Popy had already issued a bullet train inspired Machine Robo figure in 1982, with Shinkansen Robo. In 1983, with the series under the auspices of Bandai, the theme had proved popular enough to justify a second bullet train figure, based on the newer 200 Series model. The toy was imaginatively designated New Shinkansen Robo, the 22nd figure in the series.

The figure was skipped for the Gobots line as bullet trains weren't particularly well-known in the West (something which outside of enthusiasts hasn't really changed, with even the 2001 Transformers RiD combiner Rail Racer only getting a relatively limited release). Back in Japan, the toy was reissued in 1986 for the Revenge of Cronos tie-in line. Despite featuring prominently on some of the promotional art, the character doesn't seem to have more than the odd cameo appearance in the anime itself.


ALTERNATE MODE

New Shinkansen Robo's alt mode is as mentioned modelled on a 200 Series train. This sees to be exactly the same model as one used for the Diaclone Train Robo figures (to be precise, the one which became the Japanese-exclusive Transformers figure Yukikaze). Oddly the Machine Robo version is considerably shorter despite being around the same girth. I'd be more inclined to take the Bandai version as accurate however, especially as it doesn't have to be fiddled to work as a combiner limb.

Now I love bullet trains so this one's a bit of a no-brainer for me. Bandai's take on the thing is rather nice, very compact and with a serious level of detail. The lack of proper rolling wheels on the sides is a bit of a pain (there are four 'coaster' wheels underneath) but the paint apps are great. I'd be tempted to touch him up a little bit, colouring the windows and so on, but it'll have to wait until a supply of the thing somehow turns up. Why didn't anyone ever do knockoffs of the rarer figures instead of hundreds of versions of Road Ranger and BuggyMan? Despite these minor misgivings, the end result is very good, nice and compact with no robot features obvious.


ROBOT MODE

What impresses me is that Bandai have really gone to the effort of making the transformation totally different to the 'old' Shinkansen Robo despite them having a near-identical alt mode. Aside from the rotating nose/head section, hardly anything is carried over. It's quite a clever little sequence to boot, and good fun to do. The end result looks good, too. There is perhaps a lack of visible alt-mode features, with only the headpiece really showing his origins. However this does give the figure an element of subtlety compared to the Trainbots. It's altogether a slimmer, more functional robot.

The arm articulation, rotating waist and separate legs also add an element of quality. The Robo is perhaps a little dry colour-wise, though in his defence my example is missing the stickers. Some effort's gone into the detail sculpting, but this also throws up a couple of oddities – the back of the waist features a large number of engraved details for the waist and thighs (more than on the front) which is a bit odd. I've seen him displayed on some sites with this facing forward, but then he has featureless legs. Sadly, the piece can't be reversed without making the toy un-transformable. The other strange bit is the head cast – while it's fairly sound, it does look a little bit like he's gasping the whole time. Overall though it's a very neat robot mode.


SUMMARY

Overall New Shinkansen Robo is a resounding success. He does have a few little quirks and someone who likes bullet trains less might be more likely to let these bother them, but he's one of my favourite moulds from the whole series, looking good in either mode and possessing a neat transformation. While being Japanese-exclusive makes him expensive (even the reissue hasn't taken the edge off his price – expect to pay £40-50 for a decent condition one), he's a good place to start if you want to collect the rarer more exotic figures.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-22: New Shinkansen Robo
1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRB-16: New Shinkansen Robo

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None