Microman - Prog rock icon.

So, when I was a kid, like a thousand years ago, Star Wars was, as they say, The Shit. Yes, of course I had those. Hugely upstaged by the Star Wars toys were a weird line of toys imported from Japan, called (in the U.S.) "Micronauts". They could not have been more different from the Star Wars toys. Star Wars was gritty and, uuh, "realistic".  Since nobody does crazy like Japan does it, Micronauts were surreal and very disco.

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Everybody had chrome heads and bodies made of translucent colored plastic, but some had diecast metal parts. The design was all over the map. Also, while Star Wars figures only had four joints (shoulders and knees), Micronauts were articulated like G.I. Joe, with a central elastic band holding all their limbs on. Knees, elbows, wrists, ankles, and head all moved, and lots of the articulation points were ball joints. They were downright floppy. You could also take them apart and combine them in different ways.

The bad guys were always comparatively huge, and looked like they were built from other robots.

So, Micronauts were the trippy alternative to Star Wars. A few weeks ago, I trolled FaceTube to see if I imagined them, or if they actually existed. Turns out I wasn't crazy! Here's a commercial from the American market that launched the line.

But in their native Japan, Micronauts were called "Microman". And guess what? Their commercials were way, way better...

In the above clip, shortly after the guy shouts "STRONG BREAK!!! ROBOTO-MAN!!!!", the music starts. My eyes got all big. What the hell is this? It sounds like a Mini-Moog and a drummer who uses cocaine as non-dairy creamer. Fuck yeah. This is prog rock and no mistake. It's also the perfect weirdo music for a freaky line of space toys like Microman. At the end of each commercial in this clip, it ends with the logo and and a gravely-voice guy singing "Mee-koh-ru-MANNN!" Bad. Ass.

So what's the logo at the end of the commercial? I can't read Japanese, but it probably says Microman.

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Well, we do know that the Japanese use a special alphabet to allow them to phonetically spell out anything that otherwise won't work in their natively pictographic written language. Here's the Katakana chart they use to pronounce stuff like, for example, English phrases like "Microman", or "mee-kokh-ru-man".

Each syllable in Katakana consists of a consonant sound followed by a vowel sound (ko, ru, me, etc.) To pronounce a consonant without a vowel after it is generally not how their language works. There is, however, a syllable for the lone letter "N", fortunately. Realizing this, it explains why, when a Japanese person tries to pronounce "ice cream", it comes out as "ai-su-ku-re-mu". Any time an English word ends with a naked consonant, force of habit makes a Japanese speaker tack on a vowel. Listening to the different takes of the "Mi-koh-ru-man" singer, you can hear him trying to sing "man" pronouncing it a little different sometimes.

So, let's verify the that the Microman logo actually says "Microman", using the available Katakana syllables. The page I got the logo from (http://www.microforever.com/25threscuem25x.htm) names the graphic as "microman rescuelogo".
So, "Microman Rescue Team". It looks like, for the last word at the bottom "team", they switched back to standard Japanese Hiragana. Google translate was able to shed a little light on how that may work, but maybe there's someone out there who actually understands Japanese that can straighten it all out in the comments?

Anyway... the music. Early 70's prog rock. Love it. The first thing I thought of when I heard the music in that commercial was Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Compare the Microman music to Eruption, side 1, track 1 from ELP's 1971 album, Tarkus. I'm not calling it a ripoff, but rather, they're cool and fun in the same way. You can't go wrong with some analog synth.

And look at the Tarkus album cover. That's practically an action figure right there. Part armadillo, part tank. When I was a kid, I would have played with a toy like that for sure.

A friend of mine said the Microman music sounds like Gentle Giant, another prog band form the early 70s. Their song, Alucard, sounds kind of Micromaney...

As one commenter on the FaceTube Microman video says...

You're damn right he does.

So, after all this, maybe you've decided you're enough of a weirdo to want a Microman shirt? I sure am. So, we've made two. You can pick the shirt type and color, as always. And, don't forget to adjust the size and placement of the graphic if you want.

This one is the much-analyzed Microman rescue Team shirt. Nobody will know what the hell your shirt is. Cool.


This one is just a neat picture from the package of Death Mark, presumably an evil Microman enemy (or an Acroyear, in Microman parlance) whose part robot, part airplane, all weird. We vectorized him in Adobe Illustrator from these box images (see below), and yeah, that took frikkin' forever. Sheesh.


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Jim D. said...

Pure gold, man. My little brothers had those. The rubber-club-tipped darts were some of the best toy projectiles ever.

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