V for Victora!
text: Matt Alt, graphics: Robert Duban
Image contributions: H-Man & Yutaka Ishida / Kaikodo
It's tough to get terribly excited about a company like Victora. Nearly every single piece they ever produced was utterly cheap, expressly designed for train-station kiosks, convenience stores, souvenir stands, and anywhere else people made impulse purchases. Complicating the situation, Victora used several different logos on their products, making it difficult for modern-day toy collectors to get a real grip on the scope of the series. And finally, almost every Victora toy portrays a character that had already been produced in a higher-quality form anyway, meaning that only true die-hards even care to spend money on the things. Who WERE these guys? Popy, that's who. That's right. Sure, it's difficult to associate Victora's bottom-of-the-barrel trinkets with a company as deeply respected as Popy, but that was exactly the point. Popy dominated the market for exquisitely-engineered "standard" and "deluxe" diecast character toys in the late '70s and early '80s, so it was only natural that they would seek revenue on the cheap toy front as well. After spending huge sums of money advertising that "Popy" meant "quality," however, they needed a way to distance themselves from the cheap-ass products they'd soon be hawking. And Victora was the obvious choice. Victora didn't start out as a purveyor of cheap thrills. In fact, they began as little more than a brand name. The first toys sold under the Victora name prominently featured the Popy logo and were large, high-quality portrayals of vehicles from the shows "Starzinger" and "Jacker Dengekitai." These pieces dovetailed nicely with the rest of the Popy line and even featured a similar product numbering system (VA-XX and VJ-XX, for those keeping score - see the early Victora list below). But things quickly changed around 1978. Shifting focus, Victora seemed to become an entity unto themselves, shedding the Popy logo and churning out some of the sleaziest, most hastily-made character toys ever to come out of Japan. Most of these toys were nearly entirely plastic and easily breakable; some didn't even feature attachment points for the accessories they came with. But it hardly mattered. As parent company Popy had already produced high-quality versions of the exact same characters, Victora's role was simply to "mop-up" any residual income that could be milked from the licenses. Perhaps because of their relatively rapid "paradigm shift," Victora's packaging came to feature a variety of different logos. The packaging for the very first Victora toys actually featured the words "Victorer Series" in English. Some made use of a dark-green oval containing the characters for "Victora," while others used a "Victora Gokin" brand name. All of the boxes also featured a white "P" in a red circle, ostensibly a nod to parent company Popy. (The logo was also used on items produced by "Robin," another Popy spin-off company, as well.) And on a related note, this "P" mark often seems to be mistaken for that of an unrelated company called "Poem," which often leads to misidentification of Victora toys as Poem pieces. Is your head spinning yet? Victora was quite prolific, producing character toys based on dozens of different licenses. And considering the fact that they had Popy's entire catalog to work with, you'd expect their pieces to be hot collectibles. But then again, Victora toys don't exactly rank as sterling examples of the quality level collectors have come to associate with the Japanese toy industry. Enjoy 'em for what they are: cheap 'n sleazy fun. Viva Victora!
Partial early Victora list:
Partial early Victora list: