I have seen the future of Japanese toys, and it is tiny.
Have you seen the new Kaiyodo/Movic Super-Dimensional Macross figures? They’re like gashapon, but actually worth buying! A fully (well, sorta fully) transforming, two-inch-high Valkyrie? And just 300 yen ($2.50)? Only in Japan.
Normally I stay away from boxed “collectors’ figures” and capsule toys like the plague. But I had the good fortune to be able to fondle a few of these babies at a pre-sale exhibition in Tokyo’s toy-wonderland of Akihabara. They weren’t half bad. (“Half bad” being defined as “half (or more) PVC.”) In fact, they appear to be entirely hard, smooth, injection-molded styrene. So I took the plunge. All three hundred yen of it.
Here’s the deal: tiny as these suckers are, they actually transform into all three famed modes of the Macross Valkyrie: “Battroid,” “Gerwalk,” and “Fighter.” But shoehorning ‘em all into a toy of this size wasn’t easy: the box comes with a literal pile of feet, arms, and backpacks that need to be swapped out to effect the change. Still, it’s hard to complain for a toy that retails for less than three bucks.
And look at those groovy, ’80s proportions! I haven’t seen stylin’ like this since the Takatoku soft-vinyl versions of the characters. Look at that squashed head, those spindly legs. To be honest, this “impressionistic” look is the charm. If these were “ultra realistic” (whatever that means for a fictional design) they wouldn’t do half as much for me.
In addition to VF-1J Hikaru here, there’s four other pieces in the series so far: a VF-1J Max, a VF-1A Standard, a non-transforming VF-1J “Hikaru,” and surprisingly/refreshingly, an enemy Battle Pod. (Perhaps if we’re lucky, we’ll see “N. Ger” or “Q. Rau” powered armor designs as well.)
Anyway. Here’s my theory: for years, the Japanese were renowned for their ability to miniaturize the size — and cost — of electronic devices. Now, they’re putting their well-honed shrinky-dink skills to work on toys. In the last six months, we’ve seen the THE Chogokin cheap-ass mini-reissues of classic diecasts, the S.C.M. Gundam toys, and now these babies. For years, Japanese toys have been cool but expensive. Could this mean the future is cool but cheap? One can only hope.