This review may borderline qualify as a "flashback", since the toys being addressed here do go back a couple of years, but I think a couple of points in favor of reviewing these toys now -- apart from the fact that as of this writing I just recently acquired them -- is that they are foreign toys, there are still some sources through which they can be obtained, and a cool toy is still a cool toy, regardless of when it originated, and is always worth a decent look -- and these are definitely cool toys.
These figures are a special branch of the MICROMAN line called MAGNE FORCE. There are six figures in the series, three "MagneMicromen", that are the good guys in the concept, and three "MagneAcroyears", that are the bad guys. This review will take a look at the MAGNEMICROMEN first, and then the MAGNEACROYEARS.
A little background on the Microman concept and the history of the toy first, however. And G.I. Joe fans, pay particular attention. You'll be surprised how much of a connection there is here. Transformers fans should take heed, as well.
In 1972, a Japanese toy company called Takara produced a line of 12" action figures under the name "Henshin Cyborg". This was actually a spin- off from Takara's "Combat Joe" line, which utilized the molds of Hasbro's original 12" G.I.Joe. However, instead of looking specifically human, the Henshin Cyborg figures were molded in transparent plastic, to reveal the chrome-plated internal workings.
Costs of producing these toys were prohibitive, however (although Henshin Cyborg did make a return a number of years ago, along with a young sidekick named Shonen Cyborg), and so Takara developed the original Microman line in 1974.
The first series, called Microman Zone, included four figures and several vehicles in kit form that needed to be assembled. Microman Zone proved to be popular and by its second year, the Microman line was spun- off from the "Henshin Cyborg" line.
Unlike other toylines at the time, Microman figures were marketed as being the "actual" size of the cyborg beings they were meant to be replicas of. The cyborg beings were said to hail from the fictional planet Micro Earth, and to disguise themselves as toys. The toys and their vehicles had common connector parts, and could be joined and combined together in many different ways.
Here's where the history starts getting a little weird. The Mego Toy Company struck up a deal with Takara to produce Microman for the United States, under the revised name of Micronauts. The line was a massive success for several years, and spawned a comic book from Marvel that well outlasted the toy line.
Several years back, there was a brief resurgence of popularity in the Micronauts concept, resulting in a new comic book, and a somewhat unrelated attempt to bring the toys back, courtesy of Palisades Toys, that remade the molds from existing toys. Unfortunately, quality suffered horribly for some reason, resulting in the first action figure line to have a penchant for self-destructing while still in its package.
In 1982, when Hasbro brought back G.I. Joe as the Real American Hero, it wasn't hard for those with a keen eye to see that the figures were designed along very similar construction lines as Takara/Mego's Micronauts, although I don't believe that Takara had a direct hand in the development of the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe.
Meanwhile, Microman continued apace in Japan for a great many years, expanding its line to include a number of toys that would eventually be incorporated into Transformers.
Several years ago, Takara decided to completely rework the Microman design. The new figures were reportedly more anatomically proportionately correct, and they were also distinctly more articulated than their predecessors, which weren't exactly slouches in the articulation department.
The concept remained largely the same -- these were "actual size" cyborgs, although it was also mentioned in the concept that they had the ability to turn into full-size beings should the need arise. The toys -- fortunately or unfortunately -- obviously lacked this capability.
The new Microman was not specifically sold in the United States, with a couple of exceptions. The Bio-Machines line did turn up at K*B Toys briefly, and specialty stores did carry some of the licensed Microman products, such as the Batman and Street Fighter figures.
The line was a decent success for quite a few years, with quite a varied series of specialized Microman and Acroyear figures, as well as a wide range of licensed figures from both American and Japanese concepts ranging from Batman, Street Fighter, Godzilla, Alien Vs. Predator, and others.
Alas, the new figures suffered from one fallacy -- they were quite fragile, and made from a very rigid type of plastic that was prone to cracking. In fairness, I've heard it said more than once that Japanese kids take a lot better care of their toys than Americans. But it was still a pretty significant problem, and one that hadn't been much of a factor in the original Microman. Between that and the eventual takeover of Takara by Tomy, a company not exactly known for its boys' toys, Microman ultimately vanished after a run of over 30 years.
However, there's no denying that there are some very cool toys in the modern Microman line, and perhaps the biggest "variance" from the standard format that was created for them, ironically enough resulting in a sturdier figure, were the six figures of MAGNE FORCE.
All six figures, not surprisingly, use the same body mold, although each figure has a distinctive head. The body is humanoid in appearance, with a torso of transparent colored plastic, arms, legs, and a lower torso of chrome-plated plastic, a head that is a combination of transparent and chrome, elbows and knees of solid plastic, colored transparent plastic detailing on the upper legs, and hands and feet in white plastic for the Micromen, and black for the MicroAcroyears.
The detailing is truly superb. They look distinctly more robotic than most Microman figures. A very great deal of intricate detail has been sculpted into these figures, especially the limbs, and the chrome plating only serves to make it look that much more intricate. Each figure also comes with an assortment of intricate, chrome-plated weaponry, ten extra hands (five left and five right) in different positions, and snap-on armor, molded in plastic, the vast majority of it not magnetic.
As one might surmise from the name, the Magne Force figures feature magnetic parts. These are astoundingly strong. One of the reasons I was a little reluctant to add the Magne Force figures to my Microman collection was that I wasn't entirely sure how well they would work. Well, they work just fine, thank you very much.
Most obviously, these figures have magnets on the bottoms of their feet. This allows them, being fairly lightweight figures a little over 4" in height, to readily adhere to any surface receptive to magnetics. This should include most of your household appliances, door hinges, and so forth.
But more than that, the figures are also assembled magnetically! The arms, legs, and torso are connected together with the use of magnets built into the main body, and metal spheres attached to the arms and legs, and separating the torso halves. The head is not attached magnetically, and neither are the elbows, wrists, knees, or ankles.
The figures can be readily disassembled and put back together, not to mention reassembled in a wide range of assorted combinations, pretty much dependent only on the placement of the magnets and your imagination. My main concern, that magnetic figures wouldn't be able to hold a pose very well, has proven to be entirely inaccurate. These figures have an astonishing range of articulation, magnetic and non-magnetic, and are able to assume almost any pose you'd want them to, and stay put for as long as needed.
Each Magne Force figure is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, torso and waist, legs, knees, and ankles. These points all have a considerable range of motion. The wrists turn and swivel, the ankles are on a considerable pivot, and the elbows and knees have a double- joint. Throw in the spherical design of the shoulder, leg, and torso joints, as well as the non-magnetic head.
Let's have a look at the individual MICROMEN, first of all.
MAGNEMICROMAN ACHILLES - Listed as "MGM-01" on his package. I don't know if that makes him the group leader or not, but I'm taking these in numerical order. Achilles' main color is orange. He has a chrome-silver face, quite human in appearance (as do all of the Micromen, and as opposed to the Acroyears, who look more robotic), seemingly wearing a helmet with a chrome orange "V" in the front (also has a little chrome orange on his lower torso), and a transparent orange top to his head, that allows light to reflect through and make his eyes seem to glow.
Achilles' torso is transparent orange, as are the details on his upper legs. His elbow and knee joints are solid orange, almost a tan in color. His battle armor is almost the same color as his elbow and knee joints, but manages to look faintly red somehow. He comes with two chrome-plated weapons that, honestly could either be swords or blasters. Maybe if I knew how to read Japanese I could tell you what the package says they are. In any case, they look like something you wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of.
MAGNEMICROMAN THESEUS - Listed as "MGM-02" on his package. He's sort of the oddball of the group in my opinion, as his torso is made out of transparent clear plastic, as is the detailing on his upper legs, and for that matter the transparent part of his head. Like Achilles, he has a reasonably human face surrounded by what appears to be a helmet. He has a but of light green chrome detailing on his helmet and lower torso.
His elbow and knee joints, however, are solid green, and his battle armor, also rather peculiarly, is transparent green, as opposed to a solid color. This has the effect of making Theseus actually look a bit more impressive when wearing his battle armor than when he isn't. He comes with the same set of extra hands as the others do, as well as a two-part weapon that can be assembled into one. This one definitely has the look of a blaster, although its assembled appearance almost makes it look like a high-tech version of a Klingon "bat'leth" bladed weapon.
MAGNEMICROMAN ICURUS - Listed as "MGM-03" on his package. This figure, like the other Micromen in this series, has a very humanoid-looking face, connected to a fancy chrome silver helmet. Icurus' primary color is blue. His torso is transparent blue, as is the top of his head, allowing his eyes to reflect light in a brought shade of blue. The details on his upper legs are also transparent blue, and he has a bit of chrome blue painted on his helmet and lower torso.
Curiously enough, his elbow and knee joints are white, the same color as his hands and feet. Of course, he comes with the same additional hands as the others. Even more strangely, though his battle armor is a solid light grey. In contrast to Theseus, who actually looks a bit more colorful with his armor, Icurus' armor actually seems to dull him down a bit. His weapons include two devices that are clearly blasters of some sort, but they are designed to attach to his lower arms, and one of them appears to have a claw attachment. They are also big enough to act as shields. Versatile, I'll give them that much.
Now let's turn our attention to the bad guys, the MICROACROYEARS.
The name "Acroyear" has had a long history in the Microman line, and has generally been used to denote the villains. Indeed, when the line was brought to the United States, the name "Acroyear" came right along with it and was worked into the MicroNAUTS concept. In the highly popular Marvel comic, the character named "Acroyear" was actually one of the good guys, although he was also a fierce warrior and a bit of an outsider. His brother, Prince Shaitan, was based around the toy design for "Acroyear II", and he was definitely one of the bad guys.
With the overhaul of the Microman line, Takara definitely designated the Acroyear forces as the bad guys once again, and there have been some very interesting specimens. The Magne Force representatives are no exception to this.
Their individual names are: PHOBOS, ATLAS, and METIS. Apart from having black hands and feet, compared to the Micromen having white hands and feet, the head designs are less "human" in appearance. They lack distinct facial features, and manage to look both more robotic, and more vicious.
MAGNEACROYEAR PHOBOS - I don't know if he's the leader of the team or not, but he is listed as "MGA-01" on his package, so I'm going with that. Interestingly enough, the name "Phobos" has turned up before in the history of this line -- it was a name given to an alien being in the American Micronauts line who looked like a humanoid-insectoid being with more than a few characteristics of a praying mantis of a grasshopper. Cool figure, and I still own mine.
I am assuming, however, that there's no particular relationship between him and this Acroyear. As I said, unlike the Micromen in this line, the Acroyears do not have especially humanoid faces. Phobos seems to be wearing a chrome-silver helmet with a crest down the center and two protrusions along the sides. There is what appears to be an angled, transparent purple visor in the center, which reflects the light from the purple top of the head. It's a cool, futuristic design.
Obviously Phobos' main color is purple. His upper torso is transparent purple, as are the details on his upper legs. He also has some blue on him, with a bit of blue detailing on his lower torso, and his elbow and knee joints are solid blue. The photo on the back of the package showed his battle armor to be blue, but in the package it almost looked black. After getting it into the right light, is does appear to be blue, but an exceptionally dark blue. His weapons are -- I don't really know. The way he's shown holding them, I'm not really sure what they're supposed to be, unless they're some sort of high-tech sawblade.
MAGNEACROYEAR ATLAS - Listed as "MGA-02" on his package, and an interesting contrast to the "02" member of the MagneMicroman team, whose name is Theseus, and who has a mostly clear body with transparent green armor. Atlas has a transparent green torso and green detailing on his upper legs. He also has a green visor on his helmet, which is an interesting design with two tapered protrusions sticking out of the sides, and two more near his jaw. He looks a bit like he's wearing a gas mask.
His elbow and knee joints are pale grey, almost white, and his battle armor, and here's where the contrast with Theseus really works out -- is transparent clear. The end result is a rather interesting and complex look on the figure, even if it might make one wonder just how effective clear armor is going to be. As to his weapon -- what the heck is this thing? It's two halves of a chrome silver sphere that can be assembled with an internal connecting piece. Is this supposed to be a large bomb? A silver soccer ball? What's interesting, though, is that is looks like it could be attached to either arm of the figure, in halves, and either used as a shield, or to beat the heck out of someone in close-quarters combat. Most of this is speculation, and times like this I wish I could read Japanese.
MICROACROYEAR METIS - Listed as "MGA-03" on his package, and pretty much the nastiest looking of the lot. He has a very sharply angular helmet, essentially looking like an inverted triangle from the front, and his visor has a downward angle to it as well. His primary color is a transparent gold-orange, and this is reflected through the visor on the top of his head.
His torso and upper leg details are also transparent gold, and his elbow and knee joints are solid gold-orange. This guy found a color he liked and went with it. His battle armor is yellow, interestingly enough, and he, like the other MicroAcroyears, also comes with a set of ten spare hands, five for the left, and five for the right, all molded in black. As to his weapons, finally there's a set of weapons that I can make sense of. They're a pair of sword. Fancy and futuristic in design, and chrome silver, but there's no mistaking their purpose, and they fit the look of the figure, for that matter.
So what's my final word here? While Microman may technically not be being produced at the moment, it is still possible, mostly through online Toy Sellers. And they are immensely cool. They do not seem to have the fragility issues of their non-magnetic contemporaries. They are superbly detailed, superbly articulated, and they look darn cool. I've always liked action figures that throw in some transparent or chrome detail, and these manage to have both.
So, they're not based on any known, licensed concept. Big deal. They're still cool toys, and I would think that any action figure collector would enjoy having them around. The MICROMAN MAGNE FORCE figures definitely have my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!