Review by The Enthusiast
Sega’s brief initial foray into toy manufacturing began with the cartoon and videogame tie-ins for Zillion, an obscure and largely undistinguished property. The most compelling entry in the Zillion line of toys, at least to mecha fans, is the Tri-Charger. The Tri-Charger, rumored to be an unused Shinji Aramaki design from the aborted Robotech: Sentinels project, certainly bears a resemblance to Aramaki’s other motorcycle mecha/armor (Bubblegum Crisis, Mospeada, Megazone 23). The logic of the transformation is very similar to the 1/8 Gakken Cyclone armor. This toy is rare. In ten years of collecting, I’ve only seen two or three of these on ebay. I imagine that they are easier to come by on the YJ auctions though, as Zillion wasn’t released domestically in the US. The toy is of the same scale as GI Joes or Microman, about 1/18.
The Tri-Charger comes in a generously-sized window-box with a handsome painting of JJ wearing the “Armolator” armor and some animation artwork. Inside is a styrofoam tray with the tri-charger in a semi-motorcycle mode, and JJ displayed with his accessories. A brochure/manual is included, as are two decal sheets.
Upon removing the charger, you will be scared. The apparently sturdy construction is revealed to be a fragile, sloppy mess. The diecast content is limited to a swing-bar in the legs, the axle to the front wheel, and a few assorted pins and screws. The tires are a thick and surprisingly un-degraded rubber. The rest is a combination of ABS and styrene, and boy is it fragile. I thought I was about to break this from the moment I removed it until I replaced it.
The first problematic detail I noticed was the armor’s helmet, clearly visible in the box. The helmet is connected to the body of the armor with two flimsy, brittle “chains” of plastic. The second was the floppiness of the front wheel assembly. The Gakken 1/8 cyclone also has rigidity issues in its wheels, but it is way more solid than the Charger.
Transforming the toy into the Trike mode is relatively simple, but made complex by the manual’s cryptic illustrations, which often don’t even reflect the actual toy itself. It’s like the instructions were created from a prototype and then reduced from 100 steps to 3. And did I mention that I thought the toy was going to break at any moment? Every single joint is precarious and delicate.
The Trike mode is riddled with disappointments. The front wheel is cantilevered from a strange and ineffective joint at the middle of the bike, and the body just collapsed onto the wheel from its weight. There are large voids where the controls meet the gas-tank area behind the front fairing. JJ does not fit well on the bike; his legs are too limited, the motorcycle too wide. The photographs make it look okay, but if I breathed on the trike it would fall apart.
This thing really shines in its armor mode, though. The transformation is relatively intuitive, if finicky, and the result is beautiful. JJ sits within the collapsed body of the motorcycle, the armor’s legs pivot off of the frame on the diecast swing-bars, and the rear wheel pivots up to rest on the armor’s back. That problematic helmet twists those chains and plugs into the back of the armor. Doing this stressed the plastic to the point of almost breaking. I wouldn’t do this again. I would be surprised if there are many specimens of this with those chains still intact.
Getting there is frightening, but the armor mode is easily as nice as the Cyclone or the Megazone Garland. The big wheels hanging off the legs are a little heavy-handed, but they still look cool. The armor looks great from the back, with the front wheel placed in the middle of its back. Articulation is fine, but limited by the balance of the toy, whose upper body tends to lean forward or back, pivoting on compression joints at the leg sockets. In summary, this toy is probably for die-hards only. Its beauty and rarity don’t outweigh its fragility and poor execution.
|Posted 1 March, 2009 - 17:02 by The Enthusiast