Foreword from the webmaster - this article and the accompanying images are all down to Justin Palmer, a long time SFXB supporter - my thanks to him for this contribution which looks at the Japanese merchandising for the show, something I was never originally aware of and which up to this point hasn't been covered here except for some images and links in the Gallery section.
Takatoku's Big Dai-Xs - Toys With Souls of MetalBy Justin Palmer
One of the most pleasant surprises I had when I discovered Star Fleet's Japanese origins is that an associated toy-line had been available. I was thrilled, because as a child I would have given an awful lot to own a Dai-X toy; instead I had to make do with Lego, crayons, paper, and imagination!
Having grown up but still not lost my fondness for Star Fleet, and having found out much more than I ever thought possible about the series thanks to web-sites like SFXB, I was able to take the opportunity of visits to Japan to go looking for some of these toys.
It wasn't overly easy, but armed with information and toy shop addresses obtained from the web, I was finally able to get my hands on a couple of these toys. As detailed information on these items is a little rare, I thought the least I could do is write something about them for SFXB!
A Few Notes About Japanese ToysThe toys I own are the ST and DX versions. ST toys are generally the cheapest toys in a line (with the exception of vinyl figures), and DX the next step up. However, ST is also the mark stating that a toy has passed Japanese safety standards (though how some of them were ever declared safe for children I'll never know!).
Toys with a high proportion of die-cast content are sometimes referred to as Gokin, from Chogokin (super alloy/metal). Strictly speaking, chogokin refers to a line of toys produced by Popy and Bandai in the late 70s and early 80s, and the term itself originated with the classic giant robot anime Mazinger Z.
However, as Mazinger Z was the creation of infamous manga author Go Nagai, who had a hand in the design of X-Bomber, I think we could describe these toys as honourary chogokin!
One final revelation awaited me with these toys - they were produced by Takatoku. That spooked me a little bit. Takatoku would go on to produce the very famous 1/55 Macross Valkyrie toys, and Macross is the series that got me interested in anime. In a roundabout way, being interested in anime not only led to my visits to Japan, but also to my discovering the origins of Star Fleet, and finding out about these toys...
Big Dai-X STImage: The ST Big Dai-X extreme close-up.
I found this toy in a little out-of-the-way toy shop in Tokyo that was stacked full of classic Japanese gokin. I was so excited at finding an actual X-Bomber toy, though, that I didn't check it too carefully. My ST is missing its box, its sword, one of its hands, has rather loose joints and has generally been through the space wars (against Bloody Mary?) Having said that, I'm still very fond of it! [Webmaster note - Bloody Mary is the Japanese name for Commander Makara.]
Image: Classic pose!
Dai-X ST stands about six inches tall, and I would estimate that its torso and most of its legs are die-cast metal, though the ST doesn't feel that heavy. The arms and head are mostly plastic. The arms can fully rotate, and the legs bend at the knees, but that's about it for poseability.
No Japanese toy of the ST's era would be complete without some form of spring-fired projectile to scare the cat with, and the ST has no less than four - two missile launchers in the chest (similar to the rockets on the old Corgi Buck Rogers toys) and each of its hands. As you can see from the pictures, the hands can be fired a fair distance, though unfortunately one of the chest launchers on my ST has a broken trigger. There's also some sort of back-pack mounted rocket, but I have been unable to figure out just how the thing is supposed to keep its (non-firing) rockets in place, and it doesn't stay on very well.
One strange feature that I didn't discover until some time after I bought the toy is the feet. By use of a slider, Dai-X STs will extend some rather simian-looking claws forwards! As far as I know, Dai-X never used this weapon in the series, though some of the art for the model kits suggest it might have been part of the design from the start. Odd details like this appear to be something of a trait of Dai-X toys, as I will describe in the DX review.
Image: These feet are made for stomping!
Overall, the Dai-X ST is a neat little toy, and quite cute looking! While it's not completely accurate to the show, Japanese toys of this period were more about having fun gimmicks than accuracy. I recently saw a boxed example in better condition than mine on a Japanese website going for about 120 pounds sterling!
Image: Can I have my rocket fist back, please?
Big Dai-X DXImage: The Big Dai-X DX Big Box.
The first thing that strikes you when picking up this toy is weight. The DX stands about seven and a half inches high, and it feels like most of the torso and legs are die-cast. The arms, feet and head appear to be mostly plastic.
The Dai-X comes in a typical Japanese picture-and-text heavy box. There's something strange about the front, though - what is that funny rocket turtle thing depicted on the front? What could that have to do with X-Bomber? All will be revealed!
Image: If only I'd had this when I was ten!
Big Dai-X comes with a huge sword (again, never seen in the series), an item that can only be described as a big yellow cattle-prod, and two kinds of missiles - standard ones like the ST's, and some nasty-looking cone-like ones. There are also some odd plastic fins...
Image: Where is Makara? It's stompin' time!
Dai-X DX lacks the ST's chest launchers, but keeps the ability to shoot its fists. These go quite a distance, and I had to ricochet them off my table to keep them from flying onto the carpet! It's details like this that make me wonder just how many toy-related injuries Japanese doctors have to deal with - the springs are quite powerful, and the sword, despite being plastic, is extremely pointy!
Image: Hmm. Need to adjust for cross-wind...
DX's missile launchers have been moved to the feet, which unlike the ST have no claws - these have been replaced by a set of rollers. The fixed rockets on the lower legs can also be pulled out to form little wings. Poseability is about the same as the ST, and the arms, though stiff, can fully rotate at the shoulder.
Image: Rollin' rollin', rollin'...
The observant among you may have noticed something strange about the DX's upper legs - they appear to be joined together by some sort of ratchet joint... and this is where the DX truly departs from the Dai-X we adore. For DX has an amazing trick up its sleeves - it can transform!
Image: I feel a change coming on...
I hope the pictures I've taken show the process better than I can describe it. Basically, by opening up the chest, pointing the arms down and performing some rather drastic manipulations of the legs (aided by that mid-leg ratchet joint) and feet, Dai-X DX can be turned into... well, I don't know what to call it really; I do know one thing, it never appeared in the show! I was completely unaware of this feature when I bought the toy.
I finally decided to label this mode Cerberus, though as I stated earlier, it looks more like a robotic turtle than a dog! There appears to be no reason for DX to transform. I can only speculate that Takatoku decided that an additional selling point was needed to justify the DX tag; although transforming toys were to become very popular, X-Bomber aired a little too early to catch the tidal wave started by the anime Macross (which would benefit enormously from Takatoku's excellent associated toy-line).
Image: Aerial view of “Cerberus mode”.
Depending on the exchange rate and condition, you can probably expect to pay at least 120 pounds sterling for a used DX Dai-X toy. I consider it to be a very good quality toy, typical of its time, and a great find for a Star Fleet fan.
Image: No, we don't remember it either!
To sum up, it's a little amazing to me that an unsuccessful series like X-Bomber produced such wonderful toys. The late 70s and the early 80s were the golden age of Japanese robot toys, and I consider myself very lucky to have been able to obtain these pieces. However, there still remains one X-Bomber treasure for me to hunger after, something I have yet to find despite a lot of looking - the ultimate in X-Bomber toys, the awesome-looking Blitzkrieg Combination Big Dai-X!
Image: ST, DX, and DVDs - X-Bomber unite!
More Informationhttp://www.sfxb.co.uk/ivs/stftgallmerc.html: Andy's very own SFXB section on the various related merchandise.
The Big Dai-X site has an excellent collectables section.
http://www.toyboxdx.com/data/takatokugokin/takatokugokin.htm: Alen Yen's Toybox DX, a good resource for all things relating to Japanese toys, has extensive data-files on Takatoku products.
http://www.robot-japan.com/big_dai_x.htm: Robot Japan's Blitzkrieg Combination Big Dai-X review. Another great toy-collecting site!
http://www.sixsite.com/jm_pages/xbomber.html: Jumboland's review of a very strange addition to the line-up - the Jumbo Machinder Big Dai-X.
http://www.mandarake.co.jp/: Japanese retailer's English-language toy-purchasing web-site. Warning: you will be putting your wallet in severe peril by visiting here!
http://www.rinkya.com/index.php: Yahoo! Japan bidding service. Also not good for your wallet.
Last WordFinally, if anyone would like some advice on toy shopping in Tokyo, or just information on travelling in Japan in general, please e-mail me at justin at briareos dot demon dot co dot uk. Having once spent an hour looking for one shop, and another two waiting for it to open, I really do appreciate how valuable such advice can be!
Last updated 14 December 2013