|Character Design||Mamoru Nagano|
Review by VF5SS
Heavy Metal L-Gaim was the first big project for fashionably-inclined character/mechanical designer Mamoru Nagano to unleash his unique style into the burgeoning Real Robot anime scene of the 1980's. Nagano is as meticulous as he is pretty when it comes to his designs with even the shape of a female character's skirt getting distinct instructions in how to be drawn on screen. This attention to detail extends to his robot designs, such as the titular Heavy Metals of L-Gaim. Many of the main mecha in a Nagano series will have several diagrams showing how each part of an elbow or knee joint should move. Additionally, Nagano is often credited with introducing the idea of "movable frames" to giant robot designs in where the innards of the robot are a fully articulated skeleton that parts are loosely fitted over like a knight's suit of armor. This is in contrast to earlier robot interiors like, say, the Combat Armors from Dougram, whose unarmored forms largely mirror their normal appearance. As a result, most of the Heavy Metals have a very imposing and impersonal aura around them as if they were gigantic mechanical knights devoid of emotion other than what a person feels while looking at one.
The L-Gaim Mk-II is one of the more foreboding of hero machines. In the series it is rebuilt from a captured Heavy Metal called an Amon Duule "Stack" (the parenthesis are important) into Daba Myroad's powerful new mecha. The Robot Damashii L-Gaim Mk-II is one of the larger figures in the line, standing at around 17.4 centimeters tall. For me the Mk-II is one of those designs that always looks tall no matter the size of the figure representing it. The almost spire-shaped look of the Mk-II is a cornerstone of Nagano's later work in The Five Star Stories manga series and was even reborn as a Mortar Headd Cloud Schatze. This figure of the Mk-II feels appropriate solid and stands upright in a natural stance.
The L-Gaim Mk-II has had a spotty history in plastic. It never received nearly as many toys as the original L-Gaim (later called the Mk-I) and in fact I believe the only toy the Mk-II ever had up until this point was the middling High Complete Model as seen on the right. In the annuls of toy history, Bandai's HCM line was a precursor to Soul of Chogokin with most of its entries held in high regard with the notable exception of the L-Gaim Mk-II toy. The Robot Damashii figure is leagues head of its decade-old forebear in almost every respect save for diecast content, which even on the HCM isn't that spectacular. The Mk-II was also skipped over in the more recent High Grade L-Gaim model kit line, but did end up as one of the handful of releases in the bigger Master Grade-style Real Robot Revolution line. If the Soul Spec line wasn't dying a slow web exclusive death, the L-Gaim MK-II might have made an appearance to complement the lonely Mk-I toy.
Although ,if you put both of them like this, they seem a bit more on par. It's always a strange experience putting a modern articulated action figure into a stiff standing pose. They're really not made to do that outside of when they're stuck inside a plastic tray.
Of course the new Mk-II absolutely excels in its flexibility. Nagano's well thought out designs translated quite well into an articulated action figure. Everything moves from the double jointed knees and elbows to several levels of shoulder articulation that starts with moving pectoral blocks and ends with a free range ball-joint attached to a universal joint. There's even a moving panel on the shoulder pauldrons that flip up to allow extra motion. You've also got a ball-joint in the chest and waist, and hinged gigantic knee guards.
The detail on the Mk-II is also well executed down to the small orange eyes on the face. The cabling detail around the neck is nicely done and is engineered to allow a full range of motion for the head. The base swivels and tilts very cleanly with an extra ball-joint between the top of the neck and the head, giving the figure some more nuanced posing options.
Please sir, I'd like some more
As with many modern figures, the Mk-II comes with a good assortment of optional hands. In addition to the usual closed fists and holding things hands, the Mk-II comes with two pairs of open hands. One has fully molded details inside, while the other has some chunks taken out of the hand just so it can grip the barrel of a gun much better. This is all in the name of anime accuracy. Each hand pops on and off of a ball-joint on the wrist with little difficulty. Each wrist has an additional swivel so it can swing upward with the red hand guard attached to that joint on its own ball-joint.
A note on the large shield like "Binders" the Mk-II comes with, each Binder plugs into the bicep with either of these connector pieces. There's only a centimeter or two difference between each connector with the longer one intended for use in the Mk-II's alternate form. Personally, I think just one set would have been fine as the difference in height between the Binder positions is minimal.
To start off with the included accessories you get a pair of Hand Launchers with their barrels extended that swap out with the retracted piece on each forearm. Both the extended and retracted pieces are a little loose on my figure and sometimes fell off while posing. Not a deal breaker for me, but still a minor annoyance.
In the series, the Mk-II's twin saber hilts double as the barrels of its Hand Launchers. Here you just get a pair of separate hilts with removable lit blades. These attach firmly into the accessory holding hands and do everything official giant robot toy laser blades do.
The next step up in firepower is a basic Power Launcher much like the L-Gaim MK-I often wields. This plugs into a slot on the back of the forearm and has the appropriate power delivering audio cable that runs from the gun into the codpiece. Note that one end of the cable leads ends with an angled edge to conform to its slot in the Launcher while the other side ends normally. Also note in this close-up you can see the red trapezoid pieces on the elbows move with the upper arm independent of the lower arm. A great little detail worthy of Nagano's praise.
The whole setup works well with only the interference between the cable and knee guards being an issue. It actually helps that the cable is stiff enough to remain suspended away from the figure so it doesn't get caught in a joint.
The Mk-II's signature weapon is the massive Buster Launcher. This large cannon is held by a peculiar side grip that Nagano often uses on long giant robot weapons to give them the appearance of a knight's lance rather than that of a brutish big gun.
One neat detail is a working hatch on the gun's breech. Simply slide the grip back and the mechanism pops up. A triple power cable connects the side of the gun to the codpiece.
Despite the size of the Buster Launcher it is fairly light and is easy for the Mk-II to effectively wield with both hands.
For extra stability the Mk-II's heels fold down to help it counter the recoil of this crazy cartridge based energy cannon. Again, the only real issue is keeping the power cables out of the way of those huge knee guards.
BUSTER LAUNCHER! ENERGY IN!
This is all I ever did in Another Century's Episode 1 and 2 after unlocking the Mk-II...
Note that the folded out heels can swivel left or right to keep the MK-II's feet planted firmly.
The Buster Launcher even has a working fold-out bipod.
The Mk-II is even more imposing with both shoulder Binders attached. Each Binder has a hinge in the middle that works in conjunction with the moving bicep ring to keep it out of the way or the body and backpack.
The Mk-II comes with several stand adapter pieces that work with any Bandai Tamashii Act Stage or a Figma Di:Stage.
While I wanted to do more with the figure on the stand, I found the clear plastic adapter to be kind of flaky. On my example the part never quite locks under the groin so I was hesitant to pose the bulky Mk-II around on a weak connection. Sometimes I'd feel it click in and the adapter would pop off as soon as I moved the figure.
One thing that frustrates some collectors about modern robot toys is that designs that transform tend to get stuck with a lot parts swapping on streamlined action figures. Even the Mk-II's patented "lay down and tuck my knees in" conversion process has its own set of parts. So many robot designs rely on tricky little hinges so a lot of action figures will just replicate a part in its transformed state with another piece entirely in order to maintain sturdiness with anime accuracy.
First and foremost you get two sets of the Mk-II's coattail tail fins. The left one is for the alternate mode while the right is for the robot mode. Despite these supposedly being the same part in a different position, both parts are shaped differently. They plug firmly into the a pair of holes in the aft area.
Similarly, the hip armor is replaced with a pair that are flipped up. The transformed plates have extra pegs so they do not move around and have an optional clear bracer piece that is used in conjunction with two of the stand adapters.
The Mk-II does feature a few actual transformation mechanisms like this sliding hip block.
The legs feature an extra joint that brings the thigh and knee together in a z-fold. This joint is normally locked into place with a pair of nubs and divots and requires a fair bit of force to dislodge. Once unlocked you peg the exposed strut into the back of the knee.
The backpack connector also needs to be swapped out. In either mode it has a odd shaped mounting peg that I find really useful as you cannot attach either connector the wrong way as often happens with other toys. The connector for robot mode has the main tabs raised up away from the articulated chest blocks.
The alternate mode connector is closer to the back of the figure and locks the articulated parts of the chest in place with a pair of tabs.
The main "nose" of the backpack is then moved upward on a double hinge while a pair of locking pegs near the rear are flipped down. At this point you simply peg everything into place with the backpack going onto its mounting bracket and the rear pegs going into the tops of the thighs.
To finish the transformation just tuck the head into the crevasse under the "nose" of the backpack and plug the clear trapezoid shaped connector into each ankle. I found the extra spacer piece for the ankles is not absolutely necessary, but does keep the legs at the perfect distance from each other so the perfectionists like Nagano himself can feel at ease. The feet also push upward into the legs for this mode. Simple unfold a small peg on the Buster Launcher to attach it to the right arm, and you may need to swap out the Binder connected if you did use the shorter one for robot mode.
Man this looks kinda dirty..
As the Macross franchise lay dormant after the summer of 1984, there was a vast perfect transformation gap that every robot show struggled to fill. The Mk-II's odd minor reconfiguration in its Land Booster Prowler mode was just another example of a transformation for the sake of doing so. The Robot Damashii figure is, however, much more streamlined in this mode than the High Complete Model and has the added advantage of being tightly locked together with only the arms being unsecured. The only thing the High Complete Model has over the Robot Damashii is that the small black parts near the feet flip out into small landing struts as per Nagano's impeccable original design intention.
Mounting the Mk-II to the display stand in Prowler mode requires this extra adapter that plugs into the hip armor bracer piece and cups the waist area in a cradle.
This adapter piece actually works really well and seeing the Prowler in flight adds a fair bit of legitimacy to this mode. The overall silhouette is meant to be similar to the shape of hover bikes and spaceships in the L-Gaim series.
From below it is still obviously a robot...
It does manage look aggressive from this angle, though.
If you wish to mount the Buster Launcher in the center of the Prowler mode in order to use both Binders, things get a little messier. The gun itself gets a pair of adapter parts that replace the previously seen one. The upper part works similarly to the other adapter and works with a hole in the top of the gun to plug firmly into the groin bracer piece. The lower part weakly clips into the bottom of the gun and well...
Can you say last minute addition?
The weight of the figure is far too much for this little clip. Maybe with a little strengthening through a patented plastic joint tightening fluid it might work better, but I'd rather use a FlightPose stand because there is very little I can't get one to display.
The dual Binder Prowler benefits a lot from the added symmetry which improves the look of this mode a few extra steps.
It feels more like a proper uh... flying machine, ya' know?
Two Binders hide the sides of the robot much better.
Even the underside benefits from being a bit more "contained" by a Binder on each side.
It's ready for a 3D action game now.
Overall I find the Robot Damashii L-Gaim Mk-II to be a terrific action figure. It exemplifies all the strengths of the Mk-II's design as a robot while managing to bring some dignity to the Prowler mode. The few loose parts and the failure of some of the stand adapters is irksome but doesn't detract from the overall package. The use of parts swapping in such a simple transformation can be off-putting at first, but in the end you will appreciate the added solidity it gives the Prowler mode. While it is one of the pricier Robot Damashii figures, it is a larger than most and looks very imposing on your shelf. It isn't often that the second toy in a robot design's lifetime is such a great piece, but the Robot Damashii L-Gaim Mk-II shows just how far Bandai has come with their products in the decades since High Complete Models stood among a collector's hi-fi stereo equipment.
|Posted 7 July, 2012 - 21:45 by VF5SS|