Here at AddAltMode we’ve spoken about Arms Microns before, and we’ve discussed the tiny Transformers characters that come in Kinder Surprise eggs, but we haven’t yet ventured into the wacky world of the Gacha Arms Microns – which were released in Japan, through Gashapon machines (Takara’s competitor Bandai actually owns the Gashapon trademark, so the Arms Micron capsules come from “Gacha”-branded machines).
Because the machine effectively delivers the toy to the purchaser at random, these are similar to blind-bagged toys available in the West: you don’t know what you’ll get until you open it. They were released in Japan in 2012, but small numbers were imported to the UK (still in Japanese-language packaging), and a number of these found their way to Toys’Я’Us stores in Southwest England. Which is where I come in… I’ve managed to find a total of four of these capsule Arms Microns – バンブルビーソード (Bumblebee Sword), ゴブ1 (Gobu1), ラチェットスパナ (Ratchet Spanner) and スタースクリームブーメラン (Starscream Boomerang). Of the four, three of them are tiny simulacra of larger characters from Transformers: Prime, and the other one is a robot animal. Each transforms into a tool or weapon scaled to be wielded by Deluxe-sizeclass or larger Transformers, and each has a number of 5mm posts and ports to facilitate mounting onto larger toys, or combining into “Super Combo Weapons”.
First up, let’s look at Gobu1: He’s a glossy-black robotic cobra-like snake (I suspect that the name Gobu is a pun on “Cobra”). He has articulation in the form of a swivel joint at his head, and at three more points along his tail. I quite like that he naturally sits into a rearing-up pose – as though about to strike. Also, he has two 5mm ports on the front of his hood, and two 5mm posts on the back. From looking at the little leaflet he came packaged with, there’s also a Gobu2, which is almost identical, but magenta-coloured.
When transformed (via a very simple process), Gobu1 becomes a axe-like chain-saw-bladed melee weapon, perfect from some berzerk Decepticon to carve his way through ranks of erstwhile would-be heroes whilst shrieking whatever nonsense a mad ‘con would shriek in such a situation. Where the blades meet the handle, there’s a citrus-yellow “crystal” of transparent plastic, with a Decepticon sigil underneath. This sigil is blurred and obscured by refractions through the clear plastic, so as you move Gobu1 relative to the light, his mark of allegiance “swims” on its chrome backing – very cool. According to TFwiki.net, the colour and shape of the crystal tells you what special powers the Arms Micron grants to his or her wielder when in weapons mode. Gobu1’s trapezoidal yellow gem apparently represents “Hit Points” and the element of “シャイン” or “Shine”… your guess as to exactly what that means is probably as good as mine.
Next in line comes Starscream Boomerang, who is AddAltModeR’s favourite, since she loves Starscream to almost indecent excess. This little guy looks just like Starscream, with a much more extensive paintjob than any of the other Arms Microns I’ve seen. Little Screamer doesn’t seem to be as festooned with ports and posts as the Arms Microns who were packaged with regular Transformers, however he still has 3 posts and a port, but they look less integral to his design than, say, BH (that’s Bulkhead’s pack-in partner, and it’s pronounced ベーハー or Bēhā), who is literally covered in them.
Starscream Boomerang folds up neatly into his alt-mode – which is exactly what you’d expect from his name. I’m not sure if the metallic stripes on his wings are supposed to imply that he’s some sort of bladed boomerang, but anyway his 5mm posts at either end mean that he fits in a Transformer’s hand just as a boomerang would, were someone preparing to throw it. His Energon Crystal is hexagonal and dark olive green – an Attack Points/Poison Element crystal – entirely suitable for a Starscream lookalike.
Bumblebee Sword is next in line. I’m less impressed by him than any of the others. He doesn’t really resemble what he’s supposed to in either of his modes, and his hip joints are really loose, which causes problems with standing him up in robot mode.
The likeness between this guy and Bumblebee is not as great as between Starscream Boomerang his namesake. Actually, if I hadn’t looked him up, I wouldn’t know he was supposed to be Bumblebee. Sure, he’s yellow and humanoid, but that’s really where the resemblance ends. His arms are attached to these vast (in comparison to him) swords that render his moulded elbows and hands useless. He’s like Edward Scissorhands but with much bigger scissors. I do like that his swords have serrations on the non-sharp back edge. That’s actually the best place for serrations on a sword – the blunter edge can be used for parrying, and the serrations work like those on a flamberge or a kris to disrupt the motion of an opponent’s blade.
In his “sword” mode, Bumblebee Sword is a ball of yellow and black spikes with two longer silver spikes pointing in the same direction, which I assume are supposed to be his sword blades. His Energon Crystal is more visible in this mode than when it’s on one of his ankles in ‘bot mode. As a warm orange hexagon this crystal represents Attack Points and Hādo element (Hardness?). Because of his loose hip joints, his legs don’t stay folded, and kind of flop around in the middle between the blades. This guy has only one port and one post, so options for mounting him on larger transformers are limited. With a careful application of transparent nail-varnish to the ball-joint in his hips, I’ve been able to make him stand up properly – but I shouldn’t need to do that to a new toy – it’s a technique used by collectors to repair wear and tear to second-hand toys.
Finally: I’ve saved the best ’til last. Ratchet Spanner is awesome. His robot mode looks a lot like Transformers:Prime Ratchet, even down to his disgruntled facial expression.
Like Starscream Boomerang, but unlike any of the others, he has quite a few paint operations, which contribute a lot to his resemblance to Ratchet. His robot mode has ball-jointed hips and shoulders, all of which feel reasonably sturdy, and has 5mm posts on his back and ankles, with a port on the back of his right arm, and the inside of his left. The outer side of his left arm is where his Energon Crystal is found. Another hexagonal Attack Points crystal, this one is claret red, which apparently indicates Curative powers – fitting for a robot who mimics the likeness of the Autobots’ chief medic. His Autobot sigil underneath the crystal is less clearly visible than the others – red-on-red is not a terribly “readable” combination of colours.
In spanner mode, he looks like a heavy tool suitable for use by a Transformer of the Voyager size-class. To be frank, a Deluxe would look a bit swamped when wielding him. The fold-out structures on the inside of his left arm and left leg can be hooked onto the ends of the opposite limb to add another 5mm port at the end, making it easier to combine him with other Arms Microns in a straight line. As you can see in this Japanese toy review blog: these exist for producing the combo weapon “Supernova Lance”, but they’re pretty nice for attaching him to any other Arms Microns, in any combination.
Those are the four Gacha Arms Microns I’ve found in the UK. I don’t doubt that there’re more about somewhere – Bumblebee Sword and Gobu1 have wave-mates that I haven’t seen, and the same is true of Ratchet Spanner and Starscream Boomerang. I feel a bit sorry for Bumblebee Sword – he doesn’t look like much in either mode, and he required hip upgrades from the minute he was out of his capsule. The two Decepticon Microns are quite nice, and each has secured its spot in my display cabinet without much hand-wringing from me. Ratchet Spanner is far and away my favourite of the four. He looks good in both modes, has a decent array of ports and plugs and feels satisfyingly heavy. He is currently stood on the shelf with Ratchet, Ironhide and Ai-Ro: some Arms Microns are just too nice in robot mode to deny them a share of the limelight by only displaying them in some bulky-bot’s hands.