Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Nightmare Frame Glouchesterby Rob Bricken, Feb 1st 2009
I'm one hell of a toy reviewer—one of the best, really—but I no longer have my pulse on the toy industry like I used to. And I've never really understood the Japanese toy industry, which can make some awesome action figures under $35 and over $75, but any figure in-between is certain to be terrible. So if any of you have the answer to why toymaker Megahouse is making mecha figures for Code Geass instead of Bandai, I'd really love to know. Code Geass is a Sunrise series, complete with a jerk in a mask. Bandai owns Sunrise. What the Fudge, as the kids like to say?
Actually, the bigger question is why Megahouse is making Code Geass mecha figures in addition to Bandai. Head over to HLJ.com, and you can buy the Gloucester from either Bandai or Megahouse, with the Megahouse one being 700 yen more expensive. Really? Megahouse's Code Geass line is exactly the same scale as Bandai's long-running Gundam figure line, and articulated in exactly the same ways—ankles, knees, thighs, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck. So what's the difference between the two?
I refuse to buy a second Gloucester figure to compare, so you're just going to have to go with my educated opinion, having bought a few Bandai Gundam figures in my day. Now, I know that Bandai's Japanese Gundam figures had way fewer problems than the American Gundam figures, which tended to explode the second they're released from their packaging into the atmosphere. The Japanese figures were significantly more solid, and at least twice as expensive.
And yet, for about 30 minutes after opening this Code Geass Gloucester figure, I just assumed Bandai had improved their techniques in the years since I last picked up a Japanese Gundam. That's because the joints are neither too stiff nor too loose, a razor's edge which the Bandai figures invariably fell on one side or the other. You pose the Glouchester, and it will stay in that pose, barring gravity—and there's an accompanying figure stand for all the gravity-defying poses.
Additionally, the plastic used seems…really quality. It isn't flimsy, doesn't feel cheap like so many of the Gundam figures used to. And the paint—which there's very little of—is very crisp and clean, which Bandai almost never got right. The flip side is that the Gloucester is very monochromatically purple, which isn't that visually exciting. But if you like Code Geass or the color purple, you could do a hell of a lot worse than the Gloucester.
Much like the Revoltech figure of Detroit Metal City's Krauser II, the Glouster has a cape, and an articulated one at that. And thus, the “articulated cape” action figure fad has already gotten out of hand. If you can tell by the picture, the cape is attached to the shoulders of the figure; then there are hinges at the mid-way point, so the cape can flip up; and then there are two tiny ball joints which allow the cape to extend…if it wasn't attached to the shoulders. Seriously, those last two joints do nothing. I have no idea why they're there. You have the above cape position, and then this one:
Now, a lot of the figure's worth will be based on how you feel about the design of the mecha. For the record, I find the mecha in Code Geass incredibly goofy. I've enjoyed the series and its sequel on Adult Swim, but for the whole Machiavellian strategy side, not for the robot fights. Having the robots look like knights, complete with helmets and capes, is an easy way to remember you're watching an utterly ludicrous cartoon, which frankly, Geass doesn't need any more of. And then you give all the Knightmare's shooting blades on ropes and training wheels? And what in blazes is the massive chest-piece/backpack thing supposed to be? (I know one of you knows, but I don't care. It still looks stupid.)
But I don't want to sound like I hate the toy just because of the design. I'm not a huge fan of the design, but I don't hate it. And overall, I think it's a darn fine toy. Besides the clean lines and excellent joints and articulation, the figure is easy to stand, which is no small feat with its ridiculous chest-thing. You don't even need the training wheels, and somehow, those stay reasonably out of the way when they're tucked up.
There are a few problems, in that the head tends to fly off pretty easily. Not super-easily, but it's a shallow ball-joint, and it doesn't take two much work for it pop out. This is mostly an issue because of the cape, which tends to want to come off the shoulder pieces with two much fidgeting, and when you're trying to re-attach the cape, the figure will almost certainly decapitate itself. It sounds more annoying than it is; after dealing with some seriously awful toys for this column, I assure that these problems are not that troubling.
The figure comes with a large, silly gun, a large, silly lance that has a second, swappable point (also silly), two back-up shoulder pieces in case you want to have the mecha without its cape, and six extra hands of varying grasping (yeah, there are only five in the picture because I accidentally launched one across the room trying to get the machine gun out. If my cat hasn't eaten it, it will shortly.)
So, overall? Good stuff, and probably a good sight better than Bandai's 700-yen cheaper version. Megahouse seems to have made the Gloucester, the Lancelot and the Gurren, along with a few variants, although only the Gloucester seems to be sticking around. That might be because of the cape. Bandai did make a much wider selection of Geass mecha, but I'm 99% certain these Megahouse ones are perfectly in scale, so you might as well spend the extra few bucks and go for it. But you don't have to trust me. I mean, I don't even know why these things were made.
You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (safe for work).
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