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

December 18, 2004

Italian Crappe!

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 3:54 pm

“Understand: this is not good. Nothing about this is good. It is plastic. The plastic is not good. It says Popy — which would normally be good — but this is a lie…

“Yes, Multi Robot is vintage bootlegging at its finest. Some bizarre Italian-Chinese connection cooked Multi Robot up in a back-alley factory like a prohibition-era bathtub gin distillery. Did their dastardly aim of foisting a vaguely Japanese-looking robot off on an unsuspecting childhood populace actually work? The answer remains unknown…”

“It feels so wrong — yet something about Multi Robot is right. The odd juxtaposition of English, Italian, and Japanese on the box is great. The use of a Star Wars -esque motif on the box is great, too. As is the instruction manual, with its pictures of Multi Robot posed like a contortionist bondage model, the desperation of the photographer attempting to wrangle some “play value” out of the toy almost palpable.

“I purchased this toy at an antique toy store in Maryland in 1999 from the bottom of a pile of far more worthy contenders. That it took me close to five years to bring myself to write about it is proof enough of its inherent suckiness. But something about the execution of the whole deal, the semi-deluxe packaging, the bright colors pulls me back to it every time. It may never have a place on my shelf, but it will always have one in my heart. Entusiamanti!”

— Matta Alta

December 1, 2004


Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 4:03 pm


“Yo — I’m back! Yeah, it’s been awhile — I know I know. Well, my little thing is over. No, we won, in the end. No, no; I’m almost back to, um normal…Really, I’m doing much better.”

Deprogram: first stop, B&N to stock up on O’Reilly books. Next stop: headaches as I apply a lug wrench to my brain pan to dislodge a generation of obsessive <TABLE> coding. Stylesheets and Includes: gee, that’s schwell. I go, but I go unwillingly. Lo and behold…the <DIV> tag!

By the way, the logo font is splattered all over the CSS.

It’s called , it’s free, and you can Google it, or just download it here. (Please.)

It’s been a tough three years for many people. Nobody seems to want to talk about it anymore. I’m lucky: my story ends with a happy ending. More on this later.

In between bullshit, I bust my cherry. Yes, I make it to Japan — not just once, but twice. Not my first trip there, but certainly my first as an “adult”, and certainly the first as a total freak.

Highlights from the trip(s):

  • Interior design for the chogokin show was utterly inspiring, even if seeing the SOC Dancougar wasn’t. The right way to decorate a fortress of solitude one day.
  • They had a two-piece mazinger suit. It was pimp.
  • Matt Alt is old and feeble. I destroy him at the sake bar, crush his spirit. Ultimately Hiroko exerts executive privilege to protect his honor, but the damage is done. My impression is he later does a full-color “Brisko” wrapped around the toilet at home.

Here’s some nonsense from B.S.D.:

“GA-01 FIST UPGRADE. WE WANT MORE POWER, FIST OF LEGEND REAL SPRING ACTION! Big Science, on the job, researching options for ordinance upgrade. Favored replacement projectile: the .45ACP round, well suited indeed to the
mighty GA-01. Some engineering compatibilities require resolution…”


Hmm. Reasons to shoot Mazingers with guns. Well, enough of that. I’ll close with a shot of my current Favorite Mazinger:

Well tough guy? Did you figure it out?
by Alen Yen

February 1, 2004

Godphoenix Trifecta

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 1:04 pm

Gatchaman Godphoenix

It’s superbowl sunday i crawl out of bed like it’s christmas. watching the patriots this year isn’t like two years ago when they snuck into St. Louis and disembowled the Man. this year it’s about human rigor, focus, discipline, team, fun. you can be singleminded and have fun. it’s completely about lowering your shoulder, staying calm and pushing through. surrounding yourself with good humans becomes so important. oh yeah – and money doesn’t hurt either.

* * *

Gatchaman Godphoenix

here in the lab, these are the things from which i am finally free:

– fucking information archictecture
– spelling or typing correctly
– focus, mission, opinion preconception
on blah blah what a japanese toy website should do etc.

comfortable. we can practice doodling circles or looping loops which is really what we need right now. you have to shut the voices out of your head sometimes and let things go where they will go. about a million people will be telling you that you’re wrong. but that’s nothing new.

* * *

the funk the funk the funk. i suppose i should record for my great grandmonkeys that their ancestor did in fact complete the gatchaman godphoenix trifecta. Not talking about season 1 through 3 with the gatchaspartan “george lucas special” or the flaming chicken plane (fucking pimer.)

i mean the real trifecta.


Jumbo Grip diecast Godphoenix

these are the three that matter, and don’t let anyone else tell you differently. and now that after 6 years of digging i’ve finally got them all on the same slab of glass, i can tell you that popy really fucked up the grip design.

popy really fucked up the grip design

it’s a rare thing that the Man of diecast did us wrong at least in the golden age. But look at the beautiful detail on the back of this Grip piece:

take that bad boy g1 and slot it in. yeah. that’s what I’m talking about! now look at the popification [below right]. a gigantic clunky box ontop where you lay the g1. god, that’s so stupid.

so Tim Brisko I ain’t.

before the god of puberty swooped in and alterred my biological needs, docking the g1 and/or landing the hober binder were the only skills i apsired to in life. the alpha need to activate the machine: it consumes you. without it, it’s like an essential part of the play pattern has been gipped.

from a dubanish academic pov it’s quite cool to see that the expensive part – i.e. diecasting – produced identical zinc bodies and wheel fittings. you wish you could dial back time and track the corporate approval trail that led to the reissuing. did they pump new popies out using old molds? or — and the mind reels at this — were there just boxes of these bodies lying around unpainted in stacks? and did they just have to, like, come up with something to do with them?

the uni-five kind of kills the need for anyone to try this ever again, so i can quietly worship this in peace. it’s amazing and sucky and…well, godlike at the same time.

and this is why we do what we do.

* * *

January 30, 2004

Finally. THE Chogokin

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 12:39 pm

I’m awake.

now that I’m awake, where the hell am I? what the fuck is going on? where did the last two years ago? when did I become so fucking structured? am I going to get over what I felt on / for 2001?

will I ever really let my guard down again?

* * *

it’s the job of a good friend to reach down, pick your ass off the floor, pry open your mouth and shove the medicine in.

i have to face my web-based impotence: an inner sense of inadequacy when faced with style-sheets, PHP, Masterpiece Convoy.

viagara comes to me one day in a styrofoam box with a Japanese address on it. my friend has sent something to pick me up…

this THE chogokin — this is the shit. it’s the joy of the concrete, the attainable, the useable. this is the shit. i can throw this against the wall. i can worship it as play. i understand intuitively what it means…

wait…what does it all mean again?

was it just about getting, you know, more…? or wasn’t that the point? confused.

trying to, have to find my way back…

April 30, 2002

New Ramble? Whaaaa?

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 7:24 pm

I join the Empire: half my brain is machine. I calculate Human Resource Utilization, Projected Sales, and Profit & Loss. In my quest for GAAP my weapon is Excel. But wait — there is no “I” in Team. “We” Are like Emperor Lucas, greedy, purple, lame…we drift incoherently, spinning in a Giant Ball of Space…

Take all your boys and drop them in a sack (gently, son.) Layer your little ones chronologically by genus and phylum. Let the striations settle till you have enshrined an entire history of gokin.

Now bury the sack in a box for 6 months and wait. When you open it, you’re motherf*cking Darwin!

Piece by piece, bring history back to life. You are the hand of Lawrence Olivier rearranging the universe, and god help Tark, he’s Harry Hamlin. Rack the universe by height. Now by age. Now by…the color red. Pilders on one side, space dragons on the other. This is the ultimate Tetris. There are no better drugs…

You’re so personally insignificant when you’ve been riding a wave of human tribal emotion. Let’s say I not only accept but in fact ENJOY that the site has passed on to younger hands. That said, do the Young Guns really need to be this good? Under what rainbow did Tim Brisko learn his Magic Tricks? And why does Alt continue to ripen like a fine caucasian wine?

Things that haven’t changed while I’ve slept:

  1. Terrible punning in Rumble titles.
  2. Popyphelia — (constant low-brow reference to sex with toys.)
  3. Our own DX street-definition for Crack.

How good was that Macross Licensing article? Holy smokes! Journalism…!

Everything I missed in the last year — Gatlin Ramble Hashin!

  • Yamato VF1-A: like it like it, yes. Transforming…too hard! STOP!!! Abort, put
    on shelf, don’t touch…
  • GodPhoenix: you are no surprise. I dream-ed about you EVERY NIGHT when I was little. You are exactly how I remember you, old friend. You are EXACTLY what I would have done…
  • Getta Robo: expensive, yes, scary to open this…but “look so cool!”
  • Well, there certainly is a lot more Gundam.
  • Mazinger Girls!!! Box arrives at the office…how to explain my excitement about breast missiles? Co-workers “made to feel uncomfortable” by CEO!
  • Surprising American victory: Bender??? Bender!

I used to tirade about metal. All they were making was plastic, and I thought I was in it for the metal. Now they won’t stop popping the metal. Ridiculous, expensive, elegant chunks of metal. I realize I’m not in it for the metal.

I’m in it for the funk. And that’s not something that can be test-marketed or engineered.

I have a combination of symptoms: tendonitis, carpal tunel, arthritis. It takes me a year to Ramble, and I don’t check email anymore. I rarely care about what “people think,” BUT, I’ve worried that “people think:”

  1. I don’t play with toys anymore.
  2. I won’t converse with humans anymore (see J.D. Salinger.)
  3. I’ve outgrown the site.

None of the above is true. I just can’t type without pain.

It starts three years ago when I rejoined “Corporation.” For the two years prior when ToyboxDX was born, I was sittin’ around in my boxers consulting. Watched Oprah, billed hourly, bought toys, cleaned all of Alt’s sh*tty Microsoft Word punctuation by hand. Thank you Ebay: I know everyone at the Porter Square Post Office by name.

Suddenly I’m on the box ALL THE TIME. Intensity. Constancy. Add hobbies (guitar, drawing, punching things) and you end up with: balled fists, constant wincing, a general sense of having clipped my own wings. I write with gigantic looping circles using very comfortable felt tip pens.

I hate it.

I’m also not really back, but I’m trying. Bear with me. I hate being impotent. It’s humiliating.

This is a victory for childhood. I know it’s not the sexiest piece of gokin, but I insist that this is a miracle. Who told you when you were growing up that you could draw your own heroes? Make your own toys?

This is so important: not just the casting, but the full cycle of conceptualization to fulfillment. Evil business skills used for good. The really exciting news is who will be distributing these. I will let the guy who cut the deal tell you where to get them…

Feels good to FTP. More coming, including updates to stupid Olde Sections. Meanwhile, hope all are well. Summer is coming: Toy Shows and summits; road trips, E3…We’ll see.


September 13, 2001


Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 8:06 pm
9/11/01 Our Twin Towers

hat feels like the wrong moment for ramble is maybe right.

Today, I understood something about what we do. Insights on the giant robot should be done with. I am suprised that one resonating discovery remains.

At the core of every Tetsujin and Mazinger is a beacon of hope that a child looks to for the future. From out of the rubble of massive destruction and human loss, a new tower rises forth that will not be destroyed.

Upon this machine the child pins his hopes. The people around us all too precious and fragile. A hole in the earth and a hole in the sky, and if we are to fill it, we do so with a giant carved forth from our suffering.

The robots are a symbol of strength; this I always knew. That they were born forth from tragedy was a comic book joke I had long forgotten.

Today I understand something more about what we do. May the faith we have in the symbols of good help us to mourn, rebuild, dream and survive.

Michael, wherever you are, our prayers are with you,

June 30, 2001

Everybody MOVE

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 8:17 pm

hen Day-Old Antiques pulled out, I cut my last emotional tether to Cambridge. 4.5 miles south to the heart of Boston proper, it’s my new groovy pad. Not too far to move your ass, but an epic story of human triumph when you fathom moving…the Shelf! For a entire week I do nothing but “visualize” this debacle. After a quick statistical crunch I realize that odds are much higher I’ll fuck something up by trying to repack it in its original box than if I come up with some alternative scheme.

So I come up with an alternative scheme.

100 yards [yes — 100 YARDS] of bubble-wrap and 36 large cardboard boxes later, I’ve bulletproofed with an overlapping layer scheme for weaving in and out of the precious. Around Day 4, I’m still being cute and trying to stratify the boys by “historical era.” By Day 7, I’m numb and fiddling with Nike-like sweatshop efficiency. The sound of packing tape ripping along its plastic wheel kicks in my gag reflex. Three weeks later I have the cubic area of 6 refrigerators. The box boxes show off my savant aptitude for Tetris. The toy boxes are Arks of the Covenant swollen with metal from top to base. Have you ever tried to properly answer a perfectly normal civilian — say, the dispatch operator from the moving company — when asked if you “have anything fragile that requires special handling?” We’ll skip the part where I watch the boxes loaded onto the truck and angina kicks in.

* * *

So I’m just around 4 weeks in the new pad and have only gotten three boxes unpacked. In many ways, the move is cleansing: I’m leaving the pieces that don’t call out to me for a rainy day. The stuff I love I’m dusting off for display on the temporary ToyboxDX Abridged Shelf.

One little bummer: no DSL and no Cablemodem in my area. I’m connecting to you live on a blazing-fast 33.6k, courtesy of Big Science. So here’s the accumulated Ramble spool I could upload overnight…

God bless Yamato for sending us some gratis VF-11s! It’s summer, so I’m on a Macross kick anyway, and polishing valks. Matt requests some shots with the Takatoku 1:55 scales to compare heights. Fanboys, get yer rulers. Luckily, my VF-11 seems to transform perfectly and easily with no brittleness in the joints. I should mention however that the VF-11 has kind of disturbingly small hands.

Last week, I visit Josh Fraser, Our Saint of the Immaculate C-10.

No pictures yet of his three-case, pore-sealed museum-quality exhibit. I have never, in my life, seen such a saturated density of Gaiking perfection. Josh’s shucking and foot-shuffling about “his small collection” is charming, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to bop him on the head and grab his C-10 Popy DX Daikyumaryu. Instead, I dope his Ovaltine and grab some of his C-9.9 castoffs, including this SOC Daikyu and an [extra!] Uni-Five Gaiking JM.

(Okay — enough has been written about this, but I really have to fire one more shot. I’d like to take the Bandai “engineer” who came up with this pathetic mini-Gaiking scheme and cram this poor excuse for a figure limb by floppy limb straight into his tiny misshapen-ear so that he can feel sharp, aggravated piercing sensations applied directly to the brain EXACTLY the way I feel every time I try to make this godforsaken Jenga-bot stand up. On the otherhand, I, um, really adore the baby vinyls!)

When I grow up and start de-collecting, I want to distill a collection like Josh’s.

I owe Outer Limits in Clifton NJ a huge public thanks. For a year I’ve toyed with grabbing their Nomura Cosmo Fighter from the back of the Yamato case. Mike Giansanti greets me with grace and hospitality and makes it easy for me to take home.

What is it about these Nomura diecasts? There’s something so austere and refined about them. Distinctly toy-like, but austere, as if the makers took the idea of making Yamato objects seriously.

The landing gear is spring loaded, and the arsenal of launchers is satisfying. Of course, it’s solid metal. There’s a soul in these pieces. My love of this line just grows with time.

Here’s a shameless plug from a fan: go visit GundamShop.com and help these guys out.

Nanonekosaur!!! Stereolithography and a new Duncan Hsu/Chris Taylor 3d-model generate this stunning plastic Kubrick-scale Nekosaur. I’m genuinely surprised: metal has always fascinated me, but seeing mathematically-perfect non-biodegradable output of my baby gives me the tingles. With the prototype in hand, it’s a short hop to…

…an Army of Nekosaurs! Making things has been fun. Making a butt-load of the same thing is shockingly more fun. It seems there’s interest in these dangerous little objects, so I’ll be doing my best to push these out the door for those who want them shortly… Best,

March 19, 2001

NY Action: Image Anime

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 9:24 pm

High Noon on West 57th. Steph and I crawl out of bed for crepes and coffee, then slide over to Lincoln Center. I drop her off backstage and she hits the pit, piccolo slung like a Glock, ready to machine the high-notes of Rossini’s La Cenerentola [that’s Cinderella, Disney-boy.] 4 hours later, my head’s chock-full-o’ culture, and I’m ripe for a hunt.

Back in the sun: the white-hairs bundle their furs and head towards German luxury autos. We push out onto 66th, popping
into a cab to shoot down to East 30th; time for my long anticipated, virgin tour of Image Anime

On a quiet strip shot with Chinese-signs and loading docks, the narrow storefront glows, a garish cube of anime-cuteness spilling out into the dark. It’s close to closing. We pile in, and I’m immediately impressed by the Valkyrie/Robotech cases, well-arranged SOC display, and dizzying stack of model kits.

Actually, I’m lying. I hate looking at model kits, and the tease-me-don’t-please me Valkyrie vault is infuriating: nothing’s
for sale. There’s a nice chunk of Hobby Project goodies, and the Microman wall inspires, but the only thing
that actually catches my eye (and I apologize for my lowbrow taste) is the terrible and homely 4″ diecast Clover Gundam.

I converse with the pleasant guy manning the counter. We get into a formal analysis of the SOC Grandizer and I ask prices. The Clover Gundam — this tawdry, shoddy, apathetically molded abortion of a toy — is unyeildingly priced at $80. I ask if there’s room to move, and a familiar Hong-Kong-style iron-gate of non-negotiation comes crashing down. Totally turned off, I settle for a photo op and a surprise gem: Banpresto Action Gokin Ryger!

Action-Gokin outer box and blister-pack are awesome. The gokin parts are beautifully molded and painted.

BP’s inablity to avoid shitty elastic vinyl, however, is tragic. The rubbery arms and accessories conjure subconscious visions of toilet gaskets.

Luckily, tho’, BP nails Ryger’s Danny Tario/post-Travolta stance. This guy is ALL panache on the dance floor.

I close the door on another dissapointing hunt in New York. Time for an emergency Cambridge metal run…

March 6, 2001

Happy Birthday DX!

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 9:17 pm

irthdays are nostalgia — the primary darkness from which we cast our reflections upon past and future. Time passes; the objects with which we surround ourselves mark this time. Somehow, age and wear render familiarity into meaning. The digital ether — the bits — will not be immune.

It’s 3 years since the beta launch of ToyboxDX. That’s like, a million in Internet years. If I’m proud of the work we’ve done, I’m even prouder of the principles we’ve stuck to. Openness and free exchange irrevocably continue to alter the savage ring that is “collecting.”

As I look over this year’s pathetic smattering of Rambles, however, I’m surprised by my lack of fluid. It seems I can only get it up to mouse on major holidays and events.

It’s not just time crunch; it’s the changing face of our expression. Between Duban and Alt, Yappy and Pierce, we’ve flooded the darkness with sodium halogen. The days of waxing on about the mystery of ignorance — of digging through the strata of history — are passing. We are in the midst of our own new history, laying foundation upon foundation for what will be tomorrow’s ephemera.

Enough noodle. This is what’s on my mind:

On the Nekofront: glorious failure! I close out the cycle with our Boston/Downtown Crossing casting team. They accomplished much in the experimental gokin process, but are ultimately defeated by the massive solidity of Nekosaur’s barrel-thick torso which continues to explode in the burnout.

An intial run of silicon-rubber molds for generating multiple wax castings is fairly successful. The molds can be used virtually forever, continually refined across generations of casts. The sprue cleanup work, however, has made this process typically impracticle for large-scale mass-production.

Wax positives are generated and immersed into investmenet plaster, then kilned. The investment negative from the burnout is mounted slideways — Moonraker style — into a centrifugal casting arm.

Molten metal is heated and poured into a counter-balanced crucible, which then shoots metal up a series of designed spruing arteries. The resulting metal components burst out of the mold in cold water. Sprues are cut and and hand finished. Voila: we have metal, and it’s damn satisfying to hold.

You Must Accessorize
On the design side, 3D Master Smith Duncan Hsu begins work on next-generation prototypes. Check out his asskicking cartoon-filter renders.

Next stop: we transport the chest to the low-run artist foundries of New England.

In a parallel directive, Original Gokin Experiment: ToyboxDX Missile Defense Initiative 01 yields new ammo. While the broader focus continues to be the creation of New Chogokin style robots, Matt Alt and I have opened a channel to the mysterious foundries of…The Midwest!

Initiative 01 involves lathe-fabrication of a new aluminum master based on the classic Jumbomachinder missile. The master is scaled appropriately to account for shrinkage in the casting process. Our first run produced a series of high-polish bronze-based alloy missiles [bottom right.] A subsequent run of greater numbers produced white-metal castings of varying qualities. (Incidentally, Popy Chogokin is considered white-metal casting.)

Yes yes, I know: you want to know if you can shoot them. Not yet, gladiator. Not yet…

A last shot item to share: here’s some ToyboxDX wallpaper I cranked out for one of Darren’s big presentations. You can grab the 1024 x 768 or — if you’re into scrolling — the 800 x 600.

If you’ve been emailing me over the last 6 months and haven’t gotten a reply, I have to really apologize. The volume of mail has been overwhelming. I am going to redouble my effort to crank through, so forgive me if you get short, stubby correspondence.

Stay tuned: new user interface and a brand-spanking new feature column up next…


January 1, 2001

Toycom Yamato YF-19: Toy of the Year

Filed under: Endless Ramble — admin @ 8:59 pm

BOSTON, MA – Groggy from last-night’s mystery punch, Ramble-Elect Toy-of-the-Year Yamato YF-19 Edition II stumbled out of political darkness into dawn, hoisting a triumphant gunpod at supporters and protesters alike and firing off a winter-morning message of hope and reconciliation.

Highlighting the differences between its current manifestation and the fear-inspiring brittleness of its predecessor, the YF-19 Edition I, Edition II transformed flawlessly between Battroid and Fighter with almost no use of instructions. The combination of drop-dead character execution, ruthless engineering, and dedicated design betray the real treasure: a parent company capable of aiming high to secure licenses and partnerships, but also willing to evolve the legacy of its own work in direct response to the critical evaluation of its fans.

The launch of this toy cements Yamato’s ability to give us everything from a decades-old Nomura diecast to a crown-prince of modern mecha. Obvious in their work: a fan’s love of artist and animation, and a refreshing dedication to the spirit behind the toys.

The Etarnal Ramble is pleased to honor Yamato for what will hopefully be a footnote in a long line of successful endeavors.

Meanwhile, “One thousand welcoming you” to the bleary hours of the new millenium! Thanks for your readership and writership throughout Y2k. And may all of your hopes and dreams come true in the New Year.

Best regards,

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