Showing posts from December, 2013

Four Fun Robot Toys from Mego’s Micronauts Line

In this last installment of my year-end series about cool robot toys from Japan, I've decided to look back at one of the classics: Takara’s Microman line, which was released in the U.S. in the late '70s by Mego under the name Micronauts. Micronauts was a contemporary of another line of imported Japanese robot toys, Mattel’s Shogun Warriors, and both lines even had comic book series published by Marvel. While Shogun Warriors featured Super Robots from several anime series that had pilots and combination configurations, that toy line didn’t have any pilot figures or robot figures with combination capabilities; in contrast, Micronauts provided the first examples of mech and combiner robot toys to kids in the U.S. Read on for a look at four of Micronauts’ groundbreaking toys.

Getting it Right with Getter Robo Toys

Because I live in the U.S. and not Japan, my first introduction to combiner robots came through Japanese toy lines that were imported into the U.S. during the '80s: Gobots, Transformers and Voltron. Since each of these toy lines had its own cartoon series, it was generally assumed that if you saw a group of vehicles or robots combining together to form a gigantic robot in the cartoon, there was also a toy available that could do the same thing. After all, who would taunt potential toy buyers with a cartoon that showed vehicles and robots doing something that their toy versions couldn't do, right?

What I didn't know at the time and only found out recently was that the concept of a combiner robot actually began in the '70 with a manga and anime series called Getter Robo. In Getter Robo, three combat jets would combine together to form a giant robot; depending on the sequence of the jets' combination, a different giant robot would be formed. Getter Robo was very popula…

The Mighty Miniature Robots of Machine Robo

Sometimes, I don't know what I would do without the Internet, particularly when I look up things that were well-known at one time but have since faded into obscurity. In the ancient times when print media ruled the information landscape, it could take up to days, weeks, and even months to track down publications that mention trends or products that are no longer considered popular by mainstream culture. With the Internet, the same kind of search can only take a few hours or even minutes, especially because amateur writers can publish whatever they want online without being solely driven or restricted by profit.

This intro brings me to the topic of this post, Bandai's Machine Robo toy line. Machine Robo started in 1982 and it was one of the earliest toy lines based on robots that can transform into vehicles. Bandai started exporting these toys to other countries in 1983, and Tonka distributed them in the United States under its Gobots line. As anyone who grew up in the '80s …

Great Moments in Toy Robot History: Shogun Warriors

The origins of popular and recurring trends in pop culture can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint, especially trends that have gone on for so long that they become an accepted fixture of everyday life. For this post, I'm talking about Japanese robot toys that are imported and sold in the U.S. I'm sure robot fans who are around my age will remember how Japanese robot toys dominated the shelves of toy stores during the 80s, but the trend of U.S. toy companies securing the rights to sell Japanese robot toys in North America actually began in the 70s with Mattel's Shogun Warriors. While the Shogun Warriors line didn't last long, its influence would impact the toy industry for decades to come. Read on for my retrospective of this trend-setting toy line.

Big 'Bots and Belligerent Behemoths Clash in Pacific Rim (2013)

Since I'm planning to wrap up 2013 with a look back at a few examples of Japanese robot toys--one of my favorite kind of toys--I thought I would kick off this year-end series of posts with a review of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim, one of the big-budget releases from last summer that I missed when it was playing in the theaters.

Summer blockbusters have never been held in high regard by the film critic community, and such critics have been particularly displeased with Hollywood's over-usage of CGI effects to produce increasingly bigger and louder blockbuster movies. To be sure, such criticism is not entirely inaccurate: CGI does permit the creation of larger-scale environments and set pieces in ways that miniatures, matte paintings and other practical effect techniques could never allow. As such, CGI has enabled the production of many, many summer blockbusters that are enormous in terms of spectacle but conspicuously short in terms of creative ideas and conceptual depth.…

The Fantastic Four(th): A Review of Lou & Yana's JawsFest 4 DVD

They said they wouldn't do it ... but the fans demanded otherwise. Thus, with great pleasure I had the privilege of recently receiving a screener copy of Lou & Yana's JawsFest 4: Revenge of the Finatics DVD. This DVD marks fourth and final installment in Lou and Dianna "Yana" Pisano's series of fan-made videos that are devoted to Jaws, the franchise that it spawned, and the locations at Martha's Vineyard and elsewhere that made the franchise possible.

Of course, the Pisanos' previous trilogy of JawsFest DVDs are extremely comprehensive about Jaws and its connections to Martha's Vineyard, so what could possibly be left to cover? PLENTY. Read on for my complete review of Lou & Yana's JawsFest 4, a DVD with plenty of interviews, location tours, sing-a-longs, and shark jumpings.