Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The State of Play

Robotman is intimidated by Gundam Astaroth
 In the last Swordcast, I mused on the nature of contemporary toys and suggested that lately new toys are not aimed at children, but at adult fans and collectors. There seems to be a gap after the early years market which would traditionally have been filled by the 6-10 year olds who would be playing with toy cars, soldiers, guns and other stuff, but who are now totally engrossed in video games. The vacuum has been filled by adults, especially since the resurgence in interest in Star Wars in the 90's and manufacturers have increasingly catered for this market by completely moving the focus from children to collectors keen for detail and fidelity.
For a collector like myself, this is a two edged sword, as although the products available now are amazingly detailed and contructed, the high street prices which would allow a child to buy toys with pocketmoney have long since gone and most toys command prices undreamed of in the sixties.

That said, the nature of the toys is now different in other ways, as a lot of the best toys originate in Japan from the big names such as TakaraTomy or Bandai. Blog supporter Ranalcus kindly provided Woodsy with some stunning examples of japanese plastic recently and knowing my love of japanese robots, Woodsy shared a couple of pieces with me.
Astaroth courtesy of the Mighty Ranalcus
At the head of the blog is a Bandai kit of the 1/144 Gundam Astaroth, a long running anime and comic series. The kit stands about 5" high and the level of detail on it is amazing. Beneath the heavy armour there is a fully articulated armature which has clearly been designed as part of the functioning suit, with realistic joints. The articulation of all joints is flawless, made even more surprising as no glue at all is needed, as each meticulously cast part meshes perfectly with its neighbour. In building the kit, I struggled and actually lost a faceplate, probably haf the size of a grain of rice, as my clumsy fingers couldn't manage to manoevre it into place - even with tweezers!
Perfect Effect Robotman
Next up we have an unusual toy from one of the thousands of small, independant makers. The Perfect Effect Robot echoes the classic Mego Biotron figure from the Micronauts line, but at a neat 4" fully poseable size. No assembly was required here and the tank tracks on hs back are removeable to make a small ground vehicle for the mini sized pilot in the chest. Although it doesn't appear in any film, tv or comic series, it is an immensley popular toy, again aimed at the collector market at a cool £35.

Lost Planet Armoured Suit
Micronauts and Transformers originated in the late seventies from a Takara toy line called Diaclone. This line has recently been upgraded and re-released by TakaraTomy with a 21st century look. The line features massive modular robots piloted by tiny 1" figures. Oddly though, the expensive line has spawned a range of seemingly legitimate knock offs, trading under the Lost Planet brand. Amongst the almost indistinguishable models are a line of small powered suits. Eachsuit carries a single pilot and bristles with accessories. Again, articulation and overall design are amazingly good and at just under 2.5" tall, the basic suit is a marvel of toy engineering.

Fly WeGo!
Hasegawa and Chubu WeGo's
 Next we have a strange line of mobile suits called Mechatro WeGo. The suit is designed for a future Japan in which school children ride to school inside a walking taxi. The suit encloses the child and runs along, dodging traffic and then waits patiently as the child pops open the belly and is elevated out. The suit then either nips back home or pops off to do some shopping! The larger yellow version is a Hasegawa kit, fully articulated with opening belly, elevator and moveable limbs. The small white one is diecast and equally detailed, with opening 'mouth', chest and rear access panels, full articulation on the limbs and comes with an interchaneable heli pack for inter city journeys.
Achilles Magneforce and Batman
 Stepping back a little to around 2005, Takara's Microman line issued some of my most favourite micro figures, in the form of the Magne Force. A powerful magnet in the torso attaches the hips and shouder joints, giving super smooth almost frictionless poseability. Around the same time, the Microman line produced a nice Batman figure, with super movement and a clutch of accessories such as a batarang and gasmask.
Bandai (?) Gashopon courtesy Ranalcus
 Tucked away in Ranalcus goody box were two small gashopon style toys, which I was unable to identify as the text was all japanese! Each came with a small wrapped bar of gum. Barely 2" high, they are interchangeable and feature some excellent details.
Phone Strap Alan and Founder Barefoot
 Next, a classic barefoot Micronaut Time Traveller figure, from the Founder series, cast in white plastic. He stand next to a phone charm Micronaut, at 2" high, but eminently poseable and detailed - definitely not one for children!
Lego Praetorian
 Lego's fortunes have seen them rise from near bankruptcy in 1999 to global domination today. Possibly helped along by the acquisition of some major franchises such as Star Wars. One of my favourite Lego designs are the constraction buildable figures, which though expensive again, starting at £20, are wonders of toy design. The First Order Praetorian from the Last Jedi borders on the edge of the sculptural rather than the toy with its vorticist lines and japanese influenced armour.
Black Series Flametrooper
Lastly, Star Wars figures have evolved completely from the static po-faced lumps of plastic issued in 1977 to a plethora of different figures today. The Star Wars Black Series of 7" high figures were recently found in discount stores at a princely £5.99, but were quickly cherry picked for the prettier figures by discerning collectors leaving shelves full of Kylo Ren Unmasked and Jen Urso. The Flametrooper is a wonderful figure with accurate detailing, let down by a rather soft vinyl flamethrower.

So from Golden Astronauts and Eagle Eyed Action Men, we have moved way beyond simple toys we could throw out of a window on a ragged parachute to collectors pieces which should be safely curated under glass for fear of ultraviolet rays. I wonder what the next 20 years with have in store for the common toy, or if we will in fact need toys at all ?

8 comments:

  1. >lost a part of model kit
    Yep, there is high chance that now in my carpet I have small batalion of robots from all those parts that flew away during building model kits.

    Those HG (High Grade) 1/144 gundam kits are "entry level" kits, even those with internal frames. Compared to MG (Master Grade) 1/100 they have less parts and details but are really cheap and take less space.

    Diaclone - I have seen few of those new kits, and I am thinking about geting some of those.

    Mechatro - Those are more simmilar to classic military model kits than Gundams, and there are even DESIGNER variants made by more famous (in Japan) companies/brands of different type (IIRC there was one that was made with colours/stickers of some cloth company).

    Gashapon toys - Actualy those are "candy toy" simmilar to Kinder Surprise (it coutns as "food" not "toy" so it have lesser tax and thus price) made by Bandai ->破幻のジスタ乙 - (distress distraction party). Simmilar to older Mugenbine toys, but much smaller

    Microman - there is still lot of them aviable at place where I buy my Japanese toys, the "new ones" (made around 2000) are cheap, but the classic ones can cost and arm and a leg. There are even ones from Kantai Collection (Japanese WWII ship made into girls)
    https://image.b2bmilestone.com/802fdd16b145fb964f0503485e7fcd712660289e/000819223_01.jpg

    If you guys need any more, I will find some more and send you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ran - both myself and woodsy were blown away by your generous box of goodies! I pestered the life out of Woodsy to let me build the Gundam! as to Micromen, id love to get hold of more of the Magneforce series, i have red and green, but theres still four others. If you see any, let me know!

      Delete
    2. - Micromana
      https://www.suruga-ya.jp/search?category=&search_word=%E3%83%9F%E3%82%AF%E3%83%AD%E3%83%9E%E3%83%B3&adult_s=1&rankBy=price%3Aascending
      All Microman Items (from the cheapest up)
      On the left column you have

      -カテゴリー Category
      -予約・新品・中古 Reservation · Brand New · Used
      -価格 Price Range

      -Gundam
      That Gundam Astaroth was the "entry level" Gundam model kit. Kit's from Gundam Iron Blooded Orphans (G tekketsu) are a bit cheaper than other from the HG (High Grade) line and use stickers instead of decals (a bit worse color separation). If you want to watch it there is Subbed and Subbed version of that anime (2 seasson x 25 eps) on Gundam Info channel (it is legal)
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsuzL6GYk3c
      Have Fun watching it.

      Astaroth was from side-story/spin off series based in manga. The asymetrical shape of it was made as it was a "junk" parts left (rest of the parts was stolen).
      I will gladly send next time a more classic HG 1/144 model kit from Gundam line so please tell me what type/colour/style of kit you would like? Heavy Artilery? Transformable? Light Armour?


      Delete
  2. What a sad post, in many ways Bill. The idea that toys are going, and that the main buyers are now adults. I find the simpler toys of my youth have a charm and appeal that the modern (admittedly more detailed) ones do not. I suppose that's just a product of getting old.
    In a similar vein, I find the use of resin for souvenirs, fridge magnets, Christmas decorations etc. is also reducing their interest- they are often more detailed than the older china, chalk metal (or even plastic) versions, but have just lost their interest for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yes Andy, it is quite dispiriting. I too enjoy the classic sixties toys and cereal premiums, which still have a distinct charm all their own. I still collect Kinder Egg toys as they are probably the nearest in form and intent. Age creeps up on us all Andy!

      Delete
    2. Great and insightful post Bill. This sort of narrative must be on the minds of Museum curators planning future toy displays and timelines. There are still ads for toys on TV but they all seem to be on CiTV now. Nothing on the main channels which is odd. I love the WeGo concept, what a great idea. Those bodies look a lot like kidney beans! The kits look great from Ranunculus. I shall have to pull my finger out this winter and follow [gundam] suit!

      Delete
    3. Gundam 00 would be good for start (2 seassons x 25 eps each)

      Delete

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