Mega Review: This eventually will be an exhaustive look at several lines
Since this is bound to be the largest review on this website I need to begin with some general information. For now this review focuses primarily on the first release of the V line of toys. This review is going to cover multiple lines released under the Actic Gear banner:
AG-V: The original and most basic line.
AG-EX: A continuation of the V line comprised primarily of gift-sets (multiple toys in one box)
AG-PF: A series of four standard release gift-sets tied to the Pailsen Files television show
AG-PFSP: A series of limited release toys sold as bundles (the first six came with one of the six Pailsen Files DVDs)
AG-PFAC: Pailsen file 4 packs (although I still haven’t seen a PFAC-01 so the original four AG-PF releases might also be considered PFAC-01)
AG-VTM: “Votoms Tactical Mission” series packaged weathered V toys with dioramas
AG-N: A new line featuring improvements over the original V toys in (usually) nicer packaging
AG-XX: 25th Anniversary versions of V toys in premium packaging with more extras and more painted on detail
For right now, I’m going to stick to the V line and I will add the various other lines in updates to this review.
Packaging & Extras: V line (2-3/5)
All regular release toys in the V line come packaged in white boxes with a window in the front that display the Armored Trooper (AT) within. Included in this line is a special release version of the Scopedog “instruction unit” as seen in the OVA Roots of Ambition which comes packaged in a plain white box with a label on it and no view of the contents. There was also an event exclusive metallic Berserga AG-V06 that also came in a windowless box but the packaging looks much more intentional. All the other boxes include some impressive artwork on the back of the included toy in recreations of scenes from the show. I have broken the score up here into three categories of release : Basic (3/5), with Accessory (3.5/5), and with Extras (4/5). All releases come with an AT, instructions, a data file, a pilot, a cockpit control cluster, and a weapon. Generally the pilot, the controls, the weapon, and any accessories are on sprues and require assembly and sometimes painting by the owner which is why the score is relatively low here despite the otherwise impressive amount of included items. One thing that drove me nuts about the packaging was that you can’t put a completely assembled toy back in some of the boxes unless you disassemble it. If you did this you’d have a lot of tiny loose parts so then you need to find a jewelry bag to seal everything into. Click on the image below for a full list of all the releases and what is included in the box.
Charm & Collectability: (2-3.5/5)
These toys were released in 2006 and 2007 with MSRPs ranging primarily from 1,600 – 2,200 Yen with AG-V14, the AT Transporter, costing 4,500 Yen. The inclusion of the data card system helped create a “collect them all” atmosphere for some collectors although the V01 “instruction version” featured here does not come with an info card of its own (bummer). Still, some of the releases are quite plain and were reissued as part of other lines with more flair. Why buy an AG-V01 when you can buy an AG-EX02, AG-N03, or AGXX-01 (all are Scopedogs but the latter ones have details, extra accessories, improvements, etc.)? Other toys in this line feature vehicles that were never very popular amongst Votoms shoppers including three versions of the Fattys (of course, that’s also what makes this line pretty cool). The big bummer of this line for me, they never made a Rabidly Dog, Strike Dog, or Strong Bacchus and didn’t bother making those figures for any of the follow up lines either. There are four event exclusives to keep an eye out for. There are Red Shoulder variants of the AG-V01 and AG-V08, a metallic version of the AG-V06 Berserga, and a Instruction Unit AG-V01 from Roots of Ambition.
Sculpt, Detail, & Paint: (7/10)
Considering the size here I found these toys extremely impressive from a sculpt standpoint. From a detail standpoint there isn’t much to rave about but in some ways that was the point. As a consumer in Japan, if you want something that is the best representation of what’s seen in a show you are expected to purchase a model and put in the work to make it truly beautiful. Toys are (were) generally perceived as what you give the children while older fans work on models. Takatoku struggled against this perception when they started selling “premium” toys and tried marketing them to model builders by pitching the ability to customize them. The Actic Gear line is one of the hybrid toy/model lines (like Bandai’s Hi-Complete Models) that Japanese manufacturers have produced in an attempt to blur the lines and appeal to people without the modeling skill set while also appealing to modelers who have the ability to really make the toys shine. The sculpt is very impressive getting the proportions extremely close to the original line art. The downside to these toys are their very large screw holes (some ATs do better with the screw holes than others, the standard scopedogs have very unattractive rear sides) and the open arms when viewed from the rear.
Here’s a checklist of the perfect design elements for a Scopedog toy:
1) Scopes rotate: Yes. Scope tracks left to right: Yes. Head twists left to right: Yes.
2) Visor opens upward revealing the pilot: Yes
3) Opening cockpit: Yes
4) Internal controls: Yes. Articulated: No. Gun stowage: No.
5) Removable Pilot Figure: Yes. Articulated: No
6) Opening foot well: No
7) Articulated armor panels on hips, feet, and wrist: Yes
8) Articulated shoulder mounts: Yes
9) Removable armor with internal mechanical detail: Turbo Custom only
10) Back that accommodates different accessories: Yes
11) Foot wheels: No (detail that looks like a wheel only)
12) Functional foot pivot spikes: Yes
13) Punch mechanism: Yes (not spring-loaded, simply slides forward)
14) Dog mode: Yes
In many ways these toys are more impressive than the 35Max and CMs Sunrise 1/35 scale toys. The opening cockpit mechanism features a lock that prevents you from pulling the door completely off when you open it (something I did frequently with my CMs toys). While the method for swapping hands here isn’t the best visibly I find it superior to the method Yamato used in their 1/12 toys and Takara used in their 1/18 toys in the amount of strain you need to put on the toy and the hands to complete the switch.
Durability & Build: (5.5/10)
These toys require a lot of interaction by the owner which gives the owner lots of opportunities to mess things up. You’ll need to be good with removing parts from plastic trees. Some of the parts, like the little clips that connect to the shoulders, can be easily broken when trying to free them (although most adults shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting everything assembled without anything breaking). Once things are put together it’s easy to knock parts off and those parts are all tiny so you’ll need a lot of patience and a bright light to track them down. Most of these parts are meant to dangle and sway so you can’t simply glue them on to alleviate fear of losing them. I’ve lowered the build score a bit more here since you as the owner are responsible for so much of the building.
What’s impressive about these toys is that they have nearly the same articulation as the premium 1/18 and 1/12 Votoms toys out there. What’s unfortunate is that no Votoms toy ever hit the ball out of the part when it came to articulation of the arms. You do get ball joints where they really matter, in the hips and ankles, as well as a pivot point at the waist. The range of motion in some of the joints, particularly the elbows, could really use improvement.
Total Score: (31.5-34/50)
Honestly, I get a big kick out of these toys. Are they better then the deluxe 1/18 and 1/12 toys out there? No, definitely not. Given their price tag though, I think they represent the best bang for your buck of all Votoms toys. I know most people aren’t huge fans of small scale toys, and there’s no question these toys are small, so even if they’re pretty solid they simply may not appeal to you. It’s a shame the line didn’t continue to include the Rabidly Dog, Strike Dog, and Strong Bacchus as I mentioned earlier as I really felt that would have hit all the iconic ATs (especially when one considers the additional toys released in the other AG lines).