Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Richie Rich characters sell "GRIT" newspapers, and you can too, kids!

The latest art project was inspired by a totally absurd advertisement in a Richie Rich comic book, Richie Rich Vaults of Mystery #37 (Dec 1980). The ad was completely drawn in the style of regular Richie Rich comics, so it's understandable if kids of that time were confused and mistook it for a normal comics page.


Richie Rich "GRIT" ad, 1980
Richie asks his father how they got rich. Now, in the comics, the reasons vary. Some indicate that the Riches inherited money from a long line of wealthy ancestors. Some comics say that Mr. Rich was a self-made man. In this ad, Mr. Rich explains that, as a boy, he sold GRIT (the newspaper). It is implied that selling GRIT was the reason he eventually became rich.

Inspired by his father's advice, Richie runs out and spends his time going door to door selling GRIT for 35 cents a copy (1980 money). He whispers that he gets to keep 12 cents for each copy sold as a commission, and tells the reader that they too can earn prizes like bicycles, radios, camping equipment, footballs, etc. His girlfriend Gloria, hair recently bleached blond from the hair dye that she bought with her GRIT earnings, tells the reader that "Girls sell GRIT, too".

Reading this was one of those laugh-out-loud, double-over-in-hysterics moments. Richie, the richest kid in the world with a $25,000 weekly allowance, peddling newspapers for loose change, like he REALLY NEEDED THE MONEY. I thought this was the funniest thing I'd read in comics, eclipsing the gentle humor of the stories themselves.

Former Harvey staffer Paul Maringelli has the following information about GRIT ads in Harvey Comics:
  • Paul, and some of the staffers laughed about the ad in the office.
  • Alfred Harvey allowed it because as a young boy he sold GRIT (explaining who exactly the "famous people who got their start selling GRIT" were).
  • The ad was drawn by Joe Simon (yep, the creator of Captain America) He was a friend of the Harvey brothers. 
Thanks to Gee Bee's kind permission, here is an alternate version of the Richie Rich GRIT ad, from April 1981. The conversation between Richie and his father had been altered, removing the implication that GRIT helped Mr. Rich become rich. Also, the specifics about how much an issue of GRIT costs, and how much money a child could make were also changed, no doubt due to the runaway inflation of the late 70's and early 80's. It would make no sense to print the older ad, since the price of magazines (including comics books) were rapidly changing. 

Alternate Richie Rich "GRIT" ad, 1981


Richie's friends, Freckles and Pee-Wee, live in pretty desperate circumstances. Here's a comic panel of their house- some real "poverty porn". Take a look-  Leaky radiator that's dripping water on the floor! No interior walls (therefore no separate rooms), so the beds are a few steps away from the bathroom sink! Cracked plaster galore with plenty of wooden lath visible! A sink that was obviously salvaged from an abandoned warehouse- big enough to bathe in! And (sniff) the boys padding around barefoot on dirty, bare floors. If anybody needed to sell GRIT, it's Freckles and Pee-Wee, not Richie Rich.

Freckles and Pee-Wee's rundown shack
Just by accident, I sorta discovered that I have a bit of a talent for drawing Harvey Comics characters. It didn't take too much study before I was able to draw reasonable facsimiles of them, so I decided to draw a parody of the GRIT ad, using characters who actually needed money.

The final modification was changing GRIT to "GRISTLE". I came up with the idea when I was eating dinner, and saving a piece of gristle for the cat.

"GRISTLE" parody advertisement
 I'm not a particularly tight penciller, and all of my inking and coloring is done in Photoshop, but here's the rough pencil sketch:

"GRISTLE" parody advertisement, rough sketch


The other GRIT ad that alternated with the Richie Rich one features Casper the Friendly Ghost and Wendy. This one's not quite as ridiculous as the Richie one, because it does not show Casper, Wendy, or any Harvey characters actually going door to door, selling GRIT to the humans. Instead, Casper addresses the reader directly to urge them sell GRIT for various prizes.
Casper and Wendy GRIT ad
Wendy, showing off a bicycle, assures the readers that "this is more fun than a flying broom". What? Bicycle vs. flying broom? Huffing and puffing up hills, and hoping that some idiot in an SUV won't hit you, and having cars whiz by you with only a foot of buffer space vs. flying overhead? I'll take the broom!


Richie Rich joins a 70's radical group! From CRAZY magazine, #69 (1980)

Friday, June 9, 2017

Richie Rich joins a 70's radical group! From CRAZY magazine, #69 (1980)

OMG. This has to be the funniest Richie Rich parody, ever! Published in Marvel's CRAZY magazine, Issue #69 in 1980. I've always loved the artwork of siblings John and Marie Severin, and the art in this story does not disappoint. CRAZY is a B&W magazine, so I did the colors for the parody cover.

Where shall I start? The cover is so chock full of sight gags! I knew immediately what the premise of the story was just by looking at the cover. See, anyone of a certain age who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area would know the 1974 Patty Hearst kidnapping story very well. For any youngsters reading this, or people who grew up somewhere else or under a rock, go ahead and read Wikipedia for context. But for those of us who already knew the details of the SLA and Patty Hearst story, this Richie Rich parody is such a laff-riot that I couldn't even breathe!

Starting with the series logo in the upper left corner. This "Ritchie" abuses minority workers- cracking a whip over Mexican, Chinese and West Indies peons. The Harvey logo was replaced with "Horrid World". On the main cover splash page, Alt-Ritchie poses with a machine gun in a squalid rat infested hovel, with alt-Freckles and alt-Pee Wee as fellow revolutionaries. It's not quite obvious who the girl is, but it would be hilarious if that was Mayda Munny. One of the rats has his fist raised in a "Fight Da Power" salute. The furniture is wrecked, and the floor is littered with matches, cigarette butts, knives, bombs and sacks of money. Alt-Pee Wee, like any toddler, happily plays on the floor with a ball, which is, in this case... a bomb.

Best thing... the revolutionary logo painted on a bedsheet behind them- almost a dead-ringer for the cobra logo of the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Now, getting to the story. It's titled "Ritchie Retch in Enemy of the Working Class". Alt-Ritchie's minority workers can't stand him, so they watch indifferently while he's kidnapped by left wing radicals alt-Reggie Van Dough, alt-Freckles and alt-Pee Wee. In their run-down terrorist HQ, the kidnappers kick alt-Ritchie into a closet and demand that his father organize a food giveaway for the poor. This is actually a pretty accurate reckoning of the Patty Hearst kidnapping.


Alt-Mr. Rich and his staff reluctantly do a food drop- consisting of high class foods like pheasant, Perrier water, caviar, tea cakes, pastry bags, spice racks, truffles and mints. That had me in stitches, because in real life, such items are sold these days at the high-end farmer's market and shops at the Ferry Bldg in San Francisco.

The Hibernia Bank robbery by alt-Ritchie and his new friends is also eerily accurate. Alt-Mr. Rich orders the radicals' HQ bombed, but there is a slight continuity error where the helicopter pilot says that "Ritchie is not in the mansion". There's no reason why he should be, since he's still with his new BFFs. Alt-Ritchie is outside unloading money from the heist when the bombs drop, completely destroying the building and killing its occupants. This is very reminiscent of how the Patty Hearst kidnappers were killed in a shootout and firefight that burned down their hideout while they were inside.

Alt-Ritchie is picked up by his father, who bribes a judge into sentencing his wayward boy to two weeks at a country-club minimum security prison, where the cells are decorated with modern art, thick shag carpeting, entertainment systems and luxury food and drink stored in spotless stainless steel servers. This reflects many a kitchen table discussion across America about Patty Hearst, who some said was a "poor little rich girl who got off easy".

He is visited by the only survivor of the bombing raid, alt-Freckles, who demands one million dollars, or else he'll kill alt-Ritchie. At the time (1980), one million dollars was still a lot of money. Alt-Mr. Rich arranges for a bodyguard for alt-Ritchie once he's released, and it turns out to be Gloria! Alt-Ritchie proposes marriage and Alt-Gloria gladly accepts, plotting to arrange a fatal accident so she can have all his money. All of this is deliciously ironic, because Patty Hearst wed her bodyguard after being released from prison. 

At the wedding party, alt-Freckles dashes out from hiding under the buffet table, and attempts to shoot alt-Ritchie with a machine gun. Alt-Ritchie shoves alt-Gloria into the spray of bullets, killing her instead of himself. Alt-Freckles is dragged off by the police, while alt-Ritchie resumes his hobby of clubbing baby seals to death.

Wow... a lot happened in a 5 page story. Kudos to the writer (Jim Owsley) and the artists (Howard Bender and Marie Severin) for coming up with something this good. Bender and Severin had mastered the Harvey house style, and their depictions of Richie, Mr. Rich, Freckles, Pee Wee, Reggie and Gloria were almost perfect. They purposely went subtly off-model, probably to avoid IP disputes with Harvey Comics.

Satire and parody are so much more effective when based on real-life events, and boy, this story is incredible- taking a real story and raising it to the n'th degree, with suitably hilarious results. It's just kind of a shame that younger adults and kids today would not be able to catch all of the references and appreciate how well done this all is.

I just felt that alt-Reggie and alt-Mayda Munny got the short straws in this story and were criminally underutilized. Mayda, in particular, deserved more than the "helpless girl" look on the parody cover. So I drew Reggie and Mayda in a special pin-up as radicals! With Mayda and the familiar mad-eyebrows and smirk that we all know and hate! Yes, this is my artwork. I wish I could draw like John and Marie Severin, or Don Rosa, or Ernie Colon.

These days, we have Adobe Photoshop to handle the inking and coloring chores, so if we make a mistake, a quick digital eraser removes any errors- forever! My artwork starts off as a pencil sketch on a drawing pad. The sketches don't need to be too tight, because Photoshop inking covers it all up. The background layer is the scanned original sketch. Then, I add a transparent layer for the Photoshop inking. I use a Wacom pen and tablet- I only use a mouse to play video games.

Once the digital inking looks ok, I place an opaque white layer between the pencil sketch and the inks to basically block out the pencils. Then I start adding color transparent layers. Each color has its own layer, and each is set to "multiply" so I can see the layers below them. I don't need to aim the colors too well, since the inked outlines remain intact, no matter how badly I color. Oh, BTW, drawing guns is not my specialty, so the guns were drawn on a separate layer (based on a 4" toy MEGO rifle) and merged into the ink layer once I had it right.

The final layer is a "shadow" layer- a transparent gray. Finally, when everything looks good, I merge all of the layers and save as a .JPG file.

All images are owned and copyrighted by the respective holders and are presented here for educational purposes within the "fair use" terms of US Code: Title 17, Sec. 107.


Richie Rich characters sell "GRIT" newspapers, and you can too, kids!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Japanese Billy dollhouse- Naniwa's Skewer (Kushi katsu) Shop

This is my first official Billy Dollhouse. The Billy Dollhouse Company in Japan makes ready-to-assemble dollhouses. The small kits sell for 3000 yen ($27.00 USD), and the larger kits retail for 5300 yen ($48.00 USD). They have a website and they sell online, but they do not sell directly to countries outside of Japan. Customers in the US can buy them from Amazon.Com, for about $10 above retail, which isn't too large a markup.

They're are very similar to the made-in-China DIY kits that I'd bought before. But in Japan, everything is more expensive, but generally, you get higher quality for the higher price. This kit cost me 5,300 yen ($48.00), which is about twice the cost of similar Chinese kits. It is called "ナニワの串カツ屋さん", which Google Translate says is "Naniwa's skewer/kushi katsu/kushi age shop". I had seen samples of the finished kits at Volks Akihabara, so I knew they are slightly smaller than 1:18, perhaps more like 1:20 or 1:24 scale.

Parts inventory after opening the kit
One thing that I wasn't very enthusiastic about was Billy's use of foamboard and cardboard sheets to make a few parts. You're supposed to cut out the parts yourself, using the full-sized templates in the instructions. Personally, I just don't like foam board because of painting issues and gluing issues. I refused to build furniture with cardboard, so I did part substitutions for this build.

The instructions are completely in Japanese, with zero English. Since I'd done these kinds of dollhouses before, I made educated guesses about how to assemble it by looking at the diagrams, as well as watching YouTube videos by the user HMS2.

Since this dollhouse shop is sub-1:18 scale, my plan was to modify it to bring it into proper 1:18 by using 1/4" x 3/4" x 8" basswood strips to boost the height of the walls. The back panel of the shop needed to be replaced, so I used a thin MDF backer board from a Daiso picture frame.

Day 7: 

Here's an in-progress shot of the Billy DIY dollhouse project. This photo shows how to increase the height of a wooden dollhouse in order to bring it in-scale with larger figures, in this case going from 1:20/1:24 scale to 1:18.

Day 7 of dollhouse construction
Clockwise from the top:
  1. Main building: The 3/4" basswood strips can be seen on the outside. On the inside, the booster strips had already been covered-up with a wide baseboard, which is a textured paper strip. The outside will eventually be covered up with siding.
  2. Doors: Since the building height is being increased, the doors also need to be taller. There's a 1/2" basswood strip on the bottom of the door. Once the door is painted, the booster will not be visible.
  3. "L" shaped counter: The instructions called for cutting the countertop from foamboard and the cabinet from cardboard. I completely replaced all of it with a hand-cut basswood countertop and very thin leftover MDF from a picture frame backing board.
  4. Small outdoor counter: Also has a 1/2" basswood strip to boost the height. The outside is covered with a strip of bamboo mat, replacing the flattened corrugated cardboard strip mentioned in the instructions.
  5. The original stools actually fit Rement Pose skeletons pretty well. I decided to designate them as "kid's stools". Then I made 4 slightly larger ones from scratch (same style) for the "grownups". I found some excellent "textured cloth" origami paper at Daiso, so I used that to replace the original paper chair covering.
  6. The yatai (street food stall) cabinet also needed a height boost to make it proportional to the new height of the building and furniture. I added a 1/2" basswood strip, and replaced the intended cardboard counter with thin MDF. All of the changes will be invisible once the cabinet is painted.
The Billy dollhouse kit includes 3 small bottles of paint. After trying them out, I'll say that the paint is definitely unlike the craft acrylic paints that we have in the US. The Billy paints are water based, but they are semi-transparent, semi-gloss, really quick-drying and have a lot more "stick" to them. They adhere to the surfaces very well- almost too well, because it was difficult to wash the dried paint off of my hands! I had to use a pot scrubbing sponge.

Day 15: 

Well, the Billy dollhouse is still a work-in-progress. I've completed the building, interior furniture and the yatai (street food) cart, as well as the small outdoor counter. Everything's painted and nicely covering up all of the height booster strips.

Day 15 of dollhouse construction
Yup, bringing the scale to 1:18 was a good idea. Here's what it looks like with figures: Boss Fight Studio skeleton, Pose skeleton, and manning the yatai- a "125mm full-action Kamen Rider SAGA Kuuga" gachapon figure, fresh from Japan. The samurai armor suit is another gachapon capsule toy.

But there's NO FOOD! I'll be working on that over the next few days. I know, a restaurant looks kind of pitiful with hungry customers and no food.

Day 21: 

We have food now! and BEER! The food is made in the most unexpected way: cutting tiny pieces out of foam board and putting a thin wire through them. Then painting them with the included high-tack orange paint. Then coating them with glue and rolling them around in sand. And a final coat of orange paint. They really do look good enough to eat.

Day 21 of dollhouse construction
I'm approaching the completion of the dollhouse kit. Right now, the awning is only taped-on because I'm waiting for some LED lights from China. Eventually I'll have light-up lanterns under the awning.

Additional part substitutions:
  1. The flags and curtains were originally printed paper. I scanned the paper sheets, printed them on iron-on paper and ironed them on cloth. Cloth has far superior function and aesthetic.
  2. The beer mugs were supposed to be cut from flexible aquarium tubing. But, the resulting mugs would be seriously out of scale, and the material is difficult to glue. I replaced them with mugs cut from a BIC pen and some wire for the handles. 
  3. The instructions called for food trays to be flat cardboard rectangles covered with foil, with the food placed on top. For practical reasons, that design wouldn't work in real life because the excess oil would just flow onto the countertops. I replaced them with proper food trays with fold-up sides, cut from silver-colored cardstock.
  4. I used heavy textured tan cardstock to make the chopstick cups 
  5. Things were getting crowded on the base, so I increased the size of the base by 3/4" by gluing on basswood strips. This would be covered up by the paving stones, eventually.
The sidewalk is next on my list to do.


I'm done! This project took 4 weeks. I could have done this faster if I stuck to the instructions and made it exactly as-is, but it was always my intention to increase the size to 1:18 scale, and to do a deluxe version of the kit.

This pic is taken from the side, and shows the following improvements:
  1. Paving stones made from egg cartons, trimmed, painted, sealed with clearcoat and grouted with spackling paste.
  2. Added a samurai armor gachapon. I found this in a gacha machine at Yodobashi Akiba, on the same night that I bought this dollhouse kit at Volks Hobby Paradise Akihabara. I initially wasn't sure what to do with it, but when I did a dry fit of it next to the kushi katsu shop, something clicked and I liked the look.
  3. Created a bamboo pot for the plant. The instructions were vague about what to do with the plant. Was I supposed to drill a hole in the base and just stick it in? I had leftover bamboo from a bamboo mat used in an earlier project, so I made a pot by wrapping heavy paper around a marker to make a cylinder, and then wrapping a strip of bamboo mat around it.
  4. Made Japanese paper lanterns instead of using styrofoam balls.
Day 29 completion of dollhouse construction


It took 25 days for my LED lights to arrive from China. A dozen of them cost only 11 cents (US). The time spent waiting wasn't wasted. I was working on some lanterns, because, dammit, I wanted the lanterns to light up. The original instructions and materials intended for them to be made from styrofoam balls covered with paper, but if I made them that way, I would not be able to insert LED bulbs inside.

So, I ended up making them old-school style: by winding cloth-covered floral wire around a marker and shaping to coils by hand to taper at the ends. Then I covered them in Japanese washi paper. I added a small wire handle at the top, so I could hang them from hooks on the roof.

I wired the LEDs in parallel. They were 3v each, at 20mAh. Since there's 5 of them wired in parallel, they could all run on a single CR-2032 battery, and I had several battery boxes in my stash. It technically works, but a load of 5 LEDS is a bit much for a single coin cell, so I'm expecting the lights to run down the battery pretty quickly.

Kushi Katsu shop illuminated at night with lanterns
Lighted dollhouses look entirely different at night. The photo here is actually a pretty good replica of what it's really like to stop at a kushi katsu shop at night. The Japan I saw (Tokyo) is all skyscrapers, multi-floor mega shopping complexes, bright lights, traffic jams and trains. These kinds of traditional shops still exist in places like Shibamata and Osaka. I love Japan! Maybe on my next trip, I'll venture beyond Tokyo.


Now that I've completed my first Japanese Billy dollhouse kit, I can make an objective evaluation of them.

They're rather expensive for what you get. This kit is one of their largest and most expensive ones at 5300 yen. Although the MDF was measured and cut very precisely and finished very well, the Billy dollhouse company seems to have an aversion to making smaller parts out of wood. Many parts, such as countertops and cabinets were supposed to be cut from foam board or cardboard. The roof pieces were supposed to simply be glued at an angle, when they should have wooden triangle-shaped supports. And items that should be cloth are printed paper. I did an awful lot of part substitutions.

The kit did not come with any light bulbs and was never intended to light up. I fixed that (of course) and kicked in about $10 for additional materials (wood, MDF, various types of paper, cloth, Plastruct rails, floral wire, lights).

Manufacturer's photo (left) vs actual dollhouse. A good match
Since I was on vacation in a foreign country and very determined to spend money, that justified the purchase. It's a souvenir of Japan, with some cultural and historical significance, as well as a hobby kit. This was a fun and interesting project, and now it looks like it came from a $48.00 kit. But in its original form... maybe not. I am not certain if I would purchase another Billy dollhouse kit. The materials are rather basic, and I believe I can construct a similar dollhouse from scratch for a fraction of the cost.

Sometimes I really think that toy skeletons have a better life than I do


Tokyo's Akihabara Again and Gacha-Love, 2017
"Captain Bar" DIY Dollhouse becomes Pirate Bar

Friday, April 28, 2017

Tokyo's Akihabara (again) and Gacha-Love, 2017 Edition!

Free Akihabara map with my favorite shops marked (click to enlarge)
Well, it's 11 months after my first trip to Tokyo in 2016, and I went back! I was in Shanghai, and since I had to put up with a 13 hour flight to get there, it made sense to also go back to Japan for a few days. This time, I padded additional days to the trip for shopping! I had a glorious time!


Gachapon Kaikan and one of their display cases
On the first day, I had about 4 hours to shop, so I (of course) went to Akihabara, via the Tokyo Metro. First stop was, of course, Gachapon Kaikan! I had plenty of time to take some photos, and look at all the gacha machines, as well as explore the other floors. Gachapon Kaikan still had Rement Pose Skeletons for sale, and for only 500 Yen ($4.35). They had the Oden stall on display, but it was sold out. When I went back a few days later, they restocked, so I got the Oden stall for only 1300 yen (around $12.00)!

Inside Gachapon Kaikan
I saw gacha machines of the recent Epoch robot series, this time with a rickshaw. I tried twice, and got two different colored Epoch robots, but no rickshaw. Something new that caught my eye were these Bandai figures. All I could read was "SAGA", "500 yen" and "125mm" and a backing card that indicated that these figures were highly poseable. They had me at "125mm", because it's an odd scale, and my favorite size for figures (1:15). About 30 seconds after I got mine, someone else peered at the machine and bought one. More on these later.

2 gacha machines at Gachapon Kaikan
Pose skeleton and Oden stall @ Gachapon Kaikan
Kamen Rider @ Gachapon Kaikan

Epoch robots @ Gachapon Kaikan

Next was a hike to the Radio Kaikan building, to check out Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby, and my favorite open package gacha scalper shop, Havi Koro Toy. I bought the rickshaw there, for 350 yen, only a 50 yen markup. Also picked up 2 folding chairs from the Epoch "Interrogation" series, because one can never have enough folding chairs, and they're no longer available on Rakuten ToySanta.

Rickshaw and folding chairs @ Havi Koro

Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby at Radio Kaikan Bldg
Kaiyodo still had the Dokuroman skeletons in their machines, both the DEVGRU (ver 2) and the Halloween Nightmare. I decided to buy 2 more of the Halloween ones, because they're so good and are a definite improvement over the original DEVGRU (ver 1) ones. On the 2nd floor of the Radio Kaikan bldg, there was a bank of gacha machines, and I noticed that the 125mm SAGA figures were sold out there. Hmmm, interesting. Perhaps they're in high demand?

Gacha machines at Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby
Skeletons in different sizes, Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby
Kaiyodo Pumpkin Nightmare skeletons @ Kaiyodo Hobby Lobby
On the way back to Suehirocho Station, I stopped by several shops and even went into dark alleyways to check out the gacha. I came across these Epoch luggage cases. For only 200 yen and the backing card showed that they open. Oh hell, why not? I scored a white one. Another gacha machine on the street that got my attention was... some sort of "horror hands reaching from the grave" gacha. It was just weird enough to convince me to part with 200 yen for a capsule. I got 4 horror hands (1:6 scale) and a gravestone. With all the toy skeletons that I have already, I could always use a gravestone.

Suitcases and Horror Hands gacha machine

By 21:00, the gacha shops were closed, so it was time to head back to the hotel. I opened up the SAGA figure, and found out that it's from a "Kamen Rider" series. And sure enough, the figure was truly 125mm, and had amazingly good articulation and paint apps for something that cost less than $5.00. I counted 21 POA, and the figure was large and sturdy enough to not have the ball joints pop off. The full name of the series is フルアクションフィギュアSAGA 仮面ライダー, which roughly translates into "Fully poseable action figure SAGA Kamen Rider". I agree that they're pretty damn good. We just don't get figures of this quality at that price in the States. 

At my hotel (Hotel East 21), there's a small shopping mall, and a pharmacy which had a decent number  of gacha machines. They had the Kamen Rider gacha there, and I bought a few more, since it was so convenient.

Gacha machines at Hotel East 21 mall pharmacy
Gacha machines at Hotel East 21 mall pharmacy
Kamen Rider Kuuga @ Hotel East 21 mall pharmacy

I spent the next 2 days at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. I'm slightly disappointed that Disney doesn't know how to properly exploit the pirates over there. The 2 pirate shops had generic pirate merchandise- the unbranded types that they could simply order from China. Nothing that was associated with the park, or the ride. 

Bon Voyage at Maihama Station, like the "World of Disney" stores


Several days later, I had a complete day (Saturday) to go shopping, so I took the hotel shuttle to Tokyo Disneyland just to shop at "Bon Voyage", the official Disney Parks store at Maihama Station. Then, I headed back to Akihabara. This time, I had the Akiba Culture Zone and Yodobashi Akiba on my list to check out. At the Akiba Culture Zone, there was another branch of Havi Koro Toy. I didn't see anything I desperately wanted, so I headed to Yodobashi Akiba. It's on the other side of the JR Akihabara station, and this time, I had a smartphone to guide me.

Yodobashi Akiba
This is Yodobashi Akiba. It's HUGE. I spent my time mainly on the toys floor. They have multiple large banks of gacha, and aisle after aisle of toys, including the most comprehensive collection of Rement Pose skeleton items that I had ever seen! I picked up the Pose Skeleton sword set and the Oden stall, although I eventually returned the Oden stall because Gachapon Kaikan had a better price. Yodobashi Akiba's gacha included a few from last year (2016) while Gachapon Kaikan seems to stock the latest. By Sat, on my final trip to Gachapon Kaikan, they were sold out of the Kamen Rider 125mm figures.

 Pose Skeleton display at Yodobashi
Gachapon machines at Yodobashi Akiba
I used the opportunity at Yodobashi to pick up a samurai armor gacha, and some of the Epoch exercise barbells.

Samurai armor and barbells gacha machines at Yodobashi Akiba
Samurai armor and barbells @ Yodobashi Akiba
Pose Skeleton sword set @ Yodobashi Akiba
My last stop was Volks Hobby Paradise, in order to pick up one of the Japanese Billy dollhouses. I took a picture of some of the ones they had in the glass case, already built. The Ramen stall was larger than I expected, but I wasn't really planning on spending 3000 yen ($27) for one since I already made an imitation version for 1/10 the cost. 

Volks Hobby Paradise in Akihabara
Pre-built, display only Billy dollhouses at Volks
Billy dollhouses for sale at Volks

I spent a LONG TIME looking at the packages of the larger kits, pondering which one I wanted to buy. I really wanted the Unagi shop, because I really like unagi in sushi and rice bowls, but the only one they had was built-up in the display case. I was determined to go home with a Billy kit, so I eventually decided on the Kushikatsu (deep fried skewers) shop. Volks is a duty-free store, so foreign tourists can avoid paying the Japan 8% consumption tax on total purchases over 5000 yen. The Kushikatsu dollhouse was 5300 yen (about $48). I will be doing a separate write up on this kit later.

Billy dollhouse Kushikatsu shop, purchased at Volks
The Billy dollhouse website is here:

You can use Google translate to get this translated into English. However, they do not ship to the United States, so you'd need to order these from Amazon.Com.


My final day in Tokyo was short. I had an early afternoon flight. There's an overwhelming number of transportation options available to get to/from the airport. Just to make it easier on my nerves, I opted to take the "A" Toei Asakusa line from Nihombashi Station, and just stayed on the same train when it became the Narita SkyAccess Express.

Some transportation options out of Narita Airport
Ah, but once I got to Narita airport, got my boarding pass and checked the luggage, there was still more gachapon machines to peruse. This has to be new... gacha machines at the Narita airport. Travelers on the way home, with leftover yen in their pockets, time to kill, and perhaps a need to buy a bunch of little souvenirs for the folks back home are the perfect marks. Kaiyodo seems to have a good presence there. They managed to have a display of Kaiyodo gacha under a plastic dome. The idea is complete genius! It can also serve people coming home from other parts of Asia with a layover at Narita airport for a few hours. I really love that idea.

Kaiyodo gacha display at Narita airport
Gacha at the Narita airport
Gacha at the Narita airport

The Search for Dokuroman
Miniature DIY Pirate Gachapon Machine
A Collection of Toy Skeletons
More Gacha-Love, shipped from Japan!
Toy Shopping in Tokyo's Akihabara and Hong Kong's Mong Kok district