Tower of the Sun Robo
Review by JoshB
The Tower of the Sun (太陽の塔 Taiyō no Tō) is a building created for the Japanese Expo of 1970 by artist Tarō Okamoto. It’s a nationally recognized symbol of Japan and the best way I can explain it is it’s the Japanese equivalent of the St. Luis Arch. However, one big difference is we’ve never taken the Arch and turned it into a giant robot.
This toy cannot be adequately explained to western audiences, but it can help to know a bit about the building itself, and the care Bandai has taken in translating it into toy form.
The 1970 World’s fair was held in Osaka Japan with the theme of Progress and Harmony for Mankind. To say that the expo was a big deal is kind of an understatement. The Gamera vs Jiger film features scenes from the 1970 expo if you want to get some idea of it.
The Tower of the Sun was a prominent building at the exhibit. The outside of the building features three faces. The gold face at the top represented the future, and had eyes that lit up with Xenon lamps. The face on the lower front represents the present, and the face on the back represents the past.
Inside the building was an exhibit called the Tree of Life which featured a 45 meter giant tree with various animals and dinosaurs suspended from its branches. These animals were created by Tsuburaya Productions whom we know as the creators of Ultraman and other live action Tokusatsu shows. Needless to say, the building had a lot of nerd cred.
After the expo, the building fell into disrepair until 1995 until it was restored. It has been open to the public on and off since then and is scheduled to open again to the public sometime in 2014. Here’s a great video that tours the Tower in it’s current state (http://youtu.be/uOcumhSG1sI)
I don't know why Bandai decided to turn this national icon into a transforming robot, but I’m glad they did. It’s a very cool toy that is not only fun to mess with, but also gave me a good history lesson about an era of Japan I am obviously very interested in.
The package is attractive and bold with product photos and striking graphics. As this was released during 40th anniversary of Chogokin, it has that branding as well. Inside, the toy rests in a massive styrofoam tray. This bodes well.
Lifting the toy out I am impressed with the finish. It almost feels like a textured stone and just feels great in your hand. All the metal is inside aside from the front face, so it has a uniform feel. I just enjoyed holding it in this mode. The toy would look great as-is with it’s circular base as a sculpture or object d’art. On the nameplate is “太陽の塔” which is “The Tower of the Sun” in Japanese. The base resembles a stadium of some sort.
Transformation is simple and precise. First you unfold the panels on the side to reveal the arms, then pull down the feet. This extends the torso a bit and forms Robo Mode. In this mode the Tower looks like a reasonably normal robot perhaps?
The arms are all plastic aside from the initial joint connecting to the body. There’s clicky joints in the shoulder and elbow, and the forearms extend a bit. I had difficulty extending the right arm due to it being very tight. The hands are on ball joints with a single joint to move all the fingers, or you can swap the hands with grasping hands.
Most of the metal is in the legs, with upper and lower leg pieces being diecast. The hips are on ball joints and the knees and feet are on clicky joints. The metal on each features a wash that gives the metal an appearance of age.
The two rocket nozzles on the waist are on ball joints.
There is a third mode, called “Superweapon Activated Form” in which you open the metal doors on the white face to reveal a gold chromed triple barrel cannon. The neck splits open to reveal the multi-jointed neck in attack mode. Again, the painted wash on the surface gives the illusion of aged, rusted metal (these parts are plastic though).
The base also has a function in robot mode. The base splits and widens, revealing an additional section to the nameplate adding the characters for robo (ロボ).
What sets this piece apart for me is the attention to detail and reverence to the real building. For example, if you look inside the toy when you are opening the side panels, you can see colorful stickers depicting the Tree of Life inside, complete with dinosaurs.
If you look at the inside of the open panels on the neck, you can see the red pattern that was on the inside of the original building. It’s that sort of detail that impresses me on pieces like this.
I’ll admit though that this is a VERY Japanese toy, and may not appeal to everyone. But those looking for something different and unique to add to your collection should absolutely check this out.
As a bonus, check out this commercial Bandai did showing the tower in action.
Chogokin Tower of the Sun Robo was provided by Bluefin Tamashii Nations, and is available from these sellers:
|Posted 6 December, 2014 - 10:09 by JoshB|