MiG-21 Balalaika "Schwarzesmarken"
Review by VF5SS
The Muv Luv franchise is one of the more interesting success stories coming out of the modern otaku market. While the marriage of cute girls and robots in media has existed almost since the beginning, I think this is one of the first times a wholly non-sci-fi story evolved into an almost Starship Troopers-esque experience.
I will let others mess around with the unofficial Muv Luv wiki as my own knowledge of the subject is limited. To make a long story short, Muv Luv began as a typical Visual Novel game in where the protagonist lives the dream by talking to dozens of cute girls in attempts to virtually capitulate with them. For whatever reason, the creators of the game decided they would revamp the setting while using the same characters and turn it into a story of cute girls and cute boys using giant robots to combat some of the ugliest laser spewing aliens I have ever seen.
Please be advised that Muv Luv games were originally Eroge (erotic games) and contain close encounters of the sexy kind. Oddly enough, the popularity of the games did lead to them being ported from PCs to several gaming consoles with some versions having all the explicit sexual content removed because people liked the stories that much. There are also several fan games that turn the series into more tradition 3D robot games and talk of an anime adaptation that is set to come out this year.
Set in an alternate history, Muv Luv Alternative follows our protagonists as they attempt to exterminate the BETA (Beings of the Extra Terrestrial origin which is Adversary of human race) who have occupied Earth with their laser spewing eyeballs. Due to the overwhelming power and precision of said laser spewing eyeballs, conventional combat air power is effectively nullified, and heavy armor is practically useless. The necessity for high mobility and the need to infiltrate BETA hives gave rise to the Tactical Surface Fighters (TSF). I was greatly intrigued by this concept, as it essentially means all of my favorite real life combat airplanes have been re-imagined as awesomely tacticool giant robots.
While there had been several limited production action figures of the TSFs, they were difficult to obtain and focused more on the Japanese units that didn't have recognizable (for me) names. Kaiyodo has opted to change all that with their very own line of Muv Luv Alternative Revoltechs.
In real life, the Russian built MiG-21 was one of the most heavily produced and distributed Cold War era fighter jets. It is a design that exudes simplicity and practicality while being just different enough from its American made peers to look like an adversary. Growing up as a kid who played every video game with two wings you could waggle, the MiG-21 was always a basic enemy that netted the least amount of points when you shot it down. Its Mul Luv counterpart is anything but that.
The MiG-21 Balalaika "Schwarzesmarken" (which is German for ‘I'm a badass’), is an earlier TSF design based on the F-4. It was used by the Soviet Union and several Soviet Blocs before being replaced by later designs such as the MiG-29. This particular one is an East German TSF.
The figure itself stands 12.5 centimeters tall and is made of sturdy PVC plastic. The subtle genius of the Revoltech line is that the titular universal joints make it so that most of the figure itself can be made out of solid chunks of PVC plastic in order to keep the development and manufacturing costs down as every joint is a simple peg and hole setup.
One thing that amuses me about the general robot anime fandom is an almost fetishistic lust for "grunts." Any kind of mass-produced type design that is used by the nameless and/or faceless soldiers of a robot show is the best kind of self-insertion fodder for fertile minds. This sometimes leads to people rejecting the notion of "heroic designs" in favor the bland and mundane as if those qualities add legitimacy to the fantastical concept of giant robots. One thing I really like about the TSF designs and the MiG-21 especially is that practically every machine exudes a sleek and powerful aura that belies their militaristic nature. Even this humble TSF looks like it could take on the world and do it with style.
While the Revoltech line and more modern Japanese robot designs have incurred the ire of some curmudgeonly old collectors, I feel that the Muv Luv Revoltechs exonerate the best qualities of both. The overall slimmer build and emphasis on flexibility of the TSF, coupled with the durability and simplicity of a good Revoltech, is a match made in heaven.
For one thing, the MiG-21 has no problem standing up straight in a neutral pose. All of its major points of articulation employ Revoltech joints, with the only exception being the knees and neck. The neck uses a non-ratcheted Figma style universal joint while the knees have a simple hinge.
What links a TSF to its namesake is a pair of jet engines attached to its hips. These give each TSF an almost mecha musume quality to their appearance as they attempt to capture the spirit of their real life counterparts in the form of sweet giant robots.
Due to the simplicity of their construction, Revoltech toys can spend a little more attention to having quality paint apps. The standard MiG-21 head is sharply molded for its size and neatly painted.
Commanding officers receive a MiG-21PF, with its enhanced communication antenna. High ranking officers must always carry the heavy horn of leadership.
Tampo printed markings on the shoulders accentuate the look of the figure. Everything from the goofy "666" to the country emblem combine with the two-tone camouflage to give the MiG-21 an amazing look that compliments the solid feel of the figure.
The MiG-21 comes with a modest selection of weapons. While they're nothing special, the overall package feels complete. It also includes a pair fists, a pair of splayed hands, two holding things hands, and the typical clear Revoltech display stand with optional extension piece.
Oh and it has the now ubiquitous action stomp that I left in the box and don't feel like talking about because I hate those things. :<
All of the smaller bits can be tucked away inside the included Revocontainer, which is now cast in a more military gray than the previously seen awkward clear orange.
The MiG-21 is rather impressive when fully loaded. The shield plugs into the arm with a combination friction slot that goes over the long flat portions of the forearm and handle for the hand. I find it is easier to just use the slot than it is to mess around with the handle. The serrated edges on the shield are a nice touch. It looks like the MiG-21 is ready to bash an alien right in the laser spewing cornea.
For a little extra tacticool action, TSFs have sub-arm storage racks for their guns.
The double-jointed storage racks can swing over the shoulder or under the arm to deliver a weapon into your mobile infantry's waiting hand.
For the next part of this review I don't need the need to narrate most of these photos as I feel the amazing style and flexibility of this figure speaks for itself. I sat down to take photos for this review and when I looked up it was 45 minutes later in the day. Just remember you can pull a Revoltech joint out of the socket a bit for added range of motion.
"I don't neeeeeeeed the gun, John!"
"Was it good for you too, sweetheart?"
While I'm not sure if I want to dive deeper into the Muv Luv universe, I am excited about checking out more Tactical Surface Fighter Revoltechs. Due to its very nature, the Revoltech line has had teething issues with finding the right license that emphasizes its defining qualities of solid construction and dynamic action. The TSFs are such a perfect fit for the line that I can only hope for more of them. The basic Muv Luv figures are a bit more competitively priced than some comparable Robot Damashii toys, which is a little bit of reassurance than a good Japanese robot toy doesn't require a higher price to justify its quality.
Comments12 comments posted
this is an awesome design! I would love to see model kits of these!
Kotobukiya has made several of the main hero units. I think they may have announced some of the non-Japanese TSF designs at some point.
Is anyone enough of a fanboy to explain to me why this thing is called "Schwarzesmarken"? I mean, yeah, the "666" on its shoulder is technically a "black mark", but that seems an awfully banal description. Given that "number of the beast" emblem they could be calling it the MiG-21 Hail Satan or the MiG-21 Death Metal Special or something (except, y'know, in German).
The black cross style mark on the left shoulder runs down the entire arm. Note that the shield mount is also black to complete the image.
Oh, cool. I didn't even notice that that was a marking - I assumed that it was just black detailing indicating "inner" or "mechanical" parts like the joints. I definitely like extended markings like this that line up across segments of a robot, it just didn't visually register for me here.
still want a Death Metal Special, though.
Remember in THE YOUNG ONES, when Vyvian wanted to watch his favorite TV show "Bastard Squad"? Well, they're kind of like that. Some members are Polish and East German ex-political prisoners, and others are their secret police ("Stazi") handlers, while almost all of them are just total bastards - even the incredibly hot ones. Black Sheep, so to speak.
This takes place in the 1980s, as Europe & Eurasia were in the beginning phases of being utterly over-run and depopulated by the BETAs. Chances are all the Schwarzesmarken characters are dead by the time the primary Muv Luv Unlimited/Alternative storyline takes place...
Ah, Cold War nostalgia...
Can't wait for the upcoming Su-37 Terminator "Scarlet Twins" Revoltech!
This is one of the visual novels, yes? There's no anime yet? Too bad, because this sounds like a great place to jump on.
It's not so much a visual novel, but a print media side story. Short text stories and illustrations run in Tech Gian, and short stories with model dioramas in Hobby Japan, and also a series of light novels by (as I understand it) mainstream military adventure author Uchida Hiroki. All of those entries present different elements of the overall story. The HJ & TG portions are reprinted in the most recent couple of TSFIA mooks by Enterbrain/Hobby Japan. I don't believe there is any electronic media produced for it, although there might be an audio drama included in one of the Chronicles volumes, or in a Tech Gian DVD supplement. While one backstory chapter features the unfortunate gang rape of one of the characters (and her subsequent battlefield freak out and slaughter-by-mecha of her attackers), the official publications seem to be non-eroge. [That's not to say the illustrators involved in the series may or may not publish H doujin content for sale at Comiket, as often happens.)
The official website is here:
I mean, doesn't the violent porn usually come out after the family-friendly version? Could this be a new paradigm?
I think the Fate Stay/Night property established a pattern of capitalizing on a secure die-hard otaku market share by releasing adult versions of the product first, then breaking the property out into an expansive general market catalog of products. AGE has followed this model for Muv Luv, after having had similar success with KimiNozo before that. Interestingly, Muv Luv Alternative pulls in characters from all of their different games at one point or another. (And they've even taken to satirizing other mainstream characters now, as in the case of a parody of LeLouche from Code Geass as the central character of Muv Luv: Adoration.)
It's such a broad property with a wide range of appealing elements. My favorite is that the Muv Luv Alternative series seems to more often than not be an homage to the things I loved about the 1980s mecha-operas. I comfortably seat the property in my own mental library right in with titles like Macross, Gundam, Dougram, Ideon - much more easily than other current mecha-related series.
Ive never seen the series the mechs are from but I totally got into the designs and have bought and preordered nearly all of the revoltech figures including the mig which I own and it like all the figures are even better in hand. I highly recommend the revoltech line to any mech fan.