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Astro Toy
Tamashii Spec Layzner

by David Cabrera,

Tamashii Spec Layzner
Series: Tamashii
By: Bandai
Cost: $100

I've been trying to cover different toy lines for every Astro Toy, but at the same time I make no bones about the fact that I love Bandai's Chogokin line the best. These are high-end toy robots with bodies made from real die-cast metal, just like in the good old days. Today's feature comes from a spinoff of the Chogokin line called Tamashii (meaning soul, or you can say "Damashii" like we did last time ) Spec.

Most of the robots brought to life in the Soul of Chogokin line come from the "Super Robot" tradition set off by Tetsujin 28 and Mazinger Z , with straightforward, colorful designs and fanciful weaponry: the passion-powered, drill-blasting Gurren-Lagann, for example, is a modern-day Super Robot. On the other hand, Tamashii Spec celebrates the post-Gundam "Real Robot" aesthetic, which re-imagined the Super Robot as something much more military: an intricately engineered piece of science fiction hardware whose choice of armament is more often a rifle than a rocket punch.

(A notable exception to this rule are the Evangelion units, which purposely subvert this dichotomy: they have appeared in both SoC and Tamashii Spec because honestly, nobody knows what the hell to make of them.)

This is the Blue Comet, SPT (Super Powered Tracer, if you were curious) Layzner. As you can see, it is half naked, without hands, and unashamed. In accordance with the target audience's desire for functional detail, Tamashii Spec figures all have internal skeletons. These are not unlike the ones you see in Master Grade Gundam model kits: the inner skeleton makes all the movement possible, and the armor snaps on to look pretty on top. Part of the chest and the lower legs are made of solid metal, giving the figure some of the weight that the Chogokin name implies. Note I said "some": the diecast content doesn't approach that used in the SoC line. Also note that the price-- about $90 retail and probably $100 after you ship it-- is basically the same.

Here's Layzner with the PVC armor attached and weapons (rifle, grenade launcher, and missiles behind the legs) strapped to its back. Let's pause to appreciate master Kunio Ohkawara's original mechanical design, shall we? The man was in his prime in the 80s, when this whole look was still somewhat fresh: the 90s would tire him, and Gundam Seed Destiny would burn him out. Lazyner looks cool because it's utilitarian: hell, it's got robot brass knuckles for a melee weapon. Swords are expensive. That stuff's for the aristocracy! There are just enough flashy touches-- the color, the distinctive face-- to separate it from the grunts, but the design doesn't go overboard. It may be a blue comet, but it's a matte blue comet, okay? Anyway, snap-on armor is usually a problem for toys like this, and results are mixed here. The chest and shoulder armor stay put just fine, but the leg armor jiggles and the skirt armor jumps right off the figure whenever you fiddle with it, leading to no end of frustration when posing. The toy feels like something I will pose once and never touch again for fear of messing it up, and this is not good.

As seen in the show when Layzner overheats, the armor opens up at several points: arms, three panels on the legs, and the cockpit. A tiny, in-scale figure of pilot Eiji is included, but it's painted in poorly detailed splotches, and Eiji isn't even granted the courtesy of feet! You might want to keep that cockpit shut on account of how ugly the thing is. The transparent green canopy hides the details... or lack thereof.

There's a second set of armor you can slap onto the body to build the slightly bulkier New Layzner from the very end of the show, which you're seeing here. The thrusters in the chest swivel around and are unfortunately prone to popping out. I'm not much for the nipple-thruster look to begin with myself, and I'll probably be displaying this with the standard armor. By the way, there are only two sets of hands included-- a pair built for holding the rifle and clenched fists-- which seems a little cheap. Standard procedure is to at least give us an open hand. Think about it: no matter what pose you think of for Layzner, either the fists will always be clenched or the robot will be holding the rifle. That's it. In a world where even the basic lines like Figma and Revoltech completely spoil us with extra hands for every possible situation, this is just no good.

The stand snaps onto the body in much the same way as the armor does and floats the robot in the air: the connection is under the skirt armor, so you don't have a peg-in-the-back situation like with a Figma or a Revoltech. The stand moves at several points and is specifically built to pose Layzner in flying poses, which is thoughtful.

I said on the ANNCast a little while back that I like to buy things with gimmicks that will entertain you all, and because you are always on my mind, I have one this week. Layzner's stand is also a sound system. Modeled after the dashboard of the robot itself and powered by AAA batteries (not included? Come on, guys!), the sound system plays 24 clips from the show. The green buttons play sound effects, and the red buttons play messages spoken (in Japanese, of course) by the Layzner's AI, "Rei". Rei wants you to know that the Layzner only has a few Gigakaisers of fuel left. But I'll let you hear it for yourselves!

The figure itself has no such gimmicks, so I'll just have to imagine Layzner becoming a comet wrapped in blue light as I play the V-Max sound effect over and over again and sigh.

This is a solid, if imperfect, Layzner figure, which brings us back to the price tag. There's a lot to like here, but I don't think there's 90 bucks worth. There isn't a ton of diecast, the quality isn't on the level of the perfectionist Soul of Chogokin line, and the extras don't justify the cost either. Not even that sweet sound system makes this an 80-dollar item. If they're all essentially like this, then I'd say the entire Tamashii Spec line is overpriced (except for Tekkaman Blade and Pegas : no price is too high to perform a live 90's remake of SPACE LANCE in one's own home). I'd buy this for $50, tops.

Have I done a Nanto Gokuto Ken joke yet? I sure hope not. See you guys next time!

Want Layzner? Hobby Link Japan is your only online choice, at the original Japanese retail of about $90 , before shipping.

When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera gets hype about anime, manga and gaming at Subatomic Brainfreeze.

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