Sometime in July 1988, the first ever incarnation of Kaneda’s Bike from AKIRA exploded into existance in the form of Bandai’s 1/35 scale toy. Years later, the fame and popularity of AKIRA grew tremendously. Europe, America, Asia… the world of SF/anime/manga fandom was blown away by the superb story, art and breathtaking animation in the various translated editions. And for most part, the fans wondered: “Where are the toys??!!!”
There was no eBay then, folks. The few who knew about the BANDAI 1/35 scale still had to go toy-hunting the old-fashioned way… Friends-of-friends(-of-friends), grubby middlemen, ruthless convention dealers and Major Moolah.
Then a couple years back (2000/1?), we got a pretty decent and affordable McFarlane Toys version. Still, I decided to shell out the bucks (85 clams) for the dinky little BANDAI… mostly for the thrill of having the most accurately reproduced decals. Probably because of licensing issues, McFarlane Toys could only settle for names like “CORRUPT” instead of “CANON“, and “IMMIGRANT” instead of “CITIZEN” and a “radiation sign” instead of the “BMW quadrant“… etc. You get the idea ;-)
Now finally in July 2004 (16 years later!), BIG-B has bestowed upon us a truly brilliant gem of anime-memorabillia: The Soul of Popynica PX-03 Kaneda’s Bike!
Words fail me in trying to describe the giddy excitement upon laying hands on the box. The stark red & black styling of the package instantly recalls the bold graphic design Otomo pioneered with AKIRA in the 80s. The window cutouts display the sleek profile of the bike, fully covered from the front, and with removed panels to show off the remarkably detailed diecast structure from behind.
True, there’s no fetishistic styrofoam tray to hold the goodies, but the silver-foil coating on the insides do add a touch of class. Equally amazing is the lifelike sculpt of Kaneda himself, in his trademark insouciant slacker’s pose. And who could forget the drug capsule and motto emblazoned across the back of his jacket? “GOOD FOR HEALTH / BAD FOR EDUCATION” is not only punkishly cool, it’s even grammatically correct Japlish. :-)
No doubt, this review is mainly about the PX-03, but I thought a little comparison with the old 1/35 toy would be interesting. First up there is the matter of size: The old 1/35 measures a mere 10cm in length while its big brother stops the tape at just over 20cm. Nonetheless, it seems the 1/35 holds its own interms of accurate scaling when you compare how Kaneda fits into the seat… PX-03 seems a tad too small for its infamous delinquent owner.
But once you get down to DETAILS… there’s no question about it, the PX-03 is hands down the winner. I mean, there’s just no way hand-applied stickers could match up to solid-colored tampo printing, especially on devillishly curvy surfaces! And while the 1/35 bike could do the mecha toy equivalent of a strip tease, with the PX-03 you get the Full Monty. Wheels covers front & back, side farings, wind shield, side covers, rear shroud, top hatch… everything comes off. You’ve got to give points to the 1/35 designers for giving a fine effort back in 1988, but the PX-03 simply takes the cake! This is like the Dougram of anime vehicles! Check out the detailing that went into the diecast parts… I never get tired of pouring my eyes over the superb craftsmanship!
More details… Rolling rubber wheels (of course), spring loaded suspension front and back, front wheel/fork assembly telescopes up (for maintenance) and actually steers. Flip out stand underneath, flip up front light. Bandai even included 2 sets of side fairings: one-piece L/R parts, and 2-piece L/R parts for showing the bike in semi-disassembled state. Personally, I prefer the 2-piece version – the almost unnoticeable seam line where the halves meet adds a neat measure of realism for me.
Oh yes, the instrument panel. Whereas I had to settle for a pretty nice sticker on the smaller toy, BANDAI has seen fit to go all out with properly molded buttons and see-thru covers over neatly printed speedometer and navigation displays. Is that a smirk I see on you, Kaneda?
To sum it up, if you enjoyed AKIRA, the PX-03 is a no brainer. Kaneda might be too big for his bike, but that’s a real minor quibble next to all the goodies you get for (a measely) 6500yen. But don’t write off the smaller toy either… I find it an excellent (and highly durable) companion piece for any chogo-connoisseur or AKIRA fanatic. Will the success of the PX-03 see other SOP releases for AKIRA (like the flying attack craft, for example)? I sure hope so. Thanks for the ride, BANDAI!