Archive for the ‘toys’ Category

Toy review: Soul of Chogokin Evangelion

The full name of this toy is way, way too long for that title: “Soul of Chogokin Spec XS-01R EVA-01 Renewal Version.” Let me break that down a bit for the non-toy nerds out there. “Chogokin” means something like “super alloy”, which just means it’s diecast metal. The “soul” bit refers to the fact that in the 90s, Bandai returned to their metal alloy toys of the 70s with a brand new line. All that other stuff means it’s a new version of Bandai’s movie version of the Eva-01, which was released a few years ago. This update makes it perhaps the greatest of all Eva toys ever made.

Yeah, that’s a pretty grand statement and yeah, this little baby lives up to it.

First off, he comes out of the box like no other Evagelion toy I’ve seen, in Eva’s true form – the super-skinny, super-creepy organic life form that lives under the shell/constraints. Here’s the part that blows me away – the shell is composed of about a dozen heavy metal parts that you put on. You actually turn him into an Eva. When you get this toy, and you will, here’s what you gotta do: take him out of the box and cue up the Eva soundtrack – you know what I’m talking about, the big symphonic battle theme – and hit play. Putting this guy together transcends playing with a toy – you are close to the soul of Eva itself.

Once he was put together, the fun just didn’t stop. Incredible articulation that is strong yet pliable. A flawless paint job. So many hands and weapons that I will never run out of poses. Dude, it even comes with an entry plug and the Eva’s glowing red core!

My only complaint is that at this price – over $70 – I won’t be getting the full set any time soon. Then again, how many full sets do I really need?

Yes, I know – all of them.

Overall look: the metal alloy gives this dude an incredible look of weight and realism
Design: flawless paint job and remarkable articulation
Playability
: the poses are endless – this guy gets the highest recommendation I can offer!

Building a tiny Japanese town – step by step

Day One
After picking up a 40″ x 20″ sheet of chipboard earlier in the day, I began the hard work of planning out my first proper diorama. As you’ll see from reading on, this was the fun and relaxing part of this process, but it still offered a fair amount of challenges. I’ve collected all my buildings haphazardly with no plan for this diorama. That means I have to make everything fit.

For inspiration, I spent a while looking at Google Earth images of Japanese towns. First thing I noticed: almost no grids. Streets flow in every direction, like someone threw spaghetti at Japan. So I abandoned my original plan and instead put a train track angling right through the diorama, forcing streets to change course. To make the layout assembly easier, I marked all the building and track locations in pencil.

I think what I have envisioned, although not a replica of any exact place in Japan, will serve my giant monsters and robots well as I’ve tried to leave lots of empty space. But trying to plan for how all the street markings and signs will line up, that has me a little nervous…

Day Two
Today was pretty straightforward – painting the asphalt. I had practiced on the backside of the board and discovered that if I first did a coat of grey acrylic paint, it would help to seal the chipboard and create a more even surface.

For the asphalt, I used Woodland Scenics Top Coat. Lovely stuff that goes on smoothly and evenly. And since the grass and buildings should cover the edges, I didn’t have to be too careful. Hopefully…

Day Three
Today was all about grass and tracks. Fun but very, very nerve wracking. Again, I had practiced a little on the underside of the board, but large areas are another matter.

The grass, more Woodland Scenics stuff, goes in layers, each separated by a mist spray of Scenic Cement. It’s tricky, trying to add just the right amounts of “burnt undergrowth”, “weeds” and “grass” but also kinda fun playing God.

The tracks presented their own challenge. I had originally planned to attach them to the board with putty, so I could reuse them later. Unfortunately, the putty doesn’t hold that strongly, and the ballast didn’t fully cover it, leaving nasty white blobs every track length. So I’ve gone with Super Glue. At least nothing should shift. Ballasting the tracks was fun, spilling piles onto the tracks and then dry brushing it all just how I like it…

Day Four
Placing the buildings is the beginning of the hard work of figuring out the details, like which ways will the streets run and do those make sense – ok, I know no one will actually drive through this town, but I just like knowing that if I was shrunk to 150th my size, I could actually live here.

I’ve decided to only putty a few of the buildings down to the asphalt so that I can move the other ones around as I sticker on the road markings and start erecting sign posts and such…

Day Five and Six and Seven and…
I have new-found respect for city planners. Even though my town’s layout is tiny and contained, it has taken me hours and hours to figure out not only how traffic will flow, but how to sign it. I’ve even had to re-arrange some of my buildings so that traffic moves in a logical way. Plus, there’s the fact that they drive on the left in Japan, giving my brain an extra workout flipping everything “backwards”.

I’ve also spent countless hours so carefully studying Japanese road markings on Google Maps that I am convinced I could pass a driver’s test in Tokyo.

But there is still so much work to do that I will have to blog about it all later, when I have time to actually finish this town properly. I still have to put up more road signs, telephone polls, traffic lights, lamp posts, commercial signs, catenary polls, electrical towers, trees and so on and so on.

It’s going to take far more time than I had planned, but my god, it’s going to be beautiful…

Store spotlight: Aura Model Shop

I walked past a fellow co-worker and otaku the other day and his eyes widened as he said “dude, you HAVE to check out this new toy store I found!” He had just been to the recently opened AMC Theatre at Toronto’s Dundas Square and there, at the top of the escalator, bathed in sunlight, was the “Aura Model Shop.”

Very few stores just happen to pop up in my neck of the woods that cater to otaku, so that very day – I could barely wait until 5 o’clock – I visited the shop that is mere minutes from my condo. It was like coming home.

Aura, although somewhat small, has a remarkably large selection for the model kit maker. There are hundreds and hundreds of Gundams and a good selection of models from other well known anime, like Evangelion and Ghost in the Shell. There are also cars and helicopters, but those interest me less. Pretty much every Revoltech is represented. But what impressed me most was the wall of model kit tools that included two different types of tweezers. I almost wept.

Of course, I did some shopping that very day. But I returned a few days later to chat with owner Brian, himself a very experienced model builder. He opened Aura in mid-May downtown because he feels that the anime industry is growing and becoming more mainstream and hopes he can tap into that interest with a central location. So far, he’s getting a broad range of shoppers from hardcore modelers coming in for special orders to first timers drawn by childhood memories of The Transformers and Robotech.

When I asked Brian how he decides what to stock he smiled and said “instinct.” He has gone to Japan to scope out new toys and regularly visits toy fairs in North America, but like us collectors, he uses the internet to find out what’s on the horizon. I also tried to convince him to start holding modeling workshops, but that’ll have to wait, he says.

As I left the store I thought about my own shopping habits. I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve bought almost all of my models and toys online. The prices are usually better and you can get them earlier than stores. I always buy modeling tools in shops, however, not to mention small impulse buys. But the thing that a shop like Aura has over the internet is the pure rush of excitement I get when I am surrounded by so much coloured plastic. My love for these things is rekindled every time I enter.

Miniature Japanese Food!

Last week in Vancouver, I visited – as I always do when I go out west – Aberdeen Centre, a huge and quite lovely Asian mall. I was casually strolling along with a friend when we spotted something remarkable: an ENTIRE STORE devoted to miniature Japanese food.

I already had a tiny collection – no pun intended – but this place had me salivating for more – again, no pun intended. Every conceivable meal you could ever eat in Japan was replicated in 1/6 scale, including Western food – one of my blind assortment packs revealed spaghetti and meatballs. There were also shelves and shelves of appliances so I picked up a blender and lovely toaster set. But better yet, the store was filled with huge dioramas under glass of incredibly detailed restaurant and kitchen scenes. Very inspiring.

Soon, my robots shall dine…

New diorama: disarmament

disarmament.jpg

The Mars-1 Observer has taken all the robots’ guns away. At first, they are simply shocked. Stay tuned to see what happens next…