Friday, March 28, 2014

Nori Takes Hong Kong

Here are some articles I did for Toysrevil on toy shopping in Hong Kong. Check them out for your quick hunt in toy heaven.

Part 1
Part 2

And a bit when I visited him in Singapore.
Nori in Singapore

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thoughtful toys: Assemble Borg

Continuing with our series on construction toys, I wanted to keep on point for using toys for artistry and creative development. Not just making interesting things to display but toys that give us freedom to form them into creations from our imagination that might help with; character, vehicle, and especially robot design. This installment will focus on another hard to get Japanese set called Assemble Borg. When AB came out, I didn't have a lot of interest in them. I had collected much of the revoltech line due to the sculpting of Yamaguchi, who I praise in this Moribito review I did on CollectionDX. The joints actually didn't do much for me. The figures were so small, I think a friction joint would had been better as well as looked more integrated in the over all design. The sculpting and characters were the reason I collected them anyhow. AB had its own look. They were original designs. The AB series was definitely inspired aesthetically by the classic microman series and in spirit shares the creativity of some of their lines with combine-able parts. I did not grow up with Micro Man toys, so it took some time for the AB line to grow on me. It really wasn't until I saw them in person that I even considered buying them.
Assemble Borg is a spin off from the Kaiyodo Revoltech series. It started release in 2008 and shared the same joints as their main line. While these joints seemed a bit gimmicky, they actually were more functional in this specific line. I can't imagine these being a kids toy like the Machine Robo series I wrote about in the past. A lot more force, as well as precision is required to connect a bit of the pieces. If done wrong a slip can send the rigid peg across your hand and gouge you pretty bad. On top of being more difficult to work with, they are somewhat expensive, and not too easy to get since Kaiyodo did not export them from Japan. They often had to be obtained from third party. You can see more about other products they offer on their site: The line is divided between the hero characters and a more organic looking bad guys.
Building your own creations from there are where they really shine, and they are more flexible than the machine robo series in respect of ways they can be connected. On a trip to Japan I was able to find the Kaiyodo museum shop and pick up some of these. The cool thing about the Kaiyodo shop, which was quite the stair climb to the top of the building, was their "build your own" play pit. They had a large table covered in revoltech joints and parts from all their lines, and if one had time they could sit there and mess around with them. They even had some of their large creations on display. Another neat thing about their store was they gave me a raffle for my purchase which won me some money back. It was an interesting exchange considering the language barrier between me and the shop employees but it was a cool shop none the less.

All over the shop was custom AB creations. To give you an idea of scope, at the bottom is a regular AB figure, and the giant is made of a whole slew of parts. There is no way that can support itself, so notice the display stand below it.

I got the Panzer Puncher, which is a humanoid figure. I also got a Wilderness Crawler, and two Barrel Speeders. They no longer had the silver version of the speeder, so I got the black versions. I had preferred the silver since they would be easier to photograph though the black does look cool. Between all these there is a large variety of parts that are capable of being connected in many different ways. All the parts are full of molded detail as well as detailed paint. From my experience all the bits seem well built, though you can sometimes run across a spoiled revoltech joint. Sometimes they can be fixed, but often something snaps or the mechanism inside can fail. Getting used to their operation can make it easier to assemble, but these can still be somewhat tedious.

The Silver version of the Speeders I found at the Kaiyodo shop.

Panzer Puncher. I chose him, due to his aesthetics appealing more to me than many of the others.

Wilderness Crawler, which already has a lot of robotic components.

Below is a set of some of the creations I made with what bits I had. I wanted to show that some simple part swaps can make for some interesting character concepts, as well as some elaborate creations. Honestly, even with the few amount of sets I have, you can make all sorts of things. I do wish I had picked up more, though. Some of the newest designs are even more appealing, so I may grab a few of those for my collection.

Just a simple leg swap can create something that could boost the imagination. I can already see a character from a fighting game who can do a ram attack when switching modes.

What I liked about Panzer Puncher, was even with just the parts that came with him, there were all sorts of alternate modes.

Heavy gun style Colonial Marines.

Sure we had land speeders, but with those parts we can make some bad mamba jama space bike.
Why stop there. Give it claws and you got a whole new type of vehicle.
Robot creation is really fun, but the design of the joints can present challenges you have to work around. Since they peg in, they can rotate and because of that sometimes you have to change your design to support the weight of the creation.

Luckily AB figures come with a stand just like their revoltech line. There is no way this design could had stood on its own due to the joints. But, with the stand, I can be creative and get my sketch on paper.

Like I said, these joints combine with other revoltech parts. I have enough revoltech that I could post far more variations than I have time to make, but I grabbed a few obscure designs just to see if we could push out some unique creations with just those bits. Below are a mix of parts from Patlabor's Brocken, Zentraedi Battle Pod, and Getter 3.

The Assemble Borg line isn't for everyone. Its a great set for those who are patient to use to come up with different forms that could evolve into interesting concept designs. Especially since they have diversity of mechanical and organic looking parts. Just keep in mind, their higher price point, and the difficulty dealing with some of the joints. If that isn't an issue, then they are another great tool for the concept designer to have in their collection.