Friday, February 3, 2017

Full Circle

Y'know, I started this blog almost seven years ago now. In all that time as a budding toy maker, I've had a number of successes, a number of failures, and countless learning experiences. I've had the honor of forging friendships with some amazingly talented folks. And I might've made some enemies along the way too. But the one dream that I let guide my initial foray into this madness was the seemingly absurd goal of creating a homemade chogokin figure of Saucer Animal Gin Gin, a villain robot from my favorite cartoon growing up, UFO Robo Grendizer. If you're reading this, you're probably already well-aware of my fascination with this character. So few of the bad guys from these shows got a proper toy treatment. But this wasn't just *any* baddie! This was the machine that led the charge in subjugating the homeworld of our hero, Duke Freed. And upon returning from Duke's tragic past, Gin Gin's terrifying superiority was evident in how easily Gorman, his pilot, defeated Duke. Gorman would have killed Duke, too--just as he killed Duke's parents during the war that drove him to take refuge on Earth. But just as he was about to finish off Grendizer, Gorman was shot in the back, betrayed by his own subordinates! Such drama! Ya just don't get stories like that in your average monster-of-the-week show anymore! ;)

Now, if you've been following this blog, you know that the "Foe-Gokin" (or faux-gokin if you like!) Gin Gin project never truly came to fruition. Sure, I sold a few antiqued ones made of pewter and a few plated in various metals like copper and nickel...but the intended final production item--a metal and plastic figure, painted and stickered to match the animation--was never released. Just too many outside resources to wrangle, and ultimately too much labor to complete a single piece. I went deeper into the post-mortem in my 2013 wrap-up.

The Foe-Gokin project was perhaps ludicrously ambitious for someone just starting out making toys. But then again, if you're NOT full of piss and vinegar when getting into this game, then you might as well quit before you get your damn feelings hurt.

Fail or no, Foe-Gokin Gin Gin paved the way for a future toy project. See, I learned how hard painting is. I learned how hard cutting and applying--all by hand--stickers is. I learned how much entropy is generated by relying on multiple outside sources for parts, materials, and labor. The sea-change from the early Foe-Gokin Gin Gin years to today's all-3D-printed plastic fabrication has been nothing short of profound. Production may be relatively slow and extremely labor-intensive now, but almost EVERY aspect of the process is in-house. The perfectionist in me is constantly overjoyed at the fact that I get to micro-manage the complete lifecycle of each of my projects...from prototyping to production to variants.

And that future toy project has finally arrived! I'm proud to announce the first Shogun Voyager DX figure, Chakradhar Robo:

Look familiar? ;)

True, Chakradhar (pronounced chuck-rah-DAR) Robo is clearly inspired by Saucer Animal Gin Gin. I wanted to make the character my own, however, so I decided to recreate Gin Gin within my own little fictional universe that serves as the backdrop for my ever-evolving "Shogun Voyager" toy line.

This figure stands a little over 10" (25cm), so he's in perfect scale with many vintage and modern super robot sofubi. In fact, that was entirely by design. Whereas Foe-Gokin Gin Gin was an interpretation of that character in the style of the original Popy diecast figures of the 70's, Chakradhar Robo was designed from the ground up to emulate Bandai's missile-firing vinyls of the same era!

The toy is almost entirely 3D-printed in ABS plastic then bathed in acetone vapor, meaning the toy is extremely durable and quite hefty. There isn't an ounce of paint on this figure--all the coloration was achieved simply by carving up the design and printing each separate part in its own color.

If you're sharp, you noticed the "wound" on his back! The aesthetic of this toy fits in with Go Nagai's classic designs, but I obviously changed the details (and name!) to make this homage to Gin Gin my own. That said, I *had* to keep the blasted armor on his back--it's just TOO important a reference to the original character to leave out!

Okay, so what's with the name? Well, I haven't written up the fluff for the character yet (as he appears in my Shogun Voyagers universe), but the name comes directly from the robot's design and from my South Asian heritage. See, much like Gin Gin, the shields integrated into Chakradhar Robo's arms have built-in circular saw blades--blades somewhat akin to the ancient Indian throwing weapon, the chakram, meaning ring...or circle. The word, "chakradhaari", means "one who wields the chakram" [see also Xena: Warrior Princess :P ] you can see where the robot gets his name! In fact, there are other references to India in the design and story for this character, but I'll leave those details for a future post...

As for gimmicks, you know I gotchu covered, baby.

The blades in the arm-shields spin freely, as you'd imagine. But that's only the beginning. ;) The shoulders rotate forwards and backwards by way of a tough ratchet joint. It's the same ratchet joint used in the Powered Bio Suit shoulders, and has VERY strong detents--all achieved through 3D-printed parts! Okay, so maybe a point of articulation isn't REALLY a gimmick...but I'm proud of the design, dammit! But while we're on the subject, the arms can splay out to the sides, the fists can rotate at the wrists, and the head can rotate at the neck. Look, this toy isn't looking to break any records for poseability here! Remember--this guy was meant to match the aesthetic of vinyl robot toys, paragons of immobility and derpy proportions!

Now we're getting warmer. When I mentioned this toy was designed to emulate the Bandai missile-fire vinyls of the 70's, I didn't mean just in appearance! This guy packs heat like you don't even know! Two fully-functional missile launchers integrated into the two additional missiles stored in his thigh clips. Be careful--or you WILL shoot your eye out!

Not enough? Okay, how about some rocket punch to go along with your missile-fire???


But y'know...the shooty features aren't even my favorite gimmick of all! If you know me--and my history with GID sofubi--then you KNOW I can't drop a fancy toy without it having some kind of glow-in-the-dark feature.

And Chakradhar Robo does not disappoint.

That's not photoshop, kids. That's straight legit blue- and traditional green-glow plastic! Like I said: this toy project has brought me full circle.

GID missiles? Oh yes.

And incidentally, those are Getter 1's vintage missiles above, just for comparison. Which means it's about time to wrap things up with some comparison shots!

Here's the aforementioned Getter 1, along with the very first prototype of Chakradhar Robo to feature the chest launchers. See, when first conceived, Chakradhar was meant to have the vinyl-style launchers you see above. When CAD-modeling the toy, however, I found that the original launching mechanism that I'd developed for the forearms could not be integrated into the I dropped the feature altogether for the first few iterations of the design. But once I had my proof-of-concept that this large-scale, print-in-color methodology could actually succeed where the Foe-Gokin project had failed, I decided to design all-new launchers for the chest. Unfortunately, that means the chest missiles cannot be fired from the forearms (which was what I had originally wanted).

I know--probably way more information than you needed, but hey...I enjoy sharing my thought process!

And above is the original version of Chakradhar, as y'all can see, without the chest launchers. Different color scheme, too.

Mean muggin' that 70's Bandai missile-fire Grendizer!

And here's what I call the "anime colors" version of Chakradhar Robo, along with Medicom's recent Grendizer Giga figure. Damn, he's tall.

More modern comparisons! This time, Chakradhar goes back to his roots as a villain, alongside these excellent Medicom Mazinger Z villains, Kingdan X10 and Doublas M2. A trio of shelf-hogs.

And finally, one last glow shot, featuring Chakradhar and Medicom's Getter Dragon in Shine Spark mode! Like I said--no photoshop here. These images give you a good idea of how much glow power the toy really has. Getter Dragon happens to glow *really* damn bright for a sofubi, so it's a conservative comparison:

Well, that's it for now, guys. Or rather...that's all I'm letting you in on for now! ;) I've got some other things in the works that I alluded to before, including the next incarnation of the Shogun Voyager minifigs. But I'll save that for another post!

Before I bounce, I have one last big announcement to make: I'll be at Zolocon in Bucks County, PA later this month! I'll have the four Chakradhar Robo figures featured throughout this blog post for sale, as well as some other surprises. If you're in the area, come check me out--I'll be right in the center of things, sharing table space with my homie, Dr. Rampageo of, along with some other friends of ours.

Sounds unusually cryptic for me? Most definitely! I've got something in the works coming VERY soon that isn't patterned after Japanese robots or monsters at all. Something big...and muscly. Stay tuned!