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By Thomas Wheeler

In the mid 1990's, a new toy concept shook the action figure world.
Called MIGHTY MORPHIN' POWER RANGERS, it was a Japanese import of highly-
articulated 8-inch action figures, each wearing a distinctly colored
uniform. The Rangers used transforming mechanized vehicles called "Zords"
to fight the villains of the show. The live-action television show that
supported the Rangers was a mixture of redubbed Japanese footage mixed
with new footage of English-speaking actors, and the whole thing made
even the campiest of Godzilla movies look good by comparison.

It was an overnight sensation whose popularity continues to this day,
although the Power Rangers have morphed through numerous different base
concepts over the years.

Obviously, other toy companies recognized a hit when they saw it. But was
there any way to get in on it?

One of the cooler, if hardly-remembered attempts, actually used another
set of Japanese import toys, and was marketed by a company that no one
had ever really heard of called Zima Original -- presumably no relation
to the beverage of the same name.

The line was called ZAP POLICE POWER FORCE. The "ZAP" stood for "Zero-
Section Armed Police". One of those times where you know darn well the
abbreviation came before the explanation.

The figures boasted anywhere between 22 and 27 points of articulation,
clearly listed on the package. While today we are used to such things in
action figure lines ranging from Star Wars to Gundam to Marvel Legends,
to the point where 27 points of articulation sounds a little minimal,
honestly, in 1994, the year these toys were issued if you can believe the
copyright date on the package, 27 points was considered huge.

While the Power Rangers came from Bandai, a noted Japanese toy company
that hadn't made much of an inroad in the United States market until
Power Rangers, the Zap Police figures were licensed by Zima from TAKARA,
essentially the other big toymaker in Japan, and known in the United
States at the time for manufacturing Transformers for Hasbro. They'd been
known before that for Micronauts, better known today as MicroMan.

Interestingly, the copyright on the packages to these toys is neither
Zima nor Takara -- it's Toho, a noted Japanese animation studio. It's
likely that there was a cartoon show backing up these toys in Japan, but
if such a show ever aired in the United States, which I doubt, I must
have blinked and missed it.

The figures are very clearly anime inspired, unlike the Power Rangers
which had a more realistic look to them. Basically, the ZAP POLICE were
anime before a significant percentage of Americans even knew what anime
was. Today, the Cartoon Network shows a ton of anime throughout its
schedule, and you can purchase volumes of manga digests in any bookstore.
This sort of thing ranges anywhere from sci-fi adventure such as Gundam
to kiddie stuff like Pokemon to a few concepts that don't readily fit any
category. But in the mid 90's, if anyone even thought about Japanese
animation, they'd probably remember "Battle of the Planets" or "Speed Racer".

The ZAP POLICE figures are armored, and share quite a few common parts.
They have the relatively narrow bodies and rather long limbs typical of
anime design. They're actually very well made, however. Each stands about
9" in height, they hold their poses well, and appear to have been made
out of quality materials -- even though my "opened for display" set has
suffered a problem a lot of toys with large portions of white can suffer
over time -- yellowing discoloration.

There are five figures in the series, and although coming up one short in
number, they follow the pattern of Power Rangers in this regard -- most
of the figures look pretty similar to each other, but there's one oddball
in the lot.

Let's consider them individually, shall we? The figures do each have a
file card on the back of their package, with a brief character profile
and an explanation of their weapon.

SPECTRON. This is the blue-armored ZAP figure. His card reads as follows:
Code Name: Spectron
Given Name: David Bowman
Spectron is known for his superior surprise attacks, almost alwats
capturing his enemy unaware. "He will smile but he is shrewd. If you are
his evening, watch out!"
Weaponry: Lacerator - The Lacerator is a combination iron claw and sword.
In the iron claw mode it can rip the enemy to shreds. In the sword mode
it will pierce the enemy with the slightest touch. This dual-action
attack device is concealed in a bomb-proof weapons case.

Okay, a little analysis before I continue. Each figure did come with
accessories, and with only one exception (predictably the oddball), they
all did come with a futuristic attache case in which to keep the weapons.
Obviously the file card takes some of its cues from G.I.Joe, with a
character name, "given" name, personality profile, and quote about the
character. It goes a little further into explaining the weapon, but the
basic premise is there. Although the card is surprisingly vicious,
especially for the mid-90's, talking about ripping enemies to shreds and
such! Anyway, let's continue:

ZORTRON. This is the black-armored ZAP figure. His file card reads as follows:
Code Name: Zortron
Given Name: Peter Fine
Zortron is the superme commander of "Power Force". He prefers to solve
the problems of the world through negotiation. However, when nevessary,
he is prepared for the ultimate fight. "He took an oath to prevail over
evil. Commit a crime and you will be sorry!"
Weaponry: Roto Thrasher - The Roto Thrasher, with its cutter and circular
saw blades, can cut through cirtually anything and runs at extremely high
speeds. This precision cutting device comes concealed in a bomb-proof
weapons case.

Is it just me, or does the name "Roto-Thrasher" sound like some very
extreme plumbing device...?

BIOTRON. This is the red-armored ZAP figure. His file card reads as follows:
Code Name: Biotron
Given Name: Stephen Jones
Biotron is the most powerful member of ZAP. Using his extreme strength
and maneuverability, Biotron takes on his enemies with the ultimate of
ease. "When he is around, good prevails and evil is extinct."
Weaponry: Dominator - The Dominator is a high-tech multi-action weapon.
When battle-ready, this device can take on any hostile arsenal. This
versatile, futuristic artillery is housed in a bomb-proof weapons case.

It's worth noting that the name "Biotron" was a name once used by one of
the Micronauts, although whether Mego or Takara originally came up with
the name I'm really not certain. Interesting that it appears here. The
next name is similarly interesting...

DESTRON. This is the green-armored ZAP figure. His file card reads as follows:
Code Name: Destron
Given Name: James Alberts
Destron is a strategic thinker and plans the munitions needed for an
attack. He creates and supplies Power Force with the finest weaponry
known to man. "When he hits the streets, be prepared to see rockets fire!"
Weaponry: Annihilator - The Annihilator is a three-piece, dual-action,
high powered machine gun. It operates in both automatic and semi-
automatic modes. This mega machine gun is housed in a bomb-proof weapons case.

Shame our own police don't have regular access to this sort of hardware
these days. They could use it. Anyway, the name "Destron" will be
familiar to any fan of the Japanese incarnation of Transformers, whose
backstory is a little different than the American version. In Japan, the
heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons actually hail from two different
worlds. The Autobots come from the one we know about, Cybertron, but the
Decepticons come from a second world, known as -- Destron. I have to
believe that the Takara connection here allowed for the use of the name
on this toy, and possibly on Biotron, as well.

Finally we have the oddball of the lot.

BLAZORD. He looks distinctly different from the other characters. His
armor doesn't have the word "Police" anywhere on it, the armor is
somewhat more ornate, and at first you might think he's the bad guy --
until you read his file card:
Code Name: Blazord
Given Name: Unknown
Blazord is a nam of mysteries. He is the ultimate soldier of the future.
Although he is not a member of "ZAP", he often appears to help the Power
Force Team combat the evils of America. "You never know when and where he
will show up, but you will be thankful he did."
Weaponry: Disintegrator - The Disintegrator is the most powerful gun in
existence. With a single blast a whole army can be destroyed.

Doesn't even come with a bomb-proof weapons case. Personally, I think
this figure needs a second quote given his hardware -- "Watch where you
point that thing!!"

One additional note: A few years after ZAP Police had come and gone,
Trendmasters got hold of some of the molds and produced a series of
color-chrome plated figures. I honestly don't remember their names, and
frankly, compared to the originals, they were cheap junk.

ZAP Police was an exclusive to K*B Toys, "originally" priced at $12.99,
and immediately marked down to $7.99 back when K*B could get away with
that sort of stunt. Few people remember them these days. They never set
the action figure world on fire in the United States and I doubt that
they were intended to. I hope they at least made some money. As action
figures go, they were actually pretty cool.

I hope you have enjoyed this Flashback Review.