Tuesday, June 30, 2015

MICROMAN WAS F*CKING BADASS

(1974 Microman catalog cover)
Forty years ago, Microman was one of the most incredibly badass toy lines a kid could own in Japan.  It completely dominated the Japanese toy market for a few years after it's release... at least until Star Wars action figures came along.  They were some of the very first 3 3/4" scale action figures (if not the very first), extremely well articulated and came with a variety of awesome vehicles and playsets.

Originally intended as a smaller version of Takara's Henshin Cyborg toy line, Microman featured a chrome head with a variety of colors and sculpts.  The original Microman lineup, also known as 'Microman Zone' or later on, 'the founders', were released in four different translucent colors in 1974, all with the same sculpt and unique chest module.  


(Original Microman store display / provided by Tom Vigneau)

Many new types of Microman came out over the years that followed, including die-cast versions, armored versions, magnetic versions, large robots, intergalactic villains and female commanders. Along with all of the playsets and vehicles, the possibilities were endless...

(Check out this short vintage Microman TV commercial)

Since these toys were not based on any existing TV show, movie or comic book, Takara created an original story to go along with them. The premise was that cyborgs from a planet called "Micro Earth" disguised themselves as toys after being exiled to our Earth. 

In 1976, Microman became an international success after being released by MEGO in the USA and Europe as the 'Micronauts'.


MEGO also added several new figures to the Micronaut's line which did not exist in Takara's original series of Microman figures. Utilizing MEGO's new line-up,The Micronauts even got their own comic book series, which was published by Marvel from 1979-1986.  

(This particular 'Micronauts' cover art features three characters from the
original Japanese Microman toy line, Robotman, M21X & Acroyear II
)
It featured a brand new story that was slightly different from the original story line given to Microman. Originating in the "Microverse", the Micronauts fled to Earth during war with a ruthless dictator named Baron Karza... who ironically was a completely different Japanese toy from an unrelated manga and anime called Kotetsu Jeeg, which had been repainted and re-purposed for use in MEGO's Micronauts toy line.

(Force Commander (left), Kotetsu Jeeg (center)  & Baron Karza (right) - Photo by Dave Waugh)
Eventually the Microman and Micronauts lines were phased out due to a lack of sales after a long run in Japan and increased interest in Takara's 'Microchange' figures, part of the Microman toy line, which later, along with Takara's Diaclone toy line, evolved into the ever popular Transformers toys...


...but fuck the Transformers...


. . .
*CLICK HERE for more info about Takara's Microman line.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

STRANGE STAR WARS TV ADS FROM JAPAN

(A 'force' filled three-way on a satellite dish)
George Lucas and his Star Wars franchise are no strangers to Japan.  Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith was the highest grossing film of all time on it's opening weekend there, so it's no surprise that Japanese advertising companies would want to cash in on the success of the popular sci-fi fantasy franchise. 

(Star Wars opens in Tokyo, 1978)
The original Star Wars film from 1977 wasn't released in Japan until a full year later, in 1978.  Following the film's success, the Hagoromo Food Corporation released this bizarre unlicensed TV commercial for it's canned "sea-chicken".


Later on, sometime between the 80's and 90's , Panasonic not only produced a series of officially licensed Star Wars themed TV commercials, they also got George Lucas to star in them...


Japanese TV ads still feature Star Wars' iconic characters in their TV commercials on a yearly basis, advertising everything from cars to instant ramen noodles.  This trend will most likely continue with the release of the upcoming new Star Wars films.  Until then, enjoy this more recently produced Nissin Cup Ramen noodle commercial featuring Yoda and a really bizarre ending tag line...

 . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2015

TOY CATS SHOWCASE IS THE PLACE



One of my favorite places to visit in Tokyo is a little hidden gem of a toy shop called TOY CATS SHOWCASE.  Located conveniently near Kichijoji Station right behind Yodobashi Camera, TOY CATS is easily the 'holy grail' of toy shops for collectors of Henshin Cyborg and Microman. They also specialize in Star Wars toys, 'gashapon' (vending machine toys) and various dealer showcases.

A collector himself, Yuichi Ishii the shop's owner, is one of the most genuinely friendly toy shop owners you will find in Tokyo.  His passion for his own toy collection is extremely evident, beaming from his smiling face into your very soul.  It was this passion that converted me from a strictly 'sofubi' and Star Wars collector, into a Microman and Henshin Cyborg fanatic.

Thanks Ishii-san ;D

Recently I visited TOY CATS and interviewed Ishii-san about his shop.  I also asked him to show off some of his prized possessions.  Many of the toys that he presents in the video are most likely unknown to the layman... but you can bet your ass that they are not easy to find ...or cheap.


For more info visit the OFFICIAL TOY CATS FACEBOOK PAGE.
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Monday, June 15, 2015

HENSHIN CYBORG (1972-1974)


Henshin Cyborgs (Changing Cyborgs) were an extremely badass 12-inch action figure line produced between 1972 and 1974 by the Takara toy company in Japan.  Instead of designing the entire toy from scratch, Takara used their recently acquired licence to sell G.I. Joe figures in Japan and cast a clear version of the 12-inch G.I. Joe, while adding a chrome internal 'chest engine' and cyborg skull.
(GI JOE & HENSHIN CYBORG)
The cyborg's internal parts came in four colors; silver, blue, gold and flat grey.  You could also buy accessories for them, including costumes of popular Japanese TV show characters like Kamen Rider and Ultraman (see video below)... but who would want to cover up these awesome toys with goofy clothes and masks?!  If you want to play with Ultraman, go buy a fucking Ultraman toy, not a Henshin Cyborg.


During the initial release of Henshin Cyborg, their retail value was around $10 (¥1,000) per figure, but now due to the fact that they were only sold in Japan and only for a couple of years - they can go for anywhere between $200 to $600 each, depending on the condition.

Henshin Cyborg also had several villains to face off with, the leader being King Waruda. There were several incarnations of King Waruda that came in different colors and original armored disguises. There was even a miniature version of him that was only sold in the UK called MUTON. Later the miniature version was released in Japan in different color variations. I will go into detail about King Waruda in a later article.

(My mini King Waruda aka King Waruda Jr. with a proton pack that I gave him)
Living in Tokyo and frequenting shops like TOY CATS, I come across these bad boys fairly often.  However, upon discovering them for the first time, I wondered why I had never heard of them before. They were just too cool not to have seen or heard about. You too may be wondering why you've never heard of these guys... but they are just the tip of the cybernetic iceberg...


Stay tuned tuned for more about the Henshin Cyborg action figure line and click here to learn about Henshin Cyborg's little brother, Microman.
.  .  .

Friday, June 12, 2015

THE FORCE IS STRONG WITH STAR CASE (UPDATED)

Just a few minutes walking distance from where I used to work in Tokyo, stands a Star Wars collector's wet dream...  STAR CASE.  

( Chillin' in front of STAR CASE on my lunch break )
I could spend a couple of hours writing about how awesome it is, show off the rarest vintage Japanese Star Wars toys and such - but instead I found an excellent video by a guy named Jason Ho, who did an excellent job filming the shop and interviewing it's owner, Yuu Katagiri, a few years ago. Check it out!



Initially I had planned to interview Katagiri-san after the Episode 7 came out to get his thoughts on Disney taking over Star Wars and how it's effected the amount of customers that come into Star Case. But once again another fellow beat me to it. Oh well, saves me a lot of time and effort ;)




Also check out STAR CASE's line of bootleg 
"sofubi" Star Wars toys, 'SPACE CONVOY':


...may the force be with you...

Thursday, June 11, 2015

ROBOTMAN vs BIOTRON


Robotman, was an extremely revolutionary item in the toy industry of the 1970's.  Created by Takara in 1975 and marketed in Japan as part of the Microman line, it was one of the first 'transforming' robot toys.  A cockpit in his chest allowed a single Microman figure to ride inside while the 14" motorized giant marched toward it's enemies.  Robotman could also be taken apart and turned into various vehicles and modes.

In 1976, the American toy company Mego acquired the license to sell the Microman toy line under their own brand name, the Micronauts.  Robotman was one of the figures included in the 1976 Micronauts line-up, however his name was changed to Biotron, which in my opinion sounds a hell of a lot better than the ultra generic Japanese name, Robotman.

Since both Takara and Mego were advertising their own versions of the toy at roughly the same time, it's interesting to see the original television commercials and compare how differently they advertised the exact same thing.

Which one makes your inner child burst with excitement?


1976 Mego (USA)
 

1975 Takara (JAPAN)
 
. . .

"ROBOTOMAAAN!!"

Monday, June 8, 2015

WELCOME & STAY TUNED...

Hello.  My name is Jeremy... and this is my blog.



Some things to look forward to on TOKYO TOY BASTARD:

- Lots of wicked photos of toys and life in Tokyo.
- Coverage of special toy related events in Japan.
- Exclusive interviews with Japanese toy shop owners.
- In-depth articles about various international toy lines.
- 70's & 80's sci-fi awesomeness.
- Sexy Japanese women.
- Toy reviews.
- Beer.
- Weird sh*t.
- and more!

In the meantime, say hello to a few of my drinking buddies :D