Thursday, May 19, 2011

Caveman Electromechanical Band 'Genjin Kottsu' 原人コッツ

My absolute favorite collectible as of late, these 'Genjin Kottsu' 原人コッツ('Genjin' means caveman, I couldn't find any real, relevant definition for Kottsu, in Japanese or transliterated into English) are a cool, enigmatic gadget. I'm hesitant to call them toys, if for no other reason than if you read my blog with any frequency, you know I love to collect impractical gadgets with no real use, but with cool aesthetics or a neat gimmick. And these are pretty much the essence of both of those elements.

If you've ever seen the "Little Taps" line of toys that came out around 2007, these function in almost the same way, including the fact that they can link up. Each leader caveman plays a tune on his individual instrument, and when you link them together, pressing the skull-shaped button on one caveman causes every caveman connected to him to tap out the same tune in synchronicity. (Actually, they can play a "session" where different parts are played out independently amongst the different Kottsu, it's really impressive, I intend on posting a video of all 4 I have, doing just that, soon) Apparently, up to 50 Genjin can be connected at once. The physical connector looks like the edge connector interface on an old NES/Famicom game, so extra nostalgia points there. Each Genjin has a log or drum or guitar (that one taps his feet, presumably due to lack of a percussion instrument lol) or skulls or eggs, made of plastic or metal to produce different sounds. Each one has a distinct look, with different hair, clothes and decorations on their instruments, using various fabric and plastic, metals, etc, attention to detail that you'd never see today in a toy. Their instruments are also swappable, there were also purchasable 'skull' instruments that they could use, that lit up during a performance.

Back in 1993 B-AI (whose logo looks suspiciously like Bandai's, and Bandai does have the Banpresto brand and this does seem like something Bandai would make, so...) started by making quite a few different types of Genjin. There was actually an amazing variety of "main musicians" + "accessories". In addition to several different types of 'Leader Kottsu' that played their own songs, such as Pops, Matsuri (festival, as in Taiko drum), Rock, etc; there were 'Follower Kottsu' that require being plugged into a Leader to work, a "Powerdon" AC adapter, a sensor with a Pteradon that would cause the Kottsu to play when someone walked past (instead of having to press a button to start the show), a T-Rex type add-on that had 5 addition song patterns installed on it, two different clocks that had a rhythm alarm (and were still compatible with the other Kottsu), and last but not least, a Kottsu with a SNES/Super Famicom controller-looking thing attached to it that actually lets you record your own rhythm and play it back. There were also cute "hatching dinosaurs" that would come out of their eggs to the music. All-in-all, a very cute and varied lineup that implemented a lot of creative & innovative ideas, especially when you consider these were made almost 20 years ago.

I knew about these a little while back, but never had taken the initiative to find any until now. I don't know why, maybe I thought they'd be expensive or something, but they weren't that bad price-wise. I actually discovered them via their "revival" in 2005, via Megahouse's website. In 2005-2006, Megahouse made a second round of three of these, and while not as cool as the older type, the new ones had IR (infrared) wireless connection by which to sync. I got all 3 new ones fairly cheaply, at the same time as the vintage ones. The newer Kottsu play 3 different songs each, but are sorta ruined by the fact that, while they tap in time, there's like a MIDI synth chip inside each one, and it kills the "electromechanical" factor by using (bad - there's a reason why MP3s are popular and MIDI has largely died) technology as a crutch. Anyway, enjoy the pics and vids!

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