Review by NekroDave
It must have been a most exciting time for Jumbo fans in 2000 when Unifive began releasing their line of "Jumbo Machines". Unfortunately for me, at the time I wasn't collecting yet and would only come on board at the tail end of the line. I never really thought about it until now, but I suppose there's a decent chance that if Unifive (or U5) hadn't produced these, I might never have ended up involved in the hobby.
Though this line is an obvious homage to the vintage Popy Jumboo Machinders, many things were slightly changed to differentiate the two brands. Most notably the name, but also the toys themselves are new, unique sculpts slightly modified from the originals. Unifive released 4 characters in the line, beginning with the most popular of all Japanese super robots, Mazinger Z and ending with his most famous enemy kikaiju, Garada K7. Great Mazinger and Gaiking rounded out the series and a fifth entry, Combattler V, was planned and a prototype made before the line was cancelled due to poor sales.
Probably the most comprehensive review of this toy would include a comparison with the original Popy Mazinger Z Jumbo Machinder. But I'm one of those collectors who prefers to buy the remake and wait on the original until I have all the other characters that were not remade. So I've never owned an original Mazinger Z. Therefore, I'll try to just focus on this specific toy, making note of things I've been told about the original where applicable.
The most notable difference that anyone can see between this and the original is the paint on the eyes and horns. Here it is gold, whereas the original was yellow. This makes it very easy to distinguish between the two, so you won't have any question which one you were buying. Most everything else seems basically the same (though if you have both and want to correct that, leave a comment!). 23.5" tall with wheels on the feet, though the wheels on mine don't roll particularly well. Mazinger Z comes with a full compliment of 14 missiles, but nothing with which to shoot them. Unifive did release a separately sold missile launching set of fists, as well as rocket punch fists (diagrams of which are on the side of the box) that could be swapped out for the regular hands. I've never bought any of these, but I believe that they are not compatible with vintage jumbos (nor vintage accessories compatible with the U5 Jumbos).
One of the things that I like most about this toy is how much easier it is to remove the fists than it is on the vintage Jumbos. These slide on and off pretty smoothly. In additon to the fists, the Hover Pilder in the head can be removed too. This is a simply vinyl piece with a hole in the bottom that is placed over a tab in the head cavity. Stickers adorn the front and sides for added detail. Besides the Hover Pilder, the head and red chest pieces are also made of vinyl, with the rest of the toy being polyethylene. A sticker saying "Mazinger Z" in Japanese (マジンガーZ) is on the waist and copyright markings are on the back, including the word "Unifive" to further distinguish this from the original.
One of my biggest regrets from my time as a jumbo collector concerns this toy. Several years back an auction appeared on Yahoo!Japan containing the wooden prototype for this toy. The auction also had second specimen with the head removed. Though I didn't realise it at the time, apparently this was the specimen that Unifive had used for the photo on the box! In addition to this already desirable bounty, the auction include a Shogun Warrior Great Mazinger as well as the Unifive release of the Jet Scrander accessory. The auction ended at about 100,000 yen (or roughly $900 at the time) and for some reason I decided to buy a Getter Liger instead! D'oh!! What in the world was I thinking!? Most frustrating was that this was before I realised that massive credit card debt is totally acceptable in the pursuit of cool toys, so I easily could have bought both.....but didn't. A once in a lifetime opportunity gone by the wayside....
Maybe it was because of this that when I later saw a listing for a "Unifive Mazinger Z prototype" on a Japanese website, I didn't hesitate. I emailed Japanese toy dealer Masato Shono and asked him to find out about it for me. What I was told was that a former employee of Unifive had sold this to the shop and that it was planned to be a recolored release of the toy, but never went into production. I was told it was displayed at a toy convention and it came with a card saying something to the effect of "For future release", though this card appears to be entirely in Chinese. I've never heard anything else to corroborate this story and I honestly have no idea if it is in fact true, or if it is a custom that someone sold to the shop under false pretenses (I sincerely doubt the shop would make the story up.) I'd be inclined to dismiss it entirely if not for the fact that Unifive had already released repaints of their Garada K7. Perhaps they tried it here and decided that it wasn't worth doing since paint wouldn't stick as well to polyethylene as vinyl (note the chip on the right arm). Or it's just as likely a total fake. Either way, I think it looks pretty good and it's an interesting conversation piece, if nothing else.
Unifive's Mazinger Z Jumbo Machine is a great piece to get for the new collector, or even if you're already into the vintage jumbos. It's a nice toy and still pretty easily attainable.
|Posted 24 March, 2007 - 18:08 by NekroDave|