Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen » 2007 » March
Eternal and Endless Toy Ramble by Alen Yen: random japanese toy collecting nonsense

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.