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Poplar-ity Contest

text: Matt Alt, graphics: Robert Duban

June 2001, revised November 2004

Updated: 11.01.04

Image contributions: Yutaka Ishida / Kaikodo

[Poplar logo] "The light that burns half as long burns twice as brightly." One of the many bit players that graced the Japanese toy industry in the early 1980s, hapless Poplar survived only long enough to produce toys for two animated television shows.

Poplar was a spin-off of Clover. Flush with cash from the success of its Gundam toys, Clover founded Poplar in 1982 as a dedicated manufacturing company. Until Poplar's creation, Clover relied entirely upon on Takara's manufacturing company, Takara Industries, to engineer and mass produce its products.

The president of Clover -- who helmed both companies -- intended Poplar as the first step in a "war of independence." if all went well, Poplar would liberate its parent company from having to rely on other manufacturers, allowing Clover to challenge its rivals for the top spot in the Japanese toy industry. In fact, in what appears to have been a test run of sorts, Poplar acted as the sole sponsor for a 1982 animated series by the name of "Acrobunch."

Produced in the wake of the popularity of the film "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Acrobunch (Maiki Densetsu Akurobanchi -- "Legend of the Demon Zone : Acrobunch" -- 5/5/82 - 12/24/82) followed the adventures of an archaeologist and his family as they hunted for secret treasure using (what else?) a giant robot. Traveling through the forbidden zone of "Devil Land" in five futuristic vehicles that doubled as living quarters, the family could combine them into the towering "Acrobunch" when threatened by aliens, monsters, or giant rolling boulders. Their rallying cry? "Attack-Ro-Bunch!," of course.

Poplar's main claim to fame as a toy company is their beautifully-executed portrayal of the Acrobunch robot. The deluxe version would eventually be repackaged by a company called "Royal Condor" and sold in North American stores as the generic "Pentabot."

Unfortunately for Poplar, neither Acrobunch nor any of the shows Clover sponsored in the years following Gundam proved to be particularly popular. Poplar's final project would be co-sponsoring the Srungle series with its rapidly failing parent company. Clover's declaration of bankruptcy in 1983 proved to be the kiss of death for Poplar, the short-lived company it had created.

[Acrobunch in Devil Land]
[Image] Acrobunch - mini Additional Images:
[Image] Acrobunch - ST Additional Images:
[Image] Kyoui Gattai 5 ("Wonderous Combination") DX Additional Images:
[Image] Kyoui Gattai 5 (plastic) Additional Images:
[Image] Plastic Power Dash Kyoui Gattai Additional Images:
[Image] vinyl Additional Images:
[Image] Acrobunch target set Additional Images:
DX Attacker 5 vinyl set (Fore Igngs, Quera Douse, Dira Noth, Andro Dems & Acrobunch) Additional Images:

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