Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Marusan, Marushin and Marusin

Marusan and Marusin Toys both produced lines of stylized dinosaur vinyls in the 60s and 70s, respectively. Perhaps not surprisingly as a result of this, they are often confused with one another by American collectors. It certainly does not help that their names are nearly identical, differing only by a single Japanese character.

[WARNING: Boring toy nerd stuff!]

Most collectors are, no doubt, familiar with Marusan [マルサン] in some fashion; less so for Marushin and/or Marusin. Marushin is known perhaps only to a handful of niche collectors due to its unusual product mix, which could be charitably called, "eclectic." Kaiju toy collectors are often familiar with the Arklon-esque die-cast Garuban (but maybe not its gorilla-headed sibling) and the mechanized Kemlar, both produced by Marushin. To make matters more complicated, a company named Marusin Toys produced a rather substantial line of vinyl dinosaur toys in the mid-70s (around the same time period in which Marushin was active).

Originally I believed that Marushin and Marusin were synonymous, Marusin simply being a separately-adopted romanized version of Marushin. But now, I am not so certain. Besides having radically different product offerings, Marushin is consistently written as "Omocha no Marushin" [おもちゃ の マルシン] on its toys' packaging (which could roughly translate to "Marushin Toys," but they never write it that way); Marusin is written as Marusin, Marusin Toys, or Marushin Toys (seen on the header for a dinosaur vinyl), and always in English. The last permutation of Marusin is the most puzzling because it suggests that the 'Marusin' spelling was not intentional. I suspect that Marushin and Marusin Toys are distinct companies with similar names (similar to Miura and Miura Toy- which is a discussion in itself), possibly chosen to emulate the more famous Marusan name. On the other hand, certain knowledgeable toy folk seem to believe that both -shin companies were spin-offs of Marusan itself. The truth remains elusive.

So are you still with me?

Marushin - Kentrosaurus (cir. 1975)

This Kentrosaurus toy is one of the mid-size dinosaurs made by Marusin Toys. I wish I had taken a photograph of its stamp, but it simply says "Marusin" in English. The vinyl material is extremely hard and lightweight (thin); it is surprising to me that you can regularly find these with all of the spines intact.

Marushin - Kentrosaurus (cir. 1975)

Marusin dinos are sort of hit or miss in my opinion. The distinguishing characteristic of these toys is their expressive, almost cartoonish, face. Some even have little white rows of triangle teeth. A few, however, cross the line and just look downright goofy or cheap (sorry Brontosaurus- yes, it's Brontosaurus and not Apatosaurus, isn't that wonderful?), and others were saddled with horribly drab paint schemes. Kentrosaurus is one of the best of the bunch, I think, as he has a wonderful 'happy cow' face and an appetizing color arrangement that makes me think of ripening mangoes. It tickles me that anyone would even think to make a toy of Kentrosaurus.

Marusan - Norakuro dino mini (cir. 1969)

As for dinosaur vinyls, Marusan is most well-known for their 5 toys based on the 1,000,000 B.C. movie [恐竜100万年]. But this little toy is actually from Marusan's later line of vinyl toys featuring the famous animated character, Norakuro. Without getting into the details of this line or the background of Norakuro, it is sufficient for our purposes to know that these miniature dinosaur vinyls were actually accessories for the larger Norakuro toys. There are two different sculpts (including this one) and at least two color variations of each; I believe these were randomly packed with the associated character toy.

What is interesting about this mini figure is that it bears a sculptural resemblance to the original characters created for Marusan's Ultra Kaiju Series (a.k.a., Marusan originals). And in fact, both the Norakuro toys and the Ultra Kaiju toys were produced by Marusan's 3rd incarnation around 1968-69, suggesting that the same sculptor may have been responsible for both. It is truly amazing that such a detailed little toy would be generated solely for use as an accessory for another toy!

Well I hope that I have managed to thoroughly confuse you as to the source of vintage dinosaur vinyls. And as Gary Owens once said in my favorite childhood dinosaur video- "You're just scratching the surface."


hirobot said...

These are so cute!

Doc Atomic said...

Love these. Great colors! Too bad real dinosaurs didn't look like this... then they'd have been too stylish to go extinct!

Anonymous said...

Hi, that was a fun article. I found it by chance but now want to read more.

I recently bought a lot of five bandai kaiju from the early 1980s, except one was not a bandai. It is a yellow two-headed dragon (probably a King Ghidorah rip-off) but it is stamped on the foot with Japanese writing and a symbol of what looks like a bird.
I'm thinking some very obscure company made it and would like to find out this figure's history.
- Matt

RobotXMonster said...


Take a look at this link:

That sounds like a Miura company toy. Not very well known and difficult to find... most of their vinyl toys were essentially bootlegs. Nice score!

Anonymous said...

You are absolutely right - thank you so much! Both the symbol and pictures on skullbrain are spot on. The other thing I'm now wondering is when were these made -are they 1970s? So sorry for getting back to this post so late - I'll be sure to keep an eye open for a reply!