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September 6, 2005

{     Super #1 Robot - Japanese Robot Toys 1972-1982 - Chronicle Books     }    

Aesthetically, this photo-collection of classic Japanese toy robots is a double-fisted rocket-punch knock-out. Photographer Tim Brisko furnishes sublime shots of some of the most revered pieces from the Golden Age of Japanese toys, accompanied by the scholarly illuminations of 'bot lovers Matt Alt and Robert Duban, with additional input from industry legend Saburo Ishizuki. It's amazing how far this book's appeal extends beyond the usual target-audience for all things robotic, plastic, die-cast, and Japanese; Brisko's moody photography and the editorial contextualization of the subject matter lift these pieces out of the toybox and into the realm of serious art and design, where they belong. You can trace the ancestry of some of your favorite US toy lines here as well, with the progenitors of what we would come to know as Shogun Warriors, Voltron, and Transformers representing. There's a beauty to these peices that transcends nostalgia- you can see the slight differences in design and the marked increase in quality that existed pre-US mega-mass-production. It's almost like looking in on an alternate universe where everything is just a little bit cooler and a little more well-made. There's also plenty of obscure Japan-only material to ogle, particularly in the comedic robot genre. The approach is very selective, and it's more of a Greatest Hits of the era as opposed to a comprehensive field guide, showcasing in chronological order the best each year had to offer. A rather amazing developmental progression emerges here, as both the designs and the technology used to bring them to three-dimensional life become more complex and involved. What are initially soft and vague lines resolve into very fine hard edges, paint applications go from rudimentary to precise and detailed, vinyl is replaced by die-cast and plastics; it's a snapshot of a miniature robo-toy industrial revolution of sorts. One of the most dramatic shifts in design and production documented here occurs with the introduction of Bandai's Gundam line. The stark lines and fierce modeling of these pieces really sets them apart, and it's easy to understand in retrospect how this particular line caused such a sensation, and what a huge impact it continues to have on adult collecting. Though Gundam may now be a bit ubiquitous, seeing the original pieces here, as though for the first time, it's hard not to feel the power and fascination they exert. Speaking of the "now", there's also an all-too-brief appendix to Super #1 Robot covering some of the better material offered in more recent years. I'm hoping it's a teaser of future projects to come, because seeing Brisko's take on modern work like the Soul of Chogokin series has me foaming at the eyeballs in anticipation of more. You can see a few shots from Super #1 Robot at the link below, and I'm sure you'll find yourself similarly enthralled with his exceptional work and with the subjects themselves.

     » Super #1 Robot

Comments

Admittedly, I really don't know shit about this stuff (well, except for Transformers... "Optimus Rhymes" in the place to be!) but this was a damn good article, Adam.

Posted by: Eric at September 7, 2005 6:34 AM
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