If you’ve been following CM’s Corporation’s Patlabor sofubi releases, you should be familiar with the drill by now – ‘Same scale’ as the main Brave Gohkin figures (approx. 1/46) with ample detail but limited articulation. And of course a limited run: MPL96 blue TV ver. (700pcs); MPL96 white OVA ver. (500pcs); SSL96 standard ver. (300pcs). In my case, I opted for the ‘standard’ and ‘TV’ versions because I’d already invested a small fortune to recreate the TV-edition Ingram team.
‘Official history’ tells us that the MPL96 Taisyo was the Mobile Police’s first operational labor, hastily adapted from the Asuka-SSL96 Taisyo, an existing construction model. The front view shows the obvious similarities, but at the same time, I was pleased to see that CM’s used quite a number of different parts to create the two models; the only common parts are part of the upper arms and most of the lower body and legs. The shoulders are different molds, as are the upper bodies, forearms and shins. From the back, you can appreciate the details even more. The MPL in particular has quite a bit of tampo printing for the SV2 emblem, as well as the tiny ‘license plate’ on the left hip.
The ‘frog eyes’ on the SSL96 are very kawaii, and the only quibble I had was the painted-on ‘holes’ on the calves. I mean, they DID mold the holes on the shoulders… Otherwise, that’s it. They look nice on the shelves but they do absolutely NOTHING ELSE. Sure, they’ve got a waist joint but seriously, I was expecting the arms to at least rotate at the shoulders! As the ‘worker’ Taisyo is going to be a pretty rare find in days to come, I decided to leave it be in the company of the other laborers.
Now the MPL96 is a whole ‘nother matter to me. No way could I be satisfied with a ‘Patlabor’ that couldn’t even look like it’s going to arrest a wayward labor. So after a quick examination, I took the plunge and did some surgery to it… and Voila! My MPL96 is now able to carry a battle staff for riot duty.
To begin, I detached both shoulders, carefully prising them away from the body. As expected, the parts are assembled with ‘superglue’, so you will need a tool like a flat screwdriver, and quite a bit of force. Once taken apart, I noticed that the original mold had already included a convenient circular depression right where a joint would go. I pierced it and shoved a spare ballpoint pen shaft through to serve as a simple ‘axel’. Do note that the bit of extra ‘shroud’ hugging the bottom of the hollows are in fact originally part of the shoulders, cut-off and re-attached here.
One of the tricky things about customising sofubi is that the casting is never exactly the same for each figure, and even less consistent from one hollow part to another. Just look at the shoulder cavities for example: The one on the right has plenty of excess PVC around the joint, so that even after slicing the ‘shroud’ to create a rounder cross-section (for easier turning), the joint is still pretty solid. However, the one on the left is a lot more ‘airy'; while slicing the shroud, I managed to cut into the hollow and had to patch it back with putty.
Lastly, I cut apart the arms at the elbows and inserted a custom joint using Kotobukiya’s M.S.G. (Modeling Support Goods – rolleyes) ‘Poly Unit Double Joint D-113B‘. Although the part is a double joint, I simply left out the mid-section to create a ‘single joint’. I also had to carve out a bit of the forearm’s attachment point to accept the thicker pegs, but ultimately it was a pretty simple job. I couldn’t do anything about the wimpy hands, but if you twist them in just the right angle, they CAN exert enough grip to handle a 6.5″ length of plastic rod.
So there you have it, after 2 hours’ work: from what was once a limited edition figure with limited functionality… to one with a bit more displayability…
Well, I did say it had limited appeal, right? ;-)