Astro Toy with Rob Bricken - Keroro Mecha Renewal Versionby Rob Bricken, Sep 6th 2009
KERORO'S KA-006S RENEWAL VERSION
Toyline: Keroro Fix Figuration
Series: Sgt. Frog
Sorry for yet another missing Astro Toy last week, guys. I don't really have an excuse, other than that I had been traveling. Of course, you guys don't care, nor should you. Hopefully I'll be back on track for the foreseeable future, and you will no longer be devastated by the lack of bitter, needlessly mean-spirited anime toy reviews in your life.
Although I have to warn you that while this is indeed an anime toy review, it's not particularly bitter or mean-spirited. That Sgt. Frog mecha you see above? I love this thing. It has nothing to do with the character, although what little of the Sgt. Frog manga I read back in 2003 or whatever I enjoyed. No, this is just one awesome, incredibly well made toy, and after a lot of the crap I've seen, I appreciate it very much.
I don't know where in the anime this mecha actually comes from, but I do know that this is a variant/re-release of a 2006 figure which had more cartoony colors (all green and white, like Keroro himself). This 2009 “Renewal Version” uses more Gundam-y “Real Type” colors such as dark green. Nothing else appears to have changed (except the price; the 2006 version was 2500 yen, the Renewal Version is inexplicably 3600 yen).
Keroro is his own figure, which can be tucked snugly into the mecha's cockpit. Before I get into the mecha proper, let me point out that Keroro has three points of articulation — his head and both his arms swivel. No, it's not much, but for a figure barely over an inch tall, it's incredibly impressive. The fact that Bandai cared enough to add it to what is essentially an accessory — in fact, making the incredibly arms swivel without risking damage must have been exceedingly difficult — basically sums up the love and care that has gone into the entire toy.
The mecha itself is obviously far more articulated, although not what you would call amazingly so. It has ball joints in the thighs and feet allowing its legs to get a wide range of movement and stances, while its arms — incredibly stumpy arms — have only a hinge at the elbow, and a swiveling hinge at the shoulder. Frankly, it keeps the mecha mecha-like, and since this is from Sgt. Frog, it's exactly as much articulation as the toy needs. More impressively, the joints are easy to move but absolutely refuse to shift once posed, which puts to shame almost all the other figures I've featured on Astro Toy — including Bandai's own Code Geass mecha.
Keroro's mecha is of course armed with a double cannon that fits neatly onto its right forearm, and a shield that fits on its left forearm (actually, it has two shields, one with a star and one without — the shields can be stacked on top of each other so the mecha is carrying both, although I don't know why this was featured). It also has two beam sabers which have removable beams and whose hilts can be stored snugly behind the shield for easy withdrawal in combat.
But that's not all. Now, the mecha in its basic form has this sweet jetpack on the back:
…which I might point out has needlessly moveable jets and fins. Now, this is removable, and splits into separate pieces; add an included cannon accessory and you get this:
The cannon mode. Again, all of these pieces fit perfectly together in both modes. It took me seconds to transform the figure, and there was zero difficulty putting it together — no looseness, no weird fumbling about trying to make everything fit. Fantastic. And the love doesn't end there.
Any kind of Gundam fan will recognize that the Sgt. Frog Keroro Fix Figuration packaging is an exact parody of the long-running Gundam Fix Figuration action figure series. Although, since mecha designer Hajime Katoki worked on both the Gundam and Keroro Fix Figuration figures, I wonder if it might be less of a parody as… just a continuation. Katoki clearly brought just as much skill and love to this silly little Sgt. Frog mecha toy as he did all those Gundams. Hell, I honestly think this thing is better made and designed than the Code Geass figure from last year. Could Sgt. Frog have more pull at Bandai than every other series but Gundam? Or does Bandai loves Sgt. Frog so much because Sgt. Frog loves Gundam too? I don't know.
What I do know is that when I bitch about most of the figures and statues I get here at Astro Toy, it's because I know how much better it can be. This Sgt. Frog mecha is a shining example of what every Japanese collector figure should be, and frankly, has no excuse not to be. It's not overly ornate, it's not prohibitively expensive. But it's awesome and excellently constructed and designed from top to bottom, which makes it extremely special. I do wish that it was closer to the first version's original price — I'd be a lot happier paying $30 instead of $50 for this. But when a toy has this much quality, sometimes money is a small price to pay.
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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