Astro Toy Robot Damashii EVA-01 Movie Version
by David Cabrera,
Robot Damashii EVA-01 Movie Version
Okay, guys. For once in this column, here's something you've actually seen before. As you're probably aware, Neon Genesis Evangelion is a serious merchandising force. Nobody's made anything quite like it since 1995, and geeks around the world haven't forgotten it in the slightest over those fifteen years. It's speculated that the huge amount of money Eva pachinko makes in Japan funded the new movie series, and I believe it. They may have built a life-size Gundam, but Eva is not too far behind: they also just finished a life-size Eva bust.
Today we have the latest in a fifteen-year stampede of action figures of Evangelion Unit 1. Boy, I remember being a junior high kid in the late 90s saving up for that piece-of-crap old Sega EVA-01. It was a lousy toy, but it came from Japan! You couldn't get stuff from Japan back then, so I convinced myself it was special. Don't make that same mistake yourself, kids: you can buy a lot of bad toys that way.
(This time I'm using the back of the box because I wanted you to see the silly pose that the Eva is in in the lower right corner.)
Anyway, here Bandai is taking yet another shot at EVA-01-- the movie version this time-- in their Robot Damashii line. We previously looked at Bonta-kun from this line, but this is the first time I've cracked open a Robot Damashii that wasn't a gag.
I mentioned this in an aside in a previous review, but just as Evangelion was an anomaly in the history of robot anime, the Evangelion units are anomalies in the larger history of the Japanese giant robot. Their design consciously avoids both the Heinlein-and-Gundam-informed Real Robot look and the brightly colored kids’ toy appearance of the Super Robot. While humanoid in shape, the Evas really aren't that far off from the monsters they fight, and the battles between Eva and Angel look more like particularly vicious deleted scenes from Ultraman than anything you see in a typical robot anime.
The Eva is very much its own thing, and like the show itself, it spawned ripoffs for years and has been milked to death in merchandising for as long as it's existed. Of course, with Eva movies being made, the design of the Eva had to be changed somewhat so another legion of figures could be sold to people like us.
A viewer might not even notice the differences at first glance (this was probably the intention), but they are there: the body of this already-lanky robot has been slimmed down and stretched out just a bit, with more spots highlighted in neon green to stand out where they didn't before. You could say the Eva's been given racing stripes, so as to look better in action.
To give you an idea of exactly how glutted we are with EVA-01 figures, Bandai alone has three different figures of the movie design out right now. The HCM Pro has better detailing and more weapons, the Tamashii Spec has removable diecast armor (especially Eva-appropriate), and the Robot Damashii's strong suit is its posability.
Posability is quite clever: you can tell that the toy engineers at Bandai have had it out with this robot so many different times-- in plastic models, Chogokin and other figures-- that they know just how to handle it. The Eva is a barely-contained beast, and it needs to be able to move like one.
For example, the shoulder armor is not directly attached to the arms, though they should be according to the way we see the robot in the anime. There's a good reason for this: in three dimensions these smokestacks just get in the way. On other figures I own, they bonk the robot in the head if you move the shoulders too much, and they keep the range of movement in the whole shoulder low. So rather than that, we have a shoulder that rotates on its own and amor that moves around independently on its own joint.
Likewise, the leg has a pretty complex assembly in the hip that swings out, swivels around and kicks like a Rockette. The leg can pop out of the hip if you're not careful, but it goes back in just as easy. The midsection takes full advantage of the Eva's spinal-column design with ball joints in each section. With the included alternate head, it's pretty easy to put the Eva into its famous, crouched-forward “berserk mode”.
The same approach was unfortunately not taken with the Evangelion's jutting knee armor. It can't be moved and sits at an unfortunate angle that impedes crouching and kneeling movements, like any cool rifle pose you were thinking of. It's workable, as you can see here, but it's a little annoying and I wish it popped up.
The figure's not too great on armament (did I really need two prog knives and two pallet rifles or is Bandai just meeting a plastic quota here?) but boy, it's got a lot of hands. Gun hands, knife hands, a few open hands, and most importantly, flat hands for Jojo poses.
We've also got one pair of hands specifically molded for the Eva's silly gimmick: as you can see, the figure comes with a plastic AT Field with an opening that you're supposed to stick the monster's prying hands into. Fans will immediately recognize this from any number of sequences in the TV series and the films where Shinji and the Eva have to tear open an enemy Angel's AT Field with their bare hands before mauling it. Honestly, taking this shot I thought of the image from a certain classic Internet shock site: sorry, there isn't a ring to put on the Eva's finger.
Once again, though, I must raise my pet objection to the Robot Damashii line: while necessary for the gimmick, it's completely embarassing that the AT Field (a sheet of plastic) is given a stand and the robot is not. Especially with import markup, paying extra for a stand is just nuts. How am I gonna make this thing line dance?
The Eva-01, like the RX-78 Gundam or Mazinger Z, is one of those robots that's been committed to plastic so many times and in so many ways that barring some drastic “never quite like this” revision, it's hard to get terribly must-have excited about any particular incarnation. Especially since the movies hit, we've been in an absolute glut of Eva robots. (Note: we have been in a glut of Asuka and Rei figures since 1995). Is this the best Eva-01 figure out at the moment? Frankly, I don't know: we'd have to have some kind of definitive Eva-off that would pit Bandai's lines against Kaiyodo's (and maybe the Diablock, what the hell) and cost a lot more money than Astro Toy has.
Now I don't do numbers or letter grades, but allow me to change my mind for a moment and rate this figure “decent”. At this price, and without any particular attachment to the character, I can take it or leave it.
Piloting Eva is such a bummer. All you end up doing is hurting the people you love! Why not learn some sweet BMX tricks instead?
Want this figure? Well, while I (slowpoke) was writing this review, it sold out everywhere I could find it online. I think I bought the last one they had at Big Bad Toy Store, and Hobby Link Japan and Amiami say they're not restocking until September. Happy hunting at your local comic shop or convention! I'm sure you'll be able to find another Eva figure in the meantime... but will it be good? Don't ask me!
(PS: Will you be at Otakon next weekend? Will you be at Otakon early next weekend, like say walking into the place the very moment it opens on Friday morning? Great, great! I will be running a panel with Ogiue Maniax blogger Carl Li called “Riichi! Japanese Mahjong, Anime, and You.” If you're awake, come learn about this sport of kings with us at 9:30 AM in Panel 4!)
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