Thursday 17 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Soul of Chogokin GX-77 Gipsy Danger

Release Date: February 2018
RRP: 27,000 yen

When Bandai Tamashii Nations announced that they would finally be getting their long-deserved shot at the Jaegers of Pacific Rim, they certainly didn't take any half measures. While the cast of sequel film Pacific Rim Uprising are getting the highly affordable, highly articulated treatment from the Robot Damashii line, the originals are getting the premium treatment they've long deserved. That's right - Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger is finally a reality. At 27,000 yen it's not the most expensive entry in Bandai's "best of the best" mecha line, but it's still certainly one for those whose wallets run pretty deep. Gipsy is currently the only Jaeger released in the line, but with a Crimson Typhoon already on show at events it may only be a matter of time before the rest of the kaiju-busting robots join her.

A premium figure deserves some premium packaging, and Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger comes in a gorgeous glossy box showing off the figure against a dimly lit city backdrop. What really makes it though is the gold foil logo and text box – giving it an immediately sense of quality. The back of the box then features the usual array of Bandai stock images, including a closer look at both the accessories and lighting gimmicks the figure has. Inside old-school collectors will be pleased to find the figure (as well as the alternate Plasmacaster arms and batteries) housed on a classic Styrofoam tray whilst the other accessories and stand are off in their own individual plastic trays. As the box is much larger than the figure itself, it means all the trays are arranged nicely inside, rather than being piled up on top of each other like you usually find in other Tamashii Nations lines.

Out of the box and it's finally here - Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger. She stands at a fairly respectable 230mm, which perhaps isn't quite as big as some might expect given the price but still big enough that every bit of detail is properly realised. Make no mistake this certainly isn't one where Bandai have skimped out on the paint apps, as Gipsy is covered in an array of different coloured parts and painted metallic detailing. True to the Soul of Chogokin name the toy also has a fair bit of die-cast metal loaded into the body so it has a fair bit of weight to it, although none of it feels unwelcome or out of place. It might just be the fact I've never owned a Soul of Chogokin figure before, but I really am floored by just how great this thing looks. On a purely visual level I don't think you could ask for much more.

But as incredible as the figure looks from afar, it's only when you take a closer look that the real intricacies begin to show themselves. Since Gipsy Danger was from a multi-million dollar Hollywood movie the design could afford to be all about the detail, which means this in some respects this Soul of Chogokin has a lot more to show for itself than the usual array of Super Robots that inhabit the line. And if the static mechanical detailing on her someone isn't enough to impress you, then the moving parts certainly will be. For example – repositioning the knees causes the plates and pistons on the top of the legs to also move, as well as revealing even more extensive mechanical detailing underneath the kneecaps. Similarly moving the shoulders causes the raised pectoral sections to move in tandem – not quite as extensively as the knees but certainly enough to notice it. Finally as well as featuring shifting armour plating the arms can also extend outward into the aptly named "rocket fist" mode. These are all the kind of gimmicks you're only going to get on a figure this size, so it’s just as well Bandai loaded the figure with as much as possible to try and justify the price.

While the articulation can't quite match up to a smaller figure that isn't loaded with gimmicks, even the mighty Soul of Chogokin line packs in enough of that Tamashii Nations poseability fans are clamouring for. Gipsy Danger features a moveable head, fully functioning shoulders and hips, double-jointed elbows and knees, ball-jointed wrists, ankle tilts and also a pretty sizeable toe joint that leaves plenty of surface area to balance on. The chest also has some very limited movement, but (presumably) due to the electronics stuffed inside can't move to any significant extent. Finally there's also a handful of moveable panels on Gipsy's back – most notably the extended shoulder blades but an additional two curved panels located at either side. The overall weight of the figure and strategic die-cast placement means the figure has a good centre of gravity and should be able to hold most poses its capable of without any real issues. One common problem with the figure however seems to be that the hips are a little tight straight out of the box, so that might be something worth keeping an eye on just in case.

As you'd expect from a high-end figure like this, Gipsy Danger comes with a pretty impressive range of accessories. As well as two pairs of additional hands (open and grabbing) there's also a number of different weapons to choose from. First up are the twin Chainswords, which were added to the Jager during its repair and upgrade. This release includes both the standard and extended versions of the sword, both of which plug straight into a port located just above the fists. Accessing this port first requires splitting apart the two blue panels surrounding the forearm, which then swing forwards to reveal the port and sit comfortably around the bottom of the sword. It would have been really neat to have had posable versions of the extended Chainswords to show off their more whip-like properties, but nevertheless both sets look great. Wrist-mounted swords may seem like a pretty basic weapon, but always manage to be effective in whatever form they may take.

But if swords are a little too orthodox for you then Gipsy Danger has a much more interesting weapon in store as well. That's right, you can recreate that iconic scene where the Jaeger picks up a nearby Oil Tanker and swings it round like a giant baseball bat. As well as being almost as tall as the figure itself, the boat is very nicely detailed with various different moulded parts and plastics. Even cooler is the crushed port section, featuring moulded finger indents to give it that extra level of accuracy. The dents also provide a good visual marker of where to have the figure hold the boat for the best looking poses - while it can technically hold it anywhere there's nothing quite like getting the grabbing hand to match up with those finger marks. Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger comes with a lot of great accessories, many of which are objectively more impressive. However nothing quite matches up to the fact that this figure even comes with the goddamn boat.

The last pair of weapons first require a little bit of arm-swapping, and if you've ever handled a Tamashii Nations item before (regardless of line) you'll already know this isn't always the most stress-free exercise. Thankfully changing Gipsy's arms couldn't be any easier, and is easily one of the smoothest examples of parts-swapping I've seen on a Tamashii Nations figure. Simply slide the forearms out of their elbow socket, with the replacements clicking into place in the exact same way. There's no forcibly tugging on a joint, just minimal sliding with maximum effect. Just another example as to how wonderfully this toy has been engineered.

So rounding off the main accessories are twin Plasmacasters, particle dispersal cannons that act as Gipsy Danger's primary weapons. Whilst in the film the arms can actually transform into these, here they're separate parts. Given the size and gimmicks loaded inside, that's a perfectly understandable move on Bandai's part. Though the Plasmacasters both look incredible, they are undoubtedly the most frustrating aspect of the entire release. The parts intended to be removed so you can insert the batteries CONSTANTLY fall off, even if you were to so much as lightly brush against them. This can make fiddling around with poses extremely tedious, so my advice is to first work out the pose you want and THEN go about popping the parts back on. They still don’t stay on as well as they perhaps should, but it's much better than having to repeatedly stop what you're doing to put them back on.

With the guns plugged in, it's time to talk gimmicks! Also included with Gipsy are seven LR41 batteries, used to power lights in both Plasmacasters as well as the visor and Arc-9 reactor core in the body itself. The guns each take two batteries and plug directly into the arms themselves, while the remaining three batteries go into the back of the figure. Wherever you're inserting the batteries requires first removing a panel (exposed machinery for the guns, and the centre back section on the figure) and then unscrewing the revealed battery compartment. In the case of the figure the ON/OFF switch is also hidden behind this back panel, so properly turning the lights on and off is a bit of a hassle. Once inserted, the Plasmacaster lights can be turned on by pulling out a back section on them, while pressing the reactor will light up both it and the visor. The reactor cycles through a number of colours, before eventually turning both it and the visor off after about a minute or so. Getting the batteries in is a bit of hassle and the Plasmacaster parts will CONTINUALLY fall off, but there's no denying that the end result is extremely cool. It would have been some amazing to see spotlights in the heightened shoulder blade sections like the movie, but given that those are removable parts on top of another removable part that might have been a little bit too much to ask.

(Also if you're wondering why there isn't a picture of all the lights on at the same time, Bandai rather kindly decided to only provide six working batteries. Since I've now taken the batteries out again to avoid corrosion over time, it didn't seem worth getting an extra one just for the occasion).

Last but by no means least is Gipsy Danger's personalised display stand, which is essentially a large black squared base with a placard displaying both the toy line and figure name. Rather than connect to the figure in the usual fashions (either via a plug or articulated claw), the figure actually hooks onto the fixed display stand to give her an extra sense of security and stability. Unfortunately it also means that when attached its impossible to position the figure in any sort of dynamic action poses, so the default "hangar" look will have to do. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing here though given how imposing she looks in even the most generic of poses. What's more disappointing is that the base doesn't have any area to display all of the accessories alongside it, which is a fairly common (but admittedly not guaranteed) thing across the Soul of Chogokin line. It's a shame that such nice pieces can't be displayed alongside the figure - both the Plamsacasters and boat would have looked incredible in a proper hangar style display. Of course you can always just plug the swords or Plasmacasters in, but it isn't quite the same.

Pacific Rim fans have been more than patient in waiting for the films to finally get some decent toys, and in Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger they've finally got that and more. The price tag may certainly limit it to only the most dedicated of fans and there are a few notable issues here and there, but this truly is the real deal. Perfectly sized, beautifully detailed and included a range of great accessories, SOC Gipsy Danger is the high-end figure Pacific Rim has needed all along. Hopefully one day Bandai Tamashii Nations might also consider branching the Robot Damashii line into the first film Jaegers to get some smaller, affordable and highly articulated versions, but for now this is what they have to offer.

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