Wednesday, March 20, 2013

two of these things are not like the others

The human eye is a marvelously deceptive instrument, and loves to play tricks on even the most perceptive of us.  So when we see something that looks out of place or incongruous, many times we’ll blink or shake our head in cartoon fashion, to try and make reality conform to our default state of complacency. Reality, however, has a way of rudely insisting upon itself. Such is the case with today’s example of Objects That Shouldn’t Exist.

Kitschy “collectables”, memorabilia, tschotchkes, call them what you will; they infest knick-knack shelves and bric-a-brac cases around the world. Gift shops and antique malls are filled with them: Hummelware figurines, little porcelain cats and dogs, fake antique brass reproductions of spinning wheels, coffee grinders, and spaceships from Japanese cartoons. Wait, what was that last one again?

Yes. This is an unretouched photo of an antique mall booth featuring a table filled with little metal reproductions of various old-timey items – telephones, boilers, fans, stage-coaches, and what appear to be cement mixers. But among these quaint memories of a rustic past sits Captain Harlock’s space battleship, the Arcadia.

Rendered in the medium of faux-tarnished brass, this 1/10000 scale Arcadia features adjustable fins and is equipped with a stern-mounted pencil sharpener, which will be handy if the Mazone ever attack Earth with pencils.

Also in this series is Duke Freed’s flying-saucer based super robot platform, the Spazer, from the old-timey Gay 90s magic lantern drama UFO Robo Grendizer. Or “Grandizer” if you prefer.  This ultra-powerful interstellar robot fighting system also comes equipped with a pencil sharpener that can handle any pencils the evil Vegan aliens can dish out.

 Grendizer is always ready to deliver devastating pencil-sharpening attacks to any and all merchandise from rival animation franchises.

The big question, of course, is what in the holy hell are two Japanese animation space machines doing alongside faux repro brass telephones and coffee grinders and captain’s wheels? What was the thought process here, hey, I want an old-timey stagecoach AND Captain Harlock’s spaceship?  This weird flying saucer with a head will look great on my knick-knack shelf alongside my Precious Moments figurines?  It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It didn’t make sense the first time I saw them, it didn’t make sense after I blinked and shook my head and made the “goggle goggle” noise that Scooby-Doo and Shaggy make when they see monsters, and after spending years wasting my time obsessing over the minutiae of Japanese cartoons and super robots and spaceships, it still doesn’t make any sense.

 The sewing machine was $6.95. The Arcadia? $8.00

Sold in little teal boxes with “Made In Hong Kong” prominently displayed, these die-cast miniatures are themselves physical manifestations of three or four or five levels of global economics in action; fabricated in Asia, shipped to wholesalers in North America, parceled out to primary retail in flower shops, greeting card stores, gift boutiques, I dunno, wherever people buy the endless supply of junk they seem to feel completes every flat surface in their home, where they gather dust for ten or twenty years before they’re sold at yard sales or at bulk auction to somebody who in turn sells them to an antique store, which is where my dollar enters the picture, helping to keep the world economy moving one stupid tchotchke at a time. You’re welcome, world.

It is heartening, however, to see that these little reproductions of old-timey devices are still lurking in the hinterlands, in the junk stores and antique malls and flea markets of the world.  There must be shipping containers and storage units and unclaimed property auctions around the world filled with tiny metal coffee grinders and cement mixers and spaceships. So the next time Grandma drags you to the Grandma store to get some more knick-knacks for her bric-a-brac shelf, quit rolling your eyes and sighing and instead keep on the lookout for Grendizer. You never know where he or the Arcadia will pop up.

 The sea of stars is my home. What do I do there? Sharpen pencils.


Amamori said...

Talk about a cool find!
I absolutely LOVE coming across anime memorabilia in out-of-the-way places like this.

Thanks for such an interesting post. Inspiration to keep one's eyes open for pearls amongst the swine.

Devlin Thompson said...

When I got mine (circa 1979), I recognized Grendizer from his mini Shogun Warrior (and the lovely Popy die-cast I got in a fancy toy store in Wilmington, SC), but I thought that the Arcadia was one of the lesser ships from Star Blazers. Don't forget the third less-exciting spaceship: the space shuttle! It has a way of worming its way into assortments like that. Remember those silver PVC sets of Thunderbirds 1-5 (and also the space shuttle) that came out about twenty years ago?

Unknown said...

my dad has the ufo robo grendizer and i wanted to know how much its worth

d.merrill said...

I wouldn't say these were worth more than $10.

Unknown said...

I am so glad I found this post. I don't know anything about anime, but I love robots and flying saucers, and when I found in an antique mall this fab little die-cast pencil sharpener that clearly combined both and cost very little money, I was like "Sold!" But I've had it nearly a year now and never have known what it represents. Until now. So thanks.

Chad said...

One word, “Spain” should be enough to explain this but if you read between the lines at that link and consider Spain in the 70s (more anime than anywhere but Japan) the answer to the question of “WTF” should be clear.