For as long as I’ve been a fan of Masamune Shirow’s Ghost in the Shell manga, I’ve been wanting a nicely detailed and articulated toy of the Fuchikoma assault tank. The mega-deluxe SOLID BOX manga & premium set from 2001 was like a dream come true with the inclusion of a large articulated, transparent Fuchikoma. But strangely enough, it was the miniscule, 2-inch long mini-Fuchikoma ‘surprise gift’ that eventually won my heart… and this is its story.
The mini-fig had been packed into the underside of the SOLID BOX lid, included as a gift and a sort of (very) unofficial apology for the super-looooong wait the fans had to endure while Shirow tweaked, re-wrote, re-drew & re-colored Man-Machine Interface, his sequel to Ghost in the Shell, TEN YEARS after the original series was published. I suspect many fans were none too pleased about the mini-fig because for quite a while, it was already available as an included accessory for several variants of the Motoko Kusanagi ‘Hard Disk’ action figure made by ALPHA.
The mini-fig is molded in color (usually red) and has painted details. But placed next to the larger full-action sibling, the mini-fig is absolutely dwarfed. I mean, the big guy even has an opening hatch for the cockpit. The mini-fig by comparison… is just a lump of PVC. And I really hate PVC. So why would I like it better?
I think the answer is ‘Character‘. For whatever it may lack in size and features, the mini-fig somehow manages to better capture the cuteness and inquisitive personality of the A.I.-controlled tanks – as depicted in the manga. The larger figure may be spec’d to the heavens, but because it’s colorless, and the joints just-a-tad too weak to support interesting poses, it seems totally lifeless! If only the mini-fig could move its limbs… Hmmm.
So, one sleepless night, I finally decided to customise one of the mini Fuchikomas, rationalizing that if anything went wrong, I could get a cheap replacement from a stock-clearance sale of Motoko figures in town. I started out with a sharp hobby blade, carefully cutting off all 6 limbs along the molded joints. Next, my trusty TAMIYA dremel was used to drill shafts on both the limbs and body. Six judiciously cut pieces of 3mm-diameter plastic beams were then inserted into the shafts and the limbs re-attached. TADA! Instant articulated mini Fuchikoma!
I was so pleased with the results, I immediately did the same op on a second one (I had three). However, I left my last Fuchikoma untouched so that I would have one original for comparison. With their newfound agility, I could now put the trio into all sorts of funny poses… like a Conga line maybe? Or perhaps a campfire gathering to share tales of the day’s adventures with the brave members of Public Security Section 9.
When you can have this much fun, size REALLY doesn’t matter. :-)