GearTribe Hatsune Miku GT Project 2014 ver.
Review by VF5SS
This curious conversion of Good Smile Racing's BMW Z4GT3 race car into a transforming mecha, made its debut in a special promotional video, which you can watch here. The sleek speedster made its incredible change into a robotic Hatsune Miku thanks to the design work of the famous Shoji Kawamori. A few months later, Good Smile announced that this unique machine would be getting a toy under the newly revealed "GearTribe" banner. I was really stoked about this figure, even though it was a Good Smile Shop exclusive.
And then the toy got delayed until about a year after its initial release date. Oh Good Smile, you lovable scamps never could keep to a schedule...
Never say never though, as the GearTribe Hatsune Miku GT Project 2014 ver. broke through the haze in my memory into a real actual toy that really exists and stuff.
Please check out my video review!
In vehicle mode, the GearTribe Hatsune Miku is a stunning 1/24 scale toy car of Good Smile Racing's Super GT BMW Z4GT3. All of the real car's Itasha-style markings and sponsor logos have been faithfully reproduced.The car is roughly seven inches long from bumper to bumper.
This Beamer makes for a good-sized toy car in the hand, though its all-plastic construction makes it feel a bit light.
Its non-rubber tires will still roll freely on any smooth surface, though their (true-to-life) all-black coloring can look a little "cheap" when compared to other toy vehicles of this size.
The fact that GearTribe Hatsune Miku is 1/24 scale means it can fit happily next to both normal toy cars, and the fan-favorite Transformers Binaltech/Alternators figure. Here is the Z4GT3 next to the Ford GT Rodimus. They look really good together, although I'm not a car guy so I can't be sure their relative sizing is 100% accurate to the real vehicles.
Still, I can appreciate a gorgeous race car when I see one, and this figure is simply stunning in vehicle mode.
The famous virtual idol adorns the car in several places. Most notably in this gigantic illustration of Hatsune Miku in her 2014 race queen attire.
And each door has the twin-tailed girl in profile. Also note the plethora of real-life sponsor logos for companies such as Banpresto and Yokohama.
From the bottom, the vehicle gives the barest of hints of the transformation to come, with the robot mode's shapely legs tucked cleanly underneath.
Note that this tiny white detail is, in fact, a removable cover piece for the display stand port. It has to be set aside if you wish to use the stand, so it may be best to just leave it in a safe place, since its absence doesn't really detract from the figure's appearance.
Before the car can be transformed to robot mode, a few pieces need to be removed. The front bumper detaches in two parts as a pair of hinged panels. Similarly, the rear spoiler is popped off its brackets and then splits in half. Together these parts will combine into a pair of mechanical twin-tails.
Unfortunately, this is where the toy's biggest flaw rears its flaky head. All of those intricate markings are too delicate to survive the rigors of conversion intact. In the picture above, you can actually see the thin layer of film the markings are printed on (and how they're starting to peel and come off around edges of contact). I get the feeling this toy was delayed so many times due to problems getting the car mode's deco to survive the assembly process. The result is a toy that will look perfect out of the box, but quickly suffers the rigors of use as soon as you transform it.
Skin problems aside, the conversion process for GearTribe Miku is quite clever, and it becomes pretty intuitive after one or two runs through. It does involve a number of panels getting untabbed before parts will begin to move (please refer to my video as a guide). Once freed, a striking pair of legs unfurl from beneath the BMW.
The robot's helmet-like head is mounted on a multi-hinged armature. In a novel use of vehicle mode parts, the remaining rear panels of the car become the roots for Miku's hair.
Untabbing the arms from the sides of the cabin allows for the hood of the car to be unfolded on its own array of hinged parts.
The edges of the hood fold inward to compress the front's width, with the attached assembly folding in on itself to form the robot's main body. Finishing the conversion is a neat sandwiching effect in which the hood covers the roof of the car, and the head (the rear of the vehicle) tabs in on top of that.
In robot mode, the GearTribe Hatsune Miku expands into a nearly 11-inch tall mechanical Vocaloid. Her overall form is very sleek and unmistakably one of Kawamori's designs. Probably the most obvious calling card is how the car's rear fairings have become a pair of hip thingies.
The mechanized Miku does a decent job of standing upright, even though her heels are made from free-spinning wheels. I've found that the trick to making her stand is to make sure her weight causes the wheels to roll towards her "toes," which get enough traction on the ground to support the whole figure.
Say what you will about this toy being a "panel-former," GearTribe Miku makes for an amazingly clean humanoid robot. Probably the most ingenious part is how the majority of the race car's length has been compressed into almost a third the space. While a similar transformation can be found in some Transformers toys of the live-action movie designs, such as Sideswipe and Sideways, I find that neither manages to create a robot mode this compact and streamlined.
One really neat touch of design is how the robot's head ends up resting over the image of the image of Miku on the car's hood. It's just like a driver putting her helmet on for a race. Also, check out the speaker units on her shoulder pads, which is a cool nod to the famous Fire Valkyrie from Macross 7.
It makes perfect sense since Sound Force began with the design of a "Vocaloid Valkyrie."
What really puts this toy's transformation in perspective is how Miku now towers over the same-scale Rodimus in their respective robot modes. Sure, she's not as bulky as the Transformer, but even he is admiring how this girl has legs for days.
"PLEASE STAY CLOSE TO ME, RODIMUS-SENPAI!!"
"Er... sure thing, Miss Miku."
Articulation wise, GearTribe Miku is on par with most car-based Transformers.
Aside from movable twin-tails, there isn't much you haven't seen before. Some joints, like her outward shoulder motion, are also part of Miku's transformation.
And since Miku's ball-jointed hips aren't restricted by skirt armor, she can really get low if you know what I mean.
And before I continue, I have to make note that my copy of the figure has a floppy waist and hip joints. Since these are both just simple ball-joints, tightening them up with some kind of thickening method is entirely doable. I'm not sure if this is a common problem with these toys, but please be aware before attempting some of the poses you're about to see. Remember, I am an experienced toy manipulator.
Also, I would be cautious around the long ball-tipped stalks the hip thingies are attached to. They're the only part of the robot mode that feel a bit too thin. Not frighteningly delicate, just an area to watch out for when handling the toy.
All-in-all, GearTribe Miku is capable of a number of very flattering poses that exemplify the design's merging of sleekness and grace.
She can even appear to roller-skate on her heelies.
While her small footprint somewhat limits the unsupported poses that can be achieved, Miku is still capable of a pretty wide-legged stance.
GearTribe Miku also has a Gerwalk mode of sorts. While this isn't outlined in the instructions, the official photos and Macross-style iconography on the box show this mid-transformation is indeed possible. However, there is no way to lock the white lower hip assembly in place in this form, so the legged automobile is much less stable than the full-on robot mode.
One thing this mode does offer is a clearer view of the vehicle's interior. Inside there is a single seat (as this is a race car) and not much else. Whether the GearTribe Miku is a sentient robot or a piloted mecha, the way the cabin is preserved means a driver still has a place to sit in either mode.
Also, you can still use the twin-tails parts in "wing mode" while mounted on Miku's head if you really want to turn her into a flying idol.
Remember that tiny white piece that got removed from the toy? As I mentioned earlier, this is where you plug in the included display stand. While the circular joint on the armature makes for a snug fit, the stand does its job when inserted into the small of Miku's back.
The stand itself is just okay, as it's just an enlarged version of the ever-present figma stand, cast in black instead of clear plastic. Oddly enough, the stock photos of the toy show it with a clear stand, but this was sadly dropped from the final product.
At the very least, the stand lets Miku get into a full on sprinting pose.
There's something almost poetic about a race car becoming a mechanical runner...
Miku is right at home with other mecha by Shoji Kawamori. Seen here is the YF-30 Chronos from Macross 30, Nineball from Armored Core, and the titular Omega Boost from the classic Playstation game. All have a similar core design, but stylized according to the "world" they fit into.
Overall, the GearTribe Hatsune Miku is one of those truly unique products in the world of transforming robot toys. I honestly can't think of another collaboration that actively combines the work of a noted mechanical designer with both a real-world vehicle and a idol character all rolled into a single entity. The toy itself is a respectable attempt at a form-changing vehicle by a relative newcomer to robot toys. While I would have preferred the toy have more robust joints, what articulation it does have is perfectly functional and can be beefed up with a little effort on the owner's part. However, the fragility of the car's elaborate paintwork and markings is hard to ignore, especially since this is a piece made to be transformed. Given the toy's limited run and initial price of 8,000 yen plus shipping, watching the race car's beautiful exterior wear away with each conversion is understandably a hard pill to swallow. That said, I am glad this piece exists and am happy to finally have it in hand. As of this review, there hasn't been any word of another GearTribe figure, so this mechanized Hatsune Miku may end up being the kind of toy event that won't come again anytime soon.
|Posted 22 January, 2016 - 16:28 by VF5SS|