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Japan Mystery Boxes

Japan Crate September 2015

I’ve been extremely pleased with my Japan Crate subscription thus far. Let’s see what September has to offer.

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Another month, another box stuffed with unique and varied snacks from Japan. It also includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is and has instructions for the DIY kit and various additional context, pictures and promotion. The bonus item for the Premium Crate this month isn’t food, but a gashapon keychain of Gudetama, a lazy egg. A cute little inclusion.

Now let’s look at the 11 edibles.

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The Excellent

This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Lychee Ramune, the first item I’ve gotten in Japan Crate that I’ve actually had before. It’s a great soda with a light flavor. Kawarinbo, another Premium exclusive, is a fantastic lollypop which is half apple and half grape, gives way to a sugary lychee center, and shares its final surprise when the sucker is finished as the stick itself is a wrapped stick of cola flavored gum. It tied for my favorite this month with Wata de coco Grape Gummy, lightly flavored square grape gummies made from coconut water.

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I’m discovering savory Japanese snacks have a fondness for corn flavor, and like the others I’ve had this month’s Sweet Corn Pretz were quite good and tasted exactly like they were supposed to.  Meiji Fran is the most decadent and rich version of chocolate pocky I’ve ever had. One stick is practically a dessert by itself, but good luck stopping there.

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The Decent

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. The description of Calbee Potato Chips Seaweed and Salt claim “salt and seaweed flakes give thiese chips an unusual crunch not found in most ‘American’ chips,” but hyperbole these were essentially a bag of plain Lay’s. Good quality, but also the first item whose contents I felt I could have gotten down the street at my local supermarket. Glug Glug Want Chocolate is a taiyaki cookie with a airy chocolate filling.

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I’ve seen a LOT of weird food, toys, novelties, etc from Japan, but I have to admit this month’s DIY kit EASILY takes the cake. Moko Moko Toilet 3 (there were 2 others first?!) is kit where you make foaming candy from included mix in a plastic toy toilet that comes in four different variations based on different countries. Seriously. I got the American one, which is blue and has stickers to decorate the toilet that include the American flag, a hamburger, etc. The other countries used are China, Japan and France. It included three mixes to make – strawberry, cola and lychee flavors. The mix and some water goes into the tank, then the candy foams up in the bowl. The candy/foam/drink was fine, but the absurdity and amusement is the draw here.

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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. Fullgurt Candy are hard candies in blueberry and mango yogurt flavors. While the idea has merit and I enjoy both hard candies and yogurt separately, I didn’t care for the flavors here at all.

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Conclusion

A couple of things I didn’t enjoy, numerous that I did, and more weirdness than I thought possible. The Premium Crate exclusives continue to easily be worth the $5 upgrade, and three crates in and I’m still extremely happy with the contents of my monthly snack box. The variety nearly makes this worthwhile alone, and the quality is a wonderful bonus.

Categories
Mystery Boxes Reviews

Welcome Block Review

With the announced theme for September’s upcoming Nerd Block being Star Wars I decided this was a good time to try it out. Currently any new customers or any current subscribers who add a different block receive a free “Welcome Block” (one per customer). The Welcome Block is a smaller version of their mystery boxes and contains a variety of items from past blocks as a sampling of the kind of things they offer. They quote its worth at $20. Let’s see what came in mine:

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Five items in here, which seems pretty good for a welcome gift to me. The big thing I got was a vinyl Doctor Who figure of the Tenth Doctor. Never got into that fandom, but it looks nice and I have plenty of friends who are. Guardians of the Galaxy on the other hand is one of my current obsessions, so the Groot magnet was an awesome find. I don’t have a device that will get use out of the mini joystick for touchscreens, but it’s existence amuses me.

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From what I understand Cliccors have been included a few times in past blocks, but this is my first time receiving them. It’s a cute little toy that’s fun to play around with. I have however gotten a mystery pack of nommies in a past Arcade Block. As before, cute for what they are. My nephew and niece will be pleased I have a few more for their collection.

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Conclusion

Not bad at all, particularly for free. A nice bit of extra incentive for anyone on thinking about trying out one of the Nerd Block line of mystery boxes.

Categories
Mystery Boxes Reviews

Arcade Block August 2015

August 2015’s Arcade Block has arrived, as always in its awesome retro NES style box. Let’s see what we got this month.

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The “Product of the Month” this time around is a Mortal Kombat X plush, either of Scorpion or Sub-Zero. I got Sub-Zero and he looks great. The fact that his hood pulls back off his head amuses me greatly for some reason. As seems to be the norm there was a CD included, this one a soudtrack of the “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” game. It has a good “rock” feel while sounding like something out of a NES game (in a good way). The three CDs I’ve gotten in various Arcade Blocks have contrasted nicely in style.  The Fallout themed mini baseball pennant for the “Boston Vault Dwellers” is cute.

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The terrycloth wristband is also a cute little addition, although I admit I don’t understand the significance of the double quotation marks one I got. The t-shirt for this month is a great design for “Counter Strike” which looks like it was pulled right off a NES game box. Rounding out this month’s block is another issue of RETRO Magazine. RETRO’s a solid read, and I don’t mind the apparent trend of including a new issue every 2-3 months.

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Conclusion

While nothing blew me away this month, everything was decent and as much as I feel like a broken record here the thing that still impresses me the most is the variety of item types over the four boxes I’ve gotten. Still very happy with my subscription.

Categories
Food Japan Mystery Boxes Reviews

Japan Crate August 2015

After a good batch with nice variety last month I was excited to get my second Japan Crate.

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As with last month, the crate is certainly packed with unique and varied edibles from Japan. It also includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is and has instructions for the DIY kit and various additional context, pictures and promotion.

August’s crate came with 13 items. I’m giving the Pokemon Puzzle Gum to my nephew, so won’t be reviewing it (although I feel safe in assuming gum and stickers would have received at least a “decent” from me).  Here’s a look at the other 12:

The Excellent

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There were two awesome soda flavored candies in this one, which makes me very happy. Shuwa Shuwa Soda Candy is a hard candy with a “fizzy” center in cola, orange and grape flavors. Soda Mixing Jelly Beans (one of the Premium Crate exclusives) came in five flavors of Japanese soda and are meant to be tasted in various combinations. The Premium Crate had another crunchy savory snack this month in the form of Japanese BBQ Scones, which had the consistency of Cheetos with a light, sweetish BBQ flavor.

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There was a lot of great chocolate this time, including Chocolate Pucca (pretzel shells filled with chocolate) and Puzzle & Dragons x Bikkuriman Wafer (standard chocolate filled wafer with a collectible playing card). The DIY kit was also chocolate related. There were two possible kits, and I got the Apollo DIY, which had white, strawberry and milk chocolate tubes and a mold with which to create little chocolate treats. This was easy to do and amusing. The mini-candies to put in the chocolates to give them crunch was a nice touch, and it all tasted quite good.

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The Decent

Mario Kart Gum is a thread style packaging of small flat squares of gum in wrappers adorned with characters from the game. Was softer than the hard bubble gum usually packaged in these types of things over here. Wow, Such Banana?! is a banana shaped/flavored marshmallow treat filled with chocolate, if you can call a tiny thread running through the center “filled with.” The chocolate was tastable though, so I’ll give them a pass on that. The packaging of Crayon Shin-Chan Candy captures the particular humor style of its namesake show. The candy itself is essentially mini-gobstoppers.

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This month’s Premium Crate’s drink is Creamy Melon Soda, which tasted exactly as expected. Crackling Cotton is an interesting cotton candy textured snack with little bits of pop rocks throughout. Not something I’d have often, but unique and quite good. There were two possible savory pretz flavors, and I got Tom Yum Pretz. I’ve never had the soup so can’t compare, but this did have a spicy edge to it along with a sweeter undertone. Not entirely my thing, but I liked it much more than I expected.

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The Meh

Nothing this month. YAY!

Conclusion

A great month, where there was nothing I actively disliked and several things I would buy on my own if I could. The Premium Crate exclusives continue to easily be worth the $5 upgrade. I continue to be impressed by the quality and variety of snacks in Japan Crate and am looking forward to the next one.

Categories
Mystery Boxes Reviews Video Games

Arcade Block July 2015

July’s 2015 Arcade Block has arrived, as always sporting its awesome retro NES style box. Let’s take a look inside.

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In advance it was promised that this month’s block would have a Funko Pop, and the “Product of the Month” is said Funko Pop, one of four possible from Evolve. I’m not familiar with it, but Markov looks cool enough. The second item is a mystery pack of “Nommies” from Cut the Rope. Another game I don’t know, another product that’s cute for what it is. DJ Organic & Mega Ran’s Coin-Op Crush CD, featuring rap tracks using samples from classic video games is amusing, but not really my thing. Sonic Worlds Unite: Battles #1contains side stories from an upcoming Sonic/MegaMan comic crossover, and has an Arcade Block exclusive cover. The art is good and captures the look and feel of the video game characters well, but the three stories were short and silly and didn’t do anything to interest me in the crossover.

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Classic Console Cartridge Coasters is where things get more interesting for me. They’re thin cardboard and I’m not sure they’d hold up as coasters, but the NES cartridge design and nods to four great NES games is phenomenal.

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The other things that was revealed ahead of time is that this month’s block would contain an extra t-shirt. This worked out well for me, as the Caution t-shirt from The Last of Us does nothing for me, but the random shirt meant to give a taste of the Classic Nerd Block or Horror Block ended up being a fantastic Star Wars riff.

Conclusion

Most of this month’s Arcade Block were misses for me, but I still appreciate the quality and variety of items and properties being included. So even with only two things I really liked I’m still satisfied with AB. If nothing else this one’s given me some good gifts for friends with different tastes than mine.

Categories
Food Japan Mystery Boxes Reviews

Japan Crate: July 2015

The mystery box phenomenon is in full swing, and one of the most intriguing ones I’ve heard of is Japan Crate, packed with an assortment of candy and snacks from Japan. I decided to try their “Premium” crate, and my first delivery was the July 2015 edition.

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As advertised, the crate is certainly packed with unique and varied edibles from Japan. It also includes a mini-manga that explains what each item is and has instructions for the DIY kit (both EXTREMELY useful) as well as some additional context, pictures and promotion. Cute and helpful.

July’s crate came with 12 items. I haven’t done the DIY kit, so here’s a look at the other 11:

The Excellent

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The big difference between the Original and Premium crates is the inclusion of a drink and a bonus item. This month had a “Kid’s Beer” (apple soda) and Corn Potage Chips. The drink was perhaps the most normal item in the box, and tasted as expected for apple soda. The “chips” were akin to cheese puffs in texture and actually did taste like corn soup, which still kind of boggles my mind. The other Premium exclusives were a cola-flavored taffy called Kajiri Chew and some extremely Sour Lemon Gum. These were all among my favorites in the box, so the $5 upgrade from Original was well worth it.

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The other things that wowed me were Choco Bar Z Kinako and Potekoro Cubes. The description said the Choco Bar Z was back by popular demand, and I can see why. It’s a wafer bar infused with chocolate flavor and tasted divine. Best of the box. The Potekoro Cubes are a savory snack flavored with black pepper. Like the corn soup puffs, I was beyond skeptical when trying these. I was wrong – they were surprisingly fantastic.

The Decent

Maken Gummy is a firm gummy candy shaped like rock, paper, or scissors. Fairly generic. Lifeguard Paste is a semi-liquid sticky candy apparently based on a soda. Tasted like mountain dew to me and the texture took getting used to. Chameleon Candy are standard hard candies that change color. The one with the red interior is supposed to be good luck.

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The Meh

I think I’m discovering that Japanese jelly candies aren’t for me. The Chu Grape Jelly and Adzuki Mizu Yokan (red bean snack with a gel texture) weren’t bad in quality, but neither taste nor texture were to my liking in either.

Conclusion

I didn’t like everything here, but the quality of the things I did and the overall variety gave me my money’s worth. And even the things I didn’t care for were interesting to try. Going to call this month’s Japan Crate a success and am looking forward to the next one.