Those funky Japanese robots and toys

Posted by David Konow

The news that Hasbro wants to make more Transformers movies along with a Micronauts film brings me back to the late seventies, when a lot of cool pop culture stuff from Japan made its way over to the States.

As you may recall, the Micronauts were based on Japanese toys, the Microman line, and some stores had toys from the Orient that held together better because they were made of metal instead of plastic.

I particularly loved the show Battle of the Planets, and had a metal Jason doll I really liked. (Jason was the main Luke Skywalker style character on the show). 



And by the way, I had no idea until recently that Battle of the Planets was taken from a 1972 TV show, Gatchaman, long before Star Wars, but it finally came over to America in the wake of the phenomenal success of Lucas’s space opera.

Mattel had two great toys I still have fond memories of playing with, The Shogun Warriors, and their Godzilla doll that had a detachable flying fist, and a strip of plastic fire that came out of his mouth. (Mattel also did Rodan hand puppets as well, which I don’t recall clearly, never was a huge Rodan fan, and would probably prefer a Mothra hand puppet myself.)

In addition, Mattel sold full size plastic Shogun Warriors, and tiny, die-cast metal plastic ones. Like the Godzilla doll, they had flying fists, missiles that shot from their hands, and weapons that resembled big shooting ninja stars.

As the site ToysYouhad reminisces, the most popular Shogun Warrior was Mazinga, and other characters included Gaiking, Daimos, and Dragun.

This also reminded me of the movie, Voyage Into Space, which played all over TV when I was a kid, and still made the Godzilla marathons years later.

People nowadays probably know it best as Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot - a Japanese TV series where Johnny was a little kid who could control a gigantic automation with his wrist watch. 



The giant robot, who was called Giant Robot, defended Japan against all kinds of big monsters. Like the Shogun Warriors, Giant Robot also had missiles that shot out of fingers. (Voyage Into Space was a bunch of episodes of the show that were cut together and dubbed for American consumption).
 
I’m not sure if these toys went into production because American companies thought they’d be the next big thing, or because kids were watching Godzilla re-runs on Saturday morning.

IMHO, all of the above-mentioned these toys, like the Japanese movies and cartoons, are still enormous fun to revisit in the time machines of our minds.