Microsoft has Macintosh, Coke has Pepsi, Marvel has DC, Amuro has Char, Miracleman has Kid Miracleman, the Doctor has Russell T. Davies - and Tetsujin 28 has Black Ox.
Black Ox first showed up as a recurring villain in the Tetsujin 28-go manga, before becoming a fixture of the TV series (with updated versions appearing in both the 1980 series and the 1992 sequel to the original, Tetsujin 28 FX). Toy-wise, the robot suffered twofold - firstly, its' debut preceded Popy's action figure revolution (so was never likely to get anything not made from painted tin anyway), and secondly, it was a villain - these have never traditionally sold well in Japan. So for years Black Ox was consigned to Gashapon or PVC figurines and the odd garage kit.
However, the design retained a cult following due to Black Ox's memorable appearance, and when the original designs were dusted down for Yasuhiro Imagawa's 2004 Tetsujin 28-go anime, and then Black Ox was the villain in the 2005 live-action movie, merchandise did follow. One notable figure was in Kaiyodo's Revoltech line of ultra-poseable PVC toys. More interestingly, in November 2005, Bandai added a Black Ox figure to their Soul of Chogokin range (which, being more collector-orientated, could get away with a few bad guys where the original Chogokin couldn't), designed to complement their earlier Tetsujin 28 figure.
Black Ox manages to retain the smooth retro feel of Tetsujin 28 while remaining that bit more sleek and dynamic. Compared to the rotund, jolly-looking Tetsujin, Black Ox has always been a bit more dangerous-looking and, well, pointy. This is displayed with aplomb by the Soul of Chogokin design, with the permanently bowed head and thuggish hanging arms conveying a robot that's just taking a brief moment out of punching things. Fittingly, Black Ox is almost totally covered in gloss black paint. The overall effect fits in with the sinister look of the robot, even if it's beyond my photography skills to capture this accurately.
Like Tetsujin, Black Ox is mainly diecast metal, and almost exactly mirrors his counterpart's articulation - joints at the shoulders, elbows, waist, hips, knees and ankles, plus the rotating fists. The moving 'toes' are gone, but as a trade-off due to Black Ox actually having a neck, the head can move.
Or rather, one of the heads can move. Bandai continue to impress with their attention to detail on the line, and Black Ox actually has interchangeable noggins - one with a moving neck joint, the other with electronics in the eyes. This is the sort of thing I love - they could have just had a fixed light-up head and said "Sod the articulation, the eyes light up", but instead they're made this large extra part so the choice is up to you.
Black Ox continues to mirror Tetsujin as the robot has similarly sound balance - there's not a lot of poses that the figure can't hold - indeed, the smaller chest section makes it even more stable than Tetsujin. However, the door that closes over the head parts can hang loose and flap in some poses, but aside from that the toy is incredibly durable. Beyond the dynamism and the light-up eyes, Black Ox doesn't have too many built in features. Winning points, though, are the spring-loaded spikes in the base of the feet that retreat automatically when said feet are on a flat surface. Black Ox also has the removable forearms of most non-transforming Soul of Chogokin figures - sadly, they missed a trick, as the exposed wiring part for Tetsujin 28's elbow doesn't fit Black Ox, which is a shame.
Black Ox has a small, simple set of extra parts.
Firstly, there's a to-scale painted figurine of Dr. Franken, Black Ox's designer/operator, holding the remote. This cements the exact designs as originating from the 2004 series, judging by Franken's Trowa Barton-esque side-parting. One little thing that would have made it even better would be exactly mirroring the pose of the Shotaro figure from the Tetsujin set just for the display possibilities, even if it would have been pretty out of character for Franken.
A larger replica of the remote is also included - this can be placed against Black Ox's head and cause his eyes to light up on one of the three electronic settings. It can also be held in Black Ox's hand for scale confusion and Ricardo LaForce homages.
Black Ox comes with the obligatory alternative hands - as well as the clenched fists and clasping hands, there are a pair revealing the robot's fingertip weaponry (Tetsujin could fly where Black Ox couldn't, but Black Ox could then shoot him down...). The fists on this one aren't the easiest to replace, incidentally - the wrist connections are ball-jointed, and switching hands can occasionally prove fiddly.
Black Ox's stand continues the mirroring of Tetsujin 28, being very close to exactly the same - there's no support for the back of the robot (not a problem, as Black Ox doesn't have a rocket pack), while this one does have a tiny little post to properly attach the Franken figure (a very minor failing of the Tetsujin toy was that Shotaro just had to balance on the stand). It's a bit of a shame Bandai didn't go mad and have the two stands as halves of a diorama or something.
As hammered home throughout this review, Black Ox is designed very much as a counter to the Tetsujin 28 figure, and thus they interact very well. Gripping hands are the right sort of size to hold limbs, joints are strong enough to take the other figure leaning on them, and so on. Bandai did take the interaction one stage further - placing Black Ox's fist on Tetsujin's chest causes Tetsujin's eyes to change colour from yellow to red. Or at least, they're meant to - my one doesn't; either I don't have the right version of Tetsujin, or something's faulty, or I'm doing it wrong. This is the problem with importing figures from Hong Kong - if a sealed toy has a manufacturer's error on it, you can't just pop down the shops with the receipt... C'est la vie, I suppose, and while it would have been a nice little feature, the pair work together so well anyway that I'm chuffed enough as it is.
the usual sky-high Soul of Chogokin production values with a classic
retro design comes off nicely - the finish and look of the figure is incredibly
stylish. While the (intentional) lack of features and weaponry won't be
to all tastes, Black Ox is a smooth take on an endearingly old-fashioned
design. However, for full appreciation (and maximum fun factor) getting
a Tetsujin 28 to go with it is recommended.