Kaiyodo/ToyTribe's ASSEMBLE BORG Wave 1 - The Good Guys
Mr. Assemble, Baron, Cyber and the Barrels Speeder show how to do Micronauts right...
Kaiyodo's Assemble Borg are available exclusively in North America through AssembleBorg.net.
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One of my favorite toy lines growing up as a kid in the '70s was the Micronauts. The sci-fi action figures, vehicles and playsets had everything a young child could want: shiny "chrome" parts, imaginative designs, and best of all, the ability to mix and match for countless toy combinations. About the only thing the Micronauts lacked were cool weapons. Occasionally a higher priced item would throw in a missile launcher, but the large bulbous missiles were a joke. Some figures, like Acroyear, would offer a token sword, but the majority of the line (I'm looking at you Time Traveler, Pharoid and Space Glider) lacked ZERO military might. Perhaps that was always the plan: to release more peaceful toys for more peaceful children. I'm sorry, but they didn't fool this kid. My army of figures needed futuristic firepower for fierce, no-holds-barred carpet combat.
Here we are - over 30 years later - and my childhood is now complete. Japanese toy maker Kaiyodo, together with manga artist Yasuhiro Nightow's company ToyTribe, have unleashed ASSEMBLE BORG, a series of action figures and vehicles that pay a huge tribute to the Micronauts... except this time they got it right. Assemble Borg packs the goods - weapons extreme. Assemble Borg is - and I say this with the most utmost respect - the way the Micronauts SHOULD have been made.
While available in Japan for a couple of years now, Assemble Borg was just recently made available to North American collectors via AssembleBorg.net. This labor of love launched with three figures - the good guys as I call them - consisting of Mr. Assemble, Baron and Cyber. These are priced at $29.99 each (shipping included). In addition, a vehicle called the Barrels Speeder can be had at $39. All together, this makes up Assemble Borg Wave 1.
PACKAGING: Packaging for the Assemble Borg heroes is extremely sharp, each blister card reflecting the high-tech premise of the toy line with clean, futuristic graphics. Bold color contrast hammers home this cybernetic theme with the eye-catching use of neon orange, white and grey. Assemble Borg's packaging "pops" and it's truly a shame these can't be found in your mass market toy aisles. The space on the back is fully utilized to showcase all the figures (and vehicle) in the initial assortment, along with an overload of other handy information. The abundance of accessories included with each Assemble Borg is pictured in the upper right-hand corner, while much of the bottom is used to demonstrate the exciting combinations you can achieve when some or all of the toys are collected. For being primarily in Japanese, the universal language of pictures speaks loud and clear. My only complaint on these otherwise knockout packaging designs is that they are not collector-friendly. Having some place to store your figure and its gear would have been a HUGE plus... though Kaiyodo does have an upcoming solution I'll touch on at the end of this review.
SCULPT: Right out of the pack, Assemble Borg's homage to the Micronauts is clearly evident with the use of colored, often translucent plastics combined with "chromed" parts. All three heroes feature a standard 5-inch tall body, each molded in a unique color. Mr. Assemble is cast in solid black plastic, Baron a smokey translucent, and Cyber a milky white.
Each character is further defined by a unique head sculpt and chestplate. The former is "chromed" internally; the head/helmet can actually be removed to reveal the character's true identity - a thin nub of circuits unique to each character. I'm not sure of the point of all this, but it's fascinating never-the-less.
ACCESSORIES: If we were to stop with the core character design behind Assemble Borg, the figures would be nothing more than updated, reimagined Micronauts; new Acroyears and Time Travelers for the 21st Century. And that would be a good thing, but thankfully that's just the tip of the iceberg of what Assemble Borg is truly all about. The heart of Assemble Borg is accessories; tons and tons of weapons, alternate hands and innovative Revolver Joints. Included with each Assemble Borg is no less than the following:
* Four (4) pairs of interchangable hands: fisted, open, pointing, and weapon grasping.
* Four (4) firearms: machine gun (or laser rifle, your choice), high caliber pistol, compact SMG and a huge honkin' bazooka.
* Two (2) bladed weapons: combat knife and futuristic curved sword.
* Bonus bag of spare Revolver Joints (7 types, 2 each)
All those weapons alone would have made one particular kid growing up in the '70s very, very happy. On top of that, the small arsenal looks killer, each gun starring an amazing sculpt and design courtesy of manga madman Yasuhiro "Trigun" Nightow. These are far from generic looking, flimsy molded weapons, thank you kindly. But wait, there's more...
Already you have everything you need to arm your soldiers for battle (and display), but in addition to the core gear, each Assemble Borg character receives two unique attachments. Mr. Assemble comes with a pair of Jarknoid stompin' mechanical legs, Baron brings the firepower with dual hand canons, and Cyber gets up close and personal with bladed weapons: a slashing sword and bone-crushing saw. Bye bye core character design. With so many great attachments, I don't see any collector sticking with the basic figure. Time to kit 'em up and move 'em out.
ARTICULATION/ INTERCHANGEABILITY: If you are new to Kaiyodo's Revolver Joint system, posing Assemble Borg can at first be tricky. The articulation system, popularized with their Revoltech action figures, consists of a series of pegs, most rachet-jointed, each of multiple sizes. Unlike the fixed ball, swivel and hinge joints of most action figures, Revolver Joints use a simple peg and hole concept that allows for an extremely articulated toy. It also allows the collector to swap out joints. This comes in handy if a joint wears out (Revolver Joints are built extremely tough, but it does happen), and is especially useful for customization. Enter the soul of Assemble Borg: interchangeability.
First a small warning: Building your own unique Assemble Borg creation doesn't come easy (or cheap). In fact, it requires that you purchase at least two Assemble Borg figures and it is highly recommended that you snag the Barrels Speeder vehicle to unlock Assemble Borg's full customizing potential. Getting just one Assemble Borg figure gives you a wide range of options for equipping your figure, but the real fun of the line is in mixing and matching the parts. For example, I fully kitted Baron up with both his hand blasters and with Mr. Assemble's boots, while Mr. Assemble gets medieval on the evil Jarknoids with the massive sword blade packed with the Barrel's Speeder. But those are just simple swaps. My coolest creation is the Combo Borg "Death Machine" - an intimidating robotic mobile weapons platform. Mostly comprised of Barrel Speeder parts, the Zoid-like machine springs to killing life with weapons from Baron and Cyber. As I said, the Barrels Speeder is a key source for components, plus it looks awesome on it's own (or rather with Mr. Assemble behind the wheel).
OVERALL: Kaiyodo/ToyTribe have created something very special with Assemble Borg. While the Micronaut's influence can be seen in the line, Assemble Borg is so much more. A refreshing original concept, Assemble Borg takes Kaiyodo's innovative Revolver Joint system and runs with it. It's a toy line that can be enjoyed individually with each figure purchase, or greatly expanded on with the addition of other toys in the series.
To further enhance the Assemble Borg experience, Kaiyodo will be releasing even more figures and vehicles, as well as supplies and tools. The former moves forward later this year with the release of the Jarknoids, the evil villains of the Assemble Borg universe. I'll have a full advance review of those coming next week. For supplies, Kaiyodo will be offering spare Revolver Joints, polybagged by type, as well as Revopliers and Revocontainers.
The Revopliers are specially made for pulling out and pushing in Revolver Joints, something your fingers will thank you for - occasionally you do encounter a stubborn Revolver Joint. The Revocontainers are Kaiyodo's solution to storage, something I mentioned earlier under packaging. The clear orange containers feature a snap on lid and allow you to store your spare Revolver Joints in them. Personally I found the samples I received a little too small. While great for a handful of joints or spare hands, they didn't solve the problem of what to do with the figure's weapons and limbs when not in use. I'd much rather see Kaiyodo release a large tackle box-like container. It would be ideal for Assemble Borg's storage needs.
With North American distribution out of the way, the only hurdle for Assemble Borg to overcome is recognition and price. $29 each can be a bit intimidating to many U.S. collectors and amassing more than one Assemble Borg to unlock the line's full potential overwhelming and expensive. That said, you do get your money's worth with Assemble Borg. The value is readily apparent when compared to many mass market toys - Assemble Borg are extremely well-constructed and designed toys, each packed with numerous accessories. With the ability to endlessly customize and create, Assemble Borg goes beyond what many toy lines offer. I highly recommend trying one figure out. I think you'll be surprised at how much fun (and addicting) Assemble Borg can be.
Review and Photos by Jeff Saylor
Review Samples Courtesy of IDA