Astro Toy Variable Action Hi-Spec Galvion
by David Cabrera,
Variable Action Hi-Spec Galvion
Series: Super High Speed Galvion
“What the hell is this?” is what you're probably asking right now. Some of you might be asking “How the hell did you get away with this?” on top of that. Well, like I say, I simply buy what's interesting, and I think this is one of the most interesting toy stories this year. I have to tell you some stories to fully get you to why it's interesting, so forgive me if I become Mike's column for a little while.
As far as obscure series go, Super High Speed Galvion is pretty far out there. For one thing, it was never finished. Guess why? The toy sponsor, Takatoku (most famous for their classic Macross Valkyries), went bankrupt. Especially in this era, robot anime functioned in large part as commercials for the toys, so companies like Takatoku bankrolled these shows. If you want to see the state of kids' toy ad anime today, look at Pretty Cure and the live-action tokusatsu series it airs alongside. All paid for by Bandai, of course. Anime bankrolled by pachinko companies (like the recent Golgo 13 TV show) is kind of the same thing, but for old people.
Anyway, with Takatoku out, Galvion was over. The show wrapped up with a spoken summary of what would have happened, and then went poof. Not only did Galvion get cut off, its toy robot-- the whole reason for its existence, business-wise-- never went into production. The series itself was never even released on video until a 2013 Japanese Blu-Ray set. You can find one episode in English, somewhere: it's a buddy cop show. See Dave Merrill's Let's Anime for more on the studio and their unusual work (I love J9).
So this toy is a fulfillment of a thirty-year dream: a fully transformable, deluxe figure of the titular Galvion robot. It's by T-Rex, whose Black Getter collaboration with Sentinel I previously raved about, so expectations were high for this one. (Ah, but I never got their Giant Gorg...)
When I first took this figure out of the box I started to worry a little bit. Transforming robots are always a tricky proposition, and Koichi Ohata's robot-to-car design (yes, he of MD Geist fame designed this machine) is a difficult one, perhaps a legitimately crazy one.
This isn't the old Takatoku Valkyrie, meant for kids, where you just swing a couple bits forward and flip some other bits over. It's a dogged attempt to both perfectly replicate the robot's appearance on the show and its transformation. Considering that, it's surprisingly sturdy, but it feels different from other toys. Moving the body around has to be very deliberate. The joints are there, but you may not notice them. We can't expect the posability of a SRC or a Figma for something that's actually meant to transform. Remember that this thing's body contorts into a damn car, and remember, despite the novelty of the transformer having worn off for most folks back in the 80s, that it is a genuine feat of engineering to build a thing like this.
The more you look around the body, the more you feel for the people who took it upon themselves to make this crazy animation design into a three-dimensional object. The feet are these weird segmented bits, because the heels have to fold into the toes so that the toes can be the headlights. The legs split outward to become the body of the car. The backpack has to flip all the way forward so that it's the middle of the car, and wait, how the hell do the guys sitting behind the windshield pilot the robot when they're inside a backpack?
That being said, it gets by alright in the stand-alone robot form. Posing is obviously not extreme, but it is doable.
This is definitely hand-painted: there's the occassional streak of red or blue paint out of place to prove it. I was reminded of the notice that HLJ puts on a lot of their item pages, which sums up to “This is mass produced, there may be errors, so if you want it perfect, finish the job yourself.” This is kind of an expensive figure to say that about, though...
Accessories are the usual gun and shield, and of course a nice, personalized stand because of how tricky it is to get this thing standing on its own.
As for the transformation... good lord, the transformation. You can see the transformation for yourself at the one-minute mark in the opening animation, and I took a long look at it while I was doing this review, in part to make sure I had things just so. Just watch that transformation a couple of times and think: was that really supposed to happen in three-dimensional space? Because that's exactly how the toy transforms.
In robot toy parlance we call this a “perfect transformation”: no parts are removed or replaced. There are even smaller versions of the gun, shield, and fists that actually fit inside the toy during the transformation. It is an extreme challenge, and T-Rex took it on with a very difficult design.
I snapped a shot halfway through the process. When you do the transofrmation you're going to really see how much crazy stuff they worked into the figure. “That part does that? How? What the hell?” was a pretty common refrain on my part during the process. A couple of “holy shit!”s were in there too.
There are no regular instructions supplied with this figure, only instructions for the transformation, and they are terrible. Important points are occassionally just left out. There's barely any idea of how point A gets to point B. The diagrams become more and more abstract until I was sure that they only made sense in the mad mind of the designer himself. I fought with this thing. There is no room on the sheet to actually show you how it's supposed to look when it's done: it actually tells you to check the package to see if you got it right!
Four densely-packed pages-- when it should probably be twice that-- take you first to an intermediate transformation, the Road Attacker (which I've read doesn't actully appear in the show!). The wheels, with rubber tires, pop out like on an aircraft specifically so that the figure can assume this form, and this whole contraption really does roll.
And here is the final car form, the Circus-1, a wonderfully 80s sports car. To put it mildly, this whole business is an exacting procedure. The figure is pretty sturdily constructed, and unlike many transforming toys you don't feel like you're about to break anything... but it's very precise and you have to be patient and careful. Note that the gaps are my fault; I didn't put it together completely seamlessly because I didn't want to go back a couple hours and line things up even more just right than they were.
But damn, do I feel good about finishing it. I sure picked a hell of a piece for Astro Toy's first transformer. I don't know if I'll ever get it back out to the robot form: though this took longer due to the bad instructions, it was definitely a few hours just to transform the robot. It is an incredibly thin line that the designers of this toy walk: usually a compromise has to be made somewhere, but not these guys. I sincerely wish that I could own everything T-Rex ever makes.
We paid $140 for this in the first production run: it sold out immediately and it's now on Amiami for what is more likely to come out to $170. When the price goes up you know people want it, and when people suddenly want something this obscure, it's probably 'cause it's good. And this is real good stuff.
When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera makes moe 4-panel comics about videogames at Kawaiikochan.You can follow him on Twitter @sasuraiger.
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