They say lighting never strikes twice, but we all know that saying is full of crap, especially in the figure world. We keep buying the Tony Taka figures with their identical faces, we keep throwing our money at every iteration of Black Rock Shooter figmas, and we keep gobbling up the same familiar shapes of Nendoroids. Indeed, change may very well be a dubious thing to bring into a successful formula, and this might’ve been the case with Drossel von Flügel from Fireball — the unlikely lovechild between Disney and Toei that took the figure world by storm three years ago.
While I loved the original figma Drossel, I wasn’t a big fan of Fireball‘s sense of humour. Thankfully, its prequel Fireball Charming relied less on puns and wordplay, and thus its sense of humour was more easily translated across language barriers. Its bolstered budget also made for some really nice art and animation — far beyond the quality of the first season.
Still, for whatever reason, the second season just didn’t seem to make that big of a splash, and the reception towards Drossel’s new design has been…lukewarm at best. I get the feeling a lot of people did not like how this robo-girl looks decidedly more “robo” and less “girl”, yet that’s pretty much exactly why I love the design so much (and people wonder why I’m single — hah!).
When the shoulder on my figma Drossel broke a couple months back, I figured I would replace it with the Fireball Charming version (henceforth known as Drossel 2.0). But as I browsed the stores, I noticed that Bandai’s Chogokin version was also in stock at discount prices. I was indecisive for a while, but when Amiami decided to discount it for 50% off, that was my cue to bust out the wallet. I could’ve gone for the safe choice and got the figma, but I figured I’d give Bandai’s long-running diecast mecha line a try, if only for the sake of trying something new. It has its share of surprises both good and bad, but ultimately I really enjoy it.
The first thing everyone notices about the new Drossel the massive size of her thighs. They’re not something that has been proven to be a hit with everyone, but I think the exaggeration of Drossel’s legs make a lot of sense. Drossel does not have much of a face. She does not have facial expressions as signs of expression — rather, her expressive capacities fall squarely onto her body language, and her legs and hips are a huge part of it.
In the series, Drossel often stands in a distinct way: with her legs spread apart, crotch pushed forward and the weight of her body shifting from one leg to another. This is what gives her the confident and haughty air she’s known for. By blowing up her legs, Drossel’s main tools of expression are that much more noticeable, which gives the figure that much more attitude.
I will say that I’m not 100% behind the decision of getting rid of her feet. Sure, it gives her that alien/robotic look, and small feet are typically regarded with a feminine characteristic, but one of the great things about the original Drossel was how easily it’s able to stand without the aid of display stands. The ability to plop her anywhere and make it work was what made them so popular amongst toy collectors and photographers, but that’s no longer an option with the new design.
Drossel 2.0 has a considerable amount of added mechanical detail, but you wouldn’t know that from the frontal view, which is dominated by rounded white surfaces. The backside is full of little hydraulic pistons and various other gizmos. There are even small tubes running from the hip into her thighs! If that doesn’t give you a raging boner, I don’t know what would.
The original Chogokin Drossel had light-up eyes. I had thought that was a trivial feature, but now that I have the Chogokin Drossel 2.0, I am sorely eating my words. When you look closely into Drossel’s eyes, you’ll find a mirror of some sort inside her head. When angle it just the right way, the light will bounce from the mirror and right into the camera, producing a lovely lit-up effect. But if you angle it any other way, the eyes are depressingly dim, which gives her an unintentionally creepy appearance in some of my shots. I wish Bandai had just painted the eyes pearl blue instead of relying on this funky mirror business if they didn’t want to include battery-powered lights.
Though I may have complained about the lack of light-up eyes, the most likely reason why that feature was omitted would be the inclusion of a second head. Equipped with adjustable glasses and a pair of rocket thrusters, it’s a big change from her default appearance. It gives her a librarian look and opens up a lot of fun and possibilities with the figure. I may be a little sore over the lack of light-up eyes, but the inclusion of this extra head really prevents me from faulting Bandai too much.
Also included is a stick of an awkward length. It doesn’t look flashy enough to be a scepter, nor is it long enough to be a staff or a cane. I find myself at a loss as to do what to do with it. Same could be said about the preserved flower canister accessory. It looks good, but what do I do with something like that, especially since there’s no way to attach it to the hands in any secure way?
The display stand may look extravagant, but it is actually somewhat underwhelming in performing its purpose of holding up the figure. Unlike figmas, the stand is not inserted into the figure itself — rather, the figure is held up one of two clamps — one adjustable, the other kind of cups around the center torso sphere. The first pose I tried to put Drossel into was the iconic floating pose, but that was met by crushing failure, as there’s no way for the arm to hold the entirety of the figure’s weight.
With that said, the stand works well enough as long as least one leg is in contact with the ground. The smooth surface does not have a lot of traction to keep Drossel’s non-existent feet from slipping in one-legged poses, but the grooves separating the tiles are usually good enough. if that fails, there’s always the crevice around the base of the support arm, which does a fine job at keeping the figure in place.
By the way, if you stick two AAA batteries into the display stand, it’ll speak one of eight phrases when the labeled tile is pushed down. It’s not exactly a feature I look for in toys, but having Drossel’s one-liners at the push of a button makes for some silly fun when I’m bored.
Drossel also comes with a pair of foot stabilizers meant to give her the option of standing without the base, but it just doesn’t work. Seriously, they’re even less useful than Aigis‘ “hoof helpers”. Why these were even included is beyond me.
The most interesting accessory is her tricycle wheels. But swapping out of few pieces from her feet and head, you can convert Drossel into HIGH MOBILITY MODE. With her crotch thrust high in the sky, it’s truly the most dignified form of travel.
Oh yeah, Drossel comes with 6 pairs of hands: fists, open palms, stick-holders, pinching fingers, pointing hands, and “V” hands.
Double joints is the name of the game, and Drossel’s got it in spades. The neck, shoulder, elbow, hip, knees are all double-jointed, which gives the figure all range of movement you’d expect. The design of Drossel’s waist — which revolves around a spherical center — allows for a lot of freedom.
The knee joints are really clicky, so you might not be able to get the exact angle you want out of the legs, but since the Chogokin Drossel can’t stand up on its own anyways, it doesn’t matter as much as it might otherwise. Personally, I actually like the clicky feel of the joints, as they give the figure a mechanical feel.
While on the topic of joints, the shoulder and hip joint balls are diecast, as well as the knee and elbow joints. The visible diecast parts are not terribly obvious because they’re painted matte, but they feel nice and sturdy, and I’m definitely less worried about them breaking than I would for figmas.
At the end of the day, I had a lot of fun with the Chogokin Drossel 2.0. Because her design has sign a blank slate quality to it, it really lends itself to the imagination. I’ve posed her with the images of a stage actress, a martial artist, a shy librarian, a saucy teager, a sassy black woman, and if I haven’t been so busy this past couple of weeks, I would’ve done even more. I found it really easy to lose myself after I get rolling, and that speaks a lot in the figure’s favour.
The stand not being able to hold up the weight of the figure is a bummer, and not having the staff/mask, cape, or the option to add on the motorized unicycle inevitably raises the question of whether the figma version is the better pick. Since I don’t own the figma Drossel, I can’t really give too informed of an opinion, but I’d rather look at this another way. With its lighter weight, generous selection of accessories, and a more functional display base, the figma is the better toy between the two. But with the finer details that comes with the larger size, Bandai’s Chogokin Drossel is virtually a perfect reproduction of the character’s appearance, and thus is a great display piece.
With that said, I would never have bought this figure without the 50% discount. Appearance and details are nice and all, but at the end of the days this is a Drossel toy, so playability does hold considerable value to me. But for ¥4,500, I’m very happy to have given this figure a try, and I would encourage you to so as well, provided that you would trade playability for looks.
- Accurate and detailed
- Attractive display stand
- Oozes personality
- Diecast joints
- No light-up eyes
- Display stand can’t lift the figure off its feet
- The “foot-helpers” don’t work
- For the Chogokin, it’s light on the diecast
By the way, which of the two photos below do you think look better? Ashlotte wasn’t a fan of the distracting colours in the left photo, but I feel a little lukewarm about the lack of colour in the second photo. Help me make up my mind and bury this debate!