The Reverend's Review: KOToys Gurafi and Noizu
As I noted in my previous review of KOToys' Dairu and Zauru, the Autobot "W Cassettes" (pun on "double"), or "Dino-Cassettes", are relatively obscure entries in the line, having only been for sale in Japan after the Hasbro-backed line had folded in the US and not making it into the "in-between" years leading up to G2 in Europe. Due to the popularity of the cassette Transformers in general and the relatively low number of existing toys produced in that single market, they've also fetched stupid-high prices on the secondary market. However, what I'm reviewing here are the recent reproductions of these toys made by KOToys in early 2012.
As of this writing, only the labeled cassette versions are for sale - no tampographing. The reproductions come in the same colors as the originals, and as an aside, also come in very nice reproduction packaging. Unfortunately, this same reproduction packaging is a little too close to the original, causing some unscrupulous traders on the secondary market to put these reproductions up for absurdly high prices of their own, passing them off as the originals. It also appears that in KOToys' first release of Gurafi and Noizu, the back of the package is printed upside down.Name:
Gurafi (sometimes anglicized as "Graphy")Allegiance:
(Translated) "Flies through the sky at speeds up to 250km/h, and his beak can bore big holes in almost anything. He is very at ease with his companions. His aerial vision is incredible, and can spot a baseball from heights of 300m. Carries laser guns."Alternate Mode:
As I mentioned above, the KOToys' cassette releases to date have not been tampographed - the cassette markings are labels. And you have to put them on yourself, which is a a serious pain with some of them. The problem is compounded by the fact that the labels really aren't cut exactly right. In Gurafi's case, there's only three labels to put on, and those three cover most of the cassette side well, so its not as frustrating a job as labeling his brethren. Cassette mode itself is also not quite as bad as some of his fellows, being largely solid to the heft and not possessing too many obvious joint lines. Primarily red, with molded teeth and white lines on a black background for most of his labels. Doesn't look too bad on his own, although he practically disappears behind Twincast's red-colored chest window.Robot Mode:
Gurafi is intended to be some member of the pterosaur family. His transformation is similar to Ratbat - pull out the wings from the sides, flip out the head from its moorings on top, and fold down his big triangular feet from the back. He has two joints in his neck and two at each shoulder, plus each wing can rotate somewhat. The wings themselves are big and blocky - akin to Squawktalk, as opposed to the thinner wings of Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and Ratbat. He does have a nice pointed head and beak resembling Pteranodon, complete with crest and golden slit eyes. Small chrome weapon pods attach to the end of each wing; these are his "laser guns". The laser guns themselves have no discernible barrels - they're really just endcaps for the wings, which don't add much that I can see. Notably, the shape of his torso isn't too far a cry from a pterosaur's either - where Ratbat had sort of a "fat-bat" look, Gurafi has a tapered (if flat) chest that's far more aesthetically pleasing.
Overall, while Gurafi gets some nice box art and some nice joint design, I'm a little puzzled by him in general. Shouldn't his wings extend more? Why those silly little weapon-pods at the wingtips, rather than longer guns on his back? Why did (whoever) even opt for the "standing upright" design (again, see Ratbat) when he probably would have looked better in the "flight" pose (as in Buzzsaw/Laserbeak, which incidentally would have given him thinner, better looking wings)? The answer probably has more to do with needing him to be part of the combined Decibel more than anything - Gurafi's wings have to become Decibel's legs, and that likely eliminated a lot of options within the budget allotted for the figure. Still, all that aside, Gurafi goes well with the other Autobot cassettes, sharing the air only with Raindance. Bear in mind, as well, out of all the dinosaur and pseudo-dinosaur forms in the G1 line, Gurafi only shares his look with Swoop (I don't count Sky Lynx as a pterosaur). His rather large feet also allow him to sit on Twincast's shoulder. So, to sum it up, while the design of the wings and the weapons are a little iffy, Gurafi's still a fairly good cassette-bot - maybe worth the price of the set on his own.
Marks out of ten for the following:Transformation Design:
4. Intuition, and previous G1 experience, will get you a fully transformed Gurafi with little effort. The "wingtips" that rotate out of his blocky wings might elude you the first time until you try to figure out where to plug the weapons in. Durability:
3. Because of Gurafi's multiple joints, and my experience with KOToys' Dauru and Zauru, I'm very careful with him. I suggest you be careful as well. Fun:
6. My concerns about his appearance aside, I think he goes well with the other Autobot cassettes. His red coloring fits in with Ramhorn and Grandslam, and out of all the Dino-Cassettes I think he blends in the best in a crowd of Autobots.Aesthetics:
3. Argh. On one hand, this is a decent little toy, given the size and other limitations they were working with. On the other, they sacrificed a lot to make him be a combiner part, and I don't that offsets the drawbacks in this case.Articulation:
5. Having two joints in each shoulder and the neck gains Gurafi more points than he probably should get here, because the "upright" position he stands in limits what those shoulders can do. But still, for a G1 cassette, he's doing well in this department. Value/Price:
7. KOtoys' price was $39.99 for the Gurafi/Noizu set. I'm okay with that, even if I only got Gurafi out of the deal.Overall:
7. The Dino-cassettes' actual worth in play and display value is seriously debatable, but I think Gurafi is among the better of the four.
Noizu (often anglicized to "Noise")Allegiance:
Cybertron (Autobot) Function:
"Forest Inquiry"?? (Might be better translated as "Jungle Warrior", akin to Sludge? Or maybe it's an overspecialized form of espionage - "Wooded Area Spy"? I'm not sure.)
(Translated) "He moves freely and takes it easily. The claws in both hands and the power of his fangs are the strongest out of the Dino Cassettes. His strength is weaker than Zauru's, but possesses the strongest kick. Idolizes the Dinobot Grimlock. Equipped with flamethrowers." Alternate Mode:
Noizu is kind of a messy looking cassette. He's colored a pastel blue, with labels bearing mainly orange, and so many hilariously obvious joint lines (not to mention the dinosaur head on one side, along with the massive tail along the bottom) that he's not fooling anyone anywhere at any time. If you're going to hide any of these cassettes out of sight inside Twincast, Noizu should be the one. Just plain ugly, almost hilariously so. He also sports molded teeth, but thats about all he has going for him. Robot Mode:
The first few times I saw pictures of Noizu in dinosaur mode, I thought "Oh, he's a retool of Overkill." That is not exactly the case. While Noizu does share some similarities in transformation, one half of the cassette actually pivots up and folds above the other half, instead of arms and legs simply flipping out of the cassette body. Noizu is also pastel, maybe plague blue here, with red eyes and molded teeth lines (the jaw doesn't open) within a small saurian head. He has little tiny forelimbs (with downward pointing claws), sprawling hindlimbs that open outwards below the hips, and a long tail. There's a minor bit of detailing above the base of his tail with some pistons or other appropriately mechanical devices. Most notably, Noizu comes with some seriously large chrome weapons ("flamethrowers", as I understand them), which attach at his shoulders and hang down to just above his hips. His teeny tiny forelimbs are too short to do much with, and his hindlimbs are required to keep him standing. Interestingly (and because of the combiner gimmick, again), the tail is not separate from the hindlimbs. Spreading the hindlimbs for stability also means spreading his tail halves. Outside of the limited movement of his limited forelimbs, the only useful articulation Noizu possesses is in his neck, which has two joints. But since he's quite shortnecked, he can really only look forward or up.
I have read that Noizu is supposed to be an Allosaurus. Admittedly, he still looks more like a weighty tyrannosaurid than the sleeker Allosaurus - the oldest artwork of an Allosaurus I can recall came from the early 1980s, and they were not depicted there as upright carnosaurs balancing partly on their tails in the pose that Noizu assumes in dinosaur mode. So I'm not convinced that Noizu isn't actually intended to be a tyrannosaurid like Overkill and Grimlock. Whatever he's supposed to be, probably his best attributes are his relatively tall height and his large weaponry. I don't think he looks that great - frankly, I think he's probably the most drab of the entire group, the Hasbro Autobots included. Makes pretty good dino-filler, I guess, alongside his fellows?
Marks out of ten for the following:Transformation Design:
3. Aside from the joint in the middle that folds the entire cassette into a new length, nothing to see here, move along. Again, the need to be a combiner piece inhibits what they could do with him.Durability:
5. Well, the only projecting piece of Noizu is really his tail-halves, and they are thick and held on with a large pin. I suppose the forelimbs could break off if you were too rough. I'd actually give him a higher score in this field if not for the fact that he's a KOToys release and I've already had limbs pop off the previous two KOToys cassettes I reviewed.Fun:
3. The big weapons are a plus, but that's about it. I don't think Noizu offers anything special to the Autobot cause in terms of play value.Aesthetics:
3. Bad coloring really hurts him. Surprisingly so - I can usually shrug off a poor color choice, but in Noizu's case he's just bland. The fact that the tail halves separate along with his hindlimbs whenever you want to stand him does not help him as a display piece, since the tail is so long and noticeable.Articulation:
2. Frankly, once you get him in the typical tyrannosaurid "tripod" position, there's not much else he can do. He can wave his forelimbs up and down slightly, and watch a jet flying overhead. Value/Price:
5. As noted above, $39.99 for the pair consisting of him and Gurafi. Sure, I think Noizu could have brought more bang to the buck here, but I'm not complaining at the price.Overall:
3. Nothing new here. Goes okay with the other three, I guess, but that's about all.
(Translated) "Has the speed of Gurafi and the power of Noizu. The flamethrowers on his shoulders emit heat of up to 9000 degrees which can melt through 10cm steel in 5 seconds. Faithfully follows Twincast's orders, but his companions think he picks and chooses himself what to do. The other combiner warrior Legout is his younger brother."
I really do not like Dairu and Zauru's combined form of Legout at all, and I'm sorry to say that Decibel is even worse. I don't know if I can convey how much I dislike Decibel in Transformers terms. I hated Cosmos' robot mode as a kid, but Decibel could almost make Cosmos look like MP-01 Optimus. Decibel is formed, essentially, by unfolding Noizu's hips all the way and attaching them to an upside-down Gurafi's back. Noizu's long, silly tail halves form his arms, with Gurafi's nether regions making his red chest, and of course theres the offset, near-featureless head (which, due to the commonality, qualifies him as Legout's brother, I'm guessing). While Gurafi's little weapons don't do much for Decibel's appearance - they just clip onto the backs of his legs - Noizu's big flamethrowers point up and over his shoulders. I'd like to say that this does a lot for his appearance, but it doesn't. Decibel is a short, fat (well, overly wide) fool of a combined robot, with ape-ishly long arms that flap uselessly at his sides and lizard-style sprawling hips. I'm not sure what an Information Soldier is, but it makes me think of a bad work meeting with some consultant babbling about "team building" and "self-love" and things like that.
Marks out of ten for the following:Transformation Design:
1. Pointless and took far too much potential from the component parts.Durability:
3. Eeehhhhhhh.... I dunno, not as many glaring weak points as Legout, I guess. But I can't bring myself to leave it in the combined mode long enough to tell you. Fun:
1. Just don't bother. I can't see any play value in this mode, unless he happens to be the only cassette combiner you own - and maybe not even then, because then you won't want to try any of the others. Aesthetics:
1. Ugly, fat, short, bad colors and misshapen.Articulation:
2. Well... He can direct traffic, sort of, with those long arms. While he has hip joints and knee rotation, those don't really do anything for him and don't add any real posability. If his hips were actually below his groin instead of splaying out to the sides, it might add a point.Overall:
1. Waste of time and space and thought.