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Cycle Armor w/ Ashiko

GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

The nice thing about the Ross/Marshall's/TJ Maxx closeout circuit is that otherwise-cancelled figures tend to show up there, saving you from having to pay importer's prices or buy samples stolen from the factory. The bad thing is you have to be at the stores at just the right time in order to get these things, because they sell fast and there's no restocking.

In suit mode, the GI Joe Cycle Armor allows the operator to run faster and perform air reconnaissance. In cycle mode, the driver can speed through the streets after Cobra ninjas.

This set was first seen a few years ago at JoeCon, back before Pursuit of Cobra was reimagined as a more distinct line. No one knew if it was a planned release, or if it was something the designers had worked on and abandonned, or what.

Now that it's finally released (somewhat), this is a pretty boss ride. It's not a standard motorcycle, but rather a thick, heavy-duty model like you'd see at an auto show - you know, the kind companies come up with when they're asked to design a "futuristic" concept bike. This is no question a machine of war, built strong to protect the rider (at least as much as someone riding a motorcycle can be protected). It's armored, it's armed, and it looks like it could punch through a brick wall at 55 mph without even a scratch.

The bike is 6¼" long, 2¾" tall and 2⅛" wide. The wheels roll independently, and there are two kickstands. Why two? For symmetry. It'll matter later. The bike is sculpted with huge shock absorbers on the sides and though there's no kind of windscreen, there is a section in the front that's painted (solid) yellow to suggest a headlight. The bike's armaments comprise two small cannons mounted on either side of the headlight.

So that's the bike. Let's talk rider.

GI Joe team member Ashiko is an Arashikage Ninja and a professional motorcycle stunt rider. By combining martial arts expertise with advanced stunt motorbike skills, Ashiko becomes a menacing stealth missile on wheels.

Well that's interesting - that's a very gender-neutral biography. And the character's real name is merely given as "N. Kaeru," which is equally androgynous (and a bit of a pun: in Japanese, ni kaeru - 帰ろ - means "to return"). Could this be a woman piloting this bike? I don't see any reason why not. The codename, Ashiko, is the name of climbing spikes ninjas wore on their feet, so it would kind of be the equivalent of naming a character "Cleats"; again, nothing that says the bearer has to be male. So, yeah, we're calling it: Ashiko, the ninja pro motorcycle stunt rider, is a woman. Now that we have said it, it must be canon!

Ashiko mostly uses the same body seen on Hard Master and others. Sure, that's a male torso, but who can tell under all that armor? The legs have been remolded, so they have large ports on the front of the thighs. The legs below the knee are taken from Wraith, as is the armor concealing what must be a very small pair of breasts. The armor been remolded just like the legs, to create attachment points. The armor on her forearms is new, but it doesn't get in the way of the articulation at all.

For safety purposes, Ashiko is wearing a black motorcycle helmet, but if you take it off, you don't get to see her face. Her head was originally Flash's, which means all you can see is the area immediately around her eyes: a little bit of skin and some really thin eyebrows. This head makes sense for a stuntwoman, because it looks like the kind of fireproof hood they wear in real life.

In addition to the helmet and the armor, Ashiko comes with what is almost a ridiculous amount of accessories: three machine guns, two Uzis, a pistol, a sword and a knife (and both of those blades also come with sheaths). What! The heck!? How did Ashiko end up coming with an entire arsenal to pass around the team? She can't hold all her weapons at once, and the knife can't even attach to her anywhere, but it's still cool to get all this stuff that you can hand out to your other figures.

Now, let's get to the thing you really want to know about. This vehicle is called the Cycle Armor, and since we've already talked about the cycle, there's just the armor left. The bike doesn't really transform into armor, the way you might expect given Hasbro's other major in-house property. Instead, you completely disassemble the bike, then reassemble it around the figure. In Transformers lingo, it's a "partsformer." The set includes step-by step instructions, which is really good because this is tough. Amusingly, the drawings show Wraith's mask right up until the final assemblage.

The Cycle Armor looks pretty good once it's on the figure. The design has just enough in common with the movie's Delta-6 Accelerator Suits to look like it came from the same technology, but is different enough to clearly be its own device. There really isn't a ton of kibble, either - the handlebars are the only parts that are unquestionably remnants of a motorcycle. The wheels become turbines on the backpack, which is why the text on the box suggests there are flight capabilities.

The armor is dark. It's grey and black, with just a few spots of bright yellow breaking things up. If this were hovering through the sky at night, it would be very hard to spot. And while it looks thick enough on the body to provide protection, it isn't so bulky that Ashiko looks like she wouldn't be able to move inside it.

Though, to be honest, Ashiko really can't move inside it. Most of the articulation is unencumbered, which is nice to see. The armor is hinged, so the knees still bend, and there's nothing in the way of her hips or waist. You can still turn the head, you can move the shoulders and the elbows, and even the wrists if you really want to... so in theory, she's still completely poseable. The armor does not get in the way of anything except the ankles, honestly. But it's still hard to pose, because the weight of the suit is more than the figure's joints were designed to deal with, so if you're not careful, she'll just be flopping around on the ground. The armor is also very back-heavy, so you have to make sure she's not going to fall over backwards, either.

The cardboard insert behind the vehicle can be expanded to form a nice little diorama. Since this is a City Strike figure, the scene is a city - or, more accurately, a bridge leading to some kind of factory. There's rubble on the ground, explosions in the distance and the smoldering ruins of a gun emplacement on one of the towers. Not bad!

The idea of a motorcycle that converts into a suit of armor is clearly influenced by the Cyclone Armor from Robotech, but it actually nestles into the world of GI Joe quite comfortably. The cycle is an awesome design, and the armor looks quite good as well. It isn't a great choice for a display, because Ashiko won't hold an extreme pose for long, but if you're looking for a fun figure to play around with? You could do a lot worse. This is a very interesting set, and it's a shame Ashiko and her Cycle Armor are so hard to come by.

-- 04/27/12

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