Ultraman for the new Millennium
Playmates, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad, 1994
The 1990s were an interesting time in entertainment. The march of computer technology had reached a point where TV shows were able to offer special effects that could rival the effects of blockbuster movies from even just a decade ago. While computers were becoming more common place, they were still largely misunderstood. As a result, throwing the term ‘digital’ in front of just about anything made it sound edgy and near-futuristic.
So it’s little surprise that a TV show would come along setting super heroic antics in some vague ‘digital world’. Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad was one such show, marrying the Godzilla-meets-Power-Rangers of Ultraman to the New Age of Computers.
Appearing just a decade after the first Godzilla film, Ultraman was a space hero of gigantic proportions who used his martial power and energy attacks to combat the forces of evil (read giant monsters sent on a weekly basis). While Denkou Choujin Gridman (the basis for Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad) isn’t technically part of the Ultraman franchise, it has all the hallmarks of Ultraman and is generally considered to be a related cousin.
Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad follows a group of teenagers (because this is the 1990s we’re talking about and the Power Rangers ruled kids’ entertainment for most of the decade) who enter the digital realm in order to combat the monsters created by the bad guys, Kilokahn and Malcolm Frink.
The show itself is worth discussion (and maybe we will in a later episode), but right now, we’re talking about the central toy to the franchise, our hero, Servo.
Appearance – 3 out of 5
Servo the toy looks a great deal like Servo the character from the show. A lot of the little details are captured in the armor, especially around the head. The figure is more than a little blocky, though, the result of having no abdominal joints of any kind as well as having abnormally broad shoulders.
Construction – 3 out of 5
The Servo figure is okay. It’s not great but it’s not spectacular. The figure is hollow, which makes it feel a little flimsy. The plastic shell is very sturdy and tough, but it’s still a shell.
Movement – 2 out of 5
The figure has 19 joints, almost all of which are on the arms. The neck rotates, as do the lower legs. The knees bend and the feet tilt. The hip joints, while there, have a very limited range of movement, just barely even justifying their inclusion at all. The arms, are capable of an almost ludicrous amount of movement and positioning angles.
Curiously, both arms have two little notches on the upper arm, just below the armpit. They fit into tiny holes in the body itself for no really identifiable reason.
Extras – 3 out of 5
Servo comes with a wrist band (which is narratively important), two swords, an axe, and a shield. In theory, the different weapons are combinations of the basic sword and shield (in the show, the shield folds and slips onto the sword; high up for the axe and nearer to the handle for the super-sword). It would be neat if they included these combining features, but as it is, this means there are at least two loose pieces at all times. That the toys are all the same gray plastic with no color doesn’t help either.
Packaging – 4 out of 5
The packaging of the toys is extremely colorful, with each package being distinctive and vivid. A light blue with yellow-and-orange overlayed made them stand out on the toy story shelf. Since each package was distinctive, the artwork was always unique and what was displayed (as far as other toys available) was likewise varied.
Overall – 3 out of 5
This is a pleasantly middle-of-the-road toy. It comes with some neat weapons and its arms are mobile, but it’s lack of stability and mobility in other joints is a little frustrating. It has no real weaknesses but also no real strengths. Not in this toy, anyway. As we’ll see next week, the strength wasn’t in the single toy but in the whole toyline.