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[Tsukuda]

THE MANY FACES OF TSUKUDA

text: Matt Alt & Robert Duban, Design & research: Robert Duban

January 2010

Updated: 01.16.10


Image contributions: Chieh Chieng


Tsukuda is better known for its games and hobby products than its toys, but produce them they did, so catalog them we must.

The company is perhaps most famous for popularizing the board game "Othello," and later made a fortune as the official distributor of the Rubik's Cube in Japan. And who could forget their classic cockroach-racing game? But apparently not everyone there agreed with the focus-on-gamers strategy, as several executives jumped ship to found toy company Clover in 1973.

"Tsukuda" is generally used as shorthand for a series of affiliated companies known collectively as the Tsukuda Group. The corporate logo of the Tsukuda Group was a bell with a "T" in it. (This is no relation to the bell mark logos that appeared on various other toy companies as part of a nationwide PTA campaign.(1))

[logos]
"Tsukuda Original" is the official name of its manufacturing division, and was responsible for releasing most of its mainstream board and puzzle games.

"Tsukuda Ideal" was the closest thing to an actual toy company in the Group, targeting an older demographic with figurines and kits of proto-"moť" characters, children with various original toys, and gamers with a handful of video games for Sega's doomed "Game Gear" system.

"Tsukuda Hobby" was a prolific subsidiary that focused on tabletop strategy, simulation, and role-playing games, metal miniatures(2), plastic models, dolls, and vinyl kits based on characters from variety of anime shows and American movies.

"Tsukuda Synergy" created games for personal computers.

As far as character-toy collectors are concerned, the most "well known" products Tsukuda ever released are a handful of toys from the Gainax anime "Nadia: Secret of Blue Water." Released by Tsukuda Ideal, they are very much in the vein of other Eighties mecha toys, with all-plastic construction and an emphasis on realistic detail. The tank in particular, which features a variety of hidden gimmicks and accessories, is an under-appreciated classic of the era.

In the 21st century, the various Tsukuda units have gone their separate ways. Bandai acquired Tsukuda Original in 2002(3); it is now known as the Palbox division of Megahouse, which is part of the Namco-Bandai Group(4). Tsukuda Hobby went out of business in 2003. Tsukuda Synergy folded roughly around the same time. And Tsukuda Ideal said it was going out for cigarettes one day, but never returned. Oh, the humanity. (On a serious note, while there would seem to be a connection between Tsukuda Ideal and the American toy manufacturer Ideal, no direct link has been found.)

(1) See also "Nakajima Die Cast" for futher information about the "Bell Mark."
(2) These all-metal miniature kits were in the 'Metal Collection' series and included characters from Gundam and Daiojya, among others.
(3) July 2002 per Bandaiís corporate website.
(4) Per Bandaiís corporate website in March 2003, "Tsukuda Original and Wakui Corporation merge under the new name of Palbox Co., Ltd."

Series synopses:

Nadia: Secret of Blue Water -- A 1990 anime series inspired by the works of Jules Verne, it was developed from a concept by celebrated director Hayao Miyazaki and directed by Hideaki Anno, who would later go on to great fame as the director of "Neon Genesis Evangelion." A series of fierce debates over the hazy motivations of the antagonists in the series led one of the show's producers, Toshio Okada, to release a bestselling book entitled "Is World Conquest Really Possible?" in Japan in 2005.

Twin Hawks -- This motorcycle racing manga, authored by Kaoru Shintani, of "Area 88" fame, won Japan's Shogakukan Manga Award in 1984. An animated version was released the same year, but the series remains quite obscure abroad.

Keroyon -- A mini-show set within a kids' show called "Mokubaza Hour" ("Rocking Horse Hour"), Keroyon's section of the show was called "Kaeru no Boken" (The Frog's Adventure"). Eventually, it spun off into its own show called "Playing with Keroyon" and later,in 1971, "Keroyon and His Three Friends." The concept was apparently based loosely on "The Wind in the Willows." Although it isn't well known abroad, Keroyon was incredibly popular among Japanese children during its heyday in the early 1970s, and Tsukuda produced a great variety of toys for the various incarnations of the show. (And on a total side-note, Keroyon is also believed to be the inspiration for the official mascot of the JSDF's 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron, based at Nyutabaru Airbase, Kyushu.)
Dates:
"Mokubaza Hour" (TV) (1966 - 1970)
"Keroyon's Adventure" (Theatrical release) (1967)
"Keroyon's Big Car Race" (Theatrical release) (1968)
"Keroyon Goes to the Osaka Expo" (Theatrical release) (1970)
"Keroyon's Adventure: The Musical" (Theatrical release) (1970)
"Fun With Keroyon" (TV) (1970 - 1971)
"Keroyon and Friends" (TV) (1971 - 1972)

Ultra B -- A super-super-obscure manga by the artist Fujio Fujiko A of "Doraemon" fame. It is a comedy about a "space baby" named Ultra B whose adventures on Earth complicate the life of the protagonist, a schoolboy named Michio. (If this sounds suspiciously similar to "Doraemon," bear in mind that it was one of the first works Fujiko A penned after going solo. Serialized in comic form from 1984 to 1989, it became an anime in 1987.

[image] Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water - Guratan - [pic 2], [pic 3], [toy in box], [box], [box back]
[image] Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water - Nautilus - [toy in box], [box], [box back]
[image] Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water - Fire Gun - [box], [box back]
[image] Keroyon - Noko Noko Keroyon - [pic 2], [box bottom]
[image] Keroyon - Noko Noko Buyon - [box]
[image] Keroyon vinyl
[image] Keroyon - Humor Buyon - [box]
[image] Keroyon - 2000 GT Car - [box]
[image] Keroyon - Keroyon's Melody Dump Truck - [box]
[image] Keroyon - Keroyon's Moon Saucer
Keroyon - Keroyon's Mystery Stingray
[image] Keroyon - Keroyon train
[image] Twin Hawks - Race Rider bikes - [box], [box back]
[image] Ultra B - Vinyl Mascot - [pic 2], [pic 3], [pic 4],[box], [box back]
[image] Ultraman - Stretch Hero - [box], [box back]
Ultra Seven - Stretch Hero

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