Japan Crate: Lucky Crate Review

Japan Crate recently ran a special promotion called “Lucky Crates.” These crates were half the price of their Premium Crates and filled with 10 snacks from previous crates. Random crates would also contain special prizes (or redemption vouchers for larger things).

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The insert included was a great touch, as it showed and explained all of the possible snacks as well as highlighting the special prizes. I did not receive any of the special prizes, but the box contents themselves were good. There was a coupon included as sort of a conciliation prize ($7 off a crate), but it expired 3 days from the target arrival date and was only good for new subscribers. So instead of being a nice gesture it was kind of a slap in the face to regular costumers. “Sorry you didn’t win anything. Here’s something you can’t use instead!”

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I got two of these, and they were practically identical. The only difference between the two was one had Konpetio Sugar Candy and the other had Soda Mixing Jelly Beans. The other nine items were exactly the same between the two boxes. I’m sure there was more variety in general, which makes it a little disappointing that there wasn’t effort made to better randomize the prepared boxes before filling orders for multiples.

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The Excellent

I adore soda flavored candy, so was quite happy to get Soda Mixing Jelly Beans (in one crate) and Poifull Soda Beans. Both are excellent yet different in flavor.

Sweet Corn Pretz are quite good and taste exactly like they are supposed to.

Chocolate Pucca are delicious pretzel shells filled with chocolate.

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The Decent

Grape Gummy Ribbon has a nice, slightly tart grape flavor and a very unique soft, almost dough-ish texture.

Vitamin C Lemon Drops are exactly what they sound like – a lemon flavored hard candy loaded with Vit C.

Konpeito is described as a traditional Japanese candy from the 16th century. It’s pieces of what’s generally called rock candy over here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in such small, relatively uniform pieces. Ok, but I vastly preferred the soda jelly beans I got in the other box.

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Meiji Dice Caramel are amusingly packaged caramel candies. Fun inclusion, but a bit too sweet for me.

Two previous Premium exclusive drinks were included. Chunosuke Water is a nice, lightly flavored drink and Creamy Melon Soda tastes exactly as described.

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The Meh

Lemon Squash is quite interesting, as it’s a soft plastic bottle of a mild lemonade packaged like a snack. I found it bland, but it certainly will have its appeal among others. 

 

Conclusion

While I had a couple small complaints about the execution overall the Lucky Crates were a great deal, particularly for new customers or ones who don’t get Premium and haven’t had the drinks. Would I get another one if they did this again? Absolutely. Is it worth getting more than one at a time? Absolutely not.

Japan Crate February 2016 Review

February is here and so is another box of snacks and treats from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is and has various additional content.  The Premium bonus item this month is Mini Ramen Bowl plastic toys. Detailed and amusing. As a little unlisted bonus, my box contained a few green tea KitKats. I’ve had them before and love them so this was a pleasant surprise inclusion.

Now let’s look at the other edibles.

The Excellent

Gummies and soda flavored candies continue to be my favorites, and I got a couple of each this month. Yaokin Budou Grape Gummies (a Premium exclusive) have a nice texture and the taste of grape juice. Twinbo Drink Gummies have a great sour taste with two of four flavors (cola, ramune, lime and lemon) per piece.

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Coris Grape and Soda Kajirittyo is more of the wonderful taffy candy that has the consistency of gum but dissolves. We need candy like this in the US.  Toppu Trio Gum are individually wrapped soft sticks of gum in cola, cider and grape flavors.

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Petit Pastel Ice Cream Cookies & Chocolate are tiny candy covered wafers with a chocolate shell shaped to look like ice cream cones and dishes. Amusing and delicious.

The Decent

Super Lemon hard candies have three layers of varying intensity of lemon flavor. Yaokin Moguchuu Strawberry are decent taffy-type candy.

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Chip Star Norishio corrects my complaint from last month’s crate, as Seaweed and Salt is definitely not a potato chip flavor common to the US. They were quite good too. 

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This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Ramune. Being it’s been included before and I’m quite familiar with it in general it would have been nice to get one of the more unusual possible flavors they had, but regardless original is still a pretty tasty drink.

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The DIY Kit was Heart Ltd. Oekaki Choco, which makes a chocolate lollipop with little crunchy candies throughout. I skipped painstakingly arranging the candies into patterns, which had no impact on the taste. 😉

 

The Meh

Nericcho Soft Cider/Strawberry Cones were listed as a “Shipping Bonus” for all crates, but given the Original tier only had 3 items this time it really just brought the count back to expected for anything above mini. The idea here was fine, with a powder mix to make a foam candy to put into mini ice cream cones. Unfortunately the cones were beyond stale, making this worthless.

Conclusion

 

Despite receiving my first stale item in any of my boxes, this month got back on track overall with the kind of unusual, diverse, and tasty snacks I look for from Japan Crate.

Japan Crate January 2016 Review

January is here and so I begin the year with another box of snacks and treats from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is and has various additional content. No DIY kit this month due to shipping issues, so a random surprise item was included in every crate. There were apparently a few big prizes mixed in. I got a squishy toy that looks like a face made of bread (so weird) and some decent chewy strawberry candies. Kudos to Japan Crate for always trying to make up for it when things don’t go quite right.

Now let’s look at the rest.

The Excellent

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I don’t know if I buy the Premium exclusive Gaba Infused Stress Relieving Milk Chocolate‘s extraneous claims, but it’s smooth and delicious chocolate none the less. Sparkling Orange Gummy is a great orange flavored candy, and my favorite snack item this month. Asahi Calpis Gummies capture the taste of the unique drink well, and have a distinct texture.

 

 

The Decent

Fit’s Strawberry & Cream Gum has a decent flavor that lasts a while and comes with a “Where’s Waldo” puzzle on the back. Hello Kitty Strawberry Pretzels and Milk Chocolate Pocky are exactly as would be expected.

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Pokemon Pineapple Candy chews like gum while dissolving to avoid the cultural taboo of removing food from one’s mouth. Love the idea and this was great to try. A different flavor and it would have been fantastic.

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This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Sukitto Lemon C Drink. A simple, light lemon soda-like drink with vitamin C. Another premium exclusive this month is Pizza Pretz. A bit salty and tomato taste heavy for me, but decent overall.

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JU-C Short Cake are sugary “chip” candies. The short cake flavor included is good. Yam White Chocolates have a fudge-like consistency and are decent, which is a lot more than I expected of that particular combination.

 

 

The Meh

The two possible flavors of Usushi / Ume Potato Chips translate to “light salt” and “plum,” respectively. I got the former, so essentially plain potato chips. They were good for what they were, but anything I feel like I can get at my local US supermarket underwhelms me as a Japan Crate inclusion.

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Conclusion

A little disappointed that the number of Premium exclusive items were reduced, especially since one of them this month was Pretz (which is usually included in the lower tiers). The Gaba Chocolate was great though, so I’ll call it even. I like pocky and pretz, but three types of them and a bag of plain potato chips is not the kind of variety I look for in these crates.

Still, the other items were quite unique and several were unlike anything I’ve had before so even though this was the weakest Japan Crate for me so far I’m still satisfied enough with it.

Arcade Block December 2015 Review

December 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The product of the month is a Titans figure set from The Last of Us. I haven’t played it so this does nothing for me, but they look good and will make a nice gift. The Pirate Cats in Space mini-notebook is an amusing novelty.

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Now we get into the stuff that wowed me personally. I’m a huge retro fan and the Space Invaders Tin Bank in the shape of an old style arcade cabinet is exactly the type of thing I love to see in these boxes. The Street Fighter V patch is another nice inclusion.

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The real centerpiece this month though is Classic Console Casino Cards. This is a great deck with the Mario themed Arcade Block logo on the backs, four classic properties chosen for the suits with great art on the ace and face cards, and a fifth classic favorite used for the jokers.

The T-Shirt this month is a nice design for Just Cause 3.

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Conclusion

Arcade Block continues to knock it out of the park month after month both in terms of quality and variety. This easily remains my favorite mystery box.

Japan Crate December 2015 Review

December brings another unique box of snacks from Japan.

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As usual Japan Crate includes a booklet / mini-manga that explains what everything is, has instructions for the DIY kit, and various additional content. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but 1 of 11 possible Legend of Zelda Mini-Figures. While I don’t recognize the character I got, the figure is quite detailed for the small size and looks good.

Now let’s look at the edibles.

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The Excellent

As I’ve mentioned before (repeatedly), I adore cola flavored candies. So the Hia Shuwa Cola hard candies, one of the Premium exclusives, were easily my favorite item this month. The three “levels” (types) were all good, although I’m not sure why one was called “gummy.” I understand the fizzy and soothing ones. 😉

Naga-I Sawagumi Orange is described as a “sour gummy tape,” although I got more of a sweeter version of the candy I know as orange slices than something sour. Regardless, I loved it.

Both named flavors in the Black Bean & Soy Sauce Scones were extremely subtle, but that was perfect here and the underlying corn taste tied it all together. This is my favorite savory cheetos variation so far.

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Celio Lifeguard Drink. Subtitled as “Super Life” in the booklet, this was almost a combination soda / energy drink. Honey and royal jelly give it a much more pleasant flavor than normal for energy drinks.

Demitasse Pocky is apparently a new limited edition flavor made from seasonal ingredients. The coating was thick dark chocolate, and as such these were fantastic.

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The Decent

I liked this month’s Umaino Sticks better than the previous flavor (beef tongue). They were less salty and the fact that we got three different flavors to try instead of just one was great. The veggie salad tasted more like the corn snacks I’ve gotten (and enjoyed) in the past than a combination of veggies, the Tonkatsu didn’t quite taste like Tonkatsu to me but was fine, and the cheese was similar to cheese puffs. All three were good, but I liked the cheese the best.

The delayed item from last month was Fujiya Lollipop Bag, a bag of classic style lollipops in four flavors: orange, grape, apple, and strawberry. Exactly what you would expect here.

 

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There were a LOT of drinks / drink mixes this time. Awa Moco Moco powder formed a fizzy, creamy fruit drink. I got strawberry, which would have been my preference among the 3 possible flavors (banana and melon were the others).

The DIY kit this month was Cute Tororin Parfait DIY Kit, which is intended to make a strawberry parfait with pink candy topping and icing. I doubt I’m the target demo here, but I like this all the same. It mixed quickly, and well and made a good tasting parfait with a creamy texture.

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Bad Kid Beer was supposed to be in fact a “magic powder that creates a creamy grape soda when mixed with water.” The grape flavor was very light but this was a fine soda-ish drink mix.

There was another “drink in a flexible plastic bottle packaged like candy” this month, and they still amuse me in presentation. I took the advice of the booklet and tried freezing my Pachishuwa Dynamite Melon Soda. There was no indication of how I was then to get it out of the package, but the soft plastic sliced easily enough and I poured the slush into a bowl. This Premium exclusive had a strong melon flavor and I liked it better than the previous beverage of this type. The freezing idea was a nice touch.

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The Meh

Nothing this time. YAY!

Conclusion

Great batch this month, with a lot of variety and several unique inclusions. The Premium exclusives continue to provide some of my favorites, and the upgrade is easily worth the additional $5.

Arcade Block November 2015 Review

November’s 2015’s Arcade Block is here, as always in its awesome retro NES style box.

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The advertised property for this month was Uncharted, and the product of the month is a titans figure of Drake himself. Pretty “big name” an inclusion, and it doesn’t slow down from there. Since we’re close to the end of the year we get another 2016 mini-calendar, this time featuring Halo 5.

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One of the strangest items I’ve seen in one of these yet is The Master Cork: A Drink to the Past exclusive. It’s a novelty cork in the style of a sword from Legend of Zelda. Completely absurd, and I love it. Another exclusive is one of four possible Mansion Keys. Is a decent little trinket that really appeals to me as a collector of keychains and the like. I got the one with a knight’s helmet.

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I’m not opening my mystery pack containing an Angry Birds K.Nex mini-figure, as I have a nephew who collects them and will flip over getting a sealed pack to open. The T-Shirt this month is a wonderful “Christmas sweater” style design featuring Yarn Yoshi.

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Conclusion

Another month, another wonderful and varied batch of goodies from Arcade Block. This easily remains my favorite mystery box.

Nerd Block November 2015 Review

This month’s Nerd Block theme is “tis’ the Season” and most of the items are Christmas or New Year’s related.

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The Product of the Month was the one stretch on the theme,  as the card puts the ridiculous spin on the Sherlock Vinyl Figure that it’s “on the case for all your Holiday-related mysteries.” It’s a great item from a great property though so no complaints here.

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National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation Moose Acrylic Shot Glass is a wonderfully absurd, relevant inclusion from a property I certainly wasn’t expecting to see represented. Firefly was one of the series teased ahead of time, and the exclusive chrome variant Serenity Ornament is my favorite item this month.

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The teased Stars Wars inclusion turned out to be a Force Awakens Mini-Calendar, a practical and awesome little item from the impending blockbuster. I’ll admit I don’t know the reference or significance of the included print (and it’s not listed on the card), but it’s striking if a bit creepy.

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Finally we have the monthly t-shirt, a mash-up called Back to the Nightmare that amusingly combines the two expected movies.

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Conclusion

Nerd Block turns in a great batch in the last month of my subscription, with a nice variety of stuff I like quite a bit. It’s not enough overall to make me want to renew, as the Arcade Block offering is much more consistently to my tastes, but Nerd Block Classic is still a solid offering that I’m sure a lot of people will find satisfies their mystery box craving.