*Review* 3A’s Ma.K. Kröte PROTOTYPE

 

*please note that this version of Kröte is a prototype and final details may change before ship date.

INTRO

Just in time for Rad Toy Review’s 1st year anniversary, ThreeA shipped us their brand new Ma.K. Kröte prototype to play with. The bambaland.com drop fort the same item was just a few days ago, and has since come and gone. Never fear late bloomer, the retail version (the same version I’ll be reviewing today) will be available via 3rd party retailers very soon if you missed him the first time around!

I’ve been aware of  Kow Yokoyama’s designs from years of building my eclectic collection of robot and game design references. His designs are instantly recognizable and in my opinion, nudge away from the status quo of what the future of robotics will look like. There’s something very physical about the way he creates his robots in that while still “from some distant future” they look very conceivable given even the limitations of today’s technology.

Kröte probably wouldn’t have necessarily been my alpha choice for ThreeA to push out the door. That would have been a version of the S.A.F.S with an accompanying pilot. (Because, how awesome would that be?) That being said, what ThreeA has done by releasing Kröte first, whether intentionally or not, is show how amazingly well they can handle the minutia of unique details packed into Kow’s complex designs.

PACKAGING

As I received Kröte well before it’s estimated ship date, there wasn’t any packaging, posters or kittens included. Just Kröte loose in a well padded shipping box.

Consider this area a place holder for it’s future package art..

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Not too surprisingly, Kröte is basically self contained without any accessories to speak of. The thin long antennae and small radar grid are the only loose bits.  The antennae slides into a little hole on the side and stays in pretty well. The radar on the other hand, doesn’t so much as lock into place as allow gravity to sorta hold it there. After much wiggling about, I’ve determined that a small glob of paint must have snuck it’s way into the slot, preventing the radar from nesting properly. I’ll have to mess with it more later, perhaps simply glue it in place, but for now I have to remember not to bump into it for risk of losing it.

THE BREAKDOWN

Dang.

Kröte is one busy bot. Loops, chords, wires, bolts, switches, ladders, wheels, rivets. My eyes bounce all over the place on him and at first it’s challenging to find a spot to rest them. It’s probably a bit like beating a dead horse at this point, but by golly, ThreeA are the masters of their craft. There are so many incredibly small, yet detailed pieces literally head to tail on Kröte that I have a hard time believing it’s a mass produced product. It looks as good as what you’d expect a custom model maker to create.

If you’ve been collecting designer action figures for awhile, you may be a little jaded at just how well 3A bots are conceived and realized. Go to Target or Toys R Us and walk down the boys action figure isle. That should hopefully remind you.

Other than the various unique details littered all over Kröte, there’s a few new techniques I’ve not seen before on a ThreeA toy. The one that stands out the most is a pretty heavy use of “wielded steel”. Sections don’t just clip onto each other with a clean seam, they have wielded details to add to the believability that what you’re looking at is hard steel and not a PVC/plastic frankenstein.

One of the things I was surprised about is that 3A’s Kröte doesn’t feel especially fragile. Despite all the tiny details and things sticking out here and there, he feels solid. There’s places for your hands to naturally go so he’s pretty easy to grab and pose on a whim. In fact, the areas that you need to grab to move a joint seem to have details (like wires) that feature a little give so they don’t snap off should you need to apply a little pressure to pose.

The main thing to play with on Kröte is it’s legs. Honestly, I struggle a little bit with the look of backwards legs. It’s iconic and it’s a great design, but my stubborn “toes forward” brain rejects it. It took me some time to get used to it because as I mentioned before, Kow’s unique designs seem to ignore some of the standard norms of what robots should look like. For me, it’s at the same time, off-putting and refreshing.

The first thing I did once I had Kröte on the table in front of me was figure out what wiggles and what doesn’t. The head swivels back and forth like a tank turret to a full 360 if desired. Each leg has several points of articulation. The first is a ball joint at the hip that allows for the widest range of motion on the leg.

Following down the leg to the foot you run into 3 swivel joints, each with a different allowance for movement.

The joint next to the spring has very little range. Also, if you’re curious, the springs don’t actually do anything but add to the aesthetics. The “knee” joint will go from a 90 degree bend to almost completely straight. On the knees themselves are small adjustable shields. The ankle joint is also pretty limited in how much you can bend it, but they move enough to help keep Kröte balanced along side the heel flap that you can adjust up and down.

With legs fully extended as far as his balance would allow, Kröte stood just over 12 inches. Pushing one leg back and the other forward and bending the joints to their extremes I was able to get him as low as 9 inches.  (Antennae not included)

“Kröte, a toy for every any display case.”.. TM.

I do feel like there are perhaps a few missed opportunities where moving parts are concerned. For example, there’s a wheel in the engine detail that looks as though it should turn, but doesn’t. More starkly, the radar up top looks practically made to rotate, yet it’s stuck fast. There’s a few other small examples, none of which ruin the toy of course. It would have just been cool to have a few more things to figit with.

Overall, I’d say you get the appropriate amount of articulation for a bot like this. He won’t be pulling off any Jackie Chan moves, but I wouldn’t expect him to.

One thing about this review is that it should have come out days ago. But since what I received was the figure and nothing BUT the figure.. I had a difficult time figuring out what batteries were used for the lights and gun as their are no labels or symbols to guide me. I’m sure this won’t be an issue for the version you end up with as it’ll most likely include some well illustrated docs that clearly light the path. Me on the other hand.. I ran back and forth to town to grab sets of similarly sized camera batteries over the course of three days attempting to power this bugger up!

I finally caved and dropped Kim of 3A a note, something I probably should have done right away. He promptly sent back some photos showing that Kröte uses not two single batteries, but 6 stacked coin batteries.

Doh.

Palm to forehead.. moving on.

Pic Kim sent me to show battery placement

To install the batteries you must first open a hatch on the side of the head. This is also where the two switches for the electronic bits are. It’s a little strange that 3A decided to hide them in a spot that’s not easy to reach. Most people will just want to be able to tap an easy to access button to make the gun work. Instead, you have to remove the side hatch, then flick a switch on/off. It’s not as intuitive as it probably could be.

You can watch our short and sweet video of the switches and lights in action below.

As you can see, the gun rotates and the barrels flash as they “fire”.  The barrel rotated a little slower than I expected but the barrel tip lights are pretty cool. I like how the yellow lamp light is set back and gives a sort of yellow eyeball effect.

I think it’s a really cool feature done fairly well, I just wish the buttons to turn them on and off were in a place easier to get to.

The paint application 3A dolled out onto this version of Kröte is in the general ballpark of what you’d expect from them. Overall, it’s solid with some really nice weathering (particularly on the legs) and a few sharp decals. I really dig the white patina that’s added to some areas, really adds to the realism.

I think where it slightly misses is in the faint camouflaged areas. I used to work with a company that designs camo prints so I might be a little biased here. The patterns are so softly applied that they look more like random color smears than actual faded, rusted over camouflage. I tried to find some official Kow examples to see if this is how he designed the color scheme or if it’s purely a 3A design but couldn’t find anything conclusive. This criticism could also just be my preference in wanting a little cleaner of a bot for once. But making clean-ish robots isn’t really 3A’s thing.. making dirty, rusty, big robots is.

So if you came for that show, I think you’ll be very happy.

THE FINAL WORD

With Kröte, ThreeA continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in collectible toys. I say this knowing full well that I’ve claimed the same thing in the past three or four consecutive RtR 3A toy reviews. Full discloser  I’m going to keep saying it until it isn’t true. Kim and his crew at ThreeA’s Hatchery definitely know their stuff. But more than that, they show no signs of slowing down new development. Like Ambush and REX before, Kröte isn’t made up of a bunch of premade pieces. Most, if not all, of him is built brand new from the ground up.

As usual, through the fog of compliments and positive impressions, I did find a few things to complain about. Not everything perfectly hits all the notes with me, but it comes pretty darn close.

If you’re a fan of Kow’s Kröte design, then I really believe you’ll love how ThreeA respected it with another incredibly impressive (and obtainable) toy. It’s certainly has me looking forward to seeing how ThreeA handles the rest of the Maschinen Krieger Universe!

PROS:

  • Holy grandma, is this guy detailed. The level is such that a custom hand made model would struggle to match it
  • Kow Yokoyama’s design is almost perfectly realized
  • Light and gun rotating effect, while a little sluggish, looks really cool
  • Solid feel, despite delicate appereance
  • The most unique looking toy I have on display

CONS:

  • The switches for the lights and gun should be easier to access and not hidden away in the battery case
  • The radar piece didn’t fit securely on top of the turret
  • I wish the painted camo details were a little more crisp and defined
  • A few small details look as though they should easily move, but don’t

A big thanks to Kim and 3A for sending us an early taste of Kröte to play with. Much respect!

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*Review* 3A Red Devil Lady Sham

INTRO

Ashley Wood’s comic Popbot, sits as an incomplete work of wonderfully illustrated comic confusion. Over the course of his convoluted canon, Ash pops various characters in and out like disposable income, spending them as though they exist simply to get us to the next page and show off another, seemingly endless supply of beautimus sketches and paintings. However, there are a few concrete, dyed in the wool key characters that carry the large majority of his story.

One of those characters is the singing, boozing, womanizing cat, Kitty. We’ve all seen him in various toy forms, packed in with both 1/12 and 1/6 Popbots. The other character who I’d consider the protagonist of the books, is Lady Sham.

As toy collectors and fans of A.Wood’s artwork, you’d better believe the much discussed release of such a key character would be sort of a big deal to us. Sham had been oft mentioned by Wood himself as “coming soon”, only to have those words disappear into the ether as weeks turned to months, months to years. Along with various other long promised figures, Sham has been in the works for a very extensive time now. One can only assume she was being refined and perfected for an epic release befitting such an iconic Popbot character.

Finally, they did it. 3A announced that Lady Sham was indeed coming out this year. She’d be sporting her traditional black stretchy attire and hair. From the early teaser pictures, she looked all around awesome!

pic by ThreeA

“Yaaaay!!” cheered the 3A fans.

Except that she was to be an exclusive to an art show in Hong Kong that only a handful of people would ever be able to attend.

“What the.. ?? Nooooo!!” cried the 3A fans.

I get why exclusives exists but I can’t explain to you the “why” in “why” Ash and 3A would decide to do their fans this way. I can only assume due to the outcry (and the on going claim from Ash and 3A that “nothing is planned”) they decided to throw us commoners that have continually stamped their meal ticket by buying up everything they put their spit shine on, a bone.

They promised to release other versions of Sham in the near future!

A short time after RVHK, 3A came through with that promise and teased a picture of Pure Sham as well as a sale date. She was basically the negative of the exclusive Lady Sham, sporting all white with dark hair and light blue lipstick. To add to the fire, there was talk of a “Casual” Sham that  Ashley said would drop as either a 3AA exclusive or surprise. While Lady Sham is often depicted in a white jump suit like Pure, I just wasn’t feeling her as much as the original all black version. I decided instead to hold out for Casual, who’d been in several A. Wood pieces.

pic by ThreeA
Pure Sham

Then it came down from top brass that Casual wasn’t going to happen. No reason really given, but one can assume that something as lean as a girl character in a tank top and jeans didn’t “wow” Ashley. I’m guessing she probably looked more like a stylized barbie.. not something most of us would be interested in enough to pay for.

During the course of the Pure sale, a quick sketch of Red Devil Lady Sham in all red and a tuft of white hair popped up on the ThreeA Production Blog. I refreshed bamba, and there she was. I have an affinity for red so added her to my cart. At the time I still had a 003 Caesar on the way and I must have giggled audibly as I imagined how cool the two would look together on top of my shelves.

Unfortunately, 003 didn’t do anything for me. The dull red colors and cheap looking plastic killed my enthusiasm for a dynamic, bright red collective on my shelf. Without her planned companion, I admit my enthusiasm was damaged for Red Devil a bit. On the other hand, Queeny was truly awesome and in my opinion, one of the most fun and original characters from 3A this year. Plus, Sham’s been in the works forEVER now. She had to be perfect, right?

I put a little faith in the devil and tore open the box.

PACKAGING

The box art wasn’t a huge surprise. We got the same sketch that teased Red Devil when she first popped up on bambaland. It’s a cool sketch for sure, but after seeing the excellent painting that came on Pure Sham’s, I was particularly jealous that Red Sham didn’t get the same treatment.

WHAT’S INCLUDED

Red Devil Lady Sham came packaged with a couple extra bits that further set her apart from the other Shams. She gets an extra gun and gun holding hand as well as the curious little plastic puppet dude, Mr Bridger. The inner packaging is obviously from previous Shams, so there’s no plastic shell for any of these additions. Mine were loose and floating around in the bottom of the box. Mr Bridger had somehow freed himself from the little plastic bag he was supposed to be in but arrived unscathed.

From what I understand, Mr Bridger is either THE devil, or represents the devil. Either way, he supposedly a puppet that talks to Lady Sham. In toy form, he’s a piece of solid molded plastic.

THE BREAKDOWN

Right out of the box, I thought for sure I’d love Lady Sham. Stylistically, she looks fantastic. Her face is frozen in an unamused, heavy eyelided gaze that says she’d just as like shoot you in the face as look you in the eyes. Her red lips and white hair are cleanly painted with no paint bleed onto other surfaces and contrast nicely with her red body suit.

The fitted red suit is crafted in such a way that it leaves little to the imagination. It fits her tight, literally foot to chin. It has a sheen but it’s not shiny like the faux vinyl that previous Tomorrow Queens came in. The material is also fairly stretchy, not quite spandex, but along those lines. This is a good thing seeing that you must pull and stretch the sleeves out in order to pop the gun hands in and out. A large black zipper runs from the back of her head to her waist. I assume this exists so you can take the suit off if you need. As form fitted as this suit is, I can’t imagine anyone attempting it for any reason.

Sham comes default with both neutral hands installed. I can’t tell if they’re meant to appear relaxed or “itchy finger-y” but they’re all new sculpts just for her. The way the suit is sewn to encompass the hands looks phenomenal and goes back to how well fitted the suit looks. I do wish the fingernails on the hands were painted. It seems a little lazy to skip out on this detail, especially on such an important figure in Ashley’s world.

I love how large and dynamic her feet are. My wife has maintained that she “hates” how Ashley Wood paints women’s feet, where areas, it’s one of the things I find most charming and unique in his work. Sham’s feet embody that aspect very well.  I was also very surprised at how easily she balances. Traditionally, the female figures from 3A are as challenging to stand as a new born doe finds it to walk. The only thing I can contribute that to is her larger feet. To repeat the sentiment I had concerning unpainted fingernails and with all the attention Ash gives to his lady feet, it seemed a given her toe nails would have been painted. A shame they’re not.

Red Devil comes with twin holsters for her twin cannons (not those, get your head out of the gutter).  The guns themselves are basically repurposed 1/12 Popbot guns painted black with bright red handles. They look cool enough and are slightly different, but I can’t help but wish Ash had designed something completely new for such a pinnacle character.

Popping Sham out of the box and putting her on the table I thought, “Wow, she looks really great.”

Then I tried to pose her.

Underneath all that stretchy red suit is a highly articulated female body. A highly articulated female body that you will never be able to take advantage of.

Unintended double entendre aside, the suit is both the best thing and the worse thing about Lady Sham. It has give, so you can move her around some, but because it’s wrapped so tightly around her and the material has resistance to hold it’s form, you won’t be pushing her into anything overly dynamic looking.

For example, you can left her arm to point her gun and bend her elbows to adjust the angle some. However, depending on how stiff your figure’s joints are, you may or may not be able to rotate the elbow around as the suit just pulls it right back to however it’s been sewn in. The same can be said for her wrists and ankles. The other issue with the suit lies in the material itself. As I mentioned before, it’s like spandex, but not really. It honestly feels a little like something you’d find a durable balloon to be made of. Thin fibrous rubber. I noticed this more as I posed her arms and moved her waist around. The material stretches, but after a few bends, doesn’t quite go back to it’s normal state. It bubbles at the bends ever so slightly and the fabric starts to show signs of wear.

Seeing that happen this early on and with as little posing as I’ve done with her, it seems highly unlikely that the suit will hold up very well or very long.

Continuing with my suit complaints. The fact we have to stretch out the material to swap out the hands and then via some archaic game of chance, attempt to pop the tiny wrist peg blindly back into the wrist hole without snapping the fragile plastic is pretty ridiculous. I have no other way of saying it other than to say it’s a bad design choice. They should have had one gun hand installed as default and a neutral hand for the other. It would have made the most sense for 99% of the people out there and not require anyone who want’s Sham to hold the only accessory she came with to chance ripping or over stretching her suit.

While I dig the twin holsters, the straps that go across her waist to hold them in place, are incredibly unfinished. They look like spare strips of fabric that someone quickly ran some scissors over to toss around her waist. (Update: Looking closer at her other strap, it seems the top one is heavily frayed and the other is not. So I don’t believe the fraying, scissor cut look is the norm and hopefully nothing you need worry about. The bad news is that I need to contact CS for a replacement. The good news is, 3A CS has always been awesome for me and you most likely won’t have the same issue  with your Lady Sham)

Another small thing that’s unique to Red Devil and probably unavoidable is that “X”  the holster straps create around her waist, make her look thicker in the middle than she is. Picky? Yeah, but I’m allowed to be.

THE FINAL WORD

I haven’t been this torn over a figure in a long while. I feel like I have a good deal more to say in the “what’s lame” category than I do in the “what’s awesome” one, but I still think she’s a really cool figure and I like having her in my collection. She’s just not as cool as I think she could have easily been.

I love Red Devil Lady Sham’s design with her slinky eyes, bright white hair and fitted suit. I love how much her red suit stands out on the shelf next to my other TKs and TQs. She truly does look unique despite sharing some of the qualities of previous 3A figures.

The suit is an aggravating itch and the focal point of Sham’s problems.

I hate how limiting it is and truly fear for the longevity of it. The material has give, but doesn’t seem to be very strong. Just posing her the little bit that I have, is already showing signs of wear. Not good.

If you’re into having at least one of each figure from the Popbot line, then you could do worse than Red Devil. Overall, I like how she looks just as much as I did the original black version and far more than the “Pure” version. Since I haven’t had a chance to mess around with the other variants I don’t know what, if any, differences there may be in the fit or feel of their suit fabric.

The ideas behind Lady Sham make her an interesting and cool looking figure. The sleeves slipped over her hand and sewn into her shoes give her a really sleek, streamlined appearance that holds true to much of the iconic artwork she was pulled from. On the other hand, those elements complicate other things that 3A forced on us, like swapping out her hands for “useful” ones. The suit is a perfect example of 3A once again going for style over substance.. or style over functionality.

I suppose in a lot of ways, it makes sense for them to do so since their properties are almost wholly driven by an artist well known for shifting his interest and doing things the way he wants them done regardless of other’s input.

I can’t fault them for that, but for a figure that’s supposedly been in the making since day one of 3A and that’s so important to Ashley Wood personally, she feels strangely rushed. Like a couple steps were skipped during production causing what could have become a true classic 3A toy to simply being another 3A toy.

PROS:

  • Red Devil Lady Sham looks almost exactly like I’d want her to. Her design is top notch
  • The suit looks fantastic and is neatly sewn for a near perfect fit
  • Her face is perfectly painted and sculpted to capture her no-nonsense personality
  • I love her big pointy toed feet
  • She’s a breeze to balance

CONS:

  • The suit only looks fantastic. It functions pretty poorly and seems as though it will deteriorate rapidly with use
  • Some QC on her belt looking frayed (updated: most likely an isolated situation)
  • Why isn’t at least ONE hand set to be a gun holding hand by default. It makes zero sense.
  • Unpainted finger and toe nails are sad finger and toe nails
  • Mr Bridger is supposed to be a puppet, but isn’t.

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3A’s HK Reventure

Hey gang!

So going down in Hong Kong right now is Reventure, 3A’s art and toy show. This is where Ashley Wood gets to display a ton of his fantastic art and 3A show off bunches of their new stuff coming down the tubes. We decided not to take the fact that we could not attend this year sitting down and took it upon ourselves to scour the web for every drop of imageration (word?) we could find. We did this, so you don’t have to!

Warning: No re-sizing or formatting for this thread as none of these images are our property. Credit listed under each image.

Check back often as we’ll update this thread as new images become available.

not strictly ReVenture.. but get to see Bouncer Ankous in contrast
pic by Kadoo

TOTEM opened!
pic by smurfy

more TOTEM
pic by pepeto

TOTEM Vampire
pic by pepeto

ash signing and sketch
pic by HK Legion

ash SNAKE sketch
pic by HK Legion

bot sniper
pic by HK Legion

unknown 10 Finger Gang member?
pic by toysdaily

MAK
pic by pepeto

MGS REX.. what a beast!
pic by Pepeto

Ash art
pic by Pepeto

Ash art
pic by pepeto

showroom floor
pic by Pepeto

showroom floor
pic by pepeto

show room floor
pic by pepeto

sweet Solid Gold Death Mask Tshirt
pic by Pepeto

Rufus Dayglow and his statue
pic by Tigerfeet

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epic 3A Staff tshirts.. lucky dogs
pic by Cody

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TK Gang
image by Sophora

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Supreme Nom White
image by 3A

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HKV TK
image by HK Legion

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Wall of awesome
image by tigerfeet

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totem
pic by tigerfeet

Someones ReVenture haul!
pic by HK Legion

ReVenture TKs
pic by HK Legion

Nabler 1:1 head
pic by HK Legion

Full Size TK
pic by HK Legion

lady sham
pic by HK Legion

Lady Sham back
pic by HK Legion

AP Zombs!
pic by 3A

AP Zombs
pic by 3A

AP Zomb
pic by 3A

Ghost Popbot
pic by 3A

ap Zombs!
pic by 3A

Sunday JC
pic by 3A

Singing Kitty
pic by 3A Blog

HK Exclusive TQs
pic by 3A Blog

Ankou EX with hands!
pic by 3A blog

Rothchild 3AA varient
pic by 3A Blog

Lady Sham
pic by 3AVox

Halo
pic by 3AVox

Metal Gear Ray
pic by 3AVox

Portal figs!

M.a.k pic by 3AVox

Totem
pic by Terence Tam

Mrs Shadow?
pic by Terrence Tam

Real Steel
pic by Terrence Tam

Totem!
image by Cody

totem related?
pic from 3ABlog

tomorrow queens!
pic from 3A Blog

solid gold death mask faux bronz
pic from 3A blog

Ashley Wood's Lampless Leg
(not official title)
photo from HKV2 blog

Rufus Dayglow piece
photo from HKV2 blog

Kow Yokoyama, creator of M.a.K signing some boxes

New TK show exclusives
pic by HK Legion

wall of toys
photo by Dennis Chau

1:1 Peaceday Dropcloth and Square!
pic by Dennis Chau

Event pics
pic by 3A

Ankou EX
pic by Pyromania

TK Masks
pic by 3A

more Halo
pics by 3A

light details on halo
pic by 3A

Lady Sham looking amazing
pic by Pyromania

Feet and 10 finger gang
pic by 3A

Another Real Steel Atom Shot
pic by HK Legion

More MGS Ray
pic by HK Legion

Lady Sham
pic by HK Legion

Ash and the gang
pic by HK Legion

totem undead?
pic by HK Legion

shit weather bleak
pic by HK Legion

Rothchild
pic by HK Legion

pic by HK Legion

King Thumb
pic by HK Legion

Bot Sniper
pic by 3A Legion

1:1 Dropcloth Detail
pic by HK Legion

Atom Detail (wow)
pic by HK Legion

Supreme Nom in hand
pic by HK Legion

TQs.. again:)
pic by HK Legion

Ashley Wood art
pic by Alpred

Ashley Wood Art
pic by Alpred

Portal bot detail
pic by Alpred

Halo Detail
pic by Alpred

Totem
pic by Alpred

Totem
pic by Alpred

Mak K
pic by Alpred

Mak K Detail
pic by Alpred

MGS Rex
pic by Alpred

Black
pic from 3A

De Plume Shirt (wants!)
pic by 3A