I came across a set of products called Fiendish Japanese Pocket Puzzles, which were described as "almost too deviously evil to inflict on you and your friends." Enough said! I like a good challenge and picked out two to start with. I picked out Cast Vortex because it looked cool and Cast Duet because it seemed like the type of puzzle that I could probably figure out.
What I found more interesting was the secondary challenge to position both rings, connected magnetically, in each of the four marked positions. This was interesting because it actually relied on manipulating both rings strategically so they don't get in each others way. When simply removing the rings, you can ignore one while you solve the other. Overall, I'd say that this puzzle by Oskar van Deventer is a solid buy for the money.
Cast Vortex by Akio Yamamoto was a completely different beast. It was twisting and confusing, with what seemed like no logical solution. When solving this type of puzzle, I frequently have to abandon a methodical approach and just fiddle with it until it comes apart. After an hour or so of fiddling, it finally did come apart, but I was completely stumped as to how to get it back together. I worked on it for about a week before I eventually peeked at the last step of the solution to get me started. Even once I knew how to get started, it still took me a few hours to finally get it back together.
Now that I have tried other Hanayama puzzles, I would say that this one is significantly more difficult than the other difficulty level 5 Hanayama puzzles and should probably be a level 6. That said, it is a beautiful puzzle that is a lot of fun to manipulate and satisfying to solve. It is particularly satisfying to put it back together because everything sort of snaps into place all at once and you are left with this beautiful swirling trefoil shape. Highly recommended!
So that is how my interest in mechanical puzzles was awakened. Coming up next: I tried my hand at building a puzzle.