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Tomopop Original: Creating my own 'Create a Cobra'

May 15 // Soul Tsukino
The figure that I've seen go for the highest prices consistently is one that really doesn't have a name. It was only available, by mail order, for one year in 1993, near the end of the original run of G.I. Joe. It was the "Create a Cobra" figure. (image via) This figure was the Cobra answer to the Steel Brigade figure. You filled out a small form where you gave your character a name, a primary specialty, a secondary specialty, and a few other bits of info about their personality. After a few weeks you got the figure along with a sheet of paper that was a bio with all the info you had filled out for an official dossier. Since the figure was a mail-in available for only a short time, its not a figure that readily comes available on the second hand market like eBay. And boy howdy does its price reflect that. I also think this is the most stupid-looking figure I have ever seen. It's a Crimson Guard Immortal head put onto a TARGAT body, slathered in bubblegum pink, baby blue, and black. This figure seriously looks like it would be a cake topper for a baby shower in 1984. And he is supposed to be THE BAD GUY. In looking at this monstrosity, I literally said to myself that if I tracked down the parts for this, I could make my own figure for a fraction of the price and it would look better than the real thing. So I did. I tracked down a cheap TARGAT figure. I picked the better looking 1989 version. There was a repaint done in 1992, but its color scheme wouldn't look any better for this project than the pink and blue mess that inspired me to write this. For the head I went with the original 1991 Crimson Guard Immortal figure since the later Blue and Silver version is both harder to find and doesn't really match with the body. So let's get this started! First, here is what you'll need. The figure, the head, a small Phillips head screwdriver (Usually found in small screwdriver sets), and a new rubber O-ring. The TARGAT figure itself is not in premium condition, the O-ring is old and stretched out, the knee joints are loose, and the paint on the helmet is worn. Honestly though, it won't matter. If I wanted to I could have bought replacement legs with tighter joints, but I'm fine with it as-is since the TARGAT head doesn't matter and we are replacing the O-ring anyway. First we take the screw driver to the "backscrew," or the small screw that holds the front and back of the chest together. The screw here is rusty, but still in good enough shape not to require a drill to remove.   Once the screw is out, pull apart the chest and break down your figure to its parts. Yup, that's what a Joe figure looks like when it's taken apart. Pull out the old O-ring from its hook and toss it. Take your new O-ring and place it in the small metal hook holding the legs together. Slide the O-ring with the legs attached through the bottom of the waist piece. You probably need to use the screw driver to help feed it through and get it together (This can be a real moment of cussing rage sometimes).   Next, hook the O-ring around the cylinder on the back piece of the figure and pull back a little so that it holds together by itself. Since I am using an O-ring that is slightly smaller than the factory ones, the figure at this point will fly apart easier if not set right. Now comes the "fun" part! Take the chest piece and connect it too the back piece, but not all the way in. Ya need to leave space to get in the arms and head. Remember what I said about the figure wanting to fly apart? This is the point where that can really show itself. Wedge your way into the arm holes with each arm. It takes a little hand dexterity and a few silent prayers to get both arms set without having the whole thing come apart. Once both arms are in place, you can push the chest and back piece together a little more to keep things in place, but again, not completely closed. AND I'LL FORM THE HE- oh wait, wrong 80's show. The heads of G.I. Joe figures from the '80s an '90s are always tricky since some head pieces do not fit with certain body pieces. In this case, since the "Create a Cobra" figure used recycled molds, it's not a problem. The head fits and doesn't wobble around on the body. Now we are ready to finish this bad boy out. Close the front and back chest pieces together and place the screw back in its place. Use the screw driver to make sure the backscrew is actually in the hole that connects the pieces together. Tighten it up (Righty tighty). And we are done! Now, the red paint on his helmet isn't a perfect match to the ones on his gloves and boots, and if you want to get hardcore customizer on it, you can certainly get some paint from the hobby store and go wild. Me, I take 'em as is. Give your new agent of evil a weapon and there ya go! BUT WAIT! Part of the deal with the Create a Cobra figure was having his own bio with name, specialties, and all that cool stuff. But, once again, I found something that is cooler than the goofy sheet of paper that came with the old figures. I just went to Filecard Creator. It's quick, easy, and makes more official looking file cards you can download than that grey piece of paper Hasbro would slap together and send you.  The best part of this is, your Create a Cobra doesn't actually have to be a Cobra! Evil sunovagun isn't he? And the cost for this simple little project? $14.23, and you can probably do even better with that since I paid a little more for the headpiece than what individual parts tend to go for in most cases. Sure beats paying 400 bucks for something that looks like it should have been packed with a set of baseball cards.
G.I.Joe photo
Customizing on a budget
Many of you know about those items that are just a smidge outside our regular budgets. Those special items that are cherished by collectors and the people offering to sell said items know how much they are worth. For me, as a...

Tomopop Interview: Furry Feline Creatives

Mar 26 // Rio McCarthy
Rio: Woo! How does it feel to be moving along in the big time? I’m so excited for all the new things coming for Furry Feline Creative! Could you take a moment to bring our readers up to date on the new endeavors you and Cheri have been working on?  FFC: Big time? What big time? We are the same people as day one. We constantly challenge ourselves to do the best we can regardless of circumstances. We are currently bringing both brands, "Purridge and Friends" and "I Heart Poop Culture", side by side for the world to see. With Purridge and Friends, we have appointed Membrain to manage the global licensing for the brand. Rio: Is it just as exciting as you hoped? You made some huge changes to your life for these things to take place, so I’m happy to see everything going so well! FFC: It is exciting, but at the same time nerve-racking. But we believe that if you have a passion for something, dream big and work towards it regardless of circumstances. We started Furry Feline Creatives at zero not knowing anyone in the industry or having the support, not even a career background. This is our humble beginning.  So seeing it grow and know that it makes a difference in the lives of others makes it worthwhile. Rio: There are so many great new things, I’m not even sure where to start! Let’s jump straight into the clothes, because why not, right? Can we gush about how amazing those dresses look? I can’t wait to get my paws on one! (Or two, and the leggings, of which I did both! Be sure to check out the gallery to see up close pictures of what I bought!) FFC: Thanks Rio!  Furry Feline Creatives is a studio and lifestyle brand and we are on the quest to make everything on anything.  We are very excited to work on these dresses as we would only make things that we ourselves would want, and things that matter most to people.  So expect to see a lot of new things and designs. Rio: Of course Cheri isn't stopping her wonderful handmade plush of love! I bought my boyfriend the Ultra Mega Ringo plush for Christmas, so now both he and I own a Furry Feline plush of our own. She recently released the Baby version plushies (which are so adorable it hurts!), but what else has she got up her sleeve for the upcoming events? FFC: Cheri is a mix media artist, we are always making things regardless of medium.  We will reveal new things as the events come close. Rio: Furry Feline is all about family, so if there were one place you could visit now that you’ll be more available to travel, where would you like to see you and your furry friends travel to? FFC: Well, we have some Furry Feline Family all over the world so there couldn't be just one place. As we always say, "No one gets left behind."  So expect to see us soon. Rio: Any other exciting things you’d like to share before I let you get back to work? FFC: Keep tuned into Furry Feline Creatives as we continue to share our work.  We tend to do exciting things because you guys deserve the best, so we will stop at nothing to do just that. A huge thanks once again to Alvin for taking the time to chat with me, and for being just plain awesome! I can't wait to catch you two next time I get to make an event and see what you have in store for us! If you happen to be attending Wondercon, be sure to stop by and say hello to them.
Interview Furry Feline photo
The Furry Feline Family just keeps growing!
Furry Feline Creatives is a couple of wonderful people with some of the biggest hearts I've ever seen. We've written about Alvin and Cheri Ong many times in the history of Tomopop, but I wanted to catch up with Alvin and see ...

Tomopop Review: ThreeZero's Tyrion Lannister

Jan 27 // Kristina Pino
Figure Name: Game of Thrones: Tyrion LannisterFigure Maker: ThreeZero MSRP: ¥13,000Retail: HobbyLink Japan | BBTS | Entertainment Earth Tyrion is great, straight out of the box. All I did here was stand him up and put a goblet in his hand, because... well, he kind of demands it. He takes a little more effort to get standing on an uneven surface, like the gravel I photographed him on here, but it's do-able. The figure itself is hefty, super articulated, and easy to pose. He stands well on his own, and once you've got his feet planted it's easy enough to pop accessories into his hands for photos. Tyrion comes with three extra hands (the odd one is posed to grip his blade, which comes with a belt and sheath), the goblet, and a copy of An History Or The Great Sieges of Westeros by Archmaester Ch'vyalthan. The book itself is pretty heavy as well, and I should stress now, very delicate! I don't mean that it'll fall apart, more like the paint will scratch off or chip easily if you aren't careful, so please handle with care. Tyrion's clothing is made from actual cloth, which is pretty great. It really brings it all together, in terms of keeping things realistic. The vest is, of course, decorated with his Hand's badge and some clasps holding it together. And there's the belt (lower image) that comes around the figure straight out of the box, which is different from the one with his sheath and blade. I decided to pose his hand hooked there for most of this review. As I mentioned earlier, he's got some heft to him, and though he's got many points of articulation and a great range of motion, once you pose him a certain way, he doesn't budge easily. That makes it quite a simple affair to pose him with heavy objects such as this book, which you can, of course, pose under his arm or in other ways than this precarious situation I've got going on. I went ahead and piled on that second belt on with his blade at his hip. At this point, you can keep his goblet-grabbin' hand on to look like he's making for his blade, or you can unsheathe the blade and have it actually in his grip (below). Clearly, my belt-tying skills are no match for a chamber maid's or page boy's, but you get the idea. With a little wiggling, you can get the pommel and grip into Tyrion's hand, and then he's in business. His calm, yet furrowed expression is perfect for just about any pose you can think of. Speaking of his expression, the last bit of detail I'll talk about in this review is his head. Just look at that - with a little PhotoShop wizardry, one can no doubt make this look just like the real thing. This is lovely work, really well done, and I like the paint job on the hair as well. Of course, it's one thing to look at these details in a photograph, and it's another to look at the figure on your shelf. The colors work rather well together to enhance the look of the curls, and in low light you can't even notice there are different paint colors at all. But look at the subtle sculpt and paintwork on his face - the shading for shaved areas of the face, the lips, and the rest. Just lovely. As you can surely tell by now, this figure comes highly recommended by me. If you're a fan of Game of Thrones, especially of Tyrion Lannister, and you wanted one, centerpiece-worthy, high quality product to display, this is a good candidate. One of the biggest strengths of a figure like this is he doesn't require a stand or any props to lean on, so there's nothing to take away from his presence on a shelf or table. Add his sturdy build and poseability, and the possibilities are endless. Check out the gallery below for more images that didn't make it into the body of this review, and have a look at Good Smile Company's retail listing of the figure for even more shots, exploring more poses as well as a different lighting situation (my images were taken outdoors). I hope you've found this review helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or feedback in the comments section below, and share images of your own if you happen to have adopted your very own imp. [A big thanks goes to ThreeZero for providing Tomopop with this review sample.]
Game of Thrones photo
Hear him roar
This month saw the release of ThreeZero's Tyrion Lannister, which is based on the image of Peter Dinklage in the HBO series Game of Thrones. When it comes to figures based on real people, it's usually a hit-or-miss deal. The ...

Tomopop About Town: Custom plushies at Kollision Con 2015

Jan 09 // Tianxiao Ma
The header is a shot of Love You Sew's booth with showrunner Muggy. She started as a cosplay enthusiast who created little plush toys as accessories for her costumes (and for friends). Eventually she decided to make a business out of it, focusing on plushes that can go with popular cosplay characters. I don't know why more people haven't thought of that! What drew my eye was the fact that Muggy was dressed as Ragyo from Kill la Kill. I might have made some awkward noises when I saw the plush Ryuko and Satsuki sitting on her table. These catbug plushies from Bravest Warriors were my second favorite. The other offerings were also cartoon-based: Hambo and Gunter from Adventure Time, and Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls. Next up is DragonFly's DreamShop, who had a set of plush dragons both large and small. As you can see above, the big ones were pretty darn big - very huggable as well. The black one features ornate eyes and a nice contrasting cloth on the underside. On this one you can see how they actually have a few points of articulation. There were all sorts of other toys and trinkets at the booth, but the plush dragons really stood out. There are more photos of both booths in the gallery, so check those out. And maybe click those links to their Facebook pages while you're at it!
Tomopop About Town photo
Sure to bolster your cosplay
Anime conventions are great, aren't they? You go to see the cosplay (the good and the bad), maybe visit that same "Understanding Evangelion" panel that's at every con, and blow lots and lots of money at the vendor hall. Well,...

Tomopop Original: It's ALIVE! A look at FrankenJoes

Dec 30 // Soul Tsukino
I've heard them called the "Real American Hero" sculpts; 3 3/4 inch sculpts, you know the ones. They had the back screws and rubber O-rings holding them together. They had loads more articulation than just about anything else at the time, didn't break the bank, and they were small enough you could have an entire army of them in a small box. And with a small enough screwdriver (or drill if need be), O-rings, and a little time, they could be fixed if anything was broken. You could also get really creative. Call them custom figures or FrankenJoes, these are when you start putting different pieces together and coming up with new characters of your own design. Some people take it to a whole different level with actually sculpting and painting their work to make things match, but since I like to actually use my figures, I've not been big on the repainting route, the paint usually doesn't last long with me. However, search on Google and you will find some crazy amazing customs out there. But for those of us who want to be creative, but don't want to have their figures sit on a self, there can be a big difference between a decent looking FrankenJoe, and one that just looks like crap. Take for instance this fellow. I named him Impact. This is actually the first custom Joe I made once I figured out to take apart and repair these figures. But this is the third version of the character. Why? I learned that not all parts fit together very well. Originally he used the chest of a character called Road Pig. Pig is one of the few figures made that were JACKED full of muscles (They also used this body mold for several of the Street Fighter Joes), but when taken apart the head of these figures are specially designed for the muscular body, and most of the regular figure heads don't fit. I did not realize this when I made him using a regular Snake-eyes head. One errant head move later and the original figure had a giant gaping hole in the chest. Lesson number One learned. So I found a still muscular frame, albeit smaller, but more importantly it fit with the parts that I had to work with. This is also a problem when you consider that older release Joes had a different canister shape assembly for the head joints, while later figures had a ball shaped assembly. Unless you are an expert in crafting plastic, they are not interchangeable. So don't try to force pieces together if they don't fit, things will break that way. I've discovered that the better looking custom figures are the ones with the least amount of modification. Here are some customs I made when I bought a junk parts lot on eBay a few years ago:   The first figure is largely a Voltar figure, but I replaced both arms with a different matching set, the head, and the waist piece. Next to him is another figure that started out as a spare Lifeline figure. The head was swapped out, as were the waist and legs from an older worn figure I had. Even if parts are a bit worn, the color scheme of Red and Blue work well together creating a well done figure without a lot of effort. Finally we have another couple of figures that was made of left over parts. Here it's not so much the color but the clothes that match well making the figures work. Sometimes just a headswap can radically change a figure, and sometimes you can really get away with being creative. But of course, with the good comes the bad. As you can see the parts don't really match up very well. I was trying to go a for a "man in the iron mask" look for this figure, and it just didn't happen,. Also the head that I used sits horribly in the chest so it just wobbles up and down. But for me, most of the fun is the process of getting the parts together and making a new character than the figure itself. It's a creative process and if you are into these figures as much as I am, it's a great way to not only recycle parts from broken figures, but a chance to be creative as well. I'd love to hear from anyone who customs their G.I. Joe figures, or any of their figures for that matter! Can you do better than my merry lot? Prove it and show what you've created!
FrankenJoes photo
Bringing new life to old parts.
I love G.I. Joe figures. I have since I was 7 years old. I got into them largely when Masters of the Universe ended. I watched the cartoon almost everyday and grew up on these figures, so I never developed much of a fandom fo...

Tomopop Review: Good Smile Company's Sorceress

Dec 06 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: SorceressFigure Maker: Good Smile CompanyRetail Price: ¥8,381Available at: HobbyLink Japan  The sorceress is a pretty reasonably priced 1/8-scale figure. I think it fits in nicely with my Rage of Bahamut figures - their aesthetics are a little bit different but they all feature cute girls with whimsical designs. Assembly was a snap as there are only a few pieces to work with. However I'm not high on the metal pin being used to secure the bat... thing... do the sorceress' sleeve. It never felt like a secure fit. If her proportions look off to you, it's because of the art style from the game. The characters designs remind me a bit of what you'd see in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, somewhere between normal and super-deformed. Although this sorceress is busty, the design is much more conservative than that of Dragon's Crown's sorceress. Her robe is pretty funky, but I like the red-orange accents and the use of translucent pieces. The base is also transparent. I actually can't remember the last time I saw a figure with a transparent base... I might have gone a bit overboard with the Christmas lights. But her staff has a translucent jewel in it which lets you play some cool tricks with lights. Unfortunately her robes get in the way of a good butt shot. I think they also hide the fact that the sorceress has a pencil-thin waist. Again, the original character designs have those quasi-chibi proportions. However with the clothing and this pose, you don't notice it as much on the sorceress. Good Smile Company hasn't done anything super fancy with the finish; most parts have a semi-glossy sheen. The quality is certainly there. Overall I'm drawn toward how colorful and cute the sorceress is (though I can't really get a fix on what her expression's supposed to be). I wouldn't hold out hope for many more Dragon Nest figures, but the sorceress at least is a winner. [ Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample! ]
GSC Sorceress photo
Quite enchanting
Good Smile Company generally sticks to the popular properties (or pushes their own) when they make figures, but sometimes random partnerships happen and you get something way out of left field. This is probably why you're loo...

Tomopop Review: Max Factory's Mea Kurosaki

Dec 05 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Mea KurosakiFigure Maker: Max FactoryRetail Price: ¥10,000Available at: HobbyLink Japan  Mea doesn't have an elaborate base, accessory parts, or interchangeable pieces. I've come to appreciate figures that are simple in execution but still look great. For those who move or rotate their figure displays a lot, you'll be happy to know that unpacking and assembling Mea is easy as can be. There's absolutely nothing to do other than to attach her base. Mea is an example of Max Factory's signature style, one which they pull off better than any other manufacturer. She's sexy without being straight up lewd. There are plenty of ecchi figures out there, but I feel like Max Factory is able to make ones that fall just short of that line. There are so many examples: their Dark Elf, Cerberus, and Momo as well. They're all beautiful women with not much clothing, but they're more tasteful than similar products from other manufacturers. That's not to say this figure is in any way lacking sex appeal. Because dear lord look at that panty tug. Max Factory did a great job with the body sculpt. They maybe could have done a better job with the delicate details of the lingerie, but it's not really much to complain about. One of the notable features is the hair braid wrapping around Mea's leg. I know I spent a whole paragraph saying Max Factory's figures aren't overtly sexualized, but Mea is definitely more sexualized than their typical stuff. There are a bunch of small details that I love about this figure: the boob squeeze, the little panty tug, the braid wrapping around her leg, her coy expression. They all come together to make a great figure with an emphasis on just the character. Check out the gallery for more photos. You'd better do it, because this set was super annoying to shoot! Seriously, so many equipment malfunctions and failed ideas went into this... [ Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample! ]
Max Factory Mea Kurosaki photo
More To Love-Ru girls, please
Mea hails from To Love-Ru Darkness, and as you can probably tell, the manga has its fair share of ecchi elements. Before Mea, Max Factory has also made a 1/6-scale Momo Velia Deviluke from the same property. The two share a t...

What Toys Are Up To: Penguins in Berlin

Dec 02 // Martin Siggers
For those of you who haven't read my previous posts, the concept of these trips is very simple. I love shooting toys in new and unfamiliar surroundings, but I'm too much of a wuss to bring anime girls or action figures with me. The three penguins supplied with figma Princess of the Crystal however are perfect - small, distinctive and easy to carry about with no loose parts. So with that in mind, let's go off on our tour of Berlin, a city that stood at the centre of 20th century European history. One of Berlin's few remaining historical landmarks is the Siegessäule, or Victory Column. Sixty-seven meters tall, it commemorates a series of victorious wars waged by what was then Prussia in the mid to late 19th Century. Originally standing in the Königsplatz directly outside the German Parliament building, it was later moved several hundred meters to its present location, the large traffic intersection known as the Großer Stern (literally 'Great Star') The column is hollow and for a few euros you're able to go inside and climb to the top, where you can take in the gorgeous view. It may seem slightly odd to see what's apparently a massive wood in the middle of an industrial city, but this is the Tiergarten, a gigantic park that lies at the heart of the city's political and historic district. At 210 hectares, it's practically a forest. Visiting in autumn ensured the park was dappled in a fantastic variety of reds, browns, greens and yellows. The stylish blue of the penguins looks rather out of place in such a location. Also located nearby is the Reichstag, the mighty palace where the German parliament meets. Though it looks gothic and old, like most historical buildings in Berlin it's actually a bit of a facade, since the original was bombed into a shell during the last days of World War II. Large parts of the building were only restored following German reunification in the early 90s. The gorgeous all glass dome seen on top is a creation of famed architect Normam Foster and is open to the public. Though the Reichstag building may be newer than it looks, some parts of old Berlin really are old, such as the magnificent cathedral here. It was however significantly damaged during the war and took decades to be restored to its current condition. Somewhat unbelievably the most severe damage the church took was not from Allied bombing but from the Soviets, who blew up the northern wing in 1975 because they disliked its imperialist connections. Elsewhere, the ruins have been preserved as a memory of the hardship the city suffered. Here, the bombed-out remains of the original Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Chruch sit between the modern church and belfry of the same name. While much of its own history may have been lost to the ravages of the war, Berlin still loves looking back, and museums are a particular attraction. In fact, there's an entire district of the city dubbed "Museum Island" which plays host two five world-acclaimed museums - the Altes (Old) Museum, the Neues (New) Museum, the Alte Nationalgalerie, the Bode Museum and the Pergamon Museum. The last is particularly unusual, as its main attraction is a number of detailed full-scale recreations of real life historical locations and artifacts, including the namesake Pergamon Alter and (alert, Fate/Stay Night fans!) the Ishtar Gate of Babylon. Here, the Penguins are lounging about outside the Alte Nationalgalerie, which houses a huge collection of art ranging from Neo-Classical to Modernist, The statue outside the museum is of Prussian King Frederick William IV. But really they should just replace it with a statue of Penguin #1 By far and away the most famous historical landmark in Berlin is the Brandenburg Gate, which has become an icon of the city and in fact thee whole of Germany. Patterned after a Roman triumphal arch, it was built between 1788 and 1791 by the Prussian Emperor Frederic William II. Of course, it's nearly impossible to say anything about the history of Berlin without mentioning its defining landmark of the last century or so - the Berlin Wall. I'm sure plenty of you are familiar with the structure, but those of you who aren't, a brief history lesson. After Germany was defeated in World War II, the country was split into four segments, each under the control of one of the major Allied Powers - Great Britain, France, the United States and the USSR. Britain, France and the USA quickly joined their segments and formed the Bundesrepublik Deutschland (Federal Republic of Germany) while the Soviets countered with the establishment of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (German Democratic Republic). This meant that for over forty years Germany as we know it today was in fact two entirely separate countries, each on either side of the Iron Curtain and each allied with a different power bloc. The West sided with NATO while the Soviet dominated East signed the Warsaw Pact. Berlin lay deep inside the Soviet-controleld sector of the country, but by agreement was also split into four corresponding zones. Once again the three western allies combined their segments leading to a direct division of the city. Many who lived in East Berlin took this opportunity to cross over into West Berlin and from there on to the Federal Republic by the permitted rail and plane links. The Soviets were desperate to stop this exodus of people, and attempted to blockade the western half in mid 1948 to force the Western Allies to abandon the city. Thanks to a huge airlift program the plan failed and the blockade was lifted almost 12 months later. Anyway, the net result of all of this was that by 1961, the Soviet government decided to take the most direct route possible to prevent escapees and simply built a bloody big wall between the two halves of the city. The wall stood for 28 years, becoming a symbol of the brutal divide between the western and eastern halves of Europe. Lined with barbed wire, spotlights and watchtowers, as many as 200 people were estimated to have been killed attempting to cross the 'death strip' that lay between the inner and outer walls. Though the war was gradually torn down following a public uprising in 1989 and the subsequent re-unification of Germany in 1990, large chunks of it still remain, as you can see behind the penguins above. The segment is in original concrete grey but other parts of the wall have been daubed in graffiti or even turned into outdoors art exhibits.   I actually arrived in Berlin during the week leading up the 25th anniversary of the wall's fall. There was widespread commemoration of the occasion, with special displays, planned exhibitions and a massive concert party to be held at the Brandenburg Gate, which since the end of the Cold War has become a symbol of a reunited Germany. Even 25 years have not fully healed the scars of division though. One of the places that best represents this lingering gap is the forum of Alexanderplatz, once under Soviet control. Though much has been done to renovate the area, it still has an undeniably grim, socialist sheen about it. Glass fronted skyscrapers and department stores sit uncomfortably alongside slab-sided Communist constructions. Looking the opposite way is a stark reminder of the way this world used to be. In the foreground the Communist built world clock turns slowly, reminding visitors of the time in long since irrelevant Soviet cities. In the background meanwhile towers one of the jewels of West Berlin, the TV Tower, which was when built the tallest building in Europe and a reminder of the West's superior financial and technological prowess. The observatyion deck of the tower provides a sweeping view across the city and seems an appropriate place to end our journey. Berlin's an odd, interesting city, one in which the old and the new seems constantly at war. It's less glamorous, less artful than the cities I've traveled to with the penguins before, but there's a sense of deep history in the very stones you walk on. It's a city torn by past conflict but with a bright future ahead of it. For that and many other reasons, I highly recommend a visit.
Penguins in Berlin photo
Ich bin ein Berliner
They've been to the city of water, and the land of chocolate and beer, so where would my intrepid penguins and I end up next on our tour around Europe? Well, what better place could there be than the heart of the continent, Germany? Or more specifically, its capital Berlin. Let's see what our intrepid adventurers could find this time round.

Tomopop About Town: MCM Comic Con London 2014

Nov 25 // Martin Siggers
The vast majority of the 'scene' for toy collectors at the con is the wide variety of independent stores, who cover bases as diverse as gunpla, plushes, anime figures, old toys and handmade goods. As the con has grown larger and major companies have moved in there's perhaps a slight sense that the indies have been pushed out, but there's still a whole bunch of them about, and the floor is better for it. With the success of Build Fighters and Unicorn gunpla has become a much bigger phenomenon over here in the UK, yet oddly enough Bandai weren't hawking their wares in person. Nevertheless stores picked up the slack admirably, including the impressive spread shown here. Probably the biggest name to attend in person were Good Smile Company. Once again they showed up at the show under the guiding hand of European representative Maritan, who we'll hopefully be talking to again soon. The company bought a fine array of merchandise, including several difficult to find Halloween Miku Nendoroids. Needless to say, demand was high for everything and the store was mostly cleared out by the end of the weekend. An unexpected but delightful treat was also at the GSC store, as we got a glimpse of prototypes for Nendoroid Sakura and (the then unreleased) Nendoroid Link. Maritan classified that only two each of these early production run examples had been allowed outside of Japan, with the other headed to the United States branch. Square-Enix's giant glass cabinets are a familiar sight at the convention now, but still a welcome one, and the company had bought along an army of Play Arts Kai figures, including the new DC Variant Superheroes along with the traditional avalanche of Final Fantasy stuff.  Remember how I said it was odd Bandai weren't selling Gunpla? It's especially odd because the company was actually at the con and selling other merchandise to boot. The company had a godly section of Dragon Ball Z collectibles, as well as plenty of One Piece trading figures. Bandai also had a cabinet full of achingly gorgeous Power Rangers Legacy merchandise, including Titanus, Saba and the beautiful Dragon Dagger on display here. Perhaps the most interesting toy-related thing present was the presence of an actual Ichiban Kuji auction. I have no idea how 'official' it was but it was certainly set up in the classic way - you paid £8 (about US$12) for an entry, then drew a raffle ticket with a letter on it denoting the group you'd get a prize from. I entered hoping to snag the nifty looking Madoka Magica prize figures, but ended up with an Attack On Titan hand towel covered in kanji I can't read, reminding me why I don't gamble. Overall I'd still say the Con is a great resource for collectors, although it's maybe less of a place for those of us who are 'in deep' and have our own ways to get this stuff imported in. Instead, it's a window shoppers' delight, stalls bursting to the brim with cool and exotic looking merch that will hopefully persuade many more people to pick up a box and give our hobby a go.
MCM London photo
London Calling
As I covered last time I was at the show, when it comes to anime, manga, sc-fi, fantasy and just general geek gatherings in the UK, there's no event bigger than the twice-yearly MCM Comic Con in London. Though the con scene h...

Tomopop Review: Alter's Asuka Langley Shikinami Jersey ver.

Nov 05 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Asuka Langley Shikinami Jersey ver.Figure Maker: AlterRetail Price: ¥10,800Available at: AmiAmi | ToysLogic | Big Bad Toy Store I think part of the reason I wanted to do this review is because we rarely ever do Alter reviews. Seriously, when was the last time we reviewed an Alter figure? Anyway, I was interested to see if they had been maintaining their usual production quality. The box is all plastic with cool translucent blue panels. With these types of boxes you can leave the figure on display without tanking its resale value. Win-win! Personally I like to, you know, unbox my figures. Unwrapping everything was painless. Alter used to tie up the packaging with plastic twist ties, which made things secure but a pain to open. Not so with this Asuka. Assembly was a snap too; all you need to do is attach the base and you're ready to go. Alter certainly hasn't let their quality control slip. I didn't spot any flaws in terms of the painting or sculpt. However they have lost a bit of that cool factor; their recent figures have been plain with only a few exceptions. With Asuka's butt being so prominent, let's give it the attention it deserves. There are two optional parts for this figure. This photo shows the alternate arm, which has Asuka's left hand tucked into her pocket. If you want the full effect of Asuka's facial expression, an alternate head is included without the hat. Both pieces were easy to swap, as Alter's manufacturing made the fit of the pieces just right. Non-Evangelion fans probably won't lose too much sleep from skipping this figure, but Asuka fans certainly won't regret picking this one up. Apart from the build quality and that sweet box, I'd say my favorite feature is her pissed off expression. For once a figure maker used a character-appropriate expression! There are a bunch more shots in the gallery, so take a look and let me know what you think!
Alter Asuka photo
"Even after all this time, you're still just a troublesome brat!"
Alter has made a couple of Asuka figures before, with the last one released almost four years ago. If that one was too happy and/or immodest for you (those test plugsuits can be quite revealing), this release may be more to y...

Toys of Yesterday: Monster in My Pocket

Oct 31 // Scarecroodle
In the beginning, there were 48. The Monster in My Pocket franchise franchise launched around 1991 with its first series of 48 mono-colored soft rubber monster figurines and an accompanying trading card set. The figures were *intended* to also be game pieces (following in the tradition of things like Battle Beasts) and subsequently each figure featured a point value on its back. When two monsters "fought", the one with the higher point value won. Although a stupid gimmick, it helped break the figures up and establish some as being more important than others. The initial release made use of only four colors: yellow, purple, red, and green. Although the figures appeared in multiple colors, the rarer value versions either appeared in fewer colors, or the color swaps were rarer. The very common figures (5-point and 10-point, like Spring-heeled Jack) could frequently be seen in any of the thee colors. The initial package configurations mainly consisted of 4-packs that featured visible 5 & 10-point monsters along with more expensive 12-packs which featured one visible 25-point monster while the rest were random. Thus, somewhat ironically, it was easier to get the 25-point monster you wanted than either a 15 or 25-pointer. The 25-pointers, the big dogs in the yard, were the Great Beast, Behemoth, the Hydra, the Werewolf, the Griffin, and a Tyrannosaurus Rex. I'm still not sure why the Werewolf deserved the honor but, at the time, I didn't question it. Werewolves were cool. I believe I owned two copies of the Werewolf and managed to misplace both. In fact, these are surprisingly easy to lose. I even misplaced two figures while shooting these photos! Speaking of losing figures, what I can find of my original collection doesn't even fill a small container (I probably owned roundabouts of 150 or 200 from the early series). Given that these were my original figures, I've kept them separate from the figurines that I've picked up since then. After all, these figures were a part of my childhood while those other figures were a part of someone else's. The first series featured a different mix of monster types. This included classic movie monsters such the ghost, the mummy, a zombie, Frankenstein's Monster (just called "The Monster" in the guide), a vampire, and a vampiress. As a kid, these were probably the monsters you knew very well. However, it also featured famous mythological monsters like the griffin, Medusa, the hydra, cyclops, and the ogre. These were monsters you had probably heard of or seen on tv, in movies, etc. Going a bit deeper, there were also mythological monsters (and characters) you probably hadn't heard of as a kid, like Coatlique, the Wendigo, the many-headed Jotun troll (who appears in that Epcot viking ride), the Cockatrice, the Catoblepas, and Karnak. More controversially you had things like Kali, an actively worshipped Hindu goddess (who, by her inclusion, is viewed as a monster). She was one of the characters who would be renamed when the series relaunched in the early 2000s. I will say that I liked this figure as a kid. It was a cool design. Also, in case you were wondering if it got more offensive, they did Ganesha in series 2. Naturally two of my favorite things were associated with the lore: the monster checklist (seen right) which came in almost every figure configuration and the cards (seen left). Back when 7-11 was giving away (or selling?) promo packs with a limited number of cards, you better believe I was always trying to get my parents to go to 7-11. The cards were also just sold 11 to a pack. Each one features some neat character artwork on the front (pictured next to some of the figures) and a bio on the back. The style of the cardback varied based on the monsters' point values. Amusingly enough, the coolest design was given to the 20-point monsters instead of the 25-pointers. The cards don't necessarily explain the rationales behind the point values. Personally, the series may have marked the first time that I had even heard of a few of these monsters (possibly including the witch Baba Yaga or the fearsome Manticore). It helped to foster a love of mythology. (Side-note: While Manticores are usually depicted with the head of a man (with multiple rows of teeth), a lion's body, and a scorpion tail, this version opts for a pincher tail. While I don't understand the change, it does look cooler.) Some of my favorite figures from that first series were Cerberus, the Cyclops, the Ogre, Medusa, (I don't know why I have a second Cyclops there but hey, he was really cool), the Jotun Troll, and the Gremlin. Naturally that number also included the Werewolf and Roc, neither of which I have a copy of any more. Series 1 probably represented the line's highest point in some ways. There were a lot of promotional items (including variant colors of these monsters for people who might want a pink Wendigo; with the alternate colored versions from promos and other markets it can be hard to know a bootleg) and tie-ins, including a battle card game which I never learned how to play. Matchbox naturally wanted to capitalize on the existing success so they took things in a weird (and very annoying) direction. Series 2 expanded the line with another 24 monsters (basically they were just trying to crank *something* out). Besides the selection being weaker, Matchbox must have thought that they needed to one-up the previous offerings (maybe because they were giving half the selection?). But how would they go about that? First, the line used obnoxious neon colors. Figures were available in neon green, neon pink (because boys, the primary consumer of this product, just love hot pink), neon blue, and neon orange. But wait, there's more! To show that these figures were "cooler" than the previous set, the point values instead ranged from 10 to 30. How could they possibly top that? Meet the "Super Scary" line, a series of 24 multi-colored monsters... who went all the way up to 100 points. Oh, and did I mention that some glow in the dark? Looking back now, the series reeks of desparation. The actual sculpting, in many cases, was nowhere near as nice as either series 1 or 2. The figures were also a bit larger than the originals (because bigger is better?!). Even as a kid, I didn't like these that much. The series consisted almost entirely of things you'd never heard of yet they were stronger the more famous creatures, often outrageously so. The point system effectively backfired. I lost interest in the line and, reportedly, so did America. The line was mostly sold in Europe and Latin America after that. There was a relaunch in the 2000s which updated many of the designs (and replaced some of the politically incorrect names), but it was produced by a different company and basically limited to the UK and other regions outside the U.S.. It apparently didn't last long and, because of the scarce supply, the figures tend to sell for quite a bit more than the original series. Oh, and that tv show? It never made it past the special. Monster in My Pocket was a really neat line and it's a shame that its success (in the U.S.) was so brief. The figurines themselves still hold up remarkably well (the first series or two, anyway) thanks to an attention to detail. They're also reasonably inexpensive if you want to pick some up. If you want to learn more, be sure to check out the wiki.
Monster in My Pocket photo
Is that a monster in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
Before there were Pocket Monsters (Pokemon), there was Monster in My Pocket. This surprisingly basic toy series would go on to have its own video game, tv show*, comics, trading cards, a board game, and a TON of pointless pro...

Tomopop Review: DST's Creature from the Black Lagoon

Oct 29 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Universal Monsters Select Creature from the Black Lagoon Ver. 2Figure Maker: Diamond Select ToysRetail Price: US$24.99 (or around US$15 for the TRU version, if you can find it in stores)Available at: Diamond Select Toys | Entertainment Earth Long time readers may recall that the Gill-man, a.k.a. "the Creature", is by far my favorite Universal Monster. After all, I've only mentioned it, oh, a good forty or fifty times over the years including the occasional lengthy story about a time when Toys "R" Us refused to sell me one of my grail figures. If you read that story, you'll recall that I barely had time to enjoy that long-sought version of the Gill-man before DST dropped this awesome bomb... about a full year and a half before it was set to release. The plain Select packaging does little to convey how awesome this figure is. Like many of the other movie figures, the inner box is basically devoid of decoration (the popular Marvel Select line, by contrast, usually fills that space up with comic art). I imagine that it's probably due to a cost issue associated with licensing old movie stills or the such. The back of the box shows off Gill-man and provides a little backstory that wisely only references the first film (and leaves out the fact that he would eventually walk among us). Also included on the back is the Son of Frankenstein version of Frankenstein's Monster which closes out the wave (well, I guess there's also the DST-original version of Van Helsing but he's technically not part of the series) and, for that matter, the series. That's right, after giving fans a super-articulate Gill-man DST decided to drop the mic and walk away. DST's Gill-man stands close to 8-inches tall and features impeccable sculpting (courtesy of the game-changing Jean St. Jean, the sculptor behind figures like the much-praised MS Venom) along with a surprisingly deep paint job. Jean St. Jean has really pushed some boundaries in recent years, demonstrating that you don't have to sacrifice sculpt for articulation, which shines through in this figure. That said, the sculpting and articulation aren't blended to perfection. There are at least a few points where the joints are hindered by the sculpting (particularly at the head which looks as if it's jointed for a good amount of forward/back motion but the sculpt doesn't accommodate that). However, and this is important, in no place on this figure does the articulation truly hinder the sculpt. The joints, while somewhat visible, generally don't detract from the figure's overall appearance (with the possible exception of the exposed thigh pins). The overall craftsmanship is incredible. The character design itself facilitates many of these hidden joints, with hanging scales/platelets covering elbow and thigh cuts, for instance. The articulation represents a hodgepodge of different jointing concepts. The hands feature rotation at the lower wrists with a single pin-joint right above them (you may recall a similar trick being used on the Retro Cloth Phantom of the Opera (reviewed)). The elbows sport a kind of ball-joint which *could* have been used at the wrists as well, but the combo that was chosen instead helps to keep the wrists from looking ungainly. (EDITOR'S NOTE: My copy has a damaged right wrist (at the point of rotation) where the joint is jammed and, if a previous Select figure was any indication, the part will fall off if the joint is forced.) The head rotates, but his gills can get stuck on the frill running along his back. The torso features two joints, one directly above the abdomen with a second at the waist. While it doesn't work anywhere near as well as I had hoped (the forward/back is limited), you get a wide range of natural-looking rotation. The hips feature forward and outward motion, but are a little impeded by the sculpt (it's not a major issue). There's a thigh cut which offers rotation and helps with posing. The knees and ankles both feature single-pinned joints, a design choice that leads to only average balance. For the most part, the Select Gill-man can do most of the things you may want. The jointing isn't perfect, but it's worlds better than any previous version of the character that I can think of, especially within the affordable price ranges. It's worth remembering that Toys "R" Us also has an exclusive version of this figure. Priced closer to US$15, the biggest difference might be in the choice of accessories. The Select version gets an exquisitely designed underwater "swim" stand/base (seen here) while the Toys "R" Us version gets a smaller, generic stand. While the design is nice enough on its own for a background piece, it's intended for so much more. The product images on the packaging stupidly doesn't show the fact that the Gill-man can be posed right on the rock to recreate a swimming scene. It's something that DST fans will remember from a previous image on the DST Facebook page, but this awesome feature just isn't advertised. Granted, there's no piece or peg to actually hold him in place. The stand is just designed that the Gill-man can rest on it from certain angles. It's also, as DST Zach told me, the big reason for giving the Select Gill-man all of his articulation: the figure was designed to swim. Knowing this, I'm absolutely baffled why this gimmick doesn't have proper billing. Did DST feel that the trick might be too difficult for some fans? Diamond Select Toys has released quite a few Gill-man figures (including the first Select figure seen left and The Munters Select Uncle Gilbert (reviewed) seen right). While I don't have all of them (for instance, I'm missing the vinyl bank busts and the Retro Cloth version (which was hard to find at retail)), this new Select Gill-man is definitely my favorite and quite possibly my favorite among the Gill-man collectibles that I've owned over the years. Yes, it's not quite as awesome as I had assumed but it hits all of the right areas and features some great worksmanship. Plus perfect is overrated anyway, right? [A sizable spooky thanks to DST for sending over this review sample.]
Review: Gill-man photo
Not to be confused with the Creature from the Black & White Lagoon
Diamond Select Toys has taken quite a few stabs at the Universal Studios classic movie monsters, albeit with somewhat mixed results. Early entries often took a more statuesque approach, focusing on the sculpt rather than the ...

DO WANT: September 2014

Oct 09 // Scarecroodle
Kristina wants... GSC's Nendoroid Halloween Miku! GSC's Halloween Miku Nendoroid, hands down, is one of the cutest things evar. I'm a little bit biased, because I like Halloween as a theme in general, but yeah. Even if it is a Nendoroid, I think it's the most adorable thing, and I wants it. It helps that the colors (orange and black with Miku's teal hair) just go well together, and the accessories and swappable parts are pretty rad, too. Great release. Scarecroodle's note: Still on the fence about this one myself. It's a really cute design. Scarecroodle wants... Max Factory's figma Sinon! It's been a long while since I've really wanted a figma. Back when I first discovered the line (and picked up Max Factory's first Saber), it seemed almost revolutionary. However, as time went on and prices went up, fewer and fewer figmas felt like must-buys. The last one(s) that I was actually excited to purchase were the figma Pits and even those have just sat in their box. As such, imagine my surprise when I first saw images of figma Sinon (Sword Art Online II) and found myself wanting this character from an anime I've had no interest in watching. Granted, I've always had something of a weakness for green hair and sniper babes, two things that the figure embodies. The character's costume is also strongly reminiscent of Motoko Kusanagi which makes it doubly strange that I was underwhelmed by figma Motoko (who comes from an anime I enjoyed... even if it's a weaker season) yet somehow wowed by figma Sinon. Granted, I'll still need to overcome my reluctance in buying figmas (as my enthusiasm often dwindles before I have them in-hand), but there's a better than average chance I may buy this one. And also cave on Motoko. Jeremy wants... Max Factory's figma and figFIX Shinobu! One of the most important characters in the Bakemonogatari series is finally getting a figma! This is one of those rare long-running figma lines that I've been able to get every character from, but there always seemed like there was a hole in the set that Shinobu should be filling. And while this is technically two figures, it's really hard to resist buying just one or the other. We've waited an extra long time for the little vampire girl to arrive and it looks like the wait has been worth it. I have absolutely no complaints about these figures, especially when the figFIX can be found for well under US$20. Now if they would just make a Black Hanekawa already. Scarecroodle's note: I *still* need to watch this series some day. Tian wants... ThreeZero's Ned Stark! I dug way back into the September archives to arrive at my Do Want: ThreeZero's Ned Stark! Although Lord Eddard is no longer with us in Westeros, he'll live on in ThreeZero's amazing sculpt. As portrayed by Sean Bean, Ned was my favorite character of the first season. It would be great to be able to put him on display, forever preserved (with head firmly attached). Scarecroodle's note: I recently tried reading the first novel and it's nowhere near as fun as the tv show. Otherwise I remain impressed with ThreeZero's work on these characters and hope that we'll see a few more before long. Chris *still* wants... Bandai's Soul of Chogokin GaoGaiGar! My DO WANT was going to be the PG Unicorn gundam but having just finished my pre-order recently, that's pretty much in the bag. so my DO WANT reverts back to the Soul of Chogokin GaoGaiGar. I'm still hoping that there will be a second run pre-orders before the release date arrives as I really don't want to have to go through the overpriced local store route... Well, that's it for our September wants. Stay tuned for NYCC which may (or may not) completely blow us away. If it doesn't, I already know my Do Want! for October.
Do Want! photo
Deadline? What's that?
As we move into NYCC and prepare to promptly forget many of the things we wanted in previous months, we here at Tomopop have decided to reminisce about some of the things we were most excited about in September. This includes a few predictable choices and one thing you may not have seen coming. See our picks below.

Scarecroodle's massive EXPLOSION of AWESOME recap

Oct 08 // Scarecroodle
The first (and perhaps most) explosively awesome item is Bandai's Tamashii Effect Explosion, which comes in both a fiery "Red Ver." as well as a boring "Gray Ver." which looks like all smoke and no fire. The set comes with three explosion parts which can be combined into one larger explosion. If nothing else, you might have a total blast. These sets can be pre-ordered for around US$23 each. [ Pre-order Red ver. at Entertainment Earth | HobbyLink Japan ] [ Pre-order Gray ver. at Entertainment Earth | HobbyLink Japan ] In other very exciting news, Bluefin has released images of its currently available for pre-order S.H. MonsterArts Gamera (1996). Gamera has long been among my favorite Kaiju but, up until this point, I had to satisfy myself with Kaiyodo's Revoltech version which, quite frankly, just wasn't enough. Given that it's based on the 1996 version (Gamera: Guardian of the Universe or Gamera 2: Attack of the Legion?), Gamera will lack his "rocket shell" display options (which I'm *pretty* sure he didn't have in Guardian of the Universe but it's been forever). However, he'll have the usual breath attack and features an opening chest to reveal his core. The only downside is that he's US$81, so I'll have to see what my budget looks like by that point. [ Pre-order at HobbyLink Japan | Entertainment Earth ] For the Bishoujo crowd, Kotobukiya released a teaser image for its upcoming She-Hulk last week. After realizing that we were a few days late on it, I figured we could maybe just float things until Kotobukiya revealed the whole thing... but apparently they're holding off until NYCC. So for everybody who can't wait until, well, tomorrow, here's a teaser. I will say that it's certainly one very fine arm. Pre-orders also recently opened for Bandai's S.H. Figuarts Master Asia and the Master Gundam. Apparently Master Asia was shown some years ago but never released so he's been a long time coming. Given that G Gundam ranks among my favorites (and is somewhat ostracized among purists), I'm always happy to see it receive more merchandise... even if Master Asia was one of my least favorite characters. Master Asia can be pre-ordered for US$39 while the Master Gundam will run you US$44. [ Pre-order Master Asia | Master Gundam at Entertainment Earth ] And finally we have the Kaiju cutie, Sunrise's Ultra Monster Girl Gomora-chan. She's an anthropomorphic version of Gomora (not to be confused with Gamera! ...although now I kinda want to see Gamera receive the same treatment) from the Ultraman franchise. Weird? Yes. Very weird? Still yes. However, the figure kind of looks like a cosplayer in half of a monster suit
Top toys photo
More awesome than most minds can take
Sometimes there's more awesome than there is time and humble Tomopop editors can't get around to everything. As such, an explosively awesome recap is needed. Click the jump to see explosions, Gamera, more explosions, Bishoujo She-Hulk, explosions, a monster anthropomorphized into a young girl, and, oh yeah, explosions. Plus Gamera!

SDCC/WonFes Highlight Reel: The Tian Ma edition

Sep 04 // Tianxiao Ma
1. Kill la Kill garage kits The garage kit section of WonFes is always interesting, and this time it had an abundance of Kill la Kill figures. Kill la Kill is one of my favorite anime from last year, but we are not swimming in official PVC releases as I had hoped. GK makers gave it plenty of love at WonFes (as you can see here and here), with the above Tri-City Raid version of Ryuko as my favorite. Why play favorites, though? There are so many awesome Kill la Kill GKs: Mako, Fight Club Mako, more Mako (can you tell who my favorite character is?), Ryuko in Senketsu, Satsuki, and this awesome diorama of Ryuko and Guts. 2. Sideshow's holographic Iron Man display Hopefully you got an impression of the ridiculousness of Sideshow's booth from my SDCC Sideshow/Hot Toys post. That insane showmanship can be encapsulated by this holographic Iron Man display, which looks like something out of, well, Iron Man. It's as if Tony Stark came down from Stark Tower with a box of scraps and whipped together something fitting to show off all the Hot Toys figures made in his honor. Let me just be clear, it's not the Iron Man figures I'm obsessed with; it's this display. That and this Vampirella figure. It's based on a design by Stanley "Artgerm" Lau, who I was able to meet at the con. Sideshow is always big on the spectacle, but these two items stood out to me above everything else. 3. Vertex's Yukari Takeba This isn't a masterpiece of sculpting or anything, but it's nice to see another Persona 3 girl being made into a figure. It's being made by Vertex, who had previously made an ambitious but flawed Mitsuru Kirijou figure. Yukari's design is less opulent, so I'm hoping she'll be reasonably well made. I've been immersed in all things Persona lately, and I'm really looking forward to Yukari's presence in Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. 4. QMx's U.S.S. Reliant The Reliant isn't even my favorite ship design in Star Trek, but there's no denying that QMx's large-scale model is a beauty. The detailing is impeccable, the windows light up, and there are even sculpted shuttle bay sections at the ship's stern. I could say "I would give anything to own one" but that's not really true, as I could part with a huge sum of money for the privilege. But still, QMx's models are good enough to make me consider it... 5. Battle Angel Alita: Last Order's Sechs Sechs caught my eye right away as I was browsing through Chris's WonFes GK gallery. This is the male version sporting a Fizziroy body and upgraded Titan Blade, otherwise known as the baddest version of Sechs. Aside from being a figure of a great character, this is just an awesome figure in its own right. Even in this "ivory" state, it looks like something I'd happily put on display. 6. Sentinel's Rogue Titan There are endless legions of Attack on Titan's Survey Corps characters being made, but so few titans. Thankfully Sentinel is remedying that in the best way possible with this magnificent Rogue Titan figure. His pose, expression, and musculature all create a sense of power and menace - perfect given his introduction. Speaking of muscles, damn! This isn't even one of the skinless titans! 7. Embrace Japan's beautiful new Diabolus Inclinatus Embrace Japan's first take on this character was very simple, but pretty nonetheless. Now it looks like they're going for a more extravagant sculpt, complete with... fork-wielding frogs? I don't get it either. I do understand demon girls, though, and this one looks gorgeous! 8. Persona 4 Golden's Marie Marie is written like a stock tsundere character, but I did enjoy her social link in Persona 4 Golden. Actually I probably liked her bad poetry more than anything, but that's neither here nor there. This GK does a good job of translating the official art, though it makes me wonder how difficult it was to paint all those stripes and plaid skirt so neatly. I would love to have this as a PVC. If 2014 continues to be the year of Persona, maybe I'll get my wish... 9. Orchid Seed's Shadow Wing You can get excited with an Orchid Seed figure, but you should keep in mind that any given prototype may never see an actual production run. Indeed, Orchid Seed is like a car maker that cranks out concepts all day without actually ever selling anything. This Shadow Wing prototype has been around for a long time, and will continue to stir a sense of yearning in me. I want to see her painted, at least! It's an extraordinarily pretty sculpt and I really hope it makes it to production. 10. Volks' Valkyria Chronicles gals Valkyria Chronicles' Selvaria gets all the attention, but let's face it: Isara is the best girl. She's a capable mechanic, and handles that persecution thing like a champ. Volks showed an unpainted prototype of their Charagumin Isara kit at WonFes, and she's looking pretty good. Of course I'm also a big fan of the existing Alicia Melchiott kit too. You can never have too much Valkyria merchandise. One more thing... figma horse.
SDCC/WonFes photo
Now that we've had a while to unpack the information assault from the Wonder Festival/SDCC tandem (both happened on the same weekend!), the Tomopop crew thought it would be a good idea to highlight some of our personal favorite things from both events. It would take too long to cover everything I want, so it looks like a top 10 list is in order. Read on to see what tickled my fancy!

Tomopop Unboxes photo
Anime Bento's debut box yields all sorts of surprises
Anime Bento is a cool new subscription service that delivers hand-picked Japanese toys, accessories, and tasty treats right to your door. For this unboxing video, I open up their first box and examine its innards. Fun stuff. You can find out more about subscribing to Anime Bento here. [a big thank-you to Anime Bento for supplying me with this sample!]

Tomopop Review: Kotobukiya's Street Fighter Bishoujo Cammy

Aug 11 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Street Fighter Bishoujo CammyFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: US$64.99Available at: Koto US  Street Fighter IV brought back the Delta Red version of Cammy (just when I had gotten used to her silly Killer Bee outfit), and that's the version used for this figure. The box art shows a Cammy who - though passed through the Bishoujo filter - looks a bit more mature and battle-ready compared to other Bishoujo designs. Still, the sculpt takes it to another level. There are two approaches you can take while depicting Cammy, and this figure shows us a bit of both. There's the sexy, borderline exploitative look that the original illustration goes with (that leotard doesn't do much for modesty). And then there's the Linda Hamilton-esque badass look, which is what the sculpt shows. With a hard light, you can accentuate the extraordinary detail in her musculature. Indeed, this is no cliche dainty anime girl. Look at how cut Cammy is! It's easy to believe a woman with this physique can pound a guy like Vega into dust. You can see the sheer tension in Cammy's muscles and limbs as she delivers power to her strike. However I think the effect is overdone when it comes to her legs. There's a little too much rippling mass, whereas the anatomical details on her back and shoulders is more believable. Her abs are another example of the sculptor's personal touch when translating the art. These details are absent from Shunya Yamashita's illustration, but lend a lot of character to the figure. The build quality is good as usual. The paint job is very clean and overall the finish looks great. You can see a little contrast between the matte finish of the body and the metallic look of Cammy's gauntlets. It's hard not to let Cammy's butt be a focal point. The clenched look makes sense when you take the rest of the figure into account, but it's not my personal cup of tea. However, as I sit with the figure on display above my monitor, it does look nice from below. As for the face, Kotobukiya did a good job. It's not as round as in most depictions of Cammy, but this one does look more British to me. The only thing that really bothered me about the figure was the base. Like with some of the newer Bishoujos, this one uses slots instead of pegs to attach to the feet. It's fine at holding the figure upright, but falls out very easily if you pick the figure up. I guess it's only annoying when you need to move it, but I had to deal with it a few times during this shoot. If you've ever been bothered by the fact that even action hero females tend to be waifs, then Bishoujo Cammy is for you. This lady has put in some reps at the gym, and has a physique that can stand up to the absurdly burly male bodies in the Street Fighter universe. [Thanks to Kotobukiya for the review sample!]
Bishoujo Cammy review photo
HCB+P all day
Kotobukiya's Bishoujo lineup seems to be growing by the day. The latest Street Fighter gal to hit the, uh, streets is Cammy. Although she isn't out in the US, she is currently available to import from Japanese retailers. When...

SDCC 2014: J*RYU talks about the Hatchling

Aug 07 // Pedro Cortes
Photo credits VampyBitMe's Zero Suit Samus cosplay photo: Elysium EntertainmentFull-sized Hatchling: Brian's NYCC 2013 story 
SDCC photo
Now in handy pendant size!
At the end of last year, the Tomopop editors voted VampyBitMe and J*RYU's Hatchling as best designer figure of 2013. No surprise, as it still is an amazing work of art that just about any game would love to have on their she...

What Pedro Is Up To: Learning to Love the POP

Jul 18 // Pedro Cortes
Since it was the Mass Effect line that did me in, I'll start with with Shepard. He may look tough, but he's a softy at heart. Well, at least the way that I played him. I have him chilling here on my massive stack of books that I want to read. Well, at least the most current stack of books I want to read. I don't think I'll ever have enough time to clear every one of those stacks. I'd be remiss if I didn't pick up Tali. I mean, she's my favorite character in the series. I need ALL THE TALIS. Ahem. Anyway, what's interesting about her is that she needs an additional disk to keep her balanced, due to her rather large noggin and lithe body. An odd combination, but it oddly works here. Rounding out my go-to team is Garrus. I love that they included his ocular scope and his scars from Mass Effect 2. He's also showing some love to his sniper rifle, which makes sense as he was always sniping fools in my play through. Here, he's guarding my laptop and the documentary that I'm working on. That's my space-bro. Following these first three, the gates opened and I started desiring other POPs. I put a bunch of them on my Amazon wishlist and got a few for my birthday back in March, starting with... Harley Quinn! Like many from my generation, I love me some HQ. She has a little shrine on my desk, joining last year's SDCC exclusive Harley Bishoujo and the colored sketch I commissioned from Amanda Conner during the same event. It's my little spot of madness on my desk. My father hooked me up with the Alien POP, as it's just so ridiculous. I mean, xenomorphs are pretty terrifying creatures and Funko did a great job making this guy so cute. I love the addition of the extra jaw popping out to assumedly devour a victim. Here, he's trying to victimize my Wii U. Come on, leave it alone. It's abused enough already. Another buddy, knowing that I'm a pretty big fan of Kevin Smith, went and got me the two Smith-related POPs. The first one, of course, is Silent Bob himself. While I didn't have a storefront to lean him on, I figured my stack of Grant Morrison Batman comics would be a sufficient replacement. And with Silent Bob must come a very loud Jay! One without the other is like peanut butter without the jelly. Chocolate without the almonds. Burgers without fries. I...might be a little hungry as I write this. Anyway, Jay here is looking over my floor atop my stacked collection of trades. The fact that a scantily clad Harley print is next to him is probably not a coincidence. Following the thread of movie POPs, another pair of buddies got me Wall-E and Eve. Considering Wall-E is one of my favorite Disney movies, this was definitely a good and appreciated thing. Here, Wall-E is rolling about on my stove. While I applaud his exploratory spirit, I'd implore caution. And here's Eve. She also into podcasting, it seems. That or she just likes my Blue Yeti mic. It does resemble a rocket. Finally, we have Rorschach from Watchmen. I bought this one myself a couple of days ago, leading to this retrospective right here. I've been eyeing him for a while at my local comic shop and finally decided to just pick him up. It's just so silly seeing this rough-and-tumble vigilante reduced to chibi form. And that's it for now. I'll likely pick up a few more POPs come SDCC, as there are a ton of interesting exclusives that'll be at the Funko booth. Now, the hard part will be getting in there...
What Pedro Is Up To photo
Breaking down figure barriers
Looking back, when I first saw the Funko POP series a few years back, I didn't think much of them. I thought they were cute, but I didn't expect for the line to last very long. Well, needless to say that I was wrong. Dead wro...

Tomocast 48: Pre-SDCC Madness

Jul 08 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]34987:37288:0[/embed] Episode Length: 56:16   Show Notes Delays   Preorders/Reveals Nendo Satsuki & Armin Bishoujo Nina Williams SH Figuarts Broly & Android 16 & Blaziken   SDCC Exclusives Kotobukiya (ArtFX+ Grey Hulk, Extra Shiny Bishoujo Spider Woman, ArtFX+ 1st Batman, Bishoujo Classic Psylocke) Funko (TMNT Spongebob, Buffy & Flintstones, splooged Ghostbusters) Hasbro (hairy MLP, Knights of Unicron, G1-style Age of Extinction Dinobots) Plush & Vinyl (DKE Infected Androids, Kaiju-inspired Furry Feline's, DC-style Uglydolls) Bandai (Lord Zedd, Armored Black Ranger, Orange Vegeta)  
Tomocast photo
It's raining exclusives
At the time of this post, it's only 15 days until San Diego Comic Con. With time ticking down, you know that there'd be a ton of exclusive announcements and let me tell you, companies have definitely unleashed the floodgates....

What Kristina Is Up To: Getting musical

Jul 04 // Kristina Pino
The music teacher at my school is a super talented dude. He went to a musical college and got a degree in music, mainly singing (classical and opera style - hearing him is kind of incredible). My students love his class and the music club is super popular. In Japan, elementary students don't have too many club options, and the ones that are available only meet a couple times a month at most. But our music club kids practice every day. The school has a brass band, and it's open to all students. We've got kids from ages 7 through 12 playing trumpets and drums and xylophones like champs, and they play at every school assembly and event. There's even a big recital where all the elementary and junior high school students in my village gather to perform and be judged by Important Peoples. Once a year, there's a school recital that the entire student body participates in. Some grades do numbers with their piannicas or recorders, others do singing numbers with a few of their peers playing piano on the side, and the 6th graders steal the show with a sing and dance number. Those show-offs. My point is, music is highly valued in my area. There's a keyboard or piano in almost every classroom in the school I work at. All the students, at some point or other, end up getting lessons in piannica and recorder, and they take time in their lessons to learn to sing songs (picture being in a room full of 5- and 6-year olds playing with numbers while their mates next door are learning the words to Sanpo, the opening song from My Neighbor Totoro). If the students are all exercising or practicing something together out in the yard, they do it to music instead of incessant whistle-blowing and the rumbling of trains as they go by. I'm surrounded by music each day, and all I really needed was one little push. My real passion is piano when it comes to music. Up until now, I didn't play much at school because I didn't want to be a distraction during school hours. But then the music teacher caught up with me one day at one of big, seldom-used rooms at the end of a hallway, and said I could play the electric piano in there any time I like. I didn't even know the thing was electric; it looks like a normal upright, so imagine my (pleasant) surprise. So that's what I've been doing to unwind, and it's just the best. Have any questions about life abroad, or the school life in Japan? Shoot them in the comments below and it might be featured in this column! Alternatively, you can email me privately over at kristina [at] tomopop [dot] com.
What Kristina Is Up To photo
Or what I've been doing to unwind
Oh hey, I'm back! And the weather is still pretty much gloomy and rainy in Japan, even though we're in July. The humidity is up, which is nice - my skin is amazing right now. But my students are getting frustrated because we'...

DO WANT: June 2014

Jun 30 // Pedro Cortes
Pedro & Martin want...Megahouse's G.E.M. Utena Tenjou Pedro Figure by Megahouse? Check. Interesting character? Check. Girl with pink hair? Check. Combat pose? Check. The Megahouse GEM Utena pretty much hits all of my favorite things in a figure. Besides being a character that I really like, I love her sculpt and how all of her colors come together. This is the figure I've been waiting for since I saw Revolutionary Girl Utena a couple of years back! Martin This isn't my dream figure of Utena, and I've got some niggling doubts about the level of the fit and finish. But come on, it's a big, beautiful figure of one of the most iconic (and least merchandisable) anime ladies ever. I honestly never thought anyone would return to Utena and make the figure it so richly deserved, and so I don't really have much choice to be really excited about this.   Scarecroodle wants...Funko's Hikari Mystic Powers Skeletor   June has been a pretty cool month. We got some release info for Bandai's SHF Zero (MMZ), we saw a samurai version of Darth Vader, confirmation that Hasbro will be releasing a 6-inch Star Wars Black Series Bossk, a lot of cool Transformers announcements, a first look at a SHF Joker, and, right at the end of the month, we learned that Bandai would be doing a SHF Mega Blaziken. All that aside, my biggest want this month might be Funko's Hikari Mystic Powers Skeletor which somehow looks surprisingly spooky for a sofubi. It looks like a cursed ancient relic of some long-dead civilization. The sort of thing that you might pick up off the shelf and a giant stone ball (actually made of styrofoam) would come flying out after you.     Chris Seto wants...Bandai's Neo Zeong A relatively easy month this time around. I would have liked to have picked this earth engine Impactor from Captain Earth but There is absolutely zero info about it other than it's (probably) made by Kotobukiya. That means it's probably a kit but if it does the impossibly stupid yet awesome combination sequence, consider me SOLD!! I need a SoC of this thing with a complete gattai option!!! Sadly, that is a deal breaker and since I can't tell if this thing does do the combination, I can't choose it quite yet! So my DO WANT for this month is the 1/144 Neo Zeong! Why? THIS is why!! If shipping wasn't going to absolutely kill it, I'd have one sent to me right now!! I'm sure that everyone has need the various pics of the Chibi Neo Zeong with all the various nendoroids piloting it bit can you imagine the stuff you could try to do with a full-sized monster like this??   Tian wants...Kotobukiya's Shinobu Oshino variant For June I was really into all the Kotobukiya reveals at the end of the month. I liked the Dark Angel Olivia variant, the Psylocke exclusive, and the Nina Williams sculpt (I just can't help myself). The figure I want most would be their new Shinobu Oshino variant. It's probably the cutest version of Shinobu I've seen outside the Nendoroid version - I just love that she's stuffing her face full of donuts! The original version is still available for pretty cheap too, so I'm seriously considering going a double Shinobu route. I can't get enough of her!   Natalie wants...SOTA Toys' Harvest Moon Chicken and Chick plush set I always thought the Harvest Moon series had such cuddly critters and that Momma Chicken and her baby Chick are a prime example of this. I was smitten when I first saw the preview images but what really sealed the deal was getting to meet the plushes in person at E3. The Chicken was even larger and squishier than previously expected and, god help me, I want it so bad. Plus, the little Chick can transform back into an egg! I can't wait to get my hands on the pair at SOTA Toys/Multiverse Studios' booth at this week's Anime Expo in Los Angeles, California. It is going to be epic.   Rio wants...the SDCC exclusive My Little Pony offerings I'm so sad I won't get to hang out with my Tomopeeps at SDCC this year, and honestly I did like LAST year's exclusive much better, but you know what? I totally want these Mane-iac exclusives! I don't really care for Spike what so ever, so that doesn't thrill me that he comes with the pony version of her, but both the pony and Equestria Girls doll version look sweet! I hope I can get my hands on them somehow. Then again.. there IS Cerise Wolf from Ever After High that I'd really like to get from SDCC as well. Decisions...   Jeremy wants...Transformers Generations Brainstorm I knew it would be hard to pick just one figure after such a great BotCon that was full of surprise announcements. I mean, we're finally getting an Arcee figure after waiting 28 years, a neat looking Chromia, the Powerglide figure we should have gotten instead of that huge version in 2008, and new Leader class Megatron (two of them in fact). But my pick went to Brainstorm for a couple of reasons. First he just looks like a great figure with a lot of articulation (funny elbows and all). Plus he's the first new G1 Headmaster figure we've gotten since 1988 (ignoring the Fortress Maximus reissue, Energon Omega Supreme, and Armada Sideways and Overload). And it doesn't hurt that I still have my original from when I was a kid. The 1987 figure was a lot of fun (and still is), and I have no doubt that the 2014 version will be, too.   So now that you know what we want, hit up the comments and tell us what makes your blood pump just a bit faster.
DO WANT photo
The world has shot through space for another 77 million kilometers, which means it's time yet again for DO WANT. For those who might not be familiar, the DO WANT is the feature where your favorite editors let you, the marvelo...

What Kristina Is Up To: Bookmarks for summer

Jun 20 // Kristina Pino
Normally, the school librarian gives me loads of stickers and stamps and punches and things to work with when it comes to making book marks - I make them throughout the year, though the big push is always for the summer program. This time around though, I just got a small tin box with a packet of shiny origami paper, one roller stamp, three sheets of stickers, and just three scrapbook tape rolls (one blue, one orange, and one that looks like tiled floor). I didn't have a whole lot to work with. So I turned to Disney - I'm never let down that way. I recently bought a book that's all about learning to make ballpoint pen illustrations of various classic or popular characters and in various different styles. I figured: what better time to give them a whirl? I started doodling all over the templates and came up with some fun designs. A lot of it ended up being trial and error. I can't exactly use an eraser and re-draw things until they're perfect. But I feel like part of the charm of ballpoint pen illustrations is that they aren't perfect. Some of my bookmarks ended up coming out kind of cheesy. I wanted to incorporate books into as many of them as I could, since that's kind of the whole point. This year, my school created not one, but two mascots which are mainly used by the librarian, though they've slowly made their way into the classrooms. One is designed by the computer teacher, and the other (an incredibly handsome rock sitting in a bath tub) is designed by the students. That's where I got the idea of adding books to the illustrations, because in many of the little posters and decals around the school, they're holding 'em. Some of my bookmarks had nothing to do with Disney whatsoever. These are my attempts to use the materials I was given - scrapbooking tape, stickers, and shiny origami paper. I like working with those materials, but I felt like these were going to get boring fast with the limited options. Back to the good stuff. This illustration of Dale is the last of a series of doodles where he tries to do a flip. Of course, where Chip lands on his feet, Dale lands on his face. It's got nothing to do with books, but it's damn cute. I also drew quite a few Stitch or Stitch-themed ones, because he's one of the most popular Disney characters in Japan. This is his doll, Scrump. Or is it Lilo's doll? Either way, it's cute. Of course, these wouldn't be complete without doodles of Mickey and Minnie. And there's also a look at that tiled scrapbooking tape I mentioned earlier. It looks like the kind of tile floor you'd see in a bathroom. Or a cupcake shop. Cute for certain designs, but overall not easy to work with. I leave you with my work-in-progress shot of Donald, before his body is attached and his eyes filled in. I was so proud of myself at this point though, because it already looked way better than any other attempt I'd ever made at drawing Donald. The instructions are so clear and perfect that I pretty much spent an hour doodling without even noticing the time go by. I ended up drawing Pooh, Marie (from The Aristocats), Aliens from the Toy Story series, among other characters, Dumbo, Eeyore, and even other character-related things like Mickey Mouse cupcakes and Donald doughnuts. It's enough to give anyone cavities. There are a few more pictures in the gallery that didn't make it into the body of this post if you'd like to see more. Also, let's hear it for my trusty cospa Vocaloid buddies for showing off my tiny masterpieces. Or would-be masterpieces, anyway.
What Kristina Is Up To photo
Getting paid to doodle is pretty awesome
Summer is almost here, which means that students are almost off on break. Well, many students are, anyway. Some elect to do summer school (or are forced to by their parents), and end up missing out on that glorious month of v...

Tomopop Review: Kotobukiya's Marvel Bishoujo Spider-Woman

Jun 18 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Marvel Bishoujo Spider-WomanFigure Maker: KotobukiyaRetail Price: US$64.99Available at: Koto US  The first few Marvel Bishoujo figures piqued my interest, but I didn't really start buying them until around the time the Tekken Bishoujo gals started coming out. Now I'm a full-fledged Bishoujo fan, and Spider-Woman was one I've been looking forward to in particular. The figure is around 1/7-scale, but the package is small due to the crouched pose. This is the Jessica Drew incarnation of Spider-Woman. She certainly makes an impression thanks to the high-gloss finish and brilliant colors. The paint job works especially well for this figure as superhero outfits tend to look shiny in comic books. Jessica's outfit has a classic look with bold colors and a black trim. However Kotobukiya did miss some black trim on the bottom portion of her mask. It's present in the artwork and helps give some definition to her masked face - I would have liked to see it on the figure too. One other thing that bugs me is the webbing on her underarms. It's a character design issue, not a problem with the figure itself. I think it looks dumb and there is art of Jessica without the webbing. And for the record, I also think it looked dumb on the old style Spider-Man outfit. I wonder what she's actually doing in that pose. Throwing up gang signs? Here we arrive at the reason why I immediately took to this figure: her butt! I'm not going to be mature about it. Kotobukiya did a great job sculpting this figure. With any Shunya Yamashita design, I keep an eye out for two things: the face and the butt. Spider-Woman's masked face is fine, even without that black trim. There's an alternate, unmasked face which is just lovely. Not all the Bishoujo figures get the Shunya face 100% right, but this one gets my stamp of approval. The process of swapping faces will be very familiar if you've ever dealt with figmas and Nendoroids. You just pull off the head, remove the hair fringe, and pop off the face plate. You can store the unused face in a compartment under the base - very convenient! Kotobukiya went with a translucent PVC for Jessica's hair. I've seen mixed reactions to this practice. Though she's supposed to have black hair, it actually fades to gray because the paint is especially light at the tips. In terms of the sculpt, it's excellent. I love the definition and wispiness of it. In fact this is a remarkably clean sculpt. Bishoujos of old would have some mold lines here and there, but Spider-Woman is virtually free of them. You can spot a few if you look really hard, but they integrate well into her costume. Similarly, the paint job is very clean - it holds up well to Kotobukiya's more expensive figures. The thick gloss coat also makes it feel durable. Spider-Woman is a Bishoujo figure I've had my eyes on for a while, and it didn't disappoint. She sports a classic, old-timey look that meshes well with Shunya Yamashita's style - though keep in mind I'm a guy who can't get enough of the Shunya face. And of course, I just have to mention that red gloss finish one more time. Whether it's Asuka, Harley Quinn, or Spider-Woman - you can never go wrong with a shiny red outfit! [Thanks to Kotobukiya for this review sample!]
Bishoujo Spider-Woman photo
Give me that glossy paint, all day long
Kotobukiya must have hit a winning formula with their Bishoujo figures because they're cranking them out like nobody's business. Well they're cranking them out like it's their own business, because it is - ah you know what I'...

What Natalie Is Up To: Studying for the JLPT

Jun 13 // Natalie Kipper
Here are my toy companions for the day. I had recently purchased Bandai Namco's Repede plush (more on this canine wonder later) so I thought I would have him, along with my Mieu and Tokunaga plushes, look on while I made efforts to stuff knowledge into my brain. First, a little background: I graduated as a Japanese major from UCLA and, we were told repeatedly that we would leave with the knowledge necessary to pass Level 2 of the JLPT. For the uninitiated, the JLPT has five levels, with Level 1 being the hardest and Level 5 being the easiest. Spoiler alert: I did not take Level 2. In truth, I have never taken any level of the JLPT. Best laid plans of mice and men, and all that. Very long story short, I am three years post-graduation, more than a little rusty/gun-shy, but determined to take the test this year. So yeah, Level 4 it is! This may look like a mere pile of books (more like a pile of toys) but these are actually my study materials. Here is what I use for my Lingual Enhancement Regimen: Goukaku Dekiru Nihongo Nouryoku Shiken, N4-5: A good albeit pretty pricey (US$42) workbook. I found actually pretty fun to work with. It uses the same test styles as the JLPT. Listening Comprehension CDs are also included. White Rabbit's Kanji Practice Flash Cards vol.1: I promise you have seen these at anime conventions. If not, you aren't looking hard enough. Genki II Textbook: I have had this one since community college and it still helps as a reference. A Dictionary of Intermediate Japanese Grammar: Very handy when you are unsure of how to phrase something or for translation. All About Particles: Great for figuring out what a particle means in a certain context. Finally, my beloved volumes of Konami Kanata's Fuku-Fuku Funyan, in their original Japanese. I am proud to say I can read them unaided without any problems. Tokunaga took a shine to my workbook. That day I mostly focused on reading comprehension. If I am to be honest though, my biggest weakness is listening comprehension. I really need to work more on that. To bolster my listening skills, I have a few podcasts and audiobooks in Japanese both of which I can follow along with text. If I make mistakes in the mock exam sections, I try to look up and learn more about the grammar point, kanji, or definition I missed. This is when the that book about particles and my grammar dictionary come in handy. Mieu wasn't in the mood to study and instead opted for a nap. Boy, do I understand that feeling. Hey, so that is where my manga disappeared to! I have a pretty nifty kanji dictionary for my 3DS. It was made for the DS so it region-free. I have been using it since college. Although... it seems that Repede had his fill of studying and is now starting up my file of Pokemon Battle Trozei. I guess that means it is time for a break! Are any of you studying for the JLPT? What level? Care to share any study tips?
What Natalie Is Up To photo
Or attempting to, anyways
Since I can't let Kristina and Scarecroodle have all the fun, I am getting in on this feature action. Besides writing up posts for Tomopop, I have been studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test or JLPT. But I haven't been doing it alone! Like guardian angels stuffed with fiberfill, my toys are always by my side. Read on to get a glimpse of one of my semi-daily study sessions!

Tomopop Review: Good Smile Company's Hatsune Miku Deep Sea Girl ver.

Jun 12 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Hatsune Miku Deep Sea Girl ver.Figure Maker: Good Smile CompanyRetail Price: ¥14,800Available at: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | AmiAmi | Play Asia | ToysLogic | Plamoya | Big Bad Toy Store | Nippon-Yasan Right from the get-go this feels like a special figure. You can see the extra attention Good Smile Company put into designing the box. The box has a smooth, satin finish on thick cardboard stock. Its design is contemporary, with an emphasis on the photography. I even liked the choice of typography used. You won't see the usual collage of promotional images on the sides and back, nor is there a window of any kind. It feels like a premium package and looks the part. There's a little assembly involved to set this figure up. You have to attach the twin tails to Miku's head, then affix the whole thing to three points on the base. After that you can attach the two coral pieces. I don't really have to tell you how amazing this figure looks. We've all seen the promo shots and some of you have probably seen her at conventions (or own the figure already). When I stood back and looked at the finished assembly, it didn't disappoint. This version of Miku is based on the design of the illustrator Haruyo, who created it for the "Shinkai Shoujo" music video on Niconico. It looks like Good Smile Company's artists added on to the original design, leading to the wonderfully detailed twin tails and the coral setting. I love the look of Miku's dress. It's casual, but elegant. There's a long flowing piece that attaches to the base. Along with pegs for the twin tails, it helps secure the figure. Each strand of hair looks light and delicate, perfect for the deep sea setting. There's a definite floatiness to the figure. Miku's going barefoot, adding to the casual look. That little curl of the big toe is really cute. There are two pieces of coral providing a splash of pink to contrast with the blues and blacks of the figure. They look fragile but are made of a very soft PVC to minimize the chances of breaking. I had a tough time jamming the front piece onto the pegs on the base. I would have liked a different way to affix them (magnets are always good) - this is my one knock against the figure. Miku's dreamy, hopeful expression is so touching! I couldn't resist adding a soft focus effect to one of my photos. Good Smile Company has made a lot of Miku figures. I generally avoid them, but when they have an interesting variation on her design, I take notice. Deep Sea Miku is the best one I've seen yet! Well, maybe next to Mikudayo... You can tell that GSC wanted to make a statement with this figure. I had some minor problems fitting some of the parts onto their pegs, but the quality was exemplary otherwise. It comes out in the texturing of the corals, the delicate wisps of hair, the deep blue ocean-like base, and the flowing cloth of Miku's dress. And though GSC priced this pretty high for a 1/8-scale figure, it feels much larger than 1/8. If you have the cash to spare, there's no reason to hesitate - you'll surely be getting a centerpiece for your collection.
GSC Deep Sea Miku photo
Somewhere beyond the sea, she's there watching for me
The wait for Good Smile Company's Deep Sea Girl Hatsune Miku has been lengthy, but Good Smile Company at long last has shipped her out. And you know what? I'm not bitter. I think we all know (more or less) what we'll be getti...

Tomocast 47: Megahobby Expo

Jun 10 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]34749:37283:0[/embed] Episode Length: 73:16  Show Notes Megahobby ExpoInshun Houzouin Kotobukiya's Levi MegaHouse’s Astaroth GEM Anthy MegaHouse’s Honey  NewsMovie figures not selling wellEva x Transformers picsTenacious Toys guest post Pre-ordersGEM UtenaSH FIguarts Michael JacksonGaming Heads's Garrus ReviewsTian: Phat Company's CasterAndres: Nendo Iron Man Mark 42 w/ Hall of ArmorPedro: POP Crocodile
Tomocast photo
Another event!
Hot damn, you've got to love the summer months. All of you favorite companies are ganging up to show you the toys that you're going to drool over during the summer months. Then, of course, try to figure out how to pay for sai...

Tips for curating an excellent art toy collection without going broke

Jun 02 // Community
Over the past 10 years I've watched the art toy collecting community change. These changes probably would not be apparent to outsiders, but those of us who are deeply entrenched in the community see these trends happening right before our eyes. One of the major changes that has occurred, especially since 2010, is that the active veteran collectors have gotten more focused in their collecting habits. What I mean by that is: after a year or two, a collector will usually stop collecting random blind box figures and start focusing on one type of toy, or a few artists. I first noticed this quite a long time ago with the release of Kathie Olivas' Scavengers. Kathie's fans have been extremely focused for a long time- many of them ONLY collect Kathie's art. They knew what they wanted, and if I couldn't deliver the product, they'd go elsewhere. Simple as that. Multiply that by 500 different artists, each with their own fan base, and you've got a giant group of active collectors who ONLY buy art by specific artists. That means those collectors, many of whom have some disposable income, tend to go straight to the artist to make their purchases. APs and handcrafted items go fast, sold by the artist directly to his or her fans, and often they are signed and include an awesome exclusive item like a sticker or a mini print. It makes a lot of sense to buy direct from the artist. However, not everybody is a seasoned collector, and not all seasoned collectors are that focused. I've been collecting art toys for 10 years, and my own personal collection is really random. I usually collect pieces by artists I know personally, but even then, my habits are random: big, little, production, custom, resin. All over the place. I know some seasoned collectors are the same way. Brand new collectors who are in their first year or two of discovery of art toys tend to collect smaller items like blind boxes and small production vinyl figures, which exposes them to a variety of different artists and aesthetic ideas for a little bit less money. The Dunny by Kidrobot is the archetypal example of this type of product. Let's face it- many of us kicked off our collections with a few blind-boxed Dunnys. The various Kidrobot Dunny Series often pull together many different artists, some of whom have never applied their art toy toys before. Kidrobot does do a good job of showcasing a lot of different artists in their series. It's only been in recent years that fans have been grumbling about seeing the "same old faces" in the Dunny Artist Rosters. (You really can't fault KR for sticking with what works.) And of course, there are many, many other $10/BB series from other companies that introduce collectors to new artists. This act of discovery is one of the best parts about the blind box concept. How to build a hodge-podge collection: Obvious: Searching eBay for "Kidrobot" or "Dunny" will wield many results which are NOT Kidrobot or Dunny…. this is called "keyword spamming" and the intention is to get you to look at a piece by including a non-relevant popular keyword. Kidrobot and Dunny are two of the biggest. While this is irritating to both Kidrobot collectors, and eBay, it is a great way to see a ton of various art toys from different companies! Not just Dunnys. Also, watch Trampt and the Kidrobot forum for pieces being sold by collectors. Sad but true: Surf around on the various art toy shops' websites. This industry is in a state of upheaval, which means as a new collector, you get to take advantage of amazing sales pretty frequently. A lot of us shop owners are slashing prices on items that are 6-12 months old, making semi-recent releases quite affordable. Get on at least 10 of those email lists and I guarantee you'll see a shop running a sale within a week or two. Not so obvious: Barnes & Noble, Urban Outfitters, Toys R Us. Not kidding- there's a series of Godzilla figures put out by Bandai that were designed by Japanese art toy designer Touma, and that's just one random example of the plethora of art toys that are becoming available in big-box retailers. You can now find items by tokidoki, Kidrobot, Toy2R and The Loyal Subjects in Urban Outfitters or Barnes & Noble. The Loyal Subjects just got picked up by Toys R Us as well! You can kick off your art toy collection no matter where you live! Note that the big-box retailers tend to stock smaller, less unique items, so when you feel like going bigger, or going for small-run items, you'll usually have to start looking at art toy shops online. Get on their email lists! Best emails ever. (see "Sad But True" above) How to build a focused collection: Obvious: A focused collection is one made up of more specific pieces. The most effective way of obtaining specific pieces is to get yourself on the email list of the person/company that produces the pieces, that way you're the first to know when a new piece is going to be released. Not every artist has, or uses, an email list, but most of them do. The ones that want to reach their customers directly will always have an email list signup for somewhere on their website. I do this all the time- most of the pieces I get from the "hot" companies never even hit my shop- I sell them privately via my email list, giving my subscribers the first dibs on those pieces. Not so obvious: Engage the other fans of that artist. Get on the social media accounts or forums associated with the artist or company, and just strike up some friendships. A lot of cool deals start with "Hey everyone, I'm new here but I really love the art of XXX. Anyone selling XXX piece?" PROTIP: Ignore the trolls and haters. The internet is full of them. Block and ignore them. They are not worth your time. Humble and kind people will help you out, as long as you are nice! Even better: attend a show featuring that artist, or a convention. Shake hands, be nice. Buy something. The artist will not forget that interaction. You'd be AMAZED at how you can benefit from true kindness- artists like helping out kind people with secret presales, unreleased items, special stuff they normally don't sell. You might even try paying it forward by mailing them fan art or just a piece of your own artwork. There's no one that appreciates artwork like an artist- it's a truly meaningful gift. I hear about a lot of artists exchanging art with each other. You don't have to be a professional artist to create something fun for someone. Warning: do NOT be a stalker. Stalking means bothering the artist more than once a week, or constantly mailing them stuff with no reciprocation. They are all people. Treat them as you'd like to be treated. [Thanks to Benny for submitting this awesome guide for folks dipping into the world of vinyl/designer/art toy collecting! Please be sure to check out his store if you're hungry for more. Want to contribute a guest post for Tomopop? Shoot us an email at guest_writers (at) tomopop (dot) com.]
Community photo
Tips from a pro
This is a guest post by Benny Kline, who owns and runs Tenacious Toys. He is located in New York and has been in the business for about 10 years. While Tenacious Toys is primarily a storefront for awesome designer art toys, you can also keep up with news from the scene at their blog. Additionally, you can connect with Benny on Twitter and Google+.

What Kristina Is Up To: Sports Day

May 23 // Kristina Pino
This past week, the weather has been pretty iffy. Though the forecast is looking good for tomorrow, I'm not really convinced. If the weather doesn't turn out right for the event, it means we will have to postpone for Sunday and try again then. I'm actually not sure what the contingency plan is for a rainy Saturday and Sunday, though. I just know it would really stink, because my students are really excited for their big day. The students take part in pretty much every aspect of the event. The 6th years in particular are highlighted as well as charged with more executive duties such as score-keeping and announcing because it's their last year. Meiko is posing next to the red team's stack of point slides. The entire school is divided between "red" and "white" teams, and the divisions aren't neatly cut into classrooms, so the students are all expected to behave in a sportsmanlike manner and cheer each other on, despite being on opposing teams. While some events involve full student body participation, most are just in groups of one or two grade levels. Meiko is sitting in a basket of red hackey sacks which are for a game the first graders play, in which they have to try and sink them into baskets held up on a pole within a certain time frame. Another amusing game to watch is a huge ball pass involving the entire student body, in which they all stand together along the running track and pass a 6-foot tall ball overhead to the goal. My favorite event is one of the 6th graders' races. First, they dash for a pile of signs and pick one at random, hanging it around their neck. The sign has a random description that should fit someone in the crowd, and some of them even say the names of specific teachers. The students need to get someone from the crowd who matches the sign's description and then dash with them, hand in hand, to the finish line. Some of the descriptions include: Handsome dad, someone with a camera, someone carrying a kid on their shoulders, someone wearing orange, the school principal, a pretty lady, and someone with a beard. Japanese elementary schools, at least in my area, are pretty good about encouraging kids to get into arts and music. We've got a full brass band, which is the most adorable yet impressive thing to behold considering my students are between the ages of 4 and 12. The cheerleader teams will use the taiko drum Meiko is sitting on now. The cheerleaders are equal parts male and female students. The boys wear headbands and gloves matching their team's color and lead their fellow students in loud (spirited!) chanting and taiko drumming, while the girls perform more complicated dance moves and wave pom poms around. Each team gets to sing two songs and yell a chant in a cheer battle towards the beginning of the event, and continue on through the rest of the day in the usual manner for sporting events. I should mention here that, in the spirit of sportsmanship, one of the songs that the red team sings harmonizes with one of the songs the white team sings. After they've both had a chance to each sing separately, there's a huge school-wide chorus. You can hear those kids from 2+ blocks away. I know this because I've checked. So what's my role in all this? I'll be sitting at the announcing table, jabbering away into a mic all day. It's actually pretty fun to run commentary, and I get to do it in the shade with a front row view of all the events. No complaints here. Got any burning questions about life as a school teacher, or life in general, in Japan? Sound off and I'll see if my toys can help elucidate.
What Kristina Is Up To photo
The Japan school life
Sports Day is tomorrow, which means that the past few weeks have been intense in terms of preparing for the big event. Kids take time out of class (during school hours) to learn and practice their dances, to practice the vari...

Tomopop Review: Phat Company's Caster EXTRA

May 18 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: Caster EXTRAFigure Maker: Phat CompanyRetail Price: ¥8,381Available at: HobbyLink Japan  I wouldn't have pegged myself as a fan of kemonomimi and all that, but I guess I do have a soft spot for fox girls (and wolf girls who happen to look like fox girls). Maybe that's why I ended up requesting Caster for review. The figure doesn't require much assembly, thankfully. You just need to attach her left leg to the base, and put a little paper talisman into her right hand. I totally forgot to do that so in this review, it just kind of looks like she's doing finger guns. This rendition of Caster is... interesting. She has a gothic lolita-style outfit which shows a ton of cleavage. I'm not the biggest fan of this kind of bust. The base features a set of translucent rings forming the "CCC" logo. I'm ecstatic that Phat Company decided to do something cool with the base instead of opting for a plain disc. Caster has a wonderful face full of cheer. Phat Company did a great job making this figure lively. Her tail and hair are made of translucent plastic. The effect works fine for the hair, but is less convincing for the tail. I think it already looks big and fluffy enough. If you get up close with a camera, you'll notice a few rough spots in the finish. These flaws are difficult to see with the naked eye, though. Caster was fun to shoot. I find that sometimes, if a character design looks energetic, it gives me a little extra spark too. With a cute face and quirky design, this figure has the most important qualities that matter to me. Phat Company can improve on the build quality a bit, but overall I'm happy with Caster. The MSRP is on the high end for a 1/8-scale figure, but this one is fairly large and complex for its scale. [Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample!]
Phat Company Caster EXTRA photo
Definitely something extra in the chest
Keeping track of the various casts of the Fate franchise is beyond my patience, so I'll just say this Caster is the one featured in Fate/Extra CCC. The original Caster in Fate/stay night was rather dour while this one is... I...

Tomopop Review: Sega's PM Figure Rei Ayanami

May 17 // Tianxiao Ma
Figure Name: PM Figure Rei AyanamiFigure Maker: SegaRetail Price: ¥1,800(Formerly) Available at: HobbyLink Japan  Prize figures are typically found, as the name suggests, as prizes in various arcade and game machines in Japan. The major figure retailers sell them straight up as well. You can just think of them as a cheaper line of PVC figures. With this Rei figure I wanted to see if the old notions about prize figures were still true. Are they smaller, less detailed, and of lower quality? Let's find out! There's no window on this box, which probably isn't all that unusual when it comes to prize figures. I do have a few other prize figures, and their boxes all have windows. My first impression upon unboxing was "dusty." I apologize in advance for all the dust; I did give the figure a once over with a cleaning cloth, but apparently it needed a few more passes. As you can see, the sculpt is actually pretty good. A plugsuit isn't the most elaborate of outfits, but there is a good amount of detailing and relief in this sculpt. I also really like the job Sega did with Rei's face. As for the paint job, it's somewhat rough but not to a distracting degree. I think the plugsuit helps a bit in this department because there isn't much shading or coloring required. I might be in the minority when I say I prefer the Evangelion 3.0 plugsuits over the classic ones. The new designs look sleeker and modern. The one exception may be Asuka's classic red, just because I like shiny red stuff. This isn't a gratuitous butt shot, I promise. This shot highlights the biggest problem with the figure: those gigantic seams at her pelvis. The black plugsuit does hide them a little bit, but they're still noticeable. If you were curious about the size, here's Rei next to Wave's 1/10-scale Asuka. At 22cm tall, you're getting a lot of figure for ¥1,800! Here's Rei next to a couple more Sega PM Figures. Alter's making an Asuka figure, so maybe in a few decades we'll see Rei and Mari figures from them. Until then, our options are limited. Prize figures have improved a lot since I first started collecting, and Sega's PM Figures are good value for money. This Rei figure is comparable in size to a 1/8-scale PVC, with a decent sculpt and paint job. At the same time, you can see why they only cost a fraction of their more expensive cousins. The quality, although far from shoddy, still isn't all there. But that's the trade-off you make for a better price. [Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample!]
Sega PM Rei Ayanami photo
The ups and downs of prize figures
Prize figures, when I started collecting, weren't things you'd go out of your way to get. They were too small, not very detailed, and had dodgy quality. Over time, all three of those aspects gradually improved to the point wh...

What Scarecroodle Is Up To: Also doing some reading, etc

May 16 // Scarecroodle
As you've probably guessed, I'm a fan of superhero-related properties. While Superman has never been one of my favorite characters, it's hard to deny that he's something of a cultural icon and has had a tremendous impact on comics. So recently when I was visiting this strange place where they let you borrow books for free, I either remembered (or stumbled upon?) a Superman "biography" that I previously heard discussed on NPR some years ago and had been meaning to check out (both figuratively and literally, I suppose). Larry Tye's Superman: The High Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero is a somewhat in-depth look at the Man of Steel's conception and rise to prominence, starting by discussing the origin story of his two creators and getting up to... well, I'm only about thirty pages in! So no spoilers, people. I want to learn from the book if this Superman thing takes off. Pictured alongside the book is Mattel's DC Universe Classics wave 6 (Kalibak-series) Superman variant. He was the variant for the Recovery Suit Superman (based on the costume that Superman wore while he was healing following his "death" at the hands of Doomsday) and uses a fairly standard mold. In fact, he's more or less identical to other Superman figures in the DCUC line except for that mullet. He was one of the first DCUC figures I picked up and, at the time, I thought Superman looked cooler with a mullet. I've also been reading Stephen King's autobiographical "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft". As with Superman, Stephen King has never been a personal favorite although he's probably the most prolific man in horror today. I've liked some of his short stories (and a few of his novels, especially The Long Walk), but I've generally found his stuff to be very hit or miss. Some of his stories resonate with me tremendously while others... well, not so much. However, his work often makes for tremendous movies and mini-series. The book has been recommended to me countless times over the years although I've generally avoided it for a lack of interest. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's actually fairly entertaining besides providing some insights into how he got started as an author. After getting eighty pages into the autobiography, I wound up just ordering a copy so I can keep it around (and also mark the hell out of it) for personal reference. Standing next to the book is Pennywise the Dancing Clown from Funko's Horror Classics Mystery Minis blind-boxed line. While I've never read Stephen King's It, I greatly enjoyed the miniseries which featured Tim Curry as an evil, supernatural clown (and also starred a young Emily Perkins of Ginger Snaps fame). The fantastic-looking Pennywise is one of the easier figures to spot in the Mystery Minis set as a box containing one will weigh a bit more than the others in the series (although I imagine Captain Spaulding is a heavier figure was well). Game of Thrones is absolutely massive these days. The immensely popular HBO show is in its fourth season and, although I haven't started watching it, a few months back I spoiled a good chunk of the franchise by checking out article after article in the A Song of Fire and Ice wiki (ie, the wiki for the original novels). The plot is just incredible, a complex web of interactions among generally well-crafted characters each with their own motivations and aspirations. I had originally planned to just wait until the tv show finished then binge-watch all at once, but I was also curious about the novels that started it all so I wound up grabbing a copy of A Game of Thrones (the first novel in the series) on the cheap. I plan on starting this 800-page monster after I finish reading that Superman biography. Standing next to the novel is Rhaegal from Funko's Game of Thrones Mystery Minis (reviewed). Although Funko has also produced a series of 6-inch Legacy figures (with series 2 on the way!) and Pop! versions as well, Rhaegal is thus far the only collectible I own from the franchise although I expect that will change by the time I get through reading the novel. Besides reading, binge-watching tv shows (and films), and following the collectibles scene, I still game a little and the Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds instantly captured my attention when it was announced (in no small part for being sequel to A Link to the Past). So while Skyward Sword still sits shrinkwrapped on my shelf, I've completed both LBW's normal and heroic mode. While I wouldn't raise A Link Between Worlds onto the same pedestal as A Link to the Past, it's still a great game. I somewhat enjoyed the option to rent then buy the weapons instead of unlocking them in dungeons but, at the same time, the terms of rental potentially made heroic mode a little annoying and finding a dungeon's hidden treasure just didn't have the same thrill. My only other issue with LBW was that it was relatively easy. I never needed to consult a guide to solve any puzzles (or use the in-game option) and most of the boss fights, while fun, posed relatively little challenge. Speaking of shrink-wrapped, I hadn't unboxed figma Skyward Sword Link until now. I was originally going to just put my Phantom Hourglass Link gashapon but, failing to find him, I finally let the figma Link get some air. I love blind-boxed figure (most of the time). The element of mystery, the thrill of the unknown, is always fun... but, at the same time, I always have my eye on a few specific figures in any given series. So while I may want a *surprise*, I want that surprise be a figure I want. How do you separate the ones you want from the ones you don't when the things are packaged randomly, you might ask? Well, there's always a trick or two... DC Collectibles' Scribblenauts Unmasked series 2 very recently hit Gamestops in my metro. Unlike series 1, where I had my eye on a handful of characters, I was specifically only hoping for Bane. Bane has a 3/24 rarity which makes him a little more common than the others but, more importantly, he's also a taller figure. My natural conclusion? Just move the box around a little bit and go with the one that moves the least. The theory seemed sound. However, as the saying goes, you have known knowns, known unknowns, and then you have unknown unknowns: things you don't know that you don't know. In this case, the known unknown came in the form of three hidden characters. What I didn't know and certainly didn't expect at the time was that the series' Max figure, who was shown cosplaying as various heroes, had instead rather unexpectedly taken the form of the evil extraterrestrial space starfish known as Starro and was also a larger figure. Truth be told, I like Starro so it wasn't an entirely unpleasant twist. Plus, I reasoned, the figure WAS most likely the rarest in the wave at his ?/?? rarity (which implies a greater than 1/24 rarity). So I left thinking, "Wow, I'm a lucky guy!". It's weird how an implied rarity completely switches your view on a collectible. Whereas I would have been okay with Starro-Max and perhaps thought him a little neat, the rarity suddenly elevated the figure to the stars. So I had built up this idea in my head that he was cooler because of some perceived rarity and connected monetary value only to look him up on ebay and find... well, my expectations completely shattered. Rare or not (perhaps he was 5/48 or something fluky instead), the figure's average listing was about US$10 with occasional ones priced even lower. Suddenly that change in perceived rarity and worth made me think less of the figure than if he was, say, of an average 2/24 rarity. He was still the same figure, still had a design I liked, and was something I most likely wouldn't have sold anyway, but the whole experience had generally messed with my head. I'm not sure whether I would have preferred just a Scribblenauts-styled Starro over a Max-cosplaying-as-Starro, but the figure is cute. The figure is definitely a highlight in a line where many of the figures are essentially just repaints. Given that my only other real want this wave is Bane, I'm not sure if I'll try my theory again or just pay a little more for Bane loose. Otherwise I could just skip him entirely since I never got Black Manta from series 1 either (instead getting my other top choice, Bizarro).
What Scarecroodle is upto photo
I also visited the Guggenheim, but they didn't allow photos
Taking a page out of Kristina's book, this week I'd focus on some of the things I've reading and doing while also showing off some related collectibles. Thoughts will be spoken and things will be photographed. More after the jump.

Tomopop Review: Figuarts ZERO Akainu & Aokiji Battle Ver.

May 13 // Pedro Cortes
Figure Name: Figuarts ZERO Akainu Battle Ver. & Figuarts ZERO Aokiji Kuzan Battle Ver.Figure Maker: BandaiRetail Price: ¥4,500 eachAvailable at: [Akainu: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | CD Japan | Play Asia | Plamoya | Entertainment Earth | Big Bad Toy Store ] [ Aokiji: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | AmiAmi | CD Japan | Plamoya | Entertainment Earth | Big Bad Toy Store ] As per the usual, let us begin with a shot of the boxes. Akainu's box looks positively smoldering. It'll surely light up whatever shelf it's sitting on. On the other hand, Aokiji's box looks a bit on the chilly side. Nice blues and whites make it look a bit sterile, though it's appropriate considering the guy inside. Alright, enough with the cardboard, let's move on over to the figures themselves. Let's begin with ol' grump-face Akainu. Yeesh, talk about a grouch. He's a jerk in One Piece and he doesn't look much nicer in PVC form. Bandai's sculptor did a great job catching his angry, determined expression, which is capable of sending terror down the spine of any subordinate who dare question his orders. I'm also fond of the detail on his lapel flower, which is a strange touch on a such a severe dude. His back isn't any less severe. While his ugly mug is spun around, the rather drastic "Absolute Justice" printed on the back of his coat sends a stern message to all who read. Oh, and did I mention the magma bubbling across his shoulders? When Akainu ate the Magma-Magma Fruit, he gained the ability to control one of the hottest substances known to man. I mean, the guy is literally exuding the hot stuff in this figure. Made of a harder translucent plastic, it's a great addition to this battle version of the Marine admiral. In this alternate angle, you can see how the magma goes down to his beefy fist. He looks ready to punch holes in whoever gets in his way, and as fans of One Piece know, he's really good at punching holes through people. There are also some additional fire effect parts on his relatively thin legs. Instead of having Akainu oozing magma from his entire body...'s a nice way to accent the range of his heat abilities. After all, even if he isn't immediately using magma on one side of his body, he'd still be hot enough to ignite the clothing on that free limb. Akainu's base is similar to other characters in the One Piece Figuarts ZERO line, so expect nothing really new here. The only thing of note is that there's a separate piece on the rear of the base to support his weight, as he's rather top-heavy So now that we've covered the flame, let's cover the ice! Next up is Aokiji, the (now former) Marine admiral and user of the Ice-Ice Fruit. As opposed to the tight, angry expression on Akainu's face, Aokiji looks only mildly irritated. More like he just woke up from a really good nap instead of fighting for his life. I guess that does match his personality in the show, so this is less of a complaint and more of an idle observation. Oh, and I love that the sculptor kept his sleeping mask. I love the idea of this incredibly powerful admiral that's ready to drift off to sleep at a moment's notice. Keeping with his icy abilities, Aokiji has a bunch of blue effect parts covering sections of his body. Unlike Aokiji, I'm not entirely pleased with what Bandai did here. While it makes sense for Akainu's magma to be bubbly and lumpy, it doesn't make any sense here. I think they were going for an icy wind effect, but really it should be sharp and jagged. You know, like his body froze over and the ice crystals were jutting out all over his body. Here's a closer look at the effect parts. It does look wind-like, but it still doesn't look right. If you look near the bottom of the photo, you can see the ice growing on his other hand. That's how I wanted it to look across Aokiji's back. Nice big spikes, running up his limbs. Yeah, it's a minor touch in the scheme of things, but I think it would've looked a lot better and made him look even more different from his smoldering counterpart. One thing I really love about the battle version of Aokiji is the flowing of coat. It gives him a fantastic sense of motion, like he's dodging a nasty attack. Too often figures of men will just have them standing with their arms crossed and their hips jutting out, ignoring the great posing possibilities. If a character has a coat, I want that coat to do something, and Bandai did just that with the battle version of Aokiji. Finally, here's Aokiji's base. Once again, similar to the rest of the One Piece Figuarts ZEROs. The character name, the version of the character and some sort of quote or sound effect across the base. Unlike Akainu, you don't have to worry about weight here. Aoiji is centered fairly well. So all in all, these are a pair of great figures of some pretty important characters from One Piece. Both gents have gotten some nice looking effects added to some strong poses that should impress fans of the show. They'll look fantastic in your collection, even if you already have another version from some time back or from a different line. [Big thanks goes out to Bluefin Distribution for providing the figures for review!]
Review: Akainu/Aokiji photo
Magma and Ice, nowhere near Ebony and Ivory
With dozens and dozens of characters over 17 years of publication, One Piece is a figure company's dream. There are so many characters that can be made into figures, and just as many fans foaming at the mouth to pick them up....

Tomopop Review: Dooodolls' Third Eye

May 12 // Tianxiao Ma
Plush Name: Third EyePlush Maker: DooodollsRetail Price: US$19.99Available at: BSV Toys  Each Dooodolls plush comes with a booklet showing the character designs and a short blurb of what they are. I picked up Third Eye, whose blurb suggests he's a "secret agent in training who can crack the top security codes on the planet." I guess I should keep him away from my PC, then... I picked up the 12" version of Third Eye. There's a 24" version available for US$44.99 but I elected to go with a plush that could fit in my camera bag. Here he is at the Diamond Select panel, perhaps waiting to steal some trade secrets. The construction of this plushie is, in a word, soft. The majority of it is a velvety material that feels soft and smooth to the touch. One thing I would have liked to see is some additional support for the two eyes on the side. The stalks connecting them are thin so they tend to droop. Maybe a piece of wire inside each would make Third Eye look a bit more lively (and it would be cool to be able to pose the eyes). Droopy eyes aside, Third Eye is well-made. There are no issues with the stitching or fabric. The eyes, mouth, and belly button are embroidered and will last a good long time. Dooodolls is as much a design studio as they are a plush maker. I like that their character designs have a unique cartoony style. The unusual shapes and vivid colors make for some charming and memorable plushes. Natalie and Andres suggested that I give some kind of ranking based on cuddliness. The 12" Third Eye is certainly soft and squishy enough to cuddle, but I think the 24" version would make for maximum cuddle-ability. I would say the cuddle factor is about on par with a puppy: go for it, but don't use full-strength. [Thanks to BSV LLC and Dooodolls for the review sample!]
Dooodolls Third Eye photo
Secret agent man
The Dooodolls display at C2E2 was lively thanks to their mascot character drawing a lot of attention. They certainly got my attention, as I hadn't previously heard of the company. The distributor's representative, Lexi Stauri...

What Kristina Is Up To: A cozy Golden Week holiday

May 09 // Kristina Pino
Since it's up in the header, I'll just repost this moody picture of Yozora first. She's sitting on my copy of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. I enjoyed the film adaptation, titled Hugo, when it first came out and had wanted to read the book ever since. I never really looked anything up about it though, and when I got it in my hands, I was turned off by its size (the book is seriously huge). When I finally cracked it open this weekend, I was delighted to find that at least half of its pages are full of pictures. The book is a splendid presentation and a lovely story, despite Yozora's grumpy expression. Next up is Rin (in the style of Remote Control) posing with the ComiXology app open to the latest issue of Harley Quinn (at the time of writing). That book in particular is fantastic, though I'm also currently reading these (among others): Hawkeye, Black Widow, Saga, Sex Criminals, and X-Men (current issues by Brian Wood, et al). I also recently read The Dark Knight Returns, and I'm looking forward to my next Batman book soon, here. Recently, I hit up the MORI Art Museum at Roppongi Hills (Tokyo) to check out the Andy Warhol Exhibition. Of course, it was all stunning and I couldn't resist this cute little board book on my way out. There's artwork in it that hasn't been published in a book previously, and it comprises images that follow the format of the artwork in the cover (i.e. you're so small, you're so big, so many stars). It's lovely, and I kind of regret only buying one copy. Miku is having a good time reading Ian Doescher's William Shakespeare's Star Wars: Verily A New Hope, which is just what it sounds like: the story of Episode IV retold as if Shakespeare had written it today. It's witty, and fresh, and the author even brought some more depth to the characters by adding inner dialogue for R2 and soliloquies for Darth Vader and others. This book was such a hit that the sequel (The Empire Striketh Back) has been recently released and a third title, The Jedi Doth Return is hitting the streets in July of this year. I may as well get the other Star Wars title in here next while my mind is still in a galaxy far, far away. Jeffrey Brown's Star Wars: Jedi Academy follows the story of Roan, a young boy who wants to go to Pilot Academy, but is instead enlisted by Yoda himself for the Jedi Academy. The format is much like Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and it's a great read for Star Wars fans old and new. I found it funny and charming, and a second title in the series (Jedi Academy: Return of the Padawan) has also been recently released. Next up is a book that is probably meant to be picked up and read in bits and pieces, but I found it difficult to put down at all because it's so darn funny. Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops began as a series of hilarious blog posts about the life of a bookseller called Jen Campbell that got the attention from the right people and then, boom: published. And successful! Meiko is currently reading More Things Customers Say in Bookshops, which includes both stories from Jen herself and submissions from booksellers all around the world. It's one thing to enjoy these books as a book nerd, but if you've ever worked retail, you'll get a kick out of them, too. Finally, I'll round this off with a graphic novel titled Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks. If you've ever been interested in getting a crash course on the lives of these three women, who as the title suggests, hugely influenced the study of primates, this is a fantastic start. Or just, you know, interest in learning about women in science in general. The creators took a few liberties here and there, but the presentation is clever and engaging, and a great example of learning things without realizing it because it's fun. There's your look at what I've been reading lately in terms of books I can show you because they're physical or, in the case of comics, super visual. I read on my Kindle often, both because of space concerns and just plain convenience, but I didn't list any books I've been reading digitally. To top it off, I've also been listening to books on audio via Audible (if you're on that, by the way, I highly recommend The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray!). And yeah, the pictures probably wouldn't have been as interesting. If you've got any suggestions for books I should be reading based on the kind of stuff you're seeing here, I'm always open to checking new things out! Hit me up in the comments, or just straight up share what you've been reading lately. Summer is almost here, so everyone can use some book recommendations.
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The Staycation
Taking a cue from Scarecroodle, who came up with this column idea and kicked it off last week, I'll also be posting updates about what I am (and my toys are) up to. Last weekend, folks in Japan enjoyed the madness that is Gol...

Tomocast 46: C2E2 & Wondercon

May 07 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]34394:37280:0[/embed] Show Length: 68:46   C2E2 Diamond Select (non-Minimates) Enterbay Pokezombies Frombie Henry Cesneros   Wondercon Kotobukiya (Their panel & booth) Batman display Super7    SDCC Exclusives Hasbro SW stuff  Viz 1/6 Naruto  Matty Collector    News Disney freezing Frozen merch  Gender-split Spidey happy meal toys    Toys First Free! figma  Threezero has Dead Space 3 license  Captain America figma  Vyse statue coming! 
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Double trouble
You know it's the beginning of Summer when the events start to happen every couple of weeks. In short proximity, we had C2E2 and Wondercon occur, so you know that those are the main topic of the latest episode of Tomocast. An...

Tomocast 45: Beware Heel Andres

Apr 22 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]34247:37278:0[/embed] Episode Length: 59:35 Show Notes Miyazawa Model Exhibition Spring 2014 Phat! Ryuko Shinji X Kaworu Nendo Link   News Nendo Link Pre-order DAMTOYS Danny Trejo Sideshow Optimus Prime Big Chief Studios Tenth Doctor Figma Archer Zelda/Pokemon Monopoly   Reviews Robot Damashii Wing Gundam Figuarts Ninja Storm Power Rangers
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Not even a tasty potato can curb his rage
Hey folks, welcome back to the Tomocast. In this episode, we learn a very important lesson: do not poke or annoy Andres on a bad day. He'll turn heel on you faster than you can say swerve. On the toy end of things, we cover t...

Tomocast 44: The most unfortunate spin

Apr 04 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]34083:37273:0[/embed]   Show Notes Episode Length: 56:16   News Proper Aniplex opens online store FUNimation bootleg lawsuit Pre-orders Tsume Gray Fullbuster Nendo Mako / figma Ryuko   Figure News Custom Nudist Nonon First 4 Figures Zelda Adventure Time Mystery Minis TMNT Revoltechs Good Smile Company's 1:1 Swimsuit Girl   Reviews SH Figuarts MMPR Black Ranger    
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Let's just say it involves a pair of books
Welcome back to the Tomocast! Once again, I'm joined by Andres Cerrato and Rio McCarthy, back from the adventure known as life. Since the three of us have been in the same approximate area in the recent past, we're buzzing wi...

DO WANT: March 2014

Apr 01 // Pedro Cortes
Pedro wants...Megahouse's Potratit of Pirates Rebecca It's been a while since I've pre-ordered a Portrait of Pirates. There hasn't been a new pirate on my shelf in months and that's simply unacceptable. Good thing Megahouse put Rebecca up for order. This pink-haired gladiator is an expert in the art of evasion, so that might explain her lack of armor. Well, more than likely it was excuse to have a cute lady wearing very little, but either way she'll make a good edition to my collection!   Scarecroodle wants...Bandai's S.H. Figuarts Zero Picking a most-wanted item from a month is fairly easy when it's something that's been on your wishlist for years. Ever since Bandai's D-Arts MMX Zero was announced, I was hoping that the company would also produce a figure based on his appearance in the Mega Man Zero series... and apparently a lot of people have wanted him as well, given that he was the clear winner of a fan poll (after he been teased as a possible addition). The sculpting looks great and I expect him to look amazing when painted. This is probably one of my biggest wants this year, right next to DST's super-articulate Select Gillman / Creature from the Black Lagoon.   Tian & Martin want...Good Smile Company's Nendoroid Mako Tian Looks like I waited just the right amount of time for this. I want Nendoroid Mako! Mako is currently my favorite part of Kill la Kill because everything she does is objectively amazing. The Nendoroid version comes with pretty much all of the Mako accessories I'd want. My favorite is her beat-up-by-the-tennis-club face. It just goes to show, even if a character design isn't outrageous, you can still make a great Nendo by giving it some personality and nice accessories. Martin This is what this line was born for. Mako is practically a living Nendoroid anyway, and GSC have done a great job of outfitting her with a range of fun accessories to complement her basic design. They also completely knocked it out of the park with facial expressions. Forget the scantily-clad heroines, this is the essential Kill la Kill figure.   Chris Seto wants...Hot Toys's Metal Gear Rising Raiden I tried so hard... I've managed to hold off buying a hot toys item for some time. I even passed over their Video Game masterpiece Ada Wong (so much buyers regret over that. Esp with the markup prices) but I'm not sure if I can do it again with the Metal Gear Rising Raiden. after being burned so badly by the play arts kai figure (I got the white version from the UK limited edition of the game) I wasn't sure if I'd see a great raiden, even though the game really got me wishing for one. Lets see if hot toys can scratch my itch. don't know if I can manage another bout of disappointment.   Natalie wants...ThinkGeek's Blobfish If my pick from last month's DO WANT wasn't enough proof that I love odd-looking plushes, this month's will surely do the trick. The Blobfish plush just looks so cute yet pitiful. It makes me want to hold it, hug it, and tell the poor dear that everything will be just fine. Plus, I bet the fluffy thing is awfully fun to cuddle with. Who wouldn't want to use this big guy as a pillow whilst surfing the web? Nobody, that's who.   Jeremy wants...Transformers Masterpiece Bumblebee There's a lot of reasons to want Masterpiece Bumblebee. For starters it's the first time in decades that Takara Tomy (and likewise Hasbro) has been able to use the Volkswagen Beetle in the Transformers line do VW's changing stance on war toys. Then there's just how great this figure is turning out in its transformation and little features like extra facial expressions, something we've only really seen put to use on the Seeker jets. Then there's the addition of Spike in a fully transforming exo suit, a figure people have been wanting since the movie hit in 1986. All in all it's a great figure and already a strong contender for Transformer of the year.   Brian wants...My Plastic Heart's Dark Night Sometimes, the best choices are the smallest ones. In this case, that would happen to be myplasticheart and Lou Pimentel's newest Junior, the Dark Night ver. Based on a bigger Cranston that was in turn based on Batman's outfit, it's a little bit of comic book geekery in designer toy form. Also, come on; it's Junior, and you guys know how much I like him, right? How can I not want him?   That's it for this month. Let us know what makes your pulse race in the comments below!
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This ain't no April fool
Don't let the date fool you folks, this is the real deal. Come on, we wouldn't lie about the DO WANT. It's the feature that lets you know what we want the most from the last month. To fib on such a sacred occasion would be ta...

Tomocast 43: Dragon Dagger beatings

Mar 19 // Pedro Cortes
[embed]33936:37272:0[/embed] Episode Length: 66:25 Topics Discussed Megahouse's SorceressMegahouse's P.O.P. RebeccaFiguarts ZERO Sailor Mercuryfigma Iron Man GSC delays everything Gunpla showing up at Barnes and NobleDCC votes on new Bombshell MeraGrandpa build wooden Gundam for grandchildPlayArts Kai Rorschachfigma Indiana Jones  Andres: Power Morpher Review  
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Bludgeoned to death with a toy
Welcome back to the Tomocast! Sorry for the delay folks, real life snuck out from its cage and proceeded to maul all of us. No matter, we're back with a brand new episode. I was joined by Andres Cerrato and Tianxiao Ma to tal...

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