TAKARA STAR WARS TOYS AND ACTION FIGURES

This article was originally published in the Feb 2007 issue of Super7 magazine.

Submissions, Suggestions or Proposed Revisions are always welcome.

Misuse, Reuse or Republication is strictly prohibited.

All contents including pictures are Copyright Will G. 2007.

INTRODUCTION

A long time ago (1978) in a galaxy far, far away (Japan) the toymaker many of us know and love as Takara jumped on the Star Wars bandwagon with a unique line of cool toys geared for the Japanese market. Unfortunately, most of these toys were and never have been easily available in the US. Stateside Star Wars collectors of the time often did not even know these toys existed. A few 'Super Collectors' were able figure out ways to get their hands on them. Some would make trips to Japan specifically to buy Star Wars collectibles. One savvy collector, after learning of the toy line, wrote Takara directly for a catalog of what they had to offer. In addition, he requested product samples from them. Low and behold, customer service was not yet an anachronism. Takara sent him their Star Wars product catalog and several empty boxes of their current line! Although all of his correspondences he sent were in English and all of the company's correspondences were in Japanese, somehow he managed to submit and receive his order. You see, all he needed was a picture and a price. He circled what he wanted, went to his bank, and drew a cashier's check in Yen. Low and behold, a month or so later, he received his Star Wars booty. This pictorial article will take you through one of the most complete, intact and original Takara Star Wars toy collections stateside, that I was lucky enough to add to my own collection.

CLICK HERE TO GO STRAIGHT TO

THE TAKARA STAR WARS TOY CHECKLIST 

 

ACTION FIGURES

Takara marketed all 12 original Kenner 3 3/4 inch 12-back figures in the original Kenner packaging. Most were completely identical to US versions except that they had a 2 inch rectangular sticker pasted on the fronts. The sticker depicted the figures' names in English and Japanese, the Takara logo and the 'ST' circle as well as a brief description in Japanese. Three figures differed slightly from the American counterparts. The Darth Vader figure head molding was slightly different. In addition it initially came on a card with a white background. The C-3PO and Stormtrooper figures also had a head molding difference. The figures were marketed in a highly attractive counter display. In the 1990's these Takara stickered figures would show up fairly frequently in the US. They were initially less sought after by US collectors than the US versions. Often dealers would cleanly remove the sticker from the packaging and sell it as the more in demand US card. (The stickers were fairly easily removed.) Now they typically command a higher price than the US versions.

Takara 3 3/4" Figure Counter Display

 

In addition Takara released two of the Kenner 12 inch dolls: Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. They both were exactly the same as their US counterpart except the packaging had Japanese descriptions.

 12 inch Kenner Princess Leia Doll in Takara Japanese Language Box

 

The original Kenner version of the small R2-D2 figure was rather blase with single point articulated legs and a clicking head. Takara decided to work their own magic and created their own 2 inch wind up R2-D2 walking figure. Not only did it walk, but it's arms spun around too! This toy is rumored to be George Lucas' favorite toy of the time. Many were apparently ordered and distributed to Lucasfilm employees. In Japan they were sold in plastic baggies with the Takara logo and marketed in countertop displays. Two versions of the loose figure have turned up: one with a slightly different head mold and absent Takara logo on the back. The figure was never available at standard retail in the US but in Canada it was packaged and marketed on a unique card as the 'Walking Wind Up R2D2'. This carded figure is one of the rarest production carded figures and is highly sought after in today's aftermarket.

Wind Up R2-D2

 

Canadian Carded Wind Up R2-D2

 

Takara's next step into Star Wars collectible infamy came with the release of their mid-size 8 inch plastic action figure line. Kenner had their 3 3/4 inch action figure and 12 inch doll Star Wars lines. However, they never released anything similar to the Takara 8 inch figures that were available in Japan. Only four different figures were released: Darth Vader, Stormtrooper, Chewbacca and C-3PO. They came blister packed on flashy looking cards with their names in both English and Japanese. The Stormtrooper's name was misspelled as "Stoom Trooper". Chewbacca and C-3PO can be found packaged with or without "Stoom Trooper" printed across the card. All came appropriately accessorized except for C-3PO, who never deserved a weapon anyway. The Darth Vader figure is awesome and comes with a removable cloth cape and large lightsaber. The Stormtrooper came with a single blaster. The Chewbacca figure sculpt was a monstrosity and is one of the more amusing Star Wars figures ever produced. He came with a removable bandolier and multi-piece crossbow. These figures are incredibly rare finds in the US and Japan alike. A carded figure set of four is very difficult to put together in any condition. Since the figures are larger and heavier, the bubbles tend to be damaged. Darth Vader is clearly the rarest (and most sought after) of the set.

 Takara 8 Inch Darth Vader Figure On Card

 

DIE CAST AND ACTION TOYS

Takara's next most recognizable set was die cast versions of Darth Vader, C-3PO and R2-D2; all with action features. Each came in cardboard boxes with the figures packed in foam trays and with stands. Darth Vader came with a vinyl cape, a glow in the dark light saber and a fully functional crossbow which fired glow in the dark projectiles. C-3PO was packaged with 2 black missiles that he could fire out of his chest. (Now who said C-3PO never deserved any weapons!) The Darth Vader and C-3PO boxes came either with or without the circular 'ST' sticker on the front. The stickerless version is the rarer of the two.

Die Cast Darth Vader Boxes showing the Stickerless and the Stickered Box Variants

 

Die Cast C-3PO Boxes showing the Stickerless and the Stickered Box Variants

 

R2-D2 was the last figure. However, Takara produced 4 different larger sized R2's with action features: the standard missile firing R2, the movie slide viewer R2 (who also happened to shoot missiles!), the 'bump and go' R2 and the remote controlled disc firing R2. Likely the standard missile firing R2-D2 was the 3rd wheel. He came packaged with three silver missiles and some decals. Two versions of the R2-D2 box exist. The one shown is much rarer than the window box version. In fact, the window box version is one of the more common original Takara items found in the US vintage Star Wars toy market.

Diecast R2-D2 Missile Firing Original Box

 

The remaining 3 R2-D2's all came with awesome 'I wish I had that as a kid' features. I mean, who wouldn't want an R2-D2 that showed you slides from the movie. Then when you got pissed off by a passing ewok you could pop a missile or two off. Or wait, there were no ewoks in 1978. Anyway, he came packaged in a very cool photoart box as shown. The next R2-D2 was the bump and go R2. It was a little larger than the movie viewer R2 and was battery operated. Once you turned him on there was no stopping him. It ran on a horrible sounding motor and whenever he hit a wall he would change positions. He came window boxed and packaged in a styrofoam tray. And if none of those R2-D2's fit your bill, you could also buy in on the grandaddy 8 inch remote controlled disc firing R2. Remember when C-3PO said to let the wookie win? Maybe he ain't so tough when he's up against an R2 unit that can shoot exploding discs from his mouth! Well, they don't actually explode...but R2 does move around, spin his head, light up and make noises too. He came boxed in a styrofoarm tray as depicted. The disc firing R2-D2 is another one of those classic Takara toys that never made it over to the US. Kenner did release their own remote controlled R2 but it was far less dramatic than the Takara one. All of these R2's are somewhat difficult to find with the disc firing R2 being the toughest to find and commanding the highest price. Very often the boxes are heavily damaged due to the weight of the toys. All of the R2's and the die cast C-3PO and Darth Vader came WITHOUT any tape sealing the boxes shut.

R2-D2 Movie Slide Viewer

 

 Bump and Go R2-D2

 

R2-D2 Remote Control With Firing Discs (Toy is much larger than other R2's)

 

VEHICLES

As with the 3 3/4 inch action figures, Takara released 3 die cast vehicles identical to the Kenner versions: Landspeeder, Tie Fighter and X-wing. The came blister packed on cards that were printed mostly in Japanese but were otherwise essentially identical to the US packaging.

Diecast Landspeeder on Takara Japanese Language Card

 

In addition they produced their own line of smaller unpainted "Zetca Space Alloy" vehicles. Those came blister packed and remind me of the US Star Wars key chains that were available at the time.  Four different 'build your own' plastic models were also released: Tie Fighter, X-wing, C-3PO & R2-D2. Each came with instructions and decals.

Takara Plastic Model Kits

 

Takara produced 2 unique silver colored X-wing fighters that were also only ever available in Japan. First was the midsized X-wing (shown next to a carded Yoda for size comparison) and made from die cast metal. It came with a stand, 4 removable wing guns and a small removable metal R2 unit. It had spring action wings and retractable landing gear.

Die Cast X-wing (midsize)

 

Second was the larger plastic transforming X-wing. It could transform into 5 different positions and fire spring action wing guns. It came packaged with an unarticulated plastic pilot figure and simple 3 piece R2 unit. The extra pieces were on a plastic tree similar to a plastic model kit and came sealed in a plastic bag with decals and a takara advertising catalog. Both came in an unsealed cardboard box with awesome graphics.

Plastic Transforming X-wing (Large Size)

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Finally, Takara came out with various other Star Wars products including wooden models, numerous different puzzles, a color changing lightsaber, 2 guns (same as the kenner versions), a board game and various inflatable toys. A few examples of the inflatable toys are shown. Note the 5 inch inflatable R2-D2 keychain. I use mine frequently when I go fishing. There's no greater stress relief than fishing. No, actually there is: my Takara inflatable bop bag (aka 'kick-punch bag'). I'm not really sure why C-3PO is shown holding some sort of remote control. Maybe he's controlling his disc firing R2-D2. And when I really need to have some fun I pull out my Takara inflatable beach ball. No wait! There's a C-3PO on there brandishing a laser pistol! Impossible!

 Inflatable R2-D2 Keychain

 

Inflatable Bop Bag

 

Inflatable Beach Ball

 

AUTHOR'S BACKGROUND & CONTACT INFO

I am a private collector always seeking to expand my knowledge and expand my collection. I am always interested purchasing any and all high quality vintage Star Wars collections. I am especially looking to buy any Takara packaged items and advertising displays and carded Kenner Star Wars advertising displays and carded figure collections. I am also very interested in contacting any Takara employees that may shed new light on any of the items mentioned above. Please feel free to email me.

-Will G.

TAKARA STAR WARS TOY CHECKLIST