Modern Zoids 101: Types and Lines
This is part 1 in a series of posts for anyone who wants to get into the hobby of Zoids in 2019 (or later).
Like many people my age, I loved the anime Zoids that aired on Toonami on Cartoon Network. I saw Chaotic Century, with Van Flyheight and his blue Blade Liger, and New Century Zero, with Bit Cloud and his white Liger Zero. The show faded from the public consciousness as it stopped airing on American TV and the toys left the shelves of Walmart and Toys R Us and I forgot about it until recently. Since then there have been 2 additional anime series that came and went, many toy lines, and the announcement and launch of the reboot of the IP.
I’ll go in-order chronologically about the types of Zoids that have existed. This is mostly for a non-Japanese audience, where things like gunpla-based hobby stores aren’t common and you can’t find Zoids on the shelf of your local store. For brevity, I’m going to break them up into major categories/”generations” and not go into the nitty-gritty details of each line.
Hasbro/Tomy Motorized Models
This is what you’re most likely already familiar with. Takara Tomy made the original toys while Hasbro licensed them for release in America and other regions. They had a cool green/purple/black box and had a (loud!) motor. Plastic parts had to be cut from a frame and put together following some pretty arcane instructions. They would also come with a sticker sheet for you to decorate as you saw fit.
Playability was pretty low. They would walk when turned on…and that’s really it. The Blade Liger’s blades could move around and you could switch armor on the Liger Zero but that was about it. It would take 1-3 hours to put one together. They’re not currently produced but you can find them on eBay and sometimes in stores like Goodwill. The more popular models cost more, especially new-in-box and unbuilt. 1/72 scale
Hasbro/Tomy Zoids BLOX
After New Century Zero there was Zoids Fuzors. It’s…not very good. It introduced (though barely discussed) BLOX technology, where a Zoid could be based around cubes where parts can be pegged in. This made them easier to assemble, as well as to disassemble, which you needed to do to make Fuzors.
The Fire Phoenix, seen in the first image, could be attached to a Liger Zero as an armor set, creating the Liger Zero Phoenix. Only very specific Zoids could combine (though I’m sure with enough effort and modding you could stick anything onto anything else). BLOX Zoids aren’t motorized but could move/pose a little bit. They also fall apart kind of easy, too. They weren’t very popular from my understanding and haven’t been seen much since.
Fuzors was only 26 episodes, with only 13 airing in America. There were a couple of cool Zoids that came out of it, with the Koning Wolf very popular among collectors. 1/72 scale
Tomy Genesis Zoids
This is where things start really getting different. Genesis was a sort of a soft reboot in the anime, with the setting being thousands of years after some apocalyptic event. The technology to build Zoids is long gone, the ones around are found by people and are rare and precious. Some of the Zoids have “eyes” and have visors/canopies in different styles than before. Above is the Rainbow Jerk, a flying peacock-type Zoid used by one of the main characters. It’s not motorized but has some posability.
The Murasame Liger, used by the main character, has a sword! An actual, real katana on its back. It can also “evolve” a la Digimon to two alternate forms as the need arises. For some reason, Tomy decided to have a lot of the Liger’s model to be pre-assembled, which was extremely annoying to builders. There were both motorized and non-motorized kits, some with lights and sounds.
The villain Zoids were the Biozoids. They were all dinosaurs with a special type of armor that guns/normal weapons couldn’t touch. Some of the models have this rubbery pieces to simulate this armor. They’re extremely different from regular Zoids both as models and in the anime and I really appreciate the different things they tried.
Genesis was supposed to have a dub but all we got was a narrated trailer. From my understanding, the toys also didn’t make it to America. Neither Fuzors nor Genesis has had their models made in the newer lines for enthusiasts (with one notable exception) so you’ll have to look around eBay for these. 1/72 scale
Tomy Kits for Collectors
A couple of lines were released in Japan as anniversaries or for nostalgia purposes. A few worth noting:
- Modelers Spirit Series. 1/144 scale. These had more details than their original kits and came with a diorama base. Couple of popular models, such as Shield Liger, Command Wolf and Saber Tiger.
- Original. 1/72 scale motorized kits. There were only 4 released but were new versions of familiar models, such as the Mirage Fox or a Command Wolf with a railgun.
- Masterpiece. 1/72 scale motorized kits (see above). With an MSRP of $120ish USD these are truly made for adult fans. The walking is realistic, there’s plenty of movable parts, the Zoid “breathes” and has lights and sounds. There were only two kits released, the Shield Liger and Saber Tiger, with the later featuring many of the same parts and has only been released once. Good luck finding either of them for below $200.
- Aggressive. 1/100 scale action figures. There’s the most minor of assembly out of the package but these have many points of articulation and make really fun desk toys. They made the Murasame, Hayate and Mugen Ligers as well as Blade Liger, Liger Zero and the Geno Breaker. Aggressive is also made by Kotobukiya, not Tomy, more on that in a bit.
Kotobukiya Highend Master Model
If I could spend every waking moment for the rest of my life building these I would die a happy man. Kotobukiya makes models of vehicles, robots and anime characters and got the license to make Zoids kits. Pretty much any and all of your favorites from Chaotic Century/Guardian Force or New Century Zero is in this line. Some haven’t been re-released and are harder to find. Some, like the Liger Zero, have been released countless times due to their popularity. Some have anime versions, with different colors or armor/weapons along with a tiny pilot figure.
These are 1/72 scale but have an incredible amount of detail. This also means they take a very, very long time to make and require skill and care not required in any of the previous lines. You don’t (normally) need glue but I highly recommend you get special gear for putting these together (that’ll be another post for another time). There’s no motor but so much posability and detail you won’t even miss it. The cheaper, smaller kits MSRP at $50ish and the most expensive being over $300; expect an average of $100-120 (before shipping, mark up etc). I can build a kit in 10-20 hours but that’s with practice and ADHD hyperfocusing; if you want to paint, detail or customize expect to double or triple that. These look really good without any extra work so don’t feel the need to go all out.
There are a number of counterfeit kits on the market, which you can find on sites like eBay and Wish. They go by brands like BT and are only of the most popular ones, the Ligers and Saber Tigers. You won’t find a legit kit for less than $100 but if you want something to practice on, kitbash or try some really wild experiments without worrying about ruining something expensive feel free to do so.
Bonus: Kotobukiya has also made non-scale D-style kits, with anime pilots. They’re very easy to put together and really cute but the simple kits means you’ll need to pick up some paint if you want them to look right.
Tomy Zoids Wild
In February 2018 Tomy had a big announcement. Zoids was coming back, in a big way, fully back to life not seen since Genesis. There would be an anime, manga, Switch game, arcade games, shirts, keychains, folders, cards and toys! In this new continuity, Zoids were on Earth and could be brought back to life from their bones found in the ground.
The kits had 2 main gimmicks. Firstly, they were super easy to put together. “Restoring” a model had two steps; assembling the “bones” and then attaching the armor. Parts were already cut and in separate bags. The instructions are super clear and there’s no small parts, perfect for small hands. The second was the “wild blast.” When a Zoid synched/resonated with their pilot/partner, they could “unleash their instincts” with a hidden weapon. Some models automatically trigger their wild blast as part of their walk cycles while others you need to move some parts around to do so.
Most of the kits have a motor, running on a single AA battery, and are quick and quiet compared to the older kits. Smaller, cheaper kits have a wind-up motor. Larger kits have extra stuff attached to the motor to handle bigger models and more complex wild blasts. The average kit costs $20 USD and one or two new ones come out each month.
Zoids Wild models are 1/35 scale, as they are much smaller than previous Zoids. Their pilots ride on them instead of piloting from a cockpit and the Zoids have actual eyes (that can move and emote in the anime/manga), making them more like animals or Pokemon than war machines. It’s very similar to how the first Zoids were “domesticated” in the lore from the older models and the story is pretty similar to Pokemon or Digimon in a lot of ways. You can also swap armor or weapons between kits.
As of August 2019 they have started releasing “Zoids Wild 2” kits, which have “machine blasts” and models that have guns. It’s a new cast of characters and new models though we don’t know much about it yet. Zoids Wild is extremely popular in Japan, which is good news and shows that it’s an IP worth keeping around. A few months back Kotobukiya had an event where they announced a number of new Highend Master Model Kits, including the Wild Liger and Fang Tiger! They only showed concept art for them but the fact that they’re creating multiple new kits after only having 1 or 2 new models per year the past few years, along with rereleases, recolors and repackaged versions, means Zoids has a great future ahead of it with plenty of new models coming.
As for these posts, I’ll be making one about the basics of building a kit. I’d like to do some on painting/detailing or discussing some of my projects as well.
Want some Zoids of your own? My favorite sites are Hobby Search for HMM kits, Hobby Link Japan for Zoids Wild and eBay for Hasbro/Tomy kits. Walmart has some via it’s marketplace from sites such as ToyWiz.