Retro Shanghai: Two Feet Of Cheap Ultraman Figures
Even the Shanghai shopkeepers who didn't specialize in toys seemed to have a few of these on their walls. These carded instant toy collections are truly massive. This Ultraman themed set measures a massive 2 feet long!
We've written about Ultraman before. It's one of japan's earliest entries into the guy-turns-into-a-giant-robot-to-fight-monsters-while-Tokyo-crumbles genre. it was one of my favorites when I was a kid, so much so that I turned into a pile of kiddish thrills when the series came out on DVD just a few years ago.
The series was so successful that it spawned literally decades of sequels, all featuring members of the growing UltraFamily. This toy set is a loose collection of UltraSiblings of some sort, designed mostly for economy. The figures are of the cheap blow-molded variety, with just a spritz of paint and movement limited to some very stiff shoulders.
The proportions are more cutesy than lean and mean. This caricatured look is common in even the most serious Japanese manga and anime, referred to as "super deformed" or "chibi". You'll also notice that this is not a set of six unique Ultras - it's a set of three repeated figures. Cheap move, but at least you won't mind sharing your dupes with your stupid little brother.
The set includes a pair of monsters, five vehicles that may or may not be from the series, and a kid-sized gun (reminds me of a similar kiddie pistol with a rude name) for helping old UncleUltra dispense with the baddies. So cheap is the gun that the stickers are only applied on the side of the gun you can see through the packaging! There's a sheet of stickers you apply yourself. I suppose it's a labor-saving move. Kids like stickers, right? I'm sure in the time it take to put stickers on, they could make another dozen guns...
Clearly the gun is meant to be a battery powered noisy/flashy sidearm (the grip's sticker says "electro indicater (sic) system" which sounds deadly enough...), but from the looks of it, they forgot the electronic guts. The design ethos of these sets is bold packaging, a bewildering number of parts, all at a bargain price. Plus you can hang this attention-getter on the wall of any store, even one without a dedicated toy section.
The economy of this toy reminds me a lot of green army men, who's main attraction was their cheapness. This whole UltraArmada set me back some five bucks, and I must admit to being drawn to how low end the toy is. It'll likely stay in its package, not out of a misplaced sense of preserving its "collectibility", but because the art of it is in the whole package... the whole cheap package.