The 45th episode of the Roboplastic Podcastalypse combines the fantasy of outer space with the creativity of interlocking building modules and the fun of a powerful, pull back motor! Yes it's a Robotroidian Podcastalypse as the Nostrodomatron reflects on Takara's 1984 line of Diacloneish, Legonian toy robot building block sets that were neither Diaclone nor Lego but that really kind of reminded you of them. Wasn't knocking off Legos to make robot cars in 1984 a trademark violation? Wasn't EVERY Takara robot car toy in 1984 some kind of trademark violation? What were the differences between Robotroid and its Japanese counterpart, Bloccar? Did Robotroid inspire famous erotic poetry in the late 90s? And what the heck is Kre-O supposed to mean anyways? All this and more brick-a-brac than you can fill a galactic trailer with in this BLOCK ON! edition of the podcastalypse!
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IF YOU THOUGHT HAS-TAK SOUNDED DUMB, TRY TAKA-MEGO-RA
The best visual documentary series on 70s sci-fi action figuresAt the dawn of the Modern Roboplastic Age (around 1977), the Japanese toy robots Picassos otherwise known as Takara had a partnership with American action doll makers Mego, providing Takara a North American distribution network for their Microman line of sci-fi robot figures (that for whatever reason had fabulous hairstyles). The resulting rebranded Micronauts started out strong but Mego died after eduring fierce North American competition from Star Wars, Shogun Warriors,Starroid Raiders, Star Team and about a billion other lines with 'star' and/or 'war' in their name. Possibly because metrosexual robots were not as big a hit as they expected, Mego went bankrupt in 1982. Undaunted by the loss of their North American distribution partner, Takara still had future hits Blockman, Bloccar, Dougram and Diaclone ready for overseas markets. So they found alternate means of distributing their sci-fi robots in North America, usually involving US based toy companies who shared Takara's philosophy that the key to marketing robots was to use lots of glowing grid patterns on the boxes.
|Robotroid boxes evolved from the previous year's Diakron, which had a packaging design that would be adopted for Transformers. Robotroid packaging is radically different from its Bloccar counterparts.|
TAKARA DIDN'T INVENT THE BOX FLAP, THEY JUST PUT IT ON TOP
Takara eventually let Revell take Blockman and distribute it as Robolinks and let Hasbro rebrand some Diaclone and Microman toys (the ones that did not have fabulous hair) as Transformers. Their partnerships with other companies didn't stop their direct distribution business, though. North America's appetite for toy robots was so ravenous and Takara was so prolific at making them that they continued directly distributing their remaining lines throughout much of the critical period of history known as the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Initially Takara took Diaclone and sold it as Diakron in the US and in '84 their Bloccar line (which was pretty much Diaclone reborn in Lego) became Robotroid. Hasbro's Transformers (a.k.a. 'Super Grid Robots Package Diakron') line went on to attract an underground cult following thanks in large part to masterful usage of grid patterns but unfortunately Bloccar/Robotroid's grids were not powerful enough to sustain it beyond one year.
The Bloccar 201 / Robotroid Space Station was the largest set produced in both lines
IF ONLY THERE WAS A WAY TO COMBINE THE WORDS 'DIACLONE' AND 'BLOCK'...
To note the differences between the way Takara packaged Bloccar and its American counterpart Robotroid is to get a glimpse into their perceptions of the two different cultures they were marketing to. One would imagine Japanese children would be obsessed with robots and American children would be obsessed with cars, but Takara played against cultural stereotypes and featured car modes prominently on their Bloccar packages and robot modes on the Robotroid ones. It is as if they are saying to Japanese children, "Yes you can use these to build robots, but you're a Japanese kid and you can already build a robot out of anything, so check out this CAR." And to the American kids the message was, "Yes you can use these to build cars, but you're an American kid and you can already build a car out of anything, so check out this ROBOT." They even incorporated 'car' and 'robot' into the brand names, emphasizing two entirely different aspects of the same toys depending on which market they'd be sold. But would they have been more successful if they'd swapped the two approaches and pushed the car aspect in America and the robot angle in Japan? And what the heck is 'Kre-O' supposed to mean anyways? Really, what's a Kre-O?
THE ROBOTROID / BLOCCAR CHECKLIST
Here's my best attempt at compiling a list of all the sets released under both Robotroid and Bloccar. My Japanese is terrible so I may have screwed up some of the name translations (or not even attempted them). The following pictures are from the backs of the packages of the larger Robotroid and Bloccar sets.
This'd be better if I had the Diaclone yellow Hi-Lux, red Ligier and red City Turbo, but you get the idea
The awesome thing about the six Robotroid mini sets is that they have parallels in terms of their vehicle modes with models used as alt modes for Takara's other line of transforming robot cars, Diaclone. This speaks strongly of their Takara lineage (and also of my insistence on finding Sunstreaker in every yellow car I see).
They're triple take-a-parters!
MOSTLY IT'S LIKE IF THE ARK LANDED IN AN RV PARK
The Robotroid deluxe sets don't have direct parallels with Diaclonian alt modes but they hint at an interesting transforming concept-triple changers with spaceship modes. Imagine a robot with a traditional, super mundane vehicle mode but then another form that's a wild, sci-fi spaceship of some sort. It's like if the Millennium Falcon transformed into a school bus or like if the Macross transformed into a garbage truck. It's like if a space shuttle turned into a train!
From the 1984 Takara toy catalog thingy
SHOW NOTES OF THE PODCASTALYPSE
- The responsibilities of being our own Nostrodomatrons
- Spreading the gospel of Tiltor
- IMockery.com keeping Robo Force fandom alive
- Hardcore Bron Robot love video
- The lost disciples of Toyotatron going to the grave with their robots knowledge
- The unholy union of Takara and not-Legos
- Toy robots blocks lines like Takara's Blockman and Tente RoBlocks
- The long running controversy over whether or not Tyco's RoboBloxx were licensed from Exin gets settled
- The vacuum of internet information about Robotroid
- Mego's bankruptcy leaving Takara without a North American distributor by 1983
- Takara distributing their own lines directly in the US in 1983
- Blockman becomes Robolinks, Diaclone becomes Diakron
- No chrome, no mention in Koji Igarashi's Takara SF Land book
- Buying toys released in the US but made by a Japanese toy company on a Japanese auction site
- I liked your title more when I thought it was building instructions
- Robotroid girlfriends don't make me horny but they make my collecting hard
- Mardhen Bravo's toy list featuring Robotroid
- How I found my Bloccars
- Robotroid size classes
- Sven Primenkopf's
- My old Flickr set of Bloccar
- Takara's TKR-02 motor descended from the old Machine Car wind up motor
- Robotroid's inter-Takaran 5mm post compatibility
- Takara's Robotroid discrimination
- SuperTakaran parallels between Robotroid and Transformer vehicle modes
- Having a separate name for the robot and its alt mode
- Rundown of the Bloccar Minis
- Where the hell is Allon County?
- Takara's tradition of fudging real life company names
- Welcome to Mariboro Country
- Going to Diaclone.net for help
- Seeing Sunstreaker in everything
- According to my katakana skills, this one's named "shitty car"
- Doctor Robo is the greatest robot name ever
- The deluxe sets-Space Camper and Galactic Trailer
- The only robot building sets without instructions for building the robots
- C'mon! C'mon! C'mon! SPACE CAMPING
- Too-rayy-rerrr-star Galactica
- You do not want me talking about Robotroid (but mostly you don't want me reading about it)
- A space station made from six ordinary vehicles (including a flower delivery truck)
- The Takara 1984 ToyFair brochure featuring a page on Robotroid
- They really need a Robotroid page at Takara.com
- Upcoming Voltronathonian Voltronocaplypse
- Florida Supercon coming up
- Don't Rocket Punch Your Friends!
Seriously, what does Kre-O even mean?