I am seven years old. It’s Christmas morning and I can’t take my eyes of one box under the tree. It’s huge, half as tall as I am. I already know what it is before I have even torn the paper. It’s 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 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.
I wonder how many American and European 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 didn’t know that Mazinga was really Great Mazinger , or that he had been preceded by Mazinger Z. We didn’t know that Raydeen was really Raideen the brave and we had no idea what a god bird was. We didn’t know about Dragun’s brothers, sorry, we didn’t know about Getta Robo G Dragun’s brothers. What we did know was that they were really cool.
Now I’m thirty and 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 also know that the Shogun’s were just bastardized versions of the more impressive Jumbo Machinders, right? I also know that Mattel had no concern for the line and simply tried to capitalize on the success of the much better executed Jumbo Machinder line, right? Right? That is what everyone tells me, but I have come to believe that it just isn’t true. That’s right you hear me. Like all the heretics before me, I am willing to stick out my neck and tell you why I think what I think.
Myth #1: Shogun Warriors are not really Jumbo Machinders.
Jumbo collectors break them into two categories, Popy Jumbos and non-Popy Jumbos. The key is in the design, a jumbo must be made of polyethylene, about 60 cm (23 inches) tall, and be a toy produced in Japan based on a Japanese character.
Shogun Warriors fit the criteria above as being “Jumbo Machinder type”, but they go one step further with their pedigree. They were all made by Popy. No shogun warrior was ever released without the “made in Japan” stamp. You will not find a “Mattel © 197* anywhere on a Shogun Warrior. Even the much criticized Gaiking and Daimos were made in Japan by Popy as were the simplified 3rd versions of Mazinga, Raydeen and Dragun.
I believe it is simply arrogance that makes some collectors not consider Shogun Warriors as Jumbos. I have even heard them called “2nd rate knock off’s “. How can you possibly call a 60cm polyethylene robot based on a Japanese character, that is made in Japan by Popy (the company that copyrighted the name Jumbo Machinder) a “2nd rate knock off”. Accepted Jumbo Machinders like Giant Gorg weren't even made by Popy. The truth is that Shogun Warriors (even the ugly ones) are more Jumbo Machinder than, Gorg , Dunbine and Tryder. They are Jumbo Machinders and should be called such.
Myth #2:Mattel cut corners on the Shogun Warriors.
This myth is only part right. Mattel did simplify many of the later Shogun Warriors, but they did not try to “dumb down” the Shoguns from the Machinders they were based on. It is evident in the 2nd series Shogun Warriors that Mattel had every intention of offering American kids a great product.
Overstock? (1st series):
The first three Shogun Warriors were exactly like their Popy counterparts with the exception of Mazinga and Raydeen’ s left fists. The fists were replaced with Accessory Jumbo Machinder arms to add to the figures play value. Dragun didn’t 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 Popy version. Could Mattel have started by buying overstock Jumbo machinders? Great Mazinger , Raideen and Dragun were released between 1973 and 1975 in Japan and issued as Shogun Warriors beginning in 1977. Did popy have overstock of these three machinders and enter into a deal with Mattel to clearance them?
Back for more (2nd series):
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 Popy 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, hence the “reissue” Unifive Machinders are not made from the original molds). As Popy no longer had the molds they had to make new molds for each of the Shogun Warriors. If it was the case,Mattel had Popy make these figures without cutting corners. Raydeen had his shoulder pads, Dragun still had saw blades on his fists and Mazinga had his chest boomerang and removable Brain Condor. If Mattel was the cost cutting, Jumbo Bastardizing , shit heads we claim they were, then why didn’t they go with the cost cutting measures that were made on the third series of Shogun Warriors?
Run its course (3rd series):
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 Popy ones.
I think it is easy to look at the 3rd series Shogun Warriors and draw the conclusion that Mattel cut corners on the Shogun Warrior Line. However, if you look at all 3 series of Shogun Warriors, you can see that Mattel was trying to offer a quality product.
Myth #3: Shogun Warriors are more common than Jumbo Machinders as there were more made.
Spiderman vs. Mazinga :
The Shogun Warriors line was not Mattels only license in 1979. Nor it was their flagship line. How could it be? These were Japanese characters that American kids had little knowledge of. It would be like selling Spiderman to children who had never seen the comics. In Japan however, Great Mazinger was a household name. Given this, how could more Shogun Mazinga’s be produced than Jumbo Great Mazingers?
Why do we see more?
We see more Shogun Warriors than Jumbo Machinders for two reasons. One, more Shogun Warriors were saved as generally, Americans have more room to store old toys after the children that owned them have grown up. Many Japanese Machinders probably went into the trash as soon as the child no longer played with them. Two, online auctions have allowed the average person to sell old toys, which removed the middle man and allows for more items to go up for sale/auction. Many Shogun Warriors are now being sold from person to person here in the US. The Japanese have just discovered online auctions and Jumbo prices have dropped accordingly. As more Japanese people (not dealers) use the online auctions we will see more Jumbo Machinders for sale. As I am writing this (11/06/00) eBay has 4 Shogun Mazinga's up for auction and Yahoo Japan has 5 Mazinger Z's.
Before Yahoo Japan, American collectors were buying from dealers who told us that the Popy Jumbo's were "rare". We could see Shogun Warriors on eBay all day long, but a Jumbo Machinder only rarely showed up on eBay.
I titled this Gaijin Machinders: Shogun Warrior heresy because I felt like these were common misconceptions that everyone took as fact. There is really little know in the way of production numbers and business dealings between Popy and Mattel. The ideas above are based solely on conjecture and should be treated as such. Don't take what I say as truth, nor dismiss it out of hand. This is just my opinion based on what I could piece together from the toys themselves. Please e-mail me and let me know your opinion. - Brad