This is an article I've been meaning to write for quite some time. The scholarship, if I may use the word, on these toys is quite limited. I've done some reviews of individual toys over the years, but nowhere on the net was any sort of comprehensive list ever posted. A while ago famed collector Tom Franck finally showed the initiative to start to gather up as much information as possible regarding what toys were made, who made them and how many variations there are. So he sent me his list and I added anything that I knew was missing. But I knew that to really get to the bottom of it all, we'd have to call on the help of someone who lives where these things were sold. So I contacted a friend, Italian super collector Cristiano Rucco, for his expert advice. Between the three of us, I think we've got most of this territory covered. Of course, none of us would be so bold as to claim that we've got it all figured out. After all, new toys and variations are being discovered all the time and each of us learned something we didn't know just from each other during this process. So if anyone else out there has additional information or corrections, please let us know. But for now, I think this overview will help to make clear most of what's out there and give us all a checklist to work from when trying to complete our collections.
During the course of these articles, I will do my best to show images of the toys as well as link to existing reviews here on CollectionDX, but please bear in mind that I do not own a great many of these toys myself so in some cases old, grainy auction or collection photos will be used and in others descriptions will have to suffice. Furthermore, I am only including toys that are absolutely 100% verified to exist.
To begin with, we should point out that the seeds of this genre were originally planted back in Japan with Takemi's "Big Robo" series. These toys were in the Jumbo Machinder style, but stood only 16" tall and depicted the robots from the Machine Blaster series.
While Machine Blaster was not particularly popular in Japan, it was a smash hit in Italy and it should be no surprise to see that these toys were mimicked there. What is surprising is that while Robo Kress was made, none of the other Machine Blaster robots were. Instead, many other toys of the same style, but in a variety of forms, were.
Many different companies made these types of toys, but the three most prolific were "New Gio. Co., "SMC" and "Ceppi Ratti". I plan to do one article on each of these three companies before moving on to the smaller ones.
New Gio. Co. seems like a good company to start with since it appears to me that many of these toys are descended from toys they made as part of their "Robot Serie Dragon" line. There were 5 different characters released under this banner but all of them featured the arms and legs of Robo Kress while the heads bore likenesses of other popular Japanese robots of the day. These characters were:
- Kondor Bleu (Robo Kress)
- Mantide Nera (Daikengo)
- Falco Rosso (Atoranger)
- Dragonne Giallo (Combattler V)
- Aquila Nera (Great Mazinger)
It should be pointed out that this series was broken up into two different releases. The first release contained only the Kondor Bleu and Mantide Nera characters. Both came in the same box that featured the Mantide Nera and Aquile Nera robots on the front, but had images of the Mantide Nera and Kondor Bleu toys on the sides and a check box telling you which toys was inside.
The second release contained Mantide Nera again, but this time the sides of the box showed it, along with Falco Rosso, Aquila Nera and Dragonne Giallo. No Kondor Bleu was pictured this time around.
They also released a rarely seen set containing the same Jeeg toy above, along with a Starzinger ship and a robot that has Danguard Ace's body but a strange lion head!
Lastly, they also produced at least two smaller (10") toys that should be included in this category. Both are extremely rare, so much so that I've only seen one example of each. One is an original character called "Robot di Pace", but the other is the famous Pegas robot from "Tekkaman, The Space Knight". Notice that they use the same arms and legs.
Final tally for New Gio. Co.:
- Kondor Bleu
- Mantide Nera (in first version box)
- Mantide Nera (in second version box)
- Aquila Nera
- Falco Rosso
- Dragonne Giallo
- Danguard Ace
- Jeeg (set)
- Robot di Pace
To be continued next week with a look at SMC...