Thursday, March 14, 2013

Toy Review: Takara DX Mic Sounders

Today's review features a really wonderful toy that I've been very proud to own since the day it came into my possession.  Mic Sounders is a character from the Brave Series (see my review of Advenger for my detail on the Brave Series) television show "The King of Braves GaoGaiGar," a 49-episode television show that aired in Japan between 1997 and 1998.  
As in the other Brave shows, themes of honor, courage, and the power of friendship and teamwork abound.  Earth is being invaded (in a rather surreptitious and, honestly, haphazard way) by the evil Zonderians.  These aliens attempt to use "Zonder metal"  and random inanimate objects to corrupt ordinary troubled humans into rampaging giant Zonders.  In opposition to the Zonderians are the members of the GGG (the Gutsy Geoid Guard), a secret organization created by the Japanese government to protect Earth against extraterrestrial threats.  The GGG consists of a number of human and robot characters who are revealed over time as the show progresses through its story.  
There's action galore in a monster-of-the-week vein at first, as the titular character robot, GaoGaiGar (piloted by the cyborg Guy Shishioh), fights Zonder after Zonder.  A real story arc begins to develop about a quarter of the way through the show, as the stakes become higher and higher, and GaoGaiGar gains more powers and friends along the way.  

Although Guy is the pilot of the most powerful robot in the show, the main character could really be considered to be Mamoru Amami, a child who is given over to his adoptive parents as an infant by the giant robot lion, Galeon (who, incidentally, forms the core of GaoGaiGar, though he transforms into a human-like form called GaiGar along the way).  This is the opening scene of the show, and the general tone of things does not get a whole lot less fantastic or convoluted later.  When GaoGaiGar defeats a Zonder, it's "core" is left behind.  In the first episode, Mamoru witnesses a battle with a Zonder, and discovers that he has a mysterious power to purify the Zonder cores back into their original human forms.
While Guy is basically the "brain" of GaoGaiGar (odd given that Galeon is his own independent creature when in lion form), the other robots in the show are all self-aware beings who might be considered to be actually alive.  They have unique personalities, emotions, and abilities all their own.  One of these is Mic Sounders the 13th (this is a long enough description without going into why he is the "thirteenth"), who is developed by the GGG's American partner organization, and who is introduced when his team brings him to Japan on a somewhat mysterious mission.  Mic (pronouced "Mike," and intended as a reference to a microphone) appears initially as a squat, cute, and cartoonish robot with a childlike personality.  Mic especially wishes to be friends with Mamoru, who he first meets at a radio-controlled robot battle competition.  Mic has an odd toothsome yellow flying vehicle called the Baribarien, which he uses to rescue Mamoru and his friends when a Zonder attack causes the building they are in to begin to collapse.

At first, Mic is a bumbling comedic relief character, but it is hinted that there is something dangerous about him.  He has powers that have not yet awakened, but the Americans have not discovered a way to unlock his true abilities until a Zonder threatens the safety of one of the other members of the GGG team, Swan White.  Swan is the sister of the American Stallion White, a member of Mic's development team.  Mic then changes into a completely different and significantly more powerful mode whose artificial intelligence is based on Stallion White's personality, thus revealing why the threat to Swan becomes the trigger for his transformation.  
Mic's alternate form is essentially a robotic humanoid "rock star" complete with music and sound-based attacks.  His appearance features funky glasses, a faux mohawk, and design elements that include microphones that poke out from his knees and speaker cones mounted in his legs.  He carries a potent musical instrument - a cross between an electric guitar and keyboard called the Flying Double-Vee - that he uses to help initiate his music-based powers.  Mic uses microphones as weapons as well.  Additionally, Mic is able to insert various music disks into his chest, granting him specific abilities that can variously enhance the powers of his teammates, shut down the mechanical abilities in his enemies, and destroy an enemy by producing frequencies that will destroy an opponent's atomic structure.  
That's an awfully long lead-up to a discussion of a toy, but as I will eventually be reviewing other Takara GaoGaiGar toys, it was necessary to set the scene somehow.  The DX toys from this particular Brave line are generally high-quality pieces with wonderfully unique designs.  Mic Sounders is no exception. His cute initial form is replicated splendidly in toy form.  Note the stars and red, white, and blue motif denoting his American origins.

The toy comes with three different eye labels that one can apply to give him varying expressions.  Unfortunately, the toy can wear only one of these, and so two are remain wasted on the sticker sheet.  I chose to place his most generic set of eyes on the toy.  I do wish they had found a way to have a removable face plate for each of the expressions.  A more modern toy most likely would have included this feature.  Still, his face looks great with any one of the stickers applied.

Viewed from the side, Mic appears to be carrying a large black back-pack.

Some baby blue is visible here, and becomes a much greater component of his alternate mode.  It's fairly obvious what the backpack will become as he changes form.

Note the crisp speaker cone detail.

The stickers add nice details to Mic's feet in this mode.

Very little articulation is present in this form.  Mic can move his arms up and down, and out to the side.  His wrists can rotate and bend inwards.

Mic also comes packaged with his Baribarien.  It has a large mouth full of silver teeth, which is a factory-applied sticker on the toy.  The vehicle looks alternately silly and somewhat menacing.

Here you see the control sticks for the Baribarien.  These can be flipped down to allow the toy to be played with in its own secondary mode.

A label provides control panel detail.

On the back of the Baribarien, there are a set of thrusters that are actually electronic buttons.

A battery compartment can hold two Double-A batteries to power the toy's electronics.  It's a relief to have a Japanese toy that uses a type of battery common in the USA.

To have Mic Sounders ride in the Baribarien, simply angle his feet under the red "hood" area (which has some flexibility to allow for this maneuver), to give clearance for his backpack to fit into the cockpit.

Once in place, position Mic's arms and hands so that he is using the control sticks.  Mic's now ready to cruise the skies looking for trouble that he can't get himself out of!

To begin his transformation to his "Boom" mode, bring Mic back to a neutral pose.

Rotate his arms up at the shoulder, and swing the arm assemblies forward on their hinges.

Continue bringing the arms together so.

Turn Mic around and flip him upside down.

Begin to pull the black leg components away from his body until they fully extend.

Make sure to flip up his toes.

Separate the legs.

Flip down the hip section as indicated.  This part hinges on Mic's earphone-like protuberances from his initial mode.

Stand the toy upright.

Begin to bring these two red "feet" downward to the side.  They will become the arms of Mic's humanoid form.

Rotate the arms upward.

Then begin to separate the red portions of the arm assemblies.

Lower the arms into position.

Mic's fists need to be rotated out.

Finally, Mic is in his most rockin' mode!

Punkish glasses and fauxhawk can be seen here.  Baby blue works well within his overall palette, but it's not really all that Rock-n-roll of a color.

Mic comes with a few printed cardboard disks made to resemble those in the show, a microphone, and his Flying Double Vee.

These parts can connect to his fists via standard Takara five-millimeter pegs.

Mic has greater articulation in this mode, allowing for poses that replicate his singing or playing his instrument.

Leg positioning for any kind of dynamic posing is difficult, however.  Articulation here is mostly due to the transformation, so he's really best left standing in a heroic "A stance."  Otherwise, Mic's got some goofy dance moves.

Note the microphone kneecaps.  These also support the backpack in Mic's other form.

The Baribarien has an alternate use as a sort of stage.  Flip the control sticks down and turn the toy over as shown.  There normally is a cardboard backdrop of sorts that you can fit into a slot towards the back to complete the stage mode.  I seem to have mislaid mine.

The red and blue thruster buttons have a function as a primitive sort of drum machine.  Activating the red button causes the toy to play a few simple pre-selected drum beats.  These can be alternated between by pressing the blue buttons.  If you hit the red button again, it will deactivate the drum patterns, and allow you to freestyle with the blue buttons.

In stage mode, the Baribarien proudly displays the GGG symbol.

A golden star sticker adorns the speaker, and other stickers provide additional details.

On the outside of Mic's shins are a couple five-millimeter ports.  These can be used to store his microphone.

These ports are put to better use storing his gear, though, when riding in his Baribarien.

On the back of the toy is another port that can be used to store his keytar.

Opening the chest compartment reveals that the toy can replicate scenes in the show where Mic inserts the various music disks to utilize his most destructive powers.

Mic does look pretty boss on his stage.

I was lucky enough to grab Mic Sounders via an overseas vendor.  These are getting more rare, but they do pop up on Ebay from time to time and often for moderate prices.  Mic's not the main draw of the show and so may not be the most popular toy from the series, but he's got the right qualities to make a fan of me.  I really enjoy the vivid colors, simple transformation into two completely different forms, and the quirky concept of a rock-n-roll warrior robot.  Add the Baribarien vehicle to the set, and you've got a real winner.  If you're a fan of the GaoGaiGar show or just of interesting transforming robot toys, you really shouldn't pass this one up.  Rock on, Mic!!!


  1. Now I am singing, "Ga-Ga-ga, ga-ga-ga, Gaogaigar!"

  2. And here's Mic doing his thing:

    I clearly misremembered his instrument as the "Flying" double-vee. I guess it's really meant to be "dazzling."