J'ever notice the continual parade of new anime fans who have the idea that Japanese cartoons are some brand new thing that only recently impacted American pop culture? Because if THEY just found out about it, it HAS to be some hot new trend! Right? Wrong. As evidence to the contrary allow me to present... Cool Robot Toys of The 1970's, namely, Shogun Warriors.
In the post-Star Wars toy world everybody scrambled to find science-fictiony properties for America's toy-hungry children. Some bright executive at Mattel must have, I dunno, gone to Japan or something, because the mid 1970s reaped a bountiful harvest of brightly colored metal and plastic spaceships, heroes, robots, vehicles, and unidentifiable THINGS to amuse Japanese children. The idea of shipping these things across the ocean for American kids is not a complex one; Japan had been supplying toys and cutesy ceramics for years (not to mention radios, motorbikes, cars, etc) to their roundeyed cousins.
As one of those American 70s kids, I found the impact of Shogun Warriors to be swift and powerful. We couldn't tell Great Mazinger from the Great Pumpkin, but boy, we knew cool toys when we saw them. The giant two-foot plastic robots shot their fists across the room, the smaller diecast robots shot their fists and transformed and raised a big bruise if you hit somebody with them, and all of these toys simply looked fantastic - this was a level of creativity and design in children's toys not seen since the mid 60s, if even then.
Most of the toys came from various Toei robot anime series - Getta Robo G, Raideen, Great Mazinger, Danguard Ace, Gaiking, Daimos. Some toys were culled from the outlandish vehicles seen in Toei's live-action "sentai" programs like Gorangers or Message From Space. But we didn't care then. We would care later. Later Jim Terry would use the popularity of Shogun Warriors as an impetus to produce a package of episodes of 5 different Toei animated SF series under the title "Force Five". Showtime cable would air compilation films and they just cut to the chase and titled them "Shogun Warriors." I bet Mattel was pissed.
Plenty of ancillary merchandise like coloring books and puzzles produced a Shogun Warriors experience un-marred by any actual context. Mattel took the Japan theme one step further by producing giant plastic fist-shooting toys of Godzilla and Rodan just for the American market. Marvel Comics even produced a licensed title based on some of the robot designs, treating Americans to the spectacle of Herb Trimpe illustrating robots originally drawn by Leiji Matsumoto and Yoshikazu Yasuhiko.
Nowadays Japanese robot toys are valuable collectors items. The reissues of the giant two-foot fist-shooting robot are much too expensive to allow seven-year-olds to have their way with them, and toys that shoot tiny missiles might as well have giant labels that say WILL POKE YOUR EYES OUT. But for a brief shining moment in the mid 70s, American and Japanese children were united in brightly colored die-cast plastic Japanese cartoon play-value.