Monday, September 13, 2010

Doyusha Catapult

I was in Shinjuku the other day on my way in to Akihabara, and I made a sidetrip to Kinokuniya bookstore to pick up the study books for the JLPT level N2 test. As is my wont when I'm in Kinokuniya (and when I have an excess of wonts that I need to get rid of), I stopped on the floor that has all the Gakken Otona no Kagaku kits, to see if there's anything new (happens sometimes), or if they've picked up a kit that had been out of stock (hasn't happened yet). First thing I noticed is that the kits had been moved away from the doorway right in front of the elevators. Second is that there are 10 new kits all based on Leonardo Da Vinci's designs.

Doyusha is a maker of plastic model kits, like small replica cars and airplanes. The Da Vinci series is really cool-looking, and includes a 10-barrel cannon, an early covered tank, a wooden printing press and a catapult. There are moving parts, but things like the cannon aren't fully functional. On the other hand, the catapult actually works.

The kits are all 2600 yen (including tax; $30 USD) and most of them have no more than 20 pieces. They all look to be made up of pre-colored, pre-textured plastic and don't need painting or glue. The catapult is snap fit, and uses tension from the harp piece and two lengths of string to launch a small plastic marble. The full assembly is about 10 inches tip-to-tip. The orientation of the pieces are a little hard to figure out from the pictures, so I kept having to disassemble and reassemble it until everything came out right (if the harp is at a weird angle, the screw handle doesn't lock in place, or the end pieces don't slide into place completely, try again). Even so, it only took 30 minutes to complete. Pushing the screw handle up locks it into place and you then tighten the arm down. Pushing the handle down releases the arm and the ball will fly maybe 3 or 4 feet. Not exactly an eye-poking out masterpiece of doom, but it looks good on the shelf.

Packaged with the kit is a small instruction booklet that includes a brief history of Da Vinci's life, and an exploration of some of his notebook drawings on war machines. It's all in Japanese, but it does have some nice pictures.

There was a request made by a reader of this blog for some of the Da Vinci helicopter kits from Gakken. Unfortunately, those are out of print, but the Doyusha Da Vinci "aerial screw" may be the next best thing. While it doesn't fly, you can at least throw it at people you don't like.


Edit - Oct. 16, 2010

I wrote above that the catapult doesn't throw very far. Well, it turns out that you can easily "mod" it to bump up the arm strength. Actually, it's just a matter of taking a little slack out of the strings attached to the roll-up drum. The easiest way to do this is to just put the string pins into the mounting holes on the opposite sides of the chicken bone arms. There's not much point to giving it more than a 1/2 wrap, because the screw gear isn't designed to handle a whole lot of torque. But the final result is to throw the plastic marble a good 20 feet farther.

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