Saturday, May 7, 2011

Japanese Gobots! Machine Robo Series Gyro Robo (Cop-Tur)

As promised in my previous post, this is what I got at the Shingu Omocha Souko yesterday: Machine Robo Series MR-04 Gyro Robo, better known in North America as the Blue and White Gobots helicopter (Cop-Tur).

I had this guy, or at least the North American version of him, way back when. He was a present from my Dad. I had about 7 or 8 Gobots, all of them the little ones like this guy and not the bigger, Transformer-esque ones. They are all long gone now, given away or sold off just before a family move in 1989.

Anyway, speaking of Transformers, I had known that they were descended from a Japanese toyline that went by a different name (Microman). I have one of these, it is cool. Until yesterday when I saw this guy though I hadn't realized that the Gobots were likewise descended from a Japanese toyline of their own.

The Machine-Robo series, of which this guy was one of the first, were first produced by a company called Popy, a subsidiary of Bandai. They were released in 1982, two years before the Gobots came out in the US. According to Wikipedia this one belonged to what are known as the "600 series" as they retailed for 600 yen when first released, a fact confirmed by the original price tag still on this one:
The thing came with this cool flyer with pictures of all the other Machine Robos released in the first series, most of which you'll probably recognize if, like me, you had Gobots when you were a kid in the early 80s:
One interesting fact that this thing reveals is that all the early Machine Robos (and hence, Gobots) were based on ideas sent in by little kids. My MR-04 Gyro Robo, according to this, was based on an idea submitted by an 8 year old from right here in Fukuoka prefecture.

Anyway, I really like this guy. The box is really great:
If I recall correctly the Gobots I had as a kid all came packaged on cards like action figures. Boxes like this are way better, they look nicer and they don't get permanently messed up when you open them up.

As I alluded to earlier, he turns from a helicopter:
Into a robot:
Doing a little internet research on this, I noticed that a lot of people think the Transformers are much better than the Gobots because they were more complicated, etc. I rather think the opposite holds true. The simplicity of this almost 30 year old toy really gives it way more appeal than most of the Transformers IMHO, especially these endless new ones that are just way too complicated and detailed.

Of course I am speaking as someone who found the first Transformers movie so awful that I wouldn't watch the second and third ones if you paid me to. Other opinions will vary. For me though, I like this little old Gobot.


  1. Nice find! I, too, was a Gobots fans when I was younger, much preferring them to the more popular Transformers. I can't remember which ones I had now as they're long gone but I still have fond memories of them. I had a feature-length cartoon too.

    And if you're talking about the live-action Transformers film from a few years ago, I agree - it was awful. I have actively avoided exposure to the second...

  2. Yes, I kind of remember hearing about the Gobot cartoon, but it is one of those things us Canadian kids missed out on!

    And yup, it was the live-action Transformers film that I was referring to. I think the Transformers are about the most ill-suited subject matter you could possibly base a film on. As cartoons they worked (for kids) but putting it in live action really just highlighted how ridiculous the whole story (and everything about them) is. I think Roger Ebert's review summed it up best:

    "The battle scenes are bewildering. A Bot makes no visual sense anyway, but two or three tangled up together create an incomprehensible confusion. I find it amusing that creatures that can unfold out of a Camaro and stand four stories high do most of their fighting with...fists. Like I say, dumber than a box of staples."

  3. Haha, yes, that certainly sounds about right! I agree, it worked as a cartoon for kids but the film was just stupid. I don't particularly mind the odd stupid film but this one was just STUPID stupid! That scene where there's two or three giant robots tip-toeing around outside that dillhole's house... good lord... :P

  4. Also being Canadian I was unaware of Gobots in my youth, but i sure loved the shit out of the transformers. I had many Transformers as a kid, such as Blaster and Optimus Prime, and now that they are long gone I can certainly appreciate the awesomeness of a find like this, even I am have no emotional response to it.

  5. We did miss out on a lot of stuff as Canadian kids, didn't we? Actually the Gobots were popular where I was (Eastern Ontario) and most of us had them well before the Transformers came out, but the cartoon never made its way to us. Must be a regional thing or something. I don't think the Transformers cartoon did either.

  6. Here's a question: I heard that over in Japan Transformers were always meant for much younger kids and as such was always more comical and lighthearted, a stark contrast to how serious its story was here. With that said, I heard once that Japanese audiences to the movie(s) were caught off-guard by how serious the movies were considering the facts above. Can you shed some light on that?

    And of course when I say "serious", I mean about as serious as you can get with giant robots kicking each other and turning into cars.

  7. Hmmm... Google Blogger was out last night and today I find that half the comments on this post, including some by me, have vanished. Apologies to everyone who posted, I assure you that it was not I who erased them! Please re-post if you care to!

  8. Hey look! The missing comments have magically returned!

    Skyrunner - I'm afraid I don't know too much about how the Transformers movie was received in Japan as I was out of the country at the time. The Diaclone and Microman toys were more or less exactly the same as the early Transformers, so I don't think it is at all correct that they were designed for younger kids than the Transformers. In fact, I was only about 7 or 8 when I got my first Transformers in the early 80s, so they were meant for quite young kids there too.

  9. Great little read! I enjoy both the Transformers and Gobots, or Machine Men - as they were known in Australia. I completely agree with your views on this great little piece of toy history.

  10. Thanks! I didn`t know they were called Machine Men in Australia! They are indeed a cool piece of toy history :)

  11. Sean,

    Just ran into this post as I was doing a google image search for large gobots images. I agree that the smaller packaging for the 600 series is far more elegant than the US version. Gobots' perceived inferiority in the US, in my eyes, was mostly due to Tonka's marketing of the series. They didn't put much effort into worldbuilding - names like Spay-C and Dive-Dive don't really stand up to Optimus Prime and Megatron - and the cartoon was a degree or two more goofy than the Transformers one. Plus, Hasbro had those little biographies on the packaging, whereas the Tonka packages just described the characters as either "friendly" or "enemy."

    It didn't really help that Gobots was marketed as sort of a cheaper alternative to Transformers, when really the quality of those toys actually makes them more durable than their large, more expensive counterparts. This is one reason why an original Megatron might run you $150+ but you can get a Cy-Kill for $30 or less.

    I could go on - this era of toy history is endlessly interesting to me - but I'll leave it there.

    - Jonesy (Zycrow)