While living in Japan as a kid I seemed to collect more Japanese toys than the American ones that I could have gotten while living at Misawa AFB. I think it had to do with the fact that they were more interesting and made better (at least I thought so.)
The toys were basically erasers but were fun to collect and play with. Kinnikuman wasn't exactly the brightest hero but he was a really good fighter/ wrestler. It started off as a manga then went to TV like most anime does. They brought the toys to America (changed the characters names) but never really sold that well. There was also a video game for the NES (though I never played it.)
Years later Kid Muscle or Kinnikuman Nisei was brought to the States (heavily edited) and did not do too well either. I was never really much of a fan of the anime, but do have a copy of the latest Kinnikuman game for the PS2. The game is called Kinnikuman Muscle Grand Prix Max. The game is pretty easy to pick up for a fighting/wrestling game and the graphics are very well done for the PS2. If you import games I highly recommend this title.
My first and favorite Transformer I got was Optimus Prime (the die cast version) not the crappy plastic ones they make for kids now. It even came with (I believe) micro men. I am not sure if they were included in the American versions, but they were cool accessories. The ones that came with Optimus were much smaller, but similar in design. The Transformers were made by Takara in Japan.
Ultraman, the red giant or Japanese Superman as some people call him. Ultraman (there were several) came from the Land of Light ( Nebula M78) and protected the Earth/ Japan from giant monsters. They would fuse with humans (use them as hosts) and called when the Special Forces teams could not handle the monsters by themselves. The main character would transform or "henshin" to Ultraman using a special device similar to Sentai/ Power Rangers. My favorite of the Ultra Series was none other than Ultraman Taro. He was the son of Ultra Father and Mother. I am not exactly sure where the other Ultra Brothers came from, but Taro was supposedly their first born son.
I collected the plastic toys that came in a box set with all the Ultra Brothers. Another import game I recently picked up for the PS2 is Ultraman Fighting Evolution. The graphics are by far the best I have seen for a fighting game for the PS2. The thing I like the most about this game is when you power up one of the Ultraman characters a cinematic cut scene will appear showing the characters special move. The game was very well done and here's hoping they make one for the PS3.
I never really watched the anime in 1999 however I do remember having a few of the Zoids toys from around 1983. They were basically models that you put together and could wind them up like toys and watch them walk across the floor. I had the Tyrannosaurus (Gojulas), and the Stegosaurus (Gordos). They were fun to play with but after awhile parts would come off the toys from the wear and tear of playing with them.
Tiger Mask was an anime and manga that kicked off in 1968 and a remake in 1981. It was about a wrestler named Naoto Date that wore a tiger mask. I have watched the original anime from 1968 as well as the one from 1981. He starts off as a bad guy but eventually goes good after he meets an orphan (from the same orphanage he was brought up) who is a fan and reminds him of himself. In the newer version Naoto acts more like a super hero much along the lines of Clark Kent/ Superman. Satoru Sayama played the part of Tiger Mask in 1981 in the Japan Pro Wrestling Federation. I had a toy of Tiger Mask that was about the same size as the original G.I. Joes. He had a removable mask, belt, and cape; though I thought he looked cooler with the mask on. The closest thing I have seen Tiger Mask in a video game would have to be King in the Tekken series.
The King of Monsters needs no introduction since he is the most popular Kaiju out there. The first Toho toy I got was King Ghidorah. He/they were one of my favorite enemies of Godzilla. I found the toy at a local toy store that I went to all the time while living outside of Misawa. Godzilla was harder to find, but while I was on a trip with my parents I found him at a mom and pop store (or the equivalent of one in Japan.) So finally King Ghidorah could duke it out with someone.
The Sentai/ Power Ranger toys I collected were die cast back in the day when parents did not freak out about toys made of metal. The ones I remember collecting were from Kagaku Sentai Dynaman which aired in Japan in 1983. I had several of the Sentai figures as well as the Dyna Robo and their ship the Dyna Jupiter. And whenever Godzilla needed a hand Dynaman was there!
And last but not least...
Before collecting Transformers I started collecting these little robots made by Bandai from the Anime; Machine Robo. These toys were brought over to the States and renamed the Go Bots. Years later I watched the Japanese Go Bots and boy was it way better than the American version. (Sorry hardcore Go Bots fans.) In this version the main character Rom Stol, sister, and robot companions are defending their world from the evil Gyandlar. What I liked about this series was the fact that several of the characters had armor similar to that of Mega Man's. Though to be correct it was probably the other way around since this anime came out in 1986, while Mega Man debuted in 1987. I also liked that the main character could fuse not just with one but two robots to become stronger. The funny thing was whenever he was fighting the bad guys in his human/ cyborg form he would put on his mask to confuse the enemy even though they should have already known who he was since they fought him every episode.
Enemy: Who the he (double hockey sticks) are you?
Rom: You do not deserve to know my name!
I kid you not.
That's all for now. Until next time fellow Retro's.