Saturday, 18 August 2012

Toybox REVIEW: Riobot R04 Gurren Lagann

Riobot Gurren Lagann Headshot

Can you believe its been five years since Gurren Lagann? Well it has, and while Gainax haven't shown any plans in celebrating the anniversary of my favourite mecha series lesser known toy company Sentinel have given fans something to celebrate about. Revealed nearly a year ago to much excitement, the fourth installment in their Riobot (Riot Robot) line has finally been released. While Sentinel might not have quite the extensive resume as lines such as Kaiyodo's Revoltech and Bandai's Robot Damashii or Super Robot Chogokin, the few figures they have put out are said to be of superb quality (which is reflected in their hefty price tags). Costing a whopping 9500 yen RRP (£75/$120), Riobot Gurren Lagann has quite a lot to live up to before being compared to previous incarnations of the robot.

Riobot Gurren Lagann Box Front

Riobot Gurren Lagann Box BackRiobot Gurren Lagann Box Spine

Riobot Gurren Lagann Box InsideRiobot Gurren Lagann Insert Tray

Much like how the packaging for RIO:Bone (Sentinel's human character line) Panty and Stocking impressed with their fantastic graphics, Gurren Lagann also has a box worthy of praise. The front features a nicely stylised Gurren Lagann image along with the name of the figure, while the spines give the box an element of class with small 5th anniversary Gurren Lagann logos and serif fonts. The top has a much larger anniversary logo, while the back has the figure in various poses without any obtrusive text in the way. Another thing to note is that it is a book-style box, with the front flap opening to reveal a window to see the figure (not that you can very well because its covered by a load of plastic wrapping) and the Team Gurren emblem. The box is HUGE, carrying both a tray with the figure and its accessories and another holding the wingpack and stand.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 01

Onto the figure itself. Sculpted by Chemical Attack, who worked on the previous Broken Blade figures in the line, Riobot Gurren Lagann has a much more stylised look than the animation model. It's not quite as obvious as the KA version's tribal tattoos, but is still instantly noticeable. Rounded sections such as the hip guards (which have also been lengthened), lower legs and feet are much more angular, giving the design a much more real-robot feel than its super robot look in the series. All the yellow on the design has been replaced with a muted gold colour, and darker red panels compliment the traditional Gurren Lagann crimson colouring. I really like the liberties taken with the design because it isn't so intrusive that it will put off potential buyers, but is different enough that people (like me) displaying multiple versions of the robot will have an obvious bit of variety to their shelf.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 02

At 9500 yen you might be expecting a figure closer in size to the Great Impact Gurren Lagann, but a large toy this isn't. Riobot Gurren Lagann stands at around 145mm tall, making it only 25mm taller than the Revoltech and 5mm smaller than the Ver. Ka. The size doesn't bother me too much the figure offers as much as it does in terms of articulation and accessories, but it's something to keep in mind if you're planning to drop money on it. Something that struck me much harder was how light it is - upon taking it out of the box it felt much more like a model kit in terms of weight. However unlike a model kit the Riobot is far from flimsy.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 03

The level of articulation was what drew me into buying a third Gurren Lagann figure was this was originally announced, and I'm happy to say Sentinel sure didn't disappoint. There's the expected full range of motion in the head, shoulders, elbows (both in the elbow itself and the forearm), hips, knees, and feet, but it all feels so much more seamless than it does on a similar but cheaper figure. The shoulder pads also have a full range of motion via a ball joint (and the whole section can fully move from side to side) and while they might pop off once or twice when putting the figure into more difficult poses, they aren't a problem to pop back in without hassle.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 04

On top of this there are the special bits of articulation that made the figure so interesting in the first place. Starting from the bottom up we have the knees, with have a very impressive level of engineering to them. when the knee bends, the whole section stretches open with the top leg panel also moving downward. It's a much more interesting method of articulation than simply "knee bends" and helps amplify the mechanical feel of the figure. The moving up to the chest we have perhaps the best gimmick of all. Via moving the head or a switch in the back of the figure (you need to remove the back panel for that though) the Gurren chest face's eyes have a full range of motion! This is a first for a Gurren Lagann figure, allowing for much more dynamic posing and a chest that isn't stuck in an "eyes facing forward" position. If you've ever owned one of those Action Man figures with the moving eyes, you'll know just how much fun a gimmick like this.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 05

The Riobot also boasts more accessories than most other Gurren Lagann figures (well, maybe not Great Impact). Included is an alternate open mouthed face, four different hand sets (open hands, closed fists, holding fists and the obligatory "pointing to the heavens" set), three drill weapons (two smaller ones and one longer thin one), two sunglasses blades, drilled wrist pieces, wingpack and a clip to cover the hole left when you take the glasses off of the chest (I found this to be a pain to take off when applied though). When changing the hands and head there's no awkward Revoltech plugs, tiny ball joints or sockets too small to fit in - everything can be removed and replaced with no frustration whatsoever. The larger drills can be attached by replacing the forearm.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 06Riobot Gurren Lagann 07

The first thing to notice about the wingpack is that its pointy, which probably should come expecting from something with four drills sticking out of the back. The top section also has two rather pointy spikes sticking out of it, and is wrapped in bubble wrap in the packaging which leads me to believe its perhaps the most fragile part of this figure. The wingpack clips to the back of Gurren Lagann via two quite small clips, which could possibly lead to it falling off if posing without the stand. But before clipping it to the figure, take note of the small level on the inside, which activates some more shifting panels - this time exposing the wingpack engine, complete with spiral energy green colouring. The wings are hinged, so are able to swing forward like they do in the show.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 08

Finally we have the stand, which impressed me more than a stand usually would. The base section is pretty big, which means flight poses don't end up toppling like they would with Revoltech's subpar V-shaped bases.  For action poses you have a standard multi-jointed arm with plug attachment (which fits snuggly into a hole between the figure's legs), but an extra piece is included for additional support when posing in flight mode. This triangular piece clips to the arm, making sure it keeps straight and doesn't bend under the weight of the figure. For further support, there's also a separate grooved plug piece that locks in rather than move. Since Sentinel have put such a great effort into the stands, it's a little disappointing that there's nothing that makes it unique (I really liked the robot name/pilot tag on the Ka's stand) but after all the things I've been impressed with it really does feel like I'm nitpicking at this stage.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 09

Riobot Gurren Lagann is undoubtedly one of, if not the best Gurren Lagann figures out there, but because of the pricetag I'd say it comes with a caution - it's not one for casual fans or collectors. It is an expensive figure for its size, and while the sculpt and accessory count justify it somewhat unless you're a serious Gurren Lagann fan it's hard to recommend it as the definitive figure when there are much cheaper alternatives like the newly reissued Revoltech (which may not be anywhere near as good, but it's far from a bad figure). However if you have the money for it, I can't recommend this toy enough. Its perfect in pretty much every single way. If you are planning to buy one, make sure to hit up the September restock of the figure as soon as possible, because I have a feeling once it's gone it's price is only going to go up on the after-market.

Riobot Gurren Lagann 10

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Riobot Gurren Lagann 15

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