Friday, 23 July 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Liner Boy

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Release Date: September 2020
RRP: 4950 yen

Credit to Bandai, when they reveal a series is joining the Super Mini-Pla line they do their best to ensure fans aren't disappointed when it comes to variety. The KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive range with the double release of Victory Robo and Grand Liner, and only a few months later they were back for round three. This time it's the turn of Liner Boy - a transforming bullet train/space shuttle with an AI unit that allows it to function without a pilot. Super Mini-Pla Liner Boy was another kit released as a Premium Bandai exclusive, which for the most part seems to be the fate for any Super Sentai mecha released outside of the main one.

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It's another nice big Premium Bandai box for Super Mini-Pla Liner Boy - a lot bigger than the model itself but then there are a lot of big pieces spread across these runners. As usual the packaging as been done as a near one to one replica of the original DX toy packaging, the only changes being swapping the toy images out for the Super Mini-Pla version as well as adding all those modern Bandai toy line logos. On both the back and spines of the box you'll find a huge selection of images of the model kit in all its modes - Max Liner, Max Shuttle, Liner Boy and then finally its combination with Victory Robo, Max Victory Robo. Open it up and you'll find the all the parts for the kit spread across white, blue, gold, grey and black runners - along with a sticker sheet with some fairly fetching holographic stickers. There's also the fold-out instruction leaflet showing you how to build/transform/combine the model, as well as the obligatory piece of soda flavoured candy. Once again, even with a box this big you're still only getting a single piece.

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Liner Boy is able to assume two different vehicle modes. The first of which is the bullet train Max Liner, however when the back wings open up to reveal its space shuttle form it assumes the form of Max Shuttle. Literally the only difference between these two forms are the unfolded wings, but apparently that's enough for them to get different names (it is a pretty impressive wingspan I suppose). As far as the build itself goes though this kit is quite a lot of fun to do. There's so many big parts to this kit that it's a great one for newcomers to ease themselves into the line with. That said, this is one kit that requires A LOT of sticker detailing, most of which you can't really re-create with paint since it's specific detailing that isn't moulded onto the plastic or requires those all-important holo stickers. But nevertheless it's a fantastic looking space shuttle and the colour combination of the bright white and blue works really well. 

To be perfectly honest though, this is a kit where a lot of things went wrong for me. A peg on the shuttle nosecone just completely snapped off inside of the Blaster Shield, I accidentally destroyed the corner of a holographic sticker trying to reposition it with heat (the plastic film just peeled straight off) and to top it all off when getting it ready for this review I discovered I'd love the GoLiner connector piece that fits on the back (hopefully these mistakes haven't detracted from the review too much). Most of those issues are my own fault, but the peg just snapping off like it is was a bit concerning - thankfully the kit still works perfectly fine with just one.

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Max Liner/Shuttle is a hefty-sized model as it is but it also has quite a bit to offer when it comes to functionality as well. Free-rolling wheels are one thing, but the kit can also combine with GoLiner trains to create the even more impressive Space GoLiner. Also included with the set is a pair of alternate hands for Victory Robo, which can clip onto the wings of Max Shuttle so that it can carry it overhead. The packaging images make this look like a really simple task, but while it's certainly doable it's about as fiddly as it gets. Getting the hands to properly clip onto the wings really takes some force, and even once you've managed that getting Victory Robo to comfortably balance with this giant space shuttle overhead without the shoulders giving way is a task in itself. Ultimately it's not likely to be anyone's first display choice for these models, so the fact Bandai bothered to make this possible at all is commendable. With many of these auxiliary mecha the vehicle modes can often be the most forgettable part (why would you get excited about a vehicle when it can be a robot that also combines to make an even bigger robot?), but there's a lot to like about Max Liner/Shuttle. A great two-in-one design that makes for an even better model kit.

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The transformation into Liner Boy is a pretty straightforward one, so much so that you could easily figure it out without instructions even if you've never seen the robot before. The back half of the shuttle splits open to form the legs, the grey wheel sections on either side fold out to reveal the arms and the shuttle nosecone detaches and fits onto the back. From there it's just a case of flipping up that very Megaranger-looking head. The set also includes an additional faceplate so that you can display the kit with illuminated eyes, however swapping the parts once you've assembled the head is extremely difficult to do so I'm not even sure swapping them is an intended feature. But whichever eye variant you've got for, Liner Boy is ready for battle! It's quite interesting how little there is connecting the three released GoGoFive mecha in terms of design, with Liner Boy immediately standing out with its uniform white, blue and grey body. The Super Mini-Pla team have done a great job at keeping Liner Boy nice and chunky whilst updating it with all the line's usual bells and whistles, and those holographic stickers on the torso REALLY make the whole design pop.

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Granted most Super Sentai DX can barely move anyway, but the DX Liner Boy toy is a particularly bricky example. As a massive chunk of a robot that's designed to break down into a number of different parts, arms are about the most you're getting out of it - even the legs aren't separated when transformed. Luckily Super Mini-Pla has plenty of experience at this point in taking these designs and turning them into something a bit more moveable, with their version of Liner Boy sporting the following across its body;
Head - Ball jointed
Shoulders - Rotate on two separate axes, and then can raise outward on another
Arms - Single hinge elbows
Hips - Outward movement from the crotch, forward movement from the top of the legs
Legs - Single hinge knees and ankle tilts
Given the starting point that's a pretty great range of articulation, but it's still the same design so in giving the kit this kind of poseability it has led to some rather weird design choices. The whole hips and upper leg arrangement is just bizarre - it's all held together by those gold pieces plugged into the top of the crotch. The crotch is segmented in a way that allows the legs to have outward movement, and then entirety of the forward bend is on top half of those gold pipes. It all works exactly as it should, but as you can see from the pictures above it leads to some very strange sculpt breaks when used. Seeing this design proper arm articulation however is wonderful, as are the ankle tilts on those huge feet. No waist joint is a pity, but  not all Super Sentai mecha designs can accommodate one and this just happens to be such an example.  

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Liner Boy's weapon of choice is the Blaster Shield, a shield equipped with twin laser cannons. Said cannons flip up from the underside of the shield, and then it simply pegs into either of Liner Boy's fists. A simple weapon, but the reflective sticker piece makes it look pretty snazzy.

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The only thing left to do now is to grab your Victory Robo and combine the two to form the mighty Max Victory Robo! This combination sees Liner Boy break down into a number of armoured parts, which cover Victory Robo as well as adding a new torso section. Liner Boy's legs expand so that the legs of Victory Robot can slot inside, with the torso piece attaching on top of and around Blue Thrower to create a skirt-like section (don't forget to rotate that logo piece!). The top half of Victory Robo that fits on top, with various parts of Liner Boy fitting over it to create new arms and shoulder sections. Liner Boy's blaster shield clips on the front of the torso to create a new chest piece, and then finally a new helmet clips onto the head of Victory Robo to complete the transformation. It's a rather interesting looking combination, for the most part looking like a more armoured version of Victory Robo but then having an extra chunk added to the torso to give it mass. Getting that piece to properly fold over the front of Blue Thrower without the head getting in the way is a little fiddly, but other than that it's a fairly straightforward combination with minimal fuss.

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When it comes to multi-robot combinations you're naturally going to lose articulation along the way, even with these far more articulated kits. In fact if anything you're going to feel it even more with mini-pla, because at least with DX toys you're starting with very limited articulation to begin with. That said, Max Victory Robo isn't quite as immobile as you might think. Altogether the combination has the following movement;
Head - Retains 360 degree rotation, loss of raise/lowering due to new helmet
Shoulders - 360 degree rotation remains, outward movement more limited due to shoulder pads
Arms - Hinged elbows with around 45 degree bend, inward tilting fists
Hips - Remain unchanged from Victory Robo (Can rotate downward on two different axes and then outwards on another), however now surrounded by hinged skirt pieces
Legs - Thigh swivels, double hinged knees and ankle tilts
Really the only major loss to Victory Robo's original articulation is the waist joint, which has been completely nullified by the way the new parts peg onto the body. But while there's plenty of joints still loaded into this powerhouse of a robot, it's less the articulation itself that's the issue and more the structural integrity of the thing. That's not to say Max Victory Robo doesn't hold together, but the more elaborate you try to get with the posing the more likely bits are to fall off along the way. On top of that, the design just doesn't lend itself to extravagant poses all that well anyway. These are the kind of combinations that show to defeat enemies in a single attack, so even the suits themselves aren't really designed for much movement. Max Victory Robo may be limited in what it can do, but what it does is look imposing firing guns - and it does that pretty damn well.

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Max Victory Robo doesn't have any additional or unique accessories, but why would it need one when it has all its guns built into it? On both arms are the Max Cannons, and then attached to its hips are the extendable Max Nova Cannons. After using its Max Absorption to reach full power, Max Victory Robo fires all these cannons at once in a finishing Max Nova attack. Even with the more limited articulation this combination has, a giant robot with giant wrist mounted canons and then additional extending cannons underneath will never not look impressive. 

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Super Mini-Pla Liner Boy is another solid addition to the line's range of KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive mecha, and rather strangely seems to be the end of it as well since Bandai moved on to Choudenshi Sentai Bioman without any sign of Victory Mars (Max Victory Robo Sigma Project notwithstanding since that's just a repaint). Sure the articulation on Liner Boy is quite strangely done, but given how much of a brick the original DX toy was Bandai's candy toy department have done an incredible job making it as articulated as it is. Throw in a couple of great vehicle modes and compatibility with the other GoGoFive releases and you've got yourself a rather fun little kit. Rather amazingly, it's one of the few Super Mini-Pla kits that hasn't gotten crazy expensive on the aftermarket. So if you're looking to complete your GoGoFive collection or just want a fun little space shuttle robot to build - grab it while you still can.

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