Saturday 14 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus 01

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 5500 yen

While Kamen Rider may have its collectible figures and high-end transformation belts, when it comes to Super Sentai the money has always been in the mecha. And though the DX toys certainly have their fans, as far as adult collectors are concerned the future definitely lies in the Super Mini-Pla line. In a few short years Bandai have pulled from all corners of the franchise in their more advanced candy toy range, tackling the likes of Zyuranger, Kakuranger and Megaranger as well as pre-Power Rangers entries such as Liveman. For their second Sentai offering of 2019 Bandai have returned to the year 1991, revisiting Chōjin Sentai Jetman with the Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus set. As the first toys of these designs in some years, these are undoubtedly the most articulated and affordable Jetman toys currently on the market.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus Outer Box 01

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The days of boring plain colour case boxes are well and truly behind us now, as each of the Super Mini-Pla releases have featured some dynamic greyscale packaging to hold all of the individual boxes in place. Sure it may be the most likely piece of packaging to be thrown away, but I appreciate Bandai's efforts nonetheless. Each side of the long, cuboid box sports images of the model kit inside - showing of all of the individual and combined modes its capable of.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus Box 01

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But while the outer packaging is largely just there for a nice retail display, the individual boxes are where the beauty really lies. As has been the case for all of the Super Sentai entries in the line, these boxes are almost perfect recreations of the original DX packaging, only swapping out the images of the figure and company/toyline logos for the modern equivalent. Not losing any of that retro 80s/90s charm, the front of the box looks as striking as ever - successfully managing to show off the robot mode, combined vehicle mode AND each individual vehicle without feeling too cluttered. The tech specs for each Jet Vehicle is also a nice touch, and not the kind of thing you’d see on the front of packaging these days. The spines of the box repeat these images, with one showing off how the five Jet Vehicles can combine into Jet Icarus, and the other how they can also combine into the Icarus Haken. The (horizontal) back then features even bigger images of the two combined modes, along with their technical specs and the most commonly used promotional shot of the Jetman team.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus Contents 01

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The contents of the boxes remain typically impressive for the Super Mini-Pla line, including a range of different colours to ensure maximum screen accuracy with next to no painting needed. Parts such as the combined robot head and Jetman chest emblem are also factory painted to give the model an even more premium finish. There are of course the usual sticker sheets included with each box, however the majority are logos and other bits of flourish that would require more of a steady hand to do yourself. The few stripes and solid blocks of colour can easily be painted on if preferred though, since all of the detail is also moulded onto the plastic.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Hawk 01

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The first box of the set contains Jet Hawk, Red Hawk’s personal Jet Machine and arguably the most bird-looking vehicle of the five. The big eyes and yellow beak are a really nice touch, harkening back to the show’s Gatchaman-inspired roots as well as feeling like classic Super Sentai. The overall proportions of the kit are considerably boxier than the onscreen version, but those are the kind of sacrifices you need to make for a working model kit. Though primarily made of red plastic, the model also sports a number of white sections as well as the painted combined mode chest emblem on its underside. Thanks to the transformation engineering, it features double hinged wings on either side and a fold-down fin on its top.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Condor 01

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Moving onto the second box with the Jet Condor – a long, more traditional shaped vehicle with forward-swept back wings and a sleek bird-shaped cockpit. The build of this vehicle is particularly interestingly, with a lot of cool little engineering bits added in for the transformation process. This includes a ball joint attached to a rod section that can extend outwards, as well as sliding mechanism on the inside that allows the thigh section of the robot to store inside the vehicle out of sight. Of course there are also the more obvious bits like foldable wings and a hinged cockpit section as well, so there's more going on here than you might expect from what's otherwise a fairly basic looking bird jet.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Owl 01

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Compared to that Jet Owl seems like a rather basic model kit in terms of size/build, but its unique design actually makes it one of the most charming of the five Jet Machines. The rounded cockpit feels more reminiscent of a submarine than an aircraft, and the mustardy shade of yellow used on the kit looks fantastic. Yellow plastic can often look especially cheap but Bandai have definitely avoided that here. The combined state of the vehicles requires some moving parts (particularly the foldable cockpit area) but none are a feature of the vehicle itself, so instead it’s just a pretty solid model kit overall. Interestingly however it does have some details left miscoloured that aren’t then covered by stickers – the vents at the side of the cockpit area are supposed to be silver, and the inside of the area just above it red.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Swan 01

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The fourth box contains White Swan's Jet Swan, which is pretty much identical to the Jet Condor in terms of shape, build and function. Other than the unique markings/stickers the main differences are the cockpit section and wingtips, which continue to slope backward unlike the ones on the Condor. The body of the vehicle is exactly the same though, using that same extendable ball joint to hold the pieces together and collapsible leg section hidden inside. This pair are easily the least interesting of the five machines, but their near-symmetry does make sense for the kind of design the franchise was going for back then.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Swallow 01

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Whereas the Jet Condor and Jet Swallow models are largely similar because they form the same limbs in robot mode, despite some shared parts Jet Swallow feels like a far more unique design when compared to Jet Owl. The bird features of the cockpit are more distinct, and the wings are fixed to the top of the vehicle rather than the bottom. The builds themselves are still pretty much the same though, featuring a nice variety of coloured parts as well as some easy to paint areas if you feel like trying out your customising skills. Though the wings are built with the ability to fold in this isn’t actually a function of the individual vehicle but rather the combined robot mode – the wings are blocked from moving when pegged into the rest of the kit.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus 02

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It's interesting how the Jetman mecha feel almost like they bridge the gap between the classic, boxy designs of Showa era Super Sentai and the wilder, more refined designs we see from Zyuranger onwards. One could very rightly argue that the Jet Machines are pretty basic, but some in particular have some real character to them that make the whole squadron stand out. The Jet Machines also pioneered a few things that would become more refined in later mecha, such as a secondary mode the five vehicles can combine into prior to forming the robot. In Jetman's case this is the Icarus Haken – a triangular, bomber-like vehicle able to fly at speeds of Mach 12. Instructions on how to form the Icarus Haken components are clearly laid out on each of the building sheets included, with how to bring them all together then on the additional one included in Jet Hawk's box.

Super Mini-Pla Icarus Haken 01

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Combined the Icarus Haken is a much larger vehicle – size-wise more along the lines of the Galaxy Delta and Galaxy Mega kits released earlier in the year. The triangle shape also makes it feel especially similar of the latter. Though the transformation is relatively simple the actual process is surprisingly intuitive, with Jet Hawk have some particularly interesting steps that involve folding panels and flipping whole sections around. More importantly though the pieces combine together really solidly, resulting in a sturdy vehicle while feels like it could comfortable survive a drop test. Though the overall shape leans back into the simplicity of pre-Zyuranger Sentai and the combination doesn't really let the component's individual colours shine through (this can also be said of the robot mode though), I'm a big fan of Sentai mecha having additional combinations like this even if they don't have the same sort of prominence in the show.

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The robot mode is the one we’ve all been waiting for though, and it doesn’t take too many steps to switch from the Icarus Haken into the mighty Tenkuu Gattai Jet Icarus! . As you’d expect from the design of the individual vehicles the transformation is a relatively simple process, though the fists are not actually built into the robot and need to be added separately. It doesn’t feel like too much of a knock against the kit though, since even if it had built-in fists the option would probably be there to switch them out for better proportioned ones like these. Jet Owl’s wing section is also completely left out of the combination process, and as that doesn’t form its own weapon either is sadly relegated to storage as a loose part. But as the last of the “boxy”-era of Super Sentai mecha, Jet Icarus has a wonderfully classical look to it. The body is entirely made up of neat panelling and smooth surfaces, with that gold Jetman emblem on the chest giving it a nice air of regality. It’s a shame the individual colours are displayed in the legs the same way they are in the shoulders, but the design still manages to be striking nonetheless.

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As should always be the case with Super Sentai mini-pla these days, Jet Icarus doesn’t disappoint when it comes to articulation either. All those concealed sections within each individual vehicle are now free to show off exactly what they can do, and naturally there’s never been a Jet Icarus this articulated before. Altogether the combined robot features a ball jointed head, reverse-butterfly joint shoulders with a full 360° swivel, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, wrist swivels, waist swivel, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels, hinged knees and ball jointed ankles. The front “skirt” section can lift up for additional hip movement, and as mentioned in earlier the extending joints in Jet Swan and Jet Condor allow a huge range of motion to the feet. Without extensively looking at every previous figure in the line so far to confirm, I’d say it’s the most articulated Super Sentai Super Mini-Pla figure yet. And ultimately that’s part of the trade-off with more basic-looking robos like Jet Icarus - while the overall silhouette might not be as dynamic as something like Daizyujin, the streamline panels and proportions are perfect for maximising mobility.

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Most Super Sentai mecha would be content with simply a sword and a shield, but Jet Icarus goes way beyond just that. Completely armed to the teeth, it includes the Birdonic Saber, Wing Shield (created from the wing section of Jet Swallow - hence the movement in the wings), Icarus Axe, Icarus Crusher (a ball and chain weapon, complete with multi-link chain), Icarus Magna (a hammer), Jet Lancer and twin Jet Daggers. The latter two weapons are particularly cool as they can also combine to form a rather nifty trident-type lance. Although when it comes to this franchise nothing really beats the elegance of a good old sword (shield optional), having all these weapons adds so much more play value to the model. The Super Mini-Pla line really goes out of its way to include absolutely everything where it can and the figures are all the better for it - who doesn’t want to pose a giant robot with a huge mallet or working ball and chain? The Icarus Crusher even has holes on the ball piece that can fit a Tamashii stage port - perfect for any mid-swing poses you might have in mind.

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Though the builds and transformation might not be quite as exciting as the Megaranger sets released earlier in the year, Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus is further proof that the line has really hit its stride now. Given it’s popularity Jetman was the perfect series to visit next, offering a nice reprieve from the American-adapted shows and giving a classic design the modern toy treatment it so deserves. Five fun little builds that will suit model makers of any skill level, a nice little in-between combination and then finally a robot mode that combines nostalgia and modern engineering into the perfect package. Best part of all is that the price actually feels reasonable for once, and being a retail release it shouldn’t be all that hard to get for less than RRP either. Super Mini-Pla is on a roll, and I can’t wait to see what Bandai have in store for Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan in 2020.


baratacom said...

I'm not sure if you haven't mentioned Jet Garuda because you haven't ordered it or haaven't come around to assembling it yet, but it is one awesome robot.

Sure, the combined Grand Icarus is not quite as stable or awesome as the Delta Galaxy Mega (or whatever the combination was called), but Jet Garuda by itself is a work of art and, much like Condor and Swan, has a much more involved build and transformation than its basic shape and obvious similarity between both forms suggest.

Alex said...

I have it, I just sadly haven’t had time to build it yet! Hopefully going to have a review of it up soon and I’ll go into the combinations there.