"There is so much writing in English on Japanese cinema that can't be accepted at face value — not because the writers are careless, but because the differences in culture and language are just too intricate. When I see August Ragone's name on a piece of writing, it gives me permission to place my faith in it completely. Among Japanese fantasy film historians, he's the best working in English." —Tim Lucas, Video Watchdog

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Bandai's Amazing RC-Operated Titan of Terror!


Bandai's amazing RC Mechagodzilla! Photo: CScout Japan

The iconic Mechagodzilla, the bionic double of the King of the Monsters, was created in 1974 for the 20th Anniversary Godzilla film, Jun Fukuda's GODZILLA VS. MECHAGODZILLA, and proved so popular, he was brought back the next year for Ishiro Honda's TERROR OF MECHAGODZILLA. Since then, as a character, Mechagodzilla has endured in popularity for more than three decades, and has been re-envisioned in several more recent Toho films, such as GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA (2002) and GODZILLA: TOKYO SOS (2003). Despite the updates, the first version of the character still captures the imagination of fans everywhere.

"Cross Attack Beam, fire!" Photo: GA Graphics

While the original version of the alien super robot has been rendered in various forms of vinyl, resin, diecast and injection mold plastic, kaiju fans and Japanese toy collectors, alike, thought that they saw the zenith figure of their favorite space titanium-alloy monster issued in spectacular — and ultimate — form as part of Bandai's best-selling "Soul of Chogokin" line a couple of years ago. Released in both 1974 and 1975 versions, this diecast figure was one of the many releases in the popular revival of their "Chogokin" brand (or "Super Alloy," a term coined from Go Nagai and Toei Animation's MAZINGER Z). No one could have imagined that it could get any better. Until now.

"Initiate, Defense Neo-Barrier!" Photo: GA Graphics

At the 2008 Tokyo Toy Show on June 21st and 22nd, produced by the Japan Toy Association, the largest toymaker in Japan, Bandai, previewed a prototype of their latest, and arguably, greatest idea. Ever. Bandai unveiled their upcoming 20" Radio Controlled 1974-type Mechagodzilla! This ultimate in robot toy decadence is radio operated via a remote control box, ala Gigantor, and promises full walking action (forward, reverse, right and left), flashing lights to simulate weapons firing (spinning hands for the Finger Missiles, opening chest plate for Cross Attack Beam, etc.) and defensive capabilities (spinning head to simulate Neo Barrier generation) — replete with corresponding sound effects.

"His power is in your hands!" Photo: GA Graphics

According to the Japanese website, GA Graphics, who were in attendance at the Tokyo Toy Show, the prototype "RC Mechagodzilla 1974" (tentative name) was on display in a glass case at the Bandai booth, and while it demonstrated several of its special features (including lights that flash to simulate missile firing and eyes that change from amber to blue), the walking function was not demoed for either the buyers or the public at the show. With this being a prototype, it is likely that Bandai is still busy working on getting this ultimate toy for big boys ready for its scheduled December release date.

Because of the declining birtrate in Japan, toy manufacturers have been refocusing their marketing squarely at adults with highly detailed items that were previously the realm of the so-called niche "Garage Kit" market, spawned by independent, Cottage Industry manufacturers. One recent example is Bandai's full-scale, and functional, Kamen Rider Henshin Belt, which surpassed all expectations in sales to this new — and growing — demographic.

While manufacturer's suggested retail price was not announced at the Tokyo Toy Show, those interested in picking this badass piece up will have to expect it to be in the triple digits — so start saving your pennies, now. This is truly a toy that is guaranteed to be worth its weight in Space Titanium.


Raida|23 said...

Hi August!:-)

I also posted bout the Tokyo Toy Show, but this i completely missed...so, thank you for letting us know!


August Ragone said...

You're welcome — this is going to be one superbad toy!


Bunche (pop culture ronin) said...

I never got the whole Mechagodzilla thing, and even when I was a kid I always felt the character was just an excuse to manufacture and sell toys (I was a cynic at a very young age). I always thrilled to the battles between Big G and other flesh and blood daikaiju, but pitting him against a machine, even one that's basically a walking arsenal, just never appealed to me. But I did like the Mechagodzilla redesign from the nineties.

August Ragone said...

Originally, Mechagodzilla wasn't conceived to sell toys — they thought the greatest challenger would be a mechanical counterpart, just as Kong had in Honda's KING KONG ESCAPES (1967).

The only toy issued in 1974 were several figures from Bullmark (including one that fired missiles), and even the Standard Size vinyl figure was poorly distributed (which was easily the best of the lot, and has been reissued several times since the early 1990s by Bandai and M-Ichigo).

Once the Bandai juggernaut got their claws into dictating production designs that would be friendlier to their toy engineers, starting in 1978 with Toei's live action SPIDER-MAN, it was all downhill from there...