Friday, April 19, 2013

The Vision Of Escaflowne

The Vision of Escaflowne 

By Ana Bruja-Khayos

To any 30 something today, “The Vision of Escaflowne” or just “Escaflowne” has a special place in our hearts due to the amazing Sword Fighting Giant Mecha Robots.  As a teenager, “Escaflowne” and the “Mobile Suit Gundam Wing” series that aired during the once awesome Cartoon Network “Toonami” programing block was probably one of my favorite anime shows watch after school.  Both stories were awesome because of the giant fighting robots, however Escaflowne always was second place to the Gundam series because the main protagonist Hitomi was always too air headed and sappy for me to relate to. Even till today when I rewatch the series, I mainly enjoy the giant robots more than the complicated and unrealistic love life of Hitomi.

About the Series

Tenku no Esukaturone or The Vision of Escaflowne has been produced into several manga formats, an anime TV series and a movie.  It was first introduced in Japan in the summer of 1996.  The 26 episode series was produced by Sunrise Entertainment and it was directed by Kazuki Akane who is known for working on other anime series like “Mobile Suit Gundam (ZZ, F91, and 0083)”,  “Dragon Warrior”, “Dirty Pair Flash”, “Cowboy Bebop”, “Samurai Champloo”, “Noein” and most recently in 2012 “Code Geass: Akito The Exiled” just to name a few. The Escaflowne series was distributed in several places worldwide by Bandai Entertainment in Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, South Asia and much later on dubbed for other markets.

During the production of the anime Escaflowne, there were two version of the manga that were developed.  The shōnen version (manga mainly marketed to young boys around the ages of 10 years of age and up) “The Vision of Escaflowne” reflected the storyline of the tv show and the other shōjo version (manga marketed towards young girls ages 10 to 18 years of age) retelling the story called “Hitomi-The Vision of Escaflowne”.  Later on there was one more manga shōjo release called “Escaflowne—Energist's Memories”.

After the success of the mangas and anime series, there was one more release in the series called “Escaflowne : The Movie”.  This was a retelling of the original story in a much more shorter span and with and more stylistic production style that was release in 2000. Think of it as an alternate world version of the original 26 episode series.  The movie was very fun but unless you have seen the original series, some of the great background elements, secondary characters, and situations will not be as enjoyable or easily understood.

About the Toys

Bandai Anime Collection Series - Escaflowne

By the early 2000’s Bandai had noticed the a rise in popularity in anime in the overseas and American markets and started pushing their products such as action figures and figurines into these new markets. In collaboration with Bandai America, one of these products was the Bandai Anime Collection Series. This series has five different, at the time popular, anime shows which included “The Big O”, “Outlaw Star”, “Cowboy BeBop”, “Pilot Candidate”  and “The Escaflowne”.  I will say that I have rarely seen the “Pilot Candidate” Ernn-Laties mech figure and it’s the only figure I’ve seen based on the character..

When you first see the images of these figures, you don’t realize how big these figures really are. They are pretty big and heavy for something that comes carded.  Each set comes with a 7 inch figure of the main robot, mecha or ship and two 4.5 inch scale figurines of the main protagonist and supporting character of the show. The figure’s original suggested retail price back was around $15 each but today, if you are lucky, you can find them for around $20-$30 on the low end and around $60-$70 on the high end on the secondary markets.

The Escaflowne set came with the 7 inch Escaflowne figure, and a 4.5 inch figurine of Van and Hitomi.  I personally own this in my collection but is so cool and so hard to find, I just don’t want to remove it out of the package.  

Escaflowne Anime Collection

The Transforming Escaflowne

In 2001 Bandai announced that it will create a new Escaflowne figure with the collaboration of Studio Halfeye.  Studio Halfeye is known for creating garage kits that can transform without the need of extra parts or swapping parts.  This was very exciting for Escaflowne fans since the iconic robot in the series had two different modes;  normal or battling mode and the dragon flying mode. Two years after that announcement the world finally got it’s Transforming Escaflowne figures.

The figure is about 8 inches tall in normal mode and about 14 inches long in it’s dragon form.  It features 13 points of articulation that allows you the pose your Escaflowne however you epicly  desire. The figure started reaching collectors hands in November of 2003 and went for a whopping $60 USD back then and believe it or not it still can be found online auctions between $60-$100 with the box. Not too shabby.

I personally got a hold of this wonderful figure and I just could not be happier.  Not because it is just an amazingly well crafted figure but also because it transforms into a frickin dragon.  How many robots you know that do that....  If you do don’t ruin this for me... I’m having a fangirl moment here.

Flickr RNG link

My husband Tom was very kind to transform this for me.  It took him about 1 hour from robot to a dragon and several days to get it back to a robot.  While I still love this figure I will have to say that it is a very very big pain to transform.  Here are the YouTube links of the video review, done in two different parts. 

                                                        Transforming to a Dragon

Transforming it back to a Robot

But wait there’s more, but they are not as cool.

Believe it or not there are also model a few model kits created by Bandai.  As far as I know there are mainly 3 different model kits.  These are the Guymelefs that are the main focus of the series.  Vans Fanel Guymelef Escaflowne Series 005, Allen Scherazade Series 008, and Dilandau Albatou Series 011.  These are ok but they are small like your standard small scale Gundam models.

Escaflowne Model Kits

There’s also a small figure set of 8 from Kotobukiya. These are your standard small figurines that come in small pieces and you set them up together.

Escaflowne Mini Figures

I’m sure there are more figures but these are the ones I’m aware of.

If you know more know please let us know. :D

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Raging Nerdgasm presents our top 9 favorite figures of all time

Tom Khayos and Raging Nerdgasm present our top 9 favorite action figures of all time. Why top 9? Because we like to do one less than the competition (I’m lazy and besides I consider the 10th spot what everyone else adds in the comments).

Number 9

MMPR Green Ranger

MMPR came out when I was about 12 and had a massive impact on me. I was old enough to be involved in a real toy craze. My mother and I hunted before and after school and on the weekends for new MMPR toys I didn’t have. I focused on the larger 8 inch Rangers and Evil Space Aliens but eventually fell into the 5 inch line as well. Then came the zords and low and behold, if you wanted Tommy the Green Ranger, you had to buy the DragonZord. Now this was double jeopardy for me, a figure I needed for my Ranger team and he shared my first name.

The Green Ranger was really no different than the other five I bought already in those awesome triangular boxes, just the different helmet and the real kicker; the golden chest plate. Those first few episodes where Tommy debuted you knew he meant serious business, no one walks into a scene wearing golden shoulder and chest armor and expect to blend into the background. He was a serious bad ass and had one objective, destroy the Rangers. The DragonZord was an awesome piece to bring home and crack open right away. By the time I got one, Tommy was already a good guy and sort of the leader of the MMPR but he was still kicking the Ranger’s asses in my world.

I loved the color combination of green and gold. Like Pimp Don “Magic” Juan says, “Green is for the moneys and gold is for the honeys.”

Number 8

Slush Head (Kalimarr)

This was a hard decision, I’ve always really liked Slush Head. Not that he isn’t my favorite figure from the line but I recently got my own Sagitar figure and have to say if I had him during my adolescence, he’d be the figure I’m talking about now. I was always a bigger fan of the New Adventures of He-Man. Swords and sorcery were never my thing, space mutants and technology always had my attention. Granted, both cartoons were pretty bad even though many of you still hold them in highest regards but I always dug the New Adventures more than Masters of the Universe.

Slush Head had that different look; a big fishbowl on his head full of an unknown liquid a little thicker than basic water, two silver robotic tentacles, great scaly textures along his exposed arms and legs and some really fantastic dark turquoise armor. Slush Head had really good articulation for his time and the helmet was “sealed” so none of the viscous fluid could escape. The New Adventures line was full of some really inventive characters especially coming hot off the heels of the original series that made He-Man into the multi million dollar franchise it is today. The integration of technology and mutants made for some really well detailed figures. Were they as detailed as the cartoon that inspired them? Nope, but they made a decent attempt to get the likenesses close enough to pass the inspection of your average 6-10 year old in the late 80’s. But, He-Man figures weren’t known for being show accurate.

Slush Head was always a stand out figure and in my opinion got high marks for both detail and play value.

Number 7

Gripptogg from Power Lords

Even as a kid growing up in the 80s, I wasn’t aware of Revell making anything other than model kits. The series was full of some of the most bizarre aliens and monsters I had seen my whole life and I didn’t really discover the series till it was long gone from store shelves. I would have loved to have seen something other than the usual Masters of the Universe and other kind of boring fantasy lines on the shelves as a kid. I’m guessing they really didn’t get enough of a push by the stores or even their production company themselves. I did one day at the flea market come across one of the most peculiar 6 inch figures I had really ever seen.

Being the early 90s, there was no such thing as an internet database to research toys, so I had to rely on the talents of those with more experience than myself. Finding out the figure’s name was Gripptogg was cool, I just called him four arms. Learning about Power Lords made me want more of them and I accumulated a few over the years. Now only lacking 3 single figures and the Volcan Rock play set, I feel very accomplished due to the fact the figures don’t show up often. All these accomplishments aside, Gripptogg holds a special place as the first figure that launched me head first into learning about a seldom mentioned line.

My Gripptogg’s seams were never sealed shut so my figure had the annoying habit of falling apart. He’s since been glued together.

Number 6

Hot Head from TMNT

TMNT was the first toy series I actively pursued. I was a casual collector my whole life and still now I buy what I come across and can’t say I hunt down things specifically but TMNT was the exception to all that. Every month there was new mutants, both good and bad, to add to the collection as well as different representations of the four turtles. I hunted down every new mutant I could find and spent my allowance and chore money I did. I’d even go into debt with my parents, bartering future chores for a TMNT figure so I didn’t have to leave it behind. With focus like that, I got figures people search for today like Hot Spot, Scratch and Dino Shredder.

Every TMNT figure I own I don’t think I could part with but there’s a select few that I’ve bought duplicates of and Hot Head is one of them. How can you go wrong with a red dragon humanoid with an extending neck? Now picking Hot Head out of the few hundred figures they’ve made wasn’t easy. I really liked Mutagen Man, Baxter Stockman, Wingnut and Screwloose, Muckman, General Tragg and Triceratron. Hell, I have a Super Shredder on the card with Kevin Nash’s autograph but I’d have to save him for a collection of my favorite possessions with cool stories. Hot Head was just inventive, everything attached to the TMNT line had something to do with an actual animal hybrid. Outside of Mer Dude, he may be one of a short list of fantasy creatures added to the ranks of TMNT.

I wasn’t even aware of Hot Head’s extending neck until like a year after I bought him. I was pulling him out of a box by the head and it surprised me. Very coy Playmates, very coy indeed.

Number 5

Joker from Mego’s World’s Greatest Super Heroes

I’ve always been a big fan of the Joker. The comics made him Batman’s most unrelenting arch nemesis and the 1989 movie really made him the most over the top villain who wasn’t suffering from insanity, he was enjoying every minute of it. Jack’s performance of the Joker really cemented my love for the character and I sought out all the toy representations I could afford. I stumbled into Cesar Romero’s performance too and found it just as compelling as Nicholson’s but more campy and fun and blood and bullets and laughing gas.

Mego was another one of those great lines I didn’t have the luxury of growing up with. I was too late to even experience the death and clearance of Mego. I got bits and pieces of Mego dolls over my whole life collecting. Every so often I’d luck out and get a doll right at complete but I’d end up selling it or trading it. I wasn’t much for the Planet of the Apes line and the only complete Marvel one I owned was Spiderman and everyone owned Spiderman. One day toy hunting I ended up in an antiques mall and got lucky by stumbling into a Mego Joker. Dead mint like he just got taken out of the box and just $35, a very fair price.

Number 4

King Kong Bundy from WWF LJN

King Kong Bundy wasn’t just one of my first LJN WWF figures, he was my first concealed blunt weapon. The figure had to be not only the biggest of the WWF line but also the heaviest. The whole LJN line was durable, sure the paint might smudge but unless you dragged them behind a vehicle or let a dog get at them, they’re probably still around today. With him I broke a window and knocked out a cousin in a heated argument. He was the only LJN WWF figure I owned during my childhood, I think the only reason I bought him in the first place was I’d never had a toy that heavy before and it intrigued me.

I can’t even tell you much about King Kong Bundy’s career unless I wiki’d it, to me he was just an iconic wrestler in a black singlet. I was always more of a Hogan or Macho Man fan but I didn’t own one of those till I was nearly an adult.

Number 3

Hacker from Centurions

This one was really hard because how can you have Hacker without Doc Terror? I’m brave enough to split up this dynamic duo of evil and confess my love for one over the other. Hacker had a cooler name, both in a sense of being related to computers and chopping people to bits. I like the color blue and he’s right at 90% blue. I prefer his helmet design over Doc Terror’s and his selection of weapons even though they are interchangeable. And, I like the fact that under the helmet Hacker looks like Sloth from the Goonies.

Unlike Doc Terror, Hacker’s chest is full exposed. Either he’s got something to show off or he’s the bravest person on a battlefield where lasers are flying and crap is blowing up all around him. Hacker’s helmet had horns, enough said. Finally, Hacker’s cyborg half is called Legion and we all know Legion doesn’t forgive and Legion doesn’t forget. All around a cool and underrated figure.

It wasn’t till recently I got my very own Hacker figure. I find myself at my desk with him more often than Doc Terror, subliminally he’s my favorite among the two of them.

Number 2

Kenner’s 16 inch Alien

The first action figure I owned, no joke. My mom bought it for me at a yard sale and I couldn’t have been more than 6 months old. I’d drag it and my teddy bear everywhere with me, the cutest and strangest thing you’ve ever seen. With all the controversy made over this toy I wish the people who pushed to get it pulled from store shelves could have seen me playing with mine like it was my best friend in the world. With the failure of the large Alien, Kenner scrapped all intentions they had for making a 3 ¾ inch line of figures which while I had no idea at 6 months old still made me wonder what could have been. It wouldn’t be till the 90s when we’d see the Alien franchise rear it’s head again in action figure form.

While the 90s Kenner line was mostly laughable with Alien hybrids of everything from crabs to rhinos the large figure based off the 1979 movie was all business and no fluff. It was so scary and based off of one of the most twisted sci-fi movies of it’s time, parents and activists made it their job to have it pulled from respectable toy store shelves. I have older toy collector friends who recall seeing them after the recall at discount retailers stacked chest high for ⅓ the original price and eventually disappearing due to a huge interest in overseas buyers from Japan. Most unique thing about him was the action feature of the striking 2nd jaw and his sheer size made him a cool toy to play with.

Even when I went through periods of not having many toys displayed in my living space, the 1979 Alien was always out and made for a really chilled conversation piece that could turn even the most anti-nerd into a big kid.

more photos here

Number 1

Callisto from Major Matt Mason

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, well displaced from the toy heaven I always looked back at fondly of the 60’s and 70’s. I’m not saying the era I grew up in didn’t have great toys (TMNT really molded me into a savvy shopper, going for the best of what the line had to offer.) I’m just saying I would have really dug being able to buy Star Wars figures with my allowance or getting Micronauts for Christmas. One of the great lines I really wish I had more of was Major Matt Mason. Major Matt Mason was an awesome series of rubber, bendable astronauts and a couple of aliens along with their space equipment which made for some really awesome display shots in magazines and personal collections.

I got my first taste of Major Matt Mason (and after typing that I feel like I shouldn’t have but I’m going to roll with it, Raging Nerdgasm keeps it raw) at a flea market junk bin. Now to get one of the main astronauts would have been really cool but I got Callisto, friend of the Matt Mason crew. He had no accesories and his paint was peeling off but all of the wires inside the figure were intact. What a find and only fifty cents back in the late 80s! Granted, I knew more about what it was than the dealer I bought it from but I didn’t care, I had a piece of one of my holy grails of toy collecting. Callisto stayed by my side most of my life till I misplaced him during a move 3 years ago. Luckily I found him again in a sock drawer, apparently I protected him so well even I had no clue where he was. I’ve also added Matt Mason himself to my collection in the last 2 years, scored for a meager $15 bucks. I may never get the opportunity to add more of this line to my collection but I’ll always be proud of the two pieces I have in my possession.

I always like Callisto because he was cooler than your average bendy and the translucent green head always reminded me of apple flavored Jolly Ranchers.   

more photos of Callisto