I guess I’m in a respect luckier than some in how Long I’ve been able to follow along with Bandai stuff, and with the recent separation of Power rangers from Bandai of America, I thought I’d take some time and write out my long history with the company; the highs and lows, and why I still get stuff in some form from them.
Some might think of this as ‘oh, rich middle class white guy gloating about all the stuff he could get from his parents on a weekly basis’ but really, if it wasn’t something I bought with my allowance or a gift for an event/Holiday or reward for doing well in school, I didn’t really get much in the way of toys, games or movies as a kid.Granted, books from my family’s perspective were always freebies, as you always want to encourage a kid to read, so I guess I was something more of a bibliophile than others, as I enjoyed good stories. But otherwise It was frugal and targeted on the things I’d want, so gift shopping for me by my parents (and extended relatives which some of this stuff also came from) was an amazingly easy thing. And when I stopped having an interest in something, I’d endeavor to pass it on to someone who would treasure and have fun with it as I always endeavored to keep my toys in good condition. And they usually happened to be passed to a younger cousin, so those things stayed in the family.
But against what You might think…The First Toy I ever remember owning wasn’t from Bandai. It was the Transformers G2 version of Superion.
I loved the crap out of this thing from…what I believe to be ages 3-5. It remained a part of my Toybox for years after, and was the only figure of the ‘scramble city’ gimmick of Gestalt Robots at the time I ever managed to Get together, despite owning All of the combaticons that formed bruticus/Ruination With EXCEPTION to the torso. When I ended up having my own income as an Adult, I admit to going out of my way to finally get it, just as a middle finger to an old-aged angst over that.
For as a Kid? I wasn’t a Dinosaur guy, Cars and planes weren’t my thing. Animal toys? Pff, I thought they were lame.
For me? IT was all about ROBOTS. If it was a robot toy, I thought it was the coolest thing ever; and if it was a Robot toy that happened to combine, I WANTED IT!
…and yet, Superion was the only one I got for transformers. In Milwaukee where I lived, they just never got many of the combiner parts Transformers in stores (again, beyond the combaticon limbs), and this was before internet ordering. If it wasn’t something that showed up on a shelf, My parent’s couldn’t find it.
So…yeah, I was a Big transformers guy as a toddler/preschooler; Hasbro had the formula for success, as they had a toyline that unified all of these things in pretty cheap collectibles, and a Cartoon that, as goofy as it was, Gave actual CHARACTER to them that made me want to play with them.
I likely would’ve been a primarily Transformers guy for most of my life, as I followed most of it’s incarnations through my Youth…if it weren’t for one event.
The original show is absolutely cheesy, but unbeknownst to me, I was an action-guy. I loved the choreography, I didn’t mind the stock footage cutting (though I came to be annoyed at the head-bobbing of the PR-original footage that wasn’t seen in the stock material) and the megazord fights I was innately drawn to because…well, Giant robots fighting monsters that can organically from the smaller-scale conflict.
And yet, as Heretical as it may sound for people who followed power rangers from the original Broadcast day of “Day of the Dumpster” (yes, I was THAT OG PR fan), I didn’t think much of the original MMPR megazord, OR Dragonzord (though I did want the dragonzord), so with how my parent’s were already expecting the Transformers or lego’s to be what I wanted…the season 1 Toyline in it’s entirety completely passed me by.
Then MMPR season 2 happened.
I had never wanted something so much in my life at the time.
You guys can’t really grasp How good the Red Dragon Thunderzord toy was if you didn’t own it. This thing had It ALL. It’s Beast mode was a badass Eastern Dragon, it’s robot mode was perfectly balanced symmetrically…and it had LIMB articulation. You could POSE this thing, It could Kneel, it had an Elbow Joint that could rotate, you could buy the set of the other thunderzords to give it armor for the true mega-thunderzord (and that armor also transferable to the white tigerzord which was also awesome), and as silly as it was, I Enjoyed stacking them up on top of Tor the shuttlezord for a moving carrier combination.
That Red-Dragonzord toy went with me EVERYWHERE for Over Two years.
Suffice it to say, that from 1995 Onwards, Bandai held my attention, and while I got a few of the Beast-Era transformers toys Once they hit the transmetals toyline (Monkey, not Trukk is best Prime, also the 3-point Beast Combiner magnaboss), to my childish brain, the first thing my mind would go to would be Power ranger’s Excellent (at least to me at the time) Combiner toys.
I never bought or got a single ranger action figure, I’m one of those kids that was solely focused on the giant robots.
Again, I was an easy kid to get gifts for, as I Didn’t actually want that much.
I was lucky enough that, because of the Movie early release, I was able to get the ninja megazord and falconzord at the same time, and that falconzord for some reason would Join the Red Dragonzord as the toy I took everywhere….But for a different reason.
See, what kept me focused on the falconzord toy, was an odd curiosity. From previous transformers Toys, Preschool toy exchanges where another kid had the OG Dragonzord, and owning the white tigerzord, I knew what clear plastic meant; the toy should have a light-up feature. And the tips of the falconzord’s wings had clear plastic for it’s gunbarrels, meaning it should be able to Light up, right?
I wrecked the stickers of that thing trying to figure out where they should go. I actually eventually succeeded in taking it apart…and finding the battery brace…sans electronics. While I Managed to put it back together without problem (I was also a lego’s kid and it became intuitive to reconstruct stuff like that), that nagging feeling something was wrong with it stuck with me. I mean, it was a toy that was sold Solo for only slightly less than the Ninja megazord, it should’ve had that right?
Apparently, once I became conscious of super sentai, and the dedication of toy collectors, I found that The falconzord’s kakuranger counterpart, Tsubasamaru…DID have light and sound features removed from the US toy. As an Adult I could only ask why, since as I said, it was a standalone toy sold for the price of a more elaborate megazord, surely that markup must have meant the price of that would’ve been covered.
Zeo Rolled around, and I got EVERYTHING Robot-related, and for the first time…indulged in the roleplay toys with the zeonizer and Zeo blaster.
I loved those toys, even as flimsy plastic caused parts of them to break…but again I was faced with that nagging feeling that something was wrong with them. The zeo blaster toy’s pistol had that same clear plastic thing, where you thought there was supposed to be a battery compartment for a light-up feature.
Again, Youtube toy collectors showing off the Ohranger variants have vindicated that perspective; it was.
Little did I know, that that was just Bandai of America policy to wring a few extra dollars out of unsuspecting kids where they could.
Ironically, as an adult who’s gone on to produce his own webseries where I talk about Japanese Tokusatsu stuff, that I wish I had collected and kept a collection of those roleplay toys.
I didn’t have this problem for Turbo or In Space’s Toys—Though I wish as an adult I’d Not gotten anything from the turbo line bar the Rescue megazord since…it’s parts were triple-changer combiners—Or at least not in the same way. The spiral saber I saw in Toy catalogues for the line, it was the team red’s weapon and formed its own weapon while the team had a combination weapon…and that combination weapon was lame because it had no lights and sounds unless you used them with the Astro blaster that did have sounds. But the spiral saber never showed up.
Sadly, I lost the astro blaster at a friend’s house..back when I could claim to actually have friends–but oddly I always wanted to keep it in Cassie/PRIS Pink’s combo-weapon form, as that satellite weapon always looked the best to me.
But what I ended up finding something that nagged at me again, was in the toys from the metal heroes adapted series.
Yes, them. I again didn’t get anything from the original beetleborgs toyline, but I DID get stuff from the metallix line, specifically their data laser.
This is probably the earliest we ever saw Bandai do a versatile weapon gimmick. Sure, prior toys could have combinations between them that made them better if you got them together, but something that gave different sounds dependent on slotting in another thing? IT’s astounding that took Over a Decade to become a Regular thing Bandai of Japan made use of.
But the toy in comparison to the show…looked strangely different, and as an Adult I get why.
IN Grey and black..it looked too much like a real Gun. I didn’t mind the blue-and-white with the red light at the front look to it, it just made it better to play with for me…even as I started losing the data cards. Though again things felt odd with it, because IN THE SHOW, while there were initial data cards that came with the gun, auxiliary ones in the show came with a card reader expansion system gifted by one of their allies, and combined with it and two other weapons into a rifle.
None of these were released in the US toyline. While one could presume it was because of interest in beetleborgs and the entire ‘live action superhero show’ Adaptation thing was dying down—especially since this was around the point Power rangers turbo almost killed the PR franchise–…those expansion data cards were instead packaged in other parts of the toyline. Which more implied Bandai of America never intended to release those items. It always was strange to me.
Around the year 2000, I started to grow out of Getting Power rangers toys, and I can more accredit that to lightspeed Rescue. While GogoV/Lightspeeds mecha in the series were absolute metal, the toys….eeeeh, something was off with them that made them not appeal to me. And while I collected the Lost galaxy roleplay toys, that feeling I believe more started with their robot toys. With exception to the stratoforce megazord toy (which reminded me SO much of Superion) The last Robot toy I really liked at the time was The In space Astro megazord, which I kept at all times combined with the delta megazord toy.
Again, I wish I’d kept that toy.
IN hindsight, With how much I adored Time Force, I wish I’d lasted one more year and picked up it’s megazords and roleplay toys. Hell, I wish I’d at least kept collecting the morphers.
But by that point, other things Had caught my attention.
This was when I became more of a model guy, Likely because of the wing Gundam’s bird mode conversion ability that linked it into the transformers/Power rangers stuff.
Even more than transformers in my formative years, my parents loved getting me lego’s. They were cheap, and always (pun not intended) built on top of each-other to expand and accent a collection. Even when I would get power rangers merch, we always somehow found the time for lego’s.
Gundam wing to me is still a good series, and I saw the appeal to putting together the figures, and hobby shops even before gundam’s big boom thanks to Toonami had 1/144-grade figures. I remember in hindsight that the hobbyshop I frequented for a few years had a Qubeley from Zeta Gundam on display, but it wasn’t until around 2005 that I learned what that was.
These things might not have transformed, but the appeal of how fluid and agile the machines were, the Human emotion of the story was engaging, and scale of the conflict eclipsed most of what Power rangers or transformers at the time was showcasing…
and I ate it up.
And even today I still get the 1/100 MG models on occasion if I want to build something…but from Bandai of japan as it’s a crapshoot otherwise to find a place that has them, as Bandai of America is not involved in import of those models anymore, nor has been for a long time.
Still, This is again why I say a GOOD SHOW is a better and more appealing means of selling things than one that is all about shoving a toylines items or a collectible gimmick down our throats and superceeds everything else. There is no appeal to something that is solely about showcasing toyetic merchandise. It’s always why I’ve felt criticism of media who does that which derides all of them on that single aspect of them as if it is to write them all off for it is rather hypocritical since practically everything from batman the animated series to Exo-squad has made use of it. Similarly why I despise the ‘it’s for X demographic’ argument for why one can flippantly write of something as not worth someones time, as I always become invested in something I like something because of the story and characters before anything else.
But gundam stuff would only see a significant boom about…once a year when it was actively a thing, even if they released stuff related to it in waves, and sadly the later action figures that replaced the propensity of the models…were not my thing.
Like I said, I’m not much of an action figure guy. Nor was I into beasts or animals, or straight vehicles my thing, I liked things that combined into robots or changed INTO robots.
One thing was likely responsible for changing that.
The Gaming revolution had arrived.
I was not a video game kid until around 1997, when one of my Mom’s boyfriend’s (at least I think was a boyfriend but might have just been a work friend, my parents had divorced by this point), passed down to me his kid’s discarded first-run Sega genesis and Sega CD. AS I was still young, and a few of these games were weird..I pretty much just played the VR Troopers and MMPR fighting games, and Sonic 2.
I really, really sucked at Sonic 2, could never get passed metropolis Zone 1. Hell, I rarely got past the cave stages.
And then Pokemon Hit. In tandem with the anime with the…in hindsight horrible dub by 4kids entertainment, and I think it’s because of that anime, that I for the first time actually wanted a new video game. So my mom got me a Gameboy color, and both pokemon red and blue.
I Then proceeded to play the games Three times, with each starter as the head of my party, in a row.
The next year, my stepbrother got a Nintendo 64, the Donkey Kong 64 Nintendo 64.
I kid you not, it took us until 2007 to actually beat that game, as we kept getting screwed by the game’s necessity to beat the original Donkey king within the game itself to get a coin that unlocked the final boss. Requiring one beat a Nintendo hard game to complete it meant we just did everything else in the game we could except that, as there were other games we could play that we were better at, and this was the day of video game rentals from blockbusters that we used a lot (to the point it would’ve been cheaper to buy some of what we rented). Banjo Tooie, Battletanks, hell, my Elementary school had a fundraiser, and I actually WON a copy of Pokemon stadium complete with Gameboy cartridge reader for game interfacing. We were obsessed with trying to beat that…and yet we never could get passed the Stadum version or Lorelai.
And then there was the pokemon card game. THAT is something I kind of regretted getting into, as brief as it was. Such a money sink, but I sold off my collection to get into yugioh, so it ended up a fair tradeoff in the end, since I Still play that.
But, It was likely all required for the next big thing that caused Bandai to grab my attention back…and again in concert with Saban.
I think it pretty much Can be agreed that, between Pokemon and Digimon, due to the many similarities the franchise’s share in their monster themes and partnership story engine, that Digimon made for an overall better anime experience as they’d have a complete story for every year of the series while pokemon dragged itself out over multiple years before just pushing the reset button on the castmembers to move to the next region and game generation. Pokemon made for the better games…even if their gameplay could feel repetitious. I’ve never felt the repetitious aspect of the pokemon game criticism, as each pokemon region is a unique experience, that just happens to have a mostly same battle system utilized for them. I think that’s more people’s problem in feeling pokemon got into a rut as the battle system didn’t significantly change over time.
But because I still was mostly a TV watcher even with my Stepbrother and I spending weekends gaming, Digimon stole most of my focus from pokemon, and I stopped watching the anime mid-johto run, and my Interest in it’s card game died even before that. That all got focused into Digimon.
Now, I didn’t really collect much of anything from the Digimon toyline. But the big thing I did…was the digivices. Which to some make sense, Digimon DID start out as a line of Virtual pets (aka tomagotchi toys) that Bandai partnered with Toei to make into a product-Advertising TV show.
And as this was before Toei’s Producer staff went to the dumb side of the force seen of more recent work, they knew how to craft a story that’d get people attention with putting kids/preteens into a serious, world-cataclysmic drama that kept you invested in the events going on.
That digimon Adventure/Season 1 is still considered one of the three best animated entries of the franchise (Alongside Digimon Tamers/Season 3 that is my personal favorite and Savers/Data Squad that…I just can’t stand the dub of, sorry savers fans as I do know there’s quality there) Says a lot to how much Bandai and Toei, and By proxy Saban Got that first outing, as It quickly became a Rival to pokemon Here.
Fans picked a side, friendships were broken, Families became divided, wars began, collections were pillaged, people died.
Disclaimer: people did not actually Die.
But the feuds between fandoms were indeed intense…and there I was in the middle, possessing the opinion that eventually became the ceasefire agreement the two sides ultimately reached.
…well, at least until the 2010’s where that entirely reversed course. Digimon Xros wars sucked, the Pokemon XYZ anime up until it’s disastrous ending Where Ash/Satsohi Lost a Torunament Again after getting the most development he ever had was badass.
Digimon Xros wars for DS, re-digitize decode and encode, and Digimon Adventure the PSP game remake became best-sellers for the franchise and for the years they released in Japan(despite those entries not seeing sales outside japan) to say nothing of the excellent Digimon Story cyber sleuth and hacker’s memory…while the gen 5 and gen 6 pokemon games had in hindsight been stated by pokemon players as terrible by expectations of the franchise. And gen 7’s Alola, even to myself who liked gen 5 and 6…well, I have yet to complete Sun/Moon. It was the first one I actively found boring.
But back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s, Bandai was trying to bank on this partner monster in-your-pocket fad and fandom clash, by trying to take sales from every sect Pokemon was dominating; Small toys, Evolving figures, supplementary roleplay figures and Kids meal promotions at fast food joints; even taking the time to import the games they could that didn’t require marketing the Wonderswan.
But while the wonderswan obviously would not have worked, they could distribute… a Competing Card game.
Now…there’s something you absolutely need to understand about Bandai of America, and this is something that has always been true about them. It predated Digimon, and it has been seen even as recently as the power rangers megaforce tie-in CCG.
They absolutely suck at Marketing card games.
With nearly every major anime they had a license to sell that became significantly popular, they tried to make and popularize a card game around it, only for the same thing to screw them up for years and years, this even lasting as far into the early sets of the Naruto card game that was briefly a thing.
No-one sold them in stores.
At best, to find anything that wasn’t just the basic starter decks OR MAYBE the series 1 or two booster packs, you had to search out the one obscure store that ever managed to get them. The most people SAW of the cards, was when theaters distributed promotional cards for the movie
…that actually could not be used because the sets that had the cards you needed to play them hadn’t been released yet (Also known to yugioh fans and players, as the blue-eyes shining dragon paradox).
Hell, Digimon world 1 and Digital card battle PS1 games had promotional cards as well.
…and had the exact same thing happen.
And this was in spite of this being a popular fad.
To give context by how much stores want to get sales from a popular fad, from 2014-2017 I worked at a Michaels arts and crafts, and when Funko pops and fidget spinners and tiny vinyl figures became a thing, I got the task of stocking those in the check-out lanes as one of the earliest adopters among retail stores for that sales bump…and we kept selling out initially.
But again back in 1999/2000, At the time, I lived in Milwaukee. On top of Target, there were at the time still a wealth of hobby stores that stocked all types of collectibles, and had seen a boom in traffic thanks to the pokemon card game that actually made them pick up a short supply of a bunch of lesser competing TCG’s that had surged in the Anime boom….and Not a single one in the Dozen+ stores in the region that We could find stocked a single pack of them. The One Place I ever found that did, was this little kids (ages 3-7) specialty place, and I was basically the sole buyer of JUST the series 1 stuff. And yeah, I did buy them. You have no Idea the lengths I went to to get some of these.
But that was During Digimon adventure and to a lesser extent adventure 02.
Then Digimon Tamers debuted, and you would THINK that Bandai would continue to market the card game where a significant aspect of the story involved the fact that the Anime made use of the card game’s cards for special battle effects.
Ironically, That was resultant from how popular in japan the Digimon Card game was. No Joke, that game ran for over a decade, the last variant I’m aware of being part of the Xros wars media.
But Bandai of America? They made cards for that year that conformed to the expected CCG system for it, but absolutely no-one had any of them.
At the time, 2001? I moved to Indiana. You’d think another region might have different sales and stocking items, especially since I was just north of Indianapolis for this…but nothing. Absolutely nothing.
And the thing with Tamers is…I was OBSESSED with that series. Rika Nonaka/Ruki Makino was the first female character I crushed on, Guilmon and Renamon remain my all-time favorite digimon Lines, Impmon/Beelzemon was the MVP for character arcs of the series by becoming a black-winged Biker noble demon lord seeking personal redemption. Tamers ROCKED.
Hell, the D-Power/D-Arc digivice fixed the one problem of the previous Digivice toys, as if the batteries died, you’d lose all progress and would have to start again. But with the D-Power, it had a companion PC fighting game that allowed you to upload the digimon you unlocked and leveled up for use in that game, and if the D-power lost power (despite running on AAA batteries), if you had them backed up when you replaced the battery, you could upload them and continued where you left off.
This was genius, this was well-designed, this was the making of everything you needed to have a successful year of sales.
WHY THE HELL COULD I NOT FIND A SINGLE ONE OF THESE SETS OR PACKS!?
No, seriously. I lived in two states, and In all that time, I only found them ONCE!
The clearance section of a freaking Kohls clothing store. I caught the red digital graphics of the guilmon starter set (Street starter set 3 was the deck’s actual name) out of the corner of the Eye, raced over…and found the packaging had been torn open and the contents long gone.
Apparently Kohls was one of the few retailers to ever stock them during this anime CCG fad, only for no-one to buy them. And No-one bought them Because No-One goes to a Store that primarily sells apparel and home accessories to raid the small kids toy section for popular/fad collectibles.
You couldn’t even get these things online.
Again, this was 2001/2002.
Amazon and E-Bay were a THING at this point, and still you could barely see them. Toywiz.com had been born by then, and they did on occasion retail a few of the individual cards, but never full packs, and never the starter sets that I searched everywhere I could to find.
This continued for Frontier, and their D-Tector Toyline, which had a companion card game that was meant to interface with the Digivice of the year.
The D-tector Digivices, If you weren’t aware, are an originators of the now-normally seen QR technology. The top of the digivice had an optical scanner that read barcodes and the english one said things in the show could also set it off.
and could also gain codes from the D-tector toyline.
Bandai of japan actually are something of a pioneer for a lot of this ‘collectible gimmick that can interface with reader tech’ stuff, their digimon cards actually had card scanning bars on them that’s lead to them popularizing arcade game interfacing as a sales gimmick that continues to this day with the Kamen Rider ganbaride/ganbarizing arcade machines.
Again, for a yugioh example? The duel terminal arcade machines first seen in the yugioh 5D’s era of the franchise could only use special cards that had a marbleized holofoil pattern that the Duel terminals could read. Meaning you needed to buy special reprints of the cards you loved to even use them, thus konami didn’t really continue to support them beyond early yugioh Zexal because they were operating at a loss.
Hell, in 2003 by takara and 2004 by Mattel, the Rockman.exe/Megaman NT warrior series popularized other companies doing it with V-pet toys in the form of the Advanced PET toy, that ‘read’ collectible battlechips which had simple effects programmed into them which could even interface with megaman battle network 4/5 with the assistance of a device called the battlechip gate
…that mattel sadly didn’t get a chance to release due to the import of the anime and thus toys related to it being discontinued. Those did well again because they saw regular store distribution.
But again, swinging back to Frontier? Yeah, I only Ever found one place that ever had any of the cards, it was an out-of-the-way wallgreens….and they were usually stocked behind the then super-popular yugioh card game back when that was first becoming a thing.
Incidentally, since I keep mentioning it, Yugioh has done as well as it has not just because of the anime popularizing the game (because few players of the game now even bother WITH the anime after revelation came about how bad 4Kids has screwed it up), but because packs of the game became ubiquitous in almost any place that sold collectibles, and was tactically well-designed and very accessible for newbie players to learn and get into.
This seem to finally be beaten into Bandai of america’s head at this point, as the next card series, the Digimon CCG which ran from 2004 to 2005, had a more mainstream distribution,
It’s gameplay was simple to understand, done very similar to how Yugioh was done, and could usually be found at targets beside yugioh displays…and yet, fell to the EXACT same cycle that sabotaged it’s sales. As while the initial two starter decks and eternal courage booster backs made it out widely…the second set hybrid warriors, third starter deck Royal Knights, and final booster set Operation X (all of which tied into the Movie Digimon X-evolution)…I only ever found at Gencon.
Gencon, for non-converts, is an annual gaming convention that since the 2000’s was held in Indianapolis. My dad and stepbrother would come down once-a-year, and for 3 days, we’d have fun around the con floor.
This was when I was a big yugioh player, and I’d spend most of it being crushed by it’s players as while I was a good player for my school (and dominated my local cardshop throughout 2006 with my blue-eyes deck) I wasn’t tournament-league material.
But when that Digimon CCG was out, the first year Bandai rented out floor-space to get people playing, made Con-exclusive promotional cards (Golddramon, for those curious), and tried to make an honest effort in distributing and making it successful, since at this point the Digimon Anime for the time…was mostly done.
The next year? We went? the Operation X set had recently released…and the Bandai booth had so few of the cards for sale on day 1 of the con that I literally bought out everything they had with an $80 purchase, and NO-One else at the con stocked any of the cards.
Incidentally, That Digimon CCG? I am missing ONLY 10 cards to complete my collection. If anyone has anything from that run, message me. I’m looking for Hybrid warrior’s Kendogarurumon, and X-evolution’s Aldamon, Beowolfmon, kaisergreymon, Magnagarurumon, beelzemon blast mode, lucemon shadowlord mode, Pheonixmon, and Dorugoramon, alongside the Chaosgallantmon Promo card.
But this tangent about the card game’s made me not address the actual video game material and…yeah, with my enjoyment of Digimon? Most of my expression of that went to a certain system…that I ended up obtaining.
yeah, I got a Ps1.
Now, Throughout my time as an Internet web-video reviewer, I’ve taken the time To go through the Digimon video games and…yeah, my first Playstation game, with that ‘new’ (‘cause I got it used) system, I got:
I crushed this game. To this day, no matter how many people rag on it and say it’s terrible in comparison to the ‘oh more so better digimon world 1’ (which I personally can’t stand,), I loved the dungeon crawling, I loved the turn-based party combat system, and it’s well-developed story.
And digimon world 3, of the ps1 games for digimon, is usually rated highly by fans, and has been cited as one of the best Ps1 games of the era.
Ironically, The later ‘Digimon Story’ games have long-been seen as an amalgamation of Digimon world 3’s adventurous world with Digimon world 2’s storytelling and battle system to wide-ranging popular appeal…while ones trying to echo digimon world 1 have had an extreme entry barrier as you can spend hours just in the starting area without a single idea of what you are supposed to do or how to progress.
(it may say atari, but trust me it was a bandai game)
Digimon games, in tandem with Dragonball and a bunch of other anime-based games in the mass anime boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s helped to put Bandai majorly on the map with a lot of the things they could flood out that would be just devoured by the populace, from the dragonball budokai games,
to the mobile suit gundam games. When I later got a PS2 after my Ps1 got wrecked in a flood, Bandai became one of the pillars by which I would game for a long time.
Which eventually, in tandem with Toonami…resulted in me experiencing something I to this day remain a fan and promoter of, and for a very good reason.
“Welcome….To [The World]”
We will swing back to this, but this was actually something very significant. I Still to this day regret not getting the original Bandai entertainment DVD box set for .hack//Sign, though the more recent funimation collection is fantastic.
And as I’ve kept mentioning it, Toonami is the bastion of my transitional year’s interests. While I still watched fox Kids to it’s end and kids wb’s interesting material, toonami was where it was at for serialized stories and a mutltitude of awesome series. The grand majority of what it ran, were series produced by Sunrise…in concert with Bandai, with the odd Fuimation-owned series like Dragonball and Yuyu hakusho…which as I said, also had Bandai in charge of their games and merch. Even when it was outside that, it was usually something like Sailor moon…that again, Bandai owned the merch rights for.
I think the only thing significantly beyond that was Zoids, a Takara (thus Hasbro) property that also ran at a bunch of other times too, so wasn’t exactly a toonami staple either.
For years the block was practically an advertising machine for Bandai material, and I loved the Crap out of it.
No joke, when anime collection sets started to become things, They became the new staple of my birthday/wishlists. Outlaw star, The Big O, gundam of all types, Scryed,…I could just keep naming stuff from this era. and that picture of figures Bandai Did? I so wish I’d been able to get those.
So yeah, while Physical toys weren’t much of a thing, if it didn’t involve yugioh cards, Manga or the occasional capcom game (mianly Onimusha and the megaman battle network games), Bandai was still cleaning out my spare money and gift requests well into my teenage years.
At this point, Bandai practically owned my Soul.
But of course, no matter how well anything is doing, how many popular things it makes, there will always end up being a time for decline.
And For Bandai of America…you can really see that begin to start in 2005. At least, that’s where I first noticed it crop up, with them releasing more and more bad content, or making bad decisions that would screw them over in the long run.
And what would end up starting the domino’s falling for me…was one single purchase.
I…Hate This game.
I hate this game with every fiber of my Being.
One of the reasons I even became an internet reviewer was to one-day express my utter bile for it in video form, which I finally did back in 2016.
This game still remains one of the single worst gaming experiences I have ever had (only really topped by things the likes of the Lightning Saga final fantasy games and Sonic 2006), and Bandai of America didn’t make it any better by screwing up it’s import.
The load-times were agonizing, the gameplay was awful—it was designed as a ‘play with everyone as a party’ which expected you to have friends which would paly it with you but the solo experience for that was gasrbage, the translation was crap so you didn’t know what you were doing half the time, the pacing and level difficulty was trash despite being a dungeon-crawler, and it was impossible to actually digivolve your digimon—one of the hallmarks of the series—until the late end of the game, you only had a few options of WHAT to digivolve to, and Digivolving a digimon ACTUALLY was harmful to game progression as it reset you to level 1 and forced you to go back and replay all the regions you cleared earlier JUST so you could og back to what you were doing. That last one was one of the pillars of what broke it irrepearbly, and While the digimon story games have a similar ‘you reset to level 1 after evolving’ thing to them, it at least starts you off with your new digimon at higher stats which increase farther than the previous stage, and the mutli-partner system made it so you could still progress normally throught eh game as you evolved and expanded your roster. It was essentially a microcosm of everything awful about any digimon game, and many gaming trens in general
I spent Months in the summer of 2005 agonizingly trying to complete it, because I loved Digimon. I bought it because it had a promo card for the Digimon CCG, a Dorumon card that tied into X-evolution (both the Movie and set)…but the game despite having that on the box art that it was included…didn’t have it.
Basically, by the time I reached the end of it, I was so hollowed out and empty of anything but rage…that I didn’t buy or ask for another product that originated from Bandai for over Two years.
In a decision I would greatly come to regret far later, I also sold almost everything Bandai I’d ever bought or had gifted to me. While the Digimon cards survived my purge…my original .hack game collection did not. I ended up needing to repurchase them far later…but some of the Rebought copies lacked the Liminality OVA’s, forever leaving my collection missing something Vital to the First era’s story.
I eventually did start buying Bandai Products again, beginning with Digimon Story aka Digimon World DS when I found it on sale not that long before Dusk and dawn and Digimon saver another mission got released in late 2007. And Digimon Story was in all respects the game that World 4 SHOULD have been, combining all the best aspects of the previous games in the series into a gameplay engine that still to-this-day is considered the standard by which all the digimon game should operate, and the digimon story game series has Remained Bandai of Japan’s Best sellers for the franchise.
But still, the cynicism was there, and I started seeing things that had nagged at me since I was a kid up-front-and-center with them.
The SPD morpher. I was actually tempted to buy this when it was in stores…but…why wasn’t it like the one in the show?
I later learned they’d stripped it out to meet a price-point from the Japanese one that retailed for about the same cost initially. Why strip it out then?
Why, Because it would cost them less, and they could keep more of the sales profits.
This was, actually, at the beginning point where power rangers, which I was still following at that time, would more begin to struggle with Disney trying to actively suffocate the property until they finally succeeded, so getting it from both ends probably wasn’t a fun time.
Granted, Like I said, I had stopped buying the toys years before, but I started to see them gutting the value of what they were selling become the default to bandai’s stuff at the time….with other stuff they marketted.
Toonami’s programming block replacement Miguzi was not the most fondly received period of programming by any stretch of the imagination. The only things it had going for it were Yugioh GX (even though it would be quickly learned that the dub for it was trash, my apologies to it’s English voice cast which included DBZ’s Goku, Sean Shimmel), Code Lyoko which was right in my interest niche concerning Digimon/.hack but I hated to actually watch on the block due to Noam kaniel’s literally ear-rapingly awful ‘this-music-is-so-bad-this-can-cause-those-with-hyperacusis-to-potentially-have-deadly-seizures-with-how-painful-they-are’ musical compositions and he did the English cover of its theme, and lastly Ben 10.
Now Ben 10 back then was good for what it was, A 10-year old boy gets a ‘dial H for hero’ alien device that let him change into a bunch of alien creatures. It’s essentially the digimon frontier story engine for adventures and merch. I kept track of the show and enjoyed it until the end of it’s “Ultimate Alien” incarnation (Yuri Lowenthal was great in that), but I agree it reached it’s lowest with the second season of the alien force incarnation where they rebooted the personality of the 15/16 year-old Ben to act more like his dumbass immature 10 year-old self that was devastating to everything Ben had done in the interim and future when the writers would revert him to that, and then got worse with the Omniverse style revision and spitting on what came before (I dropped it with the Fiasco that was the Julie breakup) that It dropped dead fast…to not even address the recent reboot.
Now, Bandai of America was responsible for the Ben 10 Toys.
They were not good toys, and their insistence on making toys for it kind of screwed over aspects of it (Especially in Omniverse), so overtime they sold ‘meh’, and then sold poorly. And this was not good for the time, especially with what they were competing against.
The many faces of “DULL SURPRISE!”
Now, again, this is back to Hasbro, and Hasbro had never been silent for long in competing with any other toy outfit. Beast machines may have faltered for beast-era content, but transformers RID/Car robots’s line was…I wish I hadn’t stopped collecting Toys by that point beyond the rare model or Megaman/Yugioh creature figures, as My god were those some good figures in those years.
But Armada actually had me go back and buy figures again because The minicons were like candy.
Transforming mini-robot candy.
Plus, I will fight anyone that says–short of aligned continuity Starscream as there is actually a debate one can make there–that this is not the best Starscream.
I just…goddamn that scene.
And Transformers Energon…okay, was Not the best written show, and didn’t even hold up to Armada, despite Armada having issues that came from them rushing through development of the series so-as to then rush out a dub.
And Cybertron…Okay, THAT one sucked.
But to me, the beginning side to and A Fair portion past that of Energon worked for me as an ongoing narrative that was vastly different and yet successful.
And most of all, it had the return…of Him.
Keep in Mind, I was still watching Power Rangers at the time. I kept track of and watched every episode that aired, while I was more content to just skip around armada and energon as they popped up. And yet no toy Bandai was releasing made me want to do that. No figure, no Mech they had felt worth it, not after what happened with Digimon world 4. I had $50 saved up? I bought a freaking duel disk as an accessory for playing that card game.
Yes, an accessory, released by Mattel, sold for that much. Toy stores that sold it had difficulty keeping them in stock for a time, as it accented one’s playing of that card game. And yet nothing in that time broke the ennui.
2007 actually had the quality first seen of a lot of the Ben 10 merch find it’s way to the power rangers figures and toys more promptly, with Bandai of America beginning to sell their own molds of downscaled quality, cheaper-made PR toys beginning with overdrive, which to many felt like a siginificant detractor…and the irony was for that I almost went out and bought a few of the overdrive toys until someone posted what japan got on a forum I was part of. It pretty much gutted the interest. And beyond that…after playing the Digimon DS games which reinviogorated the appeal of that franchise and washed the taste of world 4 out of my mouth, I tried to find the newer digimon stuff…for it all to not be found anywhere I could find despite Data Squad still running on Toon Disney…a station I didnt’ get anymore because I was in college.
Some things never change, Eh?
But then 2008 happened.
Now, for context here? I’m 29 at the time I’m posting this, turning 30 in November. It is February of 2018.
I almost didn’t make it that long.
2008 I continue to believe was the worst year I have ever experienced in my life. College was a soul-destroying experience I wasn’t interested in to begin with, and yet my parents insisted I go without an idea of what I wanted to do with my life, and no interest on helping me find it.
I had an interest in Translation when I was in high school, but they for some reason sought to quash that Despite me getting really high marks in the Japanese courses I took, as the instructor (actually of Japanese nationality) made it really Easy to understand, and spent a long month on Nuances of language conversion. A lot of translation critiques concerning liberties and things that are pet peeves of mine that I can comment on when I do my Tokusatsu review videos, such as the J-Z-Romanization issue? Pretty much are a result of Ms Marisen’s high expectations for us and hammering into our heads what not to do.
And yes, she is the only teacher I ever had who’s name I remember. You tend to remember a half-African, Half-Japanese Woman with the calm, authoritative Voice.
But my parents (Specifically My Mom) didn’t want me to go into that, they wanted me to do something with Science. This was the heyday of The CSi franchise which we watched religiously, and on a whim, after we moved to Michigan, I took a forensic Science class, and they auto-defaulted to ‘hey, you like that stuff, that’d be a good thing for you to do, so DO it!’
We went to one college-seeking advertisement seminar for Michigan tech, they had an insanely high 90% successful graduation rate, which I was concerned about. Suddenly, that’s the school I was going to go to, even though Western Michigan university was practically across the street. They had me signing up for Fafsa and what-not, had me go for a chemistry degree because they didn’t have a straight forensics course, cashed in bonds that I didn’t know existed early for payments with more said to be coming to cover any other expenses, and set me up up there. And while the first semester in 2007 wasn’t bad…once the year changed to 2008, it’s as if I couldn’t do anything right.
And they…ignored that. They just insisted I funnel more money into it, and they’d cover it.
…she never did, by the way. Hell, at one point she was taking money out of my savings account because she couldn’t afford medication she needed (She has multiple sclerosis) after buying something frivolous for a house. All while I was wracking up debt I didn’t even want to have, and she didn’t want me to get a job to pay for such as it would distract from the grades that were faltering.
Which is ironic, as before that, she’d wanted me working through High school, and I’d been unable to get any work due to a combination of distance, age and a lack of a driver’s license because I could never get experience with my learners permit because she was never around at a time of Day I could drive to then pass the test for a full license.
it’s the frustrating thing with my mom, she’d want me to do something she says is good for me, and then I’d be stuck in the catch-22 of it not actually being good for me, or I would be unable to do it due to conditions she would be the root cause of.
And college was not good for me, either mentally or physically, and she insisted I stay.
Primarily because of the other crap going down in 2008. What’s that?
Oh right, the beginnings of the economic recession, where a lot of people got laid off, and the world struggled to recover from for years after.
Hell, I actually tied to apply that year, and what was the reply I got in response?
‘yeah, right kid. Try applying after you actually learn how to DO something!’
…this was for an entry level ‘no experience’ part-time job at a freaking 7-11.
Party in that? My dad’s Company laid him off. See, my Dad was an engineer for Miller. Yes, the beer company. And he was a good engineer, responsible for the designs of a number of their southern breweries. But then Miller got bought out, and his job went bye-bye. He eventually worked out something where he worked as a freelancer for them and gutted his benefits and salary so he could at least ‘officially’ stay on payroll for two more years, as at that point he’d have been eligible for early retirement benefits.
yes, people that heard of the more recent 2017 ‘fall of barnes and noble’ retailer where they sacked all their senior staff which then forced a failure cascade of the business? Not a new thing.
So yeah, Dad wasn’t exactly helpful that year. Nor was mom. She has Multiple sclerosis, and it started to hit her hard that year, to the point that her job as an HR manager (back when HR manager meant ‘help employees’ and not ‘protect the company’s interests’) was impossible to do as she couldn’t focus on the task long enough, so she put in for medical disability to focus on herself. To cap that, my Stepdad’s mom who was *really* old by this time also fell ill, and went into assisted living…so we packed up everything, sold the house we were in at a massive loss (again, 2000’s recession), and moved into her place so they could clean it out.
Ironicly, they never succeeded in that. While we cleaned out the main floor to live in, My stepdad fell ill in 2017 and soon after died from ALS, I ended up paying a guy to clean out what they’d been procrastinating on doing for 10 years.
But…I didn’t really see all of that at the time, all I knew is that those I depended on, because I wasn’t at the point where they thought I was, threw me to the wolves and expected me to survive on my own.
I slept on a couch that had been covered in cushions-to-base in old woman urine, and no-one bothered to tell me until the week after I’d been sent back to school and they could throw it out.
I spent a full day in a shower after that, and yet I still felt unclean.
So yeah; grades failing, Couldn’t get a job, Parental safety net was gone after with no Real Friends to talk to, Debt mounting, so many things I tried and failed at that weighted on me. And with pretty much every form of escape or entertainment that had been a support to me as a venting outlet screwed entirely over in that year as well, I was lost and adrift with nothing to really do but be aware of how awful I was at everything, and finally broke from the pressure to excel…at something I never wanted to do in the first place.
What was I doing, why was I here, what Was I supposed to do, They didn’t teach me any of this, how was I supposed to learn any of what I needed to function, No-one would tell me! HOW DO I FIX THIS!? Someone, ANYONE, HELP ME!
…No-one’s coming, are they?
…I can‘t do anything right, can I?
In my second year, first semester of college, I found a set of keys on the floor, dropped by the campus maintenance staff…which led up to the un-fenced roof of a 12-story building.
Campus cleared out for a full week for thanksgiving, but because of international students, you’re given the option to stay at the school at no additional cost, all it needs is an additional notification to administrative staff. I hate thanksgiving anyways due to a combination of fighting all the traditional food of it full-on repulsive and my stepmom ruining…pretty much all holidays for me with her antics, and have thus always preferred to be left alone during it, as it’s always a holiday that manages to bring out the absolute worst in everyone I have ever met.
But this was not the year I should have insisted on being alone.
Because right then, the dark cloud of the depression I had been fighting for most of the year…
…Turned Pitch Black.
“I did…my best.
I did the best I could.
I tried to do what everyone Said.
But…None of it worked.
I mean, it’s so unfair, I’ve only got one of myself.
And they’re always trying to push me in opposite directions.
But I still tried! I did my best to do what They said!
Because If I didn’t, They’d all leave me.
They told me they didn’t need someone like me.
No matter how had I tried, it was no Good.
I tried, and I tried, and No One would Praise me…
No One would accept me…
No-one would look at “ME”!”
I said we would get back to it.
This game was literally responsible for preventing me from Killing myself.
I’d asked for it (alongside G.U Rebirth Special edition and Redemption, only getting the standard rebirth because…the SE was out of print by then) for Christmas the previous year completely on impulse after learning about them, but never got around to actually playing any of them.
Then, on an impulse because I decided ‘hey, why not, not like I was planning anything else this week’, and I was just waiting until campus was it’s most barren anyways…so I picked up Rebirth and started playing; doing the save upload from .Hack//Quarantine that I still had on a memory card, and first learned the story of Ryou “Sora/Haseo” Misaki, And Chigusa “Atoli” Kusaka.
That quoted Line right there? Those are words Atoli speaks late in Reminisce, when her very soul has been torn open and made visible for anyone to see. her innermost throughts, her deepest insecurities, every self-loathing emotion, every dark place she’d ever gone to and tried to escape from only to drown in them forced out into the open.
And every single one of them were the lies I had been telling myself.
In that moment, as the Scene progressed, and Haseo worked to rescue her from that…something in me Snapped. A scream tore past my lips that burst into a guttural roar of rage. No, she is Going to get past this, she is going to live; I AM GOING TO GET PAST THIS! I AM GOING TO LIVE!
“Is that what you really think?
Do you really think all of this is Your fault?
Then how do you intend to take responsibility for what you’ve done?
You don’t know.
No, it’s that you’re not trying to know.
As you are now, you’re just running away.
You’re just playing the part of the wounded and victimized, Tragic hero.
If you really mean to take responsibility, Don’t cry and ask other people what to do.
…Don’t Cloud your eyes with tears,
Don’t close your ears and run away from things that are difficult.
Don’t restrict yourself with (Self)-Imposed Ideas.
Open your eyes, Open your ears, and think. Just take a deep breath, Hold your head up, and walk Forward.”
…I didn’t even realize I had been crying until I paused the game to save.
Maintenance found the keys Tossed into the Dorm’s main office the following Monday.
I’ve been walking forward ever since.
I Got my act together.
I’ve stumbled, and struggled…but I figured out my life.
After I got introduced to the world of internet reviewing thanks to a net-friend of mine named AkumaTH showing me Kickassia, and decided to go about doing my own show? I knew the best way to pay that back, was the go back and promote the crap out of that franchise, who always seemed to be just that one step short to making it mainstream over here.
That review project, .Hack//Retrospective? In October 2017, netted me this:
Yes, that was an official E-mail from a representative of Cyberconnect2, .Hack’s developer, asking me if I wanted to do a promotional video on .Hack//G.U last recode, the Remaster of the game that was the entire reason I was still living.
They…liked the videos I had made.
Everything I had ever done in video reviewing; no matter how little it earned me personally, no matter how much I had dedicated to it when I could’ve been doubling down on fighting a real job, a higher paying job…was vindicated. It had all been Worth it.
And in that same moment, I had an epiphany, one that made me tear up just as much just as much as that day almost Nine years before.
The Darkness In my own heart, the one that I’d been beating down for years that would always try and whisper at me when I was at my lowest…had been beaten.
That voice had been silenced.
I didn’t want to kill myself anymore.
And the thing that always astounds me the most about this? I asked for those games on a whim after I found out they existed from my first-year College roommate I didn’t know they existed. .Hack//G.U. HAD NO ADVERTISEMENT AT ALL BY BANDAI OF AMERICA, they just threw it out there because the parent company had seen high sales (.hack//G.U is the absolute best entry in the .hack Franchise according to the creative staff themselves), but there was no promotion of it. Hell, More stringent .Hack fans than I…DIDN’T EVEN KNOW IT EXISTED until after it left circulation.
…So What would have happened had I not found out?
This had actually been becoming more and more of a problem with Bandai of America’s marketing policies during the time I wasn’t buying their stuff that I more became aware of as I fell back into grabbing stuff they sold. Or rather, that they didn’t. Things would live or die solely by impulse ‘seeing it in the shelves’ shopping, with them only shelling out promotion adverts for things previously proven to sell, such as Power rangers and dragonball content…but neither were doing well at the time.
Power rangers Jungle fury Sucked. I continue to say it’s the worst of the Disney-era shows. More people say overdrive and there is a legitimate debate one could make for either.
But at least with me and Overdrive? I Didn’t hate every single person of the freaking cast.
Disney was pretty much over it, so only Bandai did any advertisement for RPM, but RPM’s toys and related merch had joined Bandai of america’s frustratingly cheapskated and lazy figure quality, that apparently wasn’t exactly winning over customers.
Game quality had taken a hit as well, as there started to become more apparent gameplay errors and glitches and a host of quality-control problems through games released since this period, all of which were not present in their japanese counterparts, but somehow screwed up in Import.
To many, past 2005, it just felt like everyone at the company just stopped caring.
You know, among Digimon fans, we’re notoriously hostile to how badly “Digimon Story Cyber Sleuth” (Excellent game, buy it and its sequel Hacker’s memory) was translated. Because depending on the chapter of the game you are in, it’s seriously that unforgivably Bad; transparently so considering they didn’t even dub it, but used dub-type localization over entirely different Japanese audio so if you are in any way familiar with the language you can literally hear them lying about what is being said.
Way to screw up the best scene in the game with the use of Liberal Translation, Bandai.
Yes, we could literally use Digimon Xros wars/Fusion clips to satirize how stupid making reference to Digimon Fusion’s preferred combination type (Digixros/Digifuse) in a completely different type of fusion (Jogress/DNA digivolution) the Franchise also utilized was, when the character in that moment was literally saying ‘Combine’.
While it might seem like a small example, depending on what chapter you are in…The Entire game is like that.
And the sad thing was, that wasn’t very abnormal for translation/localization of their work beginning around this time. Hell, Bandai gaming had merged with Namco to become Namco Bandai, and while MOST of the Namco-originating Games continued to do well–
(I have yet to play a ‘Tales’ game, but will get to it)
…anything from the full-on Bandai side, or belonging to something Bandai had the toy rights to that a game would tie into… tended to take a hit.
This included the dragonball fighting games that just became more repetitious and less appealing by the year for those still in that camp, other properties withered without that support and flailed in the wind.
Hell, it’s actually become something of a joke among gamers who buy Bandai stuff, that if something is on the PSN that wasn’t released Physically in the US, and it has no dub-work, then Bandai of America didn’t actually release it, but one of the Asian divisions did.
I actually got a few Digital-only games this way (though I really prefer physical), and it turned out you could tell another way to differentiate them beyond the lack of at dub as the dubless releases became more common for them; the ones BOA actually had a hand in localizing always were the one’s who’s translation was utter trash in comparison to game subs coming from the Hong Kong branch.
Yes, you could literally say HK subs were better than Bandai of America’s Translation.
…you need to have been a fansub user to truly get how funny that is.
And, with the recession gutting people’s ability to buy stuff, another branch of the company was faltering.
Now, with hindsight, the downfall of Bandai’s anime Liscensing, importation, and DVD distribution division…was not inevitable, but they were doing practically everything wrong to prevent it.
In the early 2000’s for anime Dvd’s, they were pretty much distributed in the same way they would have been in japan; between 3-5 episodes per DVD, each DVD packaged individually for $25-30, with an eventual ‘complete collection’ release putting together everything. But the problem was those complete collections actually took a while to happen. Years, in some cases. As the anime import industry would prefer to just do special ‘limited edition first set’ sets where they’d give you a collectors box to put all of the DVD’s inside of, instead of that collectors box being an incentive to buy a re-released marked down complete set.
But the thing always was, either in complete or individual form…those DVD’s were expensive as hell. And the early collection boxes didn’t help that, as they tended to be priced for just about as much as it would to collect all of them individually…maybe $20-30 less, so you’d save yourself the cost of at most One DVD…but long after you started collecting them individually.
And often, by the time the collectors set would come out or be marked down enough on a sale to get…either it’d be out of circulation or you could buy the original individual DVD’s for extremely cheap from a second hand retailer or hobby shop.
Hell, I thought it was an absolute steal when in 2005, I found the Rurouni kenshin season 1 and 2 DVD sets for $50 each. At A BEST BUY. I thought they were on clearance at the time, but their distributor anime works just realized those sets sold better at the price point of a video game.
By comparison, the Anime legends scryed volumes 1-3 I have? I got them the same year, and each was about that same price. Meaning I got less than a third of what was in each or the ruroken sets…and that was bandai’s then-preferred bargain model for collection sets. The actual ‘full series’ collections still cost quite a bit more.
The Complete collection of original Gundam wing DVD’s I have on my set? With exception to Endless waltz which I got as birthday gift…I got them used for a collective $25 when the ‘complete sets’ were retailing for $100-$150 in 2007. I got them from the Used DVD section at the hobby store I played Yugioh at.
This is pretty much how I’ve collected TV Shows and movies ever since, by raiding bargain bins and waiting for collections to go on sale.
And Bandai entertainment at the time was just making it worse. As they’d decided to start doing ‘english subbed only’ early releases of stuff they then intended to dub. So you’d get a sub-only release, then a dub-including release, and then a complete collection.
And they did this…even after as the recession hit.
Guess what also fell into recession? Their sales, as THEY Didn’t learn the lesson and kept doing this.
Funimation, ADV and Viz by proxy quickly learned that they needed to stop with the individual discs sales and just go straight for the volume sets of 13-26 episodes, as it was the only way to survive. Prices for them began to come down. What was once a $100 set now began to average $50-60. In Slimcases so production costs were less as well.
My Bioboosted armor Guyver Set from Funimation released in late 2008, I got it in 2009 for $40. It originally retailed for $60. Back in the early 2000’s, they would have tried to get between $150 and $200 to buy it in 4-5 episode DVD’s.
And Bandai still endeavored to keep to that.
By the time the Anime Legends sets finally came down to being an average of $50-60 a pop, the damage had been done.
So it was disappointing, but unsurprising that Bandai entertainment folded completely in 2012, only for it’s properties to over time be snapped up by Funimation, Discotek, Nozomi and sentai filmworks.
Which is sad, as There was rumor Before they announced their end, that the import of Turn A Gundam (AKA THE BEST Gundam series) alongside a dub of it was in the works.
Sentai filmworks has since made that a reality…but only subtitled. And while this is now an age where I can appreciate that, there’s always been that lingering question of what It might’ve been like to see the series dubbed.
And now we come to the more recent stuff, and why I even decide to write this massive…thing.
Saban Bought back power Rangers, and started producing more shows.
Now, this is a pretty blanket statement, but the last actual, factually good Power rangers show…was 2009’s Power Rangers RPM.
You know, the last Season Disney was in charge of.
There have been many, many reasons for why that is so, but samurai, megaforce, Dino Charge and Ninja steel all have their own unique reasons for sucking.
And as I wrote earlier, a Good show is an excellent marketing machine for anything that may be toyetic within it. It will keep people watching an invested beyond what they’re shelling, and because they are so enthralled, they’ll want something to memorialize that nostalgia for it.
A Bad show will not engender that love, and if it then tries to shove merchandise down your throats with declarations of ‘buy this’, you will actively detract even more from the material.
Power rangers has been bad entirely independent of it’s merchandise line since samurai started.
But in truth? The toys and games part of them have not helped things.
Bandai of America entered a new level of lazy and cheap with their more recent toys for those shows.
And I know, I *KNOW* many people like them. Hell, I wanted to like them. As I’ve been a fan for so long I wanted to actually join in on merch again even on the budget I was under to pay off my freaking bills. AS After G.U., even if they didn’t advertise it, I felt I owed them in some respect for at the very least putting it out there.
But the company refused to meet me half-way.
AS I said in my 9-part review of Dino Charge, The zord only power armors have only ever been a detraction to the production of the TV Show by adding in a powerup that not only has no reason to exist beyond to sell a toy, and cannot be justified within the show in any respect. By presented evidence of the samurai team discarding it to supply more power to their zords in their final battle, it is one that actively takes away power that should be going to powering the things actually responsible for fighting the enemies after they go Giant. They are in skintight body suits that already protect them from damage while allowing them immense agility, what is the point of then putting on armor to them pilot a giant machine where it is providing you the most safety possible by Default?
Ninninger Chouzetsu/Ninja steel’s Lion fire mode is another example of why it doesn’t work. As while it’s actually an armor the team can put on to assist in battle on the ground that the previous zord-piloting armors did not (bar the one time in samurai the one they used completely wrecked their enemy, which again makes it dumb they only used it in the one place it was unneeded), it is exceedingly dumb to pilot a giant robot externally as then needs to happen with the mech that armor relates to. It justified why they’d need the armor to protect the ranger while piloting, but for an utterly asinine reason as there was no logic to have a piloting cockpit be OUTSIDE the actual mech.
And The zord-builder toy system for the mechs seen of this era which BOA did with their original molds was absolutely devastating to the value of any figure, and the plastic was so cheap I could feel how waxy and malleable it was. Which I assume was all to make it more appealing and affordable to kids…if it were not for a few things.
1: The ones I Got as a kid were of a much higher quality than that, even when things were stripped out of them.
2: they were not actually more affordable, their price was just more jacked up for a cheaper-to-make and smaller overall figure. Which often (in the case of at the very least megaforce’s ranger keys) undermined their value.
(The ranger key example is probably one of the more egregious ones, since they were sold in blister packs of 3 at close to the same price point that the Japanese version of the toys used…despite the japan versions being both larger and having 5 keys to a pack.)
3: Bandai of Japan had previously used common-connection joints for robot figures from Timeranger (time force) through…I believe either Abaranger (Dino Thunder) or Dekaranger (SPD), and while popular that was just a quirk of how they were doing construction, and wasn’t an additional selling gimmick as they felt the quality of the toy they were putting out came first over any gimmick. This was even seen of later gimickization. Bandai of America and more modern 2010’s Bandai of japan’s bad producers however always made someone try to shove out the gimmick first.
And 4: a lot of what they then released…was just repaints and things that should have been made much cheaper by their mass production.
Thus, If you want people to now buy more stuff to all interface together and are making things more cheaply with intent to make parent’s buy more stuff….they were doing a really bad job at it.
Now I get with the recession that cost inflation went insane for pretty much everything with no related increase in wages required some things be made more cheaply…
You were In the 90’s already cannibalizing features to keep a comparative high price point give the (presumed) same amount of revenue, and you still felt the need to make the actual worth of the figure cheaper?
I would have understood if they were then going to sell for less in tandem with all the gimmick stuff, but you then keep to the same price points as you put more stuff on the market, when parents have less money to go around?
No, something was going to blow up in their faces on this eventually. Digimon World 4 made me that much of a cynic to everything I loved about Bandai, that I knew they were going to somehow screw this up.
And it took me passing an unchanged toy aisle when I was out shopping than I finally start to catch how it would play out.
Now, by this time, it was 2012 and I lived in Chicago. Finally Dropped out of College after it finally got through my mom’s head that it’d cost all of us less if I just finally went looking for work, as the recession was wrapping up.
Ironicly it still took until 2014 for me to find regular employment because while the recession had ended, Job health still has really yet to. And Nowhere in chicago with entry level positions bothered to respond to my applications for three years, in the same way I spent High school jobless because no-one would hire me without experience. It’s kind of a nasty, vicious cycle that is completely oblivious to my former HR-director mom who still thinks you can walk in and ask for an application when everything has gone to being online.
So I got in the habit of buying most of my food in bulk trips every 2-3 weeks, to cut down on costs and be frugal. And just because I wanted my own motivator, I’d walk down toy aisles to see what was up for collectibles I couldn’t afford JUST to torture myself into getting that next application out.
Negative reinforcement can sometimes be helpful.
Though Ironically, most of the money I would earn from the early days of my webseries that didn’t go to gutting my debt would end up going to Bandai of japan’s kamen Rider/Super sentai toylines.
But the thing I noticed when I would go doing this to myself…is Bandai of America-original products in the ‘super samurai’ era of power rangers…were not moving.
Hell, a Claw battlezord I realized had been left in the exact same titled position since the last time I had passed through. As I learned when I started working retail in 2014, you’re actually supposed to go through aisles and clean that kind of thing up for presentation purposes…but nothing here had been touched. Dust had even started to build up on the shelf.
So next time I was in, I Brought in a marker, and marked the bottom corner with a black dot, just to see if the one I saw was the same one.
The two weeks later, I checked…and it was.
Another two weeks, still there.
Another two weeks…still there. Hell, I started marking others with that black dot, to similar lack of sale.
This continued until the Samurai Items went on Clearance and were moved out of the store to make room for the megaforce Toyline.
I first marked it in April of 2012.
And again, THIS was Chicago, at a Target in a major shopping center where thousands of people passed through on a given week. This wasn’t an out-of-the-way toy specialty store, this was a mainstream department store that had a local monopoly on such toys, as another Target/Meijer/Walmart/etcetera or toy specialty store that sold power Rangers stuff was miles away. It’s do-able, but inconvenient to go find it somewhere else if they were actually selling it and it was in stock.
It may have been one store I would frequent so it might’ve been a bad exemplar, but It wasn’t the only one I went to. And I still saw similar lack of movement on other Bandai merchandise.
Now, as you would expect, I did this little neurotic experiment with Megaforce’s toys as well.
And I would love to show you the Data that resulted from that…but sadly the phone that had that on it was destroyed in 2016, and I wasn’t able to recover the data. It’s replacement didn’t have a camera that worked, sadly, so I couldn’t continue to document the dino charge sales issues That had continued into. So like that previous write-up, you’re kind of going to have to take my word on this.
I don’t have any real reason to lie either, the Book’s already been written on this period on how awful it was for sales.
Full disclosure, no I couldn’t continue to do this at that same target I did it at before. After I got working in 2014, I moved my little project to the Meijer in Arlington heights (a suburb of Chicago), which was on the way home from my dayjob. But I still tried to check this every two weeks. There was also a ToysRUs right by where I worked, and I ended up running in there once a month to check there too.
What I would see happen, is there’d be an initial first purchase rush for a wave…and then everything the remainder would just sit there until it went on clearance. Just that first initial boom when new stuff would pop up, then nothing. Meaning either they overstocked, or the only people who were buying would only go for it just as it would come out.
And these were still mostly full sections at that, so you couldn’t say what was there was left barren or it all the good stuff had been picked clean by collectors. These figures weren’t selling at stores in the Third-largest city in the United states.
I actually ended up stopping someone once and got into a conversation after they picked up one of the figures and looked at it before deciding to put it back. The reasoning they had to why they decided to pass on it was their kid was one of those that really appreciated that he got, and they wanted to make sure they got real playvalue and longevity out of the figure.
This was a young Mom, a bit younger than me, and they’d actually had a few power rangers toys when they were a kid, and had a son she wanted to share that with.
But the thing was, she’d gotten these modern PR figures previously, and they’d all broken quickly and irreparably, and that was why she actually hesitated; why buy something that wasn’t going to hold up, and it breaking would just make her kid sad again? She probably wouldn’t mind if it were cheaper like it’s construction implied, as she could likely just get another one if that happened. But for what they were selling at with how bad an experience that was, it didn’t seem worth it.
And it didn’t need to be that way.
Amusingly, I got my hands on a pricing gun one time, and scanned some of the stuff there? The sales costs for anything there that wasn’t for the legacy roleplay line (Such as the MMPR morphers or the Dino/thunder/ninja megazords) were between three and five times their production costs. That is a MASSIVE markup.
Again, I worked retail for a crafts store. Common items for the store meant to be sold repeatedly averaged twice their cost, with rare or limited seasonal stuff maxing out at three. The only regular item I ever saw there which went above that…was Sticker’s, which were usually 10 cents to make and labeled for $1. The only things that ranged into the 4X and above territory otherwise, was custom made stuff constructed by Our Florist or Glassware people special to customer specification or place out specially for presale.
Paint that sold for $1 averaged a production cost of 50 cents. So If you ever came in with a half-off-an-item coupon…what you bought was sold to you AT COST.
So things THIS absurdly overpriced…no… Just…no.
The legacy line items? Ranged between 2 to 2.5. Which again, is more in the fair range, and as those items were ‘bandai of Japan complete selection modification’ levels of quality, the prices they sold at were more than fair.
Now back to that woman I talked to? There’s a funny ending to that story. This was 2016, and the Hasbro Line of the year for transformers was the combiner wars toyline.
…Guess what was in stock at the store. In fact, guess what was the last one in stock of something that’d been hopping off shelves at the time?
Yeah. This was the entire point of that opening Tangent.
That thing retailed (well, retails, it’s still around) for $70.00 US dollars. And the woman who was hesitant to shell out $30 for a BOA-original mold PR Megazord looked at it, looked at the figures included, nodded, and walked up to the registers to buy it without a second thought.
And you know what? I couldn’t blame her. I’m a kamen Rider fan. I’ve paid $50-80 for roleplay rider belts before then picking up some of the collectibles. My entire ranger key collection that consists of Red ranger keys from Goranger through Gobusters that I put together when I had the money cost me around $150, to not even address some of the 6th/extra ranger keys I managed to scrounge together. I’ve purchased Gokaiger’s mecha, and even got back into buying roleplay toys again, just as I used to when I was a kid, and use them all for display purposes.
Hell, Next convention I go to? I have civilian-form Taiga Hanaya, Kamen Rider Snipe/Chronos (Chronos taiga ver) ready to go as I went and got a spare kamen rider chronicle gashat.
Bandai of Japan, even with their own unique brand of gimmick saturation and off-years, keeps making stuff that is cool and ends up used well in the show to work as good advertisement in show, and of a production quality where you see the value put into it visibly. Hell, even the budget-release models that are a fraction of the cost of the DX ones show that to the point there’s barely a significant difference beyond some light up feature or intricate molding or additional construction you might’ve not needed to have fun with it.
And I’ve even gone as far as to purchase complete selection modification items of older toys, and I feel their crazy pricetags ($400 for the OOO Driver and medals, just finished paying that off) are justified as it included everything that was previously part of a collection gimmick which when you included those prices…ACTUALLY DID shoot up to be around that cost originally. The up-front price is more conscious to what they were worth, and then they made it even better by adding in extra’s to it as incentives, and those incentives made CSM stuff sell like Mad, as those incentives Justified the price point for those on the fence.
And in America? Transformers could sell anything, at any price point, and get it to move.
2009’s Revenge of the fallen had this wretched Devastator ‘already combined figures toy’:
And it sold.
Voltron: legendary defenders, a revival of one of the first ‘japanese series-to-heavily altered adaptation’ media franchises has been a big hit over on Netflix. I’ve watched through season 3 and I just Love the show; it makes me feel like I’m watching the best years of power rangers (PRIS-SPD, plus RPM) again. I’ve seen the toys for that; they’re massive, sold individually for $20 each, and combine into an excellent full robot with full articulation that I wish had been seen in anything I’d wanted as a kid. I work for Amazon now, and there’s rarely a week where one of those Lion’s does end up in a bin I’m sending out to order processing.
But Bandai of America. Could Not. Sell. A Budget-conscious toy now…without screwing it up. And they screwed it up by making it so transparent in how cheap the toy actually was, that what it was being sold for just wasn’t worth it.
And it’s not like that was surprising, as they devastated every olive branch they tried to make. Display toys first seen at con events would often be wildly different than what would end up on Shelves, they tried to make the Tricerazord for dino charge purple originally because they said it pink isn’t a boys’ color that will sell (Fan outrage at them actually had them reverse it as then it wouldn’t match what was in the show). The more recent blowup about the legacy-ranger action figure line Zeo gold ranger not actually being in gold paint for ‘budget-conscious’ reasons pissed a lot for people off as the other zeo rangers seen of it DID have gold paint on them. The fans finally seemed to come to open revolt after years of abuse, and seeing fans of other things get a better bang for their buck, even if it cost them a little more.
And thus, the four pillars of their business, and each have crumbled to a varying degree.
Bandai of America card games were always half-assed, incapable of being distributed in ways which could get to consumers until it was too late, thus would always lose the consumer interest in era’s where TCG’s were a means to literally print endless money if the game could catch on and find it self viably playable.
Bandai Entertainment fell because of an inability to adapt to the market, instead sticking to conduct and policies that even Bandai of japan (which has far higher costs for home video material then we ever did here) moved away from to more fit the current ‘condensed sets’ business model.
Namco Bandai games keeps screwing up original games—something I didn’t discuss but MY GOD are the ones original to the US market from Bandai just downright terrible—and imported ones don’t even get the dignity of being called half-assed importations even if the underlying game is absolutely magnificent, and those magnificent titles still often do not get the advertisement and limelight they should.
Again, Cyberconnect2 Contacted a small-time internet reviewer to help promote their game as Namco Bandai once more could be interested in doing so beyond an occasional social media plug that got drowned out by how much they were trying to sell the next SAO game.
And Bandai of America’s Toy Division…have now Lost (or will eventually lose since it expires April 2019) the master toy license For power rangers toys. Which has been a staple and tentpole for their marketing in America for Twenty-Five years.
Hilarious, as Their Japanese parent branch is effectively the co-owners of sentai, and BOA even gave design input for the super sentai series Kyuranger (Which was utterly awful) with intent to make sure that was the next power rangers adaptation.
They even went as far as to say the Zyuohger (the Sentai series made after Ninninger, Ninninger being what has been adapted into Ninja steel) Toyline wasn’t workable by them,
because ‘it would not fit the paradigm of their asinine zord builder system.’
It was so obvious from that interview that they were making Saban bend over backwards in many respects to insist what would be adapted, then leaving it to Saban to figure out the how as opposed to the reverse like it seemed to be in the past, that it’s unsurprising about what eventually happened.
people were quite shocked to suddenly hear about this, especially after what we’ve been through with them the last several years. Series Skipped because the gimmick didn’t merchandise well, bad series with good actors, screwing up glorious material, the crap Nick’s put it through with the season splitting, so Many, MANY repaints. But honestly, many expected them to finally get past it. The legacy line was always a pillar to show that they could do great things if they wanted to.
We could still support them, they could go back to being great again!
And I would just sit there, and look at the copy of Digimon world 4 on my shelf, that served as an embodiment of all the blistering spite of sins long past. And then I’d look over at where I have my .hack collection on my set, and remember the game that got me moving again was something they never bothered to actually market.
The greatest things the company did were the ones they spent the least time getting right or promoting to succeed; their biggest blunders were always the ones they gave up on, or Shoved down our throats when they knew it was garbage already.
And it feels like, in some ways, things have come full circle. Because Saban has now partnered (er, will be partnering) with Hasbro…and decided that the next power Rangers season…
will be adapting Tokumei sentai gobusters, the series that ran between Gokaiger (super megaforce) and kyoryuger (Dino charge) which was skipped because, if any word on the matter stated previously is true, Bandai of America intervened to allow their parent company to get Saban to skip past it.
A series who’s only selling gimmick isn’t some type of collectible trinket, but the machines of the series. A back-to-basics approach that differs little from what Hasbro does with transformers, or my little pony, or Marvel, or star wars.
To reference an old Transformers meme, TRUKK IS MUNKY!
AS I’ve also said on this matter, I did not like Gobusters for a number of reasons, but even I Agree that it had plenty which would have allowed it to be made into an excellent adapted series had they tried.
But it was not given the chance,
and instead they entirely screwed up the adaptation of a series that I actually did Like.
one that was so popular in japan IT IS STILL GETTING ADDED ONTO.
And Saban and BOA couldn’t make it work.
So now they’re going to try one they said couldn’t, and can it?
Now sure, Hasbro has screwed up their own figures and lines, and have their own kind of quality control issues.
I HAD transformers figures back in the day that fell victim to the dreaded Gold Plastic Syndrome.
Hell, the shows about their properties have varied wildly in quality as well. I HATE Transformers Animated, Cybertron was nonsensical, the aligned continuity shows were trying to redeem the godawful Movie material and while it was a good series the premise of doing so was not.
Steve Blum as Starscream though, THAT is a match made in heaven.
And Starlight Glimmer I continue to say is the poster-child for how to in every way do wrong the character arc and depiction of a villain the storytellers not only wanted to redeem, but make into a new main character and focal point of future stores as the staff writers so screwed up her ‘redemption’ that she still reads to this day as a narcissistic sociopath control-obssessed Cultist.
But for anything they have done wrong, they have done far more right. For even when I didn’t buy something of theirs, I could look at something and see it’s value. Even among The Toy reviewers I follow on youtube, the only consistent complaint I see of the figures are just some ball joint issues that can be fixed with some window polish.
Hell, since ball-joints and ratcheted constructive limbs have been a consistent fixture in transformers toys since beast wars and have even finally become a fixture of their combiners, could this mean that future power rangers megazords could in turn finally possess defined pose-ability, instead of being giant bricks with at most movable arms?
I could see the R&D team making it possible for original toys.
But for some of us, we could just settle for Hasbro direct-importing the sentai toys again, even if some paint apps would have to be removed for some minor pricecuts like in the old days.
As Hasbro is right now, with the quality in Their lines right now, I could see a lot of good coming from this.
Hell, as TokuChris pointed out, Hasbro has their hands in so many other merchandise things, that the niche items could reach through the roof, and FINALLY see some focus beyond mighty morphin Nostalgia rangers that has infested the franchise since 2011.
But Regardless, This has ultimately become the nail in the coffin, the final beginning of the end for Bandai of America.
I have no Doubt it’s parent company will continue to thrive and produce products for the many things in Japan it has the merchandise license for which will see distribution world-wide, and I likewise believe I will continue to buy products of theirs for years to come…but I don’t see that happening for it’s American branch. No, I think it’s reached the terminal stage where recovery is all but impossible at this point. Not unless they can get in on something huge that will knock everyone’s socks off and make it the must-have toy of the decade.
But Bandai…in America at least, hasn’t that in about two decades, and I doubt that will happen again now.
For you, if you were once a dedicated fan of anything they may have supplied you, The day you realized Bandai of America had lost it’s longest-lasting media partner was the most startling day of your lives.
Disclaimer: it was not actually Tuesday.