Saturday, April 24, 2010

macross at the mall

Was there a better place for mid-80s teens to kill time than the mall? Sources say "no". And in the maze of shops and stores that made up the malls of the mid to late 20th century, one business attracted the teen like moths to a flame- video game arcades. When you ran out of quarters, however, where did you go to hang out? Spencer's Gifts, of course. Spencer's - since 1947 home to blacklight posters, naughty greeting cards, gag gifts, mood lighting, and a wide array of novelties, collectibles, and beer-related merchandise. But what's that lurking next to "The Fart Joke Book" and "101 Uses For A Dead Cat"? Toys from Super Dimensional Fortress Macross, that's what.





As I recall this 4-set of Macross toys was something like twelve dollars, which was a lot of money for me at the time, a time when all my cash came from hot, sweaty, backbreaking labor mowing lawns. This was my first exposure to the anime legend Macross, other than seeing ads for that Harmony Gold Macross VHS in magazines - and its MSRP was WAY beyond my budget. Robotech? Still years in the future. Your only hope for modern anime mecha action was the toys, finding their way across the Pacific and into the hobby shops and toy stores of the nation.







The toys in this Takatoku Macross 4 Part II set are a curious amalgam of 'bath toy' and 'action figure' - if they were made of slightly softer vinyl they'd be able to squeak when squeezed, but the detailing and colors are a step above your standard rubber ducky. At 5" tall they are big enough to stand against your medium-sized Shogun Warriors but dwarfed by your Jumbo Machinders, and they're sturdy enough to be hurled across the room by your rambunctious cousins. What really made this an artifact seething with universe-expanding revelations? The packaging.




If you're used to the cheap production art on any American toy of the period, the detail and craftsmanship of the Macross paintings on this box top are something special. This artwork tells us that whatever the hell Macross was, it was carefully planned by people with vision and talent, who knew of the deep desires of prepubescent boys to immerse themselves in worlds of detailed, high-tech fighting machines. Yes yes, now we know Studio Nue was responsible, but such knowledge was hidden from us in 1984. This literally was a window into another world, a world of animation not aimed at the lowest common denominator, a world where even Armored Valkyries could have cheesecake nose-art painted on their legs.




Decades later the American entertainment industry would appreciate the visual appeal of the Japanese logotypes and leave them as-is when localizing anime and anime products - but the art on this Macross toy set was unretouched for economic, not aesthetic reasons. Why create new line art when the Japanese packaging has English written all over it?





In a few years I learned what a "Tactical Pod Glaug" really was and why Minmay sounded better singing in Japanese, and I came to enjoy Macross in all its myriad forms. But in 1984, for me the "Macross Summer" was represented solely by a well-packaged set of toys found in a corner of the local mall.






10 comments:

Superdeformed said...

I had a Voltron(Dairugger) toy made of the same material (heavy solid rubber-like stuff). It was smaller and the various "teams" broke off into their sub teams (not into the individual vehicles). The combining was very male/female rectangle insertions. My brother and I used to throw the pieces at each other.

p said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Give me that LENSMAN Brittania II toy lurking in the background of the shots now ASAP immediately thanks.
- Patrick

Tim Eldred said...

Did anyone ever find a "Part I" set? Always bugged me that we only got "Part II." Yet another glaring message: there's a lot more of this elsewhere on the planet.

Chris Sobieniak said...

It's only a shame I was still too young to have an opinion in my family yet, or I'd be at Spencer's Gifts oggling at this beauties as well. That store was a God at the mall.

DVC said...

I recall seeing those at Spencer's alright, and while they were neat, I'm pretty sure that my hard-earned lawn mowing money was still being spent on my BMX obsession.

Well, either that or Doctor Who magazines...

d. merrill said...

Give me that LENSMAN Brittania II toy lurking in the background of the shots now ASAP immediately thanks.
- Patrick


I found that Brittania in a Korean grocery store for $19, using the awesome mental powers of my Lens.

Matt said...

I remember when a high school friend told me he'd found Mospeada bike armor toys in a gum machine at a local grocery store under the name "Mo-Speedo." I thought for sure he was kidding me. Nope. Scored both models for fifty cents.

hillsy said...

Huh. I never knew the Takatoku sofubi made it over here. There are actually 3 different boxed sets of 4, a boxed set of 2, and various bagged singles. I don't know if any of those made it over, as well

Here's a TBDX link (scroll towards the bottom of the page):
http://toyboxdx.com/datafiles/data/takatoku2/macross3.php

Macross said...

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