Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted was some Star Wars toys, and then Christmas came around and what Santa brought wasn't official Star Wars stuff, but some kind of off-brand something that vaguely resembled Star Wars only not closely enough for legal action? Or when you wanted that Beatles record and what you got was "The Beetle Beat" by studio musicians pretending to be Merseyside club rockers?
The disappointment of youth becomes the fascination of adulthood as we look back on these knockoffs with amusement and fondness. The West wasn't the only arbitrary geographic region to have its merchandising afflicted with items vaguely similar to other, more popular properties. Japan itself had a wonderful time selling almost-Kamen Riders and quasi-Ultramen and not-quite-Mazinger Zs to kids who didn't know any better and adults that didn't care one way or another, here's your thing, now shut up for five minutes. Let's take a look at two of 'em!
I bought this children's rice bowl at a Japanese grocery store, entranced by its perfection of shape, its lustrous sheen, and its fake Transformers robot characters. It's seen lots of use mixing watercolors, acrylics, and ink washes in my enthusiastic if not quite professional artistic career; if it had been used as originally intended it would undoubtedly have been accidentally smashed on a kitchen floor long before now.
The best part - well, apart from the legend "Batul V"- is this illustration of the human characters, which seems to be a snapshot taken when Random Anime Hero met a girl cosplaying as Amu Fanneria from HEAVY METAL L.GAIM. On the other hand that guy may very well be a badly drawn, not-legally-actionable Daba Myroad. Sure, why not.
As a huge hit prominently featuring a public-domain historical object, SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO inspired a wide variety of really blatant knockoffs, many of which are highlighted at the Starblazers.com website. Our subject here was purchased under the mistaken impression that it was official Yamato merchandise, a misapprehension no doubt shared by countless Japanese parents, to the chagrin of their kit-building, obsessive- compulsive-disorder suffering progeny.
Part of the "Space Animation Series No. 1" collection from Tokyo Marui, the box art for this model kit promises to take you on a hundred-thousand light year journey to battle evil from beyond the stars, along with your vaguely Matsumoto-esque heroes. Other kits in the series include the Cosmo Shark, the Battle Tiger, and the Tiger Zero.
Upon opening the box you're greeted with thirty-year old rubber bands and an ancient tube of model glue, protected by the visage of the no doubt evil Emperor Debiru, or as we like to call him, "Little Debiru".
Basically the Comet Empire's Zordar with a copyright-defying beard, Emperor Devil here comes with his own little stand so you can prop him up like a paper doll in front of your completed Cosmo Warp kit. Tokyo Marui is now a world-reknowned manufacturer of airsoft guns, so you can now have the pleasure of shooting one Tokyo Marui product with another Tokyo Marui product. And so, the great circle of knockoff merchandising life continues.