Philip Lee's #TOPTENTOYSOF2021

WHAT-IS: What are YOUR #TopTenToysof2021? I’ve invited some collectors to share their favs and you can check if they share the same designer toys as you, in this serial feature on TOYSREVIL heralding in the new year of toys in 2022!

PHILIP LEE: It becomes a tradition that my yearly 10 Best Toys article being outrageously late. My apologies. But this year I got a better excuse. 2021 was a year of change for me. I moved from Hong Kong to Cambridge UK. There were many reasons for the move, but mainly I preferred my kids to grow up in a place with freedom. So things have been chaotic.

I haven’t really updated my Classicbot’s social media a lot. My toys are still in a Hong Kong’s warehouse. I wasn’t able to shoot photos of them. I hope you don’t mind I use publicity photos by the manufacturer to illustrate my points. It seems that my taste in toys continued from 2020. I was still buying toys from a few IPs that I liked in the year before. BTW, there were only 9 toys. The other just did not make the cut.

#9: Figma 503 Motoko Kusanagi Sac 2045 by Max factory

PHILIP LEE: If you had read my previous entry, you would know that I am a big Ghost in the Shell fan. I also enjoyed the new show funded by Netflix. It has a slow start but the show (eventually) found it's footing and some of the writing is as good as the classic SAC series. I am excited for the season two which will air in May.

The toy here is a Figma by Max Factory. Figma is a premium action figure line with the hefty price tags. This figure is the Motoko from the new show. It is a really solid all rounded figure. Nothing to complain except I wished the price is a bit lower. But you got what you pay for.

#8. 1/144 Gouf model kit by Bandai

PHILIP LEE: I cheated a little bit here. Technically it has been years since I'd owned this kit. I got it when Bandai reissued them in the early 2000s. But it was shoved in a storage and considered lost later. I was so happy to find it last year.

I started building it. Since it is from the original Gundam Model Line, it really looks crap if you build it straight from the box. After all it was engineered 40+ years ago. So I have been modding it. I try to make the pose slightly more natural, and enhance the proportion a little bit. I will sculpt the hands from scratch since the original ones are beyond redemption. The goal is to retain the old school look but make it more refined.

#7. Square Enix Flight Unit Ho229 Type-B & 2B Plastic Model from NieR: Automata

PHILIP LEE: Here is another model kit. As a huge Automata fan, I was thrilled when they announced this kit. The Flight Unit is a transformable mecha for the main character to ride on. It has a jet fighter mode and a robot mode. I loved the design so much that I planned to build a 3D model and have it printed by myself!

It obviously was no easy task. Glad they sold this kit. Saved me a lot of effort. I have not built the kit yet. But from all the online reviews it seems to be a fairly decent kit. And even though it is branded under Square Enix, it was engineered by Kotobukiya, which is probably the second largest mecha model kit manufacturer besides Bandai. So quality is pretty much guaranteed.

#6. MODEROID Patlabor AV 98 Ingram and Bulldog Set Plastic Model by Good Smile Company

PHILIP LEE: Another model kit and another IP that appeared in previous Ten Best! Am I a boring collector or not? I have a soft spot for the grunt mechas in Patlabor. I love the realistic look of them. This kit is a dual set with the "Ingram" (the hero mecha) and the "Bulldog". It was a instant buy for me since the Bulldog has never been a kit. I doubt there was ever any toy produced. It is nice to have the Ingram too!

#5. Four Murasame by Megahouse

PHILIP LEE:Ok, since I embraced my weeb side, I started collecting anime character figures. Four Murasame was my first anime crush. She was one of the heroines from Gundam Z. Four was not her real name. She was a lab trained New Type solder. Four was just a code name. She was quite a mystery in the show. Since the show was fairly old, not many figures of Four have been produced in recent years. So it was not a hard decision when the pre order of this figure started. The figure is quite decent if not exceptional. But since there is really no other choice, I am content with what I got. 

#4. Altria Pendragon by Gift

PHILIP LEE: "Altria" appeared on my 2020 list in her alter evil form, "Saber Alter". Her name was translated as "Arturia", or most commonly "Artoria". But a few years back, the author of the show changed it to "Altria".

The change created lots of confusion; it neither sounds accurate to the Japanese version or its English name, "Arthor", where it ws derived from. But it is the new official name nevertheless.

This particular figure was sculpted by Toda Satoshi (戸田 聡). He is a sculptor I admire a lot. He always brings his style to his work. His work is not for everyone as some fans think his work deviates too much from the original anime design. I find his work burst with life and emotion as demonstrated by Altria here.

This photo (above) was one photo from my old toy shelf back home, you can see how she holds herself really well against a bunch of robot guys. 

#3. Bubble Gum Crisis Knight Saber Priss 1/6 vinyl model kit by ArtMic

PHILIP LEE: As someone who has created a toy brand focuses on nostalgia, I certainly love vintage toys. Browsing vintage toys online is one of my favorite pastime. It is such a pleasure to discover some old treasures. Like this vinyl garage kit of Priss from Bubble Gum Crisis.

For those who are not familiar with the term, garage kits or GKs, are self assembly model kit made in small production numbers. I think it started its (toy)life with hobbists creating their model kits in their garage (Read more on Wiki). The term is now bastardized and sometime refer to highly detailed statues in Asia.

Anyway this kit is very nice despite its age. The show it is based on, Bubblegum Crisis, first launched in 1987. And the kit was produced in the late 80s or early 90s. It was an official merchandise by ArtMic.

ArtMic was an important anime production house which directly contributed to the OVA (Original Vedio Anime) boom that helped shape the worldwide impact of anime today. Please read this article about the heyday of ArtMic.

The kit was made in vinyl, which meant it was hollow and you needed to fill up the legs with putty or plaster to avoid it getting deformed over time. All the details were sharp. But I did need to re-scribed some panel lines. It was very nicely sculpted.

PHILIP LEE: It was interesting to see how the face was sculpted. Anime figures of that time had simpler looks to them when you compare them to what we got today. Another thing I liked about this kit was that you got options to display the figure with or without the helmet. I am gonna finish both. I already added a magnetic join for easy swapping between the two options. I am really looking forward to finishing the kit. Hopefully I can share with you next year.

#2. Robot Spirits < Side MS > PF-78-1 Perfect Gundam Ver. A.N.I.M.E. by Bandai

PHILIP LEE: I am slowly building a tiny collection of these Bandai Robot Spirits (or "Robot Damishii" in Japanese). They are quite expensive for mass produced toys, so I have to be really selective, hence the tiny collection. This Perfect Gundam is quite a quirky version of the original Gundam RX-78. The background of this Gundam is quite meta.

It appears in a manga called Plamo-Kyoshiro (プラモ狂四郎 Puramokyōshirō?) which is about a boy who build Plamo (Abbrieviation for Plastic Model in Japan) I think it was before the term GunPla (Gundam Plastic Model) was coined. And this PF-78-1 Perfect Gundam is a modified build from the original Gundam model by the manga hero Kyoshiro. I have a soft spot for Gundam with an old school look. Some of the details on this may look a bit goofy for today’s standard. But to me, it is just full of old school charms. 

#1. Robot Spirits <Side MS> MS-07H Gouf Flying Test Type Ver. A.N.I.M.E. by Bandai

PHILIP LEE: The first slot of my 2021 toy is another toy from the Robot Spirits line. Gouf is one of my favourite Mobile Suit from the original Gundam series. This variant model is from the MSV, Mobile Suit Variation, a series of illustration done by Kunio Okawara after the anime ends. Gundam model was phenomenal and Bandai needed to keep the ball rolling.

So Okawara-san, the designer of all the original MS, was commissioned to designed new variant model from the existing line up. Result was many amazing MS designs that lean toward a more realistic, militaristic look.

Again, this toy captured the old school look really well. And just like most toys from this line, the articulations are superb. The finishing is great even if it is not fully painted. And I particularly like the very unusual color combination. This light turquoise and brown is not a combination I thought of using. But it just works great. I also notice it is quite similar to Blake Lively Met Gala dress this year! 

TOYSREVIL: What has been the most memorable toy-hunt you've experienced in 2021? And what happened? Where you successful?

PHILIP LEE: I was quite thrilled to find the Bubble Gum Crisis Knight Saber Priss 1/6 vinyl model online. I met the seller for the transaction and had a really good chat. Toy collecting really bring people together.

TOYSREVIL: Has anything changed in your toy-hunting/colelction focus in 2021, than the years before? And what is it/are they?

PHILIP LEE: 2021 is pretty much a continuation of 2020 that focus on anime figures, and toys from a handful of IPs that I loved.

TOYSREVIL: Any plans for 2022? How you approach collecting / hunting for toys? Or even making them?

PHILIP LEE: Since I am in the UK, I have reconnect with an old hobby of mine, building military model vehicles. The model scene is the UK is supposed to be very strong. In fact the UK government official who worked in colonial Hong Kong were credited for bringing model building to Hong Kong.

I used to build tanks beside Gundam. But later I just focused on Gundam and other Sci-Fi subject matters. There are wonderful museums throughout the UK showcasing old war machines. I was so impressed by the collection in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, that I went to buy a tank model to build right after the visit. I am looking forward to joining model shows in the UK. Also, the toys that I collect are overall much more expensive in the UK, so I have to be more selective.

TOYSREVIL: Thanks again for sharing with us Philip, and I wish you and your family well in the U.K.!


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