Outer Space Mantis 9-in-1
Review by The Enthusiast
Outer Space Mantis hails from Insect Protector Mantid, the second of Sunrise’s Glorious Insect Protector series, airing from 1977-78. Rumor has it that Popy designed the Mantis in-house and then out-sourced production to Saku Toys, a company primarily known for its junky train-station figures, because of complex licensing issues. The Mantid was repackaged as Outer Space Mantis for American and European release, though I’ve only ever seen the American box.
This toy is my grail. After seeing a blurry black and white photo in a Japanese toy magazine in the early-nineties, I was obsessed. I had seen only two of these before this one showed up on ebay last year, mislabeled as an Insecticon. I offered the seller 2500 dollars, and he bit. The other two went for at least three times this amount, so I just got lucky with an ill-informed or desperate seller. When the mantis arrived, I lost my lunch.
Just kidding (please do not post enraged comments). This is another ugly, crappy Chinese bootleg. But funky! Actually, it falls into a gray area in the realm of bootleg/knockoff, but because it’s an original toy as far as I can tell, it’s neither.
The simple box, just a cardboard lid on a styrofoam tray, measures a healthy 13” x 18” x 4”.
Inside, the pieces are arranged in vehicle mode. There are three vehicles and an assortment of insect parts. Accessories consist of three transformer guns and a smokestack for the construction vehicle. All of the vehicles are made up of trashy but solid ABS and great blocks of diecast. The fit and finish is thoroughly Chinese Bootleg.
The intriguing engrish on the side of the box explains: “Invading the earth, this preying mantis change into a racing car sandcrab, destroyer robot, construction dozer, alien creature, and fighting warrior.”
Thunder car is a beefy racecar (6” long). His rear spoiler comes separate, but plugs in easily. The big tires are rubber and roll.
Transforming the Thunder Car into robot mode is stupid easy. You turn around his head, pull the rear of the vehicle out, and fold out his floppy, floppy arms. This mode is kind of a joke, but also primitively cool. Those shiny legs? A giant hunk of diecast! Poseability is limited to swiveling the head and rotating the shoulders. The heavy wheels on the shoulders prevent any actual static poses, though.
The Destroyer is, I guess, a tank (4.5” long). The vehicle mode is just a mess. It’s just a lump of crap with wheels and a turret. You can see the robot’s head protruding from the front. The turret pivots and the hard plastic wheels roll freely.
Transformation is again very simple. You turn the head, pull out the rear section, and pull out the arms from body of the tank. The robot mode is well-proportioned and reasonably attractive. The turret doesn’t do anything but turn slightly to avoid obscuring the head. I really like his head, though. It has a vinyl Ultraman flavor to it, owing to the silver and yellow colors, and the doughy sculpt. You can see in the robot mode that the “XI” markings on his chest are painted on! Articulation is the same as the Thunder Car robo, head and shoulders. Again, those legs, and this time the feet too, are chunky diecast.
The dozer is the most complex and interesting of the three (10” long). There are generous paint applications, and the smokestack is a nice touch. The Dozer rolls on tiny plastic wheels beneath the treads, and the shovel is articulated where it meets the boom arm. The scoops are solid diecast.
To transform, you straighten the shovel, slide out the recessed head, and pull the treads away from the body. Fists extend from the arms, and the treads separate at the elbows for a little articulation. The arms and elbows bend, but that’s it. I like the overall proportions. The chest is well done, both symmetrical and asymmetrical, with nicely molded details and paint apps. The mono-leg is weak, but the metal toes are great. That head, though, is ugly. It suffers from the doughiness of the others, but has a weaker paint scheme and less distinguishing features.
In all, the robots are crude, but fun.
Outer Space Mantis Combine!
To combine to form the OSM, you begin with the vehicle of the car and dozer, bend the Dozer in half, plug the upright Destroyer robo onto the top, back the car into the rear, and plug in the insect parts.
The resulting toy is just silly: a big block of mechanical flotsam dressed up like a bug. The giant, googly-eyed mantis head teeters comically above the Destroyer’s robot head, the purple legs all dangle about at different angles, and the combined massing is awkward, to say the least.
It kinda works, though. I like the audacity and the goofiness. I found the gratuitous use of diecast charming (those big mantis feet!). I have no idea what the designers were thinking, and I like that.
|Posted 8 May, 2009 - 15:08 by The Enthusiast|