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Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm Raiden your hard earned cash! Yes...yes you are.

Around roughly the same time I discovered Road Caesar I also discovered Raiden. The year was 1999 and I was just starting college. Access to a constant T1 Ethernet port had opened up the entire internet to me and I was beginning to learn about all of the exclusive lines and toys in Japan. Raiden really stuck with me because I have always been a big fan of trains. I used to go down to the rail yards with my father and just watch the trains come and go when I was little. Cabooses were my favorite and I was most disappointed when they were retired from rail service. Unfortunately Raiden has no Cabooses, only engines. But they are still very cool little engines.

The trainbots that make up Raiden are a bit of an oddity. They were part of the original Diaclone line (much like the constructicons) but were not brought over with the rest of the toys due to what Hasbro deemes "cultural differences". Anyone who knows anything about Japan knows that trains are just a part of life over there, unlike here in America where air travel is the prominent method. Personally I think if they had been brought over earlier as part of the '85 or '86 line of figures they would have worked just fine. Kids obviously love trains, especially when they all combine into a giant robot. Unfortunately the trainbots never made it to the US so Raiden became a Japanese exclusive as part of the Headmasters line. And that makes him very expensive today. It took me over eight months to find all six figures in good condition.

From left to right: Shoki, Suiken, Kaen, Getsui, Seizan, Yukikaze
Shoki, leader and upper torso of Raiden
Getsui, Night Warrior (aka ninja) and right leg
Yukikaze, Cold Warrior and left leg
Suiken, Tactical Warrior and left arm
Seizan, Mountain Warrior and right arm
Kaen, Hot Warrior and lower torso
The Thunder and Lightning Warrior, Raiden!
I still think this guy would have been a great adversary to Devastator (rather than the Dinobots) not to mention successful in America. Back in 2001 Takara pulled this move again when they released JRX as part of the Car Robots line; another combining set of bullet trains. Those figures were released under the Robots In Disguise line in America and as far as I know sold just fine.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Road Caesar and the Brainmasters...Strictly Japanese

When I first heard about the Brainmasters I thought to myself: "What the hell can those be and how much different are they from Headmasters?" Soon enough I discovered that instead of the 'master' component being the entire head of a Transformer, it only became the face (and thus the 'brain') while the shell of the head remained firmly attached to the larger Transformer body. Now I am not exactly sure how this works in Japanese lore because I've never had the attention span to actually sit down and watch the Transformers: Victory TV series without becoming insanely bored. That isn't to say that it is a bad show, it just isn't my Transformers. Is the master figure the actual consciousness of the larger figure and just 'combines' with a larger body? Are there two minds that merge?

Anyway, Road Caesar is a gestalt made up of three Brainmaster figures: Blacker, Braver and Laster. Each figure has a particular trait that he brings to the team; Blacker is Strength, Braver is Intelligence and Laster is Skill. When combined they form the perfectly balanced combiner who is more than a match for his adversary, Liokaiser. There is only one other Brainmaster figure in the Victory toyline and that is the leader known as Star Saber. I've had Star Saber for a while, I purchased him back in 2007 but I only very recently received Road Caesar to complete my Brainmaster collection. Fortunately I was able to obtain the giftset version (which is the first Japanese giftset I have ever purchased) rather than the individual releases like I have with other combiners such as Liokaiser and Raiden.

What is so immediately striking about this figure when you get him combined is how sturdy and large he actually is. Despite being made up of only three members he is quite a large toy and is at least as tall as Galaxy Shuttle. 1989 was a good year for big Transformers in Japan apparently. Ironically at the same time in America the Transformers were getting smaller with Micromasters. Japan got their share of Micromasters too, but without sacrificing the larger figures. I think this is probably the last original mold G1 combiner that I did not own and since I am such a fanatic about combiners I was very happy to finally acquire this guy.

Blacker and the 'Brain of Strength'

Laster and the 'Brain of Skill'

Braver and the 'Brain of Intelligence'

All three 'Brains' which I don't think even make an appearance in Victory.

These guys are the very definition of a brick.

Road Caesar loves the camera!

Monday, October 17, 2011

New Look In Progress

In celebration of 100 posts I have decided for a new, hopefully cleaner look for my blog. This is why I haven't posted much recently but as soon as the upgrades are complete I should have some great new items to show!

Thanks for all the great comments over the past six months, here's to another six hundred!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Transformers Animated Activators Dirge

I have always been a sucker for seekers. For some reason, having a lot of the same figure in different colors appeals to me. Maybe I like seeing how many different color schemes they can come up with. Maybe I am just a completist at heart. Whatever the reason is, I often find I have to stop myself from purchasing repaints of Starscream on a constant basis. Because ever since the days of Generation 1, seekers are pretty much the exact same toy.

So when it came time for the seeker party to start in Animated I decided I wasn't going to attend. It doesn't help anything that I don't really like the Animated Starscream mold. It seems clumsy and unstable to me. But I was in Target one day and I just couldn't resist the dirt cheap Sunstorm exclusive sitting on the shelves. Then when I was at Botcon I went into total Animated fever, buying up every figure I hadn't yet picked up: Sentinel Prime, Oil Slick and yes, Skywarp. Somewhere along the line I also picked up the Activator Thundercracker without really realizing it. As they say, in for a penny in for a pound, so I figured why not go ahead and get Dirge as well. Unfortunately I couldn't find the domestic release of Dirge, but I found a great deal on the Japanese one!

I do like the activator seeker mold much better than the voyager mold, since you don't have to deal with those arms getting in the way. So now I am only missing Ramjet, another Activator repaint; but since he was a Japanese exclusive it may be a while before I can find him at a good price.

Dirge and Thundercracker
You can see the major differences here between the two size classes.
Yup, still like the activator better.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What's that? More Tech Specs in a dead Tech Spec market?

The past few months have been really dry in the tech spec arena. The driest that I have encountered recently. It seemed like in the beginning of the year there was tons of stuff to choose from but lately there hasn't been anything! It also doesn't help that I am only 27 specs away from completing my collection; so naturally there aren't as many to buy. And of course all the ones I need are from the final two years of G1 which are the hardest to find.

But there is some light at the end of the tunnel! An independent company called Atomic Laser has begun reproducing all the tech specs from G1, starting with 1984. However they aren't just reproducing them, they are fixing all the errors, standardizing all the text and prettying up the pictures so they all look nice and similar. As a bonus they are starting to create tech specs for figures that never received them in the past, such as the Omnibots and the Powerdashers. Since I already have all of the original tech specs they have created, I was only interested in their new ones, which I promptly ordered.

Upon receiving these in the mail I can certainly understand why they've decided to do this. Each spec is very nicely printed on glossy cardstock, and looks very professional. When I lined them up with my existing specs they fit in very nicely. So for $16 I was able to get 9 previously unavailable tech specs that I could add to my collection which is certainly worth the price (since most vintage ones cost at least $5 apiece). Hopefully Atomic Laser will continue to make specs for characters that never got them originally, I will definitely be the first in line.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Time for some Mini Mates!

It is very unusual for me to buy toys that aren't either Transformers or Lego. However I was in Toys R Us the other day and could not pass this up. The Back to the Future Part II DeLorean with Doc Brown Mini-mate. I actually have collected most of the other Back to the Future mini-mates (because BTTF is another one of my passions), but this is the first one to come with a vehicle that I am aware of. The DeLorean itself is super-deformed, almost like something you would see in Japan. However it does have working gull-wing doors and rolls along, even though the wheels don't fold up like I thought they did when I purchased it (there are tiny rolling wheels on the underside that allow it to roll around on the ground without scraping the bottom).

This little set also comes with a small sticker sheet so you can add some much needed detail to the vehicle. The outside stickers are fine, but the ones for the inside are tiny, difficult to place and mostly just a pain in the ass. I had to actually unscrew the bottom of the car and take it apart to get the stickers on the inside. I guess that is the curse of having grown-up: I no longer have tiny hands with which to manipulate small things.

Overall I really like how the DeLorean looks, it fits into the mini-mate universe nicely. I guess now I'll have to break a few more of them out so Doc can have a passenger.

He fits pretty well!
Can you see the tiny Flux Capacitor?
The detailing on all the time machine parts is pretty accurate.
Except they neutered Mr. Fusion.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Transformers G1 Cel: Megatron

I had the good fortune of obtaining this very nice animation cel recently. In fact, it is the first animation cel I have ever owned. I have always wanted a cel from the G1 cartoon or movie, but never really thought I would actually own one. The G1 cartoon is something that is very special to me, so to own an actual piece of art that was in the show at some point is quite a thrill. It is almost like meeting one of the voice actors! Since I've never owned anything like this before I was surprised at how crisp and clean it was. It is too bad cel animation isn't really done much anymore because these can be very beautiful. I hope to have a few more in the future, but for now Megatron stands alone.

If anyone just happens to know what episode this is from I would love to know. I've started watching the cartoon again keeping my eye out but haven't seen it yet. I do know it is not from the 1986 movie.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Spaced: The TV Show

My first thoughts upon watching this show were: "How the hell did I miss this?"

I consider myself a pretty big geek, and I like to think I have my finger on the pulse of the geek world. And I don't mean in that trendy "Big Bang Theory" way, but in a "I enjoy intelligent writings, conversation and giant robots" kind of way. So I found myself shocked when I watched Spaced for the first time a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't understand how I had missed such an excellent show especially when it was basically about everything I tend to enjoy. The show originally aired in 1999 (series 1) and 2001 (series 2) in England so I'm not surprised I didn't see the originals, but to have missed it for 10+ years since is insane! It's like finding out your house had a secret room that everyone else knew about but you.

And an awesome secret room it is.

First of all, the writing is top notch. Throw in a bunch of pop culture references that appeal to my generation and some great actors and you have something special. Unfortunately there were only 14 episodes completed, but as far as this show goes it is all about quality, not quantity. They have packed more into 14 episodes than most shows pack into 50. And the appeal! It is as if you were watching you and your friends act out these scenes, because this show is so relatable. I swear they have a device that has seen into my mind and stolen my ideas for episodes.

So now I can say I am a fully fledged Spaced fan, and will be for life. In just two episodes I saw a Back to the Future reference, a Jurassic Park reference, and Robocop reference. If that isn't running the gamut I don't know what is.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Beast Wars Revisited: Part 7 of 5

Ok, I swear this is the last one. And he doesn't even really fit with the theme of straight repaints since he is a remold, but he is too cool not to include in this little miniseries.

Beast Wars Neo: D-39 Killer Punch

Killer Punch can be one of the most difficult Beast Wars Neo toys to find since he (along with Survive) were released at the tail end of the line. Final releases are notorious for being shortpacked and his price point proves it. Usually it is difficult to obtain him for anywhere less than $60. His price is also driven by being a unique remold that has not ever been repainted or re-released.

Killer Punch is remolded from Guiledart, originally a Triceratops. Since the Triceratops and Styracosaurus share similar body types and only different heads it made sense to remold the figure. However I really like Killer Punch a lot more than the Triceratops mold because he comes with a few new features. First and foremost he can fire his skull from his hand like some sort of flying shield and he has an awesome sword hidden in his tail. Just like the Triceratops mode he has 'battle damage' that reveals bone and sinews if so desired. I believe this was a response to the then highly popular Jurassic Park toys whose dinosaurs had the same sort of play feature.

His bio defines him as an information gatherer, a sneaky sort of operative. I must admit I don't get that vibe from the figure; he seems more like an Attilla the Hun sort of character, maybe it is the face. At any rate, I am glad I was finally able to add him to my BW: Neo Destron forces.

I wonder if there ever were any purple Styracosaurus
Battle damage
I love how this looks

He can carry his 'head' on his back sort of like Captain America
Other than the head and the tail they are pretty much identical.
I do wish the Triceratops head was removable though, it gets in the way!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Beast Wars Revisited: Part 6 of 5

What was originally supposed to be just a five part series seems to have expanded somewhat since I have acquired a few more Beast Wars figures recently. Again these don't differ much from the domestic releases, but I found them interesting enough to purchase and thus add to my ever-expanding Japanese Beast Wars collection.

Part 6: Beast Wars Neo VS-33 Rockbuster vs. Hydra

Transformers in Japan have a few cool little quirks that we really don't get over here in America. One of these is that many times figures are paired up in VS sets so that if you purchase one you get one good guy and one bad guy to pit against each other. Personally I think this is a great idea and I know kids love it since they get two figures to play with. It especially helps jump-start your collection which seems to be more of a focus in Japan.

I only have a scant few of these VS sets because they can be expensive, depending on which figures are in the set. It seems that most of the Destron figures are a lot more expensive than the Cybertron figures, at least in the Neo toyline. Case in point, Rockbuster (crab) by himself is usually less than $10, but Hydra (pterodactyl) can be upwards of $40. And usually the VS set runs at least $50, but fortunately I was able to purchase it for much less. Rockbuster and Hydra are almost identical to their domestic releases with only a few subtle changes. In fact, Rockbuster is virtually identical to the domestic Razorclaw (video tape version).

The very cool VS packaging showcasing the 'battle'
Robot Modes
Beast Modes
Razorclaw on the left, Rockbuster on the right.
 The only real difference between the two is Rockbuster's orange is slightly less vibrant. And that's it. Maybe that is why he is so cheap.

And of course his rubsign is a Cybertron instead of Predacon.
Domestic Lasorbeak on the left, Hydra on the right.
 Fortunately Hydra has a few more differences from Lasorbeak. The addition of the silver paint on the wings, shins and face makes it much easier to tell them apart.