DRAGON'S STRAY DOG
Kerberos Panzer Cops

Last modified: Thursday, February 13, 2003 7:44 PM

 

Hey, it's a lot easier to spend money buying figures for reviews than it is to make figures for project articles! Writing about them is about the same though: If the figure or project offers something new and exciting, it's relatively easy. Otherwise, the ennui and negative vibes can't help but show. In that case, one way to fake substance is to put long exposition at the top of the article. But I'd never do that!

When I first saw a picture of this character, before it was a Dragon product, I thought, "Gee, whiz! I want to make something like that cuz it'll go great with my robotic-looking SF3D stuff!" I'd thought it was a custom figure, a hobbyist's original design. But it's not-- It's from an old Japanese animation (available on DVD in English) and a live action movie, previously immortalized with variations of the suit in garage kits and a Medicom doll. It's the world of Jin Roh, Stray Dogs, Kerberbos Panzer Cops... whatever you call it. Internet research at English-language sites is challenging, indicating that it doesn't have quite the following among English-speakers that some other Japanese cult properties have.

Not knowing the backstory and thorougly confused by the brief blurb on the Dragon figure box, I was interested in learning a little bit to explain what this was about. Actually, I expected the worst; something similar to the fonky backstory of the Z.M.D.C figure I'd just reviewed. I'm perfectly willing to accept the WWII German tie-in; Heck, the Maschinen Krieger/SF3D robot suits had a backstory which included future versions of the Panzerfaust, looking remarkably similar to the WWII version! Liking the backstory isn't required for appreciating the visual aspect of a model or toy... but it was necessary to come at this review from the right perspective. After all, the MG-34 that comes with the figure is nicer than those that came with some of my WWII German figures! You don't waste accuracy on anachonisms, so there had to be an explanation. And you don't want to rant like an idiot about stuff when you haven't made any attempt to understand.

The meager bits that I pieced together place this figure in an alternate version of history, where Germany emerges victorious from WWII and occupies Japan. The "Panzer Cop" character is one of the enforcers who falls in love with a member of the resistance. The story is obviously more complicated than that, with interdepartmental rivalries and philosophical subthemes... The story is reputed to be quite good, but for that, buy the DVD. The main benefit of knowing this bit 'o backstory is to see that the figure doesn't fit in a futuristic world-- it's actually an alternate past world, where MG-34s and other WWII weaponry do fit in with the scenario.

So instead of a futuristic scenario, it's a near-modern scenario. And it's based on the basic recipe for a historical armoured warrior: It's a man in a black bodysuit wearing big sections of hard armour plates, a helmet, and a gasmask. It's similar in some respects to modern SWAT gear, but with oversized robotish-looking armour. Again, I can ask the same thing about this armour that I asked about the Z.M.D.C armour: Why is protecting the crotch so much more important than protecting the upper arm and shoulder area? Near-modern alternate historical scenarios don't permit force fields... and bullet wounds hurt!

As I mentioned, I was pretty ga-ga over the design at first. I dunno what happened. After I got the figure, I was a little disenchanted because, although it looked kewl, it seemed relatively unimaginative when considered piece by piece. The headgear is probably the signature piece of this figure, with its red lenses and Germanesque shape... But when you set up the figure, you discover that it is a WWII German helmet (made of metal) and a simple rubber gasmask that looks like it took a few hints from a Star Wars Tie Fighter pilot. And there's a normal human underneath, not a disfigured, boil-faced creature or a steely-eyed mechanical menace. I don't know why this was a letdown: Perhaps I'm spoiled by all the neat stuff I've seen in movies and toys? Perhaps I wrongly expected a more futuristic feel, a more integrated piece of headgear, much in the way that Darth Vader's helmet assembles? A helmet and a gasmask... sheesh! That's basically SWAT headgear, which admittedly does look neat, but it makes it seem more mundane. At any rate, the red lenses would have been better if they were actual lenses instead of painted on, which makes them look very flat and... painted on. But I bought the cheaper International version; the Japanese version has a built-in light which presumably takes care of that. I will admit that my disappointment comes solely from my own ignorance-- I didn't know the backstory, so I had wishful expectations about what this figure was.

The rest is soft vinyl body armour, nicely sculpted with an interesting futuristic look that one finds in Japanese robot model kits. But they don't do anything remarkable-- no opening panels, no grafted-on mechanisms with articulated parts. These would have been better in hard plastic since the larger soft pieces tend to distort, especially the breastplate, when strapped on with the quick-release clips.

Dragon mainly concentrated on capturing the surface veneer-- the look of Jin Roh -- but not on what makes an outstanding figure by current standards. That's understandable since they didn't have free rein with the design, and the looks are what sells the figure. I'm referring to the finer points: The helmet doesn't fit very well (too small- mash it down, hard), The air hose is too stiff and barely connects over his shoulder to his backpack. It's a production solution which doesn't work well with the ability to turn the figure's head. The clamps on his backpack are supposed to be for securing the machinegun... but I don't think anyone bothered to make sure it worked, and they didn't provide instructions. Finally, the figure stands with some difficulty... Some of this is due to the "tandem forward folding hip joints" that many Dragon figures are cursed with. The heavy metal helmet, while serving to increase the sense of "value", certainly doesn't help...and doesn't look any better than a painted plastic one would.

On the plus side, the MG-34 is very well done, with a spare barrel (but no place to store it) and an ammo belt containing real brass rounds-- a full belt of 'em! But I've already got a few outstanding renditions of the MG-34. (By the way, the holstered Yellow Submarine Mauser in the pics didn't come with the figure, but replaces a holsterless one and a smaller sidearm which I seem to have misplaced.) So I guess I'm really just underwhelmed instead of disappointed, because I'd expected more beyond the surface veneer. I felt that way even before I received Ignite's Roman Empire and dajoint's Zero Metal Defence Capsule figures, with all their neat accessories or moving parts. Aside from the overall look, there really isn't much new or exciting about this figure. A couple years ago, it would have been da bomb.

I guess if one weren't caught up with who/what the figure represents to everyone else, it would make a great futureworld trooper, with simple replacement of/modifications to the weaponry. It would be hard to reuse some parts to create a figure for your own scenario if you were concerned about hijacking the look of an established series since the pieces are so signature to Jin Roh. The body armour would be the best bet for reuse, but would probably require some alteration (especially the breast plate) to properly "kitbash" beyond easy recognition for your own scenario. I don't think many people will do this though, and it's probably only a matter of time before we see large-breasted femfigs dressed in stock Jin Roh armour, LOL.

This is a fairly expensive figure (I think it's considered "upper midrange") and more expensive than Dragon's usual military releases. On a value-comparison basis, it doesn't fare as well since it's just a figure, a bodysuit, a collection of simple flexible castings with a couple of special accessories. It's hard to see that as comparable to all the detailed and unique stuff you get with Dragon's Apollo astronaut, for example. It's not Dragon's fault though-- it is what it is. On the other hand, the astronaut doesn't have body armour... and if that's what you like, the value comparison is irrelevant. And if you're a big fan of the world of Jin Roh, then this would prolly be a must-have piece for your collection.

 

--Jimbobwan, 02/12/03