Awesome Toys of the ’80s: Shogun Warriors

The Shogun Warriors family portrait. I miss these guys.

My soon-to-be-4 son has suddenly taken an interest in the Power Rangers, Saban’s long-running (20 years!) Westernization of several different Japanese tokusatsu (“special effects”) superhero series. And by “taken an interest,” I mean “obsessed to the point of believing that he is the blue ranger.”

I had never watched the show before, although growing up in the 1980s I was totally into all of the Japanese import television programs that crossed over—shows like “Star Blazers” (“Space Battleship Yamato”), “Battle of the Planets” (“Science Ninja Team Gatchaman”), and “Robotech” “(Superdimensional Fortress Macross”). Back in the ’80s, “Japanimation” was a novelty—you couldn’t walk into any mainstream bookstore and find an entire section of Japanese comics and kids were often not even aware that the cool robot cartoons they were watching were foreign-made.

One of the coolest things about the Power Rangers shows are the Zords, giant robots that the Rangers pilot when their goofy alien adversaries grow to giant sizes. My son loves them, and I do, too. We love giant robots in this household, always have and always will. With Christmas coming, I thought I would look into getting him some of my favorite toys from when I was small—the Shogun Warriors. These were giant-sized, hollow plastic robot action figures that usually had several eyeball-threatening features such as launchable ninja stars, missiles and spring-loaded rocket fists. And they were all imported from Japan, although they were released in the U.S. by Mattel.

Two of my favorite Shogun Warriors. Mazinga (left) is here pictured in a variant version that has a removable plane that fits into his “brain.” In the show, the kid who pilots Mazinga flies it. Raydeen (right) came in a couple of variants, including one that had a bow instead of the arm blade. You can see his rocket fist in the box as well as one of the delta-wing missiles that fire out of his chest.

I didn’t know when I was little that these Shogun Warriors were from very popular Japanese comics and TV shows, all I knew was that they were awesome. They were brightly colored, exciting and highly stylized. And they were perfect toys for little boys like me and my son that flip out over the idea of a robot with a giant sword or battle axe. The characters all originated from the “Super Robot” genre, which typically describes stories where there is a kid or group of kids that fall in with some kind of super-scientist or scientific organization and get tasked with piloting a humanoid robot to combat aliens, monsters or some other evil force bent on polluting, destroying or enslaving the Earth. The Super Robot genre would eventually go on to strongly influence the toy lines and shows that would become The Transformers in the U.S.

The Shogun Warriors were actually licensed from several cartoon studios and toy manufacturers—such as Bandai Japan in an odd deal that also included Marvel Comics—agreeing to share Spider-Man TV rights in exchange for publishing a Shogun Warriors comic book in English. I had the full run of the comics, many of which were written by Doug Moench, one of Marvel’s best writers in the 1970s, and the robots often crossed paths with the Avengers, Fantastic Four and other Marvel heroes. Spider-Man enjoyed a successful run as a Japanese tokusatsu show, in which he piloted a giant robot called Leopardon. Obviously not canonical, true believers.

I absolutely loved these toys. I had the entire line of the 24-inch giant-sized figures, which also included superstar Toho monsters Godzilla and Rodan. There were also smaller die-cast metal figures and a series of vehicles, also imported straight from Japan and put into English language packaging. Mattel actually preserved most of their original names—Raydeen, Gaiking, Dragun, and Mazinga (altered slightly from Mazinger, one of the most influential and widely revered Super Robot characters).

The weirdest by-product of the Shogun Warriors toy line is Spider-Man’s giant robot. The comic was surprisingly good, though, and featured plenty of robot action along with some Marvel favorites. Pictured is Combattra shooting his fist at the Fantastic Four.

So, off to the usual online sources I went to see if I could possible get a Raydeen or Mazinger Shogun Warrior for my son. I anticipated that they may be worth a hundred bucks or so.

Well, Rodan can sell for as much as $1,000 and is one of the more sought-after figures in the line. I have at least half of him in my parents’ basement. I discovered that there is a parts market, as well, as folks that make replacement stickers and missiles in case you shot them off all over the yard and never found them again. I also found out that a company called Toynami had licensed Shogun Warriors back in 2010 and had issued replicas of the original toys as part of their Jumbo Machinder line, which also included an awesome-looking Golion, who is better known in the U.S. as Voltron, Defender of the Universe.

About $1,000 or so worth of Kaiju. Rodan’s wings flapped and he made a kind of screechy sound when he opened his mouth. Godzilla had a fire tongue and, for some bizarre reason, his fist shot off like the other Shogun Warriors.

So, my dreams of a Super Robot Shogun Warrior Christmas for my boy were thwarted. In defeat, I ordered him a couple of megazords from the recent Power Rangers Megaforce line. They’re cool enough and can do awesome things, like combine together to form an even larger robot, but they don’t fire missiles and they’re not as big and awe-inspiring as the Shogun Warriors were. I told my wife that when I hit the jackpot, we’re going to have every Shogun Warrior toy ever made. She grimaced at me.

Michael Barnes is a lifelong game player, collector and enthusiast. He has parlayed his passion for games into several successful ventures, including a retail hobby store, two popular gaming Websites, and 10 years of widely read commentary and criticism about both tabletop and video games.

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