31 January 2011

Robot Damashii x Doraemon = Zanda Cross

Bandai's Robot Damashii action figure robot toy line will have something released in May from Doraemon series: The Zanda Cross (ザンダクロス) from Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops (ドラえもん のび太と鉄人兵団), or more precisely its upcoming that is to be aired this March.

Robot Damashii Zanda Cross stands about 135mm tall, weighs about 60g, and will be released some time in mid-May. The official retail price is set to be 3675 Yen (tax included).

The Wikipedia article names the robot as "Zanda Claus", but since "Zanda Cross" gives more results and fanarts tend to name it that way I will stick with the latter.

In addition to Zanda Cross itself, a 35mm tall "Pippo" will be included as well, which is supposedly the AI unit for the robot.

The appearance of the AI unit has changed from the original manga and movie, which was pretty much blue bowling ball and did not make too much appearance. It looks like the AI unit will have more frequent appearance and a greater role for this upcoming remake.

Doraemon: Nobita and the Steel Troops was originally a tankoubon manga published in 1985. The story is about Nobita being jealous of his friend having a robot toy and wants one for himself too. He begs Doraemon for one greater than his friend's, and later they accidently find robot parts mysteriously appearing in Antartica. Doraemon decides to open up a portal to a mirrored world and built the robot there. Unknown to them its origin and purpose, they thought it was just a great toy coming from nowhere, but it was not long would they realise that it is actually a weapon to aid incoming extraterrestial robot army to invade Earth and enslave the human inhabitants of it.

Two pages showing Zanda Cross completed in full page. My manga is an early localised Hong Kong version, and has remarkely different names to the one that are used for current publications, which follow the original Japanese names a bit more closely.

The story was made into a full length featured animated movie in 1986. This is the original poster for it.

Zanda Cross as seen in the 1986 anime movie. Notice how the 'wing' binders on the back are originally red while it is white in the upcoming remake.

Screenshot of the movie is from here

A fan art comparing Zanda Cross with Hyaku Shiki side by side
Image source here; art by Codman

Gundam fans would recognise Zanda Cross's similarity to Hyaku Shiki. It is said that the designer Takaya Kenji (たかや健二) did base the mecha on it, hence the similarity.

It even has a inner mechanical artwork too :o
Image from honeykicker

It's quite surprising for me (and many others) to see Bandai to release Zanda Cross, even though it's to go with the upcoming remake of the 1986 movie. Some people argued why they haven't decided to release Doraemon first since it too is a robot ^^; (I won't mind getting one if that's the case though).

But still seeing Zanda Cross getting released does give me a rush of nostalgia here, especially since I have the manga and have watched the first movie quite some time ago. However, the toy itself looks rather... Rubbery plastic like from the shots (almost too old school ^^;). We would just have to see it in person how it would look like when it finally gets released.

Tamashii Web
Toys Daily forum (thread 1, thread 2)
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30 January 2011

Jinriki VOCALOID x Utada Hikaru x Kokoro

A recent video on Nico Nico Douga has the voice of singer-songwriter Utada Hikaru (aka Hikki) singing Kokoro, the song sung by Vocaloid Kagamine Rin. What is this about?

Turns out that somebody sampled Utada Hikaru's singing voice, and extracted the tones so that they can be used to make voice sung songs using a program called Jinriki VOCALOID (人力VOCALOID, literally man-powered VOCALOID).

The video can be found here on Nico Nico Douga.

But don't worry if you do not have a Nico Nico account; somebody has uploaded the video on YouTube as well:


While the voice still sounds a bit robot-like as other Vocaloids do, one can definitely hear Utada Hikaru's voice there. Some may like it, some may not. Utada Hikaru herself has praised the uploader for the effort on twitter.

Utada Hikaru is on an indefinite hiatus from her music career. It surprised me a little that she actually made a respond on the user-made video using her voice, but a positive one too. Even though I don't listen to songs so much nowadays, I really like her older songs like Automatic and Movin' on Without You. Ah the good ol' days of J-Pop, how I miss you so much!
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28 January 2011

PSP2 is codenamed Next Generation Portable

The successor of Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP) has been announced from the PlayStation Meeting 2011 press conference yesterday, codenamed Next Generation Portable (NGP).

Let's cut to the chase, specifications of the NGP has been announced as below:

  • CPU: ARM® Cortex™-A9 core (4 core)

  • GPU: SGX543MP4+

  • External Dimensions: Approx. 182.0 x 18.6 x 83.5mm (width x height x depth) (tentative, excludes largest projection)

  • Rear touch pad: Multi touch pad (capacitive type)

  • Cameras: Front camera, Rear camera

  • Sound: Built-in stereo speakers, Built-in microphone

  • Sensors: Six-axis motion sensing system (three-axis gyroscope, three-axis accelerometer), Three-axis electronic compass

  • Location: Built-in GPS, Wi-Fi location service support

  • Keys / Switches: PS button, Power button, Directional buttons (Up/Down/Right/Left), Action buttons (Triangle, Circle, Cross, Square), Shoulder buttons (Right/Left), Right stick, Left stick, START button, SELECT button, Volume buttons

  • Wireless communications: Mobile network connectivity (3G), IEEE 802.11b/g/n (n = 1x1)(Wi-Fi) (Infrastructure mode/Ad-hoc mode), Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR (A2DP/AVRCP/HSP)

  • Source: Kotaku

    One of the most obvious changes from the PSP is that NGP has two analog sticks instead of just one. The new NGP is said to be larger than the current PSP-3000, but also "surprisingly light", as quoted from Brian Ashcraft of Kotaku who has his hands on it yesterday.

    Visual effects on finger motions show where and how the Multi Touch Pad on the NGP can be interacted

    The Multi Touch Pad can be seen on the back

    A certain socket unknown to me and a power jack can be seen at the bottom edge of NGP

    On/off button as well as volume control are on the upper edge of the NGP.

    Capcom's Monster Hunter Portable 3rd will be available on NGP as a downloadable game.

    Yakuza directly ported from PS3 to NGP. There are no announced plans to officially release the game to NGP, but the video is to show the quality of PS3 games on NGP. Porting is also said to be easy too, which will be a good thing for game developers.

    HOT SHOTS GOLF NEXT (みんなのGolf in Japanese, i.e. "Everyone's Golf") on demo.

    It has been shown that you can hit the ball in the game by swinging the NGP in the motion of a golf club, utilising the gyrosensor and motion sensor inside the console.

    The Near application utilises the GPS integrated in NGP, and can be used for maps and directions.

    You can also use Near to see what gamers are near your location and what they are playing. You can then find and join them to play cooperative or competitive games.

    For those who are big fans of the Monster Hunter Portable series, this would be a very potentially convenient function to look for players to play together on harder missions / monsters; lots of people I know in Hong Kong hang out in McDonald's and look for players left and right. Maybe this new application will makes things easier for people to find players and jump in.

    The new Next Generation Portable does sound very ambitious and that it has a lot to offer, while trying to win the gamers' hearts as Nintendo's 3DS is soon to be released. However, a lot of things are still not announced, such as the price, online service fees, RAM, or memory card slot. We just have to wait until more info is out.

    Info and pictures via OurToysLand. Thanks to Yui (aka yui_style) on compiling the info!
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    24 January 2011

    Hokosha Tengoku finally makes its return to Akihabara

    Moeyo has brought us the good news that the weekly designated pedestrian zone of Akihabara - Hokosha Tengoku (歩行者天国) aka Hokuten (ホコ天), which ceased existing due to a mass killing back on 8th June 2008, is finally making an official return!

    The re-opening of Hokosha Tengoku in Akihabara happened yesterday on 23rd January 2011. Other than people crossing the roads, it's been more than 2 years since I have seen so many people on the road itself in Akihabara.

    A sign board emphasising no hawking, no performances, and no biking allowed inside the Hokosha Tengoku.

    ... Kamina, is that you?

    Ranka Lee, Sheryl Nome, Kagamine twins and Zero cosplays spotted!

    I do not recognise this cosplay orz

    A patrol team walking down the road and keeps the place in order.

    Road barricades to close off the road from traffic, showing the edge of the pedestrian zone

    A man with a sign congratulating the return of Hokosha Tengoku

    Flowers are laid near the area where the killings happened back in June 2008 and caused the Hokosha Tengoku to cease existing.

    Even though that Aso Taro has been succeeded by 2 men already as the Prime Minister of Japan, the huge board for him is still there!

    A mobile anti-crime CCTV van

    Itashas are on display on the day too.

    Coming towards the end of the Hokosha Tengoku, and normal traffic would soon resume on the main road of Akihabara.

    While whatever I have blogged last year did not happen until now, it's nice to finally see the weekly Sunday pedestrian zone coming back to Akihabara. I can't really tell how big the event was compared to other days in the past, but with cosplayers, maids, itashas etc. coming back, maybe the good ol' days of Akihabara will come back one way or the other. Some shops took advantage of the re-opening of Hokosha Tengoku and carried out one-day-only promotions and sales to attract more people to come over. Security has been increased to prevent or at least to reduce the crimes occuring in the area. May we hope that this will last as it should have been in the past.

    Images are from Moeyo
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    20 January 2011

    Suntory Sparkling Chocolate

    Suntory is releasing their "newest" drink product, which is a chocolate flavoured sparkling drink.

    The bottle itself. There is reference to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with Alice and the White Rabbit spotted above the label. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in Japanese is 不思議の国のアリス, and the drink is called 不思議の国のスパークリングチョコレート (Sparkling Chocolate of the Wonderland?!).

    Let's have a look at the nutritient data (per 100ml).

    Energy: 49kcal
    Protein: 0g
    Fat: 0g
    Carbohydrates: 12.1g
    Sodium: 0mg

    According to Gigazine one bottle of this drink should correspond to about 200kcal.

    One important note as stated on the bottle: Chocolate is not used in this drink (チョコレートは使用しておりません)...

    ... Which would explain very well why this drink appears to be colourless ^^;

    Don't ask me how chocolate flavour fizzy drink is supposed to work, but given that this drink first came out one year ago, I'd assume this is a successful product. ^^;

    The sparkling chocolate flavoured drinks as appeared in 2010.

    So how does it taste like? I have never tried it before, but according to an article on CNNgo shortly after the first drink appeared in 2009, it is "basically a cream soda with chocolate instead of vanilla". Definitely sounds like a bizzare combination (well just like many thiings in Japan). I won't mind giving this drink a try if I get to see one though ^^; Would you?

    Official webpage:

    Images from Gigazine
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    16 January 2011

    January purchases

    Things have been a bit quiet from me while I have been busy with things here and there, but I did manage to buy a few things recently. Some have been planned, while others are of a surprise as I didn't expect them to be available (mainly with the two books). Let's have a look then shall we not?

    With some pleasant surprises, the Complete Guide to Fake Toys has recevied a traditional Chinese localisation! I have made a post about it before the Japanese release more than a year ago, and I am glad to be able to buy it in a language I can fully understand!

    The traditional Chinese localisation of Valkyria Chronicles Development Artworks is also a surprise to me, as I wasn't expecting to see it in shops while I was strolling around last week. It's a pretty thick book and a bit heavy (400 pages!). That reminds me that I should resume the PS3 game once I finish Final Fantasy XII International version on PS2!

    The GN Sword IV kit comes from the Hobby Japan magazine. I have been in a rush and bought the Japanese version, while the localised version came out not too long after that (with kit as well and it's cheaper) orz. I should pay more attention to hobby news in local forums so I won't fall for this kind of thing again.

    And as you can see, I have started work on the HG 1/144 00 Qan[T]. Work on Gunpla has been pretty slow nowadays, but I do not plan to stop on such hobby, at least not in the near future.

    And oh yes, the Revoltech Skeleton Army, which I have blogged about before the release. Couldn't resist to buy more than one of them ^^;

    Not sure when I will get to review this guy, but the whole thing seem pretty fragile in general. I gotta be careful with it so I don't break the bones or joints.

    That's it for now. Not sure whether I will do anymore major purchases in a short period of time. Most purchases these days have been of little shokugans instead, which reminds me of myself in the good old days actually ^^; Now I wish I can take a major break and enjoy them one at a time!
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    7 January 2011

    Gashapon Senshi NEXT Kshatriya

    While I do collect a lot of shokugans, I don't really collect gashapons. Gundam gashapons have been around for many, many years, but this particular gashapon series called Gashapon Senshi NEXT (ガシャポン戦士NEXT) has caught my attention, mainly due to the fact that it's one of the few I know that has limited articulations. Me and AstrayP03 have both decided to draw one out each from a gashapon machine in Gundam Expo Hong Kong 2010, and we both got Kshatriya - arguably getting the best out of the buck as it's the biggest in the series ^^

    3 smal bags of parts as well as 2 leaflets. The plain black & white one simply states that it's from Bandai Asia and listed a bunch of safety warnings on the back, while the colourful one shows that RX-78-2 Gundam, Char's Zaku II, Ex-S Gundam, and Unicorn Gundam Destroy Mode are also in this series.

    All parts for movable Kshatriya laid out. 2 runners for the joints can be seen on the bottom right

    The legs go on a simple distorted T-shape part and will support the waist/torso as well. A swivel joint is used for each shoulder, and the lower arms can rotate on their own without prior assembly.

    All parts lined up for assembly, showing roughly which goes to where. No instructions were given on assembly, but as one can see it's quite straightforward.

    And the finished gashapon miniture Kshatriya is here!

    The back of Kshatriya is quite simple, but for a gashapon I can't ask for too much can I?

    Kshatriya equipped with one beam sabre, while showing off the limited articulations it can handle

    Dual-wield with ReZEL's pink beam sabre on the left hand as well, as seen in the first episode of Gundam UC OVA

    As for size comparison, here is gashapon movable Kshatriya standing next to 1/144 GFFN ReZEL

    This movable gashapon Kshatriya is one of the very few gashapons I have in my collection of toys, and certainly one of the more interesting ones as I have seen many Gundam gashapons before but an articulated one is something fairly new even for these SD (super deformed, similar to chibi or even Q-version). While assembling this little guy I'm reminded of Kinder Surprise all of a sudden, which both have something in common anyway.

    For 12HKD a pop, getting a Kshatriya on the first pop is very lucky for me and AstrayP03 since it's what we were hoping to get in the first place ^^ Colouring is not bad for gashapon quality, though one can always do some more touch-ups with Gundam markers etc. A neat little toy for one's desktop I'd say~

    Recently I have been going back to smaller toys while many I know are going bigger and bigger for their models or figure collections. It may be hard for some to imagine, but for me a bunch of little things can warm my heart up already - it's the little things that makes the difference I suppose. So, smaller isn't always "not as good", right?
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