The Popy Chogokin DX release of Daimos, coded GA-85The Godaikin line was an attempt to launch super robots in America. Since they had set up their sister company Popy Pleasure in 1971, the Japanese toy-market had been revolutionised with diecast and high-quality ABS plastic utilised - previously, Japanese toys had been made of either tin or vinyl. Popy specialised in action figures (Chogokin) and vehicles (Popinica) licensed from Japan's booming anime and tokusatsu children's shows.

Popy introduced ever-more complex features to the figures, from the famous 'Rocket Punch' fist launchers, to removable armour, to transformations (Raideen is often acknowledged to be the first transforming robot toy) to vehicles, robots or creatures that combined to form a larger robot. Their super robots sparked off a host of imitators including Takatoku's Z-Gokin and Macross lines (which would introduce the first "perfectly transforming" - with equal attention paid to both modes - figure, the Macross SDF-1) and Takara's Diaclone series.

Box front and contents for Series I Voltes VIn 1979, as super robot sales went through the roof in Japan, Mattel licensed the designs for American release. A selection of figures, mainly mixing the ~24" Jumbo Machinder vinyl and 5" metal figures were released as Shogun Warriors . However despite a licensed tie-in comic from Marvel the relatively expensive figures didn't sell well, and controversy over spring-loaded weapons saw Mattel decline to renew the license after 1980.

By 1983 the bottom had fallen out of the super robot market in Japan and Popy were reabsorbed into Bandai as part of a financial restructuring. Unbowed, Bandai decided to launch the range in America and Godaikin was born. The toys were actually manufactured in Japan still, then shipped to Bandai America where they were placed inside new boxes and distributed to stores. The name is derived from the Japanese words for 'alloy' ('Gokin') and 'big' ('Dai') - correctly parsed as 'GoDaiKin', though I flatten the later letters for ease of reading and typing.

Brochure for the Series I figuresFor the first series, ten of Popy's most popular large designs were chosen (including Combattra and Tetsujin-28) typically measuring around 10-12" tall. The boxes all featured photography of the combined robot form on the front, with plastic windows inside to show all the parts. A display of the robot's special features was printed on the back of the box.

However, Godaikin was dealt a body-blow in mid-1984,as Hasbro imported Diaclone as Transformers. The Godaikin figures were prohibitively expensive. The first series retailed at up to $80; four times the amount of the then-largest Transformers figure, Optimus Prime. While many would agree now that $80 is a good price for Tetsujin 28 at the time it was a lot for a toy - adult collectors not yet existing in anywhere near enough numbers to make them a success. Godaikin figures were out of most children's price range - most of those who could lay their hands on $80 were generally happier with a selection of figures from Transformers, Gobots, Convertors or Robotech and probably got change as well. Even when these lines began introducing larger and more expensive figures they were still much cheaper than the Godaikin range.

Box Back for Series II ST Godaikin DaidenjinTransformers was also a heavily-marketed line, with the toys debuting near-simultaneously with a comic and cartoon. While a couple of the anime series starring the figures featured in Godaikin had been screened in America before, there was little on the air by the time the toys arrived. The licensing nightmare - with the robot designs being drawn from a number of competing studios (Popy hired the licenses from TV companies, then made the toys - nowadays the most common model is for a company to design the toys and then license their media likenesses and trademarks to the TV companies, or just to commission a show) - meant any idea of creating new fiction to promote the line were near-impossible. Even the boxes featured little information beyond the robot's physical abilities.

Talking of which the sober almost minimalist style of the packaging, while rightly acknowledged by collectors in the present as classic lo-fi design, didn't exactly jump out at kids compared to the bright colours and artwork of other competing lines. By the end of 1984 Bandai had been taught a severe lesson in the value of marketing by World Events Productions. The American company had licensed Golion (released around a year before in the first series of Godaikin), but also brought across the anime and had the Western facilities to produce the figures domestically thanks to a deal with Matchbox. As Voltron the rebranded Golion was one of the hits of the year.

Instruction booklet cover for Series II ST Godaikin Daitetsujin 17The high cost of construction and of shipping the figures to America meant Bandai couldn't afford to drop the prices. However, for the second series a wider variety was added - Standard figures around a third of the style of the Deluxes and some playset-style vehicles were put into the mix. However by now Transformers was tightening its' hold on the market, with more ambitious figures joining the range. Hasbro and Takara took the gamble of radically cranking back the amount of metal in their figures in favour of plastic, making Transformers cheaper and more profitable still. Even other cheaper lines such as Gobots were feeling the pinch by now.

After the second series saw no improvement on Godaikin's fortunes, the line would effectively wind down. A ragtag selection of releases would follow through 1985 and 1986 - now renamed slightly as Godaikin Forces - with no real pattern. Unsold American stock was even shipped to Europe and had Robo Machine stickers slapped over the Godaikin branding in an attempt to sell the units.

While in commercial terms the line was a failure it is now highly collectable, with some MIB figures fetching around $2000. For many Western fans it served as their introduction to Japanese super robots, and while the Popy originals are still what collectors covet the most, Godaikin is held in high regard.