Astro Toy
DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z Part II

by David Cabrera,

Arms or not, this week we are going to talk about all the extras that come with the DX Soul of Chogokin Mazinger Z. See the previous column for a review of the base figure.

Before we get going, allow me some time to talk about what's going on with the defect issue. After days of trying to solve the problem, I concluded last time that my DX Mazinger had shipped with defective forearm parts, rendering it armless. Though I was already in communication with Bluefin (the US distributor) immediately-- and by proxy with Bandai-- I went ahead and did the review without those parts. There was no way anything would make it on time.

Not long after the first review went up, Bluefin got back to me with good news: Bandai was “looking into solutions” for the replacement. So I was at least glad to hear that soon this would be over.

After not hearing anything for a bit after this, I got back to Bluefin fearing the situation had changed. I was right. Going back on their word, Bandai was now “unable” to replace cheap plastic parts on their defective $400 figure. No explanation was given. This is unbelievable.

I want to differentiate between Bandai and Bluefin here. Bandai is the company that makes some of the  highest-end premium toys available... and doesn't particularly care if your $400 robot ships broken. Bandai replaces defects for Japanese customers, here's their site for that. “DX Mazinger's arms don't stay on” is among the top ten FAQs. They bring stuff around the world to show it off, but if a foreigner actually buys a defective item from them, then it's not their problem. That isn't right.

Bluefin is the distributor who went out of their way and beyond the call of duty, offering me the only pair of DX Mazinger arms they have, from off another unit. So I really appreciate that, and I'll let you know if the new arms work when I meet up with them. It's possible that the problem is with the body and not the arms... in which case I'll need a full replacement.

Bandai Japan, on the other hand, has treated me like a nuisance rather than a customer. And I'm a toy reviewer for some big anime site! Imagine how they'll treat you. Anyway, on with the review.

Obviously there's the normal documentation, which I won't bore you with, but there's also a ten-page extras booklet which happens to contain some Mazinger fan gold. We get interviews with original creator Go Nagai, prolific and renowned mechanical designer Kazutaka Miyatake (I never knew he was the guy who drew the cutaway in the anime!), and Michihiro Ito, who was responsible for the TV show sound effects the figure uses. Also, there's a chart of the evolution of Mazinger toys up to present and gratiuitous shots of vintage Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger toys. All text in this package is in Japanese, and no translations are supplied.

Which is a double shame, because the other booklet contains new manga by Go Nagai! In a prequel chapter to the original comic, Uncle Go fills in blanks in the setup by explaining how exactly Kouji's grandpa came to the drastic action of building a giant robot in a hangar below their house. (Had he just seen Imagawa's version in Shin Mazinger?) This is limited to the first production run, so, heads up, you might not be able to get it if you order DX Mazinger now.

And on to the plastic. The big extra, if we can really call it that, is the hangar-style display case we're meant to keep Mazinger stashed in. It comes pre-built in heavy plastic and is the true reason this box is so huge. It's intended to store both Mazinger and his parts... but it doesn't store everything, only the base armor. If you want to keep everything in good shape-- and if you don't want to keep a figure like this in good shape, jeez, you have a lot of money-- you will still need to find a little box to put things into, or you'll have to dig into the monster box every time you want to switch certain parts.

Rather than something snapping into the body to secure it in place, there's a plastic bar that rests inside of a button at the back of the robot (Intended for the Jet Scrander later, I imagine?). He's definitely not going anywhere, but there are two other plastic bars (they're intended to be catwalks which tiny humans like ourselves might walk upon) in front that ensure the robot isn't falling down. I eventually stopped using the back bar completely: he's not budging.

How better to appreciate the overwhelming scale of this foot-tall robot than to put some puny cranes next to it? One sits on the floor, and the other can be attached to the catwalks. The one that sits on the floor has fully functioning wheels and articulation: you can push it around and go vroom-vroom, raise that crane and go RRRRR, you can do whatever.

The hangar walls also serve to carry most of the armor and accessories that aren't currently in use on Mazinger's body. It isn't a full carry-all case: it's focused on the cutaway feature and it only packs the parts directly related to that. However, there wasn't room for the hand and foot armor, so it's not complete in that regard either. This is a very cool idea, but I really expected that this gigantic hangar was going to serve as a complete, self-contained case. There's nowhere else to put all these other pieces than back in that huge box. You are probably going to need an entire shelf for this figure, especially considering the Jet Scrander will come with its own display stand.

Three AAA batteries (find a screwdriver!) power the floodlights at the bottom of the hangar. You can swivel and turn them however you like to light Mazinger intimidatingly from below.

Of course, turn your own lights off for spooky results.

The other big extra comes in the form of light and sound gimmicks. The robot itself takes two AAA batteries inside the chest compartment, and the included remote takes two more. Seven total. Add that to your cost. Anyway, it's better to demo this in video, right?

The remote wirelessly triggers nine diferent lines/sound effects and three different songs from the series: the opening theme song, the ending “Our Mazinger Z”, and “Z's Theme”, commonly used when the robot goes into battle in the TV show. Sadly, despite his having plugged the figure, the songs are not accompanied by the voice of the original singer, Ichiro “Aniki” Mizuki.

Instead, we get karaoke versions like you'd hear in the Super Robot Wars games. This probably lends itself more to the “yelling over music” idea, but nothing is the same without Aniki. On the plus side, this leaves you free to sing along, perhaps to the lyrics of Isao Sasaki's brilliant English version. Kouji can! Swim in the sky! He can fly beneath the sea! In his robot man! Mazinger Z!

As the songs play on in the background, you can make Kouji Kabuto (played by original voice actor Hiroya Ishimaru) yell to his heart's content, and boy is he loud. Furthermore, triggering the phrases “Mazin Go! Pilder On!”, “Photon Power Beam!”, or “Breast Fire!” will turn on the related lights in the figure, either in the eyes or on the chest. The second set of chest armor is intended for use with the lights, which are themselves inside the skeleton.

The main annoyance here is that the big red button to turn on remote control mode lies just underneath the chest panel. Because the figure goes into sleep mode after a few minutes, you will have to remove the red chest plates, and then the chest armor, every single time you want to play with this feature. (Filming the video was really annoying for this reason!) I understand not wanting to have a physical switch on the body... but, wait, there already is one in the back, what the hell.

Here's my final opinion: this is the most beautiful toy I've ever had delivered to me with a major, debilitating defect. If not for the defect and the customer service ordeal that has ensued for over a month since, it would easily be the best toy I've ever covered here. Unfortunately I got both that and our biggest disappointment at the same time.

What horrible luck and what a bittersweet experience, especially since unlike the usual Astro Toy, I've spent a lot of my own money on this. I've been alternatingly blissed out on all the cool stuff in this package and raged out at the defect and Bandai's indifference.

Why doesn't Bandai do proper quality assurance on their flagship of flagship items? Why does that item have the kind of minor flaws that don't belong on a $400 figure? And though it looks like Bluefin is going to help me out in an unexpected and very kind way, I am equally shocked, disappointed, and angry with Bandai's “inability” to fix a tiny piece of plastic on a $400 robot. Has nobody any pride in Mazinger Goddamn Z around here? Is it just me?

DX Mazinger is still $400 from Big Bad Toy Store, $450 on Amazon, and, again, due to its massive size you really should not try and ship this one in from Japan. If you're planning on buying this, you should probably do it ASAP... and though the odds seem low (I've seen very few reports of my problem in English and a couple on Amazon JP) there's no telling if you won't end up with the same defect as I did. Either way, the arms will kinda suck.

I will continue to bore you guys with where the defect story goes! I bought this toy a month ago, I'm still dealing with the fallout, and if Bluefin's solution doesn't work out then I have no further recourse: hopefully BBTS will still take it back. Can I really recommend you pay $400 for the possibility of this experience? Bandai sure seems to think I got a good deal.

The add-on Jet Scrander wings come out in June for about $100. I have an order on it, but if my existing order isn't fixed I'm obviously pulling it.

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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