Synopsis of Toy
“Invincible Guardians of World Freedom!”
The Shogun Warriors were ground zero for many a future anime fan. Japanese pop culture had already hit U.S. shores in the form of TV’s Speed Racer, the Godzilla movie series and others, but the Shogun Warriors showed American kids what U.S. toys had been missing all these years: giant, freaky-cool robots.
Those lucky Japanese kids had been playing with the Shogun Warriors for years before American kids got their chance. In their native land, the Warriors were stars of manga (comic books), anime (cartoons), and of course, the toy world. Mattel licensed the toy line from Popy Toy, and in 1979, the first four Shogun Warriors set their giant robotic feet on U.S. shores.
Actually, one of those first four was no robot at all, but rather a ringer sent in from the thunderlizard kingdom to give American kids a familiar face. That fire-breathing star of the silver screen, Godzilla, joined robots Raydeen, Dragun and The Great Mazinga in that first wave. The two-foot-tall plastic Warriors were impressive enough in the looks department, but the fact that they all fired some form of spring-loaded missile made them irresistible. Fists shot off, missiles and other weapons launched from the robots’ bodies, and other toys fled in terror.
American kids fell in love with the Shogun Warriors, and Mattel continued to expand its line of imports. More robots joined their tall brethren—Dangard, Poseidon, Zargon, Gaiking—but the toys also appeared in different forms and sizes. The two-foot robots shrank down as small as three inches, and the Warriors also appeared as pre-Transformers “Two-in-One” toys (“He’s a Fighter! He’s a Flying Wing!”). The line branched out into sleek, futuristic vehicles as well, from the Sky Arrow and Sky Jet to the dino-like Kargosaur and Nessar to the five-part “U-Combine” Combatra Battle Tank.
A Marvel comic book series kept the Shogun Warriors in the limelight into the dawn of the 1980's, but Mattel soon lost the license to produce the toys. At the same time, ironically, the Shogun Warriors were primed for an even greater breakthrough, as stars of the imported syndicated cartoon series Force Five. Without the toy line to back it up, Force Five never reached the same kind of national audience as later giant robot cartoons like Voltron and Transformers.
Today, Shogun Warriors have become prized collector’s items, especially some of the rarer Japanese originals. Many Shogun Warrior fans graduated into fully-fledged anime fanatics, happily absorbing the complex plots of series like Robotech and Dragonball Z. Others just really, really liked giant robots.