Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Aura Battling The Blue Light Special

The great part about working for K-Mart back in 1985 - working part time after school, of course - was that you got to wander the toy department and marvel at the bewildering display of Japanese robot toys that were imported by every toy wholesaler with a couple of containers to fill on the next boat from Taiwan and a desire to cash in on the transforming robot toy craze. Okay, I'll be honest. The ACTUAL best thing about working part time for K-Mart was that you got paid every week in cash. Dirty, floppy cash money straight from the registers, handed to you in a little envelope through a barred window next to the time clock. None of this wimpy check nonsense or the effete snobbery of "direct deposit" - just a fat envelope of F. Olding Money for high-school me to blow on comic books, movies, renting a tux for the prom, and oh yeah, crazy Japanese toys. We'd make the rounds of the Toys "R" Us, the Circus World, the odd discount place at the outlet mall, the doomed aisles of the Zayres and the Richways and the Phar-Mors, hoping to blow our minimum-wage pay on toys from shows we'd never seen like Xabungle or Galactic Gale Baxingar or the enigmatically titled "Psycho Armor Govarion".

But at K-Mart I could haunt the aisles AND get paid for doing so. One of the things I picked up was this swell Dunbine toy. Aura Battler Dunbine is, of course, the 1983-84 Sunrise anime series directed by Yoshiyuki "Zanbot 3" Tomino about a regular Earth guy named Shou Zama. One day he gets magically transported to the fantasy-type world of Byston Well, where he becomes the pilot of the "Aura Battler" Dunbine and is caught up in a war that spreads across both Byston Well and Earth. More information about Aura Battler Dunbine can be found in the used DVD racks of your local retailer.

This 1:60 scale toy stands a little less than 6" tall and came in both black and the more traditional Dunbine purple. I went for black because that's how I roll. At any rate, this toy is unique, not just because it's based on a Japanese cartoon that wouldn't see an American release for nearly twenty years, but also because it's just a darn well-put together piece of fantasy super robot plastic.

The joints are all articulated with hinges set on pegs - the wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips and knees not only bend, but can rotate, giving the toy a really wide range of movement. The wings are translucent and fold underneath their canopy. The claw-like feet are metal and the ankle joints move, too. It's an amazingly posable figure.

It even comes with a tiny inch-high Shou Zama figure that looks swell, but isn't good for much besides falling over or getting lost. If you open Dunbine's cockpit you'll see another Shou already in position. Two Shous? I guess they figured you'd lose one. Actually the pegs holding the joints tend to slip out, so if you aren't careful you'll lose quite a bit of this toy when the cat knocks it off your desk.

The packaging is, as one would hope, a classic of weirdly transliterated Japanese. What did children think when they browsed the K-Mart toy aisles and wanted to know more about the mysterious "Dunbine"? Did they suspect that "Shot Weapon" was somebody's name? Were they relieved to find that the "reaction of aura is good"? Was ADV's release of Dunbine on DVD in the United States merely the final link some kind of cosmic chain of events that began in the mists of Byston Well, or Taiwan, whichever is nearer?

Only Yoshiyuki Tomino knows, and he ain't telling. We are only certain of one thing; this Dunbine toy is way better than the purple vinyl Dunbine I picked up at Spencer's Gifts in the mall.


Made in DNA said...

I had those! They were awesome! I'd kill to pick them up again.

--MC said...

I would have bought that in a hot heartbeat just to have that text on the back panel. "Drek City"! Oh wow!

RWG said...


Sorry. Been cruising the OPs on youtube lately...what a nostalgic rush.

RWG (I could even do that Mio song phonetically at one time)

hillsy said...

These are great. I had 'em back in the day...TRU had the same "import robot" aisle...everything from higher end Godaikins to cheapie Dunbine, Xabungle, and PraWres Sanshiro toys. Memories...

Anonymous said...

My husband would really dig this.

He would also like to find volumes 11 and 12 of Dunbine on DVD for less than an arm and a leg, but that's probably not gonna happen.

Anonymous said...

Sounds exactly like my K-Mart days except by 1990 there we no more cool robots there. But I did do my share of trolling TRU and Zayre for cool robots prior to that.

MattAlt said...

There are actually red and blue versions as well -- great stuff. I don't even remember how many of those suckers I went through as a kid.

Incidentally, the original one, made by Clover, looks like this:


DVC said...

That last pic looks like my own shelf circa 1996 :)

P.S. I remember picking these things up cheap -maybe under a buck- way too long ago to remember : /

Chris Sobieniak said...

If only I had known better, I'd beg my mom for these!