Produced by Takara | Released 1999
Readers over the age of 30 or so may see something familiar about this toy. Chances are if you grew-up in the late 70s you may have owned the Westernised version of this figure, which you'd know as the Micronauts Pharoid. However, his origins are a lot deeper than that, as we'll find out.
M16X MicroCommand Type
Japanese toy giant Takara had experienced some success with their pocket-sized Microman toy line and the fourth wave of figures - released in 1977 - saw the introduction of the MicroCommand Type Microman. There were four such basic types - M15X to M18X - with four colour variants within each. The figures came with an historically-themed travel capsule, playing on the idea that the development of human society had been influenced by the Micromen, a concept that borrowed from Eric Von Daniken's book, Chariots of the Gods.
In 1999 Takara began producing Replica Micromen, based upon the original 1970s toys. One of the first lines re-introduced - probably due to fan popularity - was the MicroCommand Type and today we're looking at the Egyptian-themed Microman, M163 Smith.
Packaging Images from Paul L.'s Microman Forever.
Microman MicroCommand M163 Smith
Smith - as I'll call him from now on - uses a green and yellow colour scheme and of all the M16X-Type Micromen, is the only one to use clear plastic. Given that I was raised on the Micronauts (whose Time Travelers were also cast in clear plastic) you can see why I was so attracted to this figure.
The sculpt is superb. Non-Microman/Micronaut fans may mock the slightly odd proportions and the retro look but they'd be missing the point. The original figures looked like this - and they were great - and given this is a replica of those original toys, then it would make no sense to change this.
What I love about this figure - and Micromen in general - is the way they're clearly not human. The chrome head - a trademark of the line - and the flared ''robo-boots'' coupled with the squared-off chest plate and gold-plated chest panel all mark him as being a cybernetic being. The Micromen/Micronauts were really unlike any other toy line of their time and to this day their look is unique.
Articulation is superb. Keep in mind that the original figures - of which this is a pretty much exact copy - featured shoulder, elbow, wrist, head, waist, hip, knee and ankle articulation. Their main competitor of the time - the Star Wars toys - had neck, shoulder and hip joints. To this day the articulation of the Micromen puts to shame a lot of modern toys and it's a testament to the toys that I not only still own a Micronauts Pharoid from my childhood but that he's still as articulated and poseable as many of my newer purchases.
The Replica Smith does a good job recreating the articulation and overall he's a very poseable, sturdy figure. My only minor issue is that his ankle joints are a little loose and his feet tend to ''spin'' easily. It's not a massive issue though and can easily be worked around.
There's no paintwork on the Microman MX163 but his colouring is superb. The clear green plastic looks amazing and the use of yellow and gold really sets this off. My only disappointment - and it's with the original rather than the Replica - is that his feet are black and his hands are white. It's too bad Takara's designers didn't use the same tone of yellow as his shins when it came to his feet.
The chrome work on the Replica is applied perfectly and shows no signs of blemishing or wear, even after having owned this toy for some time.
One of the coolest things about the Microman Smith is his Travel Capsule.
The capsule is made from two pieces, hinged at the base, which clip together neatly to encase the Microman within. Whilst the capsule was another key feature of the original Micromen, it was with the MicroCommand series that the capsules - which were previously simple quasi-tube shaped accessories - became much more intricate and interesting.
Like all Micromen, Smith includes a 5mm port in his back, into which various pegged-pieces can be slotted. In this case, the capsule features one such peg that allows Smith to be attached to the pod and then held in place.
The capsule is a superb accessory and - thanks to the use of clear green plastic - looks great, especially when Smith is placed within. The sculpt work is excellent (the lower half is covered with hieroglyphic markings and includes the Microman MicroCommand logo at the foot) and the design works superbly, with a nice, clean opening action and snap-tight locking pegs to keep it closed.
Smith also comes with two gold accessories that fit into the 3mm ports on his thighs, referred to as ''Anti-Repulsion Leg Wings'' - presumably allowing him to fly.
What can you really say about such a classic design? The answer is not a lot, as there's really very little - if anything - to criticise, as fans of the Microman/Micronauts toys will immediately be enthralled once more by these superb figures. But it's not just due to nostalgia. Take off the rose-tinted spectacles for a moment and you'll see that even now the M163 is a superbly designed toy.
So does the Replica reissue do it justice? Absolutely. Takara's recreation of the toy could have backfired had they got it wrong, as this is a figure with some serious history and fan-love behind it. Thankfully though they did an excellent job with the 1999 re-casts. Although produced from a brand-new sculpt, it's difficult to tell these reissues apart from the originals and it's only really the most dedicated of Microfans who'll be able to do so.
Even if you're not a Microman/Micronauts fan and this is the first time you've ever seen one of these figures, you'll still find a lot here to be very happy with. The production quality is top notch, the sculpt is great (especially if you dig Japanese retro-futurism) and the whole thing just pops like a popping thing making extra-poppy popcorn.and eating Pop Rocks.