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Enter the Tricycle

Maker unknown. Sellers, long forgotten. Year — probably sometime in the 1980s.

Logic… a mystery.

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Another fantastic, crap-tastic, relic from the days of blanket vendors outside subway stops, swapmeet junk toy booth and Chinatown gift shops.

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This head is actually somewhat familiar, I’ve seen it at various sizes for key rings, clip-on figurines, puppets, etc.

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There’s an excellent tradition of putting rather inappropriate properties on silly wind-up tricycles, from vintage superheroes to modern day collectible companies doing it for the sheer irony. So why not a black clad martial assassinon a bright orange bell-laden kid’s bike?

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Posted 2 months ago.

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VN REVISITED – 80s Porcelain Statues

Originally published August, 2011

This line of rather poorly sculpted and often more poorly painted porcelain statues was EVERYWHERE during the 80s craze – Chinatown video shops, flea market vendors, martial arts supply stores, the Smithsonian’s souvenir stand, ball park peanut vendors, the Automat right above the jello fruit cocktails, etc…

Generally 5-7″ in total height, they were hollow, painted with a gristly matte-finish paint that attracted dust like a magnet, and,rather fragile. It’s amazing any of them survived the period. I’ve been able to put together a collection of half a dozen in the past five years but it hasn’t been easy.

This is the most baffling of them – the ninja stabbing himself in the head like a Suicide King in a deck of cards. WTF?!?!

He’s even leaning forward like a drunkard, enough that he doesn’t stand without tipping. So strange…

The iconic KOSUGI KICK is well represented in this line as well.

Any of the poses that had negative spaces (bridges), especially sword blades, are especially hard to find intact. This one survived the 80s, 90s and half the 2000s before I won it on eBay. And when I got it in the mail the sword blade was in three pieces. Luckily, super glue takes to porcelain nicely.

I’ve seen two more designs online. I guess that’s a blowgun on the left, although where the hell is he aiming? And the bowman on the right has to be the hardest to find unbroken.

And here’s a crudely recasted variant from Europe, made of heavy solid resin on a wood base, painted even worse than the porcelain originals. Weird…

 

 

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Posted 3 months ago.

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In LION MARU news…

Medicom has released two new sofubi of Kaiketsu Lion Maru and Tiger Joe, designed by Bear Model.

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Not in love with these myself, as they are a bit too detailed and modern in their sculpts. Sofubi are supposed to look like kids toys from the 60s, with soft details and primitive paint jobs. These are actually a bit too skillfully executed for the genre…

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Also found some nifty publicity images from KLM and Fuun Lion Maru on tumblr:

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A reminder that Vintage Ninja is indeed on tumblr, too — Lucha vs. Ninja: Who Will Win? This is a shared stream from this site and From Parts Unknown, as loaded with cool vintage masked wrestler stuff as it is shinobi. I reblog/repost a lot of related material from others, and revisit some older stuff from the VN archives there too, so it’s worth added us to your feed.

 

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Posted 5 months, 3 weeks ago.

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Things you can buy ME for Christmas – Part 2 (and beyond)

So yeah, man did the month of December sneak up on me in the dark with a piano wire…

This was planned as three individual posts, but today is the first day I’ve been able to breathe in three weeks, so here it all is in one big session:

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Henshin Ninja Arashi vintage kid’s pop-up book

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Understood it’s a rare item, especially in this good a shape, but I just couldn’t swim in the ludicrous waters of pricing the Japanese seller wanted for this, and shipping from Japan is always a total bone. However one of you more affluent readers could put a little eBay search time in and make me a happy, happy camper this Christmas.

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These Japanese pop-up books are ambitious as hell with the gimmick graphics. Multiple layers, intricate illustrations. Just awesome…

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But let’s face it… none of us are rich, are we? Didn’t think so…

So for the more frugal shopper there’s this Cannon Films Ninja III: The Domination press kit, with some awesomely 80′s art on the cover. These are somewhat common in Hollywood memorabilia shops, or at least they were — that whole thing where you see something all over the place until you need to buy one in December, and whatnot…

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I’m going to hold out hope for a truly wealthy and generous Japanese reader though. This plastic promotional advertising bank from the 60′s ninja boom over there NEEDS to be on my mantle!

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Described in a Yahoo! Japan auction as “Mitsubishi Color TV Takao ‘DENSHI NINJA’ figure (MANDARAKE HENYA)” — this is a 5″ promotional item from 1968 that would have been in retail stores on top of TV displays. Maybe you got one for the kid if you bought a new TV?

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A non-retail toy like this is ludicrously rare, even in Japan. After being listed in the Yahoo! Japan site it made it’s way to our eBay for a week or so for big bucks, then disappeared before the auction ended. Maybe Santa-San scooped it up for me???

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On a more domestic front, here’s a great item from our own 80′s boom — a Sho Kosugi knock-off t-shirt!

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The sketchy art here is swiped from the ‘iron claws’ poster a lot of us had on our walls back in the day. Unfortunately, vintage t-shirts have a competing market of hipster douchebags looking for ironic wardrobes, so the prices on such fare are just too much. If you spot such a piece on eBay, or in a trust-funded boutique in Williamsburg or Silverlake, and it’s less than $50 I know a stocking that needs stuffing over here. Oh, and size 7xxxxl-mega-gargantua, please.

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Well, if these suggestions haven’t inspired you to empty your wallets and throw some ninja crap my way… honestly, don’t sweat it. I’ve probably got enough (read: TOO MUCH!) shinobi swag over here as it is.

I’ll leave you with a final image, a nice Christmas memory of where it all started for me — my haul of Asian World of Martial Arts ninja goods circa 1984. That was a good year, and I still have some of that stuff!

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Have a safe and happy holiday everyone!!!

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Posted 7 months ago.

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Mego-like red ninja

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A recent score, this 7-inch generic from the 80s is a rare knock-off the famed action figure body from Mego — the company that defined the 8-inch scale in the 70s, giving us The World’s Greatest Superheroes, Planet of the Apes and myriad other properties. (read more at The Mego Museum)

This slightly shrunken version has the same articulation and construction of the originals, but with zero markings, no production year, nothing… we’re just guessing at who produced this and when.

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Nice weapons though.

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And I really love these molded tabi with ‘putee’ straps. This sort of detail is not common in no-name knock-offs like this.

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I know there’s some Mego collectors out there that’ll be able to ID this head in a heartbeat. Chime in friends…

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Posted 11 months, 1 week ago.

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Awesome PRAY FOR DEATH custom figure

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Renowned customizer of Star Wars and G.I.Joe 3.75″ figures Obi Shinobi created this great Sho Kosugi figure from the finale of Pray for Death.

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Love the dragon helmet’s articulation!

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Obi Shinobi also crafted this nifty  scale diorama of a classic ninja vs. samurai encounter.

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I have a hard enough time making 12″ kit-bashed figures look half-decent, and am just blown away by the folks who can do this smaller toys in such detail.

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Posted 1 year ago.

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LADY NINJA from ABC Toys

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I’ve said repeatedly here that the wild and unknown territory that is generic and bootleg figure collecting affords a lot more joy of discovery and amazing mutated finds than tracking down better known and licensed collectibles from the past. The stuff sold on blankets outside of southwest swap meets, tables in midwest flea markets and dirt malls, shady Chinatown junk shops and even shadier ‘vendors’ hawking crap outside of subway terminals may be plentiful at the time of any boom, but decades later that cheap crap is nigh-impossible to find.

This astoundingly rare 8″ kunoichi was produced by ABC Toys at some point in the mid-80s, and came in black and white variants, at least from what I’ve found. Wouldn’t be surprised if a red version existed, too…

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The most peculiar thing about Lady Ninja is she’s in packaging more consistent with boys’ toys. There’s no “pink aisle” Barbie look here. But what boy would have wanted what was clearly a girl’s doll, regardless of how it was garbed or how well-armed she was? Weird choices on top of weird choices…

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Posted 1 year, 2 months ago.

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MIRAI NINJA figures

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Superbly sculpted and detailed 6-9″ figures from Toy Crowd (2001) of Shiranui and Shouki from the 1988 effects-romp we know as Cyber Ninja. I dig these toys as much as I do the film, an indie that spends its modest budget it all the right places – costuming and character design. The ambitious effects come off more like Tokusatsu TV than epic cinema, but you can’t fault visionary creator/director Keita Amemiya for flying too close to the sun.

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Posted 1 year, 3 months ago.

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AMERICAN NINJA rack toys

Little known fact – American Ninja is the only 80s boom film to have properly licensed mass-produced merchandise.

These grocery store / pharmacy register tchotchkes were obviously for kids, despite being branded with the an R-rated film’s imagery. A “two-penny-toy” manufacturer called Fleetwood produced these in 1985, along with a blowgun target set and a Masters of the Universe-scale generic ninja figure with similar card art.

Interesting that they carry the logo of the decidedly non-kid-friendly film studio Cannon, meaning Fleetwood actually paid to use the American Ninja monicker. Can’t think that they sold any more of the these than they would have by saving those fees and going with simple generic ninja art.

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I dig the sketchy brush art used on the decals of the rubber suction shuriken. The hollow cheap plastic knife was molded off a popular piece of training equipment common to dojos in heavy rubber form.

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This rubber stamp set shows more of the above art, influenced by both Enter the Ninja and GI Joe‘s Storm Shadow I imagine.

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Think they paid Michael Dudikoff anything for his name and likeness?

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Posted 1 year, 3 months ago.

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Chap Mei’s original NINJA WARRIOR

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For the past 15 years or more, Chinese toy company Chap Mei have been the absolute masters at cashing-in on current hot trends — from soldiers to pirates to dinosaurs, depending on what’s been in theaters. More than merely knock-offs, Chap Mei’s take on toys is EXTREME to the max. They take a normal idea (SWAT vs bank robbers, knights vs wizards) and redesign it while on acid and meth, with 80s exploitation movies and GWAR playing for inspiration. Two-headed zombie pirates, dwarven safari hunters with bionic stilts, cannibal cave-men, giant mummies, giant-er squids, war elephants with missiles and laser-laden pterodactyls — these guys have got serious balls when it comes to boys action toys.

Chap Mei’s two recent ninja lines — Ninja: Hero of the Dark and Ninja Curse — are extreme to say the least. Hero of the Dark has an assortment of figures that look like a post-apocalyptic street gang crossed with the Seven Samurai, but riding rocket skateboards, flying wings and helicopter mech suits. Ninja Curse has Mortal Kombat-esque ninja with snap-on parts that transform them into lizard monsters and werewolves.

And all those bat-shit crazy lines hold these un-assuming little Ninja Warrior guys as their origin.

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Forget all that chrome armor, colorful capes and giant weapons, it’s the core figure I just adore. This 3.75″ hybrid as much to traditional 60′s Japanese shinobi costuming as it does to the 90s Power Ranger school of design. And with a Wolverine claw, can’t forget that.

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The figure came in black and a much less desirable milky-white and gold design that hasn’t aged well color-wise.

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Now, what I love more than the mix of traditional and futuristic elements is the subtle pose, and resulting attitude, the figure has. That slight head dip, the tense shoulders and curled arms — this guy’s at rest, but he’s a coiled spring ready to jump. One can almost imagine him breathing heavy, trying to check his rage at the presence of a rival or catching his breath having just killed an enemy.

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Chap Mei’s sculptors and character designers are absolutely brilliant, part of why these cheap quasi-knock-offs have such a fervent fan base in the collector realm. This early figure was the first hint at the brilliance to come.

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I’ll do a feature on Hero of the Dark at some point, but Ninja Curse figures are impossible to get in North America. Any overseas fans who can score these, I’m a buyer!

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Meanwhile, JoMi Toys has nice features on all these lines.

 

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Posted 1 year, 5 months ago.

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