Let’s Read: Dual Magazine, No. 3

Dual Magazine #3

Here’s a bit of history you might already know: In the 1980s, mecha anime on TV was used to sell toys. Funding came from toy companies like Clover (Mobile Suit Gundam) or Takatoku (Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Century Orguss). Takara Co. Ltd., known for creating the toys that would later become Transformers, sponsored a lot of shows, including Fang of the Sun Dougram and Armored Trooper VOTOMS.

Dual Magazine was created as a house organ to promote Takara’s efforts in ‘real robot’ anime and take advantage of the model craze kicked off a few years prior by Bandai’s Gundam kits. Series that appeared on the cover of Dual Magazine were titles sponsored by Takara, like Dougram, VOTOMS, Panzer World Galient, Giant Gorg, or, in the case of this issue, the film Crusher Joe.

Flip open a copy of Dual Magazine and you’ll immediately notice that it’s not quite like other anime magazines of the era. Sure, you’ll find plenty of anime coverage, production art, model kits and the obligatory fan art; but the layout is simpler and more restrained. The focus on model kits isn’t surprising considering Takara’s business interests, but the magazine also includes coverage rarely seen in anime rags, like tabletop “simulation” games.

Square bound and published quarterly, Dual Magazine only lasted as long as Takara’s fortunes in the giant robot business. After VOTOMS, Takara struggled to find another hit and eventually backed off sponsoring mecha shows. The magazine was cancelled in 1985 after 12 issues.

Part of a Dougram girls comic by "Amuro Rei," which I'd imagine is a pen name.

Dual Magazine, No. 3.

Winter 1983, 680円

The few color pages that appear in Dual Magazine No. 3 are dedicated almost entirely to model kits: Dougram dioramas and a multi-page spread on Takara’s Crusher Joe line in front, reader-submitted Dougram kits and a look at Area 88 models in the middle. There’s also a double-sided poster with a Kunio Okawara Dougram painting on one side and –huge surprise– another diorama on the reverse.

dualmag_3_02Dig into an issue of Dual Magazine and you’ll notice that there’s a heavy focus on mecha, giant robot or otherwise. Between features on new and future releases (mostly model kits and toys), detailed mecha schematics, a how-to guide to creating your own diorama, the focus is almost entirely mechanical. Character art featuring or even screenshots is far and few between, and it’s quickly apparent that Takara was aiming for a very specific, very niche audience.

This is what fun looked like in 1983.
This is what fun looked like in 1983.

Further reinforcing that is the fact that a sizable amount of the magazine is dedicated to the previously mentioned tabletop simulation games. The first column, “Let’s Enjoy Simulationgame [sic]” is a review of the Godzilla vs. Mothra game released as part of Bandai’s Game for Adult series, which, despite the name, isn’t as exciting as you’d think. Fittingly, the review starts off with the age-old grognard question: “How does it play with only one person?” The four-page feature goes in-depth, complete with detailed shots of not just the game in play, but also the counters and miniatures included with it.

Fan art and models submitted by readers. Check out that awesome Dougram illustration.

This issue also includes a complete simulation game based on Dougram, including rules, card stock counters you have to cut out yourself, and a pull-out hex map. This so-called “Simulation Game Manual” was a four-part game published from issues two to five. “Magazine games” are common in the wargaming world (even more so back in the ’80s), but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen one in an anime magazine. While the reverse side of the hex map includes some very cool, detailed schematics of the Blockhead from Dougram, both the map and the counters are extremely basic, with no detail to speak of and printed in black and white. Even by the standards of hex-and-counter games from the early ’80s, these components are pretty basic.

Like nearly all anime magazines, Dual Magazine includes a section for reader’s letters and fan art called “Junk Box.” As you’d expect, there’s more model kit photos submitted by readers than actual illustrations. Rounding things out are a column devoted to Area 88, a feature about personal computers, and a column about model guns (think proto-airsoft) featuring a perennial Lupin III favorite, the Walther P38.

Dougram was on the air for an astonishingly long time –nearly 18 months– and this issue was published just a few months before it concluded in March, 1983. That certainly explains the overwhelming focus on Dougram, and even Crusher Joe receives relatively few pages despite being on the cover.

While I can’t pretend to know what the editors of Dual Magazine were thinking, it seems pretty clear the type of old-school, hardcore fan that the magazine was targeting. Narrowly focused and unapologetically designed to sell the merchandise of one specific company, Dual Magazine feels remarkably free of the fluff and flash of contemporary anime magazines, despite existing solely to sell plastic toys. That also means that unless you’re interested in secondary fan activities, like model kits and gaming, it’s also going to be extremely boring. The publication’s only claim to fame may be that it published the “official” VOTOMS spin-off, a serialized novel called Blue Knight Berserga.

As Takara’s TV sponsorships stumbled, it didn’t make much sense to keep Dual Magazine around. To the magazine’s credit, it manages to stand out decades later among it’s peers, largely because it’s just so damn different. It was designed for serious otaku before the concept of ‘otaku’ was widely understood, and that’s probably why it only lasted 12 issues.dualmag_3_07

Further Reading