With a story by Gundam creator Tomino, and mecha designs by Kunio Ohkawara, Sento Meka Xabungle (or Blue Gale Xabungle) first aired in Japan in 1982. That would make it a contemporary with other Real Robot luminaries such as Macross and Dougram, but you’d never guess from looking at the Clover DX version of the hero robot! With its chunky proportions, dismal lack of articulation, radiation symbols on its shoulders, and of course, that groovy disco glitter circle on its chest, DX Xabungle looked like it had just stepped out of the 70’s instead of the far-flung future!
Honestly, as a kid I had come across the Xabungle toys many times in the old Yaohan and Isetan department stores. But it was always the Iron Gear that caught my eye, not the blue ‘bot that just so happens to be named for the show. To my young eyes the design was only so-so, and the toy itself was already old hat. Remember, it was the Golden age of Real Robots! Why would I want a clunky toy that split into boring old cars when I could choose from so many other cooler series? As the 80’s went by, I got quite a few gems for X’mas and birthdays, but I never once thought of wanting a DX Xabungle at all.
Anyway, it wasn’t until I was a working adult that I rediscovered the funk of Clover toys and started collecting them again. And even then, Xabungle was added only after Walker Garrier and Iron Gear joined the collection. Bought second/third/forth-hand from another local collector for a super low price, my DX Xabungle came without a box, manual, accessories, missiles or weapons. All it had were its fists and 2 add-on vehicle parts. No problem! I just needed him to complete the line-up. :-)
It has to be said: DX Xabungle is a hefty toy, with solid chunks of diecast in the chest and lower legs. The only articulation to speak of is in the shoulders and the geared-wings. The fists are spring loaded, and each leg has a missile launcher that pivots out. Basically, you can forget about any other poses except ramrod straight. With that, let’s explore its real gimmick – the transformation and gattai! (Caveat: Some minor parts ARE missing, but I’ll point them out.)
With Clover transforming robots, it seems you cannot avoid this first step: Remove The Fists. The robot separates by pressing the red release button on its groin (no jokes, please, ahem).
For the first vehicle, the Bungle Skipper, even without a manual one can guess that the chest compartment opens and the head folds down inside, right? What you don’t count on is Clover making things a little more difficult than it should be. Check it out – on its way down, the right antenna on the head smacks into the chestplate. You have to carefully nudge the antenna over the side or risk ripping it apart if you force the matter.
Next, the wheels on the sides rotate down, and the arms fold up. But it isn’t complete until you add a special frontispiece. Where did it come from? Three words: Ohkawara Henkei Magic. Look, they’ve even included holes in front so that you can fire the missiles from the arm launchers. After that, the wings fold to the front and the car is ready to go. Or… you can fold the wings out and back for some flying action*. It seats four. Wanna go for a ride? ;-)
Back to the lower half, we get the Bungle Rover. As expected, the legs have to slide up. You can also see the metal roller wheels under each foot, though you’ve got to be crazy to even think of freewheeling the robot across the floor without it toppling over. The large flaps on the sides of each leg fold over to form covers…
All it needs now is a little more O.H.M. in the form of a 2-seater cockpit (with its own set of wheels underneath), and there you have it. Like the first car, you can also take this ride to the sky. Simply fold out the leg covers and they become wings. It’s certainly more aerodynamic than, say… Srungle? :-)
Lastly, if you so desire to go on a long, long trip, both cars can gattai into a… family caravan. Presenting the Xabungle Car! Don’t ask me about the mileage, but there’s definitely no flight mode here. It’s… um, nice! Very aggressive styling. Not.
Ultimately, Xabungle isn’t for everyone. It sure as heck almost wasn’t for ME, the Real Robot nut. But in the larger scheme of things, the trio of DX toys make for an awesome toy line-up. Well, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad! :-)
For more info, make sure you check out the Clover Datafile!
* For Bungle Skipper’s proper flight mode, 4 L-shaped connectors are used to simulate the wheel housings in a folded down position. As these pieces weren’t part of my super cheap deal, I can only point you to a Japanese site which shows it more clearly.Be sure to check out the rest of the toys on that site. Amazing!