Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Video Product Reviews




So out of sheer tiredness and delirium the other day, I decided to make some YouTube "product reviews" for things that I've bought that have moving parts/light/sound/et cetera. Here are three, two of recent purchases, one of something I've had for a few years now. If you want to see the strange little wonderful gadgets I buy in action, want to hear what I sound like when I'm sleep deprived or both, here ya go. Enjoy!

T-Scale Success!


It took a fairly decent amount of time to get the train itself set up, but it was worth it! My tiny T-Scale can do laps without jumping the track, now. I'm not entirely thrilled by the fact that the track wouldn't fit on my bookshelf's top, er, shelf & that I had to put it on the bottom level of one of my Detolfs (Detolves?), but what are you going to do? It was slightly too wide for the bookshelf's shelves to situate it, but it fit perfectly on the Detolf's shelves. I bought the green grass matting to sit the track on, and the Detolf has glass shelves except for the bottom. I thought that the matting looked extremely tacky on the glass shelves, so I wound up sticking the train on the bottom shelf.
The problem with this, though, is visibility. For a train that's only 3mm wide, it's kinda hard to spot it all the way on the floor level of a shelf that's already absolutely packed with PVC figures, Nendoroids and a Real Action Heroes Zero/Lelouch. ><; Perhaps I should get rid of my PC so I can turn my desktop into a model railway, heh. I made a video and took some pics of the train running. Amazingly, the front and rear light up with the JR logo and the rear red lights. They also change when you reverse the direction of the train. The wheels are magnetic and hold the train to the track, which is good for such a small scale (1:450!) of train. The trains come in sets of 4 cars (so far, anyway) the outer two cars contain the working lights, and the inner two contain the cars with the motors. Not exactly what I expected, considering with both real and model trains that I've encountered so far, there's usually one car with all of the power, and that's the locomotive. I don't know if the magnetic attraction in the set of end cars is weak, or the extra "heft" of the motors in the center cars contributes to holding them in place, but the rear car (no matter which one I use) strays off unless it's set just so. The magnetic attraction of the outside sets of wheels on the end cars seems weaker, and it's difficult to set them into the track manually and have them stay. When you're working with materials that are that small, though, it's difficult to get such tiny parts to work in concert with one another. I got it working, miraculously, after about 2 hours of tweaking but who knows if a slammed door or something heavy (like my foot) coming down onto the floor will knock it off track. =P
These pics are preliminary, as I was just trying to get the train itself working. I plan on decorating with the people I bought, and also plan to perhaps buy a few buildings/trees/other elements to add soon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Right on Schedule

Well it's 4 in the morning, no better time to put that train set together than now, eh?!
Was going to put it here, but the track (sadly) didn't fit. I kinda wanted to put it somewhere of prominence. However...
It ended up here, on the bottom floor of one of my Detolfs (Detolves?). Moar to come!
日本文化

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Tokyo Noodle Drops

I decided to try out some of my J-List schwag today, and I was really intrigued in general to try the "off/regionally flavored" candies that I had gotten. I started with the Tokyo Noodle Drops, as they seemed the most likely to be captured in a candy well, as opposed to the Sasebo Burger Drops or Tako-Rice [sic] Drops. Which are actually taco rice, タコ/tako being octopus, something got messed up on the package due to the similarity of the words and the fact that tako is so widely eaten in Japan, and the Mexican type of taco seems to be limited in availability to Okinawa for the most part. (Which is kind of horrible news for me should I move to Japan, because Mexican is my favorite kind of food. ;_;)

Generally, this sort of thing is a quintessentially Japanese concept; "wacky" candy that 99/100 people would never even think of, even Japanese people. I mean there are those Harry Potter jellybeans that Jelly Belly has been making for the past few years that were bacon and booger and vomit flavored, but these are meant to be actually appetizing, methinks. The tins are certainly decorated in a way that looks "serious" - or more precisely - cultural.

First, if you purchase one of these bad boys, I'd say don't leave the house without Hercules or a blasting cap in tow. The sticker holding the lid on is merely a formality, because I'm pretty sure the lid is welded on. Once I pried it off with some scissors, I was allowed access to the tasty drops. They smelled, surely enough, like ramen. There are also silicate packets included in each tin to make sure they stay dry.

Upon popping one in my mouth I was pleasantly surprised. I was expecting them, since they had an aroma, to be powerful. The first thing I tasted was that typical "candy" taste you get when you eat a hard candy. It's probably some additive or something, but that actually balanced the overall taste out. I then tasted ramen. Not ramen flavoring, but it tasted like real ramen in a bowl, with broth. It was subtle enough that I wasn't getting grossed out, but not so light that I was guessing at whether my mind was pulling off a placebo effect and tricking me because I wanted my $3.50's worth out of the tin I'd just bought. Being the scrutinizing individual that I am my mind naturally thought: "How is it that we can put ramen into a candy but somehow we've gotten cherry, watermelon and apple wrong for so many years?" (I actually hated cherry fruit until about 2005 because of the medicine and candy taste ruining it for me over the years, now they're my favorite fruit ^^)

Even now, the aftertaste is like I just ate a bowl of ramen, it's ridiculous. I'm still a little shaky about what the burger and taco drops will taste like, but I have a feeling you'll be seeing another rave review soon. The full line of these drops snacks can be had here, at J-List, but get em fast because I understand they're popular and the manufacturer has been running out of them!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More J-List Loot








No major write-up at the moment, just some pictures of my latest J-List loot. Mainly snacks, and a new Gurren Lagann Revoltech, I can't wait to see what the snack drops and Shiso Pepsi taste like!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hey Man, Nice Haul

In spite of the fact that I just ripped off the title of a Filter song, I did get a hella nice haul yesterday for the first time in a long time. I haven't gotten anything "significant" in about 2 months (significant being defined as anything that isn't just snacks and a shirt or magazine) thanks in part to my having to pay an assload of extra money to get my car fixed/brought up to snuff so it could be successfully inspected. Thanks in part, too, to my wanting to be fiscally responsible.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, the majority of stuff I got was from Strapya World, and while I'm sure I've mentioned them before, I don't think I've promoted them before. It is a good - if not dangerously addicting - site that much like J-List sells Japanese goods that you pretty much won't find for sale anywhere else online. I suggest checking them out if you like character phone straps (their Hello Kitty/Sanrio section is second-to-none), stuffed toys, USB toys, small Japanese electronic gadgets, etc. A healthy chunk of their stuff is mascot-themed (which I like), and they have a ton of traditional and traditional fusion (mascots and pop-culture + traditional culture) items as well. As far as price, the items are priced just right, in my opinion. And as far as shipping costs, which are a big pet peeve of mine, they are actually often times LESS than domestic shipping. Granted most of the stuff you can order there is as small as a cell phone strap, but the flat rate of $5 Airmail up to $100 and $10 EMS (!) is great.

Being a big Hello Kitty fan, I went a little overboard this time (as you can see). Overall it wasn't bad, I spent as much on what you see in the Kitty picture as I would on a box of Chara Fortune keychains, so. I love traditional/cultural fare, so I was elated to see the Gotochi Kitty series from various regions, the first time I'd visited the site. This time I splurged on a lot of the ones I had been eying before. Another thing I've been on a run of lately is the character Mameshiba, got some (compressed) towels this time as well as another talking Kuro Mameshiba. I'm expecting two push lights later this week from J-List as well. These little guys are adorable, and are gaining in popularity, which also makes me happy.

The other stuff from Strapya included a mini stuffed anthropomorphic Fuji-san, an anthropomorphic cross between a baguette and Welsh Corgi, Kinbuta or "golden pig", Mugen Beer that electronically produces a pop top & pouring noise and an electronic LCD Jan-Ken-Pon or Rock, Paper, Scissors. I bought the Janken as a joke because it was cheap, but I ended up liking it a lot. It had that unique Japanese packaging that immediately drew me in, and then how gimmicky it was after trying it made me smile.

Lastly, I on an impulse I ordered a box of Megahouse Dragon Ball Z: Return of Cell toys. Again, the way they were packaged/displayed was impressive. Upon opening up the box, I saw 7 Dragon Balls nested inside the box in a specific way that looked very cool. And I've preserved that for posterity in a pic that you're likely staring at as you read this. So, so far so good right? Weeeeell, all wrapped up they looked awesome, opened up? Not quite as much. And it wasn't the quality, I wasn't expecting 1/8 figure quality in what are basically capsule toys. What the site that I bought them from didn't reveal (And to be fair, it wasn't Hobby Search's fault because it took me 2-3 mins of searching to find it on the actual box itself) was that the vignettes inside were made in both full color and "bronze" versions. When a company does this, it usually means that they're trying to cheap out on paint, because painting figures all one color as opposed to 7-8 colors isn't as expensive. I opened one capsule, a "bronze" version. I opened capsule number two, another bronze version, I was starting to get a tad angry at this. Not that "bronze" DBZ warriors are hideous or anything, but I was looking forward to something that didn't look like a queer trophy. Luckily the other five capsules contained full color figures. As well, there was one part in each capsule that you could collect out of all seven to build a "Tenshi Goku" or angel Goku running on the Serpent Road.My other guess for the bronzing craze would be that these are "trading figures" which are a lot of the time blind boxed - which means you can't tell what's in them until you buy and open them. This means more profit for the company that produces them if unlucky people keep getting doubles or characters they don't necessarily want & continue to buy more blind boxes. These ones, you can tell what you're getting by looking at the number of stars on the Dragon Ball capsule it comes in. If people can tell what they're getting before they buy, that means that they can collect all of them within 7 balls/capsules. This way if they bronze some and give people what they don't want, it means you may have to buy 10-12 figures before you get an entire set of full color ones and thus no loss of profit. As I said, I wasn't expecting 1/8 figure quality, and I didn't get that. =P As expected, the figure of Goku you have to collect across all 7 capsules was more detailed than the rest. However, unexpectedly the quality of the 5 normal figures varied greatly. There were 3 figures where the scene was kinda "zoomed out" and everything was smaller in scale that possessed a lot less detail than the ones that were more close-up. Making things like this smaller in scale usually results in a loss of detail, but I've never really seen such a drastic difference. I'm not complaining because the detail loss is sort of limited to parts you really aren't supposed to see/scrutinize. The one bronze figure I got looked like it would've been awesome in full color, and I really like Trunks, but alas, it wasn't meant to be.


I'll be taking some more detailed photos tonight of individual items to post tomorrow, I got a little waylaid by posting ebay auctions today to do them up right for this post.

Modern Samurai in Action!

Discovered this on Neil Duckett's site yesterday, this YouTube video with a "modern samurai" is awesome. Highlights include him cutting a baseball being thrown at high speed from a pitching machine out of midair (I forget the speed exactly), and cutting an airsoft bullet (?!) out of midair. Enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Talking Mameshiba Keychain

Today I received a little slice of chara-goods heaven in the post. I got a tiny, talking Mameshiba from Strapya World. I love the "Mugen" series of toys/keychains that started with Mugen Puchi Puchi, the electronic endless bubble wrap, and continued with Mugen Peri Peri (that strip you open a boxtop/package with), Mugen Poptop that just debuted and the Mugen Edamame which simulated popping peas out of a pod, and where Mameshiba became popular.


Then there were the commercials starring Mameshiba:

And finally there's my Oshaberi (Talking) Mameshiba. Apparently Strapya makes their own products under the label "Strapya Next", which is who this was made by. And I got a cool little note from SYW that made me smile, that I've also posted. I made a video of the little guy and his 5 different sayings, and posted it on Youtube.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Creative Recycling


After my previous post on being a whore for Japanese packaging, I recycled more into yet another decoration of death to hang on the ceiling. I call it as such because I cut up cans to make the things and if one were to fall on you I'm sure it'd leave a nasty gash, but such is the price of beauty. =P It makes me think of a portcullis slamming down and spearing intruders. Or in the case of these, pulling them off of the ceiling in case of an intruder and flailing them around like Ivy's whipsword from Soul Calibur. ^^;

今日のスナック:第2

ミルク・ティーを全滅した。永遠空っぽしまった。
(Milk Tea is annihilated. To be forever empty.)

Japan Snack Attack!

The colors! Oh, the colors!

I'm a total whore for J-packaging, especially food packaging (it always seems to be the most interesting) and I normally keep it unless it's really boring. I find that Japanese Kit Kat packages are amongst the most well-designed. Truth be known, they're all pretty good, though the quintessentially Japanese azuki and mochi flavors ironically tasted like regular chocolate Kit Kats (though the azuki ones' texture was awesome). I have a serious weakness for vanilla, so I love the vanilla beans ones. The Macchiato McFlurry ones that used "1.0% real coffee" and the Yukimi Sakura ones that use "1.5% real sakura leaf (sakuranbo)" are excellent, too. I just read the sakura flavor's package again the other day and discovered the 1.5% sakura thing, when I ate them they kinda tasted like banana flavoring (i.e. - artificial) blended with coconut flavoring or something. But hands down, I'd have to say that the Daigaku Imo/Sweet Potato ones were my favorite. I adore sweet potatoes in their vegetable form, so naturally these were like chocolate kryptonite to me when I got them. I usually share when I get something that I'm unlikely to run across again after their initial run (which seems to be just about every snack in Japan), but these were all mine. =)

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Big O - Season 2 Revisited

Yeah, I kinda feel the same way.

I rewatched most of season 2 of The Big O recently, which was both a good and bad thing. It was good in the sense that since I love the series (it's the only series which I own all the R1 releases for, and probably the only one I will ever own all the R1 releases for) and all of the nostalgic points that I remember watching over and over the first time all still held the same impact. That said, the disappointment I felt the first time through when, towards the end, it turned into an all-out crap fest, also stuck this time through.

A little backstory on the first series/season: the original run of Big O was supposed to be 26 episodes (or so) but the anime proved unpopular in Japan at the time, so it was cut to only 13 episodes. However, anime was becoming popular in the US around it's original run in Japan and was subsequently picked up by Cartoon Network and was immensely popular here on it's Toonami block (I just dated myself, didn't I?). So much so that CN commissioned Sunrise (yes, unsurprisingly the producers of Gundam and just about every other mecha-based anime since the 80s also made the Big O) to make "moar Big O".

That said, the first season of Big O was much, much better than the second, in my opinion. The first season set up all of these mysteries and explored them in that strange esoteric Japanese style that seemed like it would've all been brought together toward the end (or give the audience some big, ambiguous middle finger ending). The first season was sort of episodic, but it felt like the individual stories were building toward something at the end of the day. Season two felt like it tried too hard, if that makes sense. Season one felt rambling but like it ultimately had direction, it just wasn't going to be pushed there for the sake of "getting there". Season two felt like it was driving toward the ending from episode 14 on - like everything in every episode was supposed to be part of what the end was going to amount to. Which would be fine if the ending was complete cop-out "Ooh the Matrix is popular, let's rip off that!", bullshit.

The ending basically takes that interesting, film noir-y, anachronistic Paradigm City we were introduced to in the first season - you know, the one filled with all of the interesting amnesiac characters with that shred of purpose - and flushes it down the toilet. I realize the series already had a set number of episodes going in more or less, but some of the things that they wasted screen time on just didn't make sense. As I said above, they set up so much that seemed like it was going to get explained eventually, and that anachronistic backdrop with a futuristic twist could have had so much more done with it in terms of plot instead of just making season two "Battlebots in Anime Land".

And I think that's why it pissed me off so much that that's the way it turned out. Plenty of people I'm sure wrote this off as "just another giant robot anime", and that's maybe why it didn't do so well in Japan. But in the first season it was not at all formulaic. Roger would embark on various adventures and a lot of the time he'd just be on foot or whatever, and the Big O was almost like another character rather than a mech. Season two just degenerated into: person has a problem/ulterior motive and hires Roger to solve it/trick him. Dorothy comes along or Angel shows up right in the nick of time to help save Roger's ass when the inevitable Alan Gabriel appearance is made. If that isn't happening, he's encountering Alex Rosewater in some way, who then taunts him by hinting at how he's building a Big for some vague reason, which may or may not include him dominating all of the people in Paradigm City that are already dominated by him (which Roger even points out to him at one point early on). After that, the ubiquitous monster of the week comes out, proceeds to get pounded to scrap by the Big O, and then the person confesses to their trickery.

What makes the whole thing even worse is that the second season eschews the "episodic tapestry" that worked for it in season one, for some centralized plot nonsense about, "Megadeuses picking their owners and you don't know how to pilot one!" "Yes I do!" blah blah, crap. The series had its plate full in the first season, and I thought for sure after seeing the season 2 opener that it would choose to flesh those points out rather than make some plot around a homosexual android assassin and some douchebag that looks like a cross between a bouncer and a CEO. Michael Zebach/Scwartzwald was a much more interesting antagonist than the Rosewater family.

If I had to compare the first season to any other series, it'd be Cowboy Bebop. It shared that same whimsy that Bebop had, with the whole anachronism thing going for both series. Season one had that "film noir where you're not sure if it's the future or past, with a dash of steampunk" feel throughout, like CB had that "almost-plausible, yet very sci-fi fused with jazz and a dash of film noir in space" feel to it. Again, on this front season two fails to make a mark. It's all over the map, and tries to hard to be sci-fi in one episode, steampunk in another, mecha-anime in another, philosophical in yet another... it just gets tiring.

Overall, rewatching this didn't change my opinion much, it just added to what I already felt. The action portions were "neat", if not a little pointless sometimes, taking up waaaaay too much of the episode. (I don't know exactly how much of a hand CN had in the making of the second season, but a lot of it smacks of the American animation companys' tendency toward making 30 minutes of ADD action over attempting something with a story or even something remotely complex because: "Kids watch cartoons and kids like action not talking") I wish they would have put the story at the front of the line and made a better attempt to explain why Paradigm was the way it was, not made the end so open-ended and - let's face it - dumb. I know I keep laboring over this point, but it pains me to see such an intriguing, unique backstory be thrown away on a whim to accommodate brainless robot boxing matches in every episode.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Snack Du Jour: Matcha Ice Cream & Tsubuan!

This past week's Japanese store trip yielded some goodies, some smelly crap, some unwelcome surprises and the best thing evar: matcha (green tea) ice cream contained in a thin ice cream cone-like shell with tsubuan (red bean paste, basically mashed azuki) in the center. It tastes just as good as it looks (if you take my meaty paw out of the equation >< ).

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

今日のスナック

Today's snack: melonpan and UCC 缶 coffee.

Boredom Can Produce Wonderful Things!




WIP Shots

Was bored today, and tried this once before with little luck (due to my poor execution no doubt), so I figured I'd try it again with a little more of a battle plan this time. Japanese Koala March cookies come in a hexagonal tube, and one time when I had gotten some from J-List, I looked at the empty tube and thought: "This would look cool as a lantern." So I set to work and had decided that lots of little holes to let the light out would look awesome.

Yeah, that didn't work out too well. The blade I was using to cut things out was too dull, I was cutting holes in the (flimsy) cardboard too close to one another and it all started to bend and tear. It also looked like ass when I mended the ripped portions with tape. This attempt, however, was more or less a success, as you can see by the pictures I've posted. I actually collapsed the container this time to cut on a hard surface, made the slats on the sides larger and the reassembled it at the end. The bottom is like a grating work, in the future I'd like to make it look like a latticework.


All-in-all it catches and redistributes the light pretty well I guess. Though it looks a little awkward to have a "lantern" on one side and none on the other. Guess I'll have to buy more Marching Koalas.

Finished Work

Included this shot just because I thought it looked cool.