Microman L20 Micro Trailer with Secret Breaster Pilot Edison
Produced by Takara | Released July 2000
Today sees the second of my Reviews of the 1999-2000 Microman playsets (following on from the earlier Mr Grey and Power Drink with Magne Cyber.) How does this shape-up? Click through to find out!
LED Powers Secret Breaster Microman
The L20 Micro Trailer set was released in 2000, as part of the LED Powers Secret Breaster range. The LED Powers-type Microman (AKA Laser Microman) had been released the previous year and although sales-wise the figures did little, among collectors the new figures were well-received and seen as a great advance over the earlier Magne Powers Micromen, thanks to their improved articulation and better production.
The gimmick of the LED-Powers/Laser Microman figures was the inclusion of an LED in their chest, which - when their power-supply backpack was attached - would light-up at the press of a button. Unlike the recent Tron Legacy figures, the Micromen retained their poseability and articulation, thanks to the batteries being housed in the (removable) backpack.
The follow-up series, the Secret Breaster Microman, saw the inclusion of a heat-sensitive chest-panel that would change colour to reveal a ''secret mission colour-code.'' Each of the four individually-released figures featured four mission variants, the only exception being Edison, the figure exclusively packaged with the L20 Micro Trailer.
Now it gets more complicated...
The L20 Micro Trailer was a repackage of the Transformers Action Master Series, a short-lived line that attempted to create 3 3/4'' Transformers characters and vehicle playsets, with the Micro Trailer being based upon Optimus Prime's truck form. Takara - never one to miss an opportunity - re-coloured and repackaged the toy and released it as the only large playset in the Secret Breaster line.
Hopefully that's brought everybody up to speed and we can move on to the Review!
Firstly, the box for this toy - given it's a Microman toy - is huge. I'm so used to blister-packed, carded figures that it came as quite a shock when this arrived. Not that I'm complaining. I paid $19.99 for this toy and the box immediately made me feel my cash had been well-spent, at least in terms of the quantity of toy I was getting for my money!
As you may have noticed, this is the Korean release of the L20 Micro Trailer. My understanding is that the contents are identical to the Japanese release, though.
The packaging works nicely. The box opens with flaps at either end, held in-place with a small piece of tape. Interestingly the box interior features a printed design that can be cut-out and assembled into a Micro Base, should one wish to do so. Presumably this was included to add an extra ''playset'' without having to pay for additional plastic pieces.
The pieces within are held in a plastic retaining tray. Edison is a little difficult to pop-out of the plastic but the other pieces are easily removed. Not pictured is the sticker and instruction sheets that come with the set.
Let's start with a look at the Edison figure.
Secret Breaster Pilot Edison
Edison uses a newer joint system, identical to that used in the Mr Grey figure. A simple ball-joint mechanism allows for a great range of movement without feeling fragile or breakable. His lower torso uses the more standard screwed-joints but is equally as durable and poseable.
The figure stands without support, even with his battery backpack attached and his joints work well, with no overly-stiff or loose parts. The range of movement is good and allows for a range of dynamic poses. The sculpt is nice and looks well-proportioned, overall. His head design is particularly interesting, being based upon a grasshopper.
Colour-wise, Takara went with a more lifelike colour-scheme for the Secret Breaster toys, harking back to the palettes used on the Real Type Micromen of the 80s. Edison uses a mix of olive drab and rust-brown, with lighter green highlights, plus chrome head and - interestingly - groin details. My guess is he's wearing some kind of space underpants or something.
I personally like these designs a lot and they're a good middle-ground between the toyish Magne Powers Micromen and the (sometimes) overly-intricate MasterForce Micromen, in that you can pose the figures well but they also feel as if they'd stand-up well to being played with. I'll certainly be interested in tracking-down more from this line.
L20 Micro Trailer
The real meat of the set is the L20 Micro Trailer, which can be divided further into two parts - the cab and the trailer. We'll begin with the cab.
The cab's roof hinges open to allow Edison to be seated within. Unfortunately there's no interior detail in the cab, which is not just a real missed opportunity but also a bad piece of design. Although Edison can be seated within the cab (even with his backpack attached), there's no chair for him to sit upon, meaning that if you want him to remain in-place you either have to wedge his hands against the ''dashboard'' or pose him in a crouching position and hope he doesn't slide out. Given that Edison has a 5mm port on his back, it makes no sense not to see a matching peg in the back of the vehicle. It reminds me of the old Bespin Cloud Car from the original Star Wars toy line, where the figures would - unless braced against the interior - slide into the hollow pods. And that's not good.
However, not all is lost with the cab and it does have some fun features. For example, the roof section may be hinged backward to provide a gunnery platform. Foot-pegs on the rear mean the figures can be positioned securely and in a nice piece of design-work, the guns fit perfectly into the figure's hand. Indeed, the weapons that adorn the vehicle are also perfect matches for Edison's ports, meaning they can double-up as back-mounted weapons, which is a nice touch.
But if the gunnery cab is not enough, how about transforming it into something a little sleeker? A few clicks and tweaks and the cab becomes a Batmobile-esque sports car.
Still not impressed? OK, so how about transforming it into a jet?
The L20 Micro Trailer cab is a lot of fun and - as you can see - is quite configurable. Much like the Mr Grey and Power Drink set, though, the configurations owe more to the Transformers than they do vintage Microman. Were this vehicle an older release, the nose-cone - for example - would have been a piece that popped in-place, rather than a fold-out, hinged part of the full assembly. That's not to say it doesn't work nicely but the pieces have very specific roles and only fulfill those roles, no others. Given that imagination and using different pieces in different, unexpected ways was always a part of the Microman philosophy, it's a shame to see it dropped in favour of Transformers-esque bend and fold design.
The construction is relatively sturdy and - unlike the Mr Grey bottle - it feels robust enough to reconfigure without worrying about breaking the hinges.
The other major part of the toy - the trailer - also has a few fun surprises.
The rear (white) section seats two Micromen (again, though, without 5mm pegs to hold them in place...) and is mounted on a moveable gurney, allowing the entire section to elevate. Unfortunately, Takara missed an opportunity here to add a pivot on the base, which would have allowed the entire section to rotate horizontally. This would have added a lot to the functionality of the piece.
The large, twin-cannons at the heart of trailer may also be elevated and unfolded, with the gold ''barrels'' being hidden when not in use. Again a 5mm peg-less seat accommodates the figure when firing the weapon. And again, but for an extra pivot the functionality of this weapon would have been improved greatly.
And if that wasn't enough, there's a third configuration, the HQ Mode, in which the trailer's side-panels may be unclipped and rotated to provide a shield wall.
There's even a walkway/platform behind the wall to allow Micromen to man the weapons.
Like the cab, there's a lot of fun to be had with the trailer and - a few minor points aside - the configurations work well. For some reason it reminds me of the Micronauts Astrostation/Microman Connig Station Base in the way it unfolds. It's just too bad Takara didn't make it as flexible as the original toys, in terms of the pieces being removable and more multi-functional.
The overall production on the trailer is nicely done and - again - the hinged joints used to transform between configurations feel relatively sturdy. I did experience one loud crack as I was moving the side-panels but thankfully nothing has broken. Just be careful and respectful and the pieces should move without any problems.
Colour-wise both the cab and trailer are cast from solid white plastic and semi-transparent green. It's interesting that the colour-scheme here would be more suited to an older-style Microman or the Shining Tector figures that followed. Given that the Secret Breaster Micromen use very muted tones, it's surprising to see such a brightly-coloured vehicle. That's not to say it doesn't look good - it does - and the clear plastic is a very eye-catching addition.
The two '''vehicles'' fit together via a single pin/hole joint at the rear of the cab. Although it wouldn't be advisable to attempt to lift one end without the other, when the entire assemblage is on the ground the pivot holds well and it's possible to drag the trailer by pulling the cab without any issues. The wheels are a little squeaky (and two of the trailer ones are fake anyway) but it rolls well enough.
The L20 Micro Trailer doesn't really include anything that could be described as an ''extra.'' There's a sticker sheet and some instructions but the Power Cards included in the Mr Grey Power Drink set are not present here, for example. The packaging can be cut-up and made into a play-set, however, if that counts...
Initially, the L20 Micro Trailer is a little disappointing. It looks too much like a Transformer (which isn't surprising, given it's origins) and doesn't have the vintage Microman style of pull-apart/pop-in construction. However, once you start to play with it, there's actually a lot of fun to be had with it.
For starters, there's some nicely-designed, well thought-out production behind it. What it does, it does very well and it's just a nicely put-together toy. Of course, it's not without its faults. The lack of 5mm pegs in the seats and the way the trailer platforms don't rotate (which is inexcusable, given that the Microman Connig Station Base could do all that back in 1975) lose it some points. Whilst somebody at Takara has attempted to do their best to make it ''of'' the Microman line, it's just not quite there but that's not to say it's not a fun toy to play with. Just don't expect a Microman Conning Tower Base toy that can be disassembled and reassembled to your heart's content.
There's also one minor point I don't quite get about the toy - what exactly is it supposed to be? Given that the Microman toys are to-scale with our world (i..e they really are that tall) why then do they have a miniature truck? Mr Grey's bottle-as-base works as a concept, as do the other ''secret'' bases introduced in the Magne Powers Microman line. And given that Microman technology is clearly capable of producing hovering/flying vehicles, what use then would they have for a truck? I know it's only a minor point but I do tend to obsess over these things...
Secret Breaster Pilot Edison is a good little figure, streets ahead of the Magne Power figures both in terms of his design and application. He's poseable, stands well by himself and - best of all - his LED gimmick, which could have been his ruin, only adds to his coolness, thanks to the decision to house the batteries in a removable pack. My only criticism is that his colour-scheme is a little subdued and as a fan of clear plastic toys, I'd loved to have seen him in a nice semi-transparent casr.
Anyway, minor problems aside this is actually a very fun toy and is a lot more fun than I imagined it would be. It looks great, the transforming action - even though I shouldn't like it - works well and the toy works well both as a display piece and a play-thing. After my Review of the Mr Grey set, I was worried that the Magne Powers and subsequent Micromen were going to be disappointing but this set has reignited my interest in the line and I'll certainly be on the hunt for more.
It's just a shame that Takara didn't put in that extra little bit of effort, because had they done so then this would be a must-have for any toy fan. As it is, it's just fallen-short at the final hurdle. That's not to say it isn't a lot of fun, but it's just not quite there as a great toy.
Secret Breaster Pilot Edison
L20 Micro Trailer