Wednesday 19 June 2024

Toybox REVIEW: Shokugan Modeling Project GaoIcarus

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Release Date: July 2022
RRP: 8800 yen

Bandai's overall commitment to adequately covering a Super Sentai series in the Shokugan Modeling Project line is something to be commended, especially when its a series as extensive as Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger. Even after covering impressive ground with their GaoKing, GaoMuscle, GaoKnight and GaoHunter releases, the line carried firmly on into 2022 with the third of its retail releases - Shokugan Modeling Project GaoIcarus! First debuting in episode 31 of the series, GaoIcarus is the combined form of GaoFalcon, GaoDeers, GaoGiraffe, GaoRhinos and GaoMadillo.

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As a general retail item SMP GaoIcarus is split into four boxes - two for GaoFalcon, one for GaoDeers and GaoGiraffe and then one for GaoRhinos and GaoMadillo. These are then packed together in a large brown "case" box, plastered with images of the combined set and the Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger logo. It's all imagery that's used on the interior boxes as well, but it's always nice to see Bandai even making the packaging that's going to be instantly thrown away a little more eye-catching.

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As is now expected of the line the individual boxes have been done faithfully in the style of the original 2001 DX release, simply replacing any image of the DX version with a CG render of the SMP kit. While the poses on the box remain largely faithful to the model kit's far less articulated predecessor, the lengthened wingspan of this new version does allow it to be a little more dramatic when showing GaoIcarus off in all its glory. Together with images of the combined robot there are also smaller images of the individual Power Animals on the side, as well as possible combinations with the other Gaoranger mecha that have been released in the line. Inside each box you'll the parts for the model kit spread across a variety of different coloured runners, together with pre-painted parts, sticker sheets, building/combining instructions and pieces of soda-flavoured candy.

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First out of the box (or two boxes rather) is GaoFalcon, the largest of the Power Animals (with the exception of the enlarged GaoLion) and the core component of GaoIcarus - forming the torso and head. One box contains the body of GaoFalcon, while the other is solely comprised of his impressive wings - each one measuring around 21.5cm when fully lengthened out. Due to the size and build of the wings there are quite a few steps to it, and with many similar looking parts you have be careful to make sure to follow the instructions properly so to not make a mistake. As is the case with many of the additional Gaoranger Power Animals, GaoFalcon features a lot of etched gold markings for which stickers are supplied, but they have also been moulded into the parts should you rather paint them instead. The legs are also in the usual dull grey colour so definitely benefit from a lick of silver paint, while the yellowish gold of the head and talons can be painted but is part of pre-painted sections so require a little more care/work.

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Given its incredible size it's unsurprising that GaoFalcon has an especially good range of motion, starting with the wings being jointed in five different areas. So not only are they able to bend in different places for more natural movement, but also move forward when they connect with the torso. In addition to this the tail piece is also hinged, as well as fully moveable legs complete with knees and hinge back talons. Finally the head can raise and lower (although doing this too much will reveal the inner robot head as it is primarily meant for the transformation) along with a hinged beak. All of this easily makes GaoFalcon the most expressive and impressive individual Power Animal in the Gaoranger selection, and one of the best components in the Super Sentai SMP line as a whole.

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Given both GaoFalcon's size and the whole concept of GaoIcarus being a flying mecha Bandai sensibly included a clear plastic display stand with the release, the base of which has been very nicely done in the shape of the Animarium - the floating, turtle-shaped island that the Power Animals call home. Despite being cast in clear plastic the attention to detail on the base is surprisingly good, with all the mountain ranges faithfully moulded in. A plastic arm piece is included that plugs directly into the middle of the base, which in turn can then plug into GaoFalcon and the combined GaoIcarus (as well as any other of the Gaoranger mecha, or even any SMP kit given the universal size of the port). The stand is in a fixed pose, so if you're prefer an articulated stand for more dynamic flight poses then a standard Tamashii stage or similar display stand will also work just as well.

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Moving back into more typically sized Power Animals, one half of box two contains GaoDeers - a green deer which has the ability to heal injured Power Animals with its "Deer Healing" technique, immobilise Orgs with a "Capture Ring" and wields powerful antlers. The process of building GaoDeers is relatively straightforward, with some nice internal parts involved to provide additional articulation when in limb mode. As tends to be the case with most SMP releases, the model definitely benefits from gold and silver paint but still looks good unpainted. There are also minimal stickers involved here which is always a plus. Overall articulation for the model includes a moveable head with double jointed antlers and opening jaw, rotating legs and bendable knees.

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GaoDeers is one of the auxiliary Power Animals that can be used alternate combinations with the other Gaoranger mecha - two in-show examples being Gaoking Cross Horn and GaoMuscle Striker Cross Horn. Here GaoDeers replaces GaoTiger/GaoBear as the left arm to give it the impressive "Deer Scissors" weapon - a giant set of blades formed from GaoDeers' antlers. The green body goes especially well with Gaoking's overall colour scheme, and implementation of an additional hinge in the shoulder joint the arm has a very good range of motion.

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The second half of box two contains GaoGiraffe, who initially joins the fight against the Orgs when GaoKing proves no match for the Boat Org. As a fellow limb animal the build of GaoGiraffe is very similar to that of GaoDeers, however naturally it differs greatly when it comes to the neck portion of the animal. In addition to just being long, GaoGiraffe's neck can also extend further via an internal piece which the head is then attached to. GaoGiraffe features a fair few more stickers than GaoDeers too, particularly to cover the spots on the neck and the brown/black midsection. Additional articulation on GaoGiraffe includes a moveable head, neck, jaw and tail along with rotating legs and bendable knees.

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GaoGiraffe was also used in a number of different combos across the series - including Gaoking Spear, GaoKing Spear & Wolf, GaoMuscle Striker Spear and GaoHunter Evil Spear. In these modes GaoGiraffe takes the form of a speared right arm, with a visored helmet piece fitting over its head to give it a proper bladed tip. Again its colours look great on all modes, particularly as orange wasn't a particularly common colouring in Super Sentai components back then. GaoGiraffe is also unique in that its limb mode also includes an effect part - a transparent orange semicircular blade piece which fits onto the tip of the helmet. This piece was fixed onto the helmet on the DX toy (and was also much smaller), but here can be removed for more standard look. The neck can also be extended to recreate the harpoon-like attacks.

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Presumably because they didn't want to use clear orange plastic on just a single piece, GaoGiraffe's box also includes a surprise effect piece for GaoHunter's sword - an axe-like piece that fits onto the the tip of the sword. The piece fits on very comfortably and adds a bit more flare to what was already a rather impressive weapon, so kudos to Bandai for thinking of something that would benefit a different kit but at the same time not feel like anyone only buying GaoHunter would significantly miss out on something.

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The last box in the set contains GaoRhinos and GaoMadillo, both of whom were previously included in the Shokugan Modeling Project GaoMuscle release. However given that was a Premium Bandai exclusive release, repeating them in a retail release to make them a little more accessible/affordable certainly isn't a bad thing. Since I've previously covered both animals in my GaoMuscle review I'll skip over talking about them in any great detail here, however it is worth noting that if you also built the two animals there this is a good opportunity to use the alternate stickers included for these versions. In GaoMadillo's case you have the choice between a blank visor and illuminated eyes, and with GaoRhinos it's the shape of the silver section on its forehead.

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Bring them altogether and you have a very good selection of Power Animals - nearly all of which are surprisingly sizeable and/or functional despite sharing boxes. Naturally GaoFalcon is just a cut above when it comes to size and articulation, but there is a lot to love about GaoDeers and GaoGiraffe as well. Combining the animals into robot mode is a fun little process, with some rather clever steps to compress GaoFalcon into the torso/head and extend GaoRhinos into legs. As with the GaoMuscle release, GaoMadillo can either be clipped into the cavity on the robot's right foot or there is a black filler piece included to fill said cavity up.

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Even before you get into that wingspan GaoIcarus is a pretty incredible looking robot. Just to begin with the colours really make it stand out even against the other Gaoranger mecha - the core red body combined with the bright green/orange of the arms and the light blue legs making for (what was at the time) a quite unconventional colour palette even for a secondary mecha. The pre-painted head sculpt looks fantastic too with its huge horn and crested eyepiece. Then of course we have that INCREDIBLE wingspan - so big it wouldn't even fit into my light box! Stretching a whopping 47.5 cm from tip to tip, the wings completely outclass those of the original DX toy and onscreen costume to be more in line with the CGI model used in the show. However if you do prefer a slightly less space-occupying look, thanks to the double joint system in the wings they can be folded back for a smaller wingspan more in line with the other two interpretations (though this can affect balance a bit depending how you go about it).

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But even after that if those wings are still taking up a little too much real estate on your shelf they can also be folded over the top of the robot to form its Defence Mode. This simply involves flipping the wings up and then folding them along the joints until they meet at the front, where the front portions can be clipped together. Getting GaoIcarus into this mode can be a little fiddly because the arms are quite clunky and get in the way, but the more concerning issue is that the peg joints on the wings (particularly the ones closest to the back) are incredibly tight. I would highly recommend either shaving the pegs down before assembly or lubricating them up with shock oil (or something similar), because with the force required to move them otherwise you can see the plastic beginning to stress if not treated with the utmost care. With most of the body covered in this mode GaoIcarus naturally loses a lot of poseability, but even like this the detailing on the wings makes it look striking.

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But as well as just looking impressive GaoIcarus also measures up to the other Gaoranger SMP kits when it comes to articulation as well. Sure those wings can be pretty unwieldy, but thankfully they've got enough joints in them to move about in a natural way and help keep the balance of the overall figure. In addition to those quintuple-jointed wings GaoIcarus features;
- Ball joined head
- Single hinge neck and "skirt" pieces
- Swivel hinge torso, shoulders (with additional butterfly movement) and ankles
- Drop down swivel hinge torso
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Waist, bicep, forearm and thigh swivels
While there's a lot going on here that's common across most of the SMP kits, it's the torso/ab crunch that stands out the most. Just having a standard ab crunch would be impressive enough, but GaoIcarus takes it a step further by also adding side-to-side rocking motion on top of it, adding a massive amount of movement to the torso when also combined with the waist swivel. The arms are really well done on this release too, not only with how both GaoDeers and GaoGiraffe can extend to reveal an unimpeded elbow joint but also with how the hinge to raise the arms upwards is build into the arms rather than the torso (as it is on GaoKing and GaoHunter). It makes for a much cleaner area of movement, especially with how large the arms (as well as all the other parts of the mecha) are. Finally of course the legs work just as well here as they did on the GaoMuscle release - adding extra bits of articulation that weren't present on the GaoBison parts but also the ability to pose GaoMadillo mid-air in ball mode for the Striker attacks.

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Rather than additional accessories as such, GaoIcarus' front wing portions can slide open to reveal a pair of giant blue eyes, which in the show would then turn yellow to freeze its enemy in place with the "Icarus Bind" attack. Both the blue and yellow eyes have been included in the release, and swapping them is as simple as popping them out of their designated sockets and replacing accordingly. Even among the pre-painted parts on the release they're particularly good too - with the white area painted on top of clear plastic and the eye portion underneath it to give it some extra shine.

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Of course one of the main joys of the Gaoranger mecha is how cross-compatible they are, with you able to swap the parts on most of them however you see fit. One such example of this is GaoIcarus Another Foot & Arm, where GaoWolf, GaoHammerhead and GaoBison were used alongside GaoFalcon due to the damage the other components took from the Steam Engine Org. This combination isn't quite as colourful as the standard GaoIcarus, nor is it as articulated due to the the joint for raising the arms not being incorporated into the torso here. It's still a nice little alternative though and a good demonstration of the series' playability, and together with the flight stand you can still get some pretty good poses out of the combination.

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Continuing the extremely high standard of the Gaoranger selection, Shokugan Modeling Project GaoIcarus is another fantastic model that takes the original DX toy, throws in the poseability of the onscreen suit and transforms it into a whole new experience. While those stiff wing joints are something to be cautious of, GaoIcarus is a really fun build that combines a number of unique Power Animals that all have something to offer individually, as GaoIcarus or as part of any other combination that you come up with. And then to top it all off, that wingspan really is something that has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. It's also great that Bandai were also able to release a third Gaoranger SMP set at retail, especially with so many mecha getting the Premium Bandai treatment.

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