Monday, April 12, 2010

Voltron in Toys (Part 2)

So, if you will remember the last entry was about the original Go-Lion toy released by Popy, a subsidiary of Bandai, (in Japan) and by Bandai American (in America) in 1981. But, the first toy to carry the Voltron III name was based on the same model as the Bandai release and was released by Matchbox in 1984. This is probably the action figure robot most American collectors are familiar with from their childhood.

The Matchbox release of Voltron III (1984).
I assume that the rights were sold to Matchbox when the toy was renamed and remarketed to American children as Voltron III. Like its two predecessors Voltron III could be bought as a complete set or in individual boxes (body, one arm and leg, the other arm and leg). Yet, it no longer carried the full complement of daggers, small missiles, and launchers that had come with the originals. This may have been due to laws regarding the size of children’s toys and regulations to prevent choking. Though, it did retain the blue face (when in combined form) of the previous two models.

Again, this is a die-cast metal toy. The black lion’s shoulder’s open to hide its legs in robot mode and the robot face is hidden in its bottom jaw. Both red and green lions fire their heads (which is never used in the cartoon and seems like a terrible battle tactic). The yellow lion has ear flaps that open to reveal launchers and a pop-up cannon on its back. The blue lion has a pop up head and a cannon on its back as well. Unconfirmed: The Blazing Sword was not included with this version and had to be purchased separately.
The above image was borrowed from this website.

All for now,
Your obedient,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The History of Voltron III (in toys)

First of all, what many of us commonly know as Voltron is actually Voltron III and began life as Beast King Go-Lion. The American series Voltron: Defender of the Universe is actually based off of two anime; Beast King Go-Lion (season I) and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV (season II). In order to maintain continuity the editors of the American series called the first incarnation Voltron III (Voltron of the Far Universe) in charge of protecting the planet Arus from the evil king Zarkon. It was “of the Far Universe” because in continuity Arus was the farthest planet from Earth in the known universe. In season II, we encounter threats much closer to Earth and the Alliance builds a 15 robot team of vehicles that combine to form Voltron I (Voltron of the Near Universe) or simply Vehicle Voltron.

But, this is the history of Voltron III (in toys). I say in toys because the die-cast Voltron III has been released 5-6 times alone. And, this is not including plastic versions of Voltron III, Vehicle Voltron, the action figures, enemies, or playsets. Why 5-6 times? Because, there is a perfect Taiwanese bootleg copy of Voltron III and I don’t know if I should count it or not. So, understanding and collecting a complete die-cast Voltron III is a tremendous headache so I thought I would help some of my nerd comrades by doing some of the groundwork. I’ll break this up into several entries to make it easier to read and digest. And here we go:

Popy toys in Japan released Golion in 1981. For those of you confused, Popy toys is a subsidiary of Bandai. If you found an auction and it says “Bandai” it isn’t fake or mislabeled. Also, the company that actually produces the physical toys is Taiwanese and named Y&K. So if the auction says Y&K it is still okay.

Sidenote: Godaikin was a line of super robot toys released by Bandai America from 1982-1985 based on the Popy Chogokin series. Chogokin simply means "Super Alloy" in Japanese. It is a ficticious metal which first appeared in the Mazinger Z comic. It was adopted by the Popy toy company in 1972 as the name of a new line of die-cast metal robot toys to be sold in Japan. If it says Chogokin, it is Japanese; if it says Godaikin, it is American, either one is an original.

These toys were later recalled because the paints used on the legs contained more lead than allowed by law. I figure you are just fine as long as you don’t lick them, but here are some articles that will help you decide for yourself.

(A Government Website)

All for now.
Your obedient,

(PS: In case you were wondering; TOEI is the animation company that first released Beast King Go-Lion and World Event Productions is the American distributor that adapted that show and released it as Voltron.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

The Lion King isn't Hamlet

Updating from the road is hard. New Orleans is what New Orleans always is to tourists, there's lots of drinking and delicious food. But, onto the important matters at hand. I am going to make this short because this wireless internet keeps trying to crap out on me. While I admit that the setups are similar, the themes that run through the play and film are not and the film's director was not trying to simply retell Hamlet. For example:

The setups are very similar. Scar, brother to Mufasa (King of the African plains) kills Mufasa in order to become king himself. His nephew, Simba, runs away and then returns to fight his uncle for kingship. Meanwhile, Claudius, brother to Old Hamlet (King of Denmark), kills old Hamlet in order to become king. His Nephew, Hamlet (Jr.), avenges his father (eventually). I mean, it's got to be the same story, right?

Very different. Hamlet is plagued by the speed and unnaturalness of his mother who married his uncle after his father's death. He is then visited by a "ghost" who is supposed to be his father who tells Hamlet that Claudius murdered him in the garden. So, Hamlet spends the entire play agonizing over what to do based on what may or may not be his father's soul trapped in purgatory. His internal struggle is his battle with himself and his conscience, does he murder a man he does not know is guilty (there is a chance that this ghost is actually a demon in disguise trying to get Hamlet to commit a wicked act). Hamlet is never sure of Claudius' guilt except on the basis of circumstancial evidence (he never hears Claudius' confession while in prayer). Hamlet loses everything in his quest for revenge and everyone he ever cared about. His murder/death leave Denmark without a king and creates a power vacuum which Fortinbras (also avenging a father) readily steps into.

Simba instead is convinced he killed his father by calling out for Mufasa to rescue him when he was trapped by stampeding water buffalo. Mufasa would have escaped with is life but Scar secretly cast him back into the fray to be trampled by the water buffalo's hooves. His internal struggle is with his unreadiness to be king. He runs away knowing full well that Scar will rule for him. He only returns when he finds out what Scar has done to his homeland and his pride of lions (essentially handing it over to the hyenas). He returns because he has realized he must fulfill his destiny and become king. But he does not avenge his father, he grants Scar mercy, leaving him to "run away and never return" or Simba might then kill him.

In essence, the Hamlet story is about the many faces of revenge, blood in blood out, and the continuation of violence. The Lion King is about realizing one's destiny and not shirking responcibility. So while on the surface these two stories seem the same, the theme set them apart.

Your obediant,