Sunday, September 18, 2011

Tears and cheers for the GI Joe Cycle Armor with Ashiko

Here they come to save the day!  Except, not really.
Ok, many, many years ago, say, around 1988 or so, I was nine years old and my friend Seth had an overnight birthday party.  Seth was a smart, artistic cat.  His parents were both college professors, and he had interesting tastes.  He was the guy that introduced me to They Might Be Giants* and later on, to Squirrel Nut Zipper. And a bunch of other stuff that artie kids get into before the rest of us.

Anyway, at this birthday party, Seth had scored the Bubblegum Crisis videos from his parents as an early birthday gift.  We watched them that night.

Side views are cool.
They blew our effing minds.  So many new and amazing things were going on there.  Animation from Japan that had subtitles at the bottom of the screen.  They was futuristic, super violent, and had stories far more complex than He-Man did.  They were stylized in way that was unlike anything else we had ever seen before. And the very best part was not the naked ladies in the cartoons (well, I was a year or two too young to really appreciate that.)  No no- even cooler then that was the FREAKEN TRANSFORMING MOTORCYCLES those ladies rode THAT TURNED INTO BODY ARMOR when they fought the bad guys.  I had completely missed Robotech- I wouldn't learn about cyclone armor for a few more years.  But the cyclone suits in Robotech had the same idea- it was motorcycles, that turned, into armor suits for the driver.  And that is an amazing concept. I couldn't conceive of anything cooler in terms of sci-fi/fantasy.

Fast forward 23 years.  I was really excited to learn last winter that Hasbro was going to make a set of cycle armor that went from a guy on a bike to armor that fit around the guy, ala the Knight Sabers from the Bubblegun Crisis or the Cyclone Armor squads from Robotech.  Like, really excited.  Not only was it the motorcycle -> armor thing, it was a GI Joe thing too!  I hadn't been as excited to see something that totally appealed to my nerd side since The Phantom Menace.

Even in armor mode, this guy isn't much bigger than a regular
action figure.  He is a little taller, but he doesn't look like he
quiet capable of tearing apart a HISS Tank on his own or anything.
Unfortunately, that allusion is apt.

Confession.  I purchased two of these bad boys on ebay.  Two.  For a lot of money.  I should have seen the writing on the wall when Hasbro said they would not be releasing the Cycle Armor as an online exclusive or selling them in the USA at retail during the August 2011 online Q&A sessions.

I should say this right away- do I dislike the Joe Cycle Armor as much as The Phantom Menace?  No!  Not at all.  It would take a lot to make me as disappointed with something as I am with the Phantom Menace.  Or the entire prequel trilogy, for that matter.

But that said, the Joe Cycle Armor?


it disappoints.

Cycle mode is cool.  But I didn't buy this toy for cycle mode. 
If I wanted a GI Joe Motor Cycle, there are many, many
other options besides this one.  And they are a hell of a
lot less expensive.
Ok, I'll start with the glass half full stuff.  In motorcycle mode, the thing works great.  It holds together just fine!  'But David,' you are probably thinking, 'it holds together?  Um, is that really a praise worthy achievement for a toy?'

In this case,


Yes it is.

The cycle mode is cool.  I think it is missing something in the way of a nifty little windscreen to really make it look totally sweet, but whatever.  The cycle mode is by far the best part of this toy, and talking about how cycle mode could be cooler only detracts from the best part of the thing, and the best part needs to be good to balance out what doesn't work, because with the Joe Cycle Armor, what doesn't work is a lot.

The figure, or "Ashiko", just kind of sucks.  The hands don't stay connected to the arms- they keep falling out of the wrist sockets.  I painted the little pegs that connect the hands to the forearm with black paint, and that seemed to fix that problem.  And I think it would be really cool to have an Japanese male head on the figure, but that just doesn't seem to be in the cards for this figure.  But the really bad part is yet to come.   Um, to further my desire to portray the figure in the best possible light, I will also say... that he could be worse?  Yeah, that's it.  It doesn't suck too much that his legs have these slots built into them, or that the forearm armor with the slots coming out of them really don't seem to fit and cut off a lot of articulation of the elbows.  Because who really needs elbow articulation?  That something only fat, lazy toy fans need.  Real people are happy with armor that doesn't seem to fit on the character.  We grew up with star wars figures in the 80's, and those didn't have elbow joints, and we loved those guys. So this is fine. Really, its fine. Its totally, totally fine.

So many parts!  So many weapons and components!
And its also totally fine that the guy comes with his own mini arsenal.  He comes with a ton of weapons he can't really hold because his hands keep popping out of their joints, and the weapons are all the same color black and the sword and the knife will look really cool once we paint the blades silver and its really cool that the knife comes in a little sheaf that does not connect to any part of Ashiko's body, because who needs that, and who cares that it is pretty much impossible for Ashiko can't really hold any weapons when he is in armor mode, because, well, his hands keep falling out and besides that, the way his armor goes around his hands there is no way any of his rifles or even the pistol will fit there.  The katana kind of fits,  but that's pretty much it, and that's great because, geez, we had really low expectations going in, and anything that it good, is super fantastic.  And lots of weapons are really good.  So... that means the weapons are really super fantastic.  Yeah.  That's the ticket.

But now I'm a little weirded out because I've gotten to the part where I have to talk about the armor mode and I don't want to talk about the armor mode which is why I kind of tried to talk about everything else and put armor mode discussion off for as long as I could because



To point it another way, it sucks so much.  So, so, so much.

Nothing stays together in armor mode.  For whatever reason, it is almost impossible to get the tabs of the armor to fit into the slots on the Ashiko's person.  And once you do get the pieces to kind of hold together, if you *breath* on it, they fall apart.  In armor mode, this thing is a fragile, fragile, little snowflake. Once he is put together, he looks cool as hell, but you cannot play with this thing.

Pretty much none of the slots on the underside of the armor
(seen here) fit the plugs in Ashiko's armor correctly.  None. 
You have been warned.
Because his chest armor is going to pop off if you move him from point A to point B.  And then his left leg is going to come off, which really sucks because that was the hardest piece to connect in the first place. And then his right hand is going to pop off. And his helmet is going to come off too since you tilted the man to the side.  And when you put he helmet back on (be careful, because if it falls from 3 feet up or higher, that thing can bounce and its dark and it can go under a table or fade into a shadow under a couch or dark carpeting or whatever, and wow, you just spent 5 minutes making the guy go from cycle mode to robot mode, something that really should take a minute or two tops and would, if the pegs fit snugly into the slots but they don't and then you spent another 10 minutes reconnecting him back together again because you were dumb enough to think you could play with this guy in armor mode.

I bought two of these guys on ebay.  I think I mentioned that.  For a lot of money.

Ugh.  I'm such an idiot.

But you know what? 

I still really, really like this piece.  It hurt me.  This is an abusive toy.  If you touch it in cycle mode, it will punish you like it punishes me.  But I keep coming back to it, as if I am crying out "Thank you, Madam GI Joe Cycle Armor!  May I have another??"

Yet I really like it. 

And I like it because it is a motorcycle that turns into armor for the guy riding the motorcycle.  And that concept has captured my imagination since I was 9 years old.  Its just too cool for something even as irritating as poor peg and slot design to mess up.  It hurts you, but like that beautiful girlfriend who knows you and and gets you and makes you feel like you the most important, most wonderful guy in he world when she is with you, and then cheats on you, you still want to like it.  Because its just so cool.  So even though the intellectual part of me will say "David, you are an idiot for spending so much money on this toy.  This thing is a piece of crap.", the emotional side will say "gee wiz, dude, its

a motorcycle,

that turns,

into body armor!  And I own it now!  I get to put it on a shelf and look at it and be inspired by the its genius!  Its so creative!  Its so cool!  I love it so much!  Its so cool!"

My mind, in this, like so many other areas, will thus be locked in a permanent state of  disagreement and discord.

For my final say, I say this.  The GI Joe Cycle Armor with Ashiko is more like a deluxe action figure than an alpha vehicle.  The cycle itself is very small.  Its too bad this thing is in a window box and not a blister card.  The degree of over packaging on account of this is ridiculous.  I think I would have no problems buying this guy for $12.00.  I spent a hell of a lot more than $12 for two of these on ebay.  But in the end, this thing is a guy with armor that turns into a motor cycle.  And it makes my inner child squeal with utter pleasure and delight.  And sometimes, you need to make your inner child squeal with utter pleasure and delight.  So I am not going to torture myself for buying a not quite ready for prime time toy.  In our lives, especially as we get older, the situations where our inner child get to squeal with utter pleasure and delight are few and far between.  So when it happens, I think you gotta just take it an enjoy it while it lasts.

No matter how many times you need to put that stupid effing left armored leg back on the figure.

Dave Drapper's GI JOE Urban Response Squad:
Ready to rock and roll!

*I have no idea what the people at Tiny Toons were thinking when they made this episode- the entire cartoon that day was Tiny Toon characters acting out They Might Be Giants music videos.  I never heard where it came from or why they did it, but it is one of those things you can ask people our age- when you were a young, did you ever see that episode of Tiny Toons where all the cartoons were music videos?  The cool kids know what you are talking about.

1 comment:

  1. The Cycle Armour is pure crap. I bought the only one I ever saw at retail, and man, does it blow.