The eighth annual Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award is a very august undertaking here at DDG. There is a lot at stake. Until last year the award process was much like the land of Lothlorien, in that it had upon it neither blemish nor stain. This year, however, due to the lamentable fact that last year the judge, The Whirl-0, awarded himself the highest honor, things were different. We had to grapple with the fact that our once pristine award was operating under something of a cloud.
The best way to address that, it seemed to me, was to bring in a judge of truly impeccable credentials, one whose very name meant impartiality and fairness. The Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award required a judge who would be totally immune from both the brazen importunities of competing toys and from its own self interest. I am very pleased to report that we found such a judge in Solar Dancing Totoro. Our store Totoro is of course an incarnation of the Japanese nature spirit immortalized in the beloved animated film My Neighbor Totoro by Hayao Miyazaki. As the very essence of fairness, decency, generosity of spirit, and personal disinterest, our new judge is innately detached from any self-serving thoughts and intrinsically unmoved by any unworthy adjurations of less high minded stocking stuffers.
Kenny: We are so pleased that you agreed to be our judge this year, Totoro. You truly are a good neighbor.
Totoro: If I am of any service than I am more pleased than otherwise.
Kenny: Absolutely! All right, so our first category is Best New Game. Can I ask you to explain your means of selection?
Totoro: You may ask, certainly, and perhaps you already have. I had three finalists present themselves to me: Mobi, Dinosaur Escape, and Dr. Eureka. Mobi, a math game played in a fashion like that worthy word disciple of Scrabble, Banagrams. Mobi uses blue number tiles from 1-12 and white operator tiles that all share. It is a delight to play and the Whale himself is a most charming, meek, and well mannered companion. Dr. Eureka is a terrific, fast-paced, two-player challenge game in which contestants vie with each other to match ball sequences in tubes, pouring them off to get the design seen on cards. It is a great use of logical ability. Dinosaur Escape is a cooperative game for very young players, which one feels is important. It is well-designed and nicely calibrated to entertain young dinosaur lovers. All are worthy, but Mobi is the winner.
Kenny: Fabulous. We really have found the ideal judge in you, Totoro. What a relief. And what of our next category, the Best Puzzle or Building toy?
Totoro: Though Plus Plus is not a new building toy, its new tubes are so eye-catching that I gave them consideration this year. For sheer difficulty combined with elegance of use, the marvelous Gear Ball was also a worthy contender. In the end it was the Famous Inventor Puzzles that I chose. These puzzles, with their links to history and their varied nature, are very worthy.
Kenny: I see. Nicely assessed. And what of The Most Shockingly Good Value category?
Totoro: The Take Apart Plane offers much for little, making it a strong candidate. I also dearly love The Construction Trucks in a Bag. These well-made vehicles with moving parts offer a great play experience at a great value. In the end, however, I chose the Mini Kendama, for its deeper, spiritual quality.
Kenny: And now we come to our final prize, the highly coveted Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award!
Totoro: Yes. Indeed. This was a particularly taxing decision. These are all lovely and admirable toys. The City Puzzle Fridge Magnets are so satisfying and versatile. The Crystal Cave Geode Growing Kit is so alluring and rewarding. Yet the winner is Bolli, the perfect gift for the youngest child. It’s ability to both bend and return to form has the highest philosophical appeal. It can be tossed, rolled, pulled and captured, all in a manner well suited to tiny hands.
Bolli: I refuse to accept the award. There is only one Toy worthy of being the Stocking Stuffer of the Year Award winner and that is you, Solar Dancing Totoro.
Kenny: Oh no. Anything but that. The award now goes to the runner-up.
City Puzzle Fridge Magnets: I too refuse the award. There is nothing that resides in any of my cities more worthy than Totoro.
The Crystal Cave Geode Growing Kit: Nor shall I accept the award. I could grow no crystal finer than the pure quality of Totoro’s spiritual essence.
Kenny: This can’t be happening.
Totoro: My friends, it would be an evil not to accept a gift so warmly and finely bestowed. I accept the award.
And Kenny, my dear friend, think not that this bodes ill for the character and integrity of the Stocking Stuffer of the Year Awards.
Kenny: That’s exactly what I think.
Totoro: Then rather, you should think that the greatest gift is due to the character with which it is bestowed.
Kenny: Well okay, I’ll try and bear that in mind. Thanks everyone. Sigh.