Back-to-school shinobi

More vintage 80s toy crap! These were 5″ solid plastic pencil toppers, made of some truly toxic low-grade junk with paint jobs to match. Awesome!

Best/worst thing about these are they’re SOLID and heavy, and there’s no way in hell a kid could do any writing with one in place. It’s like they’re waging a shadowy war on education…

And hey, there’s a knock-off of one of these bootlegs (or a bootleg of one of these knock-offs, or maybe these are the bootlegged knock-offs???) on eBay right now!

MIGHTY NINJA Figurines

Some choice 80’s toy crap here, folks! These Mighty Ninja 2.5″ figurines were actually knock-offs of the already somewhat knock-off-ish Ninja Warriors: Enemies of Evil line that somehow oozed out of Hasbro late in the craze era.

Sadly, the Chinese manufacturer picked some of the worst designs of that line to shrink and remold. All the Medieval European-looking figures made the cut, while the more stock-in-trade masked ninja didn’t.

Especially frustrating seeing the pretty damn nice package art promises the back-clad assassins we were all looking for.

But hey, at least they’re “Martial Posted!”

Ninja Yashiki board game

Up on eBay right now from vendor susi-sumo-jpn, this vintage board game is to die for!

No year specified, but I’m thinking 80’s from the art and the way it’s colored.

Looks like shuriken and ninja figurine tokens. The black box on the left is a spinner, you press the nose down to rotate the dial behind the mouth-area window.

At a Buy-It-Now price hovering around $250, this is way too rich for my blood, alas. I’ve bought from these guys before though, so I can confidently recommend them as a vendor.

Vintage Ninja Wind Chime

This 4″ porcelain windchime came from Japan, the seller not knowing how old but had it in her possession since the early 80s. However the design is old school enough, I have a feeling the same mold was used for decades and by myriad vendors. There’s no copyright date or manufacturer indicated anywhere, so this would fall into the wide category of unlicensed generic merch, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you could by them still at Iga tourist village stalls.

It’s hard to make out, but the ninja is holding a secret scroll.

 

These are the sorts of non-descript products that are ‘everywhere’ and you think they’ll always be around. Until they’re NOT. These are the things that become rarer than rare. Check eBay for generic ninja merch from the 80s. You’ll see the non-property and bootleg stuff that sold off blankets in subways and at dirtmalls and swapmeets routinely outsell licensed mass market merch. You can find an old Storm Shadow figure anywhere, but try to find another one of these…

More generics…

These showed up on eBay recently. LOVE that knock-0ff illo of karate champ Joe Lewis (Jaguar Lives, Force Five) on the package.

Oh for the days of He-Man recast bodies on figures so vaguely and poorly designed they could be kung-fu expert and/or pro-wrestler with a mere change in card art.

Carded SAVITAR

A follow-up to this post on what was quietly one of, if not the best, ninja figures of the 80s.

Bought myself a Christmas present this year, a mint-on-card Eagle Force Savitar!

What I adore most about this shadowy saboteur is how rooted in traditional Japanese character design he is. The 1980’s saw a lot of ninja toys designed after the Sho Kosugi look in Revenge of the Ninja, plenty of bare-armed muscly assassins, and tons of cartoonish shinobi in white, red and myriad other non-stealth-friendly colors. Basically, they were as superhero as they were shinobi.

Not the case in this very early entry into American ninja figures.

Mego’s ill-fated Eagle Force line was released in 1982, but copyrighted in 1981 and likely concepted and designed as early as 1980, making Savitar as close to a pre-craze ninja figure as the U.S. would ever see. From the ‘stingray’ folded hood to the waraji rope sandals, this could just as easily be a Goemon figure from Shinobi no Mono.

I’m really curious as to what they were using as reference.

Alas, the Eagle Force 2.75″ scale and die-cast metal molding did not lend the detail to do justice to the designs.

Here’s the card back, with a nifty little comic to build up the character:

What a nice illo this is. I really dig the notion of Savitar choosing to adopt the silenced sub-machine gun, too, best of both eras and whatnot.

The heroic Eagle Force had their own on-board martial artist to counter Savitar’s shadow skills, but “Kayo the Judo Fighter” just sort of looks like a big douche. Way to not guard your inside and leave that arm hanging, Mr. I’m-Too-Cool-For-Shoes!

If only these figures were a more detail-yielding plastic or vinyl, and a few inches bigger, we would have had a ninja figure that rivaled anything ever done in Japan.

The award for Best 80s Ninja Figure Made in 2011 goes to…

…German collectible figurine experts Schleich!

Their newly released 3.5″ “Mysterious Ninja” from their Heroes line is a major throwback to the 80s, looking like the bastard love child of Sho Kosugi in Revenge of the Ninja and Tadashi Yamashita in American Ninja. Ornate straight swords, big dragon logo, gold-plated shuriken assortment across his chest right out of a mail order catalog, bright red stealth-unfriendly costume elements… could not get more retro.

They even gave him non-Japanese and/or non-shinobi weapons, like an ignorant or lazy 80s prop-master would have in a low-budget ninja-sploitation flick. Nice nunchucks, European stilettos and Persian re-curved bow pal.

Schleich has been making high-end animal figurines since the 50s. You’ll see their nature, horse and rider, dragon and knight and other non-property-based figures in toy boutiques, learning, art and book stores. Not sure if this is their first ninja, but they have done a pretty ornate Chinese dragon with a liquid-sword warrior set, so maybe they’re expanding their adventure stuff beyond Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean knock-offs.

The swords are removable, allowing for a more “authentic” reverse grip pose if you’re so inclined, and it stands perfectly on its own. The vinyl is flexible, but small parts make this not-so-child safe. This is more a collectible than a toy.

The “Mysterious Ninja” will set you back about $8, a bit pricey for a non-articulated figure, but worth it in my opinon.

As today is ‘Small Business Saturday’ seek out a higher-end toy or collectible store and shop independent.

The teensiest ninja toy ever

Milton Bradley’s early 80s board game Axis and Allies was a big hit for them, so sequels followed, including the feudal-Japan-set Shogun in 1986. Shogun (later renamed Samurai Swords in ’95 and Ikusa just this year) was like playing Risk against rival daimyo… with dice.

The multi-colored armies of samurai spearmen and archers were cool enough, but the lone ninja you could by to spy on your opponents’ money allocations was the coolest. Standing around 2cm, this is likely the smallest plastic ninja figure ever.

80s punching puppet

During the 80s craze, there were tons of generic ninja toys positively INFESTING grocery stores, souvenir shacks, flea markets, blanket vendors outside subway stations, etc. You had to rake the stuff off your lawn in the Fall it was so omnipresent.

How EVERYWHERE were these punching puppets back in the day?

But it’s the cheap, non-branded, often knock-off stuff that tends not to survive into subsequent decades. No one socked these away back then like they did Star Wars figures, so collecting the stuff 30 years later can be challenging.

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