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REVIEW:
TWO NEW MILITARY FORCE MICROMEN
By Thomas Wheeler



Microman is an immensely cool line of action figures. Unfortunately, it's also exclusive to Japan. It's also not inexpensive for Americans to acquire, since there are often matters of import fees and the like. So needless to say, I haven't been able to maintain my Microman collection nearly as well as I'd like. But every once in a while, something comes along that I'm able to squeeze into my limited budget.

A brief explanation about Microman, for those who don't know. The line has been around little over 30 years, and was the creation of Takara, a Japanese toy company best known in the United States for developing Transformers, which they still produce both for Japan and for Hasbro in the United States. Microman gained a good amount of popularity in the United States in the late 70's and early 80's under the name Micronauts, brought over in a deal between Takara and Mego, then one of the top toymakers. But even after the line faded in the United States, it continued in Japan.

In 2003, just shy of its 30th anniversary, Takara decided to overhaul the line from scratch. They completely redesigned the 4" body, basing its proportions on sketches of human anatomy done by Leonardo DaVinci, assuring accuracy. They gave this new figure greater articulation than ever before. They produced a handful of figures as a test market, and they vanished quicker than you could say, "Hey, cool!" in either English or Japanese.

These days, Microman has certainly reasserted its popularity, with a wide variety of figures under the Microman banner, as well as a wide range of licensed figures using the Microman body form.

One of the lines under the main Microman banner is called MILITARY FORCE, and this is where these two new Microman figures come from.

Military Force is probably the second most basic of the Microman figures produced today. The most basic would likely be "Material Force". These are extremely basic Microman figures, each one produced in a single color, with an absolutely featureless head. They serve two purposes. They're designed for customizers as much as anything, and there is something to be said for the challenge of trying to collect all the colors. I haven't even tried, since I don't really feel I'd have a reasonable chance of doing so, and I prefer my action figures to have a face, thank you.

Next up the ladder would logically be Military Force.

The concept behind Microman is that these characters are miniature robots, or cyborgs, that normally exist at about 4" in height. Thus when you buy a Microman, you're buying an "actual size" figure. However, in the concept, Micromen do have the capability to enlarge themselves to the size of a full-grown adult, something the toys obviously cannot do (I have enough storage and display problems around here!). Most of them have individual personalities. There's the good guys, the Micromen, and there's the bad guys, called Acroyears, whose programming was somehow corrupted or infected with a virus or some such.

Rather less individualistic - and they look it - are the Military Force. Although the eight existing figures, aside from the two exclusives I acquired, all have individual color schemes, it's their heads that are sort of a giveaway. There are also Military Force figures for both the Micromen and the Acroyears. The head for the Micromen Military Force figures looks a lot like a Crash Test Dummy with a hole in the center of its head (an admittedly disturbing image) to plug in an accessory. The Acroyear Military Force head is a little more distinctive, but still pretty plain, with somewhat larger eyes, and sculpted ridges that make it look like it's scowling.

Technically given designations no more fancy than "MF4-09" and "MF4-10", there is one Microman and one Acroyear in this group.

The Military Force bodies for both the Acroyear and Microman editions are different from most Microman figures in that they have more holes in them, and not just in the head. This is so they can wear their included accessories better. Along with the hole in the head (that's still
unnerving) and near where the ears would be, there are additional holes in the chest, back, shoulders, lower torso, upper legs, and lower legs.

The Acroyear figure is molded in a very impressive opaque metallic dark blue. His head is chrome silver (the heads of Microman figures are almost always chromed), and has transparent blue hands, elbows, knees, and ankles.

The Microman figure, and this was one of the selling points for me, since it looks extremely impressive, is gold chrome almost head to toe, with non-chrome gold hands, elbows, knees, and ankles.

One of the main things that makes these figures more distinctive than their otherwise somewhat bland appearance would indicate is the amount of accessories given to these Military Force figures. They both come with three complete racks, or "trees" of accessories, armor, and weapons to use. The Acroyear's are colored in a dark chrome blue. The Microman's are colored in a dark chrome copper. Each also has a fourth rack of spare hands, posed in different positions. Small wonder that they both come with "Operating Manuals", although these are largely small catalogs of Microman product.

These two in particular, are an exclusive. And their packages are marked as such. They're an exclusive to something called "Toy's Dream Project". It took a while to determine exactly what "Toy's Dream Project" actually is. After asking around a bit all the way to a friend of mine in England who has a few friends in Japan got me sent to a Google-found link for "Toy's Dream Project", which as far as I can tell, not being at all fluent in Japanese, is an online toy store based in Japan. That'd make sense.

Microman figures across the board have one unfortunate problem - they're quite fragile. They're molded out of a rather rigid plastic. A few over the years have developed rather severe cracks, although some of this can also be attributed to some defective black plastic that was purchased at the time. The biggest victim of this, unfortunately, was the Microman Kicker figure that was produced in conjunction with the Transformers Energon series.

But between the rather rigid plastic, and the fact that these figures are rather slender in appearance, they do need to be handled with some care. I don't know how these toys would have much of a survival rate in the hands of kids, but maybe Japanese kids treat their toys more carefully than most. And also, Japan has a higher percentage of adult toy collectors than the United States, so possibly many of these never come off heir packages.

(One other thing that's been known to damage Microman figures is the way they're stuffed into their packages at the factory to get them past the restraining tabs in the plastic. Fortunately, these two figures are placed into their packaging and then covered with a form-fitting bubble. Much kinder to the toy.)

The other problem with Microman figures on occasion is inconsistent tightness and/or looseness of articulation. Not really sure what causes this, but it happens. One of these guys, the Acroyear, has a pretty loose upper torso. Of course, the flip side of this coin is that if a figure's articulation points are too tight, that's another thing that can cause the plastic to crack. There's got to be a "happy medium" somewhere along in here...

But, the cool look of the figures, the accuracy of proportions, is generally worth dealing with the fragility factor, although I am a little concerned about how well an all-chromed figure is going to hold up.

But still, Microman is worth it. It's a hugely impressive, and very popular line, and I sincerely wish I had more of them. But these two were a cool and, more significantly, reasonably priced twosome, and it had been quite some time since I'd brought any new Micromen into my collection, so I decided to get them.

Do I recommend these two Microman figures? Absolutely! If you're any sort of fan of Microman, you'll definitely want them. And if you like toys with chrome trim, you'll certainly want the gold one. But give them both a home. You won't be disappointed!