Gaiking: The Legend of Daikumaryu
Review by Sanjeev
Back in 2005, there was an announcement that Toei Animation was going to be producing a remake of 1976's super robot anime, "Daikumaryu Gaiking". Many of us in the States who grew up with Force Five's Gaiking were thrilled to hear this! It soon became apparent, however, that this new show wasn't destined to be your daddy's Gaiking!
The new cartoon, known as "Gaiking: The Legend of Daikumaryu" was to star...a little kid...as the main character. Gone was the brooding ex-baseball pitcher, Ares Astinopolis (sorry--no clue what his original Japanese name is!). Now...we were faced with an anime character straight outta Digimon at the helm of our beloved robot.
Well, no big deal, right? Skip the show, focus on toys. Okay...fine. With the start of the new cartoon, Bandai, in their cross-promoting wisdom, released the much-anticipated GX-27 Soul of Chogokin Gaiking. Nice! What else? Well...not a whole lot. Evenually, they released the GE-10 Gaiking--a sort of SoC-like toy based on the new cartoon's look for the dragon-skull-chested wonder. *Yawn*
Well, time past. Nothing from Bandai. Nothing deluxe, nothing hardcore. My hope and my anticipation waned. And eventually...I got the flu.
I don't get sick very often, but when I do, I get the very rare opportunity in my life to watch TONS of tv and movies! Nekrodave had been urging me to watch the new cartoon, as it was finally available via fansubs (go bittorrent!). Hey, I had nothing better to do...and I'd just finished watching my beloved DVDs of the original Force Five Gaiking from Wasim Ismail. Might as well finally check this new show out.
Let me tell ya: it's dynamite! I was braced for the little-kid-pilot...and ya know something? He rocked it! I don't wanna spend too much time blithering about the cartoon. I'll just say that if you're a fan at all of the original cartoon, you will absolutely love the new show. It's totally in the modern, "hot-blooded" style of super robot anime (think GaoGaiGar), but it also contains MANY subtle references to the original show that pop up outta nowhere. You will not be disappointed!
Enjoy the Italian subtitles!
And--as if on cue--about a week later, people started telling me about this new toy company in China called Most Wanted(2). They'd obtained the rights to produce toys from the new show from Bandai and Toei, and they were ready to put it to use. I knew about the PSR-001 Daiku Maryu, but I feared the sagginess of the thin vinyl and the room such a beast would take up. More recently, however, JoshB told me about several new offerings from this company.
They have a line of smaller cheapie 6" vinyls of the robots and 10" long vinyls of the Maryu's (the "VFS" line), a line of larger 17" vinyl robots very similar to FLOSRs (continuing the "PSR" line), and finally, the large 14" plastic, combining figures (the "GDX" line reviewed here).
The GDX-C01 boxset contains the first three robot toys from the "Giant Deluxe Series", GDX-01 Gaiking, GDX-02 Raiking, and GDX-03 Balking (pronounced BALL-king). Also available separately is the GDX-01SP Gaiking Face Open version.
Each figure comprises the three "Parts" that form it: Part 1 consisting of the arms, outer portions of the torso, waist, and wings, if any. Part 2 comprises the pelvis and legs. And Part 3 is always the head of the Maryu the robot launches from. In the animation, Parts 1 and 2 launch from the Maryu's hangar, and Part 3 launches on its own, piloted by the hero (or, in some cases, villain). The three Parts soon merge to form the robot.
I'm intentionally trying to avoid spoilers, but it kinda can't be helped. Towards the end of the show, the most powerful form of all three robots is introduced: Gaiking the Great, which is formed from the most powerful Parts of each robot: Raiking's Part 1 (the strongest arms), Balking's Part 2 (the strongest legs), and of course, Gaiking's Part 3 (Daikumaryu's head, piloted by Daiya, that lovable scamp!). Anyway, why should you care? Well, all the Parts of the individual robots in this set are fully interchangeable, and the couple extra bits necessary to form Gaiking the Great are included!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's see what's included. Each robot gets two interlocking plastic vacu-formed trays to hold stuff...usually one for the Parts and one for wings, weapons, and other accessories.
First up is GDX-01: Gaiking
Trays above. Parts 1, 2, and 3 below.
A nice, but in my opinion, unnecessary inclusion was the replacement forearms with nosecones on the wrists to simulate the anime look of Part 1 (as it's immediately launched from the Daikumaryu). I'm sure someone, somewhere, cares. Back in the box. Oh, just a couple quick appetizers as we prepare to assemble this beast: the fists shoot! Yup...they don't shoot particularly far due to the weight of the fists, but the gimmick is solid--the look and articulation of the arms don't suffer because of it. Good stuff. Lastly, though I didn't photograph them, the Counter Crosses on the legs come off and can fit in the weapon-gripping hands.
Now, just looking at Gaiking's bits and his combined form below, you'll notice something interesting if you're sharp. It's identical to the aforementioned GE-10 Gaiking--only scaled up and rendered in plastic! Word on the street (well, TBDX) is that the show didn't do well from a marketing standpoint. Bandai had planned on making Raiking and Balking in the GE line, but decided to can them after all. Rumor has it that they sold whatever designs they had completed to Most Wanted, who agreed to produce the complete, interchangeable set at a larger scale and market it outside of Japan (so as not to interfere with domestic sales of the GE-10).
Anyway, looks pretty good, right? Along with the weapons you see above, The mouthpiece detaches and the chest plate theoretically comes off to simulate the Face Open mode from the show. Note my use of the term, "theoretically"...and my lack of a picture of said mode. That chest plate is ON there! The more brute force I put into ripping it off, the more it feels like the plastic is simply going to crack. Others on TBDX have gotten theirs off, but I don't really care enough about the "hotdog vendor" look to pursue it any further. If I want a Face Open version, I'll get the proper matte black GDX-01SP.
The weapons, while being nice touches, will probably go back into the box. Plain ol' Gaiking. He's the real star of the show to me. The original Gaiking didn't need such fancy stuff...and while they make for neat things to see in the cartoon, they don't really enhance the play experience all that much.
One cool addition is the support craft from the show, Stinger (think Skyler/Skylar from the original cartoon). It can actually dock with the back of Gaiking, forming Sky Gaiking. Okay, a little fancy stuff is cool! Oddly, they didn't include Serpent, the other support craft (looks like Nessar/Dinotar) needed to form Buster Gaiking...or Sky Buster Gaiking, along with Stinger. A strange omission...but we'll be returning to this theme as the review progresses...
Finally, how about the quality? I'd say surprisingly good. Y'know, sometimes toys are like movies. Trailers and early reviews can mold one's expectations for a film, but when it finally comes time to see it, those expectations can really impact whether one enjoys the experience or not (especially if those expectations are too high!). Well, the same was true for me with this set of toys.
I was fully prepared to hate this thing. A brand new Chinese company from outta no where...attempting to make a fairly complex, large-scale, combining toy of a beloved character. Hmmm. Well, I bit the bullet in the off chance that this would be a winner. Some $250 later, and I'm pleasantly surprised. It's not that bad!
Sure, it's sort of a funny thing to say, but it's accurate. My expectations of this set were very low...and when the time came, the toy actually delivered beyond those expectations. Okay, details: the joints are reasonably solid on Gaiking. Due to sheer size, there's definitely some heft to it, but not chogokin-esque heft. There are detents in most of the joints and they're good enough to support the weight of the figure. Gaiking stands okay, but the ankles are a bit weak for my liking--trickier poses will be more of a balancing act. Also, these figures involve a lot of combining and disassembly. Fear not: the connection points on all the Parts are just fine--they lock together perfectly on all three robots.
The materials used aren't too bad. Again, it's light-weight ABS plastic. It's reasonably stiff stuff and can take some less-than-delicate handling. The consistency of the whole rig is a bit sketchy, though. One of the clips that holds the shield to Gaiking's arm fell right off (as though they used the wrong screw)--I just epoxied it right back on.
Yes, you're going to need a little of that do-it-yourself mentality with this set! Okay, a lot of that mentality. There are plenty of instances where pegs are way too thick for certain holes (usually due to excess paint and/or sloppy manufacturing tolerances). Each of these problems can be solved with a utility knife and a few minutes of scraping. Just be aware of it. On Gaiking, the aforementioned chest plate, the back plate that the wings attach to, and the Counter Cross pegs all needed a little scraping.
Lastly, the finish on the parts is sub-par, at best. Sure, it looks like a good toy from the pics, but if you look closely, there are spots where gloss paint was used where the same color on a similar part was matte. There are small scrapes and blemishes here and there on the plastic. There are cases of overspray in some spots. Again, the sheer size and presence of these figures generally makes up for these finish issues...just be aware of them.
Okay, next, we have GDX-02: Raiking
First, you may be wondering, who the hell's Raiking!? Chances are, if you're reading this review, you already have a good enough idea of who Gaiking is. Well, Raiking is a similar robot from the show, composed of three Parts launched from Tenkumaryu. Offensively speaking, this robot kicks much ass. Again, I want to avoid spoilers here, but if you don't mind 'em, check out this killer clip from the show featuring Raiking:
So, what can be said about the GDX-02 Raiking..? Oh, I'd say a LOT. Raiking looks perhaps the best of the three robots...but is very easily the most poorly-designed. But before I get into the details, it's easy to see that Most Wanted had the odds stacked against them. Just look at the robot.
You want to make a complex 14+ inch articulated plastic figure...that's that top-heavy!? Yeah, good luck! It's a tragic irony: Japanese anime robot designers love the cool look of skinny-legged, top-heavy 'bots...oh, but the Toy Gods look upon them with contempt. Aoshima pulled it off with Shin Getter 2, but only just.
Okay, let's first take a look at what's included. Just like Gaiking, the three Parts combine smoothly and hold together very securely. Part 1 needs a little bit of assembly: two crescent-shaped gold horns need to be attached under the arms, bulky armor "sleeves" that Raiking's Counter Crosses are attached to need to be slipped onto the arms, and the red pauldrons need to be attached to the shoulders. No big deal. Also included are Raiking's/Gaiking the Great's wings, Raiking's nasty scythe, the "Skull Harken", and Gaiking the Great's head.
So what went wrong? Remember how I mentioned that there was a running theme of "omissions" in this set? Well, it's no more apparent than with Raiking's Part 1 and 3. It's seriously like the designers first attempted to make the individual pieces of the toy anime-accurate...and then simply quit before bringing all these bits together to see if they worked in unison with one another! Check out the images below:
Doesn't look so bad, right? Well, if your eyes are sharp, you'll notice on Part 3 that Raiking's head is backwards! It's supposed to point forwards (according to the cartoon and the instructions), but the singular horn runs right into the red shield that rises when the head is lowered. Okay, well, whatever...so Tenkumaryu's horn's pointing the wrong way--we'll live.
Part 1, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. First of all, isn't even remotely transformed properly above (according to the instructions). What you see above is about as close as I could get it to look like it does in the animation. I did screw one thing up throughout the pictures in this review though: the arms of Raiking are supposed to splay out to the sides--angled towards the rear--with the armor sleeves slid up around the upper arms. Whoops! Oh well...anyway, the instructions call for the side, outer portions of the torso to slide inwards, closing the gap where Part 3 is supposed to go. If you don't do this, the wings can't be attached because they clip simultaneously into both outer torso portions in their closed position. Fine. But here's the problem: if you DO close the gap for Part 3 by sliding the side torso pieces together, the wings STILL can't attach. Why? Those damn crescent-shaped gold horns are in the way! Seriously, I couldn't believe it. They're huge, and the clearly over-zealous (over-Zelans?? ouch!) designer didn't realize that they'd get in the way...of just about every moving piece on Part 1. The horns extend way too far to the rear (top of Part 1), so there's no way to fit the wings into the slots on the side torso portions without bumping into these horns.
So...my solution in the pictures above was 1)leave the outer torso portions separated, 2) attach the wings to the back plate that normally goes on Part 3 in the combined form, and finally 3) simply stuff the whole rig into the gap between the side torso portions where Part 3's supposed to go. Yes, it's just resting on top--there's nothing holding the wings in place. Yikes.
As far as I can tell, there're only two potential long-term solutions if you want a somewhat-functioning Part 1. First, saw off the backs of the crescent horns so that the wings can attach with the gap for Part 3 closed (the side torso parts slid together in middle). Second, lose the crescent horns altogether. I haven't messed with this option, but this would--again--allow the wings to attach with the Part 3 gap closed, AND it would have the added benefit of giving Raiking's arms much better articulation in the combined robot mode. The only problem with that second potential solution is that the robot would look pretty crappy without those horns. I mean, check this thing out:
Those things add character! And if you skip way down to pics of Gaiking the Great, it's the same thing: those horn make the robot look really cool! Yeah, I know--you can get away with keeping them separate and only attaching them when the robots are combined...but it's the principle of the thing. I want a "perfect" transforming Gaiking set. Down with toy leprosy. This ain't Yamato and their early 1/60 Valkyries!
Anyway, so that's the story with first major problem with Raiking. The second problem, to which I've already alluded, is a bit more straight-forward:
Yup, the picture above is legit! I didn't pose him that way--he collapsed under his own weight trying to take the picture below!
The joints in the ankles and knees are just not enough to handle the weight up top. I was very lucky to get him to balance for the few shots I took. One suggestion from TBDX was to open up the joints and lay down a thin layer of epoxy and work the joints (moving them continuously) during cure to add friction. Honestly, I don't think this will work. Those joints are comparatively microscopic to the mass of the figure. Adding friction may work for a short period of time, but it'll only wear out again and you'll be left with Paraplegic Raiking.
I honestly don't care much about the articulation of the lower body on these figures anyway--I'm not going to be doing any extreme posing on my shelf. And I'm sure not going to be investing in any doll stands for my proud robots. So...I'm just going to freeze the knee and ankle joints solid with epoxy. Hey, Jumbo's don't need leg articulation. FLOSRs don't need leg articulation. These are big robots, and they shouldn't either.
Unfortunately, the joint woes continue for Raiking. I mentioned earlier that removing those underarm crescent-shaped horns altogether would drastically improve the articulation of the arms. Well, that sorta implies that there's not a whole lotta motion possible with his arms. Yup: the armor sleeves are butted right up against the horns, and since the shoulder pauldrons are fairly static, the Counter Crosses pretty much prevent the arms from swinging out very far either.
Well...like I said, it's a pretty robot.
Finally, we have GDX-03: Balking
Okay, now who's Balking??? He's the walking tank with LOTS of guns! Again...spoilers ahead:
Well, I am pleased to report that the Balking figure is pretty great. In fact, I'd say it's almost as good as Gaiking. So this means a much less long-winded analysis from yours truly--that's something I'm sure we can all appreciate! ;)
There are fortunately no absurd interference issues and no horrendously sloppy jointwork like on Raiking. Alas, there are a couple minor things to keep in mind, though. The giant axes have tiny slots that fit onto small tabs on the "Quick-Firing Missile" launcher (a small plastic block that fits onto the robot's back). You're going to need to take a few minutes to scrape those slots and tabs to get them to fit together. Same thing with his MASSIVE Counter Crosses: they have two pegs each that are way too thick to fit into the holes on the shoulders or the lower legs (for Gaiking the Great mode). Still, no big deal.
Obviously, the arms look like the biggest concern on this toy. Well, they look pretty rickety, but they're surprisingly robust. Basically, the whole arm rotates at the top (where it attaches to the shoulder) and at the bottom (where it attaches to the hand). Each little arm segment has a simple hinge joint; the segments don't rotate individually so all the hinges swing in the same direction. Fortunately, each hinge has a sufficiently strong detent in it that can support the weight of that big mitt. Also, the shoulder joints have nice, strong detents, so, while the arms can't sweep out to the sides, they can be posed up and down nicely.
The aforementioned axes can come off of the Quick-Firing Missile launcher and can be rather awkwardly stuffed into Balkings meat-hooks. Hey, good enough for me.
There were a couple omissions that do sorta annoy me about Balking, though. The first one is fairly minor: there's no mechanism for the axe handles on his back (the "Hydroot Cannons") to bend down over the shoulders into straight-ahead firing position. That would been hot, but I can live without it. The other one is a bit more glaring. In the cartoon, Balking could drop into a sort of Getter 3-like mode with tank treads on the backs of his lower legs taking over his locomotion. On this toy, you can tell that the designers thought about this...but then canned it. The treads are there--just solid plastic molded into the backs of the legs. Booo. Eh well...what can ya do? I'm not exactly surprised given the other shortcomings with these toys.
Make no mistake, though: overall, I'm quite pleased with Balking.
Okay, so what happens when the monkey really starts tossing the poop? Well, the heroes piloting Raiking and Balking selflessly give up the strongest Parts of their robots so that Daiya, the pilot of Gaiking, can form the strongest machine: Gaiking the Great!
Raiking's Part 1 changes a bit: the hinged parts of his wings swing out, doubling the robot's wingspan and the armor sleeves on the upper arms slide down to give Gaiking the Great his Popeye forearms. Balking's Part 2 doesn't change a whole lot: the lower legs extend a bit downward to expose more thigh. Balking's Counter Crosses are removed from his shoulders and now attach to the lower legs. Gaiking's Part 3, of course, attaches to Raiking's Part 1...only this time, the special Gaiking the Great head that came with Raiking replaces the standard Gaiking head. It's worth mentioning that the heads disconnect and reattach with no problems whatsoever--nice and strong PVC ball-socket joint.
The combined for actually looks pretty killer. Of course, this combination results in a lot of extra Parts! I wish I'd taken a pic of the "robot graveyard" produced by forming Gaiking the Great! But that's the beauty of this set: you can very easily give Gaiking's Part 1 (arms) to Raiking and Gaiking's Part 2 (legs) to Balking to complete them. Since all the parts are compatible, you can form whatever combination you like.
So, in the final analysis, we have a very unique product that, in my opinion, is worth having in one's collection.
There are plenty of fit/finish issues that've warned you about in exhaustive detail. The execution could certainly have been better. If, for example, big poppa Bandai had taken on the manufacture of this toy (with their vaunted finishing standards and quality control), I'm sure this set would be widely considered among the greatest toys in recent memory. Ah, but then again, would Bandai ever take on something like this? They've surprised fans in the past, but for something like this? I doubt it.
Maybe it just took a new upstart company like Most Wanted to do something this brazen. I mean, would you really have expected a set of three 14" DX combining robot toys from any of the big Japanese companies these days? And at a pricepoint that puts each figure under US$100??? No way.
These toys look gorgeous and have a lot of shelf presence. Once you either learn to live with Raiking's foibles...or correct them...the set becomes essentially flawless. They're simple enough to entice me to pull them down off the shelf and mess with them...without having to break out an accountant's ledger to keep track of extra parts. They're complex enough, however, to be fun to mess with and not get boring. Granted, you don't have too many options for combining them in different ways, but having options *at all* makes a big difference.
And, of course, they're big. BIG. Size is great because it can often trump other flaws. Uh...we're talking about toys here.
Hot damn! We're back! Wondering why???
Well, due to Josh's imperative below requesting an audience with the Gaiking trio, I brought the set over to CollectionDX Global HQ (his kitchen) last weekend, and we set about messing with these toys. I showed him and Atom all the cool things about them, as well as all the shortcomings I described above. Despite those problems, he seemed pretty confident that these were worthy toys and that he was gonna think about picking himself up a set.
I explained that the issues with Raiking's Part 1--while being annoying to me--weren't the worst thing in the world. He agreed, saying that he was rarely going to have the robots separated anyway. Sure, his legs would be a problem (shelf-diving: the number 1 killer of Japanese robot toys)...but that's what 2-part epoxy is for!
Anyway, as Josh, Atom, and I were playing with the robots (with one of Josh's daughters looking on...with a morbidly fascinated look on her face), Josh suddenly discovered something--an "undocumented feature"! A surreptitiously hidden pair of slot-shaped holes on the center piece of Raiking's wings...through which the metal rod for the wings was threaded. He gave me one of those "you thinking what I'm thinking?" looks...and handed the part back to me. The piece felt VERY solid and Josh warned me not to break the thing...but something told me that his discovery would prove critical!
YES!! The damn wings move...potentially enough to make the separated Part 1 form *actually* make sense now!
I immediately set about disassembling Raiking and setting up the separated form of Part 1 properly. While I'm doing this, of course, I was a more than a little annoyed that the sparse transformation instructions made absolutely NO mention of these joints and having to move the wings out of the way of those crescent-shaped horns under Raiking's arms.
Well, as you can see, we now have a perfect Part 1! The side torso parts slide in towards the center so that the wings can finally clip into place, and little red panels hidden in the shoulders slide together to cover the front (I didn't bother showing this in the earlier pictures--that was the least of my worries!).
I added the new pics above with the arms transformed right, but again, I mis-transformed them for the ones below (the arms are supposed to be angled out to the rear--not straight back--with the armor sleeves slid up around the upper arms). These images detail the wings mounted without interfering with the crescent-shaped horns:
So, inspired by this discovery, I decided to go ahead an epoxy the knees and ankles a few days ago. The result: awesome. The robot is now super-stable on hard, flat surfaces...and even the mushy, uneven padded table I take my photographs on posed no threat to the robot. I left the hips free to move, but they're sturdy enough to prevent any flopping. At this point, I would say that Raiking is now as stable as Aoshima's Shin Getter 2.
So...with stable legs and redeemed Part 1, how does Raiking feel now?
Yes, our boy's back and he's ready to kick some ass!
Oh, but this update gets better, folks! Not only did Josh discover the hidden articulation in Raiking's wings, but he also addressed another gripe I had about Balking. Apparently, in combined mode, his axe-handles can be tilted downward to form the "Hydroot Cannons" from the show!
Okay, start with Balking. This is how he normally looks from behind:
Well, if we focus on the Quick-Firing Missile launcher (the thingie on his back that the axes attach to), you can see that they connect via a small tab/slot, as well as with a larger hole and peg.
I figured the large pegs on the axes were there mainly for aesthetics since they didn't really fit solidly into the large holes on the sides of the Quick-Firing Missile block. I simply assumed those holes were there just to accommodate the pegs since the real solid attachment was from the small tabs on the sides and matching slots on the axes. Here's how the connection is normally done:
Now, Josh discovered that if you remove the axes and reattach them, rotated 90 degrees, with just the large pegs/holes, they can actually rotate!
To be fair, as I mentioned before, the connection is NOT solid. But since this toy is clearly a "fixer-upper", I had no qualms about lining the inside of the holes on the Quick-Firing Missile block with superglue. Now, the axes hold firmly and still rotate pretty well!
If you're familiar with the cartoon, I think you'll appreciate the result of this seemingly minor addition:
Finally, just to wrap up (hopefully for the last time with this review!), this set is absolutely NOT without its flaws. As I've come to discover, for example, the elbow swivel joint on one of Raiking's arms has become pretty loose--I'll try adding a little epoxy to the joint and working it during cure to add friction. Also, the detents in Balking's tiny arm sections seem to be weakening. That's no good because there's no real way to fix that.
Overall, though, this set's pretty great. The necessary fixes have been minor and, besides Raiking's frozen leg joints, not particularly invasive. If you're a fan of the show at all, or are in the mood for big, beefy robots that don't require too much intellectual investment with thousands of accessories or over-complex designs, this might be the toy for you!
|Posted 7 March, 2008 - 11:43 by Sanjeev|