One of my favorite items of merchandise when I was a kid was the "eraser figures." (Or, as my mom called them, "eraser people." They were made out of eraser-like rubbery stuff, but not meant to be used as actual erasers.) Similar in size to the popular Kinnikuman/M.U.S.C.L.E. toys that littered shops in the '80s, the eraser figures would be packaged with just about every piece of merchandise for a show -- a few would come with toys, a few came with the tokusatsu-related snacks, but the best place to find 'em was in a Gashapon machine.
Not knowing what the hell those weirdo Marudai Sentai Sausage snacks were made of -- a white mystery meat that requires no refrigeration? -- my mom would buy the sausages just for the eraser people and throw away the meat, not allowing me to eat it! I'm still curious what those sausages tasted like, but I have a feeling I'd find them disgusting. (Imagine my surprise when, rediscovering these shows with the help of the internet, to find out the sausages were made out of various processed fish. So, I guess I should say thanks, mom, for forbidding me to eat those! Ugh...) Marudai still makes tokusatsu-related sausage, but now they just come with lame-o cards instead of the awesome eraser figures. In fact, I don't think they've even made eraser figures since Timeranger/Kuuga in 2000. I guess today's kids don't find 'em interesting and probably look at them the way everyone looks at tin toys. How could you have fun with these? Imagination, sucker!
|A special Bioman set -- heroes, villains, Juunoids, Mecha Gigans! And a vinyl Bio Robo...|
You're playing with the soft vinyls and you're like, well, where does this awesome fight scenario you're creating go to next? The mecha! As a kid, I frigging hated the DX mecha toys. They're a pain in the nards to build and then you build them and you'd be like "OK, what next?" Because there's nothing to do with them! (The only mecha toys I liked when I was a kid? The cool and easy to assemble Flash Titan and the nothing to really assemble Land Galaxy.) You spend all that time putting the toy together and...who's the mecha supposed to fight? They didn't make monster toys, so is it just supposed to fight other mecha? Is my Change Robo supposed to go beat up Golion or Optimus Prime or something? Enter the eraser figures...
The eraser figures had the same limited moveability as the soft vinyls which required similar levels of Super Kid Imagination, and there were not only the heroes and the villains (in fact, more villains than would be released as soft vinyls), but...INDIVIDUAL MECHA! MONSTERS OF THE WEEK! You can perfectly recreate the show and have the team blow away a monster, pretend it grows, and use the mecha to fight it! (Not only that, but I remember making the Change Robo eraser figure smack his fists together like in the show -- definitely can't do that with the DX one.)
|Round 1: Change Dragon VS Buuba, Hidora and Space Beast Soldier Goomu|
|Change Dragon was victorious! Gyodai is dispatched to revive Goomu|
|Call out the mecha! Combine, Earth Conversion!|
|Uh-oh, it's on! Goomu faces Change Robo. Can't you imagine Tatsumi Yano's BGM?|
One thing I remembered about the fun Kinnikuman/M.U.S.C.L.E. toys is that they came out with a ring that you could connect two figures, each on opposing sides, and have them "fight." I'd shove the Sentai eraser figures in there, so imagine my surprise when a couple of years ago, I saw listed on an auction site that they released (pretty much the exact same) ring for Turboranger! (Where were rings for the shows I was in Japan for, dammit?)
I wanted to focus on how extensive the eraser figure line could be. The soft vinyl set of the Flashman villain team Mess consists of just La Deus, Neferu, Wanda, Garus and a Zoro. With the eraser figures, you can pretty much complete the whole Mess line-up! The Kamen Rider Black line had the Golgom priests, which was awesome, because usually the Black villains were SOL unless it's Shadow Moon.
|The entire Mess gang! Ulk and Kiruto! Lee Keflen! A frickin' Lee Keflen figurine!|
|Kamen Rider Black's Daromu|
|Yareyare! Maskman's Okerampa and Anagumas|
|The figurine of Maskman's Zeba funnily matches the early promotional shots of Zeba with his mask removed.|
One thing that neither the soft vinyls or eraser figures doesn't fulfill? The heroes out of suit. I always wanted toys of the heroes out of suit when I was a kid. Who's supposed to be transforming into these heroes? I guess I was just a weird kid, because they never really made toys of the heroes out of suit. There were toys for Dyna Red, Red One and Change Dragon where you could take their helmet off, but that wasn't the same as having the whole team. (And they were also so out of scale you couldn't really do anything with 'em.) And while they eventually went on to do those head-flippers (what Power Rangers called the "Auto-Morphers") for a few shows in the '90s or something like the Souchaku Henshin figures for Kamen Rider, to me it's not quite the same as having figures to match the soft-vinyls. The person behind the mask always mattered to me, and they've really gone unrepresented in terms of merchandise. You should have gotten on that, Bandai!