Saturday, 22 April 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar


Release Date: March 2017
RRP: 4104 yen (1 complete figure, 4 boxes)

Super Mini-Pla is a relatively new candy toy line from Bandai that takes their basic minipla range and enhances it with the qualities of their larger model kits and gunpla range. In typical Bandai fashion to line has centred around Sunrise' back catalogue of classic robots, counting the likes of the Ideon and Combat Mecha Xabungle amongst its early releases. Now the line has dived into the popular Brave franchise to bring fans the King of Braves GaoGaiGar! This combining model kit is split into four different boxes, each containing a different component of GaoGaiGar. Unlike other minipla/candy toy lines where a case will likely contain multiples of each box, a case of Super Mini-Pla will only contain one set of the assigned figure - making it much easier for collectors to buy online without having to worry about ending up with multiples.


Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar’s outer packaging is the standard style green cardboard box you usually see with Bandai’s other minipla and candy toy releases, however this box also feature a nice big G-Stone emblem on the top flap to give it a bit more personality. Neatly packed inside are four separate boxes each containing a different GaoGaiGar component, in matching packaging aside from the number which denotes which box is which.



The individual boxes are of the usual rectangular candy toy variety, but it's clear that some of that higher price point went into making those boxes really stand out. Usually candy toy packaging mostly relies on images of the toys inside rather than actual show art, but the front of these boxes feature dynamic show artwork of GaoGaiGar alongside the series logo and a close up of series protagonist Guy Shishioh. The back is even better, featuring a number of really great shots of the model kit in various poses with suitably dynamic backgrounds (the final fusion shot in the top left corner is especially cool). The bottom two images is also replicated onto the top flap and spine, with the other spine featuring a breakdown of each box's contents. Inside you'll find the model contents, building instructions and a single piece of gum.



Upon opening the boxes the first thing you'll notice is that this set is more akin to a standard model kit rather than Bandai's Super Sentai minipla range, with the parts spread across multiple runners with far more differently coloured parts. There is some stickering involved in building process, but for the most part the sheets are much smaller and only cover the very small details rather than large areas like they do with the Sentai mecha. Most importantly though this plastic is much tougher than what you get with the Sentai minipla, and taking the parts off the runners will require a pair of nippers to get them off cleanly. 

As is the usual case with my minipla I've done a little bit of painting to improve them, although in this case it only really applies to spray painting all of the gold plastic to give the pieces a metallic finish. If you'd like to see how the kit looks unpainted, please also check out this review.




Starting things off with the core component of the King of Braves, the first box contains Galeon - the sentient mechanical lion from the Green Planet. Galeon is primarily made of slightly off-white parts, with gold plastic used for the lion head, orange for the claws and then finally black and red pieces for the skirt section around the waist. As well as fully articulated legs Galeon also features a moving jaw and articulated tail, although in the case of the latter that's more a byproduct of it being made up from two separate pieces. As you can probably guess as far as the individual components go it's the star of the set, offering a good lion mode as well as one other highly important mode. 



When fused together with Guy, Galeon can transform into its humanoid form GaiGar. Proportionally this model is a little off to make the full combination work (the tiny head being the main offender), but that aside it's still an excellent representation of this form and a great little figure on its own. The head also comes factory-painted in the box, which is great news for anyone who isn't precise with a paintbrush or doesn't want the face to be an obvious sticker. The transformation from Galeon to GaiGar is near-perfect, with only one instance of parts swapping required - removing the tail and then hiding the pieces away under the black skirt sections on the back.





In this mode GaiGar has a great range of articulation, including a ball-jointed head, double-jointed shoulders (outward motion slightly hindered by the armour around them), hinged elbows, ball-jointed hands, a waist swivel, ball-jointed hips, hinged knees and finally a hinged toe section. Since the standard hands are purposefully small for the transformation to work, Bandai have also thrown in a couple of alternate hands with better proportions. As well as a larger closed-fist pair an open pair with splayed fingers has also been included, adding a bit more variety to the range of poses this figure can pull off. There's even a small hole at the bottom of the hip piece that's perfect for a display stand!




Next up is Stealth Gao, a stealth bomber vehicle and the first of GaoGaiGar’s three auxiliary “Gao Machines”. The actual plane part of the model kit is one solid piece (save for the wing tips, cockpit and gold GGG symbol), so almost all of the building process is dedicated to the engines, plane underside (which includes the “mane” sections for GaoGaiGar) and combined robot head. As was the case with GaiGar the face has been pre-painted by Bandai, with a translucent green plastic piece also included for the G-stone embedded in helmet. For once Bandai clearly realised such a tiny part could be easily lost, so they’ve also included a number of spares on the runner just in case. The engine turbines are nicely designed, concealing retractable fists for the combined mode behind the grey plastic grates. Finally a clear plastic stand with a GGG logo base has also been included, which can be used with either Stealth Gao or GaiGar.



Stealth Gao can also combine with GaiGar to give him the power of flight! This is mainly done through a big grey adapter piece that fits between the two models, but in addition to that the top sections of GaiGar’s shoulders also plug in to give some extra stability. While the end effect is essentially just a robot wearing a stealth bomber as a backpack, it’s a cool little additional feature and goes great with either an articulated stand or the basic one provided.



The third box contains Liner Gao, a standard Japanese bullet train which is undoubtedly the most underwhelming of the Gao Machines. Despite sporting a nice painted blue stripe across the top (although the window stripes are sadly stickers) and clear plastic cockpit sections on either side, Liner Gao is an extremely basic build with very little individual aesthetic or play value.


Since the Liner Gao is so small this box also features the parts to build the Dividing Driver, GaoGaiGar’s first GGG tool which bends space to create a safe area for the robot to fight his opponents without causing any collateral damage. The kit is made up entirely of orange and grey plastic parts, with additional stickers required for the “blade” (although a bit of silver paint will look much better) and “handle” panel.




Rounding off the boxes is Drill Gao, a bulky armoured vehicle with tank treads and two golden drills. Though far from complicated to build this is perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the set, as putting it together you get to see how all leg-locking mechanism and foot articulation will work on the combined form. The kit is primarily black plastic with grey sections for the treads, red areas for the vehicle front (with clear plastic windows) and gold drills. While the tanks unfortunately lack any wheels to make the vehicle free-rolling, the drills can be spun should you so desire.



Drill Gao can also be split in two to form powerful drill arms for GaiGar, which connect to its arms via the back of the vehicle (i.e. GaoGaiGar’s feet). Like the Stealth Gao combination it’s just a little extra feature that most people will forget about, but it does add a nice bit of play value to the otherwise fairly dull Gao Machines. That said the connection between GaiGar’s arms and the drill parts isn’t especially firm, so combined with the weight these piece add to the tiny arms are prone to slipping off easily.

FINAL FUSION APPROVED!





As you can see from the pictures above Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar's combining sequence matches the show pretty much perfectly, so anyone who's familiar with that shouldn't have any trouble bringing the parts together without consulting the instructions. Getting Liner Gao through the chest space is a bit of a tight fit (and repeated moving will almost certainly lead to the stickers scuffing and/or ripping off), but once it's in there's certainly no chance of it coming loose. Similar once GaiGar's legs are slotted into the Drill Gao sections they should also lock into place. The only fiddly part of the transformation is bringing the lion mane sections around the waist to clip into the head, as the pieces have a habit of popping off the arms once they're plugged in. If it proves to be a real problem though the mane pieces can just be connected without being joined to the arms, or just reconnected. Once the helmet has been brought down over GaiGar's head the last stop is to just pop it off the arm its connected to so that the head can be moved freely.




And when the transformation is complete, you have a pretty perfect looking GaoGaiGar on your hands. Sure it might not be as sturdy or as well-painted as an articulated or DX figure, but the Super Mini-Pla kit certain gets the look down just as well. It probably helps that most of the places the part connects aren't actually on show, which leaves the visible areas of the figure to be mostly made up of smooth services that closely match the animation model. As was the case with GaiGar, Bandai have also included an alternate larger pair of fists to swap out for a better proportioned look. In terms of height it's slightly larger than a High Grade 1/144 scale Gundam kit, or just about matches an average Super Sentai mecha. So while not especially big, it's large enough to make the most of having articulation but also small enough to not take up too much shelf space. 




The range of poseability when combined is pretty great, with all the points of articulation from GaiGar carried over without any sort of hitch. Where new parts take it's place it's improved even further, with the shoulders/elbows even more versatile and the Drill Gao legs adding adjustable feet and heels. That display stand port is still completely free too, so mid-flight poses are at your disposal in addition to all the great action poses GaoGaiGar can pull off. For example - because of the way the arms plug together this model can recreate GaoGaiGar's "Broken Magnum" attack, which is essentially just a glorified rocket punch with a cooler name. 

That said, when you start putting GaoGaiGar into all these crazy poses the model kit's flaws start to emerge. As clever as the retractable fist gimmick is, those forearm pieces do not stay together very well and it doesn't take much for not only the fist to come off, but the whole red section that's supposed to be holding the forearm together. Also included as an optional part is a pair of clasped hands representing GaoGaiGar's signature "Hell & Heaven", but putting the figure in this pose is actually far more trouble than its worth. Bringing the arms together that far forwards is a difficult enough task in itself, but then you have the added frustration of fitting the hands to both wrist joints without pulling one or both of the forearms apart. This kit could benefit so much from the sturdiness most Super Sentai minipla have, but it's fragility makes it more like something you'd build, pose and then put aside. 




But as we discovered with the second box of this set, Bandai haven't left Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar completely weaponless. The Dividing Driver can clip onto either forearm without having to remove the fist, which should fit comfortably into the space providing inside. Fixing the Driver to the arm isn't by any means complicated, but like the Hell & Heaven fists is both fiddly and frustrating. The Driver needs a bit of force to clip on, and doing so usually also leads to the forearm coming apart or fist popping off. Once it has been connected though it looks fantastic, with the sheer size of it definitely making GaoGaiGar look like even more of a force to be reckoned with. Unless you feel particularly strongly about the Hell & Heaven pose, this is likely the way you'll want to display the model kit in its combined form for the time being.

Goldymarg/The Goldion Hammer is set to be released in May as separate wave, along with Stealth Gao 2.



By naming it “Super Mini-Pla” Bandai themselves have already created the expectation that this line is going to be a cut above their usual range of candy toy model kits. In some ways Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar certainly demonstrates this, but it also leads to the set falling short in a number of other ways. The stronger plastic, great parts separation when it comes to colour and intricate/accurate transformation are all excellent, but the fiddly articulation, frustrating accessories and (most importantly) price are all pretty significant knocks against it. With a retail cost of 4104 yen, in model kits terms this feels like buying a High Grade Gundam for the price of a Master Grade. Super Mini-Pla GaoGaiGar has found its niche in being both transformable (something the more articulated Super Robot Chogokin isn’t) and somewhat affordable (something the larger Soul of Chogokin definitely isn’t), but unless that’s exactly the specifications you’re looking for it’s hard to recommend this over those. A fun model kit for sure, but “Super”? Can’t say I’m wholly convinced.

1 comment:

Santiago Scarpino said...

henestly speaking, while the src one isn't transformable, at least it had tons of articulation and great accesories (and i was thnakfully able to find both of the extra accesories sold separateley rather cheapeley) and while the soul of chougokin one is EXPENSIVE, it's admitibly worth it's price due to the amazingly high amounts of details, and while not much, the articulation on it it's pretty good in comparison to most other combinable mecha figures