Category Archives: Toys

Appreciating the Unappreciated (or) Me Grimlock Not So Stupid

grimlock not stupid.jpg

Sometimes I read comments online that just bug me in their stupidity or ignorance.

Then I have to take a step back and look at why did that person say such a thing?

And was that person me perhaps? Was I mad at the time, pissed off about something and foaming at the mouth?

Sure. Why not.

Explains a certain amount of dumb comments I’ve written, or read by others, or ones I wrote myself. God damned EMOTIONS!!! ARGRHGGH!

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…Then there is the truly stupid, the inexcusable type stuff – best not read or engaged with. Not said with anger, but lacking in any intelligence at all, full of hate / prejudice / malice take your pick. It’s pops up just anywhere and everywhere – including online forums and hobbyist groups.

No problem, walk on by.

No need to engage with that level of stupid.

But then there is another kind of stupid. The kind of human behavior where we refuse to engage with anything new, and only live in the past. The kind of behavior that most of us capable not crazy people display on a regular basis.

I’m all for vintage toys, or enjoying the shit from your youth, nostalgia, whatever. It’s all good.

But I don’t understand folks who can’t appreciate anything new.

menasor_v_computron_by_dan_the_artguy-d8m68gc
“NO NEW STUFF, ONLY THE GREATEST HITS!”

 

“I only like Batman from the 70s”

“I only watch Transformers from them 80’s son, pass me a beer and don’t tell about that new shit”

But there is like a dozen or so Transformers shows over the years.

How in fuck do people know what they “don’t like” if they never try anything new?

Do they really hate ALL of them equally, without having ever watched any of them? What bizarre mind powers are they privy to that give them this kind of omniscience and where can I sign up?

It’s like asking one of my oldest friends to try some new food he have never tried.

Not gonna happen.

He doesn’t like that, and knows somehow even without trying it.

I guess that works. I don’t need to drink gasoline or murder somebody to know that I would not like those things.

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OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE STUPID

But I think it’s different when it comes to say a TV show, toy, comics etc.

If I don’t try anything new, well then I start to turn into a fossil. Being “against” something on principle is just so damn rigid.

It’s not that there is any need to “keep up with the new”, but if we are so rigid in our hobbies, how are we in other parts of our lives?

I try a lot of new shows, comics, media etc every year, and end up liking far more than if I stuck just to my old interests.

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“God damn malware, I just want my Game of Moans”

I used to be extremely introverted and shy as a kid. Not uncommon for us Nerdbots.

In my twenties, when people would ask me to go somewhere, or meet them “over there”, I’d be like “meh, I like it over here – think I’ll stay home”. Things are comfy, safe and familiar there.

At some point – probably after reading a motivational type book or whatever – I started saying “yes” to doing new things, to things I had never tried before. Like that awful Jim Carrey movie but without the hilarious consequences.

It was extremely uncomfortable for me, mostly due to my anxiety, particularly in social situations and around new people. I take longer than most to acclimatize, to get to that point of relaxed ease instead of freaking the fuck out and having to leave and go home.

I’m sure it has NOTHING to do with being relentlessly bullied as a child. Yup, nothing at all.

I had to REALLY push myself to do new things, and go new places.

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Anyhow, I started doing more and more new things, and while it was uncomfortable as fuck, sometimes I had a good time. Other times I was overly anxious, had a shit time and went home feeling miserable and wondering why I bothered?

But over the years, doing new things evened out – so that I can better pick the things that are good for me in some way (even if they make me a bit uncomfortable) – and avoid the time wasting activities that I really did not enjoy and won’t do again. Or time wasting people and situations that can be quite toxic and not good for my mental health.

The thing is, if I didn’t get out of my rather narrow comfort zone and try a heap of new shit, I would not have the diverse range of hobbies and interests I do now, and I would not have met some really cool people that I connected with.

I apply the same principle to new media, or really anything in life, I make myself try new things and some of it works out, some it don’t. There’s always discomfort, but life is not about avoiding the unpleasant, it’s about experiencing everything.

SHUT THE FUCK UP 80’S KID

I grew up watching (cue announcer dude) “THE TRANSFORMERS” in them 80’s, and I was literally born in 1980.

The old show to me was pure joy.

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Over the years, whenever the show was in reruns I would watch it – no matter how many times I watched it – I never get bored of that show. It’s a pure kind of love that is just not going to go away. It’s like for that for some other fans too. But I also watch other Transformers shows. And I just don’t get the old fans who hate on anything “not G1”, and whenever a new toy comes out the comments I see most often online are along the lines of “Not G1 enough” from the old fans, and “too much G1” from the newer fans. I hope I never get frozen in time like that, and unable to appreciate things from beyond my own childhood.

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It’s fine to like what you like, and develop your own tastes. And as we get older, we do tend to refine and be more selective in our tastes.

But I do get tired of people who dislike things on principle, without even trying out something new. It’s a kind of mental laziness. If you have first hand experience with anything, and whether you like or dislike it, I’m interested to hear your point of view. I don’t care if your view agrees with me or not. The more people with different contrasting points of view I can hear from, the more perspectives I’m able to appreciate and understand in life.

But if you have no experience of something, and insist on how rubbish it is etc – well that just doesn’t interest me. It’s an ignorant opinion. We all have them, but rarely do we own up to it.

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THEM NEWFORMERS ARE RUBBISH

Transformers Animated and Robots in Disguise (2015) are both kiddie looking shows, with an art style meant to entice children. The writing, dialogue and themes are aimed at a younger audience. They look on the surface like something I would not enjoy at all.

But I decided to give them a fair crack. After watching Transformers Prime last year, I was hungry for more TF shows. Watching both Animated and RID at first I was not terribly impressed. But about four or five episodes in, I had gotten to know the main characters, their world and I was hooked – finding surprising depth, good characterization, interesting visual designs and good dialogue in both shows.

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GrimStrong_Shipper#55″OMG, did you see the new episode? (O: “

Both shows have well written stories, great voice actors and lashings of humor, like hurt your gut belly laughter – a real surprise for the often humorless american Transformers shows (the humor in the Japanese version of ANY Transformers show is another matter entirely).

If I had gone with my initial ignorant view that the shows looked unappealing, and never watched them – I would have missed two great Transformers shows, not to mention the fun toys from both lines. Things don’t always work out this way of course. Sitting down recently to watch the English version of Transformers Armada was a painful experience.  Fans insist it gets good in the second half of the run, but I insist it’s consistently bland all the way through and criminally boring even in the better episodes. I wish Unicron had just eaten them all at the end. That would have been a pretty metal way to end a kids show. “Sorry little Billy, all your heroes just got eaten alive by the robot devil, thems the breaks, now quit crying – go outside and play with some dirt”.

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The Transformers Animated toy line is one of the most screen accurate of any Transformers toy line. Partly it was “advances in technology” if you want to believe that bullshit, but in reality it was a rare time at Hasbro where one department actually communicated with another, producing a show and toys with a uniform design, instead of making one (toy or animation model) conform to the other as is standard on most Transformers show. It was a level of co-operation that frankly Hasbro could do with more of, but in all likelihood probably will never be repeated – as far as having such great looking that toys that match their animation models of a uniformly high standard, rather than a conformity of low quality and poor aesthetic that doesn’t match it’s on screen representation.

At first those Animated toys didn’t appeal to me at all – due to the art style. But now that I have picked up a handful of them over the last year – I can say that I genuinely like them, and have decided to collect the entire line. As a lifelong fan of cartoons and comics – to my eyes Transformers Animated just does so many things right that are not obvious to the casual observer until the show is watched to completion.

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While the show was uneven at times, the shift away from human villains in Season 1 to Decepticons in Season 2 was a welcome change.

Animated was a show were some people wanted to make it “a superhero” type show in its formula. That’s a fine standard, nothing wrong with it – however the over-emphasis on generic HUMAN super-villains in Season 1, and the under emphasis on the natural villains – the Decepticons- is a silly mistake in my opinion. The build up of Megatron, and focus on each new villain was great and masterfully done. But too many humans, and too few Cons for too long is dangerous territory.

It veers too close to becoming like the #1 thing most hardcore fans hate about the live action movies. The movies are about the human characters, and their journey – with the robots as background characters in their own damn film.

Frankly the idea of giant robots chasing around human sized villains in Animated is just silly. In size and strength alone it’s no contest – leaving the villains to rely on gimmicks and technology. My question is, if the writers / show runners wanted to make a “superhero” show, why not just make that, and not involve the Transformers at all? Despite these issues, Transformers Animated is still a great show.

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The Animated toy line was one of the last of the era of strong robust plastic, amazing transformations and electronic gimmicks (such as voice clips from the show in the leader figures). Leader Bulkhead is an amazing toy.

Rising production costs and other side issues means no mainline mass market Transformers will have that level of build quality again, particularly the stronger grades of plastic that we just don’t see on modern TF toys anymore outside of Masterpiece toys.

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RID Thermidoor – a great toy overall with typical hollow bits and thin plastic

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Another thing I really did not care for or appreciate over the last ten years is the live action Bayhem Transformers movies.

The plots are confusing and ridiculous with more holes than over ripe Swiss cheese. The characterization is almost non existent – with most robot dialogue being snappy one liners and bits of quotable dialogue, rather than any form of intelligent communication, lacking the rhythms of actual conversations. The humans barely fare any better, with stop start yelling, sound bites or long rambling bits of meaningless exposition.

“I love killing things”

EXPLOSION

“We gotta get that MacGuffin to save the day”

EXPLOSION (follow with lingering creepy close up of lady parts)

-add mysterious wheel of cheese in 3rd act

“Shit we killed everything and saved the day”

roll credits here…or whatever

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Cullen Prime’s moving speeches/eulogies/movie trailer sales pitches are repeated so often over the five movie they lose any sense of meaning or impact, becoming almost like elevator muzak. It’s just there in the background and to be expected, but you don’t really pay attention to it anymore.

The explosions are many, and some of the visual designs to my eyes are rather ugly. Each film seemingly becomes more savage and faux-adult, less kid friendly (WTF?), and while some characters use the same names, their personalities don’t really match any previous version.

Looking for any depth or meaning to events in the live action Transformers movies is like trying to get cow’s milk out of a Bull. It’s not going to end well.

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Re-watching all of the Bayhem movies a few months back before Last Knight was released I found more to enjoy overall, rather than loathe. Being hyper-aware of the films many many many many failings, I was able to look past them and focus on the things I liked about the films instead.

I WILL LET YOU DOWN, I WILL MAKE YOU HURT

The animation is world class, the mix of live action and CG gets better with each film, the design team(s) were able to come up with a lot of interesting ideas and concepts for transformers, at least in terms of visual character design. What was left on the design room floor was just as interesting as what made it into the movies.

Wheels on bots feet in bot mode is rather nifty. Arm gun transformations are sweet. There is some Mythology type stuff in there that doesn’t add up to much, buy hey they tried I guess.

The tubby John Goodman voiced Movie Hound is one of favorites from the movies – even if he is just Bulkhead with a beard and gun, and a little Ironhide/Ratchet/Kup personality thrown in for shits and giggles.

I swear I had other good stuff to say about the films, but damned if I can remember any of it just now.

So in summary………. I like robots?

We’re done here until next crime.

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IMAGE CREDITS

 

*Menasor vs Computron and 1980s villains group pic by dan the art guy

https://dan-the-artguy.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Bulkhead and Sari fan art by Sishamon 10

https://sishamon10.deviantart.com/

*Feeding Dinobots TF Animated fan art by Shohji / J_666

https://j-666.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Knight Optimus from official TLK movie promo art

*Optimus Prime Thumbs Up  by The Gearsmith / GrungeWerxShop

https://grungewerxshop.deviantart.com/art/Optimus-Prime-63578017

*Ironhide fan art by Matt / Mttkn14

https://mttkn14.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Optimus Prime screen grab from The Transformers

*Trypticon screen grab from The Transformers

*Grimlock Not Stupid art from Transformers Official Manga

Daily Cartoon! TRANSFORMERS S.3,E.24: “Grimlock’s New Brain”

*Homer Simpson Brain from The Simpsons Wikia

http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Simpsons_Wiki

 

 

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BOTFAN JOHN’S BOTSMAS EVE WRAP UP 2016 – in August 2017??? Stop smoking that plastic crack son!

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No, I’m not going anywhere – nor am I high on Energon or Plastic Crack.

I wrote this blog in 2016 and never got around to posting it. Then I decided, what the heck, I love reading people’s year end wrap ups about whatever and figured hey, let’s just post it anyway….

And here we are in August 2017 with me talking about 2016…….so instead of the Year in ReviewYear of the Goat or the Year of Convoy Pants Maximus – it’s the Year In Retrospect. Sounds a bit fancy doesn’t it? Or is that just my imagination where I read “Year in retrospect” with a bored yawning upper class British voice.

2016 was the year I dove head first into a bottomless pit of Transformers toys like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin.

Yeah that didn’t really happen, but I did obsessively follow every new release, every announcement, every new toy review and tid bit of news and info on official and third party toys, so it kind felt like I was diving into a giant bin of toys. Or at least a plastic tub stacked in a corner.

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I bought a heap of TF toys this year, and now I am literally surrounded by them in every direction as I type.

I never had any intention to go mad for Transformers this year, in the previous 20 years I’ve owned just a handful of toys. But some little switch got flicked inside me, and all of a sudden Transformer toys and media were my personal crack.

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It’s nothing new. I’m an obsessive person, and I have no control over what holds my attention, the best I can do is redirect from one obsessive thing to another. Batman to Marvel, Marvel to Transformers, Transformers to JG1 Transformers cartoons and then back to Transformers comics or my somewhat neglected Batman Blog. If I’m in a reading mood I’ll read several thousand pages of comics in a week, or binge watch a Transformers TV show in addition to all the normal things like eat/sleep/work/repeat.

In 2016  I read the entire run of Marvel Transformers comics for the first time. The US run, the UK lot and the Regeneration One (IDW) sequel. I read all of Dreamwave, IDW Transformers #V1-4 and more.

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I read IDW’s Robots in Disguise (RID) and More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) all the way through….twice. And I loved it all.

The first time around I didn’t care for a lot of those IDW comic stories. The emphasis on deeper more meaningful stories was lost on me, I craved more giant robots beating the shit out of each other.

But second times’s the charm and now I have to say my appreciation for what IDW has done with the brand, lore and stories of Transformers media is REALLY FUCKING COOL.

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If you are too stupid busy robotic  silly to read them, well all I can say is you’re missing out on some the biggest loudest most exciting longest most ambitious long form continuous piece of Transformers stories in existence.

No Transformers show ever ran for more than a few years, (Rescue Bots being the only one to continue past Season 3) and the movies are loosely interconnected one off stories. Really there is nothing else that comes near the length of IDW comics run.

Except for bits of the Marvel US and UK comics stuff, but a lot of that was shoe horned together on the fly. The IDW-verse had some real thought and planning put into it. Hey, some of the world building was shoe-horned in too in IDW, relax about it man. It’s not perfect, there are parts I don’t like for sure, but overall it’s DAMN good and we are spoilt as fans that it even exists at all.

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I’ve seen a lot of different comic companies try and do their own Marvel-Method shared universe world building, and most of them fuck it up. I’m a lifelong Marvel Comics fan in case you didn’t get the hint. But IDW did a great job of tying together Transformers, RID and MTMTE with each other, and all the one shots, mini series and stuff they did. My hat is off to them. That Revolution nonsense I’m not so happy with, but that is the topic of my next post.

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So also in 2016 I watched the Japanese show Transformers: Headmasters for the first time ever, thanks to having constant internet access. I’ve started watching Victory and Masterforce, and I’m up to episode #20 of Brave Exkaiser. I’ve also been enjoying the dazzling Combattler V and other classic super-robot anime that I’ve never had the opportunity to view before. It’s great stuff. I also watched all of Transformers Animated for the first time and made a dent in Robots in Disguise 2015.

Just this last week or so I’ve started watching Transformers Prime, a brilliant award winning show that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, but only now had the time to fully engage with and appreciate.

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TF Prime is a show with real nuance to the characters, and it really rewards those who sit down and watch episodes back to back, pulling off serialised stories in a way that is nearly seamless, and possibly the best that has been done in any Transformers TV show. Beast Wars did a similar thing, the pacing just always felt too slow for me, the CGI was ground breaking for its time, but just looks ugly today. With Transformers Prime I feel like all the experiences and talent that went into Beast Wars and Transformers: More than Meets the Eye really paid off in Transformers Prime.

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I’ve never cared for the art style much of TF Prime, particularly Prime himself with his overly skeletal hips and exploding chest windows that can’t decide where to sit.

But Bulkhead is amazing, as is Ratchet. The character models are gorgeous and these two characters alone make the show worth watching for me, along with Megatron, Break-down and Knock-Out. The stories are well done, the action is brilliant, and the human characters for once don’t annoy me, and are integrated into the show in a pretty seamless way that makes sense. Of course the one who really steals the show is Iago… I mean Starscream.

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Another thing Transformers Prime does is sort of redeem the movie aesthetic (as in live action Bayhem Bayformer movies) for me, the post Bayformer design of Prime and Bumblebee in particular really stands out as incorporating elements of the live action movie designs, in a way that doesn’t give me a headache or make me feel like throwing up from looking at them with their millions of triangular face polygons that make their faces look like evil razoblades from hell.

Of course, now I must start a TF Prime toy collection, but that’s a good problem to have.

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S3 Galvatron joins the search party that is going out to look for….himself

 

In 2016 I bought loads of official brand new retail toys, the Titans Return, a few more Combiner Wars, and picked up old brilliant CHUGS by the boxful thanks to some local collectors in my state, and embraced some truly AMAZING stuff that is coming out like hotcakes from third parties.

My most recent third party efforts have been Unique Toys Allen aka G1 Springer and KFC Simba aka Victory Leo. While mid year, finding a HASBRO Titans Fortress ‘Mazimus on sale here in Australia for below full retail price at the time or release was brilliant, and my toy of the year as far as something that I looked forward to for over six months, and am still in love with. Once you look past how inferior the build quality is compared to the G1 toy, and his damn Leaning-Tower-of-Iacon status that makes him fall over REALLY easily despite having literally giant bot boot bricks for feet….. well all that aside he’s  a GREAT toy and a worth addition to any fans collection. I also briefly owned MMC’s version of Overlord for about a month or two, then traded him for a Generation’s Metroplex.

 

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I’ve gone a bit gonzo for fandom in 2016 and embraced various TF communities and collectives.

I love connecting with other fans, enjoying their amazing art – such as Chris McMasters Venomised Megatron picture below. I also enjoyed buying toys from local sellers in OZ via wonderful facebook groups such as TCCA – Transformers Collectors Club Australia and OTCA / OZFORMERS Forums – many a great deal is to be had. The great thing about buying from collectors, rather than soccer moms over on Gumtree (who also have some amazing do not miss deals, hello Energon Omega Supreme for $40 AUD) is that you know what you are getting, what condition it is in, what bits it is missing, or if its complete etc.

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Megatron-Venom by Chris McMasters https://www.instagram.com/ceedaflicks/

In 2016 I joined the TFW2005 forums in May. It’s been years since I’ve found any online niche hobby site forums that I wanted to be a part of and contribute to, or have the time for.

Many online nerd communities are insular, strange and often hostile. And while it is possible to have that experience at TFW2005, my overall experience so far has been most welcoming, and a number of people whom I have not met in person, but I think of as friends have found me on facebook and other sites, and I’m very grateful to them for their friendship.

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At Big Citybot Burger, we’ve got the Burgers Bots Crave

I also frequent the Australian OTCA / Ozformers forums, and I use the same name “BATFAN007” on all sites, including reddit and Seibertron.

So if you see that name around, it’s most likely me, usually talking a big load of rubbish. I also swear like a sailor and am usually a grumpy mother fucker on the best of days. So I’m not going out of my way to be obnoxious, that’s just how I am in real life even with my family and friends.

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In 2016 I took way to many photos (like it kept filling up the camera memory card) of toys and shared them on IMGUR, Facebook and TFW2005. Seeing other people’s fun photos made me want to take more photos than ever, and it was great fun.

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Well, that does it for now. 2016 for me was an awesome year for collecting Transformers toys and gave me something positive to focus on while other parts of my life have been unbearable and depressingly frustrating.

But never mind that, here’s RID Chubby Paws Grimlock having a panic attack…..

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TRANSFORMERS GO! Get Out! Shoo! – The Cartoon Straight From Anime Hell

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Tranformers GO! is a terrible terrible terrible cartoon.

You might think I”m exaggerating for effect.

NO.

Think of every stupid cliche you might see in a low-budget Anime:

Limited animation, stock footage, nonsensical plot, characters powering up and/or combining constantly, lots of standing still while their mouths barely move.

Yes, Transformers GO! has all these exciting features and more. Did I mention it’s the first Transformers show to be created exclusively in Japan since Transformers: Cybertron? Are you alarmed enough yet – Would you like to sit down for a while?

I’ve prepared a chair for you.

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GO GO SUPER ROBOT LIFEFORM!

So Transformers Go! is just an utterly rubbish show. It features a mystical artifact that human characters in the show call a “mirror”, but it’s clearly just a DVD-rom style disc that everybody is desperate to get their oily robo-hands and claws on.

It’s a really shallow show that exists just to tie in with the redeco’d Transformers Prime and Beast Hunters toy lines in Japan.

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The new characters/toys and stars of the show are the two Autobot Hero Teams.

Samurai Team and Ninja Team. The other main characters are some random Anime Kids, Beast Predaking and his Demon General Predacons.

Predaking is called Dragotron. In TF: GO! Predaking is an ancient evil that lies sleeping and can only be awakened under certain conditions. The Predacon Generals are determined to wake up their sleeping ruler. Optimus Prime is in the show briefly  at the start as a still image that talks, (but is not animated) on a communications monitor. In the above image, he is talking but his mouth remains closed. He’s a ventriloquist.

MIGHTY ROBO LOCO FORCE – POWER UP! ENDLESSLY WITH EXCITEMENT! GATTAI!

In the first episode of Transformers Go! we learn that our heroes are on a mission from Optimus Prime (still in his Beast Hunters form). The heroic Autobots  must protect some data-disc things to stop the ancient evil Predaking from rising.

The only way to do this is by inexplicable time travel, annoying tag along Anime Kids, and Combining every five seconds while screaming attacks at the enemy. Why does greedy/lazy Optimus Prime not help himself? We will have to wait until mid season when he turns up as a Shinkansen / Bullet Train. Spoiler alert I guess? Do you even care that he’s a train? No. No you did not.

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It’s several minutes into episode 1 and Predacon General BUDORA makes his flashy entrance. He’s clearly a fan of wrestling pyrotechnics and big hand gestures. Don’t laugh, he’s totally bad ass and will kill you as soon as look at you. His forearm arm tattoos read: “CAUTION! This Predacon has sharp edges. Please do not touch the Predacon”
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That’s right kid, you’re the token Annoying Anime Kid who hangs out with the Autobots in this show. Your life is about to become unbelievably painful thanks to those robot aliens. Gramps would have been a better main character kid, you know it’s true.

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That’s right Kid, better do what he says – he has a horn on his head and more teeth than are actually needed for eating things. Plus every single area of his body has some type of spike or blade protruding from it. He’s not joking either he really will kill you, I feel like I covered this already? Are you just not getting it Annoying Anime Kid? Give him that worthless pack in scratched up disc and continue to enjoy living already.

You know these TF GO! to hell! MISB toys are gonna be worthless in twenty years Anime Kid, just sell that damn disc now while it’s glowing red hot!

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The fabled “Legend Disc” of ultimate power (totally NOT dvd-rom)

Side effects may include: Time Travel, Accidentally Waking up Predaking , Super mega cool wallpapers on it if you put it in your PC. Otherwise you just watch the show on your DVD/BD player. But don’t tell Predacon Budora, he’ll probably make illegal copies just to promote himself and his grand showy entrances – he’s a bit of an egomaniac.

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Still episode one here – we see a random cut away to the faces of some Oni which loosely means demon/ogre/troll. More specifically troll-like demons with a fierce appearance, and often animal like claws or fangs who are un-naturally strong. If you’ve ever played Street Fighter, now you know why Akuma/Gouki is so ugly and has Fireballs of Steel. He’s as Oni as it gets.

Modern Oni figures are sometimes a mix of Japanese and Indian influences, and are mixed in with Buddhism’s values and stylized art too. Note the furrowed brow, piercing eyes and glaring teeth with a scrunched up face – it’s basically the face of a predator / carnivore letting you know it means business.

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SO METAL. I’d hang out with this guy over mopey effeminate Angels any day

THE DEVIL YOU SAY

In the West, demons are often thought of as mainly evil, whereas in many Asian cultures and in Buddhism we get wildly contrasting categories of demons who inhabit different realms. Some you would say are more like nature spirits, some are ghosts, some evil, some more benign. The iconography of historical mythology often has different demonic figures associated with natural forces, the weather, seasons, human emotions, hunting and gathering, wild animals and mental states. The tricky part is some of those “gods” are enlightened deities who take on wrathful forms for specific purposes. So it’s confusing for some westerners looking at the iconography of demons and gods from other cultures to know who is a Good Guy and who is a Bad Guy. Short answer? Yes/No/Everything.

If all that sounds too complicated, think of Kratos in God of War or the Incredible Hulk, you would not typically call them Demons, – yet their appearance puts them in the Oni-like category. But then you could also call Kratos or Hulk Gods of Anger or Wrathful Deities. Appearances can be deceiving.

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The Predacon Generals are my favourite thing about GO! Their designs are in a word bad-ass. The fiction could be that they took on alt modes resembling mythical beasts, or that their native form was observed and woven into local legends and superstition.

Adding fiction into a cultural historical narrative does not need to be seamless – the facts and reality just need to be skewered *enough* to make things plausible within the fiction itself. So I think it works both ways. They resemble mythical beast, or artistic depictions of mythical beasts were influenced by them. Remember – Cybertronians live for millions of years.

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A quick note on that “Legend Disc” before we move on to more no-budget nonsense. Yes it’s clearly a data-disc. However in the show the human characters call it a “mirror”. The implication is that it’s some ancient artifact that happened to be lying around as part of a shrine in the Kendo training house. But it looks like a DVD so that kids who watch the show will recognise it as a DVD. It’s dumb, but it makes sense.

TELL ME MIRROR, WHO IS THE TRANSFORMIEST OF THEM ALL?

Anyhow, ACTUAL historical pocket sized mirrors (that don’t look like DVDs) in Japan and China are often adorned with elaborate decorations and have various cultural and superstitious meanings.

“Mirrors are usually considered primarily as implements for personal grooming but, in Japan, mirrors were used for far more than reflecting one’s image. Within Japanese culture, mirrors are one of the most potent symbols of power, revered as sacred objects representing the gods. Mirrors are also admired as artistic objects, as they have intricate pictorial designs on their backs.” – Google Arts & Culture

source: https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/beta/exhibit/9AICex7GHApkLA

Okay, so you just to have imagine that the DVD looks like a fancy ornate mirror, like an artifact you might see in a museum. It’s powerful and the Predacons need it to do their business. Not that kind of business, evil business. Mirrors in various ancient cultures are also links to the spirit world. Think of any number of low budget horror movies where  this Trope has been used and abused endlessly. Or better fiction like The Picture of Dorian Grey, Harry Potter and Alice: Through the Looking Glass.

Mirrors / Power / Gods / Demons / Magic – Got it? 

Okay, let’s move on shall we, feels about time to power up endlessly with seizure inducing graphics flashing fast on bright backgrounds.

SANJOU GATTAI!

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When the heroic Samurai and Ninja teams attack the Predacons, they scream out their attacks and combination mode in extreme close up on a flashy non-background. Like most limited-animation anime, there are scenes where characters are talking but their mouths don’t move, and heavily re-used footage is seen again in each episode.

Not just the usual battle power up stock footage, but whole sections of the beginning and end of each episode are inexplicably re-used. Each episode is only around twelve minutes long. And we often see the same footage of characters yelling out their attacks like Street Fighter characters over and over again. Even in the same episode.

The character models are three dimensional and while clearly done on a budget, do look pretty cool.

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The core gimmick of the show is the three robot combination formula. The Samurai team is composed of three robots and can merge into a gestalt with a twist. Each robot can be the upper body, torso or the pants. Each robot can swap with the other to make up the new combo. Samurai Team turn into vehicles while Ninja Team turn into beasts.

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The combination mechanic of the show is repeated in the toy line. The combos are fun, but the toys are quite ugly in their individual Bot modes. They may look okay in these pictures, but up close trust me there are many flaws and weird proportions that have put off even some hardcore fans. If the toys looked just like the show character model I would be all over them by now.

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The whole toyline in Japan for Transformers GO! is made up of redecod Beast Hunters / Transformer Prime toys. The new toys are the two Autobot hero teams and their nemesis – Beast Predaking  and his Predacon Genearals along with a new bullet train / Shinkansen Optimus Prime.

The show itself comes on a DVD packed in with the toys. Aha! Here’s the part I purposefully didn’t bother mentioning earlier. It’s low budget, a terrible show in most regards – but the catch is it’s free with the toys. So if you take it as more promo material – rather than full network show – it’s really not a bad deal. Also it kind of explains that DVD being in the show itself. But it’s STILL looks stupid.

Here is where I confess *kind of like* Transformers GO! It’s utter crap, make no mistake – but the action scenes are fun and I really like the design of the Predacons. It ticks the right amount of mythological beast boxes for me. There are only a small handful of episodes that you can easily watch in one day. I want to say that it’s short, awful with some cool bits and more watchable than Transformers Energon or Cybertron.

In PART#2 of this ramble we’ll take a look at Predaking / Dragotron, Shinkansen Prime and the Predacon Combiner made from Jaki / Predacon Minions. But for now we’ll finish up with a quick look at some of the Predacons. Below is Predacon General Bakudora.

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He’s a really neat toy, I’m using a stock promotional image here as my toy is in a storage tub somewhere.

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Yeah I kind of love the close ups and announcing the characters like they are about to wrestle the Rock or Hogan or whoever. Here’s Bakudora (my favorite) in the show in the above image, and below is Budora.

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Budora is a bad ass and he knows it. Sharp wings, mythical beast head in his cheat, cool spiky bits all over the place, gold highlights, tattoos on his arm and heavy metal face so grim and unemotional you’d think he was made of stone. He’s my favorite of the Predacon Generals. They pretty much invented the word Stoic just to describe Budora.

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There is some Lovely box art in this TF GO! line of toys. And look at that FACE! You know he means business. The deco is to die for, and while my crappy zoomed in pic doesn’t show it – he has a faux metallic speckly gloss that makes him look a sort of Knight/Lord Demon – so he will not only kill you without hesitation, but he’s gonna look damn stylish while doing it. Gotta love a mythical alien robot demon with a sense of style.

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You may have noticed I have not opened him, he’s been on my shelf for a year or two along with Beast Fire Predaking. I just love the display boxes and could not open them.

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Well I might just have to open him and Beast Fire Predaking for some pics in PART#2, which will be up soon. I’ll have to rummage in those tubs too to find my other GO! Predacons first.

Oh… here’s one that happens to be sitting next to me.

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Stick around, we’ll be back next time and take a look at Shinkansen Prime and Dragotron  / Predaking in the cartoon. We’ll also look at the different Hasbro/Takara Predacon deco’s and maybe I’ll do an unboxing of the big TF:Prime Predaking toy to spice things up.

Until then, stay Mean and Green.

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To Play is Human – But you Gotta Fight For It

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There is an ugly side to human culture that says once we reach a certain age, or level of maturity that we must throw away the things we enjoyed as children.  This to me it is an unhealthy attitude. We may leave behind certain things as we reach maturity, but more often we bastardize our childhood by refusing to integrate who we were yesterday with who we are today.  Rather than grow up, instead we violently reject the child we once were. We move sideways and plateau, rather than forwards and evolve.

Our childhood is part of our personal history, our personal story, and part of who we are today.  To ignore or turn our back on what we enjoyed as children, teenagers or young adults is disrespectful to the person we were yesterday. It is a kind of ugly self-loathing and judgement on that person that says “what you enjoyed was worthless and meaningless, and has no relevance to the me I am today”.

Often people when reaching adulthood will throw things away that they love or stop indulging their passions and hobbies to conform to imagined social norms, or because they don’t expect to be taken seriously as adults if they still have any of their possessions from when they were a child.

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NERDBOT 2.0

I think of people who got rid of their old video games or action figures or comics because it was not considered “adult” to have such things, or their new girlfriend didn’t like “that stuff” so they got rid of it. Often regretting what they did and re-acquiring in their twenties what they gave away in their teens year so they could “grow up”. It’s fine to do that, some folks lose interest in those things and it’s perfectly normal to move on to other interests and hobbies.

This sort of behavior can also be however an attempt to conform to social norms, a violent rejection of the child within us.  Another possibility is that of the adult who lives in a state of arrested development, who refuses to actually grow up and be responsible for themselves, and refuses to actually ever leave childhood, bouncing around from one co-dependent relationship to another and expecting other people to satisfy their needs, with no real effort of their own to mature. Some things are best left behind in childhood, while other things are good to carry with us, our passion and creativity are never something to leave behind.

Both models are extremes, we need to Grow Up, but growing up means growing and expanding, not withdrawing and contracting or rejecting any part of our selves.

On another level, throwing out yesterdays culture and fun is to say that cool characters, works of fiction and toys have no place in the life of an adult, and have no further refined meanings or deeper resonance in life than the gross meaning of a plastic toy that is “fun” or a comic book or kids movie that is “entertaining”.  To be fair the majority of entertainment is vapid, shallow and pointless.  But the world we live in today is far more intelligent at all levels (TV, Film, Literature, Video Games) than say the world of the 1940s

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One of my favourite things in life, an object to be specific is a toy.  It feels silly to even say so, but it is true.

The object is a Transformer toy that my deceased Grandfather Jack Willetts gave to me when I was a kid.  It is my all time favourite toy, it transforms from a two headed dragon into a robot and it looks equally good in both robot and dragon mode.  Most transformers only look good as either the vehicle or as the robot, few look good in both modes.

This aesthetic appeal was something that appealed to me when I was a kid and even now as an adult.  A good design is a good design.  Another thing I like about this toy is it was in one of the first post Generation-1 wave of Transformers toys that were not based on the cartoon characters.  It meant the character was entirely new, and the personality of the character was not fleshed out, which means to a kid you can imagine any personality you like for the character.

On one level,  I know the toy is just a cheap piece of plastic based around a cartoon that was basically made to sell toys to kids for the purpose of corporate profit.

But on another level that cheap piece of plastic is a direct link to my deceased Grandfather.  I can’t look at it, or play with it without thinking of him, and remember the good times we shared, and how he encouraged me as a kid to read comics by buying me my first Ninja Turtle and Alf comics.  Nobody else in my life ever bought me comics when I was a kid, and I will always be grateful, because without those first comics my passion for superheroes would have never developed, and this blog would not exist.

When I was a kid, my grandfather was one of the coolest guys in the world, he didn’t talk down to me, he bought me the comics of my choice and I always enjoyed just hanging out with him no matter what he was doing.  He loved to bet on horse races, he loved Rugby and Cricket and gardening.  His garden won several local competitions, you have never seen a lawn as neat as my Grandfathers lawn, it was immaculate, that lawn got more care and attention than a Kardashian’s wobbly ass on a magazine cover.

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In ancient times, wisdom would be passed down from generation to generation (well I hope wisdom was passed on, I guess some bullshit got passed on along with the good stuff).  Elders were loved, respected and revered as those who were wiser than us.  Sacred objects had meaning, in that they may be passed to descendants, and something of the spirit of the person embodies that object. Whether you take that meaning as literal or metaphoric really doesn’t matter.  The emotional experience is basically the same either way. Reality is always different for everyone, and we like to Romanticise all aspects of culture.

Cold hard dead objects made of matter, composed of atoms have emotional significance to us when passed on from a loved one.  The watch that was sent back from someone’s father or husband from the front line, a rifle or hunting knife passed from father to son, son to grandson, an antique wedding ring passed from mother to daughter, a photo of relatives no longer with us, or a cheap plastic toy loaded with memories.

There are no sacred objects, and yet any object is sacred if it has deep personal meaning to us.  All objects are made of matter, or atoms, and any significance or power we imbue them with exists only in our minds, not in the object itself.

We can enjoy our sacred objects and need not make them into Idols

When we throw culture and tradition out the window, and cease to respect our elders, we lose a little something.  It is indefinable.  Call it unique story, call it wisdom tradition, call it passing down basic information critical to survive in the world or call it feeling a deep inner sense of satisfaction at knowing your place in the world and grand scheme of things.  Call it knowing that you and Life are one and the same, that you are in alignment with unseen forces, that you matter, that you have purpose and infinite dimensions to who and what you are.  Call it intuition or gut feeling or whatever you like.  But we lost part of ourselves and our communal nature when we try to go it alone in life, and reject everything that has come before our time.

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Is it wise to simply throw all that away?  Is it wise to explain away our emotional and intellectual satisfaction in life as basically meaningless? Is it wise to say we know it all and don’t need to learn anything new, because we have evolved, or because we are a “civilized” modern society?  If we are really so smart and wise, why do so many of us starve to death on a daily basis?  Why do we keep murdering each other for resources and land? Why do so many of us feel ashamed just to be alive?  Why do so many of us have this emptiness inside us that we cannot seem to fill, no matter what we do?  A genuine need that goes unaddressed, and unfulfilled as our collective intelligence has consistently failed to even identify what it is that actually satisfies our heart of hearts.

I don’t have the solution to any of those things, and forgive this digression from talking about “stuff”. I’m stepping down from my Invisible Pantomime Highhorse. What I’m saying from my heart to yours is that we need personal connection, with others and with ourselves and with our own personal history. It’s not selfish to be who you are, and enjoy what you enjoy without trying to make some soft of “excuse” for it.

We can enjoy the younger self that we were, while also continuing to grow and evolve as responsible individuals. What I’m saying is, don’t ever feel embarrassed to like what you like. I remember being teased in high school for reading “comic books”, but I never stopped reading them, despite how painful it was being teased. Now look at today, people flock to the box office to see Superhero films, likely some of the same people who teased me for being into Superheroes. Well the Hats on the other Foot now childhood jerks!

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For most people, what we like doesn’t really change a whole lot in our lifetimes. I liked Batman, Ninja Turtles and Transformers when I was a kid – and it’s still what I enjoy today. If anything, I enjoy those characters their fiction and lore even MORE than when I was a kid.

I still have the basic joy of a 8-10 year old boy who loves action movies and superhero cartoons and comics, but combined with a larger mature perspective where I can appreciate the people who CREATED those worlds, who Imagineered them into existence. The people who animated the shows, drew the comics, designed the toys, voiced the characters. The values that went into those characters that influenced me for the better, and the inspiration today I draw from those characters and all the hard work that went into making them so special I enjoy and appreciate at a much deeper level.

Meanwhile, despite being able to string a sentence or two together – I am the most overly-enthusiastic MAN-CHILD you could ever meet. I’m painfully aware of it. I really have no choice but to embrace it. I still also develop other characteristics, skills and abilities as an “adult” EXP +1200, INT +2 MIGHT +5, LUCK +1 – and most folks would say I am a pretty responsible person.

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But at a basic level if you show me a Robot Dinosaur that shoots frikkin Neon Laser Beams  from its eyes – well then I am eight years old again instantly. I don’t have any choice in the matter.

I love Dinosaurs and Robots and sci-fi pew pew Lazer Beams and I’m foaming at the mouth even thinking of such things. That is not going to change.

At age 37 – I am still a shy introvert who is somewhat socially retarded.  I’ve learnt to embrace the best parts of myself, and not deny any of my various flaws or short comings as a human being which include: Hulk like rage, Anxiety, sometimes mild Depression, a Need to always keep Talking and have the last word instead of Shutting Up.

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All of that is part of Who I Am, it’s not going away. I don’t need to be “Fixed”. I’m not broken and I legitimately love the person I am today, and the things that I enjoy, my passions are a part of me, my heritage and inspire me daily. It wasn’t always like that, self-loathing was my companion for about half of my life so far. At some point, I stopped listening to any of that nonsensical bullshit people try to put you down with, I silenced that Inner Critic permanently, choke slammed that mother fucker right through the wrestling ring floor and sent them straight to hell.

My OCD “never shuts the fuck up” borderline MANIA for all things fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes etc I turn into blogs and articles. Instead of boring people to death in real life, I can bore them to death in the digital domain. And if anyone doesn’t like it, well they can stop reading and walk away at any time- makes no difference to me.

This is the part where the article ends and I have nothing more to say. No summary or Zen-like wisdom. Wax the car maybe?

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I graduated from the Miyagi school of Kung-Foolery. All I learnt there was to enjoy what you enjoy, be who you are and don’t ever apologize to anyone, or try to change yourself to suit them. Or ever shut the fuck up when you’ve got something worthwhile to say about what you stand for in life, the people you love and are responsible for. Whatever your passions and hobbies are enjoy them, let them inspire you – but don’t let them hold you back either from doing whatever truly matters to you.

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Can You Ever Have too Many toys? The Most Pointless of Questions is Asked

If there such a thing as having “too many toys”?

For some the answer is yes.

While for others the answer is no.

The question becomes too many FOR WHOM?

I don’t like to put artificial borders on my thinking not in any level of life, or activity.

There are enough real world unavoidable obstacles and barriers in daily life, that I don’t have to go inventing new ones.

So, my simple answer is no.

You can never have too many toys. However, the toys you have now, can take up too much physical space.

So let’s reframe the idea…

Say you had infinite space, and infinite money, could you have “too many toys” then?

To me the answer is no – what are toys but art solidified – but ideas expressed.

You might as well ask “Can you every have too many ideas?” No, never.

Now, if you have finite resources, such as limited money and limited physical space, can you have too many toys then? YES, for sure.

I like to think that if I was super wealthy, I would not turn into a pack rat hoarder with a house full of toys (no offense to pack rats intended, I’ve been there before, and I don’t like it).

What I would do with infinite money, toys, materials etc – is invest in some sort of toy museum, where people could come along and enjoy a gigantic collection of amazing toys. Yes, that sounds like fun to me.

Perhaps a gold coin donation to enter, to help with upkeep of the place, then stay as long as you like, fuck about with some toys, and have a good time maybe chat to folks who enjoy similar things to you. Sounds good to me. Yes.

If it grew big enough, maybe it could attract people from far and wide, maybe add in guest speakers or something to make it a bit more interesting.

“But the toys would break if people keep playing with them, especially the vintage stuff?” some might say.

DON’T CARE.

NOT INTERESTED.

Break them.

Joy.

Whatever – they are toys, that is half the fun. I use the word museum loosely, let someone else be all about preservation, I’m more interested in fun and destruction, that in hermetically sealing away toys as cultural artifacts.

Also it is  fun to break things. Part of the experience of being a kid and having toys is learning you CAN break them, and not just by accident. We learn the physical world and the application of force has consequences.

Better to break toys than people.

One of my fondest shared memories with one of my oldest mates is when we were really bored one day at his place (this is back when we were about 13 or so) we got his toy Battlecat –

…and set fire to the tooth,

just for a lark.

Turns out plastic is *very flammable* (who knew?)  – and pretty quickly the whole head was on fire and the garage was full of toxic black plastic fumes. Not joking, we could have potentially set the garage / house on fire really.

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Not Flame Proof, but probably a Flamer

We decided to move the Battlecat into the backyard, it was on a big piece of old wooden board so we picked it up and moved it, rather hastily.

Well quickly, but in a lazy bored way really.

Within another sixty seconds, the whole thing was a miniature inferno of flames and smoke.

Then another minute or two later, it was just a puddle of melted green stinky fumey plastic.

Bye-bye Battlecat.

Now the collector in me today says “why the fuck would you do that?”

The kid in me says “BECAUSE”.

We were bored, and it was fun.

And fuck Battlecat. He was kinda dumb and boring and stuff.

What kid hasn’t melted plastic army men or cut off their heads or arms?

This just happened to be a nice toy that we really didn’t give a fuck about it, it may as well have been a plastic shopping bag, that was how we felt about it at the time.

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So, too many toys?

Is it a thing? It can be.

But I think it comes down to priorities.

I see folks online all the time with amazing *gigantic* collections.

And even if I had the money and space they do, I don’t want that.

I limit my toy habits to just what I can keep in one room, and a couple storage tubs in the garage.

I don’t EVER want a garage full of toys, like the way it used to be full of DVD movies before I purged them during another move.

I hate clutter, yet I am forever buying crap I don’t need and cluttering up my living spaces. It never ends.

Every year I get rid of loads of stuff, and seem to always acquire more than I have gotten rid of.

Too many toys? Yes/No/Maybe.

Also, fuck that Battlecat. I really can’t stand that character. Think I’m extra surly this month.

“What! Why did Battlecat have to get double fucked?”

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