Author: Matt Alt with Robert Duban
As far back as I can remember Robots have always held a unique fascination for me. From being a child I was entranced by them from the original The Transformers to Number 5 in Short Circuit to The Terminator (probably shouldn’t have been watching that last one at the time). However when I discovered anime and encountered both the “super robot” and “real robot” genres this love turned into a full blown obsession.
Enter Super #1 Robot, a book about Japanese robot toys that spans from 1972-1982 and covers a variety of different toy lines, anime/tokusatsu shows and manufacturers. I’ve wanted this book for quite a while, it’s been out of print for a few years and often pops up with silly price tags online. Thankfully by being patient I managed to get it for a rather decent £13 rather than the frankly insane asking prices on the likes of Amazon marketplace and Ebay.
So what’s in it exactly? Photos for the most part! A huge range of photos of notable robot toys from the likes of Popy/Bandai, Takatoku and Clover. The choice of the period it covers is due to the fact that this is when Japanese robot toys started to get a lot more creative and interesting because of the glut of Japanese live action TV shows and anime featuring them. This led to more toys being produced as tie-in merchandise. The 70’s saw the rise of the “super robot” anime like Mazinger Z and Daltanious and later in the early 80’s the more realistic robots such as those featured in Macross, Gundam and Patlabor. As the engineering on these toys got better so did their likeness to the respective properties they sprang from. At first the toys were boxy, square and inaccurate by today’s standards but fun and pleasing to the eye nonetheless. However from the 80’s to now the giant robot toy underwent a steady climb in quality; making ultra accurate metal behemoths with every conceivable feature a kid or man-child could want.
Unfortunately there isn’t a great deal of text in the book. There’s a couple of introductory articles in the front and an afterword totalling less than 30 pages with over 220 pages dedicated to images of the robots themselves. The articles are very informative if you’re new to Japanese robots and the companies featured. If you’ve never heard words like “Chogokin” or “Super Sentai” it’ll tell you everything you need to know to get started. However if you’re quite familiar with the world of Japanese robot toys it’ll likely be all stuff you already know. Falling into the latter category I still found the introductory articles and afterword entertaining to read, however the reason I bought the book was the photographs of the toys themselves. On that front the book certainly doesn’t disappoint. Every major player (and quite a few not so major ones) are represented here from Tetsujin 28 to Zambot 3.
The photos while of a high quality do miss out certain details. Most toys are shown without additional weapons and parts, there is only one image per bot (no pictures of different modes or what they look like with weapons or gear) and the boxes aren’t shown either. The author does state however that it’s not a collector’s reference guide book and is more of a study of how robot toys evolved during that era. If you’re just after a fun book that shows an decade of innovation in toys or if you’re a modern collector wondering what old school versions of your favourite die cast pals looked like then this is a decent little read.
Overall a fun book that makes me wish I had a lot more money than I do. Someone really needs to translate some of the Japanese books out there and release them in the English market for collectors though.
Craig’s Note: By the way I realise a little thing called the internet exists and that it’s quite a good source of information. However English language sites don’t seem to hold half of the information I’ve seen in a lot of dedicated Japanese books on the subject.