2003 was an interesting year for Japanese toys. When we began the ToyboxDX Toy of The Year awards back in ’98, the number of new toys that sparked the interest of the “typical” Japanese toy collector were few and far between. Bandai had released a couple of SOCs, but the collector’s market itself was generally untapped. Each year since then, the number of worthy competitors on the ballot has grown at an alarming rate. Who would have expected that 25 different toys would have garnered enough fan support to make it onto this year’s official ballot? Heck, who would have thought that we would have five different SOCs splitting the gokin vote this time around? This year also featured some rather tough quiz questions, with not a single person managing to get a a perfect score. Due to popular demand, the answer key is provided at the end of this article.
So, without any further preamble, here are the results:
24th place – SOC GX-16 Eva-00
Much beloved by fans of the Evangelion series, GX-16 is the first of two SOC Evas on the ballot. Not really robots in the traditional sense, these new-style characters seem oddly out-of-place in Bandai’s flagship collectors series. So much so, that many SOC completists chose to skip them entirely. Still, even if you don’t happen to be a fan of the series or design, it’s hard to find fault with these diecast, super-poseable, accessory-packed renditions.
23rd place (tie) – Machine Robo Rescue DX Wing Liner
Machine Robo Rescue is a line that doesn’t have much traction in the ToyboxDX community, as the vote certainly proved. Remembered less-than-fondly by North American fans as Tonka’s Go-Bots, as big and as cool as the Wing Linger is, it didn’t really have the chance to make the kind of impact needed to garner serious votes. It did, however, manage to beat out an SOC this year, which is no small victory.
23rd place (tie) – Takara Tidal Wave
This huge, plastic Transformer certainly turned a lot of heads when it was released domestically — even managing to make to beat out Takara’s satisfyingly-large Unicron. Of course, new Transformers are an acquired taste and despite the toy’s innate coolness, it suffered the same fate (and ranking) as MRR Wing Liner.
22nd place – Gundam FIX Figuration: Crossbone Gundam X-1
As far as Gundams go, Crossbone is certainly one of the more interesting-looking and it is recreated faithfully as part of this year’s FIX line. Its low ranking, however, shows that tiny, unposeable PVC Gundam toys with price-points aimed squarely at collectors do not garner much love with domestic fans.
21st place – MSiA Qubeley Mk-II
Low-cost, poseable and with an updated design, the Qubeley is certainly a standout Gundam character. However, both the material and the choice of character make it a long shot for the TOTY crowd, particularly on this already-crowded ballot.
20th place – SOC GX-19 Getter Liger
For reasons that can only be guessed at, rather than release the Getter G team individually rather than as a deluxe set as they did with the original (and 2001 TOTY winner) Getter team. Forcing fans to choose between Dragon, Lyger and Posiedon almost certainly cost the much-beloved trio any shot at the TOTY crown…although we’re pretty sure that Bandai isn’t losing any sleep over this fact. Lyger is as nice as you would expect, however. Lots of diecast, faithful sculpting (although the head seems a bit large), accurate gimmicks and superb poseability.
19th place – M1 King Ghidorah (Post-Heisei)
Anyone who has been following TOTY over the years knows that vinyl kaiju tends to fair poorly on the ballot and this year was no exception. No matter how well Ghidorah was rendered, it will take a seriously innovative vinyl toy to finish anywhere in the top ten on TBDX.
18th place – Yamato Escaflowne Guymelef
The only reason that the Yamato Escaflowne deserves to be on the ballot at all is because it’s a diecast, transforming version of this much beloved mech. With glowing reviews such as; “Ass” and “It sucks but I love it anyways”, it was evident pretty early on that Esca didn’t have a snowball’s chance this year. The toy itself comes three years late and is a complete disaster in just about every aspect of execution. Whereas one can generally feel the love that went into designing most Yamato products, Esca feels like its designers gave up on it in frustration and then decided to go ahead and release it anyway.
17th place – Bandai 1974 Godzilla vinyl figure
Because we just don’t have enough vinyl Godzillas.
16th place – Bandai FIX Figuration Zeta Plus
Although a well-received entry in the FIX line, this creamsicle-colored contender just got lost in the shuffle of new toys this year.
15th place – Bandai Kahen Senshi ZZ Gundam
After last year’s rather disappointing KS Zeta, Bandai’s follow-up ZZ shows that perhaps the do sometimes listen to their fans. ZZ is solid, with loads of tight joints and easily 10x the diecast of the Zeta. If you’ve ever transformed the original HCM (or given up in frustration halfway through), the new KS will renew your faith in this mech’s design. Pushed out of the crowded toy spotlight late in the year and generally over-looked by diecast and henkei fans, this is perhaps the sleeper toy on this year’s ballot.
14th place – Bandai Machine Robo Rescue DX Siren Garry Robo
Although it managed to climb nine places higher than it’s Wing Liner brother, the curse of Machine Robo managed to keep Siren Garry from reaching the top ten toys.
13th place – Bandai Saint Cloth Pegasus Seiya
After years of being neglected, Saint Seiya is enjoying a resurgence in popularity and Bandai has stepped up to the plate with all-new diecast renditions of everyone’s favorite effeminate boys in metallic armor. Unfortunately, although the toys are undeniably cool in and of themselves, SS isn’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. Perhaps with the airing of the show in North America this year, we may see these characters score higher next year.
12th place – Kaiyodo Gungrave
Large, heavy, superbly articulated and incredibly detailed, Gungrave is perhaps the nicest Japanese action figure since Monev the Gale. If you’re into action figures. And if you’re reading this, then you’re probably not surprised that Gungrave sits smack in the middle of the entries.
11th place – Kado Senshi Hyaku Shiki
Diecast, superposeable and all chromed up, the Shiki was well received by diecast Gundam fans everywhere. Sadly, this seems to be a surprisely-small demographic.
10th place – Bandai 1974 Chogokin Mecha Godzilla GD-57
After last year’s solid Mechazilla, fans were highly anticipating the diecast rendition of the original character. While the clamshell styrofoam box was an huge improvement over the molded cardboard used last year, the toy itself is rather underwhelming. Low diecast content, uninspired sculpting, drab paint scheme, and non-existent gimmicks all helped push this big guy to the bottom of the top ten.
9th place – Bandai FIX Figuration 0013 Deep Striker
Even if you don’t happen to be interested in Gundam or FIX stuff in general, you certainly have to appreciate a line that generates anything as nutty as Deep Striker. Even though FIX is only 1/144 scale, DS is huge at just about any scale and really shows just how far Bandai is willing to push the limits of PVC and this collector’s line particularly. The fact that a FIX toy was able to break into the top ten at all, particularly in this year of diecast abundance, is in itself a testament to the toy.
8th place – Bandai Metal Material Model Strike Gundam
After the brittle New Material Turn A Gundam, many fans didn’t expect much from Bandai’s new 1/100 scale diecast Strike Gundam. Sometimes it’s nice to be wrong. With a sturdy diecast, Master Grade-level endoskeleton (the likes of which have not been seen in toy form since the days of Takara’s Dougram line) and dozens of pieces solid removable ABS armor plating, the MMM Strike is a heavy ultra-articulated surprise. With two recolors on the market already (and pink variant seeming likely as well) Bandai appears to have found a winning formula in this design.
7th place – Yamato 1/48 Super VF-1J Hikaru Type
After last year’s spectacular VF-1A (TOTY 2002 winner), Yamato’s Super 1J represents an evolutionary step forward in their 48th-scale line. Featuring much beefier hands, some highly-detailed FAST packs, and overall improvements in quality control, this is the Yamato 1/48 example to own. Special points awarded for replicating the exact hands needed to replicate the famous VF-1J stance from the original Macross intro. Although this toy garnered some significant votes, there was unquestionably some “been there, done that” consensus among fans concerning this piece. After three years running with a Hikaru Valkyrie near the top of the ballot, even hardcore fans are beginning to grow a bit weary.
6th place - Mega House Panda Z
Holy crap! How the heck did a vinyl toy get this many votes? And a cute one, no less! If you’re into Japanese super robots, there’s something strangely compelling about Panda Z. Perhaps it’s the sheer ludicrousness of the little panda pilot taking Koji’s place. Or maybe it’s the way that the Robominal line has managed to instill the essence of giant robots into such a simple design while still managing to preserve important details (robo paw-prints, detailed cockpit, removable fists, the pilot’s scarf, etc.) Whatever the reason, little Panda Z’s got nothing to apologize for.
5th place - Bandai GX-14 SOC Eva-01
The first in the SOC Evangelion line was met with the same mixed reaction as GX-16. A diecast Eva? A metallic-looking Eva? Where are the simple lines and primary colors? Where’s the love? A somewhat polarizing toy in the Japanese toy community, you either Get It or you don’t.
4th place - Takara Transformers BT-01 Binaltech Smokescreen
You know Takara has to be doing something right when even people who usually avoid Transformers toys like the plague all rushed out to pick up the premier entry in the new Binaltech line. A large, heavy, highly-detailed, diecast, transforming Subaru. What’s not to love? Well, the spotty QC for one thing. The initial run of this item featured some overly-thin paint in a few crucial places causing moderate to severe paint chipping, which quite literally took the shine off this guy for quite a few collectors. Still, if you got your hands on version two, you have to dig pretty deep to come up with a criticism of this piece.
3rd place - Bandai GX-18 SOC Getter Dragon
It took a few years to get here, but much to Mario’s delight Bandai finally delivered the first of the three Getter G robots. Managing to place third all by itself, you have to wonder how TOTY would have looked if all three had come as a set. Still, there’s very little to complain about here. All three figures have interlocking stands; both for robot and vehicle mode as well as the full arsenal of weapons that were used in the original show. Dragon is surprisingly large; more so than the comparison pictures floating around on the ‘net would lead you to believe. Still, as great as Dragon is, his popularity was no match for…
2nd place - Bandai GX-13 SOC Dancougar
Arriving early in 2003, when big Danny-boy finally shipped he was greeted with near universal acclaim. A massive diecast transforming, combining monster of a toy, it was reminiscent of the Godaikins of old. Folks lauded the amazing attention to detail and the superior engineering. Fans were declaring the TOTY vote over in March. And here we are at number two. What happened?
Well, besides the obvious advantages that this year’s winner had, the fact is that Dancougar is not exactly perfect. The major problem was, as our own Keith put it; “The biggest problem with Dancougar is that it’s Dancougar.” Most non-Japanese SOC collectors weren’t really fans of the Dancougar animation or character. And for all the praised heaped upon its engineering, while the transformations were reasonably complex, the final gattai was criticized as being a “hat and shoes” gimmick. In fact, Dan resembles a diecast Brave toy with significantly more articulation. Not that this a bad thing. Dancougar still owns the number two spot by a comfortable margin, and he is still certainly one of the most beloved SOCs in recent history. However, he just was not powerful enough to overcome the the irresistible force that was…
1st place - Takara MP-1 Masterpiece Convoy
Arriving 2 days before the nomination window closed, MP Convoy completely, utterly, totally destroyed the competition. Let’s get this out of the way to right up front. Convoy’s landslide win occurred due to a number of factors:
- He arrived right at the beginning of the vote, before his shine had time to wear off. Hell, people were voting for him before they’d even seen one up close.
- Convoy (or “Optimus Prime” as he is so fondly know hereabout these parts) has an enormously large and, um, enthusiastic domestic fanbase. It probably didn’t help that most of the top Transfan sites made it their mission to see that Convoy’s presence on the ballot did not go un-noticed. Convoy got more votes by himself than all the votes for every previous TOTY vote combined. The quiz results tend to suggest that these votes did not come from ToyboxDX regulars.
- Convoy rocks. See below.
It doesn’t matter whether you hate the show or the comic or the character or the fans that have surgically attached themselves to the canon, there is absolutely no denying Masterpiece Convoy’s worthiness to wear the ToyboxDX TOTY crown. He’s bigger than just about anything else on the ballot. He’s heavier than all of them. He’s got lots of nice working chrome pistons and pressure activated vents. He looks amazing in both modes. And he’s less than half the price of SOC Dancougar. In short, if you like big, diecast transforming robots, Convoy is your daddy.
After years of letting Bandai and the independents milk the collector’s market, Takara has finally made their first impressive foray into this already crowded field. Let’s hope that this is the beginning of a long and fruitful game of one-upmanship between the Soul of Chogokin and Masterpiece lines.
ToyboxDX TOTY 2003 Quiz Answer Key
1. Which of the following was NOT designed by Go Nagai?
a) Getter Robo
b) Mazinger Z
The correct answer is “A”. Although Go Nagai’s company Dynamic Pro was responsible for the Getter Robo character designs, Go Nagai himself had virtually nothing to do with them. Ken Ishikawa is the most likely culprit.
2. Which of the following was designed by Shoji Kawamori?
a) Escaflowne Guymelef
c) Gold Lightan
d) Mugen Calibur
Answers “B” or “C” are correct. Although he did supply Yamane Kimitoshi with some suggestions about making Guymelef transform into a dragon, Kawamori did not design any of the Escaflowne mechs. And although he is often credited with Mugen Calibur from Dorvack and the Queadluun-Rau from Macross, he had nothing to do with either of those designs. However, he can claim some fame by being the original designer for Gold Lightan and the Russian-doll like Gardian.
3. The first Gundam toy was made by:
c) Takatoku Toys
The correct answer is “A”. As the vintage toy lovers among us know, Clover created the original Gundam toy merchandise…which the kids summarily rejected in favor of Bandai’s more accurate models. Sadly, Gundam would spell the end for Clover, but the beginning of the Gunpla empire for Bandai.
4. How many anime-realized designs does Kunio Ohkawara have to his credit?
a) 10 – 200
b) 201 – 400
c) 401 – 800
d) 801 – 1000
e) 1001 – 1500
Ohkawara has had roughly 819 robot and vehicle designs used in animation and toy designs, making “D” the correct answer. Really.
5. Which of the following was NOT proposed as TOTY category?
a) The toy most likely to end up stuck in someone’s bum during an arguement about which is more important: Wednesday or rice.
b) Reissue of the year.
c) Best waist joint.
d) Best toy that does not use the color red.
The correct answer is “D”. But now that you mention it, go to your toy shelf and try and find a robot that doesn’t have the color red on it anywhere. And in case you’re wondering, it was our very own Corey who proposed answer “A”.
6. Which of the following have NOT been bootlegged (yet)?
a) Bandai Mazinger Z GA-01
b) Bandai Mazinger Z GX-01
c) Bandai DX Gold Lightan GB-37
d) Bandai’s Robotack line
e) Takara’s Brave series
f) Takatoku’s 1/55 Valkyrie line
The correct answer is “B”. Bandai’s Soul of Chogokin line is the only toy line listed above that has not been bootlegged yet.
7. Which of the following toys has a waist joint?
a) Takara Giant Gorg DX
b) Takatoku Big Dai X Blitzkreig Combination
c) Bandai Robocon GA-14
e) Yamato VF-1A 1:48 scale
f) Bandai Tetsujin 28 GA-63
Aw, c’mon; this was an easy one. The only toy on the list that has a waist, let alone a waist joint is “A”; Takara’s Giant Gorg DX.
8. The opening chest on the original Diaclone Convoy Over Commander (G1 Optimus Prime) was for:
a) Breast Fire!
b) The Matrix.
d) Storing the fists.
“C,” Pilots. The original Diaclone toys were meant to be manned robots.
9. Which of the following original Japanese toy lines was NOT used in the creation of the American Transformers toy line?
d) Machine Robo
Microchange gave us Megatron and Soundwave; Macross brought Jetfire; Beetras was reborn as the Deluxe Insecticons, and Machine Robo gave us Tonka’s Go-Bots, making “D” the correct answer.
10. Who was responsible for MOST of the robot/vehicle designs used in Super Dimensional Fortress Macross?
a) Miyatake Kazutaka
b) Kawamori Shoji
c) Go Nagai
d) Kunio Ohkawara
The correct answer is “A”. Although everyone remembers Kawamori’s Valkyrie designs, 16 of the 23 mech designs from Macross belong to Miyatake Kazutaka.
11. If the pride of collection includes such icons as “Love Melody”, “Daisy Sweet” and “Ruby Lips”, then you must be:
b) Matt Alt
d) Alen Yen
e) All of the above
“Love Melody”, “Daisy Sweet” and “Ruby Lips”, are, as I’m sure everyone knows, characters from My Little Pony. Which means that the corrects answers could only be “A” and “B”.
12. Which fist is NOT in this picture?
a) Getter One
b) Getter Dragun
d) Voltes V
The correct answer is “E”, Daimos. If you wish to appeal this answer, go search the BBS for “Fist Master”. Go on. I dare ya.
13. If the price you’re willing to pay for a vintage piece comes down to the shape of the tail, you’re probably…
b) A vinyl Godzilla collector
c) Mark Nagata
d) A Beanie Babie speculator
The correct answer is “B”. Various versions of vintage Godzilla vinyls are dated by the shape of their tails. If you didn’t know the answer to this question, head on over the www.super7magazine.com and subscribe, now!
14. Which of the following is NOT a subsiduary of Bandai?
Correct answers would have been “D” or “E”. Although Bandai does distribute some of Volks’ toys, they are still a seperate entity.
15. This year’s TOTY nominees Eva-00 and Eva-01 were designed by:
a) Anno Hideaki
b) Kawamori Shoji
c) Todd McFarlane
d) Go Nagai
e) Ohkawara Kunio
If nothing else, you should have been able to guess this one through process of elimination. Correct answer is “A”.
16. This year’s Metal Material Model Strike Gundam most closely resembles which vintage toy line:
a) Popy Jumbo Machinders
b) Takatoku Z-Character
c) Takara Dougram line
d) Hasbro G1 Transformers
e) Takatoku Kahnzen Henkei
With its cool removable armor and detailed endoskeleton, the MMM Strike is most similar to Takara’s vintage Dougram line with which it shares the same clip-on armor concept. Correct answer is “C”.
17. Which Japanese toy collector achieved totality this year?
b) John Paras
d) Matt Alt
With Bandai finally getting around to immortalizing the Getter G robots in their much-beloved Soul of Chogokin line, our very own MARIO’s collecting days have come to an end. After this, everything else is irrelevant.
18. Which of the following is NOT the name of a real Transformer?
a) Destruction Emperor Megatron
b) Air and Sea Defense Warrior Broadside
c) Interstellar Transport Warrior Skylynx
d) Giant Heavy Combination Soldier Predaking
e) Strongest Over-Commander Convoy Prime
f) Heavy Corps Combination Warrior Raiden
g) Super God Combination Over-commander God Jinrai
Don’t you just love the Japanese names given to the Transformers? The correct answer is “E”; the Japanese rarely, if ever call “Convoy”, “Prime”.
19. Jumbo Machinders are made from the same material as:
a) Dinky Cars
b) Transfomers RiD
c) Vinyl Kaiju toys
d) Shampoo Bottles
Jumbo Machinders are made from polyethylene; the very same material used today for most shampoo bottles, making “D” the correct answer.
So ends the 2003 Toy Of The Year wrap-up. Fight amongst yourselves.