Well well, I do believe it's just about time for my monthly blog post. I really do think of this blog as more of a periodical than a daily journal. It's like a magazine with one author, one article, no editing and zero production value.
Anyhow, you all may remember a recent post where I lamented my failure to purchase the second half of a pair of tiny transforming robots. Well not long after that someone wrote to me, offering to send me said second robot if I would just pay the cost of shipping! Now how could I say no to that? He even threw something else cool in the box (to be revealed later!) just because I mentioned it while we were e-mailing about toys. So, despite what I may say, there are still nice and generous people in the world. And as a showing of appreciation, I made certain to deliver an extremely tardy write-up, letting the photos ripen in my hard drive as one might a delicious peach. Let it never be said that Robot Loves Monster was made in a day.
So today we revisit the small world of Takara's Chorobo toys. As my original post was rather lengthy, I'll try to do this with minimal repetition.
Chorobo was a strange 1980s fusion of Diaclone/Microman and Choro-Q by Takara, involving small Diaclone-ish robots implanted with a pull-back motor adapted from Choro-Q cars. Datestamped '1984,' they technically predate Transformers in Japan (which were, however, essentially repackaged Diaclone and Microman toys from 1983). Chorobo ended abruptly after only two toy releases, descriptively named Chorobo 01 and Chorobo 02. I can't help but imagine that there was more intended for these diminutive hybrids, but perhaps this is a fantasy brought on by the endless stream of repaints indulged in by toy companies of the present day.
Chorobo 02 is largely the same as 01 in terms of packaging. Two things, however, deserve further discussion. First, Takara produced the box for 02 in mirror image of the 01 box. This has great visual impact when the boxes are displayed next to one another. Second, Takara even went so far as to have copy written for the side of the box detailing various statistics and abilities of Chorobo 02:
*Note: I think these are 'joke' measurement abbreviations, the "Q" referring to Choro-Q.
The product sample used for the box photo is also slightly different from the production version. As the Transformers would prove, certainly Takara was no stranger to non-existent products appearing on package art.
As Chorobo 01 featured the compact British Harrier GR-3, Chorobo 02 takes the form of the iconic American F-15[E] [Strike] Eagle. Ah, the innocent days before licensing complications turned every F-15E into a "fighter jet" and every Ferrari into a "supercar." In the world of 1980s toys, the F-15 and F-14 were the flying machines of choice in the transforming robot and action vehicle genres. Transformers had the F-15 in multiples- Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp, etc. etc. Gobots had Leader-1, also an F-15. I know very little about G.I. Joe toys, but I feel fairly confident extending this generalization to them as well. As further proof that Japan really can make anything cute, Takara took all of the screaming, missile-laden awesome of the F-15E... and condensed it down into this chubby widdle guy.
I learned while writing this post that F-15Es are still in service (I don't know anything about these, ok? I had to do research.), meaning that this toy can still be relevant to children today. No awkward moment where your child transforms the toy, only to end up with a box with wheels that was discontinued 20 years ago... in Japan. No, son, it's a Chevy Vanette.
The transformation to robot mode is again pretty unique among transforming jets. Wisely, Takara ditched those nerve-wracking pin joints of Chorobo 01 in favor of legs that slide out on plastic rails. The face is just the hidden portion of the center cockpit segment (it rotates to reveal the face). Finally, raise the arms, flip the wing tips around to reveal the hands, and that's it! The hands are a really weird touch that fills me with inappropriate delight. You realize that the engineers really could have taken an easier way out with this one, but no, they went the extra mile and sculpted tiny fists on to tiny, pivoting wing tips.
But man, is this guy short! Chorobo 01 absolutely dwarfs 02, which is kind of amazing when you consider that they transform into virtually identical vehicle shapes. Unlike 01, unfortunately, 02 looks mostly like a jet standing on its hind legs. It's not as much of a transforming faux pas as, say, those vehicles that have their entire robot mode stamped on their undercarriage, but y'know throw us a rotating wing or something. When a primary engineering constraint is the enormous brick motor strapped to the toy, you can't get too picky I suppose.
More troubling, perhaps, is their lack of individual names. Chorobo 01 and Chorobo 02... I mean, geez guys. Did the raw materials at the imagination factory run out after you came up with the fake Q measurements? There are no 'tech specs' to provide differentiating personalities, or even names to hint at such personalities. How are we supposed to begin to play with these? How will they fit in with the other robots in our toy boxes?? Are they good or bad? Do they enjoy flying or are they secretly afraid of heights? Are they sentient or are there tiny humanoids riding inside of their heads (or are there only cockpits, but no drivers)? I suspect that this would have mattered little to me as a child, because every toy other than my favorite characters ultimately ended up as cannon fodder and a contorted pile of limbs in some epic Wildman-esque battle or other.
While I've surely beaten this point to death by now, there was a lot of work put into two toys that would be both the beginning and end of their line. Maybe there was more intended for Chorobo. Or maybe this was just lavish 80s toymaking at its height (before every new toy had to be repainted into oblivion, gripe gripe). In any event, whether you are a Choro-Q, Diaclone, Transformer or model airplane collector, these are worth picking up if you happen across them. They are both interesting as a historical enigma and immensely charming without being childish; proof that an good toy does not need 36 points of articulation.
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