Astro Toy with Rob Bricken - Sonic Diver Rei-Jin

by Rob Bricken, Jun 14th 2009

SONIC DRIVER REI-JIN WITH OTOHA SAKURANO
Toyline: Sky Girls Sonic Divers and Pilots
Series: Sky Girls
By: FREEing
Cost: $70-90

In my 17+ years as an anime fan and my 8 or so years as a professional anime nerd, I've seen a lot of terrible anime. A lot. Like, a whole lot. There would be times when we had our mandatory anime viewings at Anime Insider that would literally put us all to sleep. I survived the great robot maid craze of 2004; I managed to not blow out my brains during the moe madness of 2006, nor when I watched Windaria back in the ‘90s. Obviously, part of the problem is that when you've been an anime fan as long as I have, you tend to notice how similar series are, and how few actual gems come along. What may have blown you away as a groundbreaking series as a new fan might be a direct rip-off of a series five years before. But I know this and understand this. It's just part of the process of getting immersed in a fandom. There have been very few series that I just loathe.

So when I say I hate Sky Girls, I want you to know where I'm coming from.

I have not seen the series. In fact, all I know of the series is the toy I bought to review — but it's a toy that makes me hate the series for bringing the toy into being. The toy itself is okay in the sense it's a reasonably accurate version of the pre-teen girl/mecha combination featured in the anime by Konami and J.C. Staff. It's not great, but it transforms into different modes and looks like it does in the show.

It's how it looks in the show that's the problem.

I am willing suspend my disbelief for a great deal of anime. I'll accept that only pre-teen girls are being sent to fight a war against some extraterrestrial invaders. I'll accept they ride around in transforming mecha to do so. I can accept those mecha being very stylized instead of functional looking. I'm even down for those robots carrying swords. BUT I REFUSE TO BELIEVE THAT ANYONE WOULD BUILD A HUMANOID ROBOT WITHOUT THE ABILITY TO STAND UP ON ITS OWN.

This mecha, the Rei-jin, cannot stand up. At all. Ever. Because its feet are pointed nubs. You can't even lean it against anything, because its feet are so nonexistent that it slides right over. I don't know how the hell it stands in the anime, but as a toy, you are putting it on its base, or it's falling over. It's so ludicrously stupid that I can't help but loathe the toy for the mecha designer's lunacy. Unfortunately, the other modes are no better.

Armor mode is the main mode of the toy and assumably the series; the mecha slide open a bit and the preteen girls get in and sit down and then pilot them in the skies. If you've noticed that the pilot is utterly exposed to the elements and enemy attacks, uh… well done. It's very noticeable, and very, very stupid. Assuming the Sonic Diver can only go as fast as a normal fighter jet, it should pretty much pulp any pre-teen girl who sits in it, and that's not counting the lack of oxygen or the cold at extreme heights. Now, according to Wikipedia…

To protect the pilot during operation of the Sonic Diver, a nanoskin gel is applied over their entire skin. This is comprised of nanomachines. This coating only lasts for exactly 21 minutes and 32 seconds, but during that time the body is protected from the rigors of external flight.

Well, yes, that's much more effective than a @#$%ing cockpit. What a great leap of technology that has allowed us to shoot pre-teen girls into the stratosphere for 21 minutes and 32 seconds, as opposed to a cockpit, which would do so infinitely. Since the girls aren't doing anything in the Sonic Diver — please note her hands aren't even connected to anything, she's seriously just sitting — I can't even imagine what possible bull@#$% explanation was tossed out to be able to draw the Sky Girls like this. Also, unless these aliens only fire Nerf balls, these girls are just sitting targets. Or do the nanomachines protect against bullets, too? (In which case, why don't you cover the stupid mecha with them?)

Here's the third mode, the Vehicle Mode, which appears to be more of a traditional jet mode. I say “appears” because it just looks really, really stupid. I'm no student of aerodynamics, so maybe you can have big-ass wings on the back and a preposterously larger, heavier front. But it doesn't look like it should work, and thus looks really, really stupid. Look, Japan — if you're going to not give a @#%$ and have little girls exposed to Mach 3 in robots without feet, just go for the gusto and don't have huge, stupid-looking wings on the mecha's ankles. It's frankly insulting to think you cared about the realism of the flight ability of the Sonic Divers when you so obviously didn't care about anything else.

Here's the pilot, Otoha Sakurano. If the picture makes it look like the figure has a massive point for a nose but doesn't have a mouth… that's because that's exactly what she has. In order to make her stay seated on the Sonic Diver, she has a peg sticking out of her butt, which renders her kind of crappy as a figure, unless you want to pretend she has a vestigial tail. The dead look in her eyes is probably because she's riding Japan's stupidest mecha.

So I realize that I haven't discussed the actual toy much, but that's because the figure itself is kind of decent given what it is. It's not great, nor even especially good — it's about as well constructed as one of Bandai's Gundam action figures and seems to use the same plastic, which would be fine if this thing weren't $80.

However, the transformation is terrible. Pieces fall off constantly. The instructions have one picture of the Armor mode so unless you read Japanese and the toymakers described the process incredibly well, you're just trying to match the pictures. Did you notice how the picture I used of Vehicle Mode looks different from my other pics? That's because I could not, for the life of me, transform it. I gave up after 30 minutes. Now, make fun of me all you want, but I graduated college, can handle most basic home repairs, and never met an actual Transformer I couldn't transform.

Not only does the transformation here involve taking off a few elements, which I've always regarded as cheating, the worst part is that there are no latches or pegs or catches or anything to get the diver to stay in any of its modes, so it always kind of looks like it's falling apart. And man, no part of the mecha wants to stay on during any part of the process — legs, arms, random pieces, all of ‘em. It's horrible. About the only thing that the toy has in its favor it that some of the panels open up to reveal jets and crap.

Oh, and it's extremely difficult to put Otoha in her seat (peg not withstanding) because her legs pop off at the least provocation. In the end, I had to put her limbless torso in the pilot's seat, then try and re-attached her legs from there. Call me crazy, but I don't think this is a very good toy.

And it's really, really stupid looking. I know that I'm taking this one too personally, and there are probably at least a few of you who love Sky Girls and will take me to task in the comments.  I'm sure some of you will complain about my suspension of my suspension of disbelief, but here's the thing — you only get so much. I'll believe Indiana Jones lives in world with evil cults and arks and even aliens with crystal skulls, but once he gets in a fridge which is hit by an atomic bomb and sent god knows how high or how fast or hits the ground so hard and walks out without a scratch — you lost me. I can't go that far. Same with Sky Girls. You already have pre-teen girls riding robots and fighting aliens — you probably shouldn't make the robots look stupid, or have the girls in jets while sitting exposed to the elements, nanomachines be damned. Maybe they protect against the wind, or the cold, or even alien weapons.

But they ain't gonna protect against Krauser.

You can read more of Rob Bricken's bitter, needlessly mean-spirited thoughts on toys and many non-anime subjects over at ToplessRobot.com (which is safe for work).


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