Review by The Enthusiast
I feel a certain nostalgia for the Wild West toy market of the late-nineties/early-aughts. Recklessly ambitious upstarts like Yamato, Studio Halfeye, Toynami, and Fewture were somehow able to obtain massive toy licenses, and proceeded to fuel a minor mecha renaissance.
The Otaku inmates had taken over the asylum, with predictable results. Takara and Bandai may have stagnated, but they knew how to make toys. The new guys were inspired amateurs, but amateurs nonetheless.
Today, Yamato is primarily known for its obsessively-realized perfect transformation Valkyrie and its variants. The latest valks are nearly perfect, even by Macross-fandom standards. This was not always the case. Yamato’s initial offerings were notoriously flawed. The Toy Titanic of the millennial era was the Macross YF-19, a lovely, temperamental disaster which burned a generation of collectors (I am on record condemning its brother, the VF-11B Thunderbolt, as the Worst Toy Ever). Another ambitious figure, the Escaflowne Guymelef, was destined to fail in a similar fashion.
After years of frenzied anticipation, the Guymelef was released not with a bang, but a whimper. Yamato’s interpretation of SHE’s Escaflowne architecture was assailed as a half-assed dud, and quickly forgotten. But was it really that bad?
Vision of Escaflowne
I’ve never watched the show, but I'm always interested in Shoji Kawamori's mechanical designs. I find the Guymelef's design appealing, but it damn does that thing look cluttered. And capes on giant robots are dumb. And this opening bores me to tears:
The Guymelef came in a Yamato-Huge window-box. The graphic design of the box is respectable but mediocre.
Side windows reveal a sword and wings.
The vacuum-formed clamshell interior is bare bones. Accessories consist of those wings, the sword, a basic (though essential) stand, a huge rubber cape, and an extra hand.
The Guymelef form is simultaneously elegant and ungainly. The proportions are solid, as is the fit and finish of the individual parts. The diecast content(chest, lower legs) is just right, if unbalanced. If you can look past the noticeable gaps, he looks pretty good.
I’m distracted by that head, though. That head does not look right. It’s too detached and floaty to harmonize with the overall figure. From the side it almost works, though.
The big rubber cape is heavy and precariously attached.
I almost prefer it without the cape.
The subtle matte airbrushed finish is fetching. Jewel-like translucent details really pop. If standing arounde looking good was all that was required of this toy, it would be a qualified success. The trouble starts when it’s called upon to actually stay together, move, or transform. The Guymelef certainly has lots of joints, and many of them articulate the limbs as you’d expect. The arms are floppy at the shoulders and limited by the cape. Hips are sturdy and clicky.
Ankles are fine.
The knees barely move, but do so in an impressively complex fashion.
But the fact that these joints exist and function is largely academic. The whole piece is a shambling mess whose play value is ruined by a pervasive sloppiness. Pieces fall off, pop out of joint, flop about. Does this pose appear in the cartoon? It holds this pose very well.
Transformation to dragon mode is intricate and maddening. The classic black & white Yamato guide is essential. I wouldn’t dream of tackling the transformation by myself.
The process is inelegant. You have to take off various pieces, set them aside, and reattach later on. Having to add on the wings is understandable, but still weak. So getting there is awkward, but the Dragon mode is, well, awkward as well.
The dragon is huge, so that’s something. But this mode suffers from the same problems which afflict the Guymelef: it’s good looking (at least from certain angles) but ultimately lifeless. It won’t stand up without the stand. The little arms barely move. Things fall off, of course.
Look at the hole in that giant, beefy tail. What's that about?
I've changed my opinion of this piece about a dozen times in the course of preparing this review. I think I've settled into plain contempt. It's a total failure as a plaything. It looks okay in the case, but that is not enough.
|Posted 4 September, 2010 - 21:53 by The Enthusiast|