text: Robert Duban & Matt Alt
Big thanks to
Thomas Wells for his help with this page
(visit his Gatchaman Toy Website!)
Looking for obscure fun? "Banso" is your company. Similar to the far larger and more successful Gakken, Banso is a publisher who took a brief foray into the world of character toys. Unlike Gakken, which specialized (and continues to specialize) in publishing everything from textbooks to serious literature, Banso's printed output appears limited to kiddie fare such as pop-up books, board games, origami paper, stickers, and the like. Banso seems to have had a lone character license: Gatchaman, otherwise known as "Battle of the Planets" in the United States. The company produced friction-powered plastic toys of the various smaller Gatcha-machines and the hallowed Godphoenix, each packaged with a horribly rendered yet somehow appealing mini-vinyl figure of the respective pilots. The closest thing to deluxe in Banso's lineup is the G4 Helico Buggy, which uses a battery-operated rather than friction powered mechanism. Although obviously aimed at a younger demographic in comparison to the slicker diecast Gatchaman toys sold by companies such as Popy and Eidai, Banso's bright and chunky toys have an odd charm all their own. What might they have done with other character licenses? Alas, we'll never know. Unfortunately, Banso's line appears limited to a handful of Gatchaman model kits and the five toys shown here.