Incubot, proud purveyor of all that crazy stuff we wish we'd owned as kids, is proud announce the launch of the Grendizer USB figure! Yes, Grendizer: that classic Seventies Go Nagai anime show featuring UFOs, giant robots, screw punches, more UFOs, and screaming robot space-turtles. Did I mention UFOs? And robots. Anyway, viddy this:
Freshly launched on Kickstarter, it's yours for a $45 contribution. 8 gigabytes, docks with the Spacer, which in turn acts as a USB hub that plugs into your PC via a fold-away cable... You know you want this.
"Kanzen Henkei" means "perfectly transforming" in Japanese. It was a buzzword of the Eighties toy world. Now it's back again, because robot builder Kenji Ishida has succeeded in creating the world's first perfectly transforming remote-controlled car.
I interviewed him at Maker Faire Tokyo 2012 - check out both the text and the video at the Yattar Japan website!
Once upon a time, not long ago, Japanese electronics ruled the worldwide marketplace.
It's true! Seriously! They were so renowned for their quality and sense of design that a little-known entrepreneur by the name of Steve Jobs visited Japanese factories in an attempt to figure out how to make his own company's computers more stylish.
They were so renowned for their sense of design, in fact, that a short-lived fad for plastic model kits of boomboxes and stereos actually swept the land. In a country with as much pocket money as Bubble-era Japan, it might seem odd that people would pay money for non-functional versions of things that they could actually purchase on store shelves.
But the yen was weak. Stereos were expensive -- the equivalent of hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars. Not to mention the small floorspace of many urban Japanese homes, which limited the amount of equipment even wealthy gear-heads could own. Aoshima included every tiny detail of the originals -- even little records to put on the turntables.
So plenty of audiophiles suffered with cheap systems for actually playing music, while gazing at the tiny plastic scale representation of what they actually wanted to own. If you ever wanted a clear picture of how a bubble-era otaku spent his days, that is probably it.
Eventually, Aoshima ran out of consumer gear to portray and expanded into entire studio setups. "Hello FM-kun" replicated an actual radio DJ's setup -- perfect for those long afternoons spent listening to FEN. This one actually featured a light up "on air" lamp.
The Otocon series replicated a then-cutting edge karaoke setup -- so unrelentingly old-school it used tapes instead of laser discs. Otocon upped the ante with little working speakers that could be plugged into the headset jack of a "real" system and even included little cut-outs of hearthtrob Emi Kagami.
Of course, this being the Eighties and this being Japan, there was only one logical conclusion to all of this stereo madness: a stereo that transformed into a robot. Meet Popy's Compoboy. ("Compo" being the Japanese term for a compact stereo system.)
Conclusion: if Japan still produced things like this today, we'd all be listening to music on iCompoboys instead of iPods.
Science dropped. Class adjourned.
(And thanks to machinesoldier for the Compoboy images!)
Somewhere in Yokohama, circa 1989 or 1990. This was my first exposure to a "real" Japanese toy store. While I don't rock M.C. Escher tee shirts anymore, I still have that same expression frozen on my face today.
Buckle your seatbelts for a ride through space-time to the mind-blowing depths of the...
These scans are from a three decade old movie pamphlet for the 1980 Disney SFxtravaganza "The Black Hole." It seems almost quaint by American standards, but even today you can still purchase movie pamphlets for films at the concession stands of Japanese theaters. In addition to the usual photo stills and actor bios, many include original content such as essays from film critics or genre experts. They've lost some of their meaning in the era of the always-on Internet connection. But back in the day, these slick little mini-magazines represented prime hunting ground in the never-ending otaku quest for trivia.
The Black Hole's pamphlet is a classic example of the artform. Famed Gunplabox-art illustrator Yuji Kaida was hired to create a series of beautiful, hand-drawn cutaway illustrations of the Cygnus, V.I.N.cent, and Maximilian. They're complemented by obsessively detailed run-downs of their inner workings and even equations describing every aspect of their fictional existences. You were undoubtedly dying to know that both V.I.N.cent and Maximilian possess 64-bit computers with a whopping three gigabytes of memory each -- which probably isn't even sufficient space to store the Blu-ray edition of the film.
Thanks to Roger H. for giving me the pamphlet, way back when!