|Character Design||Go Nagai|
Review by Sanjeev
Well, this is a helluva thing...
By now, I'm sure most of you know about the "big" purchase for me last year. Heh...y'all are probably sick of hearing about it by now! ;)
Anyway, I feel like I've already written volumes about this particular grail tale. Hell, there's already HD video up of us talking about it!
For those already familiar, let's just jump right into the review...
UFO Robo Grendizer (UFOロボ·グレンダイザー), based on a Go Nagai manga, first aired in Japan in 1975, and wrapped up in '77 after 74 episodes.
In 1972, Japanese toy maker Popy took the world by storm by releasing a character toy from the now-legendary cartoon series, "Mazinger Z". The eponymous giant robot was a favorite among children, and Popy wanted to cash in on the bigger-is-better craze by developing a toy that conveyed that stature. The Jumbo Machinder was born. Two feet tall. Rugged blow-molded polyethylene. Sticker details. Missile adornments. These were the toys of the gods.
With the airing of Grendizer in 1975 and the enormous popularity of the Jumbo Machinder toyline, it was only inevitable that the second Mazinger sequel would get the 24-inch treatment (wow, that sounds vaguely wrong). Anyway, what wasn't necessarily inevitable was whether Popy would produce a Jumbo of Grendizer's signature vehicle/accessory...the Spazer. Grendy...with no Spazer? That'd be like Kool-Aid, but no sugar. Peanut butter, but no jelly. Ham, no burger! Damn.
Well, lucky for us, Popy came through!
Now, my details on this are a little hazy. It was my understanding before that you couldn't even buy these in stores. I'd read that they were offered only as a mail-away monthly prize drawing from a particular kid's magazine. Resident Jumbo Whisperer, NekroDave, says they were, in fact, available in select stores, though--just in different packaging. Of course, if they were in stores, I'd imagine from their scarcity today that they were available in far fewer quantities than your average hero Jumbo. Hopefully, Dave can chime in with any further thoughts on the history of this piece. Either way, the Jumbo Machinder Grendizer Spazer is one of the toughest hero Jumbos to track down, and easily among the most sought after.
In order for your Spazer to get to your home in one piece, Popy took their time wrapping it up in a pretty clever way. First of all, the toy comes unassembled. The main weapon pod wings, the smaller red wings, the dorsal/vertical stabilizer, the handlebars, and the cockpit are all separate. These parts are carefully stuffed into the cavity of the Spazer, and you're left with just the saucer-shaped main body of the Spazer...with four heavy-duty steel swivel-casters (wheels!) on the bottom. So, what they did was tape a block of dense styrofoam to the bottom of the Spazer between the wheels to brace the cardboard box. The arrangement is surprisingly stable.
The one piece of paperwork I got with this toy is the simple one-sided, full-color instruction sheet. It's killer: the hand-drawn instructions on the sides are accurate to the final released version of the toy, but the photo of the kid riding the Spazer actually depicts some wild prototype of it!
Now, if I may digress about that prototype image for a moment... First, take a look at this hi-res version of the pic above. Peep the gimungous wheels in the back and the fact that there even seems to be a tiny action figure of Duke Freed in the cockpit! Also, the handlebars are blue and appear to fire the big Spazer missiles (the Spin Drills). There are no small red wings and the main wings don't seem to shoot the normal armament (but seem to have classic Bullmark-style spinners).
Okay, now check out these pics below, which came from a 1975 issue of Terebi-Kun (I believe), courtesy of Brother Love, himself, TBDX's Chairman Sjoen:
It's a whole different prototype. Note the bluish plastic used instead of the stark white. Again, there seems to be a figure of Duke Freed piloting the toy, but the whole cockpit arrangement is completely different. The small red wings are present, but the main weapon pod wings are utterly neutered. The "Melt Shower" ("Hydro Phasers" in the Force Five English dub) emitters just below the cockpit seem to fire missiles, though. Nice touch! Oh, and from the forearms, you can tell that the Grendizer docked with it seems to be the same weird prototype featured on the cover (and inside) of Grendizer's instructions.
Now, who wouldn't kill for either of these prototype Spazers? I wonder if they even exist intact somewhere today... Hell, who wouldn't kill to be one of those lucky lil tykes riding the damn things in these photos!?
Okay, back to the toy.
Once you break out the bits, you need a screwdriver and about five minutes before you're ready to hasshin. The hull of the Spazer is super-heavy duty plastic, but the vertical fin is gin-yoo-wine blow molded polyethylene. It's held in by the black cockpit piece that, itself, requires two screws to secure it to the Spazer hull. The small red wings just slide into the sides, then the main weapon wings peg in from above, threading through the hole in the red wings. They're basically held in by friction, but the arrangement is sufficiently solid. Finally, the black handlebars peg in very simply to the top.
First, let's check out the cockpit. They obviously did away with the fully-painted Duke Freed figure and replaced it with a simple color-printed, folded piece of cardboard. I sure would've liked a figure--but only if it was painted really well. Of course, that would've driven up the price quite a bit. All things considered, I don't mind that they went with the cardboard Duke. Another interesting thing to add is that the clear plastic canopy is very thin and fragile. It's the type of flexible plastic you'd see cradling a carded action figure.
The assembled toy is absolutely magnificent. The lines are graceful, the size is impressive. It's a sight to behold.
You'll notice that the floor of the Spazer's cavity is covered by a sheet of colorful printed cardboard...most likely to protect a docked Grendizer from getting scratched--foresight unfortunately lacking when the GA-37 DX was developed! Anyway, another thing you'll notice is that the red vinyl decals on the top of the hull are peeling up pretty bad. I just haven't gotten around to fixing that, but it should be simple. The vinyl is really thick, and the stuff's pretty stiff. I'm going to use some double-sided tape or spray adhesive, then heat up the vinyl with a blow-dryer and stick it back down.
Anyway, next up...accessories!
First, the Spin Saucers! When I first loaded the circular saw blade-shaped missile into the starboard launcher, it simply wouldn't come out again! I got a little nervous, but I unscrewed the launcher pod and saw that it was powered by a rubber band...that's older than me. Oh yeah--it crumbled instantly. I replaced it and put the launcher back together. Now, it whips that Spin Saucer out with ferocity!
The port-side launcher shoots the Spin Drill. This launcher's old-school: spring-powered! But again, when I pushed in the ginormous missile, it just wouldn't lock. I once again took the launcher apart and realized that you just really have to mash that missile in for the mechanism to catch. Yes, it's got serious distance.
Finally, the handlebars! Okay, these are weird...check it out. So, they pop into the top of the hull and are held in solidly by friction. They can rotate any direction you want. ...Why? Well, they shoot Jumbo missiles. Great! Well, here's the catch: the Spazer comes with six missiles and they're almost identical to normal Jumbo missiles. Almost. Turns out, the inner diameter of the missile shaft is just a hair smaller than the inner diameter of standard missiles...like, y'know, the fourteen that come with Grendizer! So, that basically means that if you take any standard Jumbo missiles (yes, including any of the fourteen that come with Grendy), and try to load them into these launchers, the inner diameter is too large to engage the friggin' spring, and are thus useless!
Remember that one gripe I mentioned about the Grendizer Jumbo in my review? All those lovely missiles...and nothing to do with them? Well, this is just salt in that wound. I can't even use 'em with the Spazer's launchers! Eh well...I just need to be careful not to mix up the six Spazer-handlebar missiles with other Jumbo missiles...
Mmm...the toy's looking pretty sweet. Just seems like it's missing something...
What could it be?
And why does Grendizer's head tilt backwards anyway?
This is what we're here for folks. The main attraction.
When I bought my Grendizer Jumbo four years ago, this is what I committed to completing.
The connection between the two toys is solid enough, but I wouldn't go tilting it down and shaking the rig. The first thing you'll notice after combining the two toys is the weight! When you pick up the docked Spazer, you need both (adult) hands to contend with the big, awkward size and mass. I can't even imagine how young kids must have played with this thing. Well...clearly, they threw on the handlebars and sat on this behemoth!
Barring some photoshop fun in the coming months, you're not gonna see anyone actually riding this toy (unless they're actual kids that don't weigh much!). As you can probably imagine, I'm not going to be displaying it with the handlebars on, but they're definitely neat to have.
Well, there ya have it. My grail. Acquired.
What's next? Well, there's a certain carnival or two out there that I need to visit after hours with a hacksaw, but in the meantime, I'll still pick up a few toys here and there.
But for now, I'm pretty happy with my score. The pair is currently standing above the TV in my living room so that I may bask in their glory.
And it appears that it has passed NekroDave's inspection!
Like I said, guys, there's already tons of stuff written about this toy. If you haven't already, please pop over to the TBDX brog and check out my original New Year's announcement. There, you can read up on the wild ride this toy took getting here! Then, here's the main discussion on TBDX; and while we're at it, here's the discussion on skullbrain. And if you really want a trip down memory lane, here's my TBDX thread from '06 when I first got Grendizer!
Of course, besides this and the Grendizer review, there are the "Some Assembly Required" episodes. ...And please pardon the zaniness of that whole production. The discussion (and musical interlude) oozed from our fevered and depraved brains at 3AM!
Lastly, if you're not completely burnt out on this whole saga, please visit the gallery. There are lots of pics I spared you from in this review! They chronicle the whole damn event, and really complement the TBDX brog article nicely. The first six images are from the set the seller originally sent me from France when we first started chatting. The next several are pics my "agent in France" took as he secured the whole rig for shipping to the US! Everything taken thereafter with a black background is all me from the night I got the package. Please have a look.
Thanks for reading...and sharing in this insane journey with me!
|Posted 1 February, 2010 - 12:02 by Sanjeev|