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Anime History 101: Giant Mechs of the 70's and 80's - Gundam's Earliest Ancestors!

Discussion in 'Review District' started by Walkurefan46, Aug 5, 2017.

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  1. Walkurefan46

    Walkurefan46 New Member

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    Fans of giant mech anime are pretty jaded by now, seeing as how the sight of huge metal leviathans duking it out on the screen is pretty commonplace. But the fans of today don't always realize that their favorite Gundam or Patlabor mech had much earlier ancestors, as far back as the 1960s! (The first actual Giant Mecha show was Tetsujin 28, known as "Gigantor" here.)

    By the late 70s and early 80s, the only two production houses here in the US that distributed anime was either Sandy Frank Productions (which had overseen the horrible dubs of the Gamera films earlier that decade), and Jim Terry Productions. Both houses were known for shoddy ADR production, bad talent, and even worse - BAD TRANSLATION! (Translating Japanese to English is never easy, and more often than not, entire series were "Americanized" - their original stories scrapped, new stories written in, and all because no one was able to correctly translate the original dialogue... For further reference, look up the Americanized version of Mazinger Z, renamed "Tranzor Z".)

    So while Sandy Frank was hard at work slaughtering Super Science Ninja Team Gatchaman and Uchuu Senkan Yamato, Jim Terry had just optioned the rights for what would become classics of anime: Force Five. He bought the second season of Getter Robo (Getter Robo G), and the end result - Starvengers - introduced after-school kids to the joys of giant combiner mecha. Seeing this success, he was quick to obtain the rights for other series, most notably the Yuusha Raideen and Dangard Ace series, both of which also became members of the "Force Five" team.

    This success also brought toys into play. Enter Mattel Toys, who saw the potential, as well as the marketability of the giant 'bots. In 1976, Mattel made a deal to buy the rights to distribute Popy's giant line of figures, as well as the miniature die-cast toys made by Takara. The Shogun Warriors were born. Great Mazinger, Gaiking, Star Dragon, Yuusha Raideen, UFO Grandizer, Dangard Ace, and Combattler V were the core characters in this toy line, complete with a variety of weapons: hand missile launchers that really fired tiny darts that could be easily swallowed by kiddies, and various pointy parts that could stab you a good one if you fell onto them.

    It was a time when Natural Selection played an important role in the backyard sandbox. For instance, if little Billy ate too many marbles, Billy would never grow up to have kids of his own. (Later on, both Gojira and Radon would also see toys in this line, but that's a different tale for a different time.)

    So the history of Anime in the USA is still chronicled by otaku like myself, who actually witnessed it every afternoon when we got home from school, with the help of our UHF antennas, or Showtime, when we finally got cable tv. We share our stories with the new generation, so that they might learn more about their roots.

    Marvel Comics' "Shogun Warriors" Issue #1, with Raideen on the cover.


    Brave Raideen in giant toy form. If you had any of the giant figures, you instantly became the coolest kid on your block in the late 70s.

    Actually, if you had Raideen, you were god incarnate. This was a rare, and very much sought-after toy.

    Commercial from 1978, introducing Gojira to the Shogun Warriors family...

    The opening song to "Gigantor", the 1960s US version of Tetsujin 28. This is to date the earliest ancestor of today's giant mecha.


    Sometime around 1984, D.C. Comics tried to cash in on the Anime mech rip-off boom, stealing tons of mecha from Fang of the Sun Dougram for this (thankfully) short series. Harmony Gold had released the Robotech TV series that same year, and Revell had obtained the rights to sell model kits from the various different series that comprised the (then) Robotech franchise. *Note: Fang of the Sun Dougram was NEVER included in the Robotech TV series, but was prominent in the plastic model line, for some reason...

    I like to pretend this cinematic abortion never happened... But one can't change the past, you can only learn from past mistakes.

    ...And then, there was this horrible story that should have remained "untold".

    There were actually decent shows during the 80s. Mighty Orbots was one of them. Airing on ABC's Saturday morning lineup in the mid-80s, it was actually an ORIGINAL show, created by Japan for American audiences.

    Once upon a time, the Transformers were anime... Thank you, Toei Productions!!

    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017