Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen » 1999 » December
Eternal and Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen: random japanese toy collecting nonsense

December 20, 1999

Change is Good!

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 3:23 pm

The more Tark I get, the happier I am! The happier I get, the less interested I am in my current #1 peeve, the plastic-factory known as BANDAI.

Their Microsoft-like permeation of robotica is starting to make me ill. If the death machine were turning out good stuff, who could complain? But I have to kvetch: aside from the Sole of Chogokins, it’s a skimp offering. More on this rant later. [All peeves aside, thanks to collector Gordon for helping me double my stable with the totally rad Cherry Tark! If there’s a green one, I’m going to faint.]

Meanwhile, I’ve recently accepted the position of President at the Interactive Factory, an awesome Boston digital media design house. Suffice to say, I’m trying to bring home the bacon for my lil’ DX!

As I’ve been adjusting my schedule, edits and emails have died on the table. Luckily for me, ToyboxDX commandos have picked up the ball.

Welcome aboard Marc Raley and Roger Harkavy in their new official roles of Webmaster and BBS Keeper respectively. Rounding out the team are Dataman Robert Duban and Matt Alt who continue to flood the Data Files with cool stuff, and who’re cooking more up as you sleep.
So it’s with some pleasure that I announce the formal shattering of our current most irksome structural bottleneck: me! Stay tuned this week for more major developments…

[ABOVE: Another recent acquisition, the totally groovy GRIP Jumbo Superman diecast. Check out the awesome 1970’s DC Comics-style box. Talk about cross-cultural!]

Info Minister Matt Alt covers The Kong Tong Riots!

Kong Tong Town is going DOWN! As you have undoubtedly already heard, Kong Tong Town, the main distributor of much of Uni-Five’s reissue toy series, is going out of business on December 26th. As such, they’ve instituted a half-price-off everything sale in the store, and the result has been near complete and total pandemonium.

“According to one observer on the scene, KTT’s credit-card system went on the fritz, forcing peeved and Jumbo-crazed consumers to go on the hunt for cash-machines in the sparsely populated wilds of Chiba City. Riot police have been called and the scene is looking grim. Just kidding. These are unarmed otaku we’re talking about here, and fortunately Jumbo Machines aren’t heavy enough to shatter glass or hurl at police officers.”

“Meanwhile, DEBASEMENT!
“Chogo-fans have probably heard: Bandai’s going to release a Soul of Chogokin base! Although this had been tossed about as a possibility in the past, it looks like it’s finally come to pass. 4,800 yen buys you a little box-sized hangar that not only stores all of Mazinger or Great Mazinger’s weapons, but also raises them through a cheezy plastic ‘pool of water’ at the flick of a battery-powered switch. Yummy! Look for it sometime early next year. My only prayer is that a giant ramp for Grandizer’s Spacer is next…”
— Matt

Rafael with the Convertor Spy Cassette Man

“I just want to share with the people of toy Ramble, this original japanese robot from 1984. It is called CONVERTOR NEW SPY CASSETTE MAN and it is plastic and die cast. It was made in Japan by MARK.

“I bought it mint in box, but I opened it to put in my exhibit in my room. A cool ‘Old School’ toy.” — Rafael

Vinyl-boy Harkavy with Ramble from November on the Chiller Convention!

Subj:	 RAMBLE: Chiller.
Date: 11/1/99 10:53:44 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: mogomra@yahoo.com (Roger Harkavy)
To: alenyendx@aol.com

“Ah, Halloween. The only holiday that ever meant anything to me. If I only knew that the

Chiller Theatre convention was being held right in my back yard every October, I’d probably be living in a spacious cardboard box lined with vinyl monster toys.

“Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) this past weekend I only had a couple of hours to spend there. Within minutes of arriving I successfully hooked up with Trans-Baron Alex, but despite searching high and low we could not spy the U.N. Spacy jacket of Matt Alt.

“Some highlights:
– Meeting the good folks at M-1 and seeing their work in progress: another retro-style version of The Big G! Unfortunately, they didn’t allow us to take pictures.

– Seeing the humongous “pile o’ vinyl” at Club Daikaiju’s table. THAT we got a great picture of.

– Catching up with Mike G. from Outer Limits and asking him to call Matt Alt a ‘bitch-ass trick’ when he saw him. He happily complied.

“The rest of our time was spent in the bar, downing overpriced drinks and undercooked quesadillas, and ogling girls clad in outfits reserved only for horror conventions and Coop’s paintings. Was it fun? Definitely. I’ll be there again next year.

“And here it is, in all of its glory: the brand-new Godzilla 2000 vinyl, undoubtedly the hottest item at the show. Get yours today!” — Roger

Mike’s first Ramble on the XX Stealth Voltron

“Well Alen I have finally gone over to the dark side. I picked up the new Stealth Voltron, the real surprise to this thing is it’s HM size, just about floored my when I saw it on the shelf. It’s only like 3 inches shorter than my real JM Voltron the one from the 80’s, and it’s loaded with gadgets.

“Light up eyes, dual built in missile launchers on all the lions, and additional snap on missile launchers for the lions, and it even has little tiny caltrop like bombs to drop out the red and green lions, a guaranteed take away by concerned parents. And big bombs for the legs, plus the usual sword and shield. Anybody else see a pattern coming from Trendmasters, first the ultimate iron giant and now this ‘Extra Large Stealth Voltron?’
“Note the ‘Extra large.’ If Trendmasters follows thier practice with the classic lions, there may be multiple sizes of this toy. Could Trendmasters be trying to start to make thier own JM typed toys in the US? HMMMMMMM…”
— Mike

December 4, 1999

Duban and Alt ROCK

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 3:16 pm

Check out what the elves have been working on at night: a massive drill-down into the sultry world of Takatoku diecast! Data Files maestro Robert Duban completes more HTML heroism, bringing Dr. Alt’s scholarly research to life.

Link now to the Data Files and check it out. Thanks guys!

Matt Alt speaks with the one and only Koji Igarashi!

Subj:	Igarashi Interview
Date: 11/9/99 11:21:23 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: Gojira@ix.netcom.com (Alt, Matthew)
To: alenyendx@aol.com (‘alenyendx@aol.com’)

“If you’re a die-hard Japanese toy collector and you haven’t been living under a rock for the past ten years, it’s almost a given that you’ve thumbed through a copy of Koji Igarashi’s Green Arrow Graffiti: The Encylopedia of Chogokin and Popinika.

“Igarashi has been a serious toy scholar for years, and his writing has stoked the flames of collector enthusiasm to unheard-of heights. I was lucky enough to get the chance to corner Igarashi and pick his brains about the toy scene at a squalid Tokyo karaoke joint. For best results, read the interview after downing a beer or five.”

MATT ALT: First, what is your main focus as a collector?
Koji Igarashi: “Basically, I don’t care about the maker, I just look for and buy the things I like. Recently and not for any particular reason, I’ve been focusing on Popy diecast, but previously I’d been collecting everything by Takatoku and Clover. Of the three, I’d have to say that the Popy pieces have the most charm. The reason for that is because it’s still got a life as a brand-name even today. It’s got a real feeling of ‘historical weight,’ I think.”
What do you think of the recent tendency towards reissues?
“I’d like them to do more! After all, vintage toys become more and more breakable as time goes on. For me, toys mean play, so I really appreciate reissues because I can safely play with them. I don’t really pay any attention to their effect on the values of collections or things like that.”

So, let’s discuss some of the differences between the originals and reissues. Like the Banpresto GA-01 Mazinger Z, the Robocon, or the Jumbo Machines, for example.
“As for the GA-01, I loaned Banpresto my original. I’ve also heard that Banpresto paid collector Kazunori Saito 700,000 yen (about $6600) for one as well (and this was confirmed by a representative of Banpresto), but his was actually the second version of the piece, and his box was only a battered color-copy of the original. Because of this, around August of last year I was asked to loan Banpresto my GA-01, which enabled them to accurately reproduce the package and inserts. I also requested that Banpresto produce and include a set of normal rocket punch fists as well. Actually, by that point, they had already been running the molds, but they went out of their way to modify them. As for differences between the Banpresto version and the original, the marks on the bottom of the feet and the chest rocket firing levers are totally different. This is due to the fact that they made the molds for the lever without taking a look at my original first.

“As for the Robocon reissue, the facial area looks like it has been slightly changes. Completely new molds were made for both the GA-01 and the Robocon. And because the recent Raideen reissue was made using old molds, you can see a little breakdown in the molding.
“With regards to the Jumbo Machine Mazinger Z, the wheel-trucks on the bottom of the feet and the stickers on the Hover-Pilder are different from the original Jumbo Machinder. And the Garada is completely different from the original. It’s a total sham.”

So, are you planning on brining out a new version of your Green Arrow “Encyclopedia of Chogokin and Popinika”?

“Actually, up until a few days ago, I’d been working on writing for a new book, the Takara SF-Land Collection, which is going to be released by Kodansha on November 11th. It’s a book that covers Henshin Cyborg, Microman, the Magnemo series, and Diaclone. It’s got over 1500 photos, and we included a CD-ROM that contains the complete original commercials as well. Please take a look when you have a chance.
“I’m planning to begin work on a new version of the Encyclopedia of Chogokin and Popinika at the end of the year.”

Do you have any plans to bring out a book about minor toymakers like Takemi or Ark?
“Not right now. The fact is that there’s just not enough commercial interest. It’s difficult to sell toy-books in Japan right now.”

Is this due to the recent increase in toy-related magazines? Does the large amount of magazines make it more difficult to publish books?

“Actually, I think the large number of magazines makes it easier to publish things. Magazines don’t negatively impact the production of good books — it’s just that there aren’t high sales expectations for books.”

In closing, have you heard any juicy toy-rumors lately?
“Well, the Soul of Chogokin Grandizer will be out in February. And the Soul of Popinika series will be starting up soon. The first release will be the Hover Pilder, and the second will be Kamen Rider’s Cyclone motorcycle.”

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us!

Alex on the elusive Korean GA-01!

“This Korean cousin of the GA-01 is made by Clover. Check out the cool belt sticker in Korean. When compared to the ‘Etarnal Heroes‘ version, you can see that it has shinier metal on the legs, blue highlights at the mouth, and darker paint on the face and the legs. It has the same features (shooting fists, chest missiles, removable pilder) and size.

“If you thought that it ain’t chogokin unless it’s made in Japan, think again. This is 100% chogokin and it’s a worthy addition to any collection.”


Yappy on the Command Gundam

“Super robot diehards– scroll past this ramble now. I’m serious.
“I stupidly passed up this toy in the early nineties when it was readily available in NYC Chinatown. Now after years of searching, I’ve managed to track down one of the most obscure Gundam toys: the REAL TYPE CLOTH HEAVY WEAPON COMMAND GUNDAM.

“In the late eighties/ early nineties, Bandai produced a series of ‘real-type’ toys based on their relatively popular SD Musha Cloth series (see Maestro Alt’s article in Annals of the Disrespected). The first three were the Musha Cloth Gundams — retooled versions of older 1/100 scale Gundam Mark 2, Zeta and Double Zeta toys that came with removable Samurai armor. The fourth was the Knight Gundam, a freaky purple Gundam Mark 3 (an obscure Gundam that only appeared in a Manga) that had (duh!) a suit of medieval armor.

“But Bandai’s designers saved the strangest for last. Unlike the other ‘Cloth’ Gundams, the Command Gundam is the only Gundam design that never appeared in animation or print beforehand. Decked out in Olive drab and armed to the teeth, the Command G’s the G.I. Joe of Gundams. It’s even got a Votoms style missile pod! With six removable missiles! And hand grenades! Gadzooks!
“The only drawback to the toy? It’s one of ’em Bandai semi-kits, so a bunch of minor armor parts have to be snapped off sprues. Which kinda sucks if you paid a premium price for a MIB piece. But collector neuroses aside, It’s simply the uber-mecha-iest of all mecha toys.” — Yappy