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|
Comments15 comments posted
My ears are bleeding! Such blasphemy! Please at least post the real original opening by Yoko Kanno with Maaya Sakamoto's wonderful debut:
Ah, much better now. I can almost forget I heard that now.
While Kawamori did insane great work as ever on the transformation in the animation, I didn't think at the time anyone would be crazy enough to attempt it as a toy. Of couse, Yamato hadn't become known yet for their taking this kind of challenge.
Think of the gaps in the tail as similar to those gaps on the Valkyrie torsos that are show to have panels that close them up in the animation... ;) I do seem to recall the tail flattens more animagically in the model sheets, for that matter.
The anime is quite nice (how many shows have Sir Isaac Newton as the final boss?), and the capes make a certain amount of sense in the context of the fantasy world setting. But yeah, as a toy, meh...
opening fixed. Still boring, but I agree that the music is better!
I still got my Escaflowne toy from Yamato USA which used to be Toycom that George Sohn used to work for before he migrated to Toynami & partnered with Harmony Gold which caused a scornful rift with Macross fans plus his former associates, Big West Inc. but that's another story.
Anyway, It took me a whole decade to get a toy like that & now I got one for only 55 dollars MIB. Unlike you....I didn't open it because I'm afraid to play with this toy due to constant reports of breakage based on QC issues & up to this day I haven't even decided whether or not if I should open it.
I appreciate Yamato for making an effort for doing something ambitious as this from their early years, but the results are unforgiven. It'll be forgiveable if they remake this one & make it sturdy like they did w/ their 1/60 scale Valkyries.
Otherwise, we'll just have to wait & see if Bandai gives Escaflowne the SOC treatment & I would love to have a SOC Escaflowne to my robot collection. Hopefully it'll come with a Master Van & Hitomi action figure.
I, too, am astonished that anyone actually made a transformable Escaflowne toy. There seems to be so much fudge-work in the transformation on the show that it doesn't seem mechanically possible to reproduce. So hats off to Yamato for the effort, but no great surprise that it failed.
Just to clear up the terminology here, in the show all of the giant robot-suit-things are referred to as "guymelefs." The titular Guymelef is "Escaflowne," and it is the only on which can transform.
All guymelefs seem to operate by a steam-punky sort of technology that uses dragon hearts (which are big crystals) as a power source. With the exception of the show's bad guys, who seem to have worked out how to mass-produce highly advanced guymelefs, the ones that appear in the show all appear to be unique and ancient designs, passed down through generations the way that a knight's family might pass on a suit of armor. If the suit of armor was also a super-powerful mecha.
Thanks for the clarification. I confess I was guessing half the time with my terminology. I haven't watched the show, and the wiki entry was typically long but opaque. Does the humanoid mode have a different designation?
none man just escaflowne
I wanted to get into this show, but Fox Kids canceled it after only five episodes without notice! (I'm still looking for the complete series on DVD, not the edited-down one that Fox aired...)
There were some interesting designs, but I didn't see enough to decide if I wanted to finish it or not.
Here you go, the complete series, unedited, for about 35 bucks - http://amzn.to/9n1Lx6 (links to Amazon.com)
This is one of my all time favorite shows, but I suppose it's not for everybody. There's a solid amount of robot action and it actually gets quite dark about halfway through, but it's definitely not a traditional "giant robot" show with a different fight every week. If you're into epic adventure stories you'll probably love it, but if you're just looking for mech battles you might be disappointed (although the battles are pretty awesome when they do occur.)
Anyway, this toy is kind of sad...it almost looks like a bootleg with those tiny arms and odd proportions.
This show was below the high standards of Fox Kids. Its no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! Escaflowne flown the coop. The show was pretty gay. Love and romance and robots. Gag me with a dragon heart. However, the design of Gay-melef was impressive as protrayed in the show.
so all of macross, aquarion was gay? if shouji kawamori is at the helm he makes those stories and honestly it isn't as gay as you say it is.
I think the reaction some folks are having to the show is because it's not really a mecha show in the normal sense. Escaflowne is more of a hybrid between "magical girl" anime and mecha, and I think its intended audience was predominantly female.
Although the series takes its name from a giant robot, the main protagonist is a high school girl who is transported to a strange world that is in the throes of war. She discovers that she has a limited ability to see the future, and because of this she becomes a pawn in the ongoing struggle. The story follows her adventures with the pilot of the Escaflowne and a motley cast fighters and vagabonds as they attempt to oppose the oppresssive Zaibach empire.
At least, that's the simple version. The plot reveals all kinds of twists and intrigues, as well as a bewildering array of love triangles. I'd say that even by anime standards, it's complicated.
As far as the Escaflowne itself goes, it's cool and stuff, but the title maybe sets some false expectations about its central place in the plot. Imagine if "Star Wars" had instead been named "Millenium Falcon" and you have the basic idea.
I got this toy when it first came it out. Not sure why everyone rags on it. You are just being to hard on a design that for that time was the best at the price offering, unless you had 300 + dollars for a SHE. You have to remember what Bandai and Takara/Hasbro were offering. Hats off to the company for at least trying. Both modes are a good mech representation of the one of the best OVA anime's in history. Back when I played with it before it when into the display cabinet I transformed it several times while fiddly (what do you expect from a complex toy) it held up pretty well. Mine still has the tight joints. No cracks or Breaks. The same can be said for the 3 Macross Plus Metal 1/72 valks which I still consider worthwhile chogokin. As SHE has broken up and it seems they have joined the Tamashi Team it looks like we may get a cheaper version of their attempt. I will welcome that in the collection. It would be nice to get the Black version when Escaflowne goes all Ape Shit and looses self control
Escaflowne wasn't an OVA. It was a TV series. I think the issue is more that the transformation is almost impossibly complex and the robot is basically immobile in both modes. You can't really pose it or anything in even robot mode.
There's an Escaflowne in the works for the superb "Soul of Chogokin" giant robot line.
Hopefully it'll be a step up from this plastic pile of junk and the Dragon will finally have some much overdue respect on the shelves.
You are being too kind on this toy. I read reviews. Even this one. I saw warnings. I heeded none. Even in the Guymelef this toy is a failure.
I hold contempt in my heart for it.
When I first opened the figure, and held it in my hands, I was excited. It was so heavy. Then I realized it was the biggest, floppiest, thing I had ever seen. I think much of the problem is the cape. They should have done it in fabric.
It struggles to stand. The cape holds the arms down. It struggles in all ways.
It nearly destroyed me!
Because I love Escaflowne on a level that I cannot express.
Someday we will get a good Escaflowne figure. This one is not it.