Japan is an endless source of wonder to outsiders; their culture is both awe-inspiring and well, kind of freaky. But whatever the hell is wrong with their pornography aside, you can’t fault them for the awesomeness of their toys — and even moreso their toy commercials. Their enlightened standards on children’s advertising — meaning they don’t believe children are inherently stupid, and care enough to bring some decent production values even to commercials for items marketed toward kids — allows for 30 second spots so awesome we wish they were their own half-hour TV shows. Whether loaded with pyrotechnics or somehow animating the barely mobile figures of the ’80s, Japanese commercial makers can make any toy look unbelievably cool. Here are 12 of the very best.
12) Evel Knievel Challenge Machine
The Evel Knievel stunt set was one of the most popular boys toys in the world in the ’70s, but only in Japan did they think to team him up with some motorcycling TV superheroes. Chocolate and peanut butter, my friends.
11) Space Battleship Yamato
This commercial is a double whammy if you were a kid who spent their weekday afternoons watching Star Blazers, because not only is it a joy to watch but it also showcases a toy that you’d have given a body part to play with. Seriously, it was downright criminal to release a series this good to North America and shaft an entire continent out of the merchandise.
10) Microman Command
Better known to the Western world as Micronauts, Microman is a plucky toyline released in America by Mego with a Marvel comic that simply refused to die. This commercial is one of the more galling contrasts between U.S. and Japanese commercials; if this aired here in the 1970s even by accident, children would have likely developed nosebleeds.
9) My Little Pony
Leave it to the Japanese to take My Little Poniess and crossbreed them with Hello Kitty. The end result is both an affront to God and aggressively adorable.
8) Godzilla Vs. Destroyer
It’s a given that the big G was going to make an appearance in this list. These figures actually walk by themselves, meaning that they are exciting to children and the inherently lazy.
?7) Rock Lords
You truly can put perfume on a pig as this fun commercial makes the horrible Rock Lords look like the most fun toys ever. Bandai brought the Rock Lords to America, but without this commercial, kids weren’t nearly so interested in buying rocks.
Animating the die-cast lions of Voltron (or as it is known in Japan, Beast King Go Lion) makes it look like some sort of late ’70s live action movie that you really want to track down and watch.
5) Transformers Ultra Magnus
It should come as no surprise that the country that gave birth to the Transformers makes killer commercials for them. With its peppy score and pyrotechnics it puts Michael Bay to shame, although that isn’t much of a challenge.
4) Spider-Man Collection
In what is now comic book legend, Marvel licensed Spider-Man to Japanese TV company Toei who threw everything out but the costume and added fun things like racecars and a giant spider robot, two essential tools for fighting crime in Japan. It doesn’t make any sense but it doesn’t have to.
3) Kamen Rider Bike
TV superhero Kamen Rider is a motorcycling cyborg/grasshopper/dude that has been kicking his way into Japanese children’s hearts for over four decades. In what is one of the most logical bits of merchandising tie-ins ever, kids could even buy a fun street legal facsimile of his trademark wheels. If they made adult sizes, I’d ride this to work everyday.
2) Ultraman Pitchback Machine
Despite being tied to the absolute king of Japanese TV superheroes, this commercial does not at any time feature Ultraman but Earthtron, a popular and recurring punching bag for many a member of the Ultra family. Why Earthron is pitching baseballs to Japanese children is one of those mysteries that makes life worth living.
1) Great Mazinga Jumbo Machinder
Jumbo Machinders are better known to North Americans as Shogun Warriors, a wonderfully massive approach to the robot toys that children naturally gravitate towards. In Japan children, were treated to sights like Mazinga’s fists rocketing towards them, and they wet themselves in sheer delight. It is absolutely no wonder these toys sold as well as well as they did.