Super Plastic
Pokemon, Bootlegs, & You

by Adam Pawlus, Apr 24th 2007

Welcome, Plastics

As always, thanks for your feedback-- it's going to make the column better. (Obviously, you know what you want better than I do.) Note the new abbreviations on the links: JPN for Japanese page, and NSFW for Not Safe For Work. As in "clicking on this link will make those around you angry." So don't click on it. I shouldn't even put them in here.



American Anime Toy News Bites

Fate/stay night fans may be pleased to know a new Playstation 2 game was released which includes a bonus PSP game and a bonus mini (or perhaps micro) bust. The PSP game and bust may interest you, as PSP games are region-free and the bust can be enjoyed by anyone who can see it. The PS2 game, well, that depends on what kind of PS2 you have.
[ MORE: NCS ]

Anyone who's played King of Fighters and remembers Mai (which is anyone who's played King of Fighters) might be interested to know she's got two high-end statues coming out in Japan this summer-- that's the good news. The bad news is that due to popularity, they're already doing a second production run on one of them and they're expected to be, shall we say, hard to get.
[ MORE: NCS [Max Factory] | NCS [Aizu Project] ]

Transformers fanboys and girls will be pleased to know that there's new awesome stuff in the USA and Japan. In Japan, there's Masterpiece Megatron, the original gun-to-robot, in a much larger size with tons of extras. In the USA, there's the Wal-Mart exclusive Alternators Rumble and Ravage, which turn from Honda Civic to robot and Jaguar to jaguar. Pretty cool stuff if you can find it. It's worth noting that the Megatron may be modified/ruined in what seems to be a halfhearted attempt to conform to US safety laws. Also, Pepsi and Mountain Dew are starting their summer movie promotion to tie in to the upcoming film-- but more on that in the future/as I get pictures.
[ MORE: TFormers.com [Megatron] | Wal-Mart.com [Rumble] | BWTF.com [Ravage] ]



Anime News Network: Cheap Thrills


NAME
MANUFACTURER
DISTRIBUTED IN
AVAILABLE
PACKAGING
HEIGHT
Ash vs. Team Rocket Pack
Hasbro
USA
2006-2007
Carded
3-inches scale
WHAT IS IT?
Everybody you might expect in toy called "Ash vs. Team Rocket Pack." This was one of the last items made by Hasbro during their stewardship of the Master Toy License for Pokémon in North America, and was a Target exclusive (like the entire 2006 line was.) Of course, "exclusive" is a temporary thing, as this particular item-- and tons more-- are available at many Big Lots stores all across the USA. Also, this set shows that there's a lot more to anime collecting than $100 statues-- if you look around, the clearance racks and bargain bins can provide you with cheap thrills and computer decorations.

This set includes Ash and Pikachu as well as Team Rocket's Jesse and James.

PROS
It's $3. Seriously, can you do better for $3? A capsule toy will cost you more than that. This set has great card art, nice packaging overall, and a lot of toys for the money. The Pikachu looks great, too.

CONS
The heads on Jesse, James, and Ash could be better. These look about on par with McDonald's toys, and as someone who has come to expect more out of Hasbro, that's a little disappointing. Still, it's not like you can expect a lot out of an item this cheap.

MAIN

If you were of gaming age between 1998 and today, you have no excuse for not knowing what Pokémon is. Odds are you watched the show a few times, meaning you may have some level of affinity for the characters in this set. Then again, maybe you hated the show. I watched it when it was on and played the first game, but beyond that, it didn't do too much for me-- still, it's hard to resist any toy that's supremely cheap, and this is-- in more ways than one.

So here's what you get: four figures. Pikachu is what it is-- there's no articulation, and no accessories-- and he's the best of the bunch. He's got a nice little face, bright red cheeks, and seems basically on-model-- there's nothing too funky about him. He's bounding on a little lightning bolt and it seems to balance rather nicely.

Ash is a little more complicated. But not much. He has four points of articulation, so you can move him at the neck, waist, and arms-- and that's it. He looks essentially correct, but there are little things about him that are off just enough to make you mad-- but since this is basically a glorified cake decoration, what do you expect? He stands up very well without the assistance of a display base, which is a plus, and basically can stand there and look cool. Or, "cool." The paint is mostly good, and there are a few nice details like his backpack and the Pokeball in his right hand. Aside from that, though, it's pretty plain-- yet, still has more motion than the girl statues we've reviewed here in the past.

And of course, there's Team Rocket, and everybody loves Team Rocket. In college, I saw people in an anime screening club dress up as Jesse and James more than once, plus most people who watched the show remember the duo fondly-- so it's nice to finally pick up a few figures on them, as I typically only saw them as Asian bootlegs in the back of a Gamestop when the whole Pokémon thing was new. James is a decent, but not great, figure. Like Ash, he has most of the important details but there seem to be a few things that aren't quite right. The rocket-firing capture claw, for example. It uses a marble-like launching mechanism (as in, it isn't spring-loaded) and can travel a decent distance. The figure has few problems standing, although the giant launcher may screw up his ability to remain upright for long. The painters at the Hasbro factory missed a few places on the head for the purple hair, but other than that, the paint is more or less good. Oh, and I should point out that the firing rocket cannon is molded to his arm-- so it isn't going to come off.

Jesse has big hair-- that's her pro and her con. It looks cool, very striking, very purple, and very big. It's also going to be important when you set her up on your desk-- it throws her weight off if she's looking the wrong way, as it seems there's almost as much plastic in her hair as there is in the rest of her body. Still, it isn't hard to manipulate her so she'll be standing with no problems, as long as you don't sneeze or something. With a very short skirt, very long boots, and very long gloves, it's nice to see that Hasbro made sure not to take any shortcuts on this figure, like taking a James body and adding a new head. The sculpt is obviously female, which is a little tougher to pull off at this scale, even though the face is a little wonky. So it isn't perfect-- but it's still better than your average cake topper.

As mentioned earlier, I like the packaging. The back is unique in that it's horizontal while the front is vertical-- this is pretty unusual. You get a nice big montage on the back which looks cool-- it makes it hard to identify which items come packaged with which other items, but hey, at least it's pretty to look at. It'd make a nice poster if Hasbro thought ahead to do that.

MORE ABOUT POKEMON
Two new games just came out. If you have a Nintendo DS, you may wish to seek them out.

IS IT WORTH IT?
It's three bucks. If you get a half hour of fun out of this you got your money's worth.

WHAT ELSE MIGHT YOU LIKE?
Aside from nearly a decade's worth of product from Hasbro and Tomy, Jakks Pacific is now making new toys in the USA. Obviously, you're going to have a lot to choose from.



You Ask, We Answer

Reader Leo asked...
For the last year or so, I've been collecting anime figures. My modest collection is nine figures strong now, with several more on the way on pre-orders. It has only recently come to my attention that anime figures, like anime DVDs, can be bootlegged. Typically I'll buy from a legitimate dealer like the Right Stuf International or AnimeNation before browsing merchandise available on eBay, but I still can't help but wonder if I own a bootlegged figure or two. How does one go about identifying illegitimate figures from their legitimate counterparts? What kinds of warning signs should I look for before making any more purchases?

This can be tricky, in part because your/our ignorance of the Japanese language probably can give a lot away about a fake toy. It could say "I'm a crappy fake" right on the box and we wouldn't know-- so this is a problem.

Here are things I look for.

1. Does it make sense to pirate?
Going back to Transformers again, sometimes the answer is yes. Someone in China is making nearly perfect replicas of the original toys with nearly identical original packaging, in English, and in other cases, Japanese. Some of these older toys are worth hundreds of dollars in the collector market, so you can crank out a few Mirages and a few Wheeljacks, slowly leak them out, and collectors may be never the wiser.
Anything could be pirated, but given the popularity of some shows, odds are you won't see anyone pirate it. No matter how much you like a show, if you're its only fan, there's a good chance you won't see pirated items for it. I don't care how awesome you think Samurai Pizza Cats may be, but the chances of it ever seeing knock-off toys is pretty low. (Although they can exist.)

2. Would an expert know a fake if they saw it?
There have been reports of the AFA (an action figure grading company) grading at least one or two of these knock-offs as the real thing-- so sometimes you can't even tell it's fake. The AFA is usually great about this, but as you can see, it is possible to fool people.

3. Do you trust the dealer?
While even a dealer can be fooled-- and I'll refrain from posting names to avoid lawsuits-- it's best to buy from people you know and trust, or from people where you can examine the toy up close and see if anything looks funny. (Of course, some licensed toys look so bad that you'd think they might be fakes-- I remember some really awful European Slayers items.)

4. Do you trust your eyes?
If you live in the USA, you have no doubt heard of Pic & Save, Big Lots, Macfrugals, and their ilk. These discount stores often get in bootleg toys-- some are obvious, some are not. I saw Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures complete with Playmates logo on the package and a lot of elements that I would tell you to look for on a real one. (Most bootlegs merely read "Made in China.") However, the quality of the packaging was very low, the printing resolution was terrible, and it was obviously named incorrectly. If it looks really crappy, it might be a fake.
This isn't just for toy discounters, either. Toys "R" Us and Big Lots both carry toys that are all white knock-offs of Zoids, and you can see them in many stores today. Kmart sold a toy obviously based on the Voltron vehicle combiner molds, but was marketed as a generic robot toy. Kmart also had a few Zoids knock-offs in their blue box toy brand.

Unfortunately, your own expertise and logic will be your best defense against fakes. I've been sold bootlegs via eBay because the seller used a picture of the real thing in their auction and sent me a fake-- and refused to believe what they sent me was a knock-off, despite the plastic being much lighter, the colors being off, it having two right fists, etc. Be careful-- I rarely have to contend with fakes, but usually the packaging is the best way to tell you if it's legit or not. Logos, print quality, and multiple languages are usually a good way to tell-- if it has Korean, Chinese, and Japanese all one the same box, something is up.

You can see some particularly amusing examples of knock-offs and bootlegs sold in the USA at The Amazing Justice League of Julius Marx, which shows how to look for more obvious things. Like a boxed set of toys featuring The Thing, Batman, Superman, and Mr. Incredible all on the same package which is unlikely. (Although not impossible-- Hasbro is marketing a series of Attacktix game figures with Star Wars and Transformers in the same package.)



Unreasonable Demands: We Want...

Reader Derek writes...

I've never been able to find even a picture of a statue of Ukitsu from Ikki Tousen. Plenty of Hakufu, Ryomou, Ryofu and Kanu, but never Ukitsu, and that bothers me, because she's my favourite Ikki Tousen character.

It's not like she's a minor character or anything; she was Hakufu's ultimate rival in the first series, so why can't I find a statue? Does such a thing exist?

Why can't you find it? Well, perhaps because you're Ukitsu's only fan. Or at least, one of very, very few.

While it's entirely possible-- and likely-- that a fan-created limited edition was sold at a Japanese festival over the years, it certainly does not appear as if Ukitsu collectibles are around out there. I was unable to find Ukitsu collectibles, fan art, or really much of anything. Not even a pervy little "shrine" site was out there. So it looks like you have very unique tastes, Derek-- and unfortunately, this means you're totally out of luck unless someone just happens to see your request and go "oh yeah, we forgot to do her." Which is pretty unlikely. I wouldn't hold your breath that an item of this nature will exist in the near future without your paying someone to custom make you something.

And as you can see, you're more likely to meet a girl who will be willing to dress up as some other character than you are to see anyone manufacture an Ukitsu item. That should tell you something.

Reader Johnny Mac writes...

I want Bandai to translate all of their plastic model instruction manuals into English.

I've assembled 5 MGs and 2 Evas without reading squat, so I'm not saying the manuals are hard to use. Each manual is filled with technical drawings and pages of Japanese text that I'm sure would only be cool to PlaMo freaks like myself that buy them. I don't know if the vast intarweb translators will ever get bored enough to produce scanlations of these manuals, but I'm saving them all just in case.

Wow, that's pretty unreasonable. BanDai seems pretty indifferent when it comes to bringing the bulk of their Japanese items to the USA, but you do raise a point-- are there fans out there willing to take on the project of translating kit manuals? I put together some Aestivalis kits from Martian Successor Nadesico without the benefit of reading, but I do know there are a lot of fans out there for some things (Transformers) that will translate the booklets that come with toys for the benefit of the gaijin out there. I absolutely must know the full story of BinalTech and I'm sure you could use the full story on your Gundam kits-- that's something fans can get behind.

So Johnny Mac, I say you may be on to something-- are there Gundam fans out there with the linguistic skillz to bring this stuff into English? Are they doing it already? Write in and tell us, or better still, start up a website and encourage people to contribute to a database of translated manuals. Share the wealth!

What's your unreasonable demand? Email me (adam at 16bit.com), and I'll post my favorite one(s) each time right here!



That's all for today...

If you want to see Ukitsu stuff made, post in the forums and make a big stink about it. Make Ukitsu shrines. Prove me wrong that nobody cares, because it really seems like nobody cares. (And for the record, if the number is less than 100, that qualifies as "nobody" in the world of licensed merchandise.)

Your pal,
--Adam Pawlus


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