Astro Toy with Rob Bricken: Gintama Dioramax Trading Figuresby Rob Bricken,
GINTAMA DIORAMAX TRADING FIGURES
Happy new year, everybody! As I'm still recovering from my New Year's Eve party — best not to ask, really — the first Astro Toy of the new year might be a little abbreviated. Besides myself, you can also blame the fact that I'm looking at a small gashapon set, and that it's of Gintama, one of the anime series I know virtually nothing about. However, Gintama is an odd case to me, because when I first heard of the series, it sounded like the greatest anime ever. Then I watched a few episodes and read up on it a bit, and basically the more I saw and learned the less I liked it. So I pretty much stopped. Ignorance is bliss, after all.
Of the few things I do know about Gintama is that the series has just about a bajillion gashapon sets; these Dioramax Trading Figures from Bandai are just one of them. I didn't pick them out for any special reason other than I liked the look and they weren't sold out when I was hunting for Astro Toy subjects, but really, once I got them in my hands I liked them a lot. I don't think they're perfect by any means, but they are the quintessential mini-figures to me — good SD sculpts, interesting poses, the personality of the characters come through, and they're cute. Let's start from the top, shall we?
Main character Gintoki comes with a swell miniature scooter which he appears to be leaning on but isn't. You can't see it, but he does have his katana sheath sticking out of his belt behind the scooter. That large, off-white hunk of plastic by his legs is supposed to help him stand up, but surprisingly, he doesn't need it — he can stand just fine without it. Gintoki has a great facial expression, a pose that represents his lackadaisical character, and the scooter is a nice addition. All good.
The super-strong Kagura comes riding on the giant dog-alien Sadahaure; since Kagura is the only person who can make Sadaharu behave (so my limited research tells me) it's a good combination. Kagura is obviously adorable, and Sadaharu is an excellent mix of cute and fanged. Unfortunately, Kagura fits onto Sadaharu with a large peg, meaning neither she nor the dog look okay without each other, but it's what you'd expect from a trading figure set of this level.
I'm not going to even try to tell you what these dudes are about; Gintama fans are welcome to help out in the comments. All I know is that the two warriors — Takasugi on the left and Katsura on the right, I believe — share the same base as far as possible away from each other. While this might illustrate some aspect of their relationship in Gintama, it just makes for an awkward gashapon. There's no way you can set this figure and have a decent view of both characters. They're both sculpted to be viewed head on, but since they're facing away from each other perpendicularly, it's impossible. Plus, Katsura's sword has been permanently bent by his trading figure box.
Hijikata is supposed to be the fearsome vice-commander of the Shinsengumi, but he's shown here relaxing on the barest implication of a house deck, relaxing with a smoke. I love this guy. From his ridiculously large sunglasses to his tiny cigarette, he's just awesome. I believe that large jar next to him is supposed to be a massive bottle of mayonnaise — that's what Japanese mayonnaise bottles generally look like — but this one has clearly been modified into a gun of some kind. Don't ask me.
And we come to the final figure in the set. Elizabeth is indeed a small hunk of plastic; she comes with two signs you can swap out (both are in Japanese and I have no idea what either of them say.) She also comes with the Yorozura “odd jobs” store front, which would be more impressive is it too weren't also bent on one corner.
So overall, good-looking figures, excellent sculpts, lots of personality and only a few faults. And Bandai has included a cool “feature,” if you will — they made a Gintama Dioramax Gashapon set (yes, like actual capsule toys and not trading figures) that are perfectly in-scale to these figures, so that they can be used together. You can see them together on the side of the box:
It's not mind-blowing, but it is neat, and adds extra value to the set. Overall, I recommend these whole-heartedly… or at least I would, except there's one big problem:
THESE FIVE GASHAPON COST $40 ALTOGETHER. That's insane. These are absolutely worth no more than 300 yen apiece, even in today's insane Japanese anime merchandise economy. I have no idea what they cost in Japan, but even when you figure in the inflation due to getting a complete set and the cost for importing them to America, these should total $20, and certainly no more than $25. The fact that these things cost $40 is as appalling as it is baffling; even the capsule figures — of which there were also five — only cost 2000 yen! Why the hell are these so expensive? I do not know. You can rest assured there are plenty of other Gintama gashapon and trading figures that do cost $20 or so, and seem of equal or similar quality. The only way these things should be $40 is if they have gold inside. Krauser and I are going to cut a few of ‘em up; we'll let you know how it goes.
UPDATE: No gold. Don't buy ‘em.
Looking to pick some up for yourself? Here's some links!
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).
Thanks to Phillip Harrington for designing and creating the Astro Toy banner.
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