When it comes to action figures, most American kids probably think of things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, and Transformers. When they visualize those, they only imagine how entertaining it is to play around with them, create elaborate scenes, or enact imaginary stories involving various characters from different worlds and franchises. In addition, American children are often rough with their toys -- it's the reason that we have ridiculous regulations to ensure that these toys are "safe." For instance, when Takara (now Takara-Tomy) released their Masterpiece Convoy (aka Optimus Prime), it was an instant success. Hasbro saw an opportunity to make some extra money and brought the toy to American shores. But due to regulatory rules, they couldn't bring it over intact: for some strange reason, the figure wouldn't pass child safety tests unless they reduced the length of the smokestacks on Prime's shoulders. Even today, it breaks my heart to see those short little stubs instead of the impressive, full-length exhaust pipes of Prime's original design.
But while it ultimately does not matter who makes or designs an action figure, figures in Japan are treated less like children's playthings and more like collectors' items -- and for this reason, figures designed and released in Japan are nearly second to none. The technology utilized in the production of plastic, molds, and joint systems has evolved considerably, making for high-quality, detailed figures that are more posable than ever. Still, getting them to stand or mounting them in stylized ways has never been terribly easy...
...until now. Kaiyodo isn't new to the toy market, having released many figures and models in its decades of business, but it was the company's RevolTech line that truly took action figure articulation to the next level. Since the line debuted in 2006, Kaiyodo has been hard at work securing licenses to produce figures based on significant characters from a variety of franchises, including Takara-Tomy's own Transformers. Gainax in particular has lent a number of its characters to Kaiyodo, as the company has produced multiple figures of characters from Neon Genesis Evangelion. The latest Gainax entries to the RevolTech line, however, hail from the popular Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann series.
In this article, we'll be looking at the 50th figure in the RevolTech Yamaguchi Series: Gurren Lagann. The figure is designed with 54 points of articulation and 19 revolver joints, making it the most articulated figure yet compared to prior RevolTech releases. As the the combined form of two separate machines named Lagann (the head) and Gurren (the body), Gurren Lagann's head can also be detached -- but because the figure itself is fairly small, the detached head does not necessarily make for a terribly useful accessory. That said, Gurren Lagann does come with four additional hands, an extra head for more dynamic poses, a face plate cover for Gurren, and a display base to help with aerial posing. The chest sunglasses part can even be removed and replaced with the plate cover piece, which allows the sunglasses to be transformed into the "Gurren Boomerang" and held in one of the extra left or right hands. (The hands aren't too difficult to remove in order to switch them, though your mileage can vary as these are mass-produced figures.) As an added bonus, the "Core Drill," the device that acts as a key to Lagann, is included and can be taken apart so that the drill portion can be attached to Gurren Lagann (thus recreating the Giga-Drill Breaker technique). Fans of the series may also be tempted to tie a string around it and wear it instead.
Yet despite these features, those who have seen the series may find the figure to be a bit incomplete. This is because it is. As part of the marketing campaign to sell other figures within the franchise, Kaiyodo intentionally left out a couple of key components that make the figure complete and show accurate. For starters, while the Giga-Drill on the show is colored silver, this figure's drill is gold -- if you want the silver drill, you'll have to buy the "Full-Drillized" version of Gurren Lagann (Yamaguchi Series #58). The wing unit that finalized the Gurren Lagann design is separated into two parts; the engine base is included with Lazengann (Yamaguchi Series #52). And the wings? They're included with Enki (Yamaguchi Series #60). These are added incentives to collect other figures within the franchise, but they're not entirely necessary depending upon how you like your Gurren Lagann. Assuming the figures are identical sans physical features, the Full-Drillized version of Gurren Lagann can exchange parts (or in its case, limbs) with this version for added variety when displaying the figures. But since I have opted out of purchasing the extra version, I cannot verify this.
Posing Gurren Lagann is somewhat easy, but can be difficult at the same time -- the leg-hip joints are tricky to move, and one has to know how the joints are mounted first in order to successfully manipulate them. Unlike many other figures where certain parts, such as the leg-hip joints or the wrists, do not move using revolver joints, Gurren Lagann is rare in that just about every joint uses the revolver setup. In Gurren Lagann's case, this means that its range of motion is among the best of all of the RevolTech figures currently on the market. Moreover, whereas some figures have trouble standing or posing due to weight shifting and balance -- and other factors including the size of the feet and whether their range of motion is restricted by the surrounding plastic -- Gurren Lagann does not seem to have this issue. This may largely stem from the figure's superior articulation, but its large feet also contribute to its ability to balance itself. With some extra effort (and a level platform), the figure can even be made to stand on one foot.
Gurren Lagann is composed of the same materials used to make most high-quality figures: ABS and PVC plastic. The toy isn't unbreakable, but it is durable and tough enough to withstand a few play turns here and there. The revolver-joint parts are quite rigid, so they'll remain tight while you're looking for that stylized pose. (Again, as these are mass-produced figures, your mileage may vary.) People should still be careful handling Gurren Lagann, though, as it has multiple small parts and sharp points. For this reason, I recommend keeping the figure far from the reach of nosey children -- kids should definitely not be playing with RevolTech figures unless they're taught how to handle them properly. I also recommend storing the extra pieces nearby and with proper labels, which will make them easier to find when one wants to change Gurren Lagann's pose in keeping with one's mood.
I can't imagine that future RevolTech releases won't follow the design and standard that Gurren Lagann has set, as this new and improved articulation model offers so many different posing possibilities. In fact, the figure's only drawbacks are the limited amount of accessories (which, although standard for RevolTech figures, doesn't go the extra mile), the missing wing upgrade, and the inaccurate color of the drill. Kaiyodo could easily have created a deluxe set that included a variety of accessories and parts to make it complete. That obviously would have increased the selling price, but the added value for fans would have made the set well worth it in the end.
That said, even without more accessories, it's hard to go wrong with either this RevolTech Gurren Lagann or the Full-Drillized version. Both figures are superbly designed, so which version fans should choose will ultimately come down to their personal preferences. In any case, I absolutely recommend this figure to fans of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: out of all of the figures I own, this is definitely the best one yet.-- Sixshot --