Saturday, August 8, 2009

Battery Operated Jupiter Robot (Yoshiya / 1965 / Japan / 6.5 inches)

Toy manufacturers got a lot of mileage out of Robby the Robot, using the Forbidden Planet star as the basis for numerous designs. One of my favorites is the Jupiter Robot.

I came to this toy rather late in my collecting career; for some reason, I never really liked it when I first began exploring the world of robots. Maybe it was the plastic construction -- I remember being sort of snobby about tin in those days. Ah, youth

But the more familiar I became with these old toys, the more I came to appreciate the quirky, colorful qualities that define Jupiter Robot. My immersion in the world of ray guns certainly helped. Most of them are plastic, brightly hued, and whimsically designed. My horizons had expanded, and when I finally did fall for the Jupiter, I fell hard

And what's not to love about the little guy? Jupiter Robot is a great shade of blue -- I'm an absolute sucker for blue -- and it's got a fantastic action with spinning chest gears and a light-up face. 

This lithographed panel appears on Jupiter Robot's back, opposite the gears in his chest.

Jupiter also has a wonderful, uncommon walking mechanism. You'll notice that the feet are molded directly into the legs. Inside of each foot is a set of pivoting rollers. As the legs swing forward and back, the feet appear to move heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe, in a (somewhat) realistic manner. At the same time, the rollers rock to stay firmly planted on the ground and prevent the toy from toppling over. Genius!

Though actually... the walking mechanism was swiped from the company Nomura, who used it on an earlier toy (also based on Robby, coincidentally enough) called Piston Robot (and known colloquially as Pug Robby). In fact, Jupiter actually shares the traits of yet another Robby-style robot: the face grill, which is similar to one originally used on another Yoshiya toy, Planet Robot (1958). Despite these similarities, though, there's no way to mistake Jupiter for either the Piston or Planet robots, a testimony to the old toy designers' talents and skill. 

Jupiter is a fairly uncommon robot. It does has a much more common, wind-up cousin, which is available in red with black arms. (I'll be writing much more about the wind-up version, since mine has a very cool, personal story attached to it. However, it'll have to wait for another day and another post.)

Note the toy's single-button battery box.

Interesting final note: My example of the Jupiter Robot happens to have been purchased from author Alan Bunkum, who featured a photo of it in his book Techno Fantasies: Toy Robots From Japan (Schiffer Publishing, 2005). Thankfully, Jupiter hasn't let the fame go to his head. He's the same little blue robot that first stepped off the boat after a long trip to the States from Japan. 

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