Thursday, March 27, 2014

私のダイアクロン物語: My Diaclone story.

 Diaclone. A toy line that I feel is so much more than what it is taken for today. I hate to see it as just a history note for what it led to. So many miss some of the best parts of this brand. I know in my heart that had I been introduced to these toys in 1980, I would have loved them just as much as I did when introduced to their offspring in 1984.

I was lucky to start collecting Diaclone when there was still a normal market for them. That's not the case now, and I feel sorry for those who truly love the Diaclone brand. Everybody should be able to get these toys and enjoy them, but that's not really feasible for most. I know I couldn't get back into collecting these today, I've been priced out of it. But for a time, I really had a chance to enjoy the hell out of these toys.

The Diaclone brand was successful enough in Japan, that Takara branched out pretty much worldwide. This planting of seeds has created some of the fun about the hobby, finding what was sold and how is was sold in all these various locations. I definitely was gobbling up any foreign (to Japan) variants I could. Yeah, owning 6 different boxed Guts Blockers was a bit obscene, but I loved it. As I got to a point where I had most of what I was looking for, life changes came about, and my collecting habits had to change as well.

Today, I collect Diaclone information instead of Diaclone toys. Yes I still have a few Diaclone toys tucked away, but only a tiny fraction of what I once had. I miss those old toys a lot. Sad of course when you think about the fact they are only toys, but maybe not. There's a lot of memories attached to those toys, times with friends, trips around the country, even around the world. The good part is I never had to sell the memories, just the toys. That makes me happy to think about.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

過去の改造: Reconstructing the past.

There was a time when that small inserted image above would have been your normal browsing size for internet photos. Those times are long gone. Now I am in the middle of re-scanning photos and digitizing old negatives from the 90's for inclusion in my new endeavors.

It's a long boring process.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

クレオに抵抗しないこと: There's no resisting Kre-O

I wasn't going to get into the Kre-O line of toys. I was going to be firm about this, and just put my foot down. Hasbro was not going get me to buy yet another version of the characters I have collected for 30 years now. The first line Hasbro did should have gotten me to pick up at least a few items. I was strong enough to not give in. Next test came with the Toys R Us exclusive G.I.Joe Kre-O line, and I really felt the pressure. But I managed to not buy anything. Then my wife got me a pack of Kre-O Kreons for Christmas. I was still not actually giving my own money to Hasbro. As long as I didn't buy any more I'd be fine, even though there was a corresponding set to the one my wife had gotten me. I was sure I could resist.

Tuesday I was at Toys R Us and they had just stocked the latest G.I.Joe Kre-O toys. In the re-stock was a case of wave 3 Kreon singles blind packs. I noticed that Scrap Iron was in the mix. This is when I buckled. I felt up the bags and found the Scrap Iron, then also grabbed a wave 2 Blowtorch. I mean, I was able breaking my own rules buying the one, may as well buy others I had wanted.

These figures are fun, much like the LEGO Mini Figure packs are. I don't feel the quality of the Kre-O product is up to par with LEGO. There's little chance of getting Joe LEGO toys, so the Kre-O stuff is good enough. Pairing up the Kre-O figures I already had and the 2 G.I.Joe Kreons I bought Tuesday, I realized all my Kreons are based off toys I originally got in 1984. Gotta say, 1984 was a monster year for Hasbro.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

[私のホビー生活] イマジネックストのアメコミヒロー: [My Hobby Life] Imaginext DC Super Friends

I'm not gonna lie, I don't have a lot of money to invest in the toy collecting hobby these days. With the prices that the toys I really love are fetching, I am glad to not be in that fight right now. I'd love to get some of those toys that are going for insanely stupid prices, but even if I had the cash, I wonder if I'd even bother trying. Certain aspects of the collecting world have just gotten surreal. The market cannot hold the weight of these transactions, and when the bubble breaks a lot of people are going to be feeling kind of stupid. I am seeing a bit of it already, and while it's bad, I feel a little devilishly good about it.

I'll admit, the life away from toy collecting wasn't exactly without toy collecting. While I couldn't afford Mattel's DCUC subscription services, I still really like super hero toys. And with that I say thank you Fisher Price. A few years ago I stumbled onto Fisher Price's Imaginext line of toys. These are marketed to kids about 3-8 years old, just below the average action figure age. But even as kid's toys, and younger kid's toys at that, I thought they held a certain charm. I didn't get hooked on sight. At the time I was still collecting DCUC, G.I.Joe, Hasbro's other big toy line in very small amounts, and I didn't want to get into something else. With a severe disappointment in Hasbro's robots, G.I.Joe falling into retail death, and DCUC coming to an end I was free to pursue other things, and the moment was perfect because I had very little money to invest.

I initially started buying some of these toys because Target had put some exclusives on clearance after the DC Green Lantern movie left theaters. I stashed them away in hopes of just having something if I had kids later on. Shortly after I thought about getting a set started for my nephew. My brother who is also a huge super hero figure collecter hadn't gotten started yet, but did like the Imaginext toys. So for Christmas of '12 I got my nephew about 60% of the line. I got it extremely cheap through a series of crazy sales, clearance items and coupon discounts. I don't know if I even paid 50% of retail for most of it. All along in purchasing the toys for my nephew, I was buying a like item for myself. And maybe even a few more items than I did for him. It was easy to fall into the line, it's got a great selection, it's well made, and it's pretty much everywhere in general retail. It really helped me find the fun in toys again. It had been a very long time since toy collecting was fun, and not a nightmare of hard to find, overpriced, poor quality toy hell.

In Imaginext I found everything that I love about an adult aimed collector line, but without all the nonsense that comes with it. And even though the line is marketed to kids (via their parents of course), it's very collector friendly. Some of the great things of note:

Limited color variants - That are easy to find!
Store exclusive product - That is easy to find!
Popular characters - Are made available in multiple ways!
Release info - Is almost non-existent which makes for a fun surprise when new items are found!

That last one may be hard for today's collectors to handle. With a stream of up to the minute info on releases of just about every toy item coming out for the next 6-8 months being documented, not knowing what's coming may be a real shock to their system. But I love it, it's so refreshing to not know something is coming and just finding it in a  store. It' like buying toys as a kid again. There was one instance of collector based info being put out thanks to a Fisher Price release to AFI detailing some recent releases. That happened because AFI has pretty much the best and seemingly only strong Imaginext community. I don't see that amount of info release changing much, cause shortly later during the Toy Fair'14 coverage almost nobody even shot pics of the 2014 Imaginext offerings.

As it stands, as long of the DC line of Imaginext continues I'll be a loyal fan. Some of the regular Imaginext toys are starting to also grabbing my attention now, they will have to be held at bay due to funds though. I love that this toy line continues to be aimed at it's target age bracket, has a bit of collector flair mixed in, is so readily available, and is absolutely affordable. It's a great toy line.

Monday, March 10, 2014

ハズブロのG.I.ジョー50周年記念: Hasbro's G.I.Joe 50th Anniversary

With word of Hasbro offering a small assortment of G.I.Joe toys via Toys R Us this year for the 50th Anniversary of the original 12 inch toy line, it got me thinking. Why not a 12 inch figure? Why not a "Then and Now" pack of a 12 inch and 4" toy. best reason I could think of, no takers. Joe toys as a marketable brand is fallen so far from where it was king in the 80's toy business. To see that anything was going to be hitting the retail field at all in 2014 is really amazing. But as a fan with pretty strong views of the hobby, I can't help but wish things were just a bit better.

Let me make a few comments...

G.I.Joe 50th Anniversary VS 2-packs:

Of the 5 packs presented, I am most bothered by just 3 of them. The Cobra soldiers wasn't shown, so it could be anything at this point. The Snow Job and winter B.A.T. set is changed enough to suit most. I for one would have just given the Snow Job a different head, or colored his beard black and called him Frostbite to at least not make it another Snow Job. As for the other 3sets, here's what I feel could make them much stronger:

Blowtorch vs. Heat Viper:
POC prototype green suit Blowtorch. That's really all that needs to be said. But, I will say that it's just such a poor choice to do yet another version of the red and yellow suit when fans have been bugging Hasbro for like 2 years almost about the green one. Please ditch the red/yellow and make the green one!

Lady Jaye vs. Baroness:
Another black suit Baroness. Yawn. While a crimson red one isn't a crazy new idea, it would offer a newer choice. Or, homage both the 15 ARAH anniversary line and the fact it was a Toys R Us exclusive with a blue suited version. Baroness always looks good in blue.

Low-Light vs. Night Viper:
With this pack, I figure there's two options since I doubt they will change out the already released color style Low-Light. Although I'd love a nod to the Dino Hunters set. On the other side, Night Viper has been a bane to Joe collectors for most of 2013. Trying to grab them at early hours on Hasbro Toy Shop, or hunting (of all places) drugs stores to scoop them up at inflated prices. And speaking of inflated prices, scalpers have had a field day with them on ebay. Let's not forget that the Night Viper was asked about constantly by fans, and Hasbro always assured he'd come out. When he was listed in such a late wave of a movie tie-in line, fans felt he could get cancelled. Luckily Night Viper made it to production, but by it's release time Target and Walmart had already dropped the line. The Night Viper was already being one of the coolest Cobra troops of all time, it only made sense that people would want several. Now if I'm a business, and one door to offer these has basically closed, and I see I can now get a product in insanely high demand back out, would I change that product to something else?

What I don't understand is the change to a red Night Viper. Don't get me wrong, I still think this set will sell well. I just think it could shave been much better. Just keep the original green Night Viper. It's the version anybody who hasn't been able to get one at retail wants. Or, my other thought was make this a 3 pack. Include the Low-Light, a green Night Viper and a red Night Viper leader or commander. But the red Night Viper with an unchanged Low-Light just doesn't do it for me.

G.I.Joe 50th Anniversary 3-packs:

This was an easy change to think up. Both 3 packs were kinda weak, so just eliminate the weak links and make 1 really strong 3 pack. The 2 Cobra troops in the Beach Head set were lacking and uncreative, 86 'em. The Hawk figure doesn't even fit in with the ARAH styled Destro and Leatherneck, cut him. Take Beach Head, Leatherneck and the new Destro and you have one badass 3 pack. Add my previous suggestion of a Low-Light and Night Viper duo, and you now have 2 great 3 packs.

As for the vehicle packs, both are pretty decent on their own and in the styles chosen. I may have dropped the Snake Eyeys and put in an Alpine of some other fan demanded figure. I can't kid myself though, as everybody knows a Snake Eyes was gonna be part of this set in some way. All in all, as long as the msrp stays on target with what was announced, these should be a success. But things change, and while I'd love to see the above changes happen in character selection, it's likely more changes could be made in terms of higher costs and/or cancellation.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

トイフェーア2014: Toy Fair '14

This year's Toy Fair is just about a month past, and I'm still kinda looking at what we were shown. Overall nothing mind blowing, but some pretty good nods to toy fans. I'd have to give it to Mattel for at least giving DC Universe Classics one last send off before it's gone. As much grief as they got (including some from me), they still went on and gave fans one last chance at more figures. I don't know why these were shown at Toy Fair however, they won't be in retail stores at all. Hasbro also unveiled news of a new special line, a 50th anniversary assortment of G.I.Joe toys. These toys were not shown at the show, probably cause they weren't looking for retail support. This 50th line has been picked up as a Toys R Us exclusive, most likely due to G.I.Joe poor sales performance in many other stores.

Some other random bits caught my eye, like an Imaginext Deathstroke the Terminator figure coming out, the Star Wars Black Biker Scout and Benny's Spaceship, Spaceship SPACESHIP! set from the Lego Movie. Overall, 2014 looks like it could be an easy year on my wallet.

Mattel's (last minute) DCUC Kenner Super Power's 30th Anniversary:

dcuc mattel super powers batman superman kenner

Not gonna lie, the prices are steep on these. For what they are, I can see and understand why a lot of folks have already said they will not buy these at $30 each plus shipping. The problem for me is that these are the versions of these figures I've wanted from the very beginning. Given that there's not going to be any DCUC stuff after this, $60 for those two isn't bad.

dcuc mattel super powers Wonder Woman Super Amigos green lantern kenner

As for the rest, it depends on if I ever got a completed Kalibak when he was offered in DCUC wave 6. Given wave 6 was such a great wave, I'm sure I did. The light blue Superman is great, but the gold suit is much less so. I would have rather seen Captain Ray. The Green Lantern based Riddle Super Amigos homage is great. Mxyzptlk is kinda meh at this point. If he turns out to be better than this simple prototype, then awesome, if not I can't see keeping him.

I prefer this red Kalibak, but I am perfectly content with the original green suited version. Is the red one worth paying $120 for? That's gonna take some thinking over.

 Hasbro's G.I.Joe 50th Anniversary Toys R Us line:

At first I was worried, seeing as Hasbro can't seem to generate real interest with Joes among kids, and the pricing we've seen in the Retaliation line, these had the potential to real expensive. So to many collectors surprise (also given that this is a TRU exclusive), the prices are not too bad. Sure, we've been programmed to think that when figures at $10+a piece anything less is a blessing. That's actually really sad now that I write it out. But truth be told with Joe being pretty much a collector based line now, seeing such a large offering (and likely the only 2014 offering) is good.

Cobra Wolf & Skyhawk (with Ice Viper and Snake Eyes) $39.99:

Hasbro GIJoe 50th anniversary Cobra Wolf Snake Eyes

Great toy the Wolf, always liked the Ice Viper as well. That Skyhawk isn't bad either. With the Ghost Hawk and Lift Ticker being $15 when it came out in stores, we can figure about $25 for the Wolf, which isn't too bad.

G.I.Joe vs. Cobra 2 pack assortment $14.99 each:

Hasbro GIJoe 50th anniversary HEAT Viper Lady Jaye Baroness Night Viper

There's potential here, some of which I will go into in a later post. Hasbro is unloading a few pretty highly demanded figures from it's showcase of designer mock ups. The Heat Viper may be the best figure of the bunch, however the Lady Jaye looks great too. Lady Jaye is a figure Hasbro just hasn't been able to get right since starting the 25th Anniversary style figures. This time, it looks like they may have finally worked all the best elements into one figure. The rest of the 2 packs shown above are filled out with straight up re-issues of previously sold toys or slight re-colors. There's also a Snow Job vs. Cobra BAT in winter camo being released and a possible 2 pack with Cobra troopers coming as well.

G.I.Joe vs. Cobra 3 pack assortment $19.99 each:

Hasbro GIJoe 50th anniversary concept case Leatherneck Destro

 The 3 packs offer probably the most for your money in terms of raw plastic. The character selection however....uhm...not great. Leatherneck easily takes the prize for best 3 pack figure, and the Destro is really nice. All in all, at about $6.75 per figure it's a great deal.

G.I.Joe Vamp MKII & Cobra Night Landing set $29.99:

While I am not showing  a pic of this set, that doesn't mean I don't think it's a cool set.  Depending of course and how the sets (yes there's two versions) are ultimately sold. Both sets contain a Vamp MKII with Flint, and a Cobra Night Landing raft with Cobra EEL and weapons locker. Ever since the Night Landing was announced for inclusion in the Retaliation movie line collectors have been stoked. It didn't make it into stores for the movie line but now it's getting a second chance at life. Twice.

And then there was also this...

I had no intentions of buying into this brand this year. Until I saw this toy. Dammit Takara and Hasbro.