Return of the Gai-jin Machinders : Shogun Warriors are back.

I am seven years old. Itís Christmas morning and I canít take my eyes of one box under the tree. Itís huge, half as tall as I am. I already know what it is before I have even torn the paper. Itís Mazinga, A Shogun Warrior, a two-foot tall hunk of plastic robot from Japan. I have no Idea who Mazinga is, I have never seen the anime (cartoon), never read the manga (comic) and at seven I would have guessed Go Nagai (creater of Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger) to be a dish at a Chinese restaurant. What I do know is that Mazinga is the leader of the Shogun Warriors. You could tell as he stood in front of the others in the Sears wishbook catalogue.

Now Iím thirty . I know the names and histories of all of these robots. I know that the Shogun Warriors were just Jumbo Machinders imported from Japan. I know that the Shogun Warriors were just a small sampling of the variety of robots released in Japan

I wonder how many American collectors of Japanese toys have a story just like mine. Maybe instead of Mazinga they got Raydeen (like my brother) or Dragun (like my best friend). Childhood love for a toy made half a world away, a toy for a character that we had never seen. We didnít know that Mazinga was really Great Mazinger , or that he had been preceded by Mazinger Z. We didnít know that Raydeen was really Raideen the brave. We didnít know about Dragunís brothers, sorry, we didnít know about Getta Robo G Dragunís brothers. What we did know was that they were really cool.

Why they were cool. 24 inches of Shampoo bottle : The large Shogun Warriors were made of the same material used in shampoo bottles and were able to endure the roughest of play with just a few nicks and scratches. They shot missiles, fists and rockets and they towered over everyother toy in the toybox. Size does matter when your talking toys.
Shogun Warriors 1977
The first three Shogun Warriors were exactly like their Japanese counterparts with the exception of Mazinga and Raydeení s left fists. The fists were replaced with Accessory Jumbo Machinder arms to add to the figures play value. Dragun didnít loose his fist, but was given a jumbo star shooter to strap onto his hand. Other than the added fists and accessories they were exactly like the Japanese versions.

Mazinga(K),Dragun(H),Raydeen(J) in 1977

Shogun Warriors 1978 The same three Shogun Warriors were sold in 1978, but had what appear to be subtle differences, wheel trucks clipped on rather than molded like the first series, different missiles, axes and the like. In fact they were completely different figures with all new molds. I cannot confirm this with all the Shogun Warriors, but I can confirm that the 2nd series Mazinga is completely different from the first series and thus completely different from the Japanese version. For more on the difference between them click here to read my review. The logical explanation for the differences would be that Mattel went back to Popy after the first series was successful and wanted more. Popy no longer had them as this was 1978 and they had stopped making those three back in 1975 (toy companies destroy or scrap the molds used to make a toy when they no longer need them). As Popy no longer had the molds they had to make new molds for each of the Shogun Warriors.

Shogun Warriors 1979

Mazinga(14),Dragun(13),Gaiking(15),Godzilla(16)in 1979

By the time that Mattel Released Goldorake, Gaiking and Daimos and the 3rd version of Mazinga , Raydeen and Dragun, they were looking to cut corners as the newness of the toys were wearing off on American kids. Star Wars was in and taking the lions share of toy dollars. Goldorake, Gaiking and Daimos had all been already released in Japan and once again Mattel would have to settle for newly sculpted versions rather than the Japanese ones. These last Shogun Warriors Marked the end of the Jumbo Machinders in the US . (Teaser: one more copy of a Japanese Jumbo Machinder was released in the US in 1983. It was called Go Lion in Japan, but over here we called him Giant Comander Voltron, but thats another story).

Shogun Warriors (Jumbo Machines) 2001

Japanese toy collecting is riding a wave of nostalgia and a few Jumbo Machinders were re-released by Uni-five into the Japanese market (re-released, but not copied as the original molds were gone), but sold poorly as the average Japanese toy collector doesn't have space to store these. They ended up being shelf warmers in Japan and rumor has it that the guy who came up with the idea was fired. Pretty crappy, but nothing compared to what would have happened back in the day. Just like Vintage Bob, I long for the days when a toy executive would have to cut off a finger for screwing up a good toy line (fingerless Hasbo anyone?). However, Japans loss was our gain. The extra shelf warming Jumbo Machinders were bought by Diamond and offered for $120 each (about $60 cheaper then they were in Japan!). As stated before these were re-releases of the Japanese versions, not the Shogun Warrior ones. Uni-five has released Great Mazinger, Mazinger Z and Gaiking to the us market through Diamond. Of the three only Mazinger Z was never released as a Shogun Warrior.

One up on the Japanese
In the end we get Shogun Warriors back, well sort of, we get the leftovers that wouldn't sell in Japan. But the story doesn't end there. One of the four Jumbo Machinders released in Japan was Garada K-7. Garada was a bad guy who was produced in very small numbers in Japan. He is the holy grail of Jumbo collections and Uni-five reissued him in Japan. However they got it wrong, the color scheme that they used was based on box art not on the original toy. Soon after the reissue, pictures of the original Garada surfaced and they were way off, Diamond jumped in and asked Uni-five to make an exclusive Garada for the US only that would be in the correct colors and Uni-five did just that.
Now Japanese Jumbo collectors are having to pay through the nose to get the "correct" Garada Re-Release.

Shogun Warriors are alive again.The Diamond Re-releases have already sold out, Diamond has already sold most if not all of their exclusive Garadas and are talking to Uni-five about releasing a "planned but scraped" Combatra Jumbo. The Jumbo Machinder failure was only a failure in Japan. Seems like the US is the best place to sell " Giant Robot Shampoo Bottles".

All Hail the return of the Shogun Warriors! (Vintage bob would be so proud)