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Astro Toy
Chogokin Hello Kitty

by David Cabrera,

Chogokin Hello Kitty
Hello Kitty
Maker: Bandai/Sanrio
Price: $55

So alright, we have a really weird one again this week. Shall I explain the joke? Both Bandai's Chogokin line and Sanrio's Hello Kitty have their 40th birthday this year. These two massive Japanese toy/merchandise lines from the same year have opted to combine themselves into a single bizarre product.

The box goes pop art, fully embracing the kitsch of the concept. The styrofoam tray inside is actually pretty significant: though environmentally unfriendly, the old Chogokin toys (and many modern-day Soul of Chogokin pieces) are packed in styrofoam, and collectors definitely have a nostalgic affection for the stuff. Here, the styrofoam is a statement of intent: “we're doing this vintage style”.

You'll see what they mean as soon as you take the thing out: it may be small, but it's heavy. To give you an idea, this cost me as much to ship as two figmas would; it's as heavy as last week's much larger Galvion.  The modern Chogokin line (the term is loose: “modern Chogokin” is itself going on 20 years old at this point) uses a lot of plastic, with the trademark diecast metal used mostly to balance the figure's center of gravity. The old stuff, though? They're solid metal bricks. And so it is here. The only parts of this figure that are not metal are the forearms.

If, indeed, there is a center of gravity on this figure, it's Kitty's enormous metal head. Be careful; she stands well if her legs are straight, but if you let them shift she may come crashing down with a thud.

Note the extremely visible screw holes on the back with no effort made whatsoever to hide them, and the Sanrio copyright placed smack in the middle of the head so that you absolutely can't ignore it. I can't speak for the intentions of the designer, but this feels to me like a consciously retro design decision. The old toys didn't hide that they were toys for children, and this design relishes that idea. If anything, I'm a little surprised there isn't a big HELLO KITTY across the waist, like on the old toys.

Anyway, let's get to gimmicks. The cockpit in the head opens up with a very clever lock mechanism on the bow. Push the button on the back of the head and it'll release the lock.

Once you pop it open, put little Kitty in the seat to pilot big Kitty.

Then push the bow back into place and twist to lock. And yes, this is of course a Mazinger joke.

The other cool thing going on with the head is the little button on the inside that pops to change Kitty's facial expression. She has no mouth, of course, so the eyes must speak. These eyes speak “normal”, “angry”, and “underwater”. This is a very cool effect that most toys do by having you open up the figure and exchange parts. Not so here: it's all inside that big metal head of hers, and I bet the people who made it are very proud of that.

Coming back to Mazinger jokes, did I mention this figure can Rocket Punch? Even the Chogokin Hatsune Miku and Aigis had rocket punches added in! On my figure, the left arm's spring is weak, and the right arm's spring is strong. I don't know if this is a “bug or a feature”, as you might say. In any case it's something you ought to see in action yourself.

There's a cute stand that's kind of a parody of the ones used in the Soul of Chogokin line, complete with the Hello Kitty bow. Rather than the name of the character, as is customary, the nameplate simply says “Chogokin” in hiragana. Like the best SoC stands, everything is self-contained-- what you don't see on the stand here is cleverly stored underneath-- and you don't have to put anything back in the box but the empty trays.

You can sit her down as well, in a particular pose that you often see on Hello Kitty stuff. The stand specifically accomodates the wheels on the bottom.

It's not quite Galvion, but Kitty does “transform”. Behold Underwater mode Kitty! All you do here is flip the head up and attach the flippers, which are made out of two ribbon-shaped parts.

And to complete the joke, Kitty's flight mode. To make this, you plug a “backpack” piece into Kitty's back and reassemble the two ribbon bits, this time to make a pair of wings. Another silly effect with a very clever design.

This is a very unusual figure in a very unusual style, and I was much more impressed by its execution than I expected to be. Vintage Chogokin types will appreciate it for its design, Hello Kitty fans will appreciate it for its quirk and its quality. I love it unequivocally; $55 was a steal.

We preordered this on Amiami when it came out, and it sold out. It's since been restocked at $55 shipped. Bluefin has a US release on preorder for 42.99 for this month, and you can cut that down to $40 on Amazon right now; of course that's an especially good deal if you have Prime.

When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera makes moe 4-panel comics about videogames at Kawaiikochan.You can follow him on Twitter @sasuraiger.

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