In 1985 Japanese toy and model kit manufacture Bandai released a line of 1/12 futuristic military action figures called SF Spiral Zone. Veteran Gundam mecha designers Kunio Ookawara and Kazuhisa Kondo designed the Spiral Zone figures and their intricate uniforms and weapons. The releases were divided into “Acts” with only twelve Acts ever being produced and released.
Spiral Zone was state of the art for toy manufacturing for its day, the most innovative feature being the SZ figure itself that utilized Bandai’s new Systeminjection molded manufacturing process that is still being used today. The figure featured 30-point articulation in 1/12 scale, the memorable feature being the moveable trigger finger that could accurately be put on the trigger of the weapons that were provided.
The figures' uniforms were equally innovative. The DX sets included a figure, real cloth uniform, rubber boots, plastic armor parts and weapons and detailed file cards. SZ detail balanced a fine line between toy and model kit and was aimed towards the high dollar toy and model kit collector market and were mostly advertised in model magazines such as Hobby Japan. Other sets included two basic figures, four extra real cloth uniform sets, two weapon systems and the crown jewel and only vehicle of the line, Act 10 Monoseed Type III Monocycle.
Three other licensed Saint Seiya and one Kamen Rider Black sets that also utilized the Spiral Zone Systeminjection figures were also produced. Other SZ items included a set Gashapon Super-deformed figures, weapons and vehicles in both rubber and plastic, an Image vinyl LP record album and 45rpm single, posters, notebooks, a board game and various books. Street Fighter figures were also produced using various components of the Spiral Zone figures such as the head and hands but the bodies were entirely different from the Spiral Zone figures.
All this detail was at a huge cost, with the average DX set costing $25.00 in 1980’s money. In 1987, after only two years production and on the verge of releasing new figures and vehicles the line abruptly ended with only twelve Spiral Zone “Acts” and four other licensed Saint Seiya and Kamen Rider sets ever being released.
In 1987 Tonka licensed the Spiral Zone name and concept and manufactured their own line of Spiral Zone toys. They were incompatible with Bandai’s SZ line and featured their own Tonka designed figures and real cloth sets. Although the figures were better produced than most USA toys at the time, Tonka’s quality was still more toy-like than Bandai’s SZ line. The Tonka SZ line are fondly remembered by collectors today but the line was quickly lost to many kids and collectors at the time due to the many toy series that were being produced in the 1980’s.
In 1999 Yutaka released four figures utilizing Spiral Zone Systeminjection bodies as well as their own version of SZ figures. They were also aimed for the high dollar figure market but the accessories and uniforms also did not match the quality of the earlier Bandai Spiral Zone releases and can be easily found under $15.00 today.
Due to the fragility of the figures and sets, complete original Bandai Spiral Zone sets are high dollar collector items. Great caution is needed when purchasing sets today as they are sometimes missing or have broken parts or figures are replaced with Yutaka figures or priced beyond the market price. Nearly 30 years later SF Spiral Zone still hold a special place in SZ collectors hearts of not only what could been but what high quality and imaginative figures and accessories that were actually released and produced by Bandai.
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