Astro Toy DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z Part I
by David Cabrera,
DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z
Series: Mazinger Z
Price: $400 (7 AAA batteries not included)
Good news, everybody. The DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z has finally made it to my doorstep. I've got good news, and I've got bad news.
When I said this was going to be the biggest Astro Toy in the column's history, I was dead serious. They don't often make toys this big, and $400 is not within our budget by any means. The reason we are rolling so big this time is that I am paying. I love super robots, and I love Mazinger. I was no stranger to Japanese toy robots long before I took this gig. Seeing a piece like this, I decided to go in halfsies with ANN on the figure. I'm basically paying to write this. We're going to take it in two parts, because there's seriously no other way to review this thing.
I don't typically like unboxings, because they're almost always dumb, uncecessary non-spectacles. However... I'd be cheating you all if I didn't show you this box.
This, next to my faithful dog, is the box it shipped in from Big Bad Toy Store. He's medium-size.
When I opened this box, I just started laughing and swearing and laughing at what was inside, and even as I pulled the thing out I didn't stop for about twenty minutes. I haven't felt this Christmas-morning since I was a little kid. Up top there is a tiny, flimsy plastic carrying handle: nice joke, guys. Good one. If you were to actually pick this up for an extended period of time I'm pretty sure the contents would just fall out from the bottom.
This is just the slip-over cover; there's another layer of box below!
Inside of the box are six black, unlabeled boxes. SIX. What is inside of each of them is a mystery until you open it up! These people are not messing around at all. We won't even open all of these boxes this week! Well, I will, but you know what I mean...
As well as the figure itself, you're really going to want to reassemble all the boxes and put them away some place too. It is way too beautiful to just toss out.
Hey, did you see that? Mazinger Z! Hey, did you hear that? Mazinger Z!
Eventually you will find the black box containing the base figure. (Note that my Mazinger is armless right now; unfortunately it's going to look like that throughout the review. We'll get to this.) The concept of this figure is actually very specific. It's the Mazinger Z robot, yes... but this particular Mazinger is inspired by the ending credits of the original TV show. The lyrics to the song are even printed on the box in an appropriately shameless appeal to nostagia. This is a 40th anniversary piece, after all!
That sequence is a series of cut-away images of Mazinger Z, featuring its detailed and totally non-scientific internal machinery. If you actually go and look at the credits, it's not intended to be a direct reproduction of that design... but the figure is on a much higher level of detail. The internal detailing is all in plastic.
Note the things you can see when you take a close look at the skeleton: the Navel Missile is hidden inside; the Drill Missiles are loaded up in the arms. The coolest detail is certainly that the pistons in the ankles really work. This is even noticable when the figure is dressed up in its armor.
So let's get to that! The front armor is packed in its own case, and it snaps on and off easily with zero fuss. Some of this is done with magnets (my favorite!), and some of it is done with snap-in plastic. Armor pieces at the legs, chest and groin are massive slabs of diecast metal. Every piece is easy to attach and to remove and stays firmly put. The chest plates, on the other hand, are poorly secured with magnets that aren't strong enough to protect them from falling at the slightest brush. These feel like delicate pieces, so it's particularly bad that it's so easy to drop them. A few disappointing corner-cutting details like this bring the DX down from perfection, unfortunately.
To fully complete the cutaway effect, the figure also comes with half-piece armor for the torso. You can display the right side armored and the left part not armored: however, because there's only one half-armored head-piece, you can't do it the other way around without it looking weird. Not sure why they didn't go all the way here.
The figure's joints are strong ratchet joints of the usual Chogokin variety, in the normal places where the Mazinger from the show would be able to move. The joints are extremely solid, and the clicks as they move are satisfying and reassuring: you don't ever need to worry about this figure not holding a pose. However, this is not trying to be a Revoltech, and the range of movement is not comparable to smaller figures. This isn't to say it can't do “Mazinger poses”-- those aren't too demanding, after all-- but it's clearly built more for looking beautiful on display than posing.
And then, as you're enjoying your super robot... its forearms fall off. Try and figure out where the elbow bends-- it's not obvious-- and it may just happen while you fiddle. Certainly you're wondering by now why my Mazinger has no forearms: it has to do with this.
Even putting aside my unique circumstances at the moment, the single biggest problem with this figure is the strange elbow joint. Be warned: I am going to talk about this at great length. The designers made the arms so that they'd pop off right at the elbow, the same way Mazinger fires the Rocket Punch in the show. The fist doesn't fire like on every other Chogokin Mazinger ever made. (This is kind of suspect in and of itself, and I am personally suspicious that this figure was rushed to make it out during the anniversary year: the Japanese release was December 2012...)
However, there still has to be a functioning elbow joint, so the arm detaches in almost the same place where the elbow bends. The regular Soul of Chogokin Mazingers all handle this with magnets, but for some reason Bandai's designers didn't opt for that here. It feels like they designed a firing Rocket Punch part... and then decided not to have it fire. And then, further down the line, somebody cheaped out on that. This has been such an issue that Bandai had to post an online guide to re-connecting the arms not long after the Japanese release. The US release comes with a printed, English-language translation of the same guide. I suspect the real cause for Bandai's action was something else, however...
My experience is not inconsistent with that of others. I've read boards, I've talked to my buddy Pat who has one. Everybody has problems with DX Mazinger's elbows. Even when properly attached, the attachment is poor. There is nobody who actually likes them: the closest to a positive opinion I heard about them online was a defensive “stop complaining!” from one of the early reviews. Denial's a rough thing.
My Mazinger's elbows are different. I spent hours with them, and they just don't work. They fell off when I took the figure out of the box and when they do connect, they dangle and fall. In function, I have an armless DX Mazinger, like he fired off his Rocket Punches one day and never got them back. Of all the times to get a defect at Astro Toy-- and it's not the first, this is one of the reasons we buy our own stuff-- I had to get a huge one on the biggest toy we'll ever buy. You can imagine how disappointing this is.
I have contacted Bluefin and demanded (when we're talking about major defects in a toy at this price point, I assure you, you'll start making demands too) replacement parts for the forearms. They very quickly informed me that they are contacting Bandai about it, but I haven't heard anything since (as of 2/13/13). I expect to get what I need, and I'll be giving 'em hell until I do. Rest assured that you'll know how this turns out. And if this isn't a defect, them wow, the elbow joints are just unbelievably bad.
Kouji Kabuto, our young pilot, is of course present in his Hover Pilder. It's a small but vital piece, and you know what? I'm not impressed with the Pilder they gave us here. It's very cheap-feeling, with loose wings and a Kouji who isn't quite sitting up straight in his seat. The canopy doesn't open, either. I could see someone making and selling custom replacements for this thing. I had a Hot Wheels toy in mind and I got a gashapon.
Though there's still a lot to see, I can definitely deliver some judgments on the base figure. I stress the imperfections of this figure pretty hard because if I hold a $50 toy like a Figma to a high standard, I need to hold a figure at this price point to an extremely high standard. There are clear problems, and corners were cut. I personally suspect that in order to make the 40th anniversary deadline (2012), the figure's release was rushed: in Japan this was a late December release. Poor quality assurance is not what I expect from Chogokin, much less the centerpiece of the flagship line. At $400, this figure should be 100% perfect, not 90%, and mine sure as hell shouldn't have bum arms.
However, flawed as it is, this is still without question the most beautiful robot figure I've ever owned. It is a treasure. Imagine the conflict that I am feeling right now.
Next time we're going to talk about all of the extras and accessories that make up the rest of this package. This isn't even his final form, you know. There's gonna be lights and sounds! There's gonna be a hangar! There's even going to be new Go Nagai manga, so get ready for it!
As I write this, Bluefin has just started to ship out their stock of DX Mazingers. The current low price is at Big Bad Toy Store, where we paid $400 shipped. I'm not going to justify that price: even though what's in the package is really impressive, I definitely think there's a large “So, how much do you love Mazinger Z?” tax in there. For comparison, the highest-end Soul of Chogokin pieces like Godmars or Dancougar originally retailed for $250 or so. (Good luck getting them now, though.)
Amazon sellers have the DX for $450, and because it's Amazon expect that price to climb. Due to the extreme cost of international shipping on an item this size, I strongly recommend against importing DX Mazinger from Japan.
In the early summer, when people's wallets have bounced back a little bit from having bought this, Bandai is releasing the winged Jet Scrander backpack for $100. You don't just snatch from a wallet, you massage it gently. And yeah, I have the Jet Scrander on order. Whether I cancel or not, however, depends entirely on how Bandai responds to my defect. Again, you'll know as soon as I do. Thanks also to the robot-japan forums for advice on dealing with the elbow joint. See you all next time.
When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera gets hype about anime, manga and gaming at Subatomic Brainfreeze. You can follow him on Twitter @sasuraiger.
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