When Bandai took over the Machine Robo line from Popy at the end of 1982, they immediately began to infuse it with more down-to-Earth vehicles. A good illustration of this is the comparison between Highway Robo and Doubledecker Bus Robo. Popy's effort looked like Son of Big Bus; Bandai's is a meticulous model of a contemporary bus. Doubledecker Bus Robo was issued in Japan in 1983 but skipped over in America, where Tonka seemed to have a grasp on mundane vehicles not really selling (the dustbin lorry Renegade Fly Trap was delayed before getting a limited release in the second series while the likes of Dumper and Dozer were dropped from the series after only a year or so on sale).

However, Mimo - who took over the Brazilian licence from Glasslite (I think in around 1984/85) - added the figure to their short-lived Convert range. The Brazilian release featured a new sticker sheet (the legend ‘Kato Bus' becoming ‘Mimo Bus') and the colours changed slightly – all of the legs (except the feet) and the sections of translucent brown plastic were replaced with opaque brown, and the yellow parts were made darker (a scheme which closely resembled the prototype advertised in some Japanese catalogues). And that's all she wrote for Doubledecker Bus Robo.


ALTERNATE MODE

As with Fly Trap, Spoons or Man-O-War it's nice to see something a bit more unusual get turned into a figure. It's commercial suicide, but it's nice nonetheless. For a bus, Doubledecker is actually rather charming. I think the toy's modelled on an early Mitsubishi Fuso Aero King (but as Japanese buses of the early 1980s are hardly my forte I'm not committing), and the scale is very small, resulting in a cute little vehicle. Yes, I called a bus cute. The colours are surprisingly fetching, treading that delicate line between flash and believable with aplomb. The sticker-work is excellent, though the use of some brownish decals to cover some out-of-place yellow areas is a pain – while Bandai have done their usual superlative job matching the colours, when these start to peel it looks poor.

Considering the small scale (we're talking in the region of 1/144 here, I'm guessing) there's a surprising amount of detail crammed onto this thing. The biggest drawback is the large, noticeable join-lines along the roof – largely visible because the yellow topside is paint apps, on top of darker brown plastic that can be seen at the joins. Overall, though, it's a fine alt mode, a lot more likable than you'd think a bus could be.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation sequence is nice – not too simple, but still pretty straightforward. The arm configuration is the same as that used for Rest-Q, though the head is a bit different (instead of the whole unit sliding out, it hinges, giving him a unique triangular head), and the lower half rotates, with feet popping out of the bus roof.

The end result is a rather slender robot, but he looks great. The colours somehow just work, aided by some well-placed stickers. It's a bit of a shame the shoulders are visibly hollow, but everything else is spot-on. He is quite tall and thin, but not unbelievably so, and alien robots probably come in all shapes and sizes. I especially like the head – the sloping cranium is a nice change, and there's a very good cast for the face (for some reason, I think the triangular forehead is just terrific). From head-on there are very few alt-mode features present, but they show up nicely from other angles. The rotating waist is a great touch – not only does it give him an extra point of articulation, but they could have been lazy and just had the back half extend and split, using the underside as the shins. It's nice they've got to the extra effort (this also shows through with the way the feet have panels to cover their housings, instead of just leaving two holes). On top of all of this, he's a sturdy figure too.


SUMMARY

Providing your mind isn't completely closed to the idea of a transforming bus (and personally I find that after hundreds of exotic sportscars, military jets, tanks and other things you'd rarely see in real life, it's a nice change) this is a top-notch figure. On the Japanese exclusive scale, of the ones I own it's only behind the Mini Cooper Robo. The mould's class, both modes are pleasing, the colours are nice and he's durable. Bit of a pity the West didn't get this one instead of Fly-Trap, really, as it's a damn fine figure. Shame he probably fetches ~£50, but if you're going to spend that much on an MR figure, make it this one or the Mini.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-27: Doubledecker Bus Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None