Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Gurren Lagann Figumate Vol. 1by Rob Bricken, May 3rd 2009
First of all, my apologies to all eight of you who were desperately disappointed by the lack of an “Astro Toy” column last week. Tragically, I fractured my elbow before finishing the article. See, as the former editor of Anime Insider, I have swarms of fan girls hunting me; of course, I have an unlisted address and phone number, but a small crowd managed to find me and break into my house. I was able to wrest a yaoi paddle from one of them and beat them unconscious until the police arrived, but I hurt my arm in the scuffle.
But you hardly care about that. Not when there's a reasonably awesome set of Gurren Lagann gashapon to ogle.
These blind-boxed figures are from Konami, who runs a sideline in mini-figures just like Sega. While I know Sega can make truly awesome figures or incredibly cheap crap, depending who's running the factory, these are the first I've seen of Konami's wares. Right now, based solely on these Gurren Lagann toys, I have to give them two huge thumbs up. Let me run through the good points as we look through a few pairs:
Immediately, the quality of sculpting and level of detail should be obvious. Hell, if these things were 3 ¾-inch figures (like G.I. Joe) or 6-inch (a la Marvel Legends), I think they would hold up and we'd be happy to have them. They're certainly cute and SD, but they haven't sacrificed expressive facial expressions or their outfits (like those pitiful Bleach gashapon from a few weeks ago). I promise they're just as well-sculpted on their backs; Yoko has flames on the backs of her boots and her top strap excellently painted, and Simon has the team Gurren logo on the back of his jacket.
These figures — as do most of the rest — come with a rock accessory, which are supposed to hold their weapons. That's why Yoko's gun is sticking out of that rock. Simon's weapon is actually his drill necklace, but I wanted to point out that although this accessory is clearly supposed to be inserted in Simon's rock, since the figures heads are separate, it fits nicely around his neck as well. An excellent touch.
I know I said I was doing pairs, but alas, Kamina is awesome enough to earn his own write-up. I'd have been utterly pleased if he just had see-through sunglasses, which he does. Now, I'd like to point out that 85% of American companies and at least 40% of Japanese companies would, when making this figure, make the cape utterly integral to the figure — they either make Kamina's neck too long, or have his shoulders slump inwards to accommodate the extra piece. Not Konami.
No, Kamina's cape is effectively an optional accessory, and what's more, Konami even took the time to paint his tattoos on his back, just on the off-chance you did want the figure to be wearing a cape. It might sound obvious, but in a time when toy companies across the planet are trying to save as much money as possible and skimp on paint apps and sculpting, this attention to optional detailing is immensely gratifying. And yes, his cape also has the team Gurren logo painted on the back.
Compared to Kamina, Viral and Leeron are kind of a letdown. (Not that they're bad, but hey — it's Kamina.) The only thing I can think to say is that Viral's knife fits equally well in his hand as in his rock accessory (although you wouldn't think it to look at it) and I honestly have no recollection of whatever the heck the little robot thing that comes with Leeron is, but I'm sure you guys will fill me in in the forums. Oh, and please note that despite an obvious style, Konami still took the time to give Kamin and Leeron their own specific arm-poses. Nice!
And last but not least, here's another Yoko and the Lagann. The only thing I really want to note about this second Yoko is that her long gun would almost certainly be bent inside a plastic capsule or blind box… unless Konami took special care to pack it in a special plastic case of its own to prevent it. Which they did. A few other figures got the same treatment, or a slightly less fancy but equally effective piece of cardboard to prevent warping. I can't tell you how awesome that is, and what a wonderful touch that is for collectors. If I could kiss some random Konami execs right now, I would.
As for the Lagann? It's just @#$%ing awesome.
No, seriously — the Lagann is so cool it makes me wish that it was actually in-scale to the humans in the line, so Simon could get in the cockpit. The level of detail in the cockpit, as shown above, is needlessly excellent. It's so awesome I would happily buy a whole series of just mecha in the same scale and style. That's pretty damn awesome.
So are these toys perfect? No. It would be nice if Simon were shorter than the other characters, since he's a younger kid during the segment of Gurren Lagann these toys are from. I wish Simon could also sit in the Lagann's cockpit. But given how much love Konami has poured onto these figures in every other way, I really don't think these are really problems at all. In fact, the only genuine problem I have are the bases:
Each figure comes with six plastic squares that can be assembles with the seven plastic links. Three of the squares are smooth, three have pegs that the figures can stand on. Even if you disregard the fact that Simon, Leeron and Viral can stand on their own, this is way more plastic stand than each figure needs. I'm hardly a passionate environmentalist — I try to recycle and not litter — but it's tough to look at 42 separate 1x1-inch squares of plastic base and a pile of links and not feel you're killing the planet. For me, at least.
I wholeheartedly recommend these guys if you're a Gurren Lagann fan, especially since there doesn't seem to be any other alternative if you want to collect the GL cast outside of Yoko and Kamina, and double especially because they're only $40 for the set — REMEMBER, those horrible Bleach gashapon were $50.
Konami has released more in the line based on the “Kamina City” second half of the anime; Volume 1 consist of two grown-up Simons, two Nias, Viral, Gimmy and his Grapearl, while Volume 2 includes Rossiu, two Kinons, two Yokos in her teacher's outfit, Darry, and her Grapearl. As of the time of this writing, Vol. 1 of the Kamina City set is sold out over at ToysLogic.com, but the other two are available and on-sale.
Oh, and you should know that I had every intention of making “Astro Toy” extra-brief this week, since my elbow is fractured and my arm is in a splint, but I was so excited to talk to you about these things I went ahead and ended up my normal, pompously verbose self. And now my arm hurts. I hope you're happy.
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