Monday, September 30, 2013

A Pokemon Celebration

With the upcoming release of Pokemon X and Y, I feel nostalgic. I've been playing Pokemon since its heyday in the late 90s, and I have a collection of Pokemon toys that shows it. So, as a celebration of Pokemon's continued flourishing, I've put together some photos (and a few Poke-memories to go with them!).            

Now what child of the 90s doesn't remember "Pokemon Battle Figures" (or the wallet-friendly slogan on the back of the blister cards: "Become a Pokemon Master - Collect each set!")? Sure, they lack poseability, but I always preferred these vinyl beauties to the more "action-figure" type toys that would come from Generation 3 onwards. I must have played with my collection of Battle Figures every day as a kid... I'm surprised they're still in such good shape! I've added some Ebay-found figures into my collection in the years since. Yes, I'm still trying to collect each set so I can "Become a Pokemon Master!". =D
Now here's a familiar scene... (Too bad I didn't have a Nidorino figure. :P)

Wild Pokemon lurk in tall grass! You need your own Pokemon for protection!
I still hear Pokemon Snap music when I look at this photo...
For that matter, what person who was even around in the 90s doesn't remember the huge Burger King promotion that accompanied the U.S. release of "Pokemon: The First Movie"? Or at least the bizarre Poke Ball recall that followed (I never handed mine over; as I remember it,  my parents found the entire recall beyond ridiculous, and stated that drinking cups posed about the same suffocation hazard as the Poke Balls... which is entirely true). My local Burger King was constantly running out of toys due to demand. By the end of it they were handing out display posters and sheets of cards in lieu of them. My dad even marched back into the restaurant and demanded a toy after they decided an advertisement flyer was a good substitute (they conveniently "found" a few in back to appease him). I still have my entire Burger King collection, plus some that I've bought more recently.
Poke Balls came in two different sizes. The slightly larger ones were made to accommodate taller toys like Charmander and Gengar. Mewtwo came instead with the tank he is seen in at the beginning of the "Mewtwo Strikes Back" film.
Towering over the other BK toys at nearly twice most of their heights, Mewto is the obvious centerpiece of the collection.
And that tank is just epic!
 On the topic of Burger King, remember the gold-plated Pokemon cards everyone bought back in the day, anticipating future value (yeah, those ones selling on E-bay for $2.99 + S&H)? A poor investment they may have been, but I still love mine. They're so shiny. =D And I mean, come on... they came with a certificate of authenticity. That means they HAVE to be rare and valuable, right!? XD

Pokemon plush toys were also a popular item; still are! I had enough assorted plushies as a child to fill a room (alright... I still do), so I bought up Pokemon's stuffed releases like a kid in a candy store. Here's some plush from various Pokemon generations.

This Shadow Lugia Poke Doll was free when you pre-ordered Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness at I miss that store. :(
This little Lickitung has a zipper that allows him to be turned inside out and transformed into a Poke Ball.

Who remembers Pokemon marbles? They came in either translucent glass or metallic finish, and each featured a tiny picture of a Pokemon. They also came with little collector's bags to store the marbles in; these were quite pretty and also featured Pokemon images.
These are just a sampling of my collection; I have a whole drawer-full. XD
The little satchels feature art that seems  to be from the anime; note the scarf on the Butterfree from the episode "Bye-bye, Butterfree!". 
And last but definitely not least, a collection of some of my favorite strange and obscure Pokemon merchandise! These items show just how much licensing was done in the late 90s and early 2000s. The text beneath the photo has a bit of info on each item.
Corresponding to the numbers in the photo, here's the scoop on each item/s:
1: Yes, Pokemon lip balm.
2: Pokemon gluestick, too!
3: This is a Mew "Pokemon Power Bouncer". Basically, they're little rubber bouncy balls with Pokemon figurines inside. To the frustration of children everywhere, the figure could not be removed from the ball.
4: What's weird about this one, you ask? Why, it just looks like a normal Arbok figure. But it isn't. This Arbok toy, along with a selection of other Pokemon figures, came as cereal box prizes. Your instructions for using the toy were to slide Arbok's tail (which as you can see, creates a hook shape) over the edge of your cereal bowl while you were having your breakfast. ...Because getting milk and cereal all over a toy that gets in the way of your eating is just so much fun.
5: A Latios keychain flashlight.
6: These little cardboard cut-outs came from the backs of boxes of Pokemon Macaroni & Cheese. As a child, I ate vast quantities of said food to collect them all. XD
7: Pokemon spinning top party favors.
8: A Chansey keychain (I removed the chain when I was little) that flashes a blinking red light when turned on. Turning it on (or off) is an unintentional test of skill; you have to rotate a flattened, disc-like mechanism on the bottom of the figure. As much as I liked these keychains, I've never figured out why a Chansey lights up...
9: Not exactly obscure, but remember the Pokemon Mini? It didn't do well, apparently, and was discontinued quickly. I always enjoyed it, though. :)

That's all for now, thanks for reading! ^_^

Smell ya later!

Any Poke-memories you'd like to share? Post it in the comments! ^_^

Coming soon: an in-depth look at the different types of Poke Ball toys that have been manufactured through the years...

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Zelfs Debut: Medium Dolls and Venus Flytrap Spin Salon Review

The Zelfs are a new small doll line featuring Troll-esque, super-styleable hair, vibrant color schemes, and adorable "follow-me" eyes.

Their story is focused around a magical garden called Zardenia, which appears only at twilight. Each Zelf has their own personality and powers (described in their individual leaflets). The art of "Zardenia" featured on the packaging and inserts is lovely and just a touch gothic. If you have plans to display these in their packages, you're in luck; they're gorgeous. Even the blister bubbles are shaped like leaves. :)

Refreshingly, the series does not dwell exclusively on a given theme (such as monsters, fairies, vampires, etc.), instead featuring a wild and almost eclectic range of characters. There's a werewolf Zelf, a forest elf Zelf, a pegasus Zelf, and, yes, a vampire Zelf. But there's VARIETY, which sets this line apart.

Here's the medium Zelfs I purchased (all 12 of the normal release; no Miss Clover):
The Zelfs! Angelala, Buttershy, Elfa, Flamy, Garny, Howlette, Lil D, Lunanne, Mermalade, Pega Sue, Spellinda, Vampula.

And here's the Venus Flytrap Salon (the packaging can be preserved in deboxing, and makes a lovely display for the set!):
Venus Flytrap Spin Salon with Tressa Zelf and lots of accessories.
Beauty Shop of Horrors

The Zelfs

These are super-easy to unpackage; just tear the plastic off the blister card and cut two small elastic bands. Each Zelf comes with a colorful, leaf-shaped comb, a unique charm, a leaflet, and three rubber bands (for styling that epic hair!).

The leaflets feature some basic info on their respective Zelfs (Zelves?), as well as a checklist of other Zelf products.
Zelf leaflet with profile info.

The Zelfs aren't particularly poseable, but what do you expect from 3" of rubber? ;) Their arms and legs can rotate and their heads can turn, giving them the ability to sit down, hug, raise their arms "surprise!" style, etc..
Zelf poseability.

The images in their leaflets show a different hairstyle for each character, but they all come with the same standard Troll 'do. I had a lot of fun playing around with their hair and trying to replicate the styles shown in the art. :) The hair pretty much holds whatever shape you put it in.
Zelf hairstyles for Elfa, Mermalade, Vampula, and Spellinda.

The paint apps match their themes, giving each Zelf a greater individuality (Flamy has scales, Elfa features painted on plant designs, etc.).  Molds have variations such as ears, fins, and various types of wings. The characters generally look pretty distinct, even those that share molds.
The Zelfs Howlette and Lil D.

The aforementioned follow-me eyes are a cute feature:
The Zelfs Buttershy follow me eyes.

I'm not exactly sure what you're supposed to do with the charms, to be honest. The leaflets and packages bear no elaboration on the subject, either. The Zelfs /can/ wear them as necklaces, but they hang past their feet. Still, if this is their intended purpose, they would HAVE to have that long of a string in order to fit over the Zelfs' large heads.
The Zelfs Angelala with charm.

Bottom line: These are extremely cute toys that look even nicer in person than in photos. The quality is excellent, and the price is right at just 7.99 USD. :)

As for the Venus Flytrap Spin Salon!...

The Venus Flytrap Playset is elaborate, adorable, and looks lovely on display with the Zelfs. However, the hair-styling aspect is hardly worth mentioning. So far, none of my experimentation has been able to replicate the gorgeous, spiraling hairstyles shown on the box. In fact, I haven't been able to get the spin feature to make much change in my Zelfs' hair whatsoever. Nonetheless, it is not a purchase I regret in the least. The playset is very cute and comes with lots of nice accessories. :) It also exclusively comes with my favorite Zelf out of the entire series, Tressa.
The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon styling Tressa's hair.

Plus, my Zelfs now have everything they need to put on a theatrical production of "Little Shop of Horrors".
The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon... Little Shop of Horrors style.
"Let her go!!!"

I truly love this playset. XD It's cuteness can't be denied, and it makes a great Zelf home (or "fabitat", as they're called). You can also close it with a Zelf still sitting in the styling stool, making it look like the Zelf's hair is some sort of strange plant sharing the flowerpot with Audrey II the Venus Flytrap.
The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon, side view, closed.

The little rooms created by the two sides of the open flowerpot are pretty fun, featuring a little set of drawers on one side (great for storing the tiny, vacuumable hairclips that come with the set) and a rack for hanging the (also vacuumable) hair extensions on the other.
The rooms and shelves inside The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon.Rooms in the salon playset.

As for Tressa, she is, as I said before, my favorite Zelf. :) Her colors are rich and complimentary, and her little flytrap markings are adorable (as are her little pointy teeth!). Her art shows her eyes as blue, but they're actually a brilliant amber color (which I think looks much nicer).
The Zelfs Tressa with closed Venus Flytrap Spin Salon.The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon Zelf Tressa, detail shot.

Finally, here are the accessories. You get a  leaf-shaped brush, a crown, a small hairclip, two Zelf-sized "hair extensions", and Tressa's charm (all flytrap themed). Tressa's leaflet is also included. Isn't the hairclip cute? ^3^
The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon playset accessories.

Bottom line: This set is cute and original, but don't buy it for the gimmicky "spin-'n'-style" feature--it's a bit of a disappointment. Regardless, the playset more than redeems itself with aesthetic value, fun accessories, and one of the nicest looking Zelfs in the line.
The Zelfs Venus Flytrap Spin Salon... perfect for Little Shop of Horrors parodies. XD
"'Feed me Seymoouur... Feed me alll night looonng..."

Note: Salon Playset does not include watering can and miniature flowerpot; those are merely props my Zelfs used in their stage production. ;)