Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Space Fighter (Horikawa / 1971 / Japan / 9 inches)

It was a long time before I learned to appreciate Horikawa robots. When I first began collecting, they all sort of looked alike, with their squared bodies, chunky legs, and "fly-eye" style heads. But the truth is, while Horikawa did repeat many of their design elements from robot to robot, they managed to devise a staggering variety of actions, resulting in a wide range of toys that each manage to stand out from the pack.

The Space Fighter is one of my favorite, late-era Horikawa robots. It looks fairly simple, with its chocolate colored tin and plastic body, cream colored doors, and minimalist lithography, but the robot really shines when you turn it on. First, he walks along while his body bounces up and down above his legs. It's jaunty, it's silly, it's the kind of walk that says, "Hey, I haven't got a care in the world. Bright days and wild nights, that's my life in a nutshell! It's all good."

But then he stops and swings open his doors. Twin energy cannons burst from his chest and begin flashing and firing like he's at the OK Corral. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the violence ends, his chest closes up, and the Space Fighter, confident that his superior firepower has reminded all the other robots who's boss, continues on his merry way.

Now that's a toy!

I first fell in love with the Space Fighter when I saw one at the Toy Robot Museum. The curator, Joe Knedlhans, was nice enough to show me how his worked, and I immediately decided that I had to own one myself. It took a few months, but I eventually snagged one off eBay. (Where else?) Mine actually came with its original box, but I sold it to a fellow collector. I needed to recoup some of the money I'd spent on the toy, and she needed the box to pair with her own Space Fighter. A win-win situation.

Many Horikawas are often referred to as "Fly Eyes" due to some of their robots' unique facial features.

The toy was also available in silver, though I can't say which one's rarer. Both have identical actions. It's not a particularly rare robot, but it's often found in non-working condition. The mechanism that makes it bounce is surprisingly simple, but all that jolting action sometimes shakes loose some wires. The robot literally shakes himself to death.


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