Last modified: Saturday, December 29, 2001 7:37 AM


Scan of instructions: copyright by Kow Yokoyama, Nitto, etc., etc.

12/16/01-- Since I made so much noise about wanting this feller and finally got one, it seemed entirely appropriate to drop everything else and rush through my Buddhabot project to report to you on this figure's potential for conversion from static model to articulated plaything. You knew that I was gonna try to do that right? If I had the time, I'd rush right in and get started, but there's so little of it between now and the interruption of Christmas. (Maaaan, they sure put it at an inconvenient time this year.) Anyway, this first installment gives some preliminary impressions and observations for those who might be curious.

First off, I realize that it's probably a little frustrating to be reading about a kit that's difficult to find and expensive when found. The kit cost around $150 retail when it was available, and I paid $200 for a "Buy it Now" listing on eBay. Without recapping the "is it worth it?" thing again, I'll just say that it was overpriced when it sold for retail, relative to other vinyl kits from Japan. My Masudaya 16" Robbie the Robot (with voicebox) and Maria Robot (lighted) cost $125 each a couple of years ago, even after the local retail markup. Both of these contain a comparable amount of materials, quality of workmanship and detail, and nice packaging. So if you don't have one, pat yourself on the back for being such a smart non-shopper. Those who do and weren't-- well, I guess we'll have to endure the albatross (wink).

I reiterate, in case you weren't paying attention-- this is a static model; a vinyl kit which assembles into a statue, with virtually no articulation at all. It can be built with the hatch open or closed. The hatch hinge doesn't operate-- it's a solid piece used for open display assembly only. You can see the parts breakdown from the instructions: It's a fairly typical vinyl kit design. The only part that may be confusing is the hatch-- It's actually two pieces, an exterior hatch and an interior detailing-- again, to be used when the hatch is built in the open position. Certainly, the pictures at Pooyan Toys show how spectacular this looks in a Joe context, even as a static model.

And that may be have to be good enough, unless you want to undertake a Herculean customizing project. Unfortunately, there are a number of obstacles to deter you. First, there's the issue of how you could fit a figure inside. Inserting the figure from the top hatch is out of the question-- the padded detail is part of the torso piece and the aperture is big enough to fit a neck through, but not much else. The next choice would be from the bottom, where the hip assembly connects to the torso. Unfortunately (in my case), the two sections are already joined and the hip's flange which interlocks inside the torso goes halfway up the torso. Can you say "extremely difficult to remove"? I hit it with my heat gun and tried for what I considered to be a reasonable amount of time. No dice. Therefore, I can't say whether a figure would fit inside-- I'm sure they do because I've seen pictures-- but with how much clearance? It would appear to be a tight fit around the shoulders. Would there be enough room to anchor hinges for the arms? Eyeballing it, the indented grooves along the side for the suit's arms leave maybe a centimeter of space on each side of where a Dragon figure's shoulders would end-- that's not generous enough of a margin to feel confident in an eyeball guesstimate. That makes it dangerous to assume that you could use any interior space to place hinge support structures. This also means that most figures' shoulders wouldn't be wide enough to fit arms into the suit's arms, like sleeves, and align correctly-- unless you don't mind the suit perpetually posed with its arms stuck straight out like a cross. Getting back to the original problem-- so... assume that the figure can be placed into the figure from the hip/torso opening... will the head fit through the neck aperture? Most wouldn't. You'd need to squish it somehow, or remove it and replace it from the topside. Not a really elegant solution!

Another problem is the top hatch. Although it and the interior detail could be made to fit with the torso's opening (it's a little too bulky with both hatch sections sandwiched-- these would need to be grinded and cut), there's the problem of the hinge. The supplied mechanism is a weird design-- I'm not sure if it would work if it were articulated! (Probably not.)

Those are just a few preliminary observations-- The legs and arms present a few problems, but not of the same magnitude as those mentioned.

Certainly, there are solutions for all of these problems, but they require radical surgery and changing the design of the suit. The figure loading problem could be solved by cutting out the padded top section. A more figure-friendly design could be created for that area. The top hatch hinge could be redesigned at the same time (it would make more sense for the hinge to be at the back because it's not as narrow along that axis and this would give the hatch mechanism more clearance). The problem with the arms could be solved by eliminating that indented area at the torso sides. I'm not sure that this design feature would work in real life anyway: It would certainly inhibit forward and backward sweeps of the arm and greatly limit the inward sweep range of a frontally extended arm. Of course, changing the way the arms are set would greatly impact the outward appearance of the suit. To an SF3D purist, I'm sure this would be akin to blasphemy.

Unfortunately, sci-fi designs are rarely proven in real life. They don't have to be. However, adapting them to the Joe world where there's an attempt to model the real world, does test them in a similar way-- stuff which doesn't work in 1:6 probably won't work in 1:1, and vice versa.


Now that some of the problem areas have been identified, it's time to run some tests. It's best to test these things without destroying anything or doing something which commits you. Like most things in life, it pays to plan ahead and to have ways to back out gracefully. Then when you're reasonably sure that you've thought of most of the angles, act. (Or don't.)

This first test really didn't need the quick & dirty photoshop manipulation; that's done for your benefit. I pulled the arms out of their sockets and eyeballed effect of the extra spacing. Personally, I felt it improved the appearance since it made the suit look more muscular and less like a droopy-eared dog. The shoulder pads were removed for the pic, but they wouldn't be adversely affected. In fact, I decided that if I were to do this, I'd attach them with vinyl strips --like Buddhabot-- instead of using the hinged design of the kit. They're much more flexible that way. If the arms are going to be articulated, they shouldn't be popping the pads out of their hinges as they're posed.

Now that we've created some hypothetical space at the shoulders, what are we going to do with it? Well, two segments of this ball and socket armature will fit nicely into the body slot and into the arm, giving it a nice set of full shoulder articulation. The next step would be to figure out how it could be attached to those areas elegantly-- so that it could be disassembled if necessary (that idea of being able to back out gracefully). After that, a suitably flexible covering needs to be determined. This would have application in several places throughout the figure. I've been meaning to test an idea--rubber coating a bellowed fabric. I was going to try this on Buddhabot, but there really wasn't much need for it (behind knees & maybe behind his butt).

You may wonder why the first test wasn't the body-insertion-from-top idea? That's because other problems like this can be investigated without causing permanent damage. It wouldn't make much sense to start slicing and later discover that you had no way of articulating the arms!


12/19/01-- The rubberized bellows material. This is a bellowed scarf fabric soaked in black-tinted latex. I was never satisfied with the rubber hoses which I'd used in other projects--they were far too stiff for the hinges. This material had the benefit of being extremely flexible but sturdy and sew-able. It was rubberized to make it more substantial and stiffer since it was translucent. (I'd intended to make it into a sexy spacesuit, but my priorities changed. Maybe if there's some left over...? Awwww... shucks, where would I wear it?)


12/20/01-- Cutting Up. I've done about as much as I can without touching the knife. To move forward and satisfy my curiosity about the figure's fit, I needed to do some cutting. Both John (formerly from NY) and I agreed that topside insertion was the way to go, so that was one of the first pieces I removed. It's purdy, but gosh darnit, sometimes you just have to make sacrifices. Removing that section gave me enough room to heat the interior which made possible the removal of the hip plug. As I suspected, the excess vinyl on that sucker is vast... it probably accounts for 1/5 of the vinyl used in the model. I trimmed the excess for clearance because you really need every square inch of it on the interior. On the hip plug, I cut off the ends of the leg plugs to allow the figure's legs to fit through. Having done all this, I was then able to fit a figure inside. As I said, clearance space is tight, both at the shoulders and below where the hips meet the legs. My guesstimate about the shoulder clearance was off-- there's actually less room than I thought. I'm not exactly sure what's going on with the hips because you can't see much due to the single-piece construction of the torso. However, I'll dig deeper into this. Gotta go; more on this later-- but here's a prelim pic:


BUT WAIT! Before you go and start cutting things up, you may want to have a look at these pics. I said the fit was tight, and I meant it. The width is such that SAJOE fits with his chest at a diagonal, and Dragonboy here is shoehorned in. His shoulders actually push the vinyl outward a little bit and he definitely doesn't rattle around. You sure wouldn't be able to to insert the suit's factory-issued arms in those holes. The situation probably doesn't improve if the operator is wearing clothes.

The indented narrowing at the sides of the torso seems to indicate that the design intends for the operator to stick his arms into the suit's arms (as is done with some other SF3D hardsuit versions, according to the models). But you can see that the suit isn't quite narrow enough for that either. The guy's arms would be limited to a small orbiting motion determined by the size of the arm hole. Extrapolating from this, we could speculate that a suit would have to be tailored for the shoulder width of the specific operator. That's a silly idea, so we can ignore it. The arms stay inside. (Read this for a fuller explanation.)

I think the tight fit may be part of the "man wedded to machine" concept, and the padding around the neck seems to support that. (Pic 2 shows the padding replaced --the top hatch fits in place, but not with the inner cover detailing.) Unfortunately, something so tightly fitted isn't ideal for a model which has to endure the wear of inserting and removing a hard-skinned figure inside. If you have to wrestle it, chances are paint's gonna get scraped, plastic will get deformed, rigid glued-on or puttied parts may pop off. This not good.

There are several ways to get around this obstacle: Make the suit bigger or use a smaller figure. The path of least resistance would be to use a figure with narrow shoulders-- like a female figure? Most have narrower shoulders than the male figures.

A more drastic solution would be to widen the interior by reclaiming the indented slot. I'm hesitant to do that because I'm not sure how well vinyl would host a major structural patch job like that. At this time I'm planning on placing the shoulder hinges in the slot, outside the suit. But that could change...

The third picture shows another possible trouble spot-- the legs don't fit very easily through the hips and the articulation there is very restricted. More cutting is in order, but take too much off and the leg will require hinges at the hips. That's a hassle that would be nice to avoid if possible.

I said that this wouldn't be an easy conversion-- that's certainly true! Before making a single cut, I think it would be wise to weigh whether the result is worth the trouble: The deeper I get into this, the more I think that the static model painted & detailed like Pooyan Toy's version would be a good goal to aim for! (...if I weren't already so deep in the doo doo.)