Shinkansen Robo was something of a landmark figure for the Machine Robo Series, being the first release of 1983, and the final figure to be designed by Popy. The Popy silver box version with blue trim was only available for a short period before the line was taken over by Bandai.

Like the rest of the Popy designs, Shinkansen Robo was then reissued in Bandai's 'diagonal' packaging. Not only was the blue version reissued, but a recoloured version with green trim was released alongside it under the same MR-12 code. Both of these came with a connecting hook accessory so the trains could be coupled. By the end of the year, Shinkansen Robo had been superseded by Bandai's own bullet train design - prosaically named New Shinkansen Robo - and was discontinued. The figure was skipped entirely in the West, probably simply because most Western kids at the time wouldn't have a clue what a bullet train was.


ALTERNATE MODE

I am reliably informed by some page on Wikipedia than Shinkansen Robo is a 0 Series Shinkansen, whereas New Shinkansen Robo was a 200 Series model. Now, I'm no expert in these things, but I'm guessing the changes were mainly internal as there are only very minor visual differences between these two. Shinkansen Robo is a matter of millimetres smaller in most dimensions, but this could well be Popy working to a slightly different scale for this earlier design. Aside from that, the main change are the raised parts on the rear of the train - these form the robot mode feet, so it could be Popy taking a slight liberty to help the robot stand. It's still a good-looking mode though, don't get me wrong. And Popy have put some decent effort in - the detailing, notably on the roof, on this earlier version is much better and whereas the update is nearly all plastic, there are healthy amounts of diecast on Shinkansen Robo. Unfortunately, the creamy white paint used on the plastic isn't as thick as that used on the diecast or the plastic nose, and the result is a rather duller second half of the train. Oddly, whereas the update had moulded train wheels there are none at all on this toy, only the coaster wheels underneath. I'm not sure if the 0 Series had any visible train wheels, but I'll give Popy the benefit of the doubt and assume they were totally enveloped by the skirt.

It's generally a very nice alt mode despite the colour matching issue, and having the option of blue trim helps it stand out a little better compared to New Shinkansen Robo. As with Highway Robo I opted to leave the stickers off this one - not only do they look a little tacky, but I'm damned if I can see anywhere for them to go. If there was just the single 'HIKARI' sticker I'd guess they were from the same school of thought as the massive USAF sticker that was packed with Jet Robo, but the other two stickers are shaped to go roughly alongside the cab, where they'd paste over some lovely detail work and break up the colour scheme. Skipping them was not a hard decision.


ROBOT MODE

Shinkansen Robo has a very simple transformation - exactly the same layout as Highway Robo (odd that two figures I got so closely together should be so similar), with the legs extending from the back, the arms coming out from the sides and the nose turning around to reveal the head. The end result is again slender, and looks taller than it is. The long expanses of silver train roof allied to some rather stumpy thighs make Shinkansen Robo look especially elongated, and sadly the end result has the robot looking somewhat ungainly.

It's a shame, as there are several positive elements, such as thoughtfully moulded arms and a decent head cast. He looks better at a slight angle, rather than in profile. Unlike Highway Robo (where the rotating vehicle nose formed the entire head) in the case of Shinkansen Robo it forms a cowl around a smaller head, effectively robbing the figure of a point of articulation. While the section can still turn fine, the head is set just a little too far forward for this to look natural - as it is moving it too far gives the impression his neck isn't attached properly. The robot mode is competent but unspectacular and a little dull to look at with all that silver.


SUMMARY

Shinkansen Robo is a relatively average figure. The alt mode is neat and smart and the robot mode is functional, but the toy doesn't make much of an impression. The updated version is - despite being nearly all plastic and a little lower on detail - a much better figure. And while on one hand it isn't the fault of Shinkansen Robo that he was made obsolete in such short time or that I happened to buy the newer version first, it's hard to recommend this one beyond the die-hards who would buy it anyway. New Shinkansen is quite simply a much better figure.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1982, Machine Robo Series - MR-12: Shinkansen Robo
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-12: Shinkansen Robo (Bandai reissue)
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-12: Shinkansen Robo (green recolour)

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
None