Wednesday, January 19, 2011

REVIEW: Microman Robotman (2001 Replica)

In a review that's been over 30 years in the making, I'm taking a look at the 2001 replica of one of Microman's most iconic releases: Robotman!

With his awesome styling, transformable-parts and - best of all - motorised action (allowing him to not only roll on his back-track but also walk!) Robotman is a toy filled with surprises and fun.

But before we go any further, let's clarify some points here.

Biotronic Robot Henshin Friend Man!
The original Robotman was released in 1975 as part of the Microman line.  Now as Microfans know, Microman was introduced as a miniaturised version of the 12'' Henshin Cyborg doll line (which explains the silver head, clear-plastic bodies and chest units.)  In an effort to unify the two toy lines, Takara created Project Victory, a range of toys that were intended for use both as Microman accessories and as Henshin Cyborg toys.  The first toy of this line was Robotman, a 12'' robot that fought alongside Henshin Cyborg and could also be used by the Micromen as a Mecha-style vehicle. Unfortunately, Robotman was also the last of the Project Victory dual-line toys, as the Henshin Cyborg range was cancelled shortly after Robotman's release.

When Mego launched the re-branded Microman toys in the US, Robotman was re-issued as Biotron.  Now this is where the 30-year review comment comes in: as a child I knew nothing of Microman but was obsessed with the Micronauts and - as Biotron was not only an awesome toy but also appeared in the Micronauts comicbook - it's no wonder I was so keen on getting one.  Sadly although I managed to track-down a Microtron, Biotron eluded me.  That is, until this Christmas when I received this: the 2001 replica Robotman.

History lesson over.  Let's get on with the Review!

The packaging is an absolute delight for retro-toy fans.  Based (I believe) upon the original box art, the pack features some great photographs and illustrations.

The feature-rundown continues on the packaging's sides, with more examples of how Robotman is more than just a figure and some cool vehicle/configuration ideas. However, the retro-packaging introduces a slight problem: the photographs show the Drill Tank and Bull Dozer sets, two ''expansion packs'' used to grant Robotman additional abilities and released alongside the original toy.  Sadly Takara didn't release these packs when they released the replica Robotman.  OK, so it's not a problem per se, but it's still sad that we won't get to see these pieces again.

Visually the box is superb and truly sets the tone for the figure.

Open-up the box and again you find Takara's obsession with perfect-packaging continues.  Mounted in a plastic tray, Robotman is in a number of pieces and removing them  is simplicity itself - they simply sit within the retaining packaging, with no need to pop, push, pull or poke anything free.  I like that a lot, as it means not only does the packaging not get damaged when it's opened but it also doubles-up as a storage box, should you decide to pack your Robotman away.

With the parts out of the box, it's time to look at Robotman himself.  

Robotman - as stated - comes in pieces, but it's the work of seconds to assemble him into his core form.  From the top down, he's constructed from a chromed head-piece, red/blue body (which houses his batteries and engine), clear-plastic chest canopy (which can be removed to allow a Microman to ride inside), two arms (with pop-in pincers/hands), groin and two shins/lower legs (which split-apart.)

What's particularly clever is the way the parts are multi-functional.  The arms, for example, include caster-wheels and can be used when configuring Robotman as a vehicle (as seen above) and his shin-pieces, when split and re-connected, become sled-type vehicles, complete with wheels that are normally hidden within the shin.  This is of course on-top of being fully compatible with other Microman toys thanks to the 5mm connectors.

It's not only a great practical piece but also a superb example of 1970s robotic design, incorporating the Microman-style silver head and using the same blue and white (and red) colouring of other toys from the line (such as the Conning Tower Base/Mobile Exploration Lab).  

There's no paint-work on the figure (aside from the chromed parts) but a sticker-set is included to allow you to add some extra colour and detail should you so wish it.  Not that the toy really needs it, as he looks superb even in ''unmarked'' mode, so much so that my 12-year old, who normally shows no interest in my collection, commented on how cool he looked.

In terms of the sculpt, it's an excellent toy, with loads of tiny details and a very cool 70s aesthetic.  Apparently Takara produced this toy from new molds (they'd misplaced the originals) and from what I can see they've done a superb job.  Granted, I can't comment on the authenticity of the sculpt but in terms of simple design, it's a definite winner.

Robotman has limited poseability.  His head, shoulders, elbows, wrists and waist can be rotated and his hands feature a nice spring-loaded pincer-action.  From the waist-down, his limbs are locked.  And that's fine, as Robotman is as much a vehicle as he is an action figure.  And anyway, were his legs not set in this manner, he wouldn't be able to walk.  Yes, that's right, he can walk.  Well, shuffle.  But it's still pretty impressive, as you can see in this Takara commercial.

What else is there to say about Robotman?  He's a very cool toy and checks a lot of boxes for me.  He's a Microman toy, he was also a Micronaut toy, he's a robot, he's Japanese and he's retro.  If any or all of those things apply, then - like me - you'll love this toy.

Robotman comes with two instruction/Catarog sheets that feature some great illustrations.  Sadly the re-issue is lacking the additional accessory pieces that came with the original, namely a set of connectors that could be used between the body and appendages to allow them to rotate when he was in motion.  It's a shame Takara decided not to include them, however goofy they may be, as it would have been nice to at least have the option to run him in Walk and Windmill Punch mode.

He also includes a sticker-set so you can add some jazzy decals, should you so wish.

Final Thoughts
As a replica of the original Robotman, I think Takara did a superb job with this release.  I understand there are some differences but for most people this is as close as they'll ever get to being able to own a Robotman, especially one in full working order.  

As with all toys from our childhood it's important to make sure the Review is honest and not simply an exercise in nostalgia.  But this is different: even my 12-year old thought Robotman looked cool.

And that's because he is cool.  Granted, collectors who don't ''get'' retro robots or Japanese design will probably dismiss it as looking outdated and outmoded, but they'd be wrong.  Underneath the retro-futurism is a toy just bursting with fun features, the likes of which you rarely see these days.  He's motorised.  He's transformable.  He can bloody walk.  Seriously, if you can't see why these features are just so good then maybe you should stick to locking away your high-end collectable busts in a vault so they can accumulate more value.  Robotman is a toy.  A superb, wonderful, whimsical toy that's a delight to handle, own and play with.  And I bloody love it.

Production QualityA
Final ScoreA-

Image Gallery


  1. Ok am drooling over this one Lok lol.

  2. They're not badly priced if you shop around. Amazon has some for sale and Hobby Link Japan is a good site for Japanese toys and if I recall correctly - they had one for sale at a reasonable price (even with shipping.)

  3. Actually, having checked Hobby Link Japan, it's not cheap there at all.


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