|Character Design||Go Nagai|
Review by Sanjeev
Groizer X is a super robot cartoon that aired in Japan before I was born. It featured your classic 70's alien invasion story involving a kidnapped scientist forced to build them the ultimate super weapon. His daughter manages to steal this "weapon" and escape with it to Japan, where she and her hero pal battle the monster of the week for the next 36 episodes.
The show was never brought to the States, yet from the first time I laid eyes on the Nakajima diecast toys of the robot, I was in love with Groizer. The design is part of robot maestro, Nagai Go's official pantheon. Much like Nagai's Getter robots, Groizer features an "impossible" transformation involving a gigantic bomber aircraft with a robot head metamorphing into a robot. What's impossible about it, of course, is that it's nothing like your typical modern Transformer. Transformers features moving parts that retain their dimensions and just rearrange themselves realistically to make a different overall shape. Nope. Groizer's bomber wings "morph" into the robot's arms, while the aft fuselage splits into the legs. Yeah. Well, if you're a fan of any of these shows, you're no stranger to suspension of disbelief; I haven't seen whole episodes of the cartoon, but I'm guessing that the transformation's one of the easiest parts of the show to swallow!
So why am I in love with this robot? Well, he's blue, he's weird-looking, and he's got a pretty groovy head with antennae. Yep, that's pretty much all I need!
Sure, the transformation is...different...but I can dig it. Besides, unlike actual Transformers, Groizer's transformation isn't really a major concern in any of the previous toys (except for Nakajima's elusive magnetic Groizer, which, as it turns out, is quite similar in spirit to the toy we're reviewing today!). The other popular Nakajima diecasts simply come static in either mode: Groizer X, the bomber, and Groizer Robo, the robot. And they're gorgeous. Their proportions are chunky, their colors are striking. Shooty missiles and fists. The toys are rugged and simple. Everything you love about old-school diecast, they have.
Now, along comes Yamato with their new GN-U line. Like I said, I have no idea what GN-U stands for, but making sense of all their offerings is stroke-inducing. Okay, so the "GN-U Hagane" line is high-end, semi-parts-swapping super robots, including this Groizer and the upcoming Danguard Ace(!). Now, this line is NOT to be confused with the "GN-U Gou" line, which is all-plastic, high-end, and heavily-parts-swapping...like Braiger. Lastly, there's the "GN-U Dou" line, which is all-PVC, non-transforming action figures, including the upcoming Braiger and Dancougar.
Anyway, those who know me know that I'm not particularly fond of modern gokin. I categorize most modern high-end super robot offerings as "collectibles", rather than as actual toys. They often come with scads of tiny, delicate accessories to recreate any scene from the cartoon, and they usually favor cartoon-accurate looks and super-poseability over imaginative play value. For the most part, they are fragile collectors' items for adults to put on shelves...and certainly not meant for children's sandboxes.
Somehow, by design or dumb luck, Yamato has crossed back over to the fun side of things with their "Groizer-X" (note the hyphen). With this toy, they've managed to create something that's simple, durable, and imaginative...and yet, satisfying to collectors, with anime-accurate sculpting, absurd poseability, and lots of detailed accessories.
But let's start from the top: the packaging:
The box is big. Probably quite a bit bigger than it really needs to be...but there's a reason for it that we'll get to later. As you can see above, the front flap of the box lifts up to reveal a window showing Groizer-X (bomber mode). When you pull everything out of the box, you get two flimsy, clear plastic trays containing the surprisingly simple toy, the instruction booklet, and full-color papercraft materials(!).
The first tray includes the main wings for Groizer's bomber mode, the aft fuselage (that you need to plug the stabilizers into), and the accessories baggies (containing, among other things, the G-Jet, G-Shark, and G-Tank). The second tray has parts for robot mode--arms, abdomen/legs, extra hands, and the stand and landing gear for bomber mode.
There's actually not a whole lot to say about the toy, itself...and I consider that a good thing. On one hand, I don't have as much time to spend playing with toys these days, but on the other, I just simply appreciate a toy that doesn't require a lot of book-keeping and busy-work to entertain me. With this toy, I can just let my imagination go with a genuinely cool, solid toy.
So, let's get started with Groizer-X, the bomber:
First off, it's worth mentioning the stand. It's a very simple affair requiring the arm to be plugged into the base. Near the top of the arm, where it connects to Groizer, there is a pivot joint that allows the bomber to be displayed at different angles. Very basic, but I like it because it's secure, it's stable, and it gets the job done.
Now...the good stuff. As you can see, the bomber looks pretty damn good:
The main wings are each one solid piece of plastic. They're well painted with a nice glossy sheen, but they're pretty light. Add to that the aft fuselage being almost all-plastic, you actually have a very lightweight toy. Initial reports of this toy clocked the diecast at only 30%. Well, that's probably true...for bomber mode. But really--what does this thing do? Is a lot of heft an actual requirement for this mode?
The stand is somewhat light ABS plastic and the pivot joint where it plugs into Groizer-X would really suffer if it were any heavier. Sure, Yamato could beef it up, but I just don't see the need...
The bomber doesn't feature too many gimmicks. One nice touch is removable landing gear. A panel pops out of the chest for the nose gear to fit into. Two panels in the aft section recess to allow the aft gear to plug into. The chassis the wheels are attached to are ball-jointed, which is a nice touch I guess. While the wheels don't actually roll, you can at least display the gear in different positions...plus, they can conform to uneven surfaces. Yeah, not a lot to write home about.
The one feature I kinda dig is the "Flying Torpedo" accessories. Yeah, I know it's been compared to sperm and other funny biological entities I can't really talk about here...but it's pretty cool. Basically, that big door on Groizer's chest opens and has an attachment rail. You get the Torpedo warhead, the whole Flying Torpedo, and an exhaust trail to which the Torpedo can attach. All of these can attach to the rail to simulate different stages of firing:
Okay, yeah, I guess it's a bit of superfluous accessory, like the ones I mentioned that normally annoy me about most modern gokin. Truth is, as fun as it was to photograph, stuff like the landing gear and Flying Torpedo bits are going right back in the box. The bomber and the stand are all I care about.
Before we leave the bomber and move onto the robot, let's just take a comparison of Yamato's Groizer-X bomber and Nakajima's bomber:
Not too shabby, but Yamato's version could definitely have benefitted from missiles or some other kind of spring-loaded shooty gimmick.
Now, on to the robot...
The "transformation" is pretty simple. There's a quick, intuitive rearranging of the chest piece that places the head properly atop the shoulders instead of severely tilted back for bomber mode. Then, you just pull out the wings and the aft fuselage and replace them with the robot arms and legs. Done.
Remember that report of 30% diecast? Forget about it. Besides the chest piece being nearly all diecast, now you have the shoulders and upper arms, and the lower legs and feet...all diecast. This is a substantial toy that really does benefit from the added heft. Unlike the bomber, Groizer Robo is all finger-candy. Sturdy, ridiculously-articulated with strong detents in most of the joints, simple...fun.
Simply gorgeous. It's tall (at just under 8 inches) and has just the right amount of weight and distribution of it. This figure is stable and isn't going to fall off your shelf, let alone disappoint your diecast addiction!
One thing I found really nice is the antennae. They're made of some sort of super-flexible, but super-tough plastic. No matter how you bend them, they're not going to snap off. Great stuff...durability is appreciated.
Gimmicks? What you see is what you get. Accessories? Well...he's got open hands. I love it!
Again, sure, I wouldn't have minded seeing shooting fists or some neat features like that. So how does the Yamato stack up against the Nakajima?
The last major thing about this toy I want to talk about is something I alluded to earlier: the box the toy comes in actually combines with the included papercraft bits to form the landing strip from Groizer's Akane-Jima island base!!
This is cool beyond words...and the irony of it all is that I haven't even assembled it! :P
Honestly, I'm probably not going to get around to it either. This is one of those things where putting together the base is half the fun. Papercraft projects, clearly reminiscent of Japan's tradition of origami, are fun and while not particularly challenging in their modern full-color, pre-printed, perforated form, still take some time to do right.
That's time I don't really have. And more to the point...where am I gonna put this thing!?
This is one huge beast! Now, back when I was a kid, I would have gone ape crap over this thing. Back in those days, I didn't get many toys, so I simply had a lot of time to appreciate the few I had. As such, something like this woulda been perfect. I would have lovingly put together the base and staged all sorts of cool sorties and and invasions!
Then again, when I was a kid, there was pretty much no way in hell my mother would've sprung for a $158 toy!!
Well, such is life. The good news is that our man, Pony has come through with his typical curmudgeon-style review (if you can read it)...complete with gorgeous pics. Please check it out here.
So that pretty much wraps it up. Good, solid toy. Simple and enjoyable. Unfortunately, at a pricetag of over $150 (though you should be able to find them closer to $140 right now in the aftermarket), it'll ultimately come down to folks' love for the character/design as the deciding factor. If it had retailed for around $100, this toy would be an absolute no-brainer.
I'll leave you with my 3-minute teaser review on Youtube:
Thanks for reading! Play hard!
|Posted 1 May, 2008 - 11:04 by Sanjeev|