Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Mattel Shogun Warriors Logo 


1978 - 1980


The Shogun Warriors, like The Micronauts before them, and the Transformers after them, was a toy line that consisted entirely of Japanese toys and characters repackaged for the US market.

Originally manufactured by a toy company named Popy (which was an off-shoot of BanDai and more than deserves its own write-up as a legendary company and toy maker), the "Shogun Warriors", as they were renamed by the licensing company Mattel, were launched in the US in 1978. 

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazinga / Popy Mazinger Z
 Original Popy Mazinger and Great Mazinger figures.

It's hard to even know where to begin with the history of this line as it consists of so many popular Japanese characters and so many varied forms and sizes of figures and vehicles.

As children in the US had no idea who these characters were, Mattel simply put them all in the same "universe" and labeled the line "Shogun Warriors" (awesome name, by the way!) But, the truth is that most of these characters did not actually cross over with one another and each had their own cartoon and comic books in Japan.

Each character was a giant robot in their respective cartoons with a human driver(s) to control them. Some were just a single robot while others were formed from a combining of several vehicles to form the robot itself.

 The Shogun Warriors line consisted of a few different types of figures. The most popular were the 24" vinyl figures that featured shooting fists, missiles and wheels on their feet.

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazinga - Dragun - Diamos - Raydeen  - Giaking
 From L to R: Great Mazinga, Dragun, Diamos, Raydeen and Gaiking.

In Japan, these are called "Jumbo Machinders", and there were well over a dozen characters produced for the Japanese market. For the US and Mattel's line, we received seven figures: Great Mazinga, Raydeen, Gaiking, Diamos, Dragun, Godzilla and Rodan.

Mattel Shogun Warriors Catalogue
 From Mattel's toy catalog.

These figures were like a kid's dream! They were simply massive-- and they were full of cool action features!
Sadly, a few changes were made to some of the figures for the US market as we received "dumbed down" versions of the figures to keep things within budget for Mattel to produce. (So, in essence, these were not direct imports. Since Mattel even went so far as to change the molds on some of the figures, it would seem that they licensed the molds and then produced the figures from them themselves.) Mazinga did not include his "scander" jet pack, Raydeen was missing his bow hand, and a second run of figures removed even more features-- such as Mazinga's awesome chest-piece being changed from a plastic "V" to a simple sticker! (Awful!)

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazing - Second Release
Second release Great Mazinga.

But the 24" figures were not the only ones to be changed. There was also an awesome 5" die-cast line that were made from the original, popular and classic Popy molds! (These figures were what Popy was known for in Japan. There, the figures were called "Chogokins" after the fictional metal that Great Mazinga was made of in the cartoons.) These figures also featured shooting fists and missiles (and Mazinga got his "scrander" in this version!) The first issue of these figures featured the articulation of the original's, such as Mazinga's knees and Posiden's ability to turn his legs into tracks. But, once again, in the second releases, Mattel took away some features in order to keep costs low by reducing the articulation and sticker detailing.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Figures - Series 1
 Series 1 of the 5" die-cast line.

The first line consisted of Great Mazinga and a trio of robots that actually were from the same cartoon: Dragun, Posiden and Raider. (These robots, in the cartoon, consisted of three different piloted ships that could combine three different ways, each combination creating one the the three aforementioned robots.) The second series was labeled "Two-in-Ones" as they could "transform" in some way into a different form. (Mostly by either laying them on their backs or by moving a flap or two into a different position.) These robots consisted of the ones that, in their original cartoons, were created from combining vehicles; except for Raydeen who actually transformed in the cartoon to a bird-like vehicle. He is considered the first "transformer" and the first ever transforming toy (as he appeared in the original Popy line.)

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Figures - Series 2
 Series 2 of the 5" die-cast line.

The smallest figures in the line were 3" and featured the most characters, consisting of 10 different figures. These were small and poseable, but didn't have any of the action features of their larger counter-parts. They were also made of mostly plastic, unlike the heavy die-cast figures in the 5" line.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 3" Figures
The 3" figure collection from the Shogun Warriors line.

There was also a healthy line of different vehicles-- most of which were the ones that combined to create the different giant robots in their respective cartoons (although they didn't actually have this feature as toys-- at least not in this line.) 

Mattel Shogun Warriors Vehicles
 A selection of the vehicle assortment from the Shogun Warriors line.

Aside from the Diamos truck, which was the transformed version of the robot itself, most were not named in a ways as to be associated with one another or their robot counter-parts from the cartoon.
On of the most popular vehicles at the time (although not the rarest these days) was the "Solar Saucer" which featured a launching 3" robot (Grendizer). Grendizer was another hugely popular cartoon character in Japan.  The European market, however, received the larger version of this toy with the fully-poseable, die-cast 5" Grenadizer from the original Popy line. This toy is highly sought after by US Shogun collectors and carries a hefty price tag in good condition.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Grendizer w/Saucer - Goldrake
The Europe-only release of the Grendizer Saucer "Goldrake".

Finally, there was the holy grail of the Shogun line: the Shogun Combatra Deluxe Set. This was a set of five vehicles that combined to make the robot known as Combatra. The vehicles were die-cast and, once assembled, created a robot that was over 12" tall! Due to the fact that is was an amazing design full of die-cast, and that they vehicles actually combined to make the robot, as well as the fact that is was only produced for a very short time, it has become the most popular piece in the line. To find one at all is a feat in itself-- but to find one in collector condition and complete is almost impossible!

Mattel Shogun Warriors Combatra Deluxe Set
Shogun Combatra Deluxe Set.

Again, like most toys lines of the time, Shogun Warriors only lasted a few years, but it is still beloved by toy collectors worldwide for its obvious nostalgia, amazing designs and awesome action features. If you grew up in the 70's, there's no doubt that you owned at least one of these figures in one form or another!

 Shogun Warriors "jumbos" commercial.

All photos are copyright their respective owners.

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