It’s that time of year again; a time to gather the year’s booty before
ourselves and build a plastic, diecast and vinyl monument to the ineffable.
Yes, kids, Toy Of The Year is upon us…
As always, it’s been an interesting year for Japanese toy collectors.
We have several new players vying for the robotaku’s yen; Max Factory, Konami,
CM’s Corp and even Hong Kong’s Hung Hing Toys have gotten into the act.
Perhaps the more seasoned among us have simply been conditioned by Yamato to
expect early efforts from fledgling toy manufacturers to be just this side of
utter crap, but all of the aforementioned manufacturers debut products have
been so solid that they could pass for tier one productions. And of course
Bandai and Takara rolled on as usual, pumping out Binaltechs and an ungodly
amount of SOCs.
If the poll results tell any story this year, it is that although there were
many solid first-class efforts by manufacturers large and small, there was no
single toy that stood a head and shoulders above the rest in terms of execution,
gimmicks or character traction. In the finest tradition of an American
vote, the winner was too close to call, right down to the last hours before the
voting booth closed. In the end the difference between first, second and
third place was a mere one vote a piece. This year’s
registration system prevented non-readers from participating, resulting in an
interesting vote spread and an unprecedented number of ties, again reflecting
the fact that most collectibles this year were on par with their fellows.
And so, without further ado, here are the 2004 Toy of The Year results as
voted and promoted by you…
10th place (tie) – Zeonography #3002 Dom / Prototype Dom
The “Mobile Suit Variation” series, in the form of books, model kits and magazine articles, have always been an interesting venue for Gundam designers to branch out from the brightly colored heroes versus spiky, menacing adversaries framework that Gundam often slips into.
The original MSV series was Kunio Okawara’s take on how the factions of the original Gundam series developed their weapons. Full of prototypes and specialized units for specific tasks or pilots, it placed the battles of the First Gundam anime in a larger context, deepening the feeling that Gundam depicted realistic warfare of the future.
Hajime Katoki has been promoting the old MSV designs since the start of his Gundam FIX toyline, and continued with the first few releases of Zeonography.
The second Zeonography figure comes in two flavors – a standard Dom with parts to convert it into the Prototype Dom (less streamlined but heavily covered with insignia) and a Dom in desert colors which converts into a prototype outfitted for combat in “tropical” regions. The second is particularly interesting for Hajime Katoki fans, since he’s revisiting the basis for his Dom Tropen design from Gundam 0083, a bulkier mech with additional thrusters and vent covers to maneuver in the desert.
Anyway, these are remarkably solid, playable toys in comparison to your average FIX figure. The interchangeable parts come off easily but don’t fall off easily, it’s got quite a bit of articulation despite the restrictions of the design, and it’s got a decent amount of weaponry (the Dom’s bazooka and heat sword, plus a Zaku machine gun), though it’s nothing compared to the latest Zaku variant’s piles of guns.
This is probably the most balanced, enjoyable figure to come out of the Gundam FIX/Zeonography line yet. While the simplicity of the Dom design is surely part of the reason, the toy still represents the potential of this toyline, and it’s one of the items I’ve had the most fun with this year.
10th place (tie) – Ohtsuka Kikaku Shadowmoon
It’s a perfect 1/10 scale Shadowmoon featuring a nice clear Satan Sabre and even ball jointed ankles. One of the best figures in the Hyper Hero line and perhaps the best toy representation of Shadowmoon to date. It’s the most satisfying new toy purchase for me this year.
10th place (tie) – MSIA Ginn
The MSIA Ginn is like a Zaku embodied in a modern shell. It has 2.0 joints for just the right amount of mobility without going too far. Its unrestricted waist twist is a plus for good “run and gun” poses.
Overall, it’s an excellent little mecha action figure.
10th place (tie) – MSIA Dom 2nd Version
10th place (tie) – Max Factory Guyver III
Tough choice this year. I had to vote for the one toy that I actually owned. Guyver three is the first true action figure from the guyver series and it’s a good
‘un; solid construction, intricate detail, and decent articulation that doesn’t compromise the sculpt.
10th place (tie) – Genseri Gasshin Set
It seems like sentai doesn’t get a lot of love here at the ‘box.
Konami’s second deluxe combining sentai toy is huge and looks great in all
modes, yet it doesn’t go beyond gattai-by-the-numbers, leaving jaded collectors
somewhat under whelmed after combining it for the third time.
10th place (tie) – Bandai Digi-haro
Magnetic Coated Haro says:
I browsed through the entire list over and over again. Yes, most of the toys are fun to play with. Some have huge amount of zinc content and/or interesting transformation. Yet, almost all of them to me are just the reincarnation of some previous toyline, kind of ‘been there, done that’.
But for Digi-Haro, it really surprised me when I first saw it in action. I’d never see any RC toy maneuver in this way. That’s brilliant! I really like it.
And that’s exactly why I nominated it in the first place.
Next, a 1:1 bouncing robot…
9th place (tie) – Yujin SRDX Ryofu Housen figure
Comparisons of this figure with the candy toys and others really brings out the difference. Her attitude and paradoxically vulnerable nature are evoked by the mold as we see her poised to erotic heights! The Yujin figure captures her delicate deadliness, her betwitching belligerence, and her delicious, sapphic appeal to fanboys everywhere.
Plus In the immortal words of Frohickhe from the X-files “Lone Gunmen”..”She’s hot!” (and has superior, peek-a-boo, boobies!)
9th place (tie) – Saint Cloth Myth Sagittarius Aiolos
Once again, Toybox readers distance themselves from effeminate boys
in removable armor. Perhaps there is hope for humanity after all.
Saint Cloth Myth Sagittarius isn’t the best of the Saint Cloth Myth
line, but he’s a solid rendition of a character with a rather strange
history – toy wise, at the least. With both armor and armor stand of
mostly diecast, and a sturdy ABS action figure to wear it, it’s the
best possible representation of the character you could ask for.
9th place (tie) – Amdriver Neo Cross Bisar
Surfing into ninth place is the sole Amdriver toy to make the ballot;
Neo Cross Bisar. Feeling more like next-gen Micromen than true robots,
many Japanese robot enthusiasts passed them up outright. From all
appearance, this is most probably their own loss…
The Neo Cross Bisar presents the pinnacle of Konami transforming toy design, with a perfect gatai of 2 original and good-looking vehicles that can also change into 2 separate armored suits/weapons. It features lots of expansion ports for additional weaponry and due to its ingenious design it can host 2 Amdrivers at once, without any of them having any problem wearing the Bisar in Brigandier (humanoid) mode.
8th place – CM Corps Gaogaigar Brave Gokin
A diecast, transforming anime-accurate tribute to everyone’s favorite
lion-chested robot, Gao Gai Gar. The real surprise here is that a toy
company that had only gashapon to its name until this point was able to produce
such a relatively defect-free piece as its first attempt. Sure, it’s not
quite at SOC level, but it certainly bodes well for the poor SOBs that shelled
out $700 in advance for the upcoming Genesic version. Considered a new
series by most fans, GGG’s character didn’t quite have the appeal necessary to
attract votes in serious volume.
7th place (tie) – SOP Kaneda with diecast motorcycle from “Akira”
I both nominated and voted for this SOP because I felt it was truly a quality effort by Bandai in a line that has floundered over the years with a few disappointing entries in the past. I thought despite many wonderful toys coming out this year, that this SOP entry deserves accolades for restoring my faith in the potential of the SOP line. My first impressions of the motorcycle were very good! The diecast heft is apparent and the bike is a nice 1/12 scale, compatible with many other lines of figures. The removable panels and working metal
suspension were instantly reminiscent of one of my favorite toy lines of old; the Dougram Dual Models! The Kaneda rider figure is not the star of the show. He seems a little large for the bike, though not necessarily out of place. In fact I like my Kamen Rider transformation figs with it better. Still, the figure is a very nice bonus for fans of the anime.
First off, it’s the SOP Kaneda’s Bike; there is no “SOP Kaneda” with bike. Most of what I like about it can be found in my Rumble, but to sum it up:
1. Very well made: From high-grade plastics to large amounts of diecast in the chassis, and the crisp tampo-printed decals, even around corners; Detailed navigation dials, clear molded light covers and reflective rear-view mirrors.
2. Excellent gimmicks: From spring-mounted suspension on both rolling rubber-wheels, working steering column that pops-up for “maintenance, to fully removable body panels to display the inner chassis.
3. Accuracy: Iconic sculpt for Kaneda’s likeness and “pill emblem” on jacket, most true-to-anime versions of the bike’s various brand-name decals since the first toy made in 1984.
4. Packaging: Attractively designed windowed display box that is true to the visual style set by Otomo for the original material. Exhaustive technical information of bike not found elsewhere.
5. Very reasonable and affordable price of just 6500 yen (~65USD): Will not bust your wallet to own this definitive edition of an 80’s mecha masterpiece.
6. Best of class: No other version out there comes close! Not the original Bandai mini, not the various gashapon sets, and definitely not the McFarlane’s.
7th place (tie) – Binal Tech Meister, BT-08
Marvin Lee says:
I had to go with the BT-8 Meister (White) aka Jazz… why? Others seem to be a good example of a toy line but the BT line seem to keep getting better. It’s detailed, harks back to an earlier time (The
original G1) but with a modern twist. This site is also mostly for the Gen Xers and this toy CAN be played with or showcased. The others are diamonds in a pile of coals. Going from a Porsche to a RX-8 might be a drop in status in the real car world but the new 8 is probably faster and more reliable than that old slant nosed porsche.
6th place – Max Factory Genesic Gaogaigar
Another surprise from a zinc new-comer, Max Factory’s Genesic
Gaogaigar was designed and packaged to impress. When you first open the
box you are greeted by a set of white gloves that silently set the tone; “Yeah,
baby! We’re more SOC than SOC!” Heavy as hell, super articulated and
anime-accurate, GGGG was perhaps only held back by being GGGG.
5th place – Chogokin Panda Z
Panda Z appeared in sixth place last year in his vinyl rendition.
This year he climbs one notch further towards total world domination.
NEXT YEAR NUMBER ONE!
The Chogokin Panda Z is everything a Japanese toy should be: whimsical, deadly, iconic, fresh, and die-cast.
The “Z” in Panda Z should stand for “Zen” as it is niether a companion nor mockery of the Soul of Chogokin… it is a reflective pool of light whimsy and understated humour that captures the awe of the Soul of Chogokin while deftly doing away with the seriousness of it.
Panda Z is cute, but subtly so. It balances all aspects of Giant Robot culture and media and leaves the collector with a deep sense of inner peace and satisfaction. And its fists fire.
Sure, this year’s SOCs were fantastic. Zambot 3’s engineering and aesthetics were just incredible. And how long have we waited for Poseidon and Garada? Bandai didn’t disappoint in 2004.
But for the true “soul” of Chogokin, nothing beat Panda Z. This was a true old-school toy design, made better with modern manufacturing. Panda Z reminded me of what was appealing about Chogokin in the first place: iconic robot designs, thoughtfully but simply realized as heavy, durable toys. With ROCKET PUNCH! Chogokin Panda Z gets my vote for TOTY.
Steel A. Jeeg says:
It was a tough choice. The SOP Kaneda bike brought the entire line back from the dead after a 3 or 4 year hiatus. The Garada K7 was a first for the Soul of Chogokin line… a REAL
villain. Amdrivers are amazing, and the Saint Cloth figures are very impressive… but the winner had to be the Chogokin Panda-Z. He’s expensive, and he’s small, and his legs can’t move front to back… but he’s an extremely impressive toy that is the EPITOME of this past year’s toy climate. Bandai embraced Japan’s niche market.
4th place – SOC Garada K7
A sentimental favorite and a big surprise to boot, Garada would
probably never have seen the light of molten zinc if good old Zambot hadn’t
tanked so badly at toy counter. One thing’s for sure, when times are tough
Bandai simply repeats the Zen koan; “you can never have too much Mazinger” and
the market obliges.
The FIRST SOC baddie from the Jap anime series of the FIRST super-robot genre, in which its hero Mazinger Z was also the FIRST SOC to be released. In fact, this is the FIRST bad-ass robot to be released as part of the SOC series. Nothing beats die-cast metal in heftiness and the sense of presence.
Kikaiju gokin that epitomizes true soul. back in the old days of good ol TBDX, we spent many a day discussing Soul. much like my
Banpresto Mazinger repro, I look at Garada and I think, “now that guy’s got character.”
Garada is a simple, beautiful toy with a good deal of zinc and a suitably mean look. However, this toy gets my vote simply for finally giving the plethora of SOC Mazingers someone to beat up on (something that even the original “chogokin” series wasn’t able to do). By that measure alone, this toy is a pretty revolutionary hunk of metal.
That, and it’s not a toy co-owned and co-produced by Hasbro. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer my Japanese “Toy of the Year” to be… well, an actual Japanese toy.
3rd place (tie) – Tetsujin-28 (SOC GX-24)
A sentimental posthumous tribute to Mitsuteru Yokoyama’s sudden
departure, it’s tough to find fault with Bandai’s rendition of the godfather of
Japanese robots. The retro-styling is an acquired taste, however, largely
appealing to the old-skoolers and just knocking him out of the top spot.
The sheer heft of it. In a year where plastic prevailed in the soul of CHOGOKIN line this was one hefty S.O.B. The new styled hip joint allowed for greater posability with increased balance. The worn/fade paint job also stands out among the line up as well as the light up eyes. This is an old school character done justice.
Erik Sjoen says:
I don’t buy new toys, but I sure as hell bought this!
Had to go with GX-24 Tetsujin 28. I’m not a huge T28 fan, but this toy was really something- great heft, gimmicks, articulation, paint job and price point makes it a standout release even amongst the fantastic SOC line.
3rd place (tie) – Soul of Chogokin ZAMBOT 3
Eschewing the traditional SOC accessory in favor of a fantastical
gattai in the Clover tradition, Bandai’s Zambot should have hit all the right
buttons: it was big, diecast, anime-accurate, super-accessorized and
gimmicked-to-the-hilt. And yet it bombed in Japan and was generally
unappreciated beyond its borders. Perhaps the problem with Zambot is that
as cool as he looks, he just wasn’t a whole lot of fun. Or maybe the
robotoku are beyond appeasing.
The SOC Zambot 3 is the obvious choice. It is the deluxe SOC set for 2004 with multiple transforming gimmicks and lots and lots of sharp weapons.
While the character itself may not be as popular as Mazinger, the toy is very close to perfection.
Represents all that is cool about Japanese toys for me. Quality, engineering, materials, based on cool character/mythos, individual bots/vehicles that combine to form a larger more powerful robot. Fun to play with, fidgety, good sculpt. No big flaws as far as I am concerned.
2nd place – Getter Poseidon GX-20
Ever the third-rate robo, Poseidon had a lot to overcome this year.
He was released mere days after the polls closed for last year’s TOTY.
Generally, toys released outside of Oscar season don’t tend to be
well-remembered. And yet twelve months later, Poseidon comes a mere single
vote short of capturing the crown. Sure, he’s got loads diecast in all the
right places, real honest-to-badness firing missiles and working rubber
treads…but sometimes it’s all about character, baby!
Simply put, the SOC Getter Poseidon was a wonderful treat of chunky, hefty, glossy diecast goodness. With Getter-1/Getter Dragon usually getting all the attention, it was an incredibly welcome surprise that Bandai would indeed be applying the SOC treatment to this often-neglected character.
Bright colors, swappable legs/treads, spinning Getter Cyclone, and firing missiles really make this toy the essence of what the SOC lineup should be like: A collector’s piece that also fulfills its duties as a toy!
I love the old-school funk of T-28…but Poseidon’s chunky-monkeyness is unmistakable, as well! I look at these guys as modern incarnations of old-school gokin. I know that’s the point of “soul of chogokin”, but I think these guys actually succeed at it!
But in the end, I gotta give it up to my man, P-funk. Warren Sapp proportions. Sharp, badass looks. Cool Getter gimmicks: alternate feet…Strong Missiles…Getter Cyclone…even quasi-gattai…he’s got it all! I even got some pipe-cleaners and made a Finger Net for him! In my book, this puts him over T-28 for play value.
The only potential minus for him is that he *is* kinda lonely without his brothers…
I had been waiting, perhaps all my life, for this. I was too young to try and buy the original Chogokins. The fact that it comes with the Getter ship as well as all the great features from the anime, clinches it for me. The heavy-chunk-of-metal feel is great too!
1st place – Yamato 1:12 Scopedog
He’s big, he’s green and he’s damned near perfect. Since the
dawn of the Japanese robot revival Yamato has worked on the fringes, bringing
life to those character neglected by the cult of Gundam. Their releases
haven’t all been gems — not by a long shot — but perhaps more than any other
manufacturer, Yamato has shown not only that they have honed their craft, but
that they have that special kind of craziness that it takes to stand out in the
world of Japanes high-end collectibles. The naysayers have been silenced;
this is the Scopedog Harrods would sell.
There are several fine toys on the list this year; the two Gaogaigars, the Binal Tech toys – and in some ways the Scopedog isn’t really that much better than they are. But one gets the faint sense playing with the Scopedog that it is a legend in the making. While legendary toys are few and far between, it is possible to imagine collectors decades from now speaking reverently of the giant Scopedog: both solid and dynamic, imposing yet begging to be handled. With this toy Yamato may have come of age. Everything about it speaks of a toymaker that knows its business.
Amazing… Simply amazing. Stunning in scale, detail, and capable of bringing to life all of my memories and impressions of glorious 1980s VOTOMS in the form of an actual honest-to-gawd TOY. Not a fragile SOC… Not a breakable Yamato valk… Not a reissued memory… But a real TOY!
“Real” robots don’t get anymore “real” than the Scopedog. Finally, after years of waiting, a company has the guts to give the Scopedog the royal treatment. Looking forward to more 1:12 Votoms releases from Yamato.