Saturday, 8 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda

Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda 01

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

When it comes to Japanese toy lines collectors often have to wait a few months between releases, but it seems Bandai have got themselves into a nice little groove with their Super Mini-Pla range. Retail releases are often paired up with a related Premium Bandai exclusive, which has resulted in a nice little double whammy of primary and secondary mecha releases on the Super Sentai side of things. So when it was finally Chōjin Sentai Jetman's turn, Jet Icarus was of course paired up with a Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda release. Of course that Premium Bandai exclusivity does mean this release goes for a slightly higher price than it's counterpart, but as you'll soon see there's more than enough on offer here to ensure that Jet Garuda justifies it.

Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda Box 01

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As has been the case with previous Premium Bandai exclusives in the Super Mini-Pla line, Jet Garuda comes in a large singular box rather than having the parts be broken down into smaller ones. This makes anyway because Jet Garuda is a singular robot/vehicle, but it’s still fairly notable when most buyers will be used to seeing these kits come in four to six box cases. Like the previous Super Sentai releases the box has been done up to match the design of the original DX Jet Garuda packaging, and the larger box size definitely makes that all the more striking. The placement of images is a near-perfect replica of the original – only of course swapping out the original toy for the shiny new Super Mini-Pla version and also adding the toy line logos where appropriate. Between both sides of the box you not only get a great look at the model kit in both Bird and Jet Garuda modes, but also its combinations with Jet Icarus as well. With the way mini-pla boxes have to be torn open to get to the contents inside it often doesn’t feel worth keeping them, but the replica packaging feels like a collectible in itself. Jet Garuda’s is thankfully a standard flap box, so you can get to the pieces inside without having to worry about damaging this great piece of packaging nostalgia.

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With more surface area inside the packaging the parts are spread across more typical sized runners than the smaller ones used in the general retail boxes, and boy are there a lot of parts to this one. Included here are runners in grey, black, white, red and yellow plastic – along with a selection of pre-painted parts in usual Super Mini-Pla fashion. These include the Garuda head, as well as a number of metallic gold pieces that attach the vehicle mode thrusters/robot mode legs. More parts to work with also usually means a lot more stickers too, which are all neatly laid out on a big foil sheet. Despite this kit being a Premium Bandai exclusive it’s still technically considered a candy toy too, so you do get some of that delicious Bandai-brand soda flavoured candy. Only one piece though – despite the higher price point Bandai clearly don’t want to push the boat out too much. Building instructions are spread across a two-sided A4 flyer, whilst a second flyer features instructions for the Hyper Haken and Great Icarus combinations.

Super Mini-Pla Bird Garuda 01

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Jet Garuda is a surprisingly big model kit, and because of this the building process doesn’t really feel like it has anything “mini” about it. There are a lot of parts, and naturally a lot of steps to put it all together. Some of the pieces come together in interesting ways, and overall the build process is extremely satisfying – there’s nothing difficult enough to deter newcomers from having a go, but that little step above what the line usually supplies is enough to make it feel fresher for experienced modellers as well. The one thing that does have to be said about Jet Garuda though is there’s a lot of stickering to be done. All the yellow sections on the wings are supplied via stickers, as are a lot of the other yellow sections on the body as well as the logos and such. The majority of detailing is all moulded straight onto the parts though, so if you’re someone who prefers to paint their model kits that’s a viable (but naturally more time-consuming) option. As usual I like to give all the grey parts a silver spray for that more show-accurate look, but I feel so behind on building this that I ended up just using the stickers for everything else. The end result looks good, but there are a fair few areas where placement needs to be perfect, so be sure to take your time and have a hairdryer at the ready just in case you make any mistakes. Overall a very involved, if sometimes a little frustrating, build.

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In Bird Garuda mode the mecha is a large bird shaped vehicle, one that undoubtedly embraces the avian theme a lot more than the standard Jet Machines do. As well as the obvious bird head at the front it also has bird-like claws tucked away at either side, as well as large sweeping wings that made this model just as wide as it is long. Though there isn’t any real gimmicks to speak of it does have a few moving parts, including a hinged beak, moving claws and retractable wings. Of course being the size that it is, it’s also rather difficult to find any area to properly attach a flight stand either so two arms to hold it and the front and back are pretty much a necessity. Usually the line’s pretty good at including flight stand parts but sadly one was omitted for whatever reason here. A good, chunky bird robot that still has plenty of other features yet to be revealed.

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Although it’s robot mode combinations that end up being the stars of the show, Bird Garuda is one of the select few secondary mecha that can also combine with the primary one in vehicle mode as well. Given the significant size difference between it and the main five Jet Machines though, it makes sense that they’d have to be in the Icarus Haken formation for this to work. This combination is known as the Hyper Haken, and requires lifting Bird Garuda’s head section up from the front of the vehicle and folding it to sit on the top. Underneath the wing section is also an adaptor piece which, after being repositioned, sits at the front of the vehicle where the head once was. Simply connect the Icarus Haken to that adapter and with the command “Gattai! Haken Scram!” the Hyper Haken is formed!

Super Mini-Pla Hyper Haken 01

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While combining the two jets doesn’t add any new functionality, the Hyper Haken is an absolute beast of a vehicle. Separately the two are extremely solid model kits that absolutely felt worth their price tag when it came to heft and stability, and that hasn’t changed here even though the two are only held together by two measly pegs. Between its huge wingspan, the Garuda head adorning the top like some sort of decoration and the Gatchaman-like face of Jet Hawk at the front, you really couldn’t ask for more from this beautifully retro piece of Super Sentai vehicle design. Even the oldest collector wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of swooshing the Hyper Haken around a room like a hyperactive five year old. For younger fans to finally be able to experience the joys of these designs without having to fork out the painful aftermarket costs of the originals and have the satisfaction of having built them themselves? Those are the real joys the Super Mini-Pla line are delivering.

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The transformation from Bird Garuda to Jet Garuda mode is a fairly simple process, standing the kit upwards and extending the additional parts out to become arms and legs. The wings all fold up nicely into a neat backpack, while the head then flips down to face the right direction. And voila, Jet Garuda is formed! A considerably larger robot than Jet Icarus, Jet Garuda sports a similarly smooth and minimally detailed silhouette. What really makes Jet Garuda stand out though is how so much of the bird motif is retained even in robot mode, with the claws taking the place of fists and the bird head stays instead of swapping out for a more traditional robot face. It makes Jet Garuda feel that little bit more unique among secondary mecha designs, and as far as these Super Mini-Pla renditions go it most definitely has size in its favour as well. A simple design has transitioned into a really effective figure.

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Although the usual case with Super Sentai mecha (whether they be the DX or mini-pla versions) tends to be that the bigger they get the less articulated they are, that doesn’t seem to case here at all. In fact Jet Garuda seems to be nearly as articulate as Jet Icarus (which is no easy feat), and might even surpass it in some ways – for example, the benefit of being a single unit rather than five components makes all the parts feel that little bit more stable. Altogether Jet Garuda has a rotating head, rotating shoulders that can also lift via a hinge, hinged elbows, wrist swivels, hinged claw sections, a waist swivel, ball jointed hips, hinged knees and ball jointed ankles. Previous experience with model kits like these led me to believe Garuda was going to be more or less and impressive looking brick with some decent arm/leg articulation, but between the range and stability this model it’s definitely up there with the best the line has put out so far. The head rotation is simple yet perfectly implement, and touches like opening hands are a luxury rarely seen on Super Sentai mini-pla. Sure Jet Garuda can’t really hold anything in those giant bird claws, but does it really need to when it looks like it can do a fair amount of damage with them alone? Even if you were to disregard all the combinations and compatibility with Jet Icarus, Jet Garuda is an amazing toy all on its own.

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Then of course, Jet Garuda can combine with Jet Icarus to form the titanic Great Icarus! This is again a simple but rather unique combination, which sees the torso of Jet Garuda act as a frame which Jet Icarus’ body can slot into. Icarus’ arms become shoulder pieces that connect to Garuda’s arms, while it’s legs fold up to become the upper legs in this combination. Finally Garuda’s wing pack plugs into the back, with the bird head flipping up to reveal an additional helmet underneath for Icarus’ head. While everything generally tabs together nicely, I did have some trouble getting the frame Garuda’s head is fitted on to properly tab down and lay flat around the head. It doesn’t ruin the design by any means, but it from certain angles it does look at though the piece isn’t resting properly.

Super Mini-Pla Great Icarus 01

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If you were in the market for a big, imposing combination then Great Icarus may be exactly what you were looking for. This mecha towers over previous entries in the Super Mini-Pla line - even rivalling some of the “ultimate” Super Sentai combos from the general mini-pla range that have considerably more parts to them. From a visual standpoint it’s the perfect combination of the two robots, combining the colours and emblems of Jet Icarus with the bulk and bird features of Jet Garuda. It also helps that the colour schemes of the two mecha are generally the same as well, so you get this uniform black robot with various bits of gold, silver and the five Jetman colours scattered around for additional flair.

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Once again size doesn’t prove to be a significant hindrance to articulation, with Great Icarus’ logical arrangement of parts leading to a fairly mobile combination. There’s no additional points of articulation added from the Jet Icarus components, so it’s easier just to say that the number and placement here is identical to that of Jet Garuda rather than list them all out again. There are two points of note though - the first being one of the first limitations this figure has seen to had so far. Due to the bulky nature of Jet Condor and Jet Swan, the upper legs don’t quite have the range of movement they had previously. Before those areas (both on Jet Icarus and Jet Garuda) we’re skinnier than the lower legs so didn’t clash with the skirt pieces, but here the legs are made up of the lower leg parts of both combinations. The second difference is how you go about turning the head, which isn’t just a simple case of moving it to your liking. Since the head and helmet are two separate pieces, it requires lifting the whole helmet section off the head, positioning the head, matching that on the helmet and then dropping it back down on top. It sounds a little involved, but it’s much better than the alternative of not having the head be able to move at all.

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There gets a point when reviewing toys where you ask yourself whether it’s right to keep giving certain toy lines consistently high praise, as if you’re going “surely they can’t be this good can they?”. The Super Mini-Pla line has been a bit like that ever since they started hitting that streak with the Kakuranger range - and Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda is most definitely continuing it. The amount of stickers is a little frustrating, and everything that comes with Premium Bandai exclusivity is unfortunate (that base price is pretty reasonably though), but Jet Garuda exceeds expectations in almost every area. The build is fun, both individual modes are bulky with plenty of play value, the transformations are intuitive and the combos with Jet Icarus are superb. Sometimes you can get away with just buying the primary mecha from a series and not feel like you’ve missed anything, but this isn’t one of those times.

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