Be sure to use the Article and Review Index on the right hand margin when looking for a particular figure, company or subject.

This blog is dedicated to cool robot figure design. I try to cover as much territory as I can, but I mostly feature contemporary and/or obscure robot figure lines that I feel haven't received the attention they deserve. Hopefully you'll find some awesome stuff here. If you have any questions or you need help tracking something down feel free to contact me. Peace!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Banpresto the Underdog of Robot Figure Companies?

I would bet that the number of threads or forum headings for collectible figures that include the name Banpresto are an infinitesimally small fraction when compared to almost any other robot figure producing company. Banpresto is pretty much an under-the-radar figure producer. Most of their figures don't get what you would call high profile coverage, often having limited distribution and little press. Yes Banpresto is more diverse and perhaps less focused on figures than say Max Factory, CM's, or Fewture, where they are best known for their video games. Regardless of this Banpresto still produces a fair number of figures and always seems to find success even with a limited amount of media exposure.

So with this article I want to consider a couple of their most recent and popular areas of success with robot figures.

First we've got the Musha and Kiba Gundam figures. Anyone who owns a set of these figures knows how incredibly super cool they really are. Highly articulated, highly detailed, and dirt cheap. But because of their hybrid nature they often get bypassed by collectors as they mix classic Samurai and Gundam robots into a mythical oddity. Of course it wasn't Banpresto that came up with this whole idea, but their version has been the most accessible and fun in my book. If I was kid (debatable) this could possibly be the perfect toy. It has robots, swords, guns and myth all wrapped up in a highly imaginative, highly posable, yet durable and cheap package. With all this said, I fear that Banpresto's articulated Musha Gundam line may be coming to a much lamented end as Bandai is slowly moving the Musha ideas back into other figure and model lines. As of this writing there hasn't been any announcements for new Musha Banpresto figures in this line for few months. I really hope this is just a short break until we some new entries.

Dengeki SRW figures

The Dengeki SRW figures were like an overnight sensation turning from a limited mail in only, specialty product to a mad rush of insane collector fervor with equal amounts of fretting and gnashing of teeth as prices and availability spun and fluctuated out of control. Thankfully that is no longer the case, but in hindsight the oddest thing about this phenomenon was that nobody seemed to know any specifics about them, at least not outside of Japan. Nobody knew where to buy them or what the production quantities were, nor where or how to get them outside of Japan, and that's not to mention quality, gimmicks etc. To put this in perspective, for about a year the price of the SRW Dygenguar character was never less than $400+ on Yahoo Japan auctions, and that was if you could find one. It was the same with Granzon and Alteisen both of which readily fetched $300+, and all the other characters had $150-$200 price tags, even for the newly released figures. I don't know if there has ever been price jumps like that in the collectible figure market before or since, and all for 6 inch plastic action figures. Of course giving them such a simple description as mere action figures is being somewhat unfair, because what this doesn't express is how awesomely cool they look; design arguably being their real success. As I mentioned, things have since settled down as everyone became more informed and realized that these figures weren't going to instantly disappear into thin air.

Just recently Bandai gave the big nod to Dygenguar and Aussenseiter as they have been ushered into the SOC line which basically affirms SRW as something of classic status.


This moves us right into Alteisen. Alteisen is likely the most popular design to come from the SRW robot designs thus far. Watching this fan favorite robot over the last five or so years has been like watching a classic in the making. Let's just see if I can count the Alteisens which all have come out in less than five years. First Kotobukiya has put out three plamo model variations with numerous presses of each. There has been the Dengeki mail in special and the Alteisen Riese mail in special, then another limited figure offer that came with one of the SRW animes. Banpresto did another joint effort with Wave and Unifive to produce a die-cast version, and finally we have the upcoming Bandai produced Super Robot Chogokin version. That's a lot of Alteisens and a lot of popularity for a robot design. But then Alteisen is about as kick-butt in robot design as you'll find.

So oddly enough Banpresto remains as something of an underdog as the company isn't a name seen or heard often among collectors or even gamers really, yet Branpresto remains quite prolific. So while other companies often bang each others heads trying to produce the same thing first, I give Banpresto a big thumbs up and hope they will continue to mine the riches in new avenues of the imagination.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Several of these photos have been borrowed from the website. Great robot review site, check them out!!!

Toys with missiles bays, pointy blade weapons, guns, jets, removable armor pieces and excellent poseability makes for a super cool toy. The Liger Zero DX rocks. It's a very cool and fun figure set. I came across it almost by accident back when I still built models and was perusing the Zoids listings on Ebay when I came across a Liger Zero that said "die-cast", and then noticed the strange series numbers being "KZ". I hadn't seen any Zoids from this series before and quickly discovered to my excitement that it was also fully poseable. It kind of blew my mind. So when I did a search under Zoids KZ I found a couple of armor sets and the mother ship, a Liger Zero DX set which included all three sets of armor along with the Liger Zero. My mind was sort of blown once again. So without doing any further investigation I bought it, being a pure impulse buy. It has since then remained one of my favorite figures.

Tomy has made two attempts at making a line of Zoids figures that weren't models and were poseable. This first attempt being issued as the KZ line, and the only Zoids series with die cast content to date, seems to have been an experiment, considering that the entire line consisted of two figures and three sets of exchangeable Liger Zero armor to comprise the entire KZ line. The Liger Zero DX set was part of this first attempt at Zoids figures and included the Liger Zero and all three sets of Jager, Panzer and Schneider armor all in one package. The KZ line is arguably the best line of figures/toys in the entire Zoids twenty-plus year legacy, and for a number of reasons. First and foremost would be that they are poseable. While the surface aesthetics of the classic arsenal of Zoids mecha models have always been intriguing, the limitations of non-articulated/ non-poseable models has stood as a glaring drawback to their overall appeal. They look cool, but what are you going to do with them? And then there is the whole model building issue, which for those of us who are severely time constricted, models are not an option, which is probably the case for most people.

The Liger Zero DX is an articulation monster. The KZ line of Zoids figures have multiple points of articulation with a fair number of them being ratcheted joints and all the others being ball joints. I haven't sat down to count the number of articulation points, but I'll just say it's a lot, like somewhere in the mid twenties to thirties. There is some die cast content, but not too extensive generally. The build is solid and tight, but I have noticed that the plastic can be quite brittle on the sometimes very small pegs of the armor. This brittleness could be due to age, but I would advise exercising some caution when fitting on the armor pieces. They fit on fairly easily, but don't push too hard to get a tighter fit.

The interchangeable armor is a very appealing aspect, and intermixing different armor styles is really cool too. In a sense the interchangeable armor makes up for no transformation or gattai action. Counting the original Liger Zero armor, you actually get four different sets of armor, with roughly a dozen or so pieces to each set, so there are plenty of different combos to try. Each armor style has a unique look and character with the focus of each armor set being in different area if specialization, such as speed, guns, etc..

One thing I'll mention about this set too that I don't often address is the cool packaging. The packaging design on this is great. It's got a great energy but very streamlined as well. The art of good toy packaging seems too often to be of little concern, but Tomy really did a great job with this one.

Why the KZ series of Zoids wasn't continued, I'm not sure. It would seem to have all the neccessary elements to be a successful toy series, and considering there has always been something of a Zoids following, this should have helped also, but whatever the case, the KZ series was discontinued. You can still find individual versions of the KZ Liger Zero and the separate armor sets being sold somewhat regularly, but unfortunately the DX set is a bit on the rare side, although I still see one pop up here and there a couple times a year. I truly wish Tomy would have continued on with the KZ series so that we could have had many more of the Liger Zero armor set such as Liger Phoenix armor, Jet Falcon armor, Murasami armor, and a dozen others that have so far only been seen in model form. But then all good things must come to an end. If only it hadn't been so soon.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Top Ten Robots #7...Unifive Banpresto Alteisen Review

The Alteisen is straight up a cool looking mech. Even if you discount gimmicks, die cast and any other features, the Alteisen is a mech that goes a long way on looks alone. It's a got a great design build and it's a fairly original overall. Originality is no small thing either. There are only about a thousand robot figures that look basically like a Gundam, several being SRW mecha, and many designs out there are merely modified clones of whatever.. This use of modified robot imitation is fine, but designs that are actually cool and original deserve a little extra credit. Alteisen falls very much into this category in my book.

I don't want to go too far into the Super Robot Wars (Taisen) game franchise, but Banpresto excels at producing cool looking mech designs, and Alteisen is right at the top. It was one of the first SRW mechs to have a figure and a model made from it, and in the case with the Alteisen figure, it was one of the first designs to be put into die cast.

Alteisen's die cast content is roughly 50%. He has multiple points of articulation in all the right places which includes his claymore missile bays being partially adjustable. Ratched joints are located in the arms and legs. Note that the degree of movement in the legs is somewhat limited because of the size and spacing between the joints, but it's still fairly substantial.

Alteisen's gimmicks are excellent! First, the claymore missile bays have springloaded doors with the release buttons on each side. The jump jets are also spring loaded and open by pushing the release buttons on the top of the missile bays. The revolver opens to reveal removable shells, which I have to say is a very cool detail that they could have easily left off. The spike on the revolver is also springloaded but sort of pointless because the spike doesn't actually shoot out, it only pops out maybe half a centimeter. My guess is that originally they were planning on having the spike shoot out, but then decided it was too dangerous. The spike is rather pointy I suppose. But as it is, the gimmick seems like a lot of work for very little results, unfortunately.

The accessories include a revolver reloader (for looks only), a docking bay, and the removable shells of course. Both the reloader and the docking bay are fine. Nothing particularly special, but useful for display purposes perhaps.

I do wish that Alteisen was bigger and I wish they had decided to use metallic paint instead of matte, or at least given him a glossy finish. His size is roughly six inches (maybe a little more), so not small by any means, just average and almost exactly the same height as the CM Patlabor. But regardless of size, and just like any great design, Alteisen still packs a lot of punch on the collection shelf. I should also mention that he is still relatively cheap. I've never seen him sell for more than about $70.00 and he's fairly easy to find currently, but I wouldn't wait around.

To wrap this up on a side note, now that SRW is getting some well deserved attention from the "big gun" of robot figure companies, Bandai, and in the Soul of Chogokin line no less(!), it's nice to finally know that Alteisen will not be the only die cast SRW figure on the shelf. Yes there were the Huckebeins.. granted, but Huckebeins were ever only marginal SRW figures, certainly not what makes the dozens of super cool and original SRW designs stand apart. And Huckebeins are sort of a "safe bet" from a sales point of view given that Huckebeins are as much a Gundam rip off as any design out there. But now that we have Dygenguar AND Aussenseiter coming, the rest of the toy shelf better look out because SRW means business!

Friday, August 15, 2008


If you know anything about CM's robot figures then you know that CM is probably the least consistent figure company than anyone else out there. And don't think that price gives any indication of quality. Many of CM's most expensive figures are their poorest designs, and might even contain less metal content than the lower priced figures. BUT, CM has had some excellent figures as well. Perhaps as a general rule of thumb, it seems that any CM figure with a complex transformation is risky at best. CM's Baangaan DX and Rajin-Oh DX weren't horrible, but far from stellar. They were OK. But then in a couple of cases CM has produced some outright defective designs. The biggest (in every sense of the word) was the Genesic Gaogaigar DX that had a price tag of $600+ USD. Really it never should have been released to begin with.

But moving on to CM's Patlabors is a whole different story. All of the die-cast Patlabor figures which includes the Ingrams and the Griffin, were of such quality construction that many collectors thought CM had perhaps forever left their rocky past behind them and would make nothing but awesome quality gokin from that point forward. This didn't prove to be the case, but regardless, the Patlabors were practically perfect. The metal content is high, the articulation is great, the sculpt is excellent and the gimmicks are well implemented and accurate to design.

Previous to this there had been other Ingram figures made, but many were small and none were die-cast. Bandai had created a set of Ingram models that are certainly deserving of merit as far as models go, but then models aren't what collectors are ideally looking for. So with all the Patlabor figures produced up to that point none of them fully captured the full package of quality, materials, size and content that collectors would hope for. CM stepped in and put together the perfect mix. It had all the weapons accessories including guns, a pilot, and changeable face plates. They implemented great gimmicks like the opening cockpit and ankle gun bay. And if that wasn't enough for gimmicks, CM also incorporated flashing LED lights on the shoulders (much as the Bandai models had done earlier). The size was roughly six inches and was solid and tight construction, and the metal content was upwards of 50%. It was all around a nice piece, and fun to mess around with.

There are a couple of maybe not-so-obvious points that indirectly helped CM make this figure a success. I came across some information on the net that briefly noted that none of CM's engineering is produced in house. All the technical aspects of CM's figures are designed in China. It's obvious how this could create problems with engineering QC. With CM being in this situation, it boils down to this: the simpler the design idea, the better chance CM has of making a successful figure. All the cool facets of the Patlabor figures are excellent, but none of them are excessively complicated either, nor do they involve elements that are dependent on another element to work. And this is the type of game plan CM should continue to focus upon. This simplified road is why many companies excel. Aoshima is a prime example. Otherwise history has shown that CM's engineering debacles will continue and collectors will get tired of it. How many times can a company not deliver the goods before a person changes brands? In my experience, maybe two, if you are lucky?

But all this aside, I recommend any of the die cast Patalbors whole heartedly. They are excellent chogokin figures with lots of fun accessories and great gimmicks. Being very poseable and stable also makes them great display pieces. Prices on Ebay have stayed close to their initial list price, so it's still a good time to pick one up before they disappear over the next few years.

TOP TEN ROBOTS: #10....Panda-Z Review

Panda-Z is an idea of sheer genius. The charismatic design of the Panda-Z characters has such a broad level of appeal that if Panda-Z had been handled correctly in the multi-media realm, I have no doubt that Panda-Z could have been a household name much like Scooby Doo or Mickey Mouse. But as it is, Panda-Z disappeared almost as quickly as it came.

Being a play off of the Go Nagai family of robot creations (most prominently being Mazinger) Panda-Z hits the mark perfectly. The Panda Bear robot and pilot is so irresistably cute with just enough cool it's no surprise that Megahouse was able to sell millions of dollars of Panda-Z merchandise almost overnight.

Part of this barrage of merchandise included the excellent chogokin version of Panda-Z. The attention to detail in sculpt, paint and gimmicks are all right up to par. With substantial metal content, spring loaded fists, a removable pilot, and the magnetic jet scrander backpack make it not only fun and cute, but a legitimate chogokin to boot. The size is roughly 5-6 inches. While not exactly huge, its big enough to give presence but also keeping him "cute" too. Normally being cute wouldn't be a plus with robot figures, but with Panda-Z it really works in the best possible way.

The articulation is only about seven points, but this actually helps give Panda-Z the old school look it's shooting for. In fact Megahouse later made a plastic Panda-Z with at least twice as much articulation as the Chogokin figure, and this highly articulated version looks strangely athletic and too dynamic for its old-school-cartoon-robot personality. This is the one and only instance where a figure's lack of poseability is a plus.

Every person whom I have shown my robot collection always compliments on how they like the Panda-Z figure. They might not say a thing about anything else, but without fail the Panda-Z figure grabs their attention. This hugely attests to Panda-Z's potential considering that these compliments are coming from people who don't necessarily like robots, toys, or even SF in general. Just by the merit of the design alone, I can't imagine that anyone would not like Panda-Z.

All the other Panda-Z characters have a very uniquely likable quality about them also. Even though the rest of the Panda-Z cast have only been produced in plastic figures, they are still great renditions with nice sculpts and quality paint jobs. The one place where Panda-Z has failed monstrously in achieving its potential is in the animated video shorts. For some reason Megahouse never developed this area into something lasting and memorable. The video shorts had awful music, bad animation, and boring little stories that weren't really that cute, or amusing. Basically they just came across as being cheap. And because of this lack of foresight on Megahouse's part, it's possible that Panda-Z has already faded to be nothing more than a short lived note in pop culture history. But this aside, the Panda-Z chogokin easily deserves the number ten spot in the robot figure countdown.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Until now I've never tried to do a top ten list of my favorite robots. Holy cow, it is NOT easy, because if I'm going to be fair about it all, it shouldn't just be a list of favorite characters or cartoons that they then made figures from. For me this list had to be about robots that deserve representation based upon the merits of quality, innovation and design. But then the question comes up; how much room for error should a small company have vs. a large company? If you take experience into account, Bandai SOCs should be absolutely perfect every time. It's stuff like this that makes a top ten list complicated. So I tried to be unbiased when dealing with companies and the characters, but I also tried to pick only one figure from a series when all the other figures are made with similar construction and dynamics. So without further ado, let's get this rolling!

Friday, July 25, 2008

SRW (Super Robot Wars-Taisen) Comes of Age with SOC GX-45, Dygenguar and Aussenseiter

Awhile back I wrote an article about the current state of SRW figures where I stated that I had my doubts as to whether there would ever be SRW figures made beyond the monstrously expensive Dengeki limited edition plastic action figures. I can say without reserve that I am so happy that I was wrong in my conclusions. Not only is there going to be new SRW figures made, but they are going to be part of the SOC line of figures no less, and if that's not enough, the first two are a combined set that includes Dygenguar and Aussenseiter. Wow. I don't know if they could have picked two better figures to be represented in the SOC line, and hopefully this won't be the last. It could easily turn out that this SRW combo will be the most anticipated SOC set this year, internationally speaking, and certainly the dark horse-mystery entry of the year. Reideen and Daimos have long term popularity, and it's always good to see the spirit of super robots endure through the years, but for me it's even more exciting to see a relatively new line (series) of figures come into its own and join the ranks of the classic heavy hitters.

I would speculate that the reason we are seeing SRW come to pass in SOC form is in large part thanks to the Kotobukiya models, and to a lesser degree the Dengeki figures also. What's been really cool about this popularity of the Kotobukiya models is that a huge portion of the collectors have been buying these models solely due to the designs of the robots without much affiliation to the video game franchise. This type of phenomenon doesn't happen that often with figure collecting where "form" takes a precedence over "function", so to speak. But the truth is that SRW has so many great looking robots that have a very contemporary look. This creates some contention among the zealots of the strictly old school whose mantra is that "if it's not old, it's crap".. but generally these feelings fade with time and exposure as the enthusiasm of other collectors spreads.

So far we don't have a lot of pics yet, but we do have some teaser material, and plenty of pics of the models and action figures, as you can see. But I will continue to post up new pics as they get released, so stay tuned!

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Brief History of FEWTURE Robot Figure Design

When exactly Fewture was spawned as a subsidiary of Art Storm Co. Ltd. I'm not sure, but Fewture has been around for at least a decade or more, and for most of this time they were relatively unnoticed by the robot collecting community, unless you happened to also be interested in macabre horror figures. For years Fewture focused almost exclusively on creating highly detailed resin kits and limited cast figurines with extreme gothic and/or violent and twisted content that embodied a shocking sort of flair as their trademark. The closest thing Fewture had for mainstream figure collecting was perhaps their Devilman action figures, which aren't anything close to being "normal". Along these lines Fewture also made figures featuring edgey pop culture icons such as Alien movie casts and Marilyn Manson sculpts among others, but all these were extremely gorish and awesomely detailed, not something the average toy collector would be apt to buy.

It was fairly recently that Fewture propelled itself into the gokin collecting scene when they released their first venture into die cast robots with their Black Getter Ryoma about two years ago. The Ryoma figure was almost an instant classic of gokin robot figures. It's extreme attention to detail and quality made it an overnight sensation with market prices doubling on Ebay within its first month of release, and this gave Fewture instant credability with hardcore robot collectors. The Ryoma was large at about 10" tall, and very heavy in die cast metal content. It also had a super cool exo-skeletal design with removable parts and awesome accessories. There wasn't anything bad that could be said about it, right down to the awesome packaging. Even the most harcore critics were admitting that it was a masterpiece of gokin. It looked super cool and had Fewture's uniquely sinister trademark written all over it. Taking it out of the box, feeling it's weight and seeing the incredible detail, you knew it was a serious piece of artistry.

The Black Getter Ryoma was was designed by an almost completely unknown freelance sculptor at the time named Taku Sato who also helped with the Mazinger 1901AD figures and later designed the Getter 1,2 and 3. There had only been a couple of promo pics sent out of the Ryoma a year or so before the figure was actually released and the Ryoma didn't get a whole lot of buzz generally because nobody knew anything about it or about Fewture. There was no info or track record to give it any status or preconceived knowlege in terms of quality or features. So the Getter Ryoma popped onto the scene like a suprise attack on collectors and the word of mouth on collector forums spread like wild fire.

In a sense there were predecessors to the Getter Ryoma. Roughly a year before Fewture had tried to get a new line of large and intense Mazinger family figures to catch on with the mainstream public. These all plastic figures were based upon the classic Mazinger robot characters but with the familiar Fewture twistedness. They were labelled as the "Mazinger 1901 A.D." line, perhaps vaguely attributive to Frankenstein (in my mind anyway), and kind of spooky. Fewture had even lined up some big name accounts to distribute the line, like Toys R' Us of Japan. Unfortunately, the line failed miserably. The figures looked great and had a lot of accessories and cool gimmicks, but the aesthetics were just too extreme for the mainstream public and certainly not for kids. The low grade plastic didn't help their street credibility either. Retail prices were slashed and the entire line was discontinued and liquidated. The Mazinger 1901 line was interesting and edgey unlike anything that came before it, but the sinister and spooky personalities and frightening weapon accessories were not what parents were willing to buy for their kids. Fewture had miscalcuated who they were trying to market to. They were too "Fewture-esque". In fact my wife has commented how eerie the Garada figure is, and the Aflodai figure with her prominent breasts and nipples wasn't exactly Pokemon.

As soon as the Getter Ryoma figure was released to grandiose acclaim, there was a renewed curiosity about the Mazinger 1901 A.D. figures. At the time they were selling at about $20 apiece on Ebay which allowed for curious collectors to see basic design elements of a Fewture figure without having to shell out hundreds of dollars for the Ryoma. In retrospect the Mazinger 1901 figures were archetypal designs of the Getter EX Gokin line.

The release of the Getter 1,2, and 3 in the EX Gokin line firmly solidified Fewture as the new rock star in the contemporary robot collecting scene. Collectors were freaking out when they saw the promo pics. All three of these Getters were excellent examples of what Fewture had to offer with top of the line designs and high die cast content, and of course the gimmicks, accessories and super cool details were second to none. For the doubters who thought maybe the Black Getter Ryoma was all hype and a little bit of luck, the early reviews confirmed that Fewture was real and they meant serious business when it came to making gokin. Of course there are always collectors who won't accept that anything new or different is good, but these are the same collectors who are now kicking themselves for being so stupid as they try to buy the figures in the secondary market for hundreds of dollars more than the initial retail prices.

In a bizarre turn of events, the relatively young Taku Sato died shortly after the Getters had been released. This was a hugely unfortunate day for gokin collectors worldwide. And at least we have been priveledged enough to have his robot designs that we have, and we continue to enjoy them as the rest of his designs have continued being made by Fewture to this day.

Now we've seen Fewture move forward with the Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger 1969. These Mazinger figures sold out almost as quickly as they were released, once again establishing Fewture's popularity with unique vision in rock solid gokin design.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dancouga Nova, CM and Max Factory: The Current Story?

The above pics you've probably seen before of Max Factory's Dancouga Nova, which rumors are that it's still going to happen. The current update on CM's Dancouga Nova on the other hand is that production has been suspended indefinitely due to lack of interest. For me personally, I would rather have Max Factory's hand in the production than almost any other company, but most especially over CM.

Frankly, the interest has always been there for a Dancouga Nova figure, but who had $600 (not including shipping) to shell out for CM's version. It was scheduled to be a limited edition of 1500 figures, but reports estimate that there were only roughly 250 takers. On the robot forums it seemed that everyone agreed it looked nice, but haveing no takers was no big surprise with such a high price tag, online orders only from within Japan, and CM's less than stellar reputation of quality.

The last three figures CM has released have been severely criticized as being under sized, over priced, and having bad engineering, not to mention low die cast content. It's a recipe for failure in the robot figure market. Many collectors had high hopes that CM was really going to step up to bat after the quality seen in their Ingram figures, but I've mentioned this before and I'll say it again here; a company should stick to what they can do well, and for CM that means staying far away from complex engineering. Their standard action figures have been fine, even exceptional in the case of the die cast infused Ingrams, but these figures had little to any engineering. Their DX line on the other hand has been a rocky road, and in the case of the DX Genesic Gaogaigar being a complete and utter failure. Even their Brave line of die cast figures have often been marginal in content and value for price. I bought the DX Baangaan, which wasn't too bad, but it's also far from ideal. The one thing they did right on Baangaan was keeping it a parts swapper instead of trying to be a full fledged transformer. Why you ask? Because at least it worked with plausible execution, or in other words, it was something they could do without screwing it up. But again Sure I would rather have a transformer than a swapper, but I'll take an unbroken parts swapper over a defective transformer any day.

Speculating about the future of CM would seem to spell out doom for the company, or least a fade into obscurity. With CM's recent failures combined with a history of poor execution, I'm not sure CM will ever fully be able to recover back into an acclaimed robot figure company. My guess is that CM will stay around making the cheap plastic female figures that currently glut the Japanese figure market, but whether CM will ever be able to sell the public on their ideas for high end robot figure packages again seems unlikely at this point.

Now we'll have to wait and see if Max Factory will jump back into the game and release their version of Dancouga Nova. The big criticism of Max Factory robots has always been that they don't transform, but comparing Max Factory and CM figures in retrospect, it's obvious that Max Factory knows what they are doing and they do it with exceptional quality of materials, sculpt and paint. It seems that Max Factory has bowed out for awhile, but the rumor is that they have things in the works. Let's all hope and maybe we'll see those Dancouga Nova prototypes come to fruition.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Great Baikanfu GX-39 Photo Documentary Review

Thank's to the guys over at Toys Daily for this great Baikanfu GX-39 photo documentary.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

My Official CM's DX Great Baangaan Review

Being a dedicated robot collector is tough sometimes because you have to make those tough purchasing decisions that aren't cheap. So I finally decided I had to get the the DX Great Baangaan.

It's hard to not have a bias against robots that transform with parts that have to be swapped out because it kind of feels like its cheating even when there is no other way to get the desired results. The other reason that it's so hard to give DX Baangaan an objective review is because he falls outside the boundaries of the standard amount of sheer content and material your average robot figure would normally contain. So really he's not a "figure", but a "figure set".

After my first round of putting everything together my initial reaction was one of bewilderment. This thing has tons of parts. With nine different characters and/or vehicles there's a plethora of little moving hinges and connections and removable swapping parts. So far I haven't seen a photo session that accurately portrays this aspect to its full extent. My impression is that DX Baangaan seems to have been designed by modelers. And in retrospect, mucj of the CM DX line leads me to this conclusion also. It's very much a line where you put things together to make other things. Modelers often don't have as much of an appreciation of the "zen" that comes with perfect transformation or smooth and simple transitions. The mind set of a modeler is to put things together to make bigger things, and with the more parts the better. This is exactly how DX Baangaan works. I continually had the sensation I was putting together a half completed model where the larger pieces have already been put together for you. In a sense it has similarities to something like the Kotobukiya Armored Core models, where the pieces are interchangable to make different robots. I can also see where the $320 price tag came from. It's an extreme piece of robot engineering. In fact it's too extreme. CM perhaps tried to do too much with this set, and it would have been much more successful if they had streamlined it down.

Without covering too much that has already been said about DX Great Baangaan, you basically take apart Mach Sperion and attach some of his parts, along with several additional parts, onto Baan Gaan in order to create Great Baangaan. All in all it works out ok. I didn't have to force anything putting him together, and it all seems relatively stable once combined. There are some very small easily breakable pegs to watch out for though. For anyone still planning to yet purchase Great Baangaan, keep in mind that you shouldn't really have to force any of the parts together. If you are having to force pieces, chances are you are probably doing it incorrectly.

Metal content is mostly on blue Baan Gaan, and almost exactly what I expected from the beginning. Blue Baan Gaan has a basic skeletal metal frame on his back to support the white, fanning wing system. This wing system is actually surprisingly well engineered and very stable whether folded in or fanned out. But all in all, the metal content is very minimal. I should probably note that there is also a couple of detachable metal plates on Mach Sperion's feet.

The articulation of both Mach Sperion and Baan Gaan are average. So mostly in the arms, shoulders and knees. There are a number of ratched joints on blue Baan Gaan to give added support. Mach Sperion and Baan Gaan on their own are generally decent figures with a fair degree of articulation and decent size being about the size of a good size Transformer. Both of these figures also have quite a few accessories like Mach Sperion's shotgun, different fists and some cool swords. Nobody seems to take pictures of these for some reason.

Sperion and Baan are tiny, and Sperion is used for a lot in the different combinations. The detail is fine, but they really should have made him bigger. Baan is tiny too, but where he isn't really used for anything other than being a little transforming car, not a big deal.

I should say a couple of things about all the other transformation forms, being the Mach Phoenix, the Mach Jet, the Gaan Dragon, and the Gaan Dasher. Even though it's kind of cool that you can do all these things out of one toy set, it's a lot of work with all the parts swapping and interchanging of pieces to make them happen. I don't see myself changing them back to these forms often. Out of all of these I probably like the Mach Phoenix the most for some reason. The Gaan Dragon could have been made to look much bigger and tougher where his extra pieces aren't used for anything else.

The end result of the combined Great BaanGaan is impressive looking and holds together ok.
I didn't find anything falling off or overly loose, and there was nothing defective in my set right out of box. DX Great Baangaan is maybe not the most solid figure I've ever held, but he isn't unstable either. He's not very posable, but you can get a couple of power poses out of him so that he makes a strong impact on the collector shelf. Upon reflection I would compare Great Baangaan's posability and solidity to being one step down from SOC Dancouga maybe (although not even close to being as heavy). Basically he's a "power stance" robot, where even though there is a fair degree of movement in his arms and legs, you end up putting him on the shelf in his face forward power stance, if only for the sake of looks and overall stability.

There is a vague Sentai feel to this set, and most especially in the combined Great Baangaan figure. It's like an "advanced" Sentai set. Even with it's number of small-ish parts, the majority of the mass comes from the large, iconic pieces that have a chunky Sentai look about them, and where it's a large and mostly plastic figure this also gives it a very Sentai feel.

Conclusion: For what it is, DX Great Baangaan is an ok set, and I really feel I've been too harsh on CM about it. I can't say that I'm not disappointed about the low diecast content, BUT in all fairness my disappointment mostly stemmed from having assumed this set was going to be a different type of figure/set altogether than being that of what it is on its own terms (I hope this makes sense). It really depends on what you look for out of your robot experience. This is not a gokin, and not really a gattai or henkei transformer in the classic sense. DX Great BaanBaan is mostly a hybrid sort of model. If you aren't into modelling and demand the smoothness of play and zen transformation that come from SOCs or Transformers etc, this is not the robot for you by any means, but if you like to tinker with parts and doing transformations using lots of parts swapping, DX Baangaan will be hours of fun. I would also say unless you are an experienced modeller, I would recommend maybe taking it a little slow. I would have much more enjoyed a diecast simplified SOC version of Great Baangaan, but for what the CM version is, it's done fairly well as a very comprehensive set of the entire Great Baangaan milieu. After about three hours of putting things together the price didn't seem that much of an issue anymore because I could see where it came from. I also have to say that now that I have him in the showcase, DX Great Baangaan looks quite stunning. He's large and striking. Definitely a big plus!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


(Note: These are scaled photos to show virtual size comparisons and not the actual sizes of the figures. Also note that many of the figures shown are scheduled to be released, but not yet available.)

SRW has traditionally been a 2nd tier video game franchise that's always seemed to fly under the radar of any serious collecting interest up until a couple of years ago when Dengeki magazine started to offer limited edition figures that weren't in SD format. But even so, the Dengeki Magazine figures have been elusive to find and can take some dedicated searching just to find any information about them, let alone trying to buy them. They almost never come up on eBay and unless you speak Japanese there is maybe one or two toy sellers that carry these figures, and often their selection is maybe four to five different figures at any given time. So why bother? The character designs are awesome.

In the last couple of years I've seen more people start to ask questions about these figures on collector sites such as, but finding substantial information about them is uncommon (except in Japanese). So I thought I would offer up some info and a brief review of my Dengeki SRW collection.

First I would make everyone aware that these figures are not the same thing as the model kits made by Kotobukiya (which are excellent model kits BTW). The Dengeki SRW figures are appromximately 5-6 inches tall and made of all plastic. The license is through Banpresto (a subsidiary of Bandai) and the sculpts are done by Volks Inc., and the figures are issued as limited edition figures through Dengeki Hobby Magazine of Japan. There are about thirty different figures currently, with a new figure coming out every four to five months. The figures have to be ordered several months in advance before production and can only be ordered within Japan.

As I mentioned before, with such a difficult set of parameters to acquire these figures you might ask yourself why anyone would want to go through the hassle of finding them? I want to elaborate on the answer to this. First, there is no other line of action figures being made of the Super Robot Wars OG characters. There is the line of Kotobukiya models, but for a lot of people it takes too much time and hassle to build a model. A second reason is that it could be a long time (possibly never) that another set of SRW OG figures gets made. I'll talk about this in a second. And the last reason is almost certainly the most prominent answer, which is simply that the characters are really, really cool looking. With a huge variety of styles in the mecha character desgins, it makes for a very appealing line of collectible figures that look like a lot of fun, straight up.

But I'll digress for a minute back to my second reason listed above, which is that there may not be another full line of SRW figures ever made. I think if I explain a little bit more of where SRW is at currently and where they have come from this will make more sense. Super Robot Wars is a franchise that first originated about twenty years ago as a an average RPG console video game, but by putting out a new game addition once every couple of years or so, they managed to stay around. None of the SRW games has ever really been much of a cutting edge game, but the animation cut scenes have always been cool and the sense of adventure along with the cool mecha designs has kept it in some degree of popularity at least within Japan. Technically and playwise it's current game releases are somewhere along the lines of Final Fantasy IV. The result is that it's managed to stay afloat as a franchise, but stayed in Japan. Recently the franchise tried to branch out into a three part OVA anime series with average results. When it all boils down, it's the cool robot mecha designs that keep it going. The designs are among the most visually creative in the business and bring together a lot of intercrossed inspiration. Plus they have amassed a huge assortment of designs over the years. Maybe not as many individual mecha as a mega Franchise like Gundam, but the variety of SRW designs are visually much more interesting and dramatic than the relatively generic and over-cloned Gundams. Collectively SRW probably has the best design team for new, cool looking robots going today.

It's certainly possible that Bandai could opt to create a series of SRW figures with the intentions of real distribution vs. the limited edition mail in thing they have going now, but the way things look currently in the SRW world, I don't see anything that points towards the development of mass marketing potential and appeal. If it were up to me and I was the President of Bandai, I would faze out Gundam and faze in SRW as their new cash cow, starting with a well written and cohesive anime series.

Ok, so what about the figures.. All of the Dengeki figures are basically action figures with a fair amount of accessories and moving parts. The strongest point of this whole SRW line is the sculpts, followed by their expressive poseability. The sculpts are beautiful, and the paint jobs are excellent with vibrant colors. The size is 5-6 inches. Articulation is around 14 points (varies with some figures). The newer figures have ratchet joints in the elbows and knees, and the older figures have ratchet joints only in the knees. Ball joints are in the shoulders and upper legs, head and hands.

Here are specific problems I found with individual figures:
-Dygenguar's waist cloth piece is too delicate at the connection point and could easily snap off, so leg stances are limited.
-Altalion's transformation is not really a transformation. Instead you remove pieces and replace with other pieces in order to create his ship mode.
-Dygengaur and Sladegelmir don't have strong enough joints to hold up their huge swords. They should have put ratchet joints in the shoulders with these two.
-Wildwurger's claw is a mould. It does not open and close, but instead they give you two separate replaceable claws; one open and one closed.
-Gimmicks in general are basically none, but most figures do come with a number of accessories, replacable fists and weapons, but I should mention that many figures have "special" moving parts to give them added dynamics.

Because of the detail of some of the sculpted parts for these figures, there are pieces that are more delicate than they should be. Really the SRW figures aren't any more or any less than an average action figure. Just be aware of this before plopping down $100 dollars or more for one of these figures.

My personal favorite figures so far have been Koryuoh, Weibritter, and Granzon. Close seconds are Wildfalken and Alteisen Riese. All of these look great, are relatively sturdy and/or have lots of extra moving parts as in the case of Wildfalken and the Alteisen Riese.

If money is an issue, quite honestly these figures are not worth it compared to all the awesome die cast figures you can buy out there for almost the same price. But even with that said, they are worth it to me (and to perhaps yourself) being an avid collector of cool robot designs. I've said it many times, but I love the robot mecha designs in the SRW line up as much or more than any other designs I've seen.

Prices can be anywhere between $50-$350 depending on where, when and what figures you are trying to buy. Over the past year prices seem to have gone down as the initial fervor levelled off when people realized that these figures weren't going to instantly disappear overnight. The best option I've found for purchasing them is to get them through Yahoo Japan auctions with the help of a middleman service like, but if you want to pay the asking prices also keeps some in stock. The two most expensive figures for the last two years have been Granzon and Dygenguar, and the least expensive are usually any of the Gespents or the Huckebeins. The figures I see the least of seems to be Altalion and Sladegelmir.

As and ending note, a much more cost effective way of getting SRW OG figures is to buy the Kotobukiya models. If you have the time to build them and don't mind the hassle of models, these are excellent models that I recommend highly.

Monday, July 9, 2007


Even with all the incredible die cast figures that came out in 2006, it was the Gunphoenix Striker DX that topped my list of the coolest die cast toys I bought last year. There were a couple of reasons for this, and I have to admit that in part it was the thrill of a random discovery, which is always more exciting than buying something that has been buzzed about on every collector BBS, months before it gets released.

So I came across the Gunphoenix Striker because of another random find. I had bought all the Ultraman Nexus Guys Machine ships in a single purchase on Yahoo Japan because they looked cool and they were really cheap. Originally I didn't even realize that these were Ultraman related toys, but with how cool they looked and how cheap they were, it was an easy buy.
I didn't know anything about Guys machines except what they looked like on Yahoo Japan. Well, it turned out that they were really a fun set of toys with lots of cool variations to make different space ships and tanks, sort of in gattai fashion. These were enough fun that it really got me interested in the other Guys Machines series. So when I came across the Gunphoenix Loader, which looked very cool and cheap once again, I bought it, and to my surprise it was die-cast! All the Nexus ships had been plastic. My Gunloader arrives and it was at least 60% die cast. That was it, now I knew I had to get the Gunwinger. With how well they implemented the combining ability of these two pieces to create the Gunphoenix, it really hit me what a great toy this was, and where both pieces cost around $20 each, it made things that much more enjoyable.

I wasn't aware at this time that a third piece called the Gunbomber was in the works which would complete the Gunphoenix Striker DX spaceship. With the addition of the Gunbomber, the Gunphoenix Striker DX was my choice as the toy of the year for 2006.

Note that the Gunbomber has no die cast. It's still a cool piece and implementation into the Gunphoenix Striker combination is top notch, and very solid, but it would have been awesome if the bomber itself had some diecast weight to it.

Each ship has a nifty gimmick of incorporating a small Gunspeeder vehicle about the size of a Matchbox car, and with wheels no less. The Gunspeeders work as the cockpit for each ship and then eject from the ships as a smaller mobile transport vehicle also. Very cool.

The combination is very solid and could easily be played with by kids. Even though few of us collectors would buy this for our kids to play with, its always nice to have solid construction that will stand up over time.

Price is still currently at about $20-$30 per vehicle, but are getting harder to find. The DX Anniversary set sells for around $150-$200, but Yahoo Japan will be your only chance at this point considering the anniversary set barely made a tick on the radar anywhere in America.

NOTE: The pictures I've featured here are of the vehicles as they were originally sold individually. The paint job has a gloss finish and the Gunspeeder cockpits don't open. The limited anniversay DX combined set features a matte finish paint job with slightly different colors, opening and closing cockpits on the Gunspeeders, and includes six little removable figures. The DX set is fairly rare even in Japan, so if you plan on picking up all of the ships, you might have more luck with the individual vehicles.
I haven't taken any pics of my DX Anniversary set yet, but if anyone is interested I can put some up.