BatrainNa, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Batrain!
Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, Batrain!
Batrain, Batrain, Batrain!

I'm quite poor at opening articles, so I thought I'd come up with something truly awful and really excel myself. Batrain is, surprisingly enough, nothing to do with Batman, but instead a figure from the tail end of the Super Robot craze in Japan. Takatoku Toys were one of several companies to try and follow the lead of Popy in the 1970s, creating a number of diecast robot toys under the brand name of Z-Gokin . While Popy had most of the best-known names, the likes of X-Bomber, Goshogun and Daikengo were modest successes for Takatoku.

They would really hit the big time in 1982 when they devised the Real Robot Kanzen Henkei ('perfectly transforming') Macross Valkyrie figure. This was a huge success, and led to further Kanzen Henkei lines in the shape of Orguss, Dorvack and Beetras. These all pretty much failed and sent the company to the wall, but in the meantime Takatoku made one last Super Robot figure. The company had worked with anime studio Kokusai Eiga-sha to produce Z-Gokin figures for Takao Yotsuji's J-9 trilogy, specifically for Galactic Whirlwind Braiger and Galactic Gale Baxinger , so it made sense that they continue for the final instalment, 1983's Galactic Whirlwind Sasuraiger .

This series was based on Around the World in 80 Days - as it contained a space train that turned into a giant robot and included characters named Blues Carl Bernstein and Rock Anlock, it was presumably a very loose adaptation. The early figures came out named as Batrain, presumably arriving in advance of the series, while later versions were rebranded Sasuraiger. As was Takatoku's wont, several different versions were issued - the large, transforming Kahen Meka SL Type (available on show or Realtype colours), the large non-transforming (but feature-packed) TV-83X, non-transforming Mini Gokin types and a plastic transforming Henkei version. This last version was (like several Takatoku-originated designs) issued in Select's Convertors line, becoming the 1985 Defender figure First Track.

BatrainBatrainThe version I have is the SL Type, which I bought by accident while looking for the Convertors figure. Yep, really scoped that one out. Batrain has a charming alternate mode - a vintage steam train in a crazy bright green/yellow/red/blue colour scheme. Even though steam trains as vehicle modes aren't unheard of, the ones used tend to be the more industrial types (like the model used by Popy for Steam Robo). This looks like something from a kids' toy chest, and I rather like it as a result.

Features are minimal, basically rolling wheels (though in a nice touch, the locomotive bars on the front four wheels move). There are a few other drawbacks - the most glaring is that the figure isn't perfectly transforming, with the underside of the engine section formed by the robot arms. These pop off and reattach - not a problem in itself, but they don't properly connect to the bottom, and just sort of sit there. In the figure's defence, I am missing the weaponry - maybe it holds the arms in place in this mode? The train is all-plastic, and rather low on detail. However, it has some chunky charm to it.

BatrainBatrainThe transformation is nicely done on the whole, especially the way the engine boiler rotates around. One downside is the feet are very difficult to fold out - so much so that I don't fold them away completely anymore. Points for the cowcatcher hands, though, that's a neat piece of design.

Appreciation of Batrain's robot mode is dependant on whether you like your transforming robots to be covered with alt mode features. While the shape of the boiler is retained as the chest and the forward wheels are still visible on the arms, from the front there aren't many signs that Batrain turns into a train at all. The way this is done is rather neat, with some nice pieces of engineering, but I realise it's not some peoples' cup of tea.

BatrainBatrain isn't dull to look at. The bright colour scheme still works nicely, while there's plenty of detail on the robot, including some good stickers. The head design is a little sinister, but does look a lot more businesslike than most other Super Robots. Batrain is still low on features, however. Articulation is limited to the shoulders and elbows, while the fists can fire (and also be placed in the wrists horizontally or vertically), and... that's about it.

The boxy robot is imposing at 8.5" tall, and the proportions are rather good - the head is maybe a little small, and doesn't quite gel with the rest of the design. While Batrain doesn't have the quality or design of contemporary Popy efforts, the bizarre mixture of a very childlike train mode and a very serious-looking robot mode is interesting stuff, and the figure is worth checking out, providing you can find a cheap example.


GN-U DOU....


GN-U Dou Sasuraiger

GN-U Dou Sasuraiger
GN-U Dou Sasuraiger
GN-U Dou Sasuraiger
GN-U Dou Sasuraiger
GN-U Dou Sasuraiger
GN-U Dou Sasuraiger

More recently Batrain was one of the subjects of Yamato's GN-U Dou line. The series concentrates on making plastic & PVC versions of whichever mecha anime robots Yamato can snaffle up the licences for - including the J-9 trilogy, Macross, Dancougar and (bizarrely) Kenryu from Machine Robo - Revenge of Cronos. The GN-U Dou series seems to be a successor to the short-lived SIM-Ex range that produced an absolutely superb Ideon figure in 2004. The GN-U Dou line featured much smaller figures, around 5" tall.

The eighth figure is named Sasuraiger in honour of the anime. It very closely resembles both the series' character model and the vintage non-transforming figures. While it doesn't actually convert, it's peppered with clues as to the real thing's alternate mode, with the smokestack present on the back and train wheels on the arms and legs. Parts of the train machinery are also on the outsides of the wrists; I'd never really noticed how much they look like rotary guns or rocket pods. It looks cool, it really does. Everything's painted the right colour, and Sasuraiger is nicely detailed.

The figure is also very dynamic. Ball joints proliferate, and the toy has a large range of articulation. It'd be easier to list where it doesn't have good movement - the head can only turn, not move up or down, while the soft PVC skirt around the waist limits the legs a little. Aside from that it can pull off any reasonable pose. Accessory-wise, Sasuraiger is on the light side - a rifle, and a fist sculpted to hold said rifle. It's not a lot, but then not a lot more is needed.

For such a cheap figure, Sasuraiger certainly delivers. A big diecast transforming version with articulation on the level of a Soul of Chogokin would be better, but then it's the sort of licence CMs would end up with and it would cost more than putting a man on Mars. So this will do for now.