Monday, March 28, 2011

Toy Beauty - Lion Maru

Lion Maru Vinyl, 1960's(?) Japan, Unknown Manufacturer

Feel The Magic, Hear The Roar...

About four months ago the North American toy collecting community awaited the first images of the BanDai Thundercats 'Classics' line with nervous trepidation. Bandai? Really?

After the enormous and unprecedented success of the Masters of the Universe Classics line over at Mattel, easily the best toy line currently in production hands down, collectors alike were salivating, imagining what Mattel and more specifically The Four Horsemen could do with everything from Blackstar to Sectaurs if they could get their hands on these licenses.

Thundercats holds a special place in the hearts of most  who grew up in the Golden Age of toy collecting, the 1980's where toy aisles were stuffed with more product based cartoon and movie tie ins than any other decade previous or since. The Thundercats cartoon, was one of the longest running of this generation where it as not uncommon to many a show disappear within a few months, if it aired in your market at all and their battered unsold carded toy counterparts warm pegs for years. While the show, especially the infectious theme, action packed opening and iconic logo are revered, the toys were a different story. They were pretty disappointing to myself who was a tad older than their demo of 9-12 year olds, but even the kids that were targeted were left cold by their simplicity, lack of articulation and general pre schoolishness, it was as if they were made by Fisher Price. LJN did make improvements in subsequent waves, but it was too little too late and the line petered out and became a distant memory.

Most collectors I know don't think too much of Bandai, in America at least. Sure they manufacture some of the most thorough, high quality, and complex line of Super Robot toys on the planet sold under the Soul of Chogokin moniker, they hold the master license and produce endless toys for the popular Ultraman and Kamen Rider properties not to mention a little something called Gundam, which is like the World of Warcraft of the hobby world. Known mostly for the omnipresent Power Rangers toys on this side of the world and the perplexing longevity and success of the Ben 10 family of toys, the collective toy buying populace let out a resounding 'Hunh?' when it was announced that Bandai acquired the license and would be producing toys based not only on a new, re-imagined cartoon but a 'classics' aimed squarely at older collectors.

Needless to say, we were all a little worried. Power Ranger toys while well designed and functional are extremely primitive even by today's standards. Bandai found a formula in the 80's that worked in Japan, imported it over here and with the exception of the Jungle Fury line and the Super Classics chase figures made very few tweaks over the years to innovate their base buck. The Super Classics for me were the first indication that they could do something right if they wanted to. Gone were the gigantic over sized feet, head and hands we were accustomed to, creating something they had never done before, a realistically proportioned action figure with nicely integrated joints and unprecedented costume details they were great collector pieces any discerning action figure fan could proudly display while still managing to be kid friendly toys, maybe, just maybe they could pull this off...

And then just days before the New York Toy Fair, official images appeared online that answered collectors and fans prayers and it looks like we'll finally be getting the toys we've always wanted. A completely new buck, highly detailed, great accessories and most importantly in scale with MOTUC. The only small complaint I could make is that when compared to the Masters, they are a bit shiny, a Bandai NA constant, but hopefully that will be toned down a touch for release. But these look absolutely fantastic and I cannot wait to wander into a TRU and find these on the shelves. Bandai have not set an official release date other than 'late 2011'and have been rather hush hush concerning other figures in this line, but I'm sure fan enthusiasm and anticipation will translate into sales brisk enough to ensure a full Classics line for collectors.

Toy Fair Bandai Lion-O and Official Bandai Stock image, via Elkkthunder's Toy Room
Power Rangers image via LoganToys
LJN Lion-O via Figure Realm

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Real Action Hero 450 Red Go Ranger - Medicom 2000(?)

Name: Gorenger -1
Scale: ?
Manufacturer: Medicom/Time House
Year: 2000(?)
Materials: Plastic, Vinyl
Country of Origin: Japan
Price: $25 - $100 each
Acquired Via: Yahoo Japan

In the last post we highlighted the Red and Blue 1/6 Go Rangers from Medicom, to compliment that piece, I thought a quick review of the RAH 450 Red Ranger might be of interest. I actually purchased this piece thinking that it was merely a loose regular Medicom 1/6 figure, sold without a box. Anyone who has ever perused Rinkya and used their Translate feature knows what I mean, it's almost as difficult to understand the English the site spits out as it is to someone who cannot read Japanese. Anyway, I win it for next to nothing, a Buy It Now as I recall and when it arrived I was shocked to pull out an almost 20" figure from this unassuming brown box. I assumed it may have been a promo item, as it has almost not articulation save the head and some rotation of the gloves and boots, the gloves can be removed but the boots are stuck firmly in place. It does however have a cloth suit and cape along with a holster and removable pistol. If you are familiar with the early 1/6th RAH figures, picture a giant version of that crappy black body the uniform is on.

The costume features some really nice touches, like natural looking creases and weathering on the boots and gloves that looks just fantastic, as if the actor walked right off the set of the TV show. The cape can be removed via snaps, and unlike the 1/6 version is all cloth so no sticking or cracking. The holster is a nice faux leather and the chest features a vinyl 'V' that is well applied and pops nicely. The belt is also nicely detailed.

From attempting to decipher the broken English on Rinkya, it seems that they were mail order for Club Toei members which would explain that the only other ones I've ever seen commonly are all Kamen Riders, in fact JohnnyBoy has the Kamen V3 which we may cover in a future post. Among the others in this series, a few random Kamen Riders including the obscure but loved Amazon(!) and even as recent as the garish Kuuga. Other rare pieces include Kikaider, Hakaider and Space Sherrif Gavan(!), don't see these ones much and when you do they generally go for quite a bit more.

So great piece, not an action figure at all, but for those of you Jumbo lovers, these would look fine peppered among your Machinders and other larger pieces on your toy shelves. A cool affordable piece with alot of visual pop.

Real Action Hero Red and Blue Go Ranger - Medicom 1995

Name: Gorenger -1, Gorenger - 2
Scale: 1/6
Manufacturer: Medicom/Takara/Time House
Year: 1995
Materials: Plastic, Vinyl
Country of Origin: Japan
Price: $10 - $90 each
Acquired Via: Yahoo Japan

There was a time when I was determined to collect every single Medicom Real Action Hero. When this line was introduced in the 1990's there was nothing quite like it. Taking the Mego or Captain Action concept a few steps further, by providing a main body, licensed from Takara (Combat Joe), add a removable costume and accessories and securing licenses of their own from such diverse properties as the Judge Dredd film starring Sylvester Stallone to Bruce Lee to the various Tokusatsu and Anime series their target demographic grew up on.

To be fair the idea likely had it's roots in Takara's own Henshin Cyborg line from the 60's-70's, but the primitive engineering of the day made sure that these were toys for young boys where Medicom definitely had the teen to adult collector in mind.

Back in the day these figures were very high end, costing from $70-$100 US dollars if you could find them, these were after all the days before eBay and the Internet were commonplace for rabid collectors. We used to have to rely on exotic dealers from California at local twice annual comic book conventions to get our Japanese toy fixes back then. Nowadays, with the vast improvements Medicom has made to their current additions to the RAH line, not to mention Hot Toys who pretty much ruined it for anyone by setting the bar so high, most even high end 1/6 toys look like crude customs, these original RAH's can be found for cheap if you are patient and spend a disproportionate amount of your free time trolling the thousands of Yahoo Japan listings all hours of the night.

These prices however do not come without their negatives, unfortunately companies like Medicom and Marmit were innovators, setting new prescient with each release and no companies before them had attempted this level of faithfulness to the source with the available materials. As a result, you often get tacky, sticky or wost case, completely disintegrated jump suits. JohnnyBoy once had a Marmit Spectreman suit completely fused with the plastic bag it came in...
For either collector fetish reasons or the fact that these products were so niche many remained unsold, it's very common to find most specimens have never been removed from the box and often they or at least parts of their costumes are stuck to the inside of the box. This was the case with bot Rangers, but only the capes were affected, the jump suits are made from some sort of material and coated in paint,
much like a silk screen.

I'm not going to get into the history of Go Ranger or Gorenger as it's spelled on the box, there are plenty of other sites that could do a much better job than me. Medicom actually made all five Rangers but I've only been lucky enough to acquire the Red and Blue so far and I have to think that the Green, Yellow and Pink are pretty rare, I never come across them in all of the exhaustive searches I've done, and when you do, it's a set and it's in the 25,000 ¥ range. These figures are great, a bit floppy by today's standards, both JohnnyBoy and I have the Red Ranger and his is considerably tighter jointed than mine. Both come in the standard Medicom RAH Black box of the time with weapons, Blue with a bow and red with a laser pistol and some sort of staff with a...thing on the end...forgive me, I've never seen an episode of the show. They both come with a pair of alternate flesh colored hands as well as a pair of dynamic gloved hands with the usual fists/open hand and Blue with a hand that can hold his bow. The costumes are both some sort of synthetic fabric, not prone to the same problems as the capes and are very nice, tight fitting with no bunching at the boot or glove areas. The both come with the same belt with retractable jets, that are just too cool. Red also comes with a holster that attaches to his belt for his pistol. No limited edition pins with the ones I've received, not even sure if Medicom was still doing that promo by this time anyway.

So if you are a Tokusatsu fan, collect 1/6 figures or just like cool toys, these are a steal and as I said can be found for peanuts if you look long enough but are definitely worth it if you pay a bit more.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Random House Buck Rogers Pop-Up Book

Spotted online for sale in a toy forum is this cool looking Buck Rogers Pop-Up Book published by Random House in I have to assume, 1979-1980. Cheap and as yet unsold. Contact for more info if interested in procuring this fine tome before it's gone. Biddy-Biddy-Biddy...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Toy Beauty - Totila l' Invincibile

 Totila l'Invincible, Fantanauti, Takara Japan/GIG Italy 1985

Toy Beauty - Marmit 8th Man

Marmit 8th man, year unknown

1/6 GR-2 - Unknown Manufacturer, Unknown Year

Name: GR-2
Scale: 1/6
Manufacturer: ?
Year: ?
Materials: Plastic, Vinyl, Rubber
Country of Origin: Japan
Price: $50 (approx)
Acquired Via: Online Toy Forum

Been wanting to get my hands on this piece for a long time. Having grown up watching reruns of Johnny Sokko and Ultraman I've always had a special place in my heart for Giant Robo. Not quite as popular as Ultraman or Kamen Rider, the toys didn't really find their way to North America in the same numbers making a Giant Robo toy a bit of a grail for many years as far as my personal collection was concerned. Sometime in the 90's, perhaps as the critically acclaimed re-envisioned Anime based on the original works of Mitsuteru Yokoyama was nearing release, the floodgates opened and companies like Marmit and Medicom were offering products based on the 1967 Live Action series, we not only got Giant Robo, but many of the insane giant monsters and robotic doppelgangers became alot easier to find in local comic shops via Diamond and more commonly on ebay.

GR-2 has always been a personal favourite just because of his awesome simple and sleek black design, not to mention the unususal head piece that doubles as a weapon. I've managed to collect a few pieces over the years and until recently this one has eluded me. Thanks to an incredible online toy community forum, I not only scored GR-2 but ol' GR himself. These kits always scared me a bit, especially when I recently tracked down a pre build Bed Baron that was just a poorly constructed floppy mess. These early 1/6 toys from Marmit and even Medicom often were a hybrid of garage kit and toy action figure often requiring the user to cut or glue some of the pieces together to get a finished product.

I hesitantly sat down this past Saturday with a big cup O' Joe, a few exacto knives and a file to tackle GR-2 and you know what, though intimidating with all that cutting, it was not all that bad.

I have to admit, while I have built my share of model kits, it's been close to 10 years since I've put one together despite owning close to 50 unbuilt kits at one point, this was more than a little intimidating. This was $50 and I desperately did not want to make one mistake. Let's get one thing clear, if you plan to buy this kit, you will not cut every piece perfectly, so live with it, relax and do your best. One thing that didn't dawn on me until I finished was heating the vinyl would have made cutting a whole lot easier. Anyway, above are the pieces, a rubber frame that cover the base body and provides the accordion like joints for the knees and elbows, not to mention some nice color contrast and the hard vinyl black outer body. The base body is just strange, a weird wire frame with a small head that provides some limited movement in the arms and legs but a Revoltech this is not, you get two poses from the completed model.

This definitely took about three hours to complete in total, I was taking my time to be sure not to make a bad cut, and as I said earlier, I did NOT heat the vinyl so some of the pieces required alot of work. The instructions while simple and not translated were ample and I only made one mistake cutting the trim off of the hands, not leaving enough slack, but it still looks fine. I have to say, whomever put the aforementioned Red Baron together was just not a skilled modeler or they tweaked the kits as they released them because the end result is a nice, solid toy that looks great despite the limited poseability. The base head acts as a ball joint so there is a nice amount of range for the head piece. In all I'd say, if you are interested in the kit, if you have even rudimentary skills do not be afraid, it's much easier than it looks, if you have absolutely no modeling skills at all, maybe ask a friend for help.

The mystery of this figure is the Manufacturer and the year it was released. Also how many kits make up this line, I've seen Red Baron, Mach Baron, GR and GR-2 and even recently found a Combattler V version on Yahoo Japan doing random searches, so who knows, this appears to be a line even more neglected than the Marmit Super Action Heroes line which we plan to cover here in the future. So if you have any info, please comment below.

Left to Right: Vinyl Paradise, Marmit 1996; Unknown, Unknown; Kaiyodo Sci Fi Revoltech, 2010; Medicom Toy Miracle Action Hero, 2000