I have long maintained that while I hold a bachelor's degree in Fundamentals of American Roboplasticological Toynology, my knowledge of actual Japanese toy robots is sorely lacking. So I was overjoyed to score the '85 TOKYO TOY SHOW Guide To The Leading Toy '85~'86 even though I have no idea what it is and I can't even read Japanese. But this being the 30th anniversary of 1985 I thought a look through a book with a bunch of old Japanese toys would be a nice celebration of the anniversary. It is actually a 200 page catalog full of puppies, cars, guns, dolls, and kiddy electronics, but unless those puppies, cars, dolls, guns, and electronics turned into robots you won't see them here in my robot themed highlights collection. So follow along as I go alphabetically by manufacturer through this catalog, pointing out the most interesting (to me) toys in a virtual trip through some of the best stuff to come out of Japan during one of the greatest years in toy robots history-1985!
[Robotic Little Rocker(?)]
Is that a Walkman with legs? I think this marvelous looking thing is called the 'Robotic Little Rocker' but I could be wrong. It's a fantastic little contraption that looks like it might have lights and sounds and maybe it can move but I don't know exactly how. I find its design captivating with its 'Zoids meets home electronics' style.
ピコピコテン と ゴッドヅーザス
[Pico Pico 10 and God Jesus]
Like Pico Pico 10, a lot of the robots in these pages have been lost to obscurity but God Jesus the fortune telling robot is an internet superstar. You can see a video showing how he nods or shakes his head when you clap, making him a sort of high tech interactive Magic 8 Ball. For most people the novelty of the robot's name and crucifix staff is enough to generate some lulz and call it a day, but I enjoyed this deeper explanation of how GodJesus fits into Japanese culture for those that are curious how something like this isn't actually a sign of the Roboplastic Apocalypse. Since this is a Bandai toy robot after all, it is not surprising that GodJesus is actually a piece of tie-in merchandise from a three episode cartoon called God-Jesus and the Cyberama Seven. So the next time you are in a debate over whether GodJesus exists and the origins of creation, remind people that the question is not who made GodJesus, but who made BANDAI.
チビコン ロボ コング [ChibiCon(?) RoboKong]
I'm not sure of my translation 'ChibiCon' or if it applies to all three of the above remote control robots, but that black one named RoboKong at the far right is awesome looking. Maybe the ChibiCons are the two dorky looking guys on the left? There's definitely some stereotypical Japanese goofiness going on in the head designs of the other two, but when they do scary and powerful like RoboKong they get that right, too. Seeing the brutish RoboKong makes me wish this was the direction Robo Force would have gone with in its post 1985 future. RoboKong actually did get included in the Machine Robo line in Europe as evidenced by the Robo Machine catalogs at Counter-X. RoboKong is what I imagine K.I.T.T. would turn into if it could transform. (And if K.I.T.T. was a monster truck from hell.)
トキマツリーズ [Tokima series watches]
While Takara was selling their blocky Robot Time Machines, Bandai was staying in the robot watch race with their lesser known (to me anyways) and curvier line of Tokima watch robos. The base model is pictured at the far upper left, the Alarm Tokima is in the center, and the AquaBoy model is on the far right. Popy/Bandai had been putting these out since 1983 so this catalog isn't all stuff that debuted in 1985. It's an interesting line with a rich history that just had a 30th anniversary limited relaunch in 2014. To learn more about the watches in the Tokima series, check out Which Watch Today's Tokima article.
DX 超合金 チェンジマン
[DX Chogokin Changeman]
[Power Bazooka Set]
[Big Scale ShuttlBase]
At left are Chogokin DX Changeman and some of the associated hardware from the show it came from. The problem I have with a lot of sentai show mecha is that the vehicles are obviously dismembered giant robot body parts only superficially disguised with wings, propellers, and tank treads. Then to apeal to kids they're decked out in awfully bright rainbow colors. I can forgive all that if the combined robot form is good but Change Robo from Changeman actually ends up looking more bland than its component vehicles. Judging from the show's intro, Dengeki Sentai Changeman is like Power Rangers if Power Rangers were elite paramilitary commandos instead of teenagers with attitude. The only thing I really like here is the Big Scale ShuttlBase. Definitely check out this BSS review in Portugese because you will fall in love with the toy if you're like me and have a thing for beefy roided out space shuttle dollhouses.
バイクロツサー DX 超合金 ブレイザーカノン ヤット
[Byclosser DX Chogokin Blazer Cannon Set]
The ridiculous looking guy holding a motorcycle on his arm in the picture below left is a toy from Kyodai Ken Byclosser, a short lived obscure Japanese show about two dudes and their high tech motorcycle. "Kyodai Ken" translates into "Brother Fist"so this may be the first instance ever of the term 'brofist', although clips from the show are so rare that I cannot determine if any brofisting actually happened in it. What I can determine is that at some point when the going gets tough, the two bros suit up in their Power Ranger armor and then one bro hops on the brotorcycle and proceeds to jump it and land ON TOP OF the other bro's right shoulder! The bike then assumes its Blazer Cannon mode and they broblast the shit out of stuff using the bike as a sort of brozooka. Someone at Bandai must have thought this concept was toyetic genius gold so they made a Chogokin out of it. After GodJesus and this, I wonder if there's anything left so sacred or stupid that Bandai won't make a toy out of.
DX ポピニカ ガービン
[DX Popinica Garbin]
DX 超合金 ダイレオン
[DX Chogokin Daileon]
Blazing Broblasters aside, for the most part Bandai would get things right and the other two toys above right are pure robotastic awesome. That big multiwheeled monstrosity is the Popinica PC-54 Juspion Tank Garbin and the robot is DX Chogokin Battle Giant Daileon, both of which are from Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion. The Garbin splits apart into a jet and a drill tank, and Daileon transforms into an awesome spaceship. Of course Juspion was a show, and Wikipedia says Kyojuu Tokusou Juspion translates to 'Special Megabeast Investigator' Juspion. I think that sounds badass in an X-Files kind of way. I imagine the show's about a special agent Megabeast Investigator trying to uncover the truth about megabeasts. Since he pilots a giant tank and killer robot, he investigations predictably go really really bad and he finds out that the Megabeast truth is they hurt you a lot.
|DX 超合金 ダンクーガ
DX Chogokin Dancouga
|DX 超合金 Ζガンダム マーク II
DX Chogokin Zeta Gundam Mark II
DX Chogokin Bismark
I don't know much about Japanese toy robots but even I can recognize Dancougar, Zeta Gundam, and the Bismark. These guys are pretty much superstars due to their popular cartoons that made the toys look a lot better than they do in real life. For whatever reason people still love these guys even though their feet are kind of big. Honestly I find all three of these robots lacking in execution with some great ideas but some pretty lame transforms. I think they were all a bit conceptually ahead of their time and thankfully Bandai has redone Dancouga and ZGundam with much better engineering (and nicer feet) in the years since. Nobody has the guts to tell robot Clint Eastwood he needs an update, though.
Machine Robo Series
Battle Armor 5
Battle Base Robo
We finish off Bandai with Machine Robo-my absolute favorite line of theirs (sorry GodJesus). The push here is on Battle Armor 5 and the Battle Base Robo, which from the wording makes it sound like they intended it to be a robot itself although they don't call it that on the box. Or maybe they meant to call it Robo Battle Base. Whatever the case, this is a really cool GoBot collector case/playset that transformed and did all sorts of cool stuff. I wonder why they didn't just release the Tonka Guardian Headquaters and Thruster in in Japan. I can see cues from those reflected in the design here, as it looks like it combines Thruster's spaceship alt mode with the multi level garage/cafeteria theme of the Guardian Headquarters. We did get the Battle Armor 5 released here as the GoBot Power Suit, although it never looked quite as good in the Hana Barbera cartoon as it did in the promotional Japanese animation. I guess the GoBots are always greener on the other side of the ocean.
エポック ロボフアイター [Epoch Robo Fighter]
I have never seen an angrier looking toy in my life than Epoch's Robot Fighter (above lower right). That thing looks like a remote control mohawked terror whose sole purpose is to kick the asses of all your other toys. It makes those Sherman tanks above it look like cute little ducks by comparison. I guess this robot was made for kids who were too lazy to break their own toys so they needed another one to do it for them. When I was a kid I used to imagine all my other toys would welcome any new ones I brought home and they'd all hang out and be nice to each other. If I ever brought this one home I think all my other toys would develop anxiety issues from living with Robot Fighter's evil angry face. If I had Robot Fighter as a kid I wouldn't be afraid of ghosts or under the bed monsters or anything. Hell if I had one NOW I wouldn't be afraid of anything.
学研 ロボゴロン [Gakken Robogoron]
There were three Robogoron-Caterpilas, Volzos, and Tagolas. Now be amazed:
カワダ スーパーアドベンチャー [Kawada Super Adventure]
I love it when I find out an unknown to me toyline exists and then there's someoone on the internet who's an obsessed collector of it and has all the bases and everything. This is the case with the Super Adventure Space series, which was part of the Diablock line and was launched in 1983. With badass robots like the Gun Baron and other awesome sets, Super Adventure sounds like it would have been right up my alley as a kid. The dark colored space sets with names like Dragon Fleet and Space Crawler look super awesome.
マルカ マヅックロボ [Maruka Magic Robo]
ドクロロボット [Dokuro Robot] and デビルロボット [Devil Robot] are a skull and Dracula head that turn into robots! What more could you want out of life? Well Collection DX has a nice series of reviews of these and other Maruka transforming toy heads including Frankenstein and...a gorilla?
GODJESUS HELP ME WE'RE ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH
Tune in next time for part 2 of the Tokyo Toy Show Guide where I go over more toy robots and some toy guns and even toy robots that turn into toy guns! Yes we still have the rest of the alphabet to go and that includes at least a couple of Japanese toymakers you may know that begin with 'T'. If you thought GodJesus was awesome, wait till you see the Japanese toy debut of one robot that's come back from the dead more than a couple of times already!