I've always been somewhat obsessed with Japanese culture. It seems like a completely different world from where I live, and while traveling to South Korea was an incredible experience in itself, Japan is definitely still at the top of my top travel destinations list. From robot restaurants to indoor beaches, there are simply too many things I want to see there. In addition to the more typical tourist destinations, something I've always wanted to check out is their incredible abundance of toy stores. Yes, they have toys from all around the world, but there are also plenty of toys that were never released outside of Japan, which brings me to the subject of this article.
Back in the mid-80s, Mattel released their too gross line of "Mad Scientist" toys amidst the slime craze. Some of you longtime readers may recall one of the earliest feature articles I posted on here was all about the Mad Scientist Monster Lab. Pretty sure we still had dial-up modems back then, so the pictures in my article were extremely small. Anyway, the idea behind that lab playset was you'd gather some monster bones, apply "flesh" to them, then dunk your monster creation into a tank to watch its flesh disintegrate right before your eyes. So it was less of a "monster lab" and more of a "monster torture kit" when you think about it. No wonder kids like me turned out so normal and well-balanced.
What you may not know, is that the Mad Scientist line was also quite popular in Japan at the time. In Japan, the Mad Scientist toy line was called "The Laboratory of Mad Dr. Fear". I kinda like that name... Mad Dr. Fear. Certainly better than his actual English name, "Dr. Sy". If nothing else, Mad Dr. Fear almost sounds like a spooky limited edition Halloween variety of Dr. Pepper soda. Hey, one can dream.
The Japanese version was essentially the same thing, though with different packaging and an alternate set of bones that could create a monster that looked similar to Godzilla. Many of the other standard Monster Lab toys were released there as well, including the "Dissect-An-Alien Kit".
All of these toys were joint releases by Mattel and Bandai, hence the reason why you'd see the name "Ma-Ba" on many of the packages. Most fascinating to me, however, isn't the Japanese versions of the toys we already had here, but the exclusive ones that never made it out of Japan. Apparently, the Mattel corporation in the United States opted not to release some of the Ma-Ba Mad Scientist toys, so most people here didn't even know they existed. And holy crap... looking back on them now, we seriously missed out!
Some hardcore toy collectors may be aware of these, but there was another series of toys in the Mad Scientist / Mad Dr. Fear line known as the Ma-Ba Zombies. They were intricately designed, compact, 2-inch rubber monster figures with hollow bodies that you would fill up with slime. Each toy came with accessories, including food and body parts, that would burst out along with the slime when you squeezed the figure. Yep, just a handful of slimy creature creations from our favorite mad scientist, Mad Dr. Fear.
Best of all, each Ma-Ba Zombie came in its own adorable little plastic bubble packaging that made them absolutely perfect for displaying. There were three series of figures released, the most popular of which were the second series. The first two sets had six figures each, while the third only had four. I've been collecting these incredible little figures for quite a few years now, and I'm happy to report that I've finally completed my series 2 Ma-Ba Zombies set!
Today, I share with you my close-up photos and details about each of these rare and brilliant little Ma-Ba Zombies monster slime toys, still in their original packaging. I'm extremely excited to show these, as I'm sure most of you probably were unaware of their existence, and I had a blast photographing them. Prepare your eyes for awesomeness. Let's get started!
First up, we have the Cyclops monster, "Dekataido". If you were to take Ray Harryhausen's giant Cyclops from The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, cover it in warts, and then scrunch it down to 2 inches, this toy is pretty much what you'd be looking at. He also comes with a tiny scorpion accessory, which he barfs up along with a hearty portion of slime.
Little known fact: All cyclops have deadly addictions to dining on scorpions. This is explains why we don't see cyclops often.
Next we have the Werewolf creature, "Banparufu". When you squeeze him, a smaller skull pops out of his head. Not sure how that makes sense, since his face still maintains its skeletal structure, but I doubt anybody is looking for anatomical accuracy when it comes to squashed slime toys from eighties Japan. I do like how on the packaging it looks less like the skull is popping out of his head, and more like he's wearing it as a fashionable werewolf hat. Lookin' sharp, Banparufu!
This little guy is my absolute favorite in the entire Ma-Ba Zombies series. Meet the deadly Reaper monster, "Gonigami". Maybe it's the fact that he's trying so hard to be scary, or maybe it's the tiny scythe he's carrying, but despite being the physical embodiment of death, he's insanely adorable. Far more adorable than any of the Funko POP! vinyl toys that are all the rage these days. As you can see, he comes with a set of red eyes that pop out with the slime when squeezed. I honestly think this is about as perfect as a horror toy can be. So yeah, I should probably track down another 30 of 'em.
This lil' fella is clearly their take on the Creature from the Black Lagoon, or the Gill-Man as he's also known. The Ma-Ba figure is apparently named "Kaigyojin", and I really love the details on it. Despite being a tiny figure, they really went to town with the fishy scales on this toy, along with the webbed hands & feet. Naturally, being an aquatic creature, its accessory is a piranha-like fish.
Here's another one I was really glad they designed for the second series. This is "Pyonpi", and it's based on Jiangshi, which is a "hopping vampire" in Chinese folklore. What's more horrifying than a regular vampire? How about a vampire that's so carefree that it literally hops around after its victims like some kind of happy-go-lucky pogo stick with murderous intentions. Oh, and if you're wondering what the accessory is in its mouth? It's a big moth. Seems strange at first, but since vampires are also known to turn into bats, and bats eat insects, it's not too far of a stretch. He's trying to suck the qi right outta that poor moth, but I guess all that bouncing around while trying to digest it upset his stomach a bit. Hey, you'd vomit too if you tried to pull off a stunt like that.
Fun fact: The character name "Pyonpi" may sound familiar to a few of you. If so, it's likely because there was a similar hopping enemy in Super Mario Land called "Pionpi" for the Nintendo Game Boy. If only it tried to barf on Mario...
Lastly, we have a killer Frankenstein Ma-Ba figure that goes by the name of "Taranken". Rather than a flat face, I love how this Frankenstein has all kinds of sagging skin and wrinkles, in addition to the stitches running across his forehead. Top it off with a great expression and fists that mean business, and you have yourself another winner. Best of all, however, is that his accessories are the classic neck bolts we've all come to associate with ol' Frankie. So the idea of them popping out into tiny puddles of slime is something I couldn't possibly love more.
Now, speaking of all the accessories for each figure...
Since it's a little hard to tell from the packaging, here's a closer shot of all the accessories that come with the Ma-Ba figures. Furthermore, the slime that was included came in a small baggie that was stored in the underside of the packaging, but considering these are from way back in 1987, it should come as no surprise to learn that the slime is all dried up.
And here's the complete set of the Ma-Ba Zombies series 2 figures! How can you possibly not fall in love with those the instant you see them!? They're just perfect little morsels of horror, lovingly preserved in plastic display bubbles. Now you've seen my second series collection, but what about the originals? Well, here's a promotional image that Ma-Ba used during their initial release.
Gotta love how they displayed them all together in a big, green puddle of slime barf. While I've always liked the second series more, there are some stellar figures in the first series set too. I mean, come on, that two-headed monster with another face emerging from its cranium? It doesn't get much better than that. Hopefully I'll track some of these down in the future as well. (If any of you collectors out there have some, I'd love to hear from you, so please drop me a line!)
The third series of figures were a bit of a departure, as there appeared to be some size variations, but I was also never to crazy about any of the four character designs seen in the above promotional photo. I guess they just looked a bit to silly, which I must admit, is kind of a weird thing to say when you're talking about a series of toys that features a hopping, barfing vampire ghost that eats moths. To each his own.
I should also mention there were some Gashapon (vending machine) capsule versions of the Ma-Ba Zombies too. They're not quite as interesting looking since they have monotone paint jobs and don't come in the awesome bubble packaging, but fans of the series still collect 'em, since the sculpts are still really nice.
The one thing I'd really kill to track down is this Ma-Ba Zombies play set which is either called "The Mansion of Evil Spirits" or "Temple of Doom". I'm not quite sure with the translations. Either way, it included a great Ma-Ba Devil figure, which you can see right there in the center, that was available exclusively with the playset. It also came with a much larger supply of slime, which you would fill-up the playset with, and then you could push down on the piston that you see Gonigami sitting on to make slime pour out of Satan's mouth (or any other Ma-Ba figure that you put in that spot). Other features included a holding cell, which you can see on the right, and a dragon head that may or may not also spew out more slime.
Lastly, there was a set of perforated Ma-Ba Zombies trading cards that were presumably released in conjunction with the toys. Why this matters is simple... the cards showed a preview of what was apparently going to be in the fourth series.
I may not have been a big fan of the third series, but HOLY CRAP! No, your eyes are not deceiving you. There was indeed going to be a barfing Gremlin and a Jason Voorhees figure with ooze pouring out of one of his eye sockets and head wound. Sadly, it seems Ma-Ba gave up on the line of toys before they ever had a chance to produce them. But it truly pains me to know we were this close to having BARFING GREMLINS and OOZING JASON VOORHEES toys floating around out there to be picked up by collectors like me some 30 years later. Oh what could have been...
Before I wrap things up, I thought you'd also like to see how the Ma-Ba Zombies store display looked. The artwork on it showing all of them puking for a very pleased Mad Dr. Fear is absolutely classic. I need that art on a t-shirt!
The Ma-Ba Zombies toys were a perfect example of doing more with less. How they were able to fit so much awesomeness into such a minimal space will forever be something I admire. Putting this article together took quite a long time - not just collecting the actual figures themselves, but also researching toys that were only released in Japan. I have to thank the long defunct Asahi Techno Drome from Japan. While it was created some 15+ years ago, whoever wrote it was the only real source of background information I had on these when I began my long quest to collect and research them. Keep in mind, I'm not fluent in Japanese, so if any of you are, feel free to provide additional translations in the comments section below for what's written on the packaging for each of these figures.
I truly hope you've enjoyed this look into what I consider to be one of the all-time greatest sets of monster toys. One of my favorite things about writing articles for this site is when I get to give something truly obscure a chance to shine in the limelight. Ma-Ba Zombies, your time has arrived!
This is my final article of the 2015 "Two Months of Halloween" celebration here on I-Mockery. I hope you've all enjoyed the boatloads of updates posted to the site since September 1st, as being a part of your annual Halloween celebrations means the world to me. Hope you all have a wonderful Halloween, whether you're out trick-or-treating, going to costume parties, or simply staying in and watching a horror movie marathon while gorging on candies and other ghoulish delights!
Thanks again for reading and please drop a comment below as I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Ma-Ba Zombies figures. Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go hop around and find some moths to eat.
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