Saturday, January 5, 2008

The hot new entertainment trend for 1977 - "Anime"!

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.


6 comments:

Eeeper said...

I imagine the boxes those toys came in, back then, were those awesome ones from MY childhood. The ones where the top cover was lacquered and the inner box made of cheap cardboard. Inside I'm thinkin', soft greaseproof paper wrapping the parts up with the instructions being left on top?

Am I getting warm, Dave?

Annette said...

"Great Mazinga", eh? That's awesome. I'd buy one of those for my fiance (HUGE mecha fan) if I had the ridiculous amounts of cash that it probably costs.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Blogger Annette said...

"Great Mazinga", eh?


Better off than "Raydeen" in my book!

(kinda think it would be "Dragon" than "Dragun" as well but whatever, they just thought it sounded neat)

That's awesome. I'd buy one of those for my fiance (HUGE mecha fan) if I had the ridiculous amounts of cash that it probably costs.

I get this impression my older brother probably had one of these but he never shared it with me! Nowadays I contemplate wanting to buy one of those myself just to stick something in my room for fun.

More Shogun Warrior fun!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6J5P2gHerEQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3OuGMcTVeA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Scnsd-Vc3A
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5F9077LafMQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GhVQQQG8uZc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVXVW-AZvcY
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=js1ATT1YMCo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCERFslrYr4

FPilot said...

I actually own the diecast Poseidon toy shown in this blog. I bought it second hand at a comic book show/sale a good number of years ago. It came without missiles so I intend to "reverse-engineer" some for it someday.

d. merrill said...

The boxes (for the small diecast toys) were regular one-piece cardboard; the toy inside was held in a styrofoam mold with places for attachments, etc. I don't know how the giant two-foot Shogun Warriors were boxed... never got one of those as a kid, which explains much of the rest of my life.

Chris Sobieniak said...

d. merrill said...

The boxes (for the small diecast toys) were regular one-piece cardboard; the toy inside was held in a styrofoam mold with places for attachments, etc. I don't know how the giant two-foot Shogun Warriors were boxed... never got one of those as a kid, which explains much of the rest of my life.


Oh well, I can feel a little better about it myself, knowing I never kept the boxes or anything to my toys I later disposed of.