Friday 18 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo

Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: 5500 yen

One of the great things about the Super Mini-Pla line has been the fact that you just don't know where in Super Sentai history Bandai are going to revisit next. Whilst the higher-end candy toy/model kit line has largely stayed within the post-Zyuranger/Power Rangers section of the franchise, there's been no set pattern in terms of which series is done next - giving everyone's favourites a good chance of showing up relatively soon. Following on from Sun Vulcan Robo and the rest of the Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan releases at the beginning of 2020, the second half of the year belonged to KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive. As well as bursting out the gate with their Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo release, Bandai quickly set about filling up the show's line-up - with the enormous Grand Liner releasing the same month and Liner Boy and Victory Robo Black Version following shortly after (Victory Mars is still sadly outstanding). Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo was a retail release for the line, comprised of a total of five individual boxes - one for each of the five 99Machines.

Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo Outer Box 01

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As has been the norm with Super Mini-Pla releases for a while now the larger "case" packaging features numerous pictures of the completed model in greyscale colouring, along with the KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive series logos and images of the suits themselves. Considering it's just an outer box that's only going to get thrown away for the most part it's very nicely done and gives you a good look at the beauties stored inside. Whilst there is a perforated line strip running diagonally across the box to open it in the traditional "shop display" way (are these kits even available in their individual boxes/components in Japan?), the easier way to open is to just cut the tape at the top and open the flap like a normal box.

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As usual the real charm of the packing lies in those inner smaller boxes which contain each individual component of the set, designed with graphics that mirror those of the original DX Victory Robo release. The colours and style of the packaging are more or less identical to the 1999 toy, although the images themselves have obviously been changed to those of the Super Mini-Pla figure rather than the DX toy (as well as all the various bits of information written on it). Between the front, back and spines of the box you get an excellent look at both the combined Victory Robo and all of the individual 99Machines. It doesn't completely give away every feature that the set has, but it's certainly enough to get you excited for what is a very fun building process.

Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo Contents 01

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Inside each box you'll find a number of different coloured runners, a sticker sheet, instruction leaflet and a piece of that ever-addictive Bandai soda-flavoured candy. Like most Super Mini-Pla kits each component of Victory Robo also includes a number of pre-painted parts. Some of these might be loose in the packaging (in which case be careful not to lose them when opening the bags), whilst others will just be pre-painted on the runners themselves. As usual any silver and gold parts are done in that swirly off-grey/dark gold colour, so you might want to consider painting them if you like to spruce up your models a bit. I painted the silver, but thought this shade of gold worked for the GoGoFive mecha so decided to stick with it. That said, it's that kind of gold that looks like it could degrade and crumble over time (Transformers fans will be all too familiar with GPS) so it might be worth keeping an eye on.

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The first box in this five box model set contains Red Ladder, the fire engine 99Machine of team leader GoRed. The vehicle forms the torso and arms of Victory Robo, and features extending ladders and twin water cannons. The model sports eight free-rolling wheels, as well as a hinged back section so the water cannons (which are connected to the arms of the combined mode) can fold over to the front of the vehicle. As you'd expect from a Super Sentai fire truck it's a very vibrant looking vehicle, with minimal work needed overall to make it look great.

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Box 3 also contains a few additional accessories for Red Ladder - two extended ladder pieces as well a pair of open hands to plug on the ends of them. These can be switched out simply by removing both the hose and fist pieces from the back of the vehicle, inserting the ladders and then plugging the hoses/hands back onto them. While it's natural to assume that a fire engine would have extendable ladders like this, even the robot hands play an important part whilst Red Ladder is still in vehicle mode - smashing through obstructions and helping to move civilians to safety. Despite the considerable length of these ladder pieces they surprisingly don't affect the the balance of the model in any significant way - even when bent over all the way forwards in front of the cab it doesn't topple over. Sometimes the individual Super Sentai mecha components can just feel like a means to an end, but it's the little gimmicks like these that really make Victory Robo feel special.

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The second box in the set is Blue Thrower, a chemical fire engine 99Machine belonging to GoBlue. Like Red Ladder this is another bigger vehicle in the set, becoming both the crotch and upper legs of Victory Robo. Blue Thrower features ten free-rolling wheels and top-mounted fire extinguisher cannons, which can be rotated somewhat before they start clashing into each other. As far as painting these models go as well it's also the trickiest one to do, as some of the grey parts also have pre-painted blue parts. Either you'll  need to mask or work around the blue as you add the silver, or you'll have to source a matching blue and redo those pre-painted sections as well.

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Green Hover is GoGreen's 99Machine, and the only aircraft vehicle in the set. Green Hover sports twin VTOL engines as well as dual Impactor Guns, but is by far the smallest model in this set. That isn't to say it isn't a fun build though, especially with it's more unique shaping and the way the head of Victory Robo is built into the body. Both the guns and engines are fully rotatable, and there are also opening hinged hatch pieces on the back on each engine.

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Green Hover also features additional parts to emulate its abilities on the show, in this case a pair of magnetic grapple wires that can airlift the 99Machines during their combination into Victory Robo. Naturally the parts of the model kit itself aren't magnetic, and instead either plug into the sides of Blue Thrower or the the underarms of Red Ladder (when transformed into the torso of Victory Robo). The additional plastic piece which these wires fix too also add a rather convenient stand port for Green Hover that definitely should have been implemented into the main model as well. 

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Box number four contains Yellow Armor, GoYellow's eight-wheeled armoured 99Machine. Though a boxy vehicle with no clear purpose just from looking at it, the back features an opening shovel claw which is used to move debris and other obstructions. Forming the left leg of Victory Robo, it's fair to say that this is one of the more basic components of the set. It's a very straightforward model kit build that follows the same basic design as most Super Sentai limbs, so if you've ever built anything from the Super Mini-Pla or standard minipla lines before you'll know exactly what to expect here. The collapsable shovel claw is pretty cool though, adding some much needed play value to what's otherwise a relatively boring vehicle.

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Rounding off the 99Machines is GoPink's Pink Aider, a giant ambulance which is able to carry a mass number of civilians safety away from a disaster. Build-wise it's almost identical to Yellow Armor, which makes sense since they're both leg components that work in exactly the same way. But rather than an elaborate shovel or anything like that Pink Aider simply has a lowering ramp at the back of the vehicle, which again is used to help civilians and/or civilian vehicles on for transport. It's another great looking vehicle that's absolutely covered in moulded detail, as well as painted pink stripes and silver panels along each side. It's probably the most simplistic of the five machines in terms of both design and execution, but still a very valuable asset to the team.

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Bring them altogether and you have yourself a pretty impressive fleet of miniature 99Machines. Ready to take on any challenge, and each suited to a different type of rescue operation. Although the builds for Yellow Armor and Pink Aider are pretty much the same there's quite a lot of variety going on when it comes to the look and builds of these vehicles, which is something that definitely bleeds through to the combined robot form as well. But even before you merge these five vehicles into the mighty Victory Robo, there's a lot of fun to be had just playing around with them as vehicles. Get yourself some building diorama pieces (I highly recommend Bandai's recent Customize Scene Base pieces) and some explosion/fire effect parts and you'll see EXACTLY what I mean.

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It's no exaggeration to say that Victory Robo has one of the best combining sequences in all of Super Sentai. There's just something magical in the way it tries to combine the realistic logic of having components air-lifted into position with the sheer absurdity of a fire engine with giant hands on the end of extending ladders grabbing onto the legs and lifting itself into place. Victory Robo has a couple of different combination variations on the series (with Red Ladder being airlifted into place in some circumstances as well) but thanks to all the extra pieces included the Super Mini-Pla release is perfectly capable of emulating them all. Blue Thrower, Yellow Armor and Pink Aider are also capable of combining into Victory Walker - effectively the leg section of the full combination that adds extra elevation for Blue Thrower when faced with particularly bad fires. From there Red Ladder is added on top, and then Green Hover fits into the empty cavity behind the fire truck cab to fill out the torso and reveal the head of Victory Robo. It's a great transformation not just because of how cool it looks, but also that it doesn't just follow the standard play pattern of torso & head + limbs. The legs may follow that pattern to some extent, but then the upper body is more of a totem pole style combination that has the vehicles contort in different ways to fit altogether.

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Victory Robo is just another really great example of 90s Super Sentai robot design at its very best. Green Hover is a bit lost in the sea of red going on in the torso but there's still some really nice blocks of colour in the design to show off the team colours/combination element of it all. The torso being wholly made up of the Red Ladder really draws your attention, especially in immediately making the robot recognisable as rescue vehicles. The head sculpt, with its cannon-antennae and bold black visor, look especially great here as it's been done as pre-painted pieces. It's a shame that not all of the numbers are on display to give it that extra little bit of coherency, but overall it's an excellent design. And one that Bandai have pulled off really well in the Super Mini-Pla range. A freshly stickered one has that colourful, DX toy feel but it's also got plenty of moulded detailed for a panel-lined version to have that grittier more realistic look from the show as well. Everything holds together really firmly as well, which is always important on a model that brings together various different components. Everything locks together for posing, but the parts aren't too difficult to pull apart afterwards either.

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But of course the main event when it comes to these updated model kits is seeing just how much more articulated they are compared to the old versions - whether it's the DX toy or the original mini-pla releases. Victory Robo certainly isn't any exception in that regard, and has a lot of interesting things going on with the way the pieces fit together and move. Breaking the body down into sections Victory Robo features;
Head - 360 degree swivel (neck can also raise and lower somewhat)
Shoulders - Can rotate outwards on two different axes, and then around on a further two
Arms - Can raise sideward, hinged elbow joint and rotating wrists
Waist - 360 degree swivel, can also raise and lower somewhat
Hips - Can rotate downward on two different axes and then outwards on another
Legs - Thigh swivels, double hinged knees and tilting ankles
The above is a little different to how I usually lay out articulation in my reviews but that's because it's a bit trickier to describe Victory Robo's in any other way - there's a lot of pegs swivels working together here to give the model its full range of motion. The drop down hips are especially impressive, as are the way the shoulders extend outwards. It's very easy to overextend these joints to the point that it breaks up the sculpt in an unpleasant way, but use just the right amount of movement in them and you can get some pretty great poses out of it. The chunky legs are also perfect for balancing in said poses with those ankle tilts.

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As far as accessories go the combined Victory Robo includes an alternate visor piece with lit up eyes, those extended ladder pieces seen previously in the review and the Braver Sword. The Braver Sword is features a pre-painted silver blade with gold hilt sporting the GoGoFive logo, and can be placed in the robot's hands by removing the handle, plugging it into the first and then reattaching the hilt/blade section. It's a fairly straightforward sword and doesn't feature any fancy effect pieces like some Super Mini-Pla releases have in the past, but any sort of sword just helps a Super Sentai robo feel more 'complete'. The extended ladder pieces work exactly the same way that they did with the individual Red Ladder vehicle, plugging directly into the arms of the robot and giving them an impressive length for overcoming obstacles and a good old fashioned extendable punch attack. It's the accessories like these that really help make the Super Mini-Pla line feel special, showing off attacks and abilities that are used less on screen but far more memorable. 

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It's hard to believe that the line has kept up such an incredible streak for this long, but Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo is yet another winner as well as easily one of the best Super Sentai mecha it's put out thus far. Not only is this just a really fun build with a nice variety of vehicles that don't combine in a conventional way (but at the same time don't stray too far away from the norm), it's a set that really embraces everything that's great about KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive. From the unique abilities of each 99Machine to way it can almost perfectly recreate that unforgettable transformation sequence, Bandai really poured their heart and soul into this to make it the perfect collectible for fans of the series and Super Sentai/Power Rangers in general. Being a Super Mini-Pla release it hasn't taken long for the set to shoot up in price on the aftermarket, but if you see it before your eyes for a reasonable price then it's definitely not one to pass up on.


Oar said...

This is one of, if not my favourite of all sentai mecha. Seeing how lovely it is makes it incredibly tempting to get both Liner Boy and his big brother, Grand Liner.

Pantheron said...

Did you end up getting the train or linerboy? I'd like to hear your thoughts on those, I purchased all 3 and love them.

Alex said...

I did indeed! I’m still building Grand Liner at the moment so hopefully will have something up soon. Have had Liner Boy finished for a while but didn’t want to do the review until I could show the three off altogether.