Review by The Enthusiast
The Metal Hero genre is not unlike other Tokusatsu series, featuring endless variations on a space-cop hero battling monsters. The space-cop typically operates from a spaceship base, and this spaceship base typically transforms into a humanoid robot. Grandbirth is the base for Space Sheriff Sharivan, the second of Toei’s Metal Heroes.
The Metal Hero designs are among the purest of the eighties aesthetic. Think Space Shuttle Lander, Lamborghini Countach, and Delorean. Hard lines; a white, black, and gray color palette; chrome; and the discreet use of saturated color all characterize the look of this era. Grandbirth is right at home with Laserion, Vavilos, and Juspion. Collectors, in general, aren't particularly fond of these toys. The designs are more eccentric than mainstream mecha before or after, eschewing the classic sentai or super robot proportions. Vavilos has a flat heat, giant legs, and tiny little arms. Laserion is built from hollow cages. Grandbirth has an abstracted head, weirdly faceted arms, and a big protuberant belly. That belly, more than anything else, makes Grandbirth an acquired taste.
Grandbirth comes in a largish box (measuring 12"x13"x3.5") with a nice photograph of both modes on the front, a rainbow border and an inset photo of Sharivan himself. The back and sides are similar. The toy comes in spaceship mode, rests in a Styrofoam coffin, and comes with very little in the way of accessories - just a few missiles and three tiny yellow ships. A manual and decal sheet are provided. The decals are not pre-cut.
The spaceship mode (measuring 12" long with an 11" wingspan) didn’t break any new ground, but it looks good. It's boxy yet sleek, and the blue-gray finish has a "real robot" feel to it. It is heavy. The entire Middle section is diecast, which is the only metal in the toy except for screws and wheels. The body is detailed with panel lines all over the place. The trapezoidal wings with chrome cannons at the tips are reminiscent of an X-Wing. Cannons on either side of the middle section are spring activated, popping out from a recess in the body. These fire the included missiles. A detachable, smaller ship attaches at the rear, forming a conning tower. The ship rolls on tank treads with metal wheels.
The tiny yellow ships included with the set can fit into three small hatches which open from the front section of the ship.
Transformation is straightforward. You fold down the legs, push in the cockpit and cannons (both spring activated), fold up the wings, fold up the conning tower, and pull out the arms from the bottoms of the wings. The robot stands at 10 inches tall.
The arms are beautiful. They fold and collapse like a puzzle into a cavity in the wing. The joints and articulations (shoulder, elbow, and wrist) are a work of art, like something Syd Mead would design. The hands are just abstract paws, without any finger articulation.
The legs are chunky, but surprisingly well-proportioned. The legs twist at the hip so you can splay them. The knees bend, but the detents are so stiff that I haven't felt brave enough to force them. The head can swivel on a peg. The chest is attractive. The composition of the colors and details is really sophisticated, and creates just the right emphasis for the figure in robot mode.
Grandbirth is really meant to be viewed from the front. The back isn’t really detailed, and you mainly see the cavity left by unfolding the legs. Still, it doesn’t look too bad from behind.
And how about that belly!? Grandbirth is criticized for looking a little half-assed, like a ship with a torso and legs growing out of it. I partially agree, but I also think that the concept makes sense. I think a giant base should look clunky and ungainly when it becomes a robot, it’s more realistic that way, and realism was a hallmark of this variety of eighties mecha design. I love that Grandbirth is fearlessly and uncompromisingly ugly.
I’m not sure how rare this piece is in Japan, but I almost never see it on ebay in the states. I can’t really speculate at what a good price would be, but something in the range of 100-200 bucks seems reasonable.
Bandai also made a huge "Big Base" version, as well as two variants of the ST size.
|Posted 31 March, 2009 - 21:13 by The Enthusiast|