Saturday, January 24, 2015

Vintage Discoveries #2: Condorman book + flexi disc

Condorman book + flexi disc set
In the late 1960s-early 1970s, records for children's movies, TV shows, and anime started to become popular in Japan. The good thing about vinyl records (like the one in my first Vintage Discoveries article) was they were well made. The bad news is they were expensive.

Enter flexi discs, the thin, clear plastic records that might be green, blue, or red. These were so cheap that you could pair them with a mini book and still sell them for less than the cost of a vinyl EP. In the late 60s, flexi discs were really thin and floppy, and they were easily damaged. These were known as "sonosheets." Asahi was one of the main companies in the field, and their Asahi Sonorama (朝日 ソノラマ) series included book + sonosheet sets for titles like Ultraman, Mighty Atom (Astro Boy), etc.
Asahi Sonorama Mighty Atom mini book + sonosheet set

Advances in music printing technology came quickly, and in the 1970s, a new series of Asahi book + recording sets was launched: the Sonorama Ace series. The full title is Sonorama Ace Puppy Series (ソノラマエースパピイシリーズ). Note the puppy in the top right corner of the very top pic.

In this series, the paper was thicker for the mini books, though the internal binding wasn't the best, leading to pages easily becoming separated.
Mini books were typically around 6-8 pages long. In this Condorman book, the lyrics to one of the flexi disc's songs are on the right-hand page, and a mini story (not recorded on the disc) starts on the left.
The new flexi discs in the Sonorama Ace series were thicker and sturdier than the discs from the 60s. Called "punch sheets," they were made from a clear red material.
Condorman "punch sheet" containing one song on each side.
It's worth noting that few people will know what a "punch sheet" is, so in Japan the general term used is "sonosheet" for all types of flexis.

More after the jump:

Forty years later, the discs you see often have some scratches, but that isn't surprising considering they were made for kids. All in all they've held up pretty well, thanks probably in large part to the sturdy cardboard sleeves that were built into the sets.

Anyway that's just a quick intro to the series. The one I want to show you now is a cool set for a minor tokusatsu show called Condorman (コンドールマン). This is a tough set to find, but what really got me was the crazy villains. I mean, man, back in the 70s they seriously went out of their way to think up some funky bad guys!
So you've got King Monster (キングモンスター) - the dude with horns and three faces, Red Baton (レッドバットン) - the red-winged character with nunchucks, and Zeni Crazy (ゼニクレージー) - the guy with a giant coin on his head.

King Monster

Red Baton + Zeni Crazy

Check out the big yen symbol on his costume - classic!

On the set's cover, there are photos from the TV show with more villains. This rogues gallery is even funkier and creepier in person!

There are some Condorman toys out there, but these super-fun villains didn't get as much love back in the day. There was a (very rare) 3 pack of minis made back in the 70s. It included Condorman + two of his enemies. And I found this link to some Condorman toys made for the 2009 Summer Wonder Festival, so someone out there has paid tribute to these wacky designs.

This is Satan Gamekku (サタンガメツク). That's some nightmare fodder right there!
Anyway that was just a bit of an introduction to a really interesting corner of the vintage collecting world. I like these sets because they combine illustrations, photographs, and story telling. Plus you've got your flexi with music on it. Asahi made sets for everything from the most popular (ex: Mazinger, Kamen Rider) to the most obscure (ex: Battle Hawk, Diamond Eye) shows. So that brings it all under one umbrella, which makes for a fun line to collect.


Michael said...

thanks andy, i really love these posts youre doing now. i love toy collecting, but recently ive been getting into the more random ephemera aspect of things. i also wish i could find the mini of satan gamekku without selling my soul to the devil

keep up these great and informative posts, i look forward to them!

andy b said...

Thanks man, I appreciate that.

Collecting ephemera is a lot of fun, and there's so much out there that it's almost like going on an archaeological dig, since you never know what you're going to find!

That Condorman 3 pack mini set is tough! Seems to be the case for a lot of the cool minis. I get excited to see ones like the Astro Mu sets in pics or in person. The price tags may be stratospheric, but it's fun just to see them.

andy b said...

By the way, if you have images of any of the ephemera you've found, post a link. I'd love to check them out.

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