supple gloves for my tender fingers. I fire up the lights one by one in my homemade Brisko Box.

Check it out: the entire room, for real, unexpectedly starts to glow…

Bandai and Popy Gold Chogokin

Godbird Raydeen is still a piece that holds up. Of the newer, plastic toys, this one has a tremendous presence that I’ve always admired. Lightans — cannot believe, really cannot believe — that they have reissued all of these. I guess that’s good and bad. SOC Mazinger Z: Not a strong piece in my mind because of the whiffy plastic finish on some of the parts. And of course I’m missing the Robocon (add it to the checklist.) And a total bummer I let my gold GA-01 go a while back.

beautiful Inazuman Raijin Gold

I take some extra time to dwell on the Raijin Go Gold, one of my few “scores” from the last visit to Hong Kong; if I told you what I paid for it, you’d weep. Let’s just say it cost less than dim sum. It’s spectacular, just spectacular. Every bit as cool as the original, and beautiful in so many new ways. The finish on it is mirror smooth.

fake Gold Lightan from ChinaThe ruby eyes and badass Inazuman are totally slick and offset the shine. Didn’t know I wanted it till I had it. Now it’s one of my favorites objects; definitely a top 10 repaint for me.

So here’s a weird thought: we’re old enough to have our own vintage content now. Remember the Chinese Boot from 1999? We had a great time debunking this. Eight years later in 2007, it’s a lot easier to see the differences: just pull the Chinese one out of the box and watch how pieces of it simply snap off on their own…

Enough dawdling. Onto the SOC…

Bandai SOC LightanBandai SOC Lightan AND Popy LightanBandai SOC Lightan

I have to tell you, this has never been my favorite character (a robot that turns into a, um, lighter) but Bandai has really put some love into this. The articulation is smooth and beautiful. I love the elegant orchestration of the leg and arm rotations. The packaging is impeccable.

Compared to the original, it’s substantially taller, though it’s interesting how they’re at similar scale in lighter mode. My only complaint? The hands. Too many hands, and not a rocket punch among them. Snapping them on is an undertaking and requires some focused wrist strength. There’s something about the whole swappable chewy soft hands SOC thing that kind of pisses me off. (Nothing says “mannikin” more than having to carry extra hands around in a tray when you want to bend a finger.)

Altogether an amazing object of tremendous quality, truly precious, and a hell of a present.

Meanwhile, the corner of my studio still looks like it’s on fire. A beautiful sight for Spring.

email Alen

[Talk about it in the BBS…]

March 23, 2007

Overhaul! Year IX and the 30 Day Plan

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 7:08 pm


On February 21, 1998, I sat in a sunny room in Cambridge MA and something in me snapped. In a singular moment of spontaneous generation and improvisation, this site was born. Nine years later on that very same day, after a long rough patch of dormancy, that gift was given a second time, and I have tried to ride it out by thinking as little as possible…the Toybox way.

The byproduct has been a 30-day feverish blitzkreig-scrubbing of the site which has included the following:

  • Migration and consolidation of dynamic components Rumble and BBS
  • Implementation of template #6 for consistent and cleaned-up navigation
  • Integration of Google Custom Searches in a non-sucky way
  • Installation of WordPress for both Rumble and Ramble
  • New index pages for Datafiles, Library and Gallery
  • Launching of THE Market

There’s a lot more work to do. We’re automating the conversion of old Rumble content into the Brog and getting all of the old Ramble stuff uploaded while we’re at it. The templates need to get blown out on all the lower level pages, and we’ll do what we can to improve nav schemes that get you down to the buried treasure in the Library and other sections. And we’re getting nailed with adveristing requests and are going to have to figure out a plan.

Most importantly, we’ve got some great content on its way from both familiar names and new contributors; and there’s progress to report from some long-term (and also previously stalled) ass-kicking projects.

To sum it up, we’ve dusted the ‘box off, dug it out of the mud, and — lo — it’s levitating. But that’s just a start. The next move is to jam a massive cannon down its nose, slap a monster rocket on the back of it, and fire off for Iscandar (or whatever); you know what I mean.

It’s really important that I stop for a second and say thank you to the thousands of you who visit the site everyday. There are 291 days left in the year, 335 till our 10 Year Anniversary, AND 320 left in the Year of the Golden Pig. We’ll have to see how the next couple of hundred days go, but I can promise along the way one hell of a thank you party where hopefully a bunch of us can meet again in person.

Please stay tuned. Speak your thoughts, send in ideas, share. There’s a vibe that drives this site that you don’t often see on the web that has made it all worth it. Thanks again to all of you for being a part of it, and for keeping that spirit alive.

Best regards,


email Alen

March 5, 2007

Bandai Vinyl Attraction…

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 6:55 pm

Bandai Magnetic Combattra

So, Ray says “more vinyl…”

It’s about 80 yards from I Ping alley to the Ding Hao basement arcade, and a long way to walk when you’re only 8. In the 70’s, you could pass through a chamfered entry on the south side of Zhong Xiao East Road, through double doors and down a wide stairway into the underground.

In the warren below, quintissential asia: a maze of slapped together stalls hocking tawdry handbags, clothing, slippers, books, crap, and yes — even Chogokin. Vivid vivid memories of passing that “ugly robot with the lion on its chest”, “that blue one with the smaller robots inside it”, and many others. In those days, pre-programmed by the the KMT state channels for a straight party line, I wanted only Mazinger and Gatachaman. Everything else was fake, deviant and failed.

It was a hot summer. No, a HOT summer: well over a hundred, sweltering, and humid as you can only get in South East Asia. We took turns sitting in the shower to stay conscious. Clothing plastered the body, saturated and heavy with the outpouring of continuous perspiration.

A Koji Kabuto story: the suffering of any child can be alleviated by a large enough robot.
To boost morale, and to distract me from the smell of my own thighs roasting, my auntie shells out a few tai bi for a robot to tamp down the ADD. It’s plasticky (vinyl?), blue and red robot, and totally unfamiliar to me. Braniacs like YOU know this is Combattra, but to me at the time with my tube socks and short shorts, it was the Smirking Robot with the Yellow Horns. And while you pointdexters will likely pontificate on the beauty and structural dominance of the Takara magunemo line, this was MY FIRST ever magnetic toy. It was/is utterly funky, and I have been smitten by magnets ever since. Check it out.

Bandai Magnetic Gaiking and Combattra vinylsBandai Magnetic Gaiking and Combattra vinylsBandai Magnetic Gaiking and Combattra vinyls

Note the scale and feature resemblence to other Bandai vinyls like this Danguard. Though small in stature and crudely sculpted, doesn’t the presence of ordinance technically makes this a “missile firing” line?

Bandai Danguard, Gaiking and Combattra vinyls

Bandai Gaiking vinyl box

Now check out the fantastic painting of Gaiking on this box. I weep whenever I look at it.

Despite my nightly trawlings on the web, multiple trips to Japan, and repeated attempts to extract info from the Duban / Alt dualcore processor, I’ve only found two of the robots in this line. I would surely like to know more.

If you’ve got some of these yourself, or know more about them, please do share

Harro Alen!

March 1, 2007

Shajaaaam-u!: Diecast Shazaam

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 6:02 pm

Diecast Shazam with Jumbo Grip Superman

In mergers and acquisitions, there’s a term I like called the synergy trap. It’s hole rational adults fall into when they begin to believe that 1 + 1 can automatically generate something greater than what the abacus says. When scheming an alchemizing power-up between organizations, ideas, or people, don’t forget to squirt plenty of execution on your little lump of concept. It’s how things are going to go horribly right…or not.

Lots of diecast DC and Marvel Heroes

There is no other explaining, for example, why the Popy Gatchaman Ken Owashi [Mego + Gatachaman] is so beautiful, and why the recent Takara figure [Microman + Gatachaman] so hideous *. No explaining why the Jumbo Grip Superman [Speed Racer + DC Comics] is so totally awesome a piece, and why this knock-off diecast Captain Marvel, his jealous and less-successful dopple, is such total crap.

For many years, I’ve chased this line of knock-off superhero diecasts using only a poorly photographed box back as my guide. Now that I’ve finally got one, I can put this to rest for all of us. If you are interested in objects of quality and refinement, DO NOT BUY THESE. They are total crap.

Shazam and Superman side by side

Looks can be deceiving; something kind of, kind of…synergistic-ish happens when they’re in the same frame. But the quality on CM is such that cracks have appeared up and down his body. Poorly sculpted extremities (you know when someone, like, can’t draw hands?) look like they could snap at a moment’s notice. I suspect the paint to be some kind of tempera, lead, ketchup concoction. And finally, his lightning bolt is, well, greasy.

While morbid curiosity and my collecting “problem” dictates that I will probably pick up the Batman and “Fairmont” just to see how bad bad gets, I derive no pleasure from the endeavor. Somebody just needs to do it.

Kudos on the concept though. “Captain Marvel Diecast” must have looked great in the Power Point…

Harro Alen!

* Yes, this is where one would make an argument about the subjectivity of Quality or Beauty. But I submit to you there is an inherent and ineffable “essence” to a person, place or character, that this essence is objective and can be documented but not explained through observation and pattern recognition, and that collectively we know when a representation has effectively captured and communicated this essence. Really.

February 25, 2007

Office Politics: Nakajima Triumph

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 12:04 pm

office gokin

It’s Sunday. So you start thinking about work. At the office, coworkers frequently enter my lair to yammer on about web design, engineering, operations and production. I intensely pretend to listen, all the while utterly dismayed at their complete lack of appreciation for vintage japanese toys.

I have sprinkled zinc liberally across all surfaces, hoping a seed of interest will sprout in the heart of some eager young code slinger. But it’s a hopeless endeavor.

Despite the presence of even more accessible American artifacts like my sparkling mint ’78 Colonial Viper and Syd Mead TRON Lightcycle, I’m greeted with polite apathy. Nary a comment. Amused tolerance.

Uni-Five Garada K-7 Brave Raydeen, Godbird of Networking. I slipped my first event badge on him in 1999 and cannot seem to stop. It’s pathetic how predictable this collecting thing is.
Uni-Five Garada K-7 If you’ve ever wondered how much I hate the Uni-Five Garada K-7, now you know.
Ms. Jackson if you're nasty Alen The presence of “toys” further emboldens disloyal employees to mock my “authority” in effigy.
Apple IIe You can date my skills by the power of the “desktop” unit by the Jumbo Getta Robo Go.

Amidst the litter of metal and plastic however, a single object exerts a seemingly subconscious power on even the disinterested. Men and women of all ilk cannot stop themselves from fingering it. They pick it up while blabbering on and on and spin its dial, rearranging it on my file cabinet without thought or awareness to their actions. Winner of my silent focus group poll, it is the only “successful” toy in the room…

Nakajima UFO 2 Dome-type Saucer

Nakajima UFO 2 Dome-type Saucer Box

Of course it’s the Nakajima UFO 2 Dome-type Saucer, and this humble piece which I have casually discarded here because of a broken landing leg gets more grabs than a [insert tasteless choirboy/church reference here]. You get the idea. For some reason, one of the cheapest and most easily acquired pieces draws the crowd. I love that.

If I put my art school hat on (which is black…follows function…really pushes it) I’d guess there’s something about its isomorphic correspondence to symbols of regeneration and motherhood: something comforting about the circular fondleability of it, coupled with general shinyness. Whatever.

It really doesn’t matter why. I’m just psyched because every time it’s handled, it’s a karmic shout out to those funky Nakajima guys of yesteryear. I hope they know their work still lives on…

Harro Alen!

February 21, 2007

Happy Birthday DX

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 5:23 pm

IMAGE: Happy Birthday Toybox DX

We are “nine.” That makes us, what, 45 in internet years?

I get wider, slower, softer and smoother in dotage, and lo, patience — of all virtues — dulls my disposition. Wanted or not, it’s thrust upon me each instance I harden to new objects, systems, people: my mind just doesn’t bend much anymore. And like a wrinkled porn star who’s retired to “direct” as others groan and grunt their way through the scene, I settle into the idea of being someone who prefers to watch.

I’m Vic from The Rapture. I ooze into the peace of a full-time velvet robe…

* * *

I do like to think that I’ve gotten chiller in acquisition: more Warren-like, if you will, and slightly more discerning (though if you’ve had the misfortune of shopping with me, or seeing MyEbay page, you’re probably still freaked by the amount of pure bottom-barrel shit I consume as part of my daily diet.) The primary trait I always associate with Uncle Warren is spannungsbogen: patience for the dance, the veil, the seduction…the intestinal disposition to hold it all in until, burning, you finally let it rip. I’ve thought a lot about those quiet little moments he has alone with his paper bags. And while it’s taken me a few years, I’ve finally perfected a little strip-tease homage of my own.

I call it the Anytime Rinkya Christmas. Enjoy.


  1. Add alcohol, drinking moderately to severely depending upon your personal alt.

    toys and drinks = alt

  2. As your brain warms, open multiple tabs to obscure Rinkya search terms. (“Popy Figures” is a great one)
  3. Bid on all the crap the island of Japan rejects. (Be careful: as the night blurs, so do the zeroes in the prices, and you may find converting from Yen to be an increasingly more difficult challenge.)

    bizarre popy auctions

  4. In 4 to 9 months (critical mass) you’ll receive a chipper email with smiley emoticons from Elaine or one of the other nice Rinkya ladies suspending your account and demanding that you execute an emergency Ship Request.
  5. If you’ve done this right, a box the size of an oil drum appears with the Rinkya logo on the side of it. It’s filled with crap only you would want.

    rinkya kicks ass!

  6. Now, just to really mind-fuck yourself, don’t open it just yet. If anybody asks, tell them it’s a Christmas gift. If they already suspect you’re a freak, this will settle the matter. Wait for life to punch you in the face. When you’re in your lowest low, wallowing in your quiet life of desperation, then and only then let it rip…

You will find yourself exclaiming “Hey, I really wanted that!” and you will marvel at how that nice slow pleasure that begins with the brown box arriving and ends with lifting the last styrofoam lid is force-multiplied: it’s an ecstasy assault that ends in total chaos.

rinkya loot

The last thing I’ll throw out about aging is the ripening. It’s really a good thing. You cross from the checklisting phase into something entirely transcendent: the willingness to hunger — to starve — for the savoring of a perfect morsel…the utterly fucking delightful and unique.

It’s a great place to be.

Harro Alen!

December 28, 2004

Outer Limits

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 3:45 pm

Holy shit, it’s true: Outer Limits shuts its doors. It’s shades of ’99 and the closing of Day Old — not a GOOD memory, no not at all.

The mullahs called it at the millennial: the Fuckinginternet continues its relentless destruction of the real world. Browser-buying sucks compared to walking into a funky, dazzling display of boxes and hanging crap. What a bummer…

Things scored from O.L. that matter: Clover Guntank, My First SOC, Jetter Marus, Kamen Rider of the Many Fists, Daimos and sweeeeeeet Yamato Cosmo Tiger. Steve G. was personally involved in all of these moments, at times helping to scheme with my parents to insure awesome Christmasessses.

The passing of such a place demands a response. Mine is simple: look for the nearest analog place to bring some boys home. For this NJ holiday weekend, unfortunately, that leaves only

Mitsuwa. Formerly Yaohan. Land of the Rising Sum. The retail section of the shopping complex keeps shrinking while prices steadily soar. In true Jersey fashion, the toy stock is toxic and untouched.

There’s that one chrome SOC Getta set, yours for only $360. A stupid stack of Turn-A Gundam thingies, only $100 each. And a ratty UNI-FIVE Astroboy for only $160. Was I just rambling something negative about Internet shopping? This sucks. I waver…

Hmm. An odd impulse: there’s that tall stack of reissue HCMs, been there since 1942. It’s been a LONG time since I gave anything in this line a look. And they’re less than $30 apiece. Hmm. An odd call, but since these were on that checklist of things I’d buy at Outer Limits when I got around to it…Sold! (I attract enough attention that I get my own shopping helper who helps to gather my purchases. See? Real world shopping. That’s what I’m talking about!)

Once home, I try them in different home-furnishing locales — residual programming from Bandai Marketing clouding my brain. Not sure about this concept. Finally, later that evening, I manage a shot that gives me inexplicable pleasure:

Mom’s cooking at the family table, paired perfectly with a flight of Zakus. “Take the tofu! Take the tofu! Hard Cover!

Hahahahahaha. OK. I’m having a good time. Where ever the O.L. guys are, I really wish them best of luck.
Steve and Mike — you rock.

by Alen Yen

December 21, 2004

Italian Crap Parte Deux

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 3:47 pm

I know what you’re thinking: “What’s up with Leopardon and the J-ster? I seen them in the corner making all nookie-like. I thought Leo was Spidey’s ‘friend’.”

Ah Italia. What is it about your boot-like profile that brings out the amore in all of us? Robots are no different. Leopardon and Battle Fever are proud to announce the arrival of the one and only…


This toy sucks. It sucks hard. If there were a J.D. Powers frontal-crash impact saftey rating for gokin this would get negative a million…

Now before someone whips out their Tri-color and starts busting on us for dissing Europe be aware:


by Alen Yen

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