Review: Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble

This will be a curious review, one that almost gives the reader every reason to avoid the figure yet improbably conclude it is one of the coolest action figures available now.

But then this is a curious figure. It features modern engineering with design elements that harken back to the 70s. It’s recognisably a Kaiyodo figure but it is spiritually a Takara figure. It was designed to be played with but is aimed at a demographic that does not play with action figures so much as collect them and relegate them to shelves.

Assemble Borg comes from Kaiyodo, a company best known to toy fans these days for its Revoltech line. Kaiyodo sold over two million Revoltech figures since 2006 mainly by playing it safe. Sharply sculpted, well-articulated figures of popular characters, robots and mecha are bound to sell well when they’re affordably priced.

Assemble Borg represents a very big gamble by Kaiyodo. The figures are costlier than Revoltech figures and look less impressive, the characters are original creations with no nostalgic appeal and there is no manga or anime to push the line. This is a line that will live or die purely on the appeal of its play pattern.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble


Unlike Revoltech figures, which are sold in boxes, the Assemble Borg sets are sold in blister packaging. The packaging will protect the figure well during shipping but it will be effectively destroyed when the figure is removed with no way of repacking the figure, accessories and the tiny spare joints safely. Kaiyodo sells Revocontainers designed to store the joints but that still leaves the accessories loose. A Ziploc bag of the sort Max Factory provides with its Figma figures would have been a welcome bonus.

Again unlike most Revoltech figures, the Assemble Borg figures don’t ship with figure stands — another example of how Kaiyodo stinted on the kind of extras and bonuses one expects from Japanese collectibles at this price point these days.

There’s a lot of English text on the front of the package including some complicated age-related warnings and recommendations. Mr. Assemble is apparently not meant for children under three years of age, recommended for ages 15-plus and finally described as an adult collectible.

It’s worth noting the naming convention for the line. Mr. Assemble (or “Code 001 Commando Leader Mr. Assemble” according to the packaging) is A, followed by Baron (B) and Cyber (C), the first vehicle released is Barrels Speeder (BS) and upcoming Jarknoid villains are Jarknoid XO (X), Jarknoid Yeeg (Y), and Jarknoid Zain (Z). It’s not simply a cute pattern; it’s a useful shorthand when listing the ingredients used for a fanmode. A+BSx2, for instance, would indicate a fanmode was created with one Mr. Assemble figure and two Barrels Speeder sets.

Included within is Secret Note Volume 1, a 14-page full-colour booklet about Assemble Borg. It’s an old-fashioned toy catalogue with the background story, some really cool (if tiny) digirama, a list of figures released thus far, a preview of upcoming figures and last but not least, some creative combinations for inspiration.

The package contents (laid out in two vacuformed inner trays):

  • Mr. Assemble
  • Four Special Assemble Parts
  • Accessories: heavy machine gun, assault rifle, submachine gun, handgun, long sword and knife
  • Six optional hands
  • Extra Revolver joints: 6mm x 2, 8mm x 2, 10mm x 2, 6mm double joint x 2, 8mm double joint x 2, long straight joint x 2, short straight joint x 2

The look

Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
If you buy a figure purely for its visual appeal, you might be turned off by this one. The sculpt has proportion issues, there’s little detail, the colour scheme simple and the joints are blatantly obvious. While by no means an eyesore, Mr. Assemble does look decidedly underwhelming compared to other figures in its price range.

The Assemble Borg base body design (shared across the line) was sculpted by Yamaguchi Katsuhisa, the prolific designer who did all the Revoltech Yamaguchi figures. The 13.5cm-tall Mr. Assemble figure features the distinctive Yamaguchi touches: small head, exaggerated neck and buffed upper arms. Unfortunately, Mr. Assemble’s tiny head and awkward neck area are even more pronounced than most Yamaguchi designs.

(To be fair, the actual head design is most likely by Naito Yasuhiro with Yamaguchi responsible for reworking the sculpt.)

Unlike more recent Revoltech figures, Mr. Assemble’s joints are uncommonly conspicuous. While the Revolver joint is undoubtedly a clever piece of design, this will alienate those who prefer joints to be unobtrusive.

Though the charitable toy fan might describe it as having an understated elegance, the colour scheme is better described as being plain. The shiny silver chrome chest armour provides a nice contrast to the glossy black that dominates the figure and the paint on the head does look nice enough but the overall effect is rather bland.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
Bland is also the word that comes to mind when describing the generic head design. The face mask vaguely evokes a 90s superhero and it’s topped off with a standard anime coiffure. Removing the head reveals a chromed inner head described as Mr. Assemble’s cybernetic brain, a bizarre feature whose only function is to remind toy fans of Assemble Borg’s influences.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
The inner head and the chest armour (which are unique to each Assemble Borg character) recall two classic Takara lines. The removable chromed chest armour is almost certainly a homage to the original Microman and the chromed inner head is a Henshin Cyborg signature feature.

But the references to those classic lines aren’t restricted to looks alone. It is in play that you really see the Takara influence and it is in play that Mr. Assemble shines.

Strike a pose

Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
Mr. Assemble features Revolver joints at the neck (8mm), shoulders (10mm), elbows (8mm), wrists (6mm), waist (10mm), hips (10mm), knees (8mm) and ankles (8mm) for a total of 14 joints.

(The Revolver joints all have 3mm peg diameters but differ in terms of “ball” size for aesthetic reasons. A 10mm Revolver joint at the wrist would make it look swollen.)

If posability was dependent on the number of joints alone, this might seem disappointing by current standards but here’s where you appreciate the Revolver joint in terms of articulation. Each Revolver joint combines the functionality of two swivel joints and a hinge joint so Mr. Assemble has far greater posability than figures with a similar number of conventional joints. The range of motion is excellent since the joints have not been impeded by the sculpt in any way.

(If you still find the articulation wanting, you can improve it further. But more on that later.)

As each Revolver joint features detents, Mr. Assemble holds a pose well without requiring a stand. Some have noted posing a Revolver-jointed figure is less fluid compared to conventional joints. The complaint is not baseless since you’ll occasionally find yourself struggling to put the figure in a desired pose. Putting a Revolver-jointed figure in a simple standing pose with feet close together may first require precisely rotating and bending multiple Revolver joints.

But such complaints do a disservice in ignoring the long-term worth of the Revolver joint. One of the reasons it was designed thusly was to ensure durability. If you’ve ever had a figure’s joints wear out due to play and posing, you’ll immediately appreciate this.

The durability factor is all the more important in a line with a play pattern that involves repeatedly detaching and attaching parts and joints.

Mr. Accessorise

Kaiyodo may have cheaped out on packaging and bonuses but the company was generous with accessories. Mr. Assemble has plenty to play with.

Naito Yasuhiro (or Yasuhiro Nightow as he prefers his name to be romanised), one of the designers of Assemble Borg, is the author of Trigun, did the concept and character designs for the PlayStation 2 game and anime, Gungrave, and helped develop the Revolver joint. It therefore comes as no great shock that Mr. Assemble has guns, lots of guns.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
In the unlikely event his opponent remains standing after being shot with firearms of various calibre, Mr. Assemble can close in and slice and dice away with a long sword and a knife.

All the weapons include Revolver joint ports and the heavy machine gun, assault rifle and submachine gun include compatible pegs as well. While these can be used to attach the weapons to Mr. Assemble, they’re put to better use when weaponising fanmodes.

Mr. Assemble is packaged with fists which can be replaced with optional hands to allow him to grip weapons with either hand, splay the fingers of his left hand out, prepare to grasp something with either hand or cattily do the “loser” hand signal with his right hand.

Aside from that, there are four Special Assemble Parts resembling mechanical armour which can replace his arms or legs in various configurations. With these attached, Mr. Assemble looks much more impressive.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
Lastly, each Assemble Borg set includes a generous amount of additional Revolver joints for constructing fanmodes. The double joints could be used to improve posability while the straight joints (3mm pegs in 18mm and 21mm lengths) keep parts locked together.

Let’s Assemble

The main strength of Mr. Assemble (and the Assemble Borg line as a whole) is interchangeability — the ability to add and replace parts to create a custom look for the figure according to personal taste. An interchangeable action figure like this is really an encouragement to tap into your creativity to come up with something that provides the “I made this!” satisfaction.

It’s not a new idea for action figures, of course. The spiritual precursor to Assemble Borg’s Revolver joint connectivity is Takara’s 5mm peg and port system first seen in Henshin Cyborg, expanded in Microman, best realised in Blockman and, though downplayed, still present in some Transformers. But Assemble Borg takes the concept to the next level.

To facilitate interchangeability, Mr. Assemble (like the rest of Assemble Borg) was designed to be disassembled at every single Revolver joint point. Moreover, even the joints themselves are replaceable, making this the most interchangeable action figure yet.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble
(Incidentally, body parts have R or L embossed where applicable so reassembling Mr. Assemble won’t take any guesswork.)

In addition to that, the removable chest armour attaches via a Revolver joint port which extends all the way to Mr. Assemble’s back. The chest and back ports will no doubt be exploited by upcoming accessory sets.

Disappointingly, however, you can’t get the most out of Mr. Assemble with what he’s packaged with. There’s not a lot you can do with the four Special Assemble Parts included; it’s akin to having only four Lego blocks to mess with.

To unlock Mr. Assemble’s full potential, you need additional parts compatible with Revolver joints. Only four Assemble Borg sets have been released so far (and the three figures are largely identical) but the line is freely interchangeable with three years’ worth of Revoltech designs. Everything from the Yamaguchi series‘ mecha and super robots to human Street Fighters, from the cheesecake Fraulein Revoltech to the macho Hokuto No Ken Revolution. This wealth and diversity in parts for fanmodes is another reason why Assemble Borg is the most exciting interchangeable action figure line available now.

The killer combo to get right now, though, is an Assemble Borg figure with the Barrels Speeder vehicle set. With the fanmode possibilities available with that, you can really appreciate what the designers are trying to do with this line.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble fanmodes
To inspire and encourage fanmode creativity, Kaiyodo has set up an official fanmode BBS, the Assemble Borg Laboratory, and the designers have been regularly releasing recipes (complete with instructions). These are hands-down Assemble Borg’s best marketing tools.

The feel

Long-time toy fans will know Kaiyodo has had its problems with quality control. The Mono-Shaft Drive joints figures were especially notorious for sometimes breaking right out of the package. The company has made great strides since then and the Revoltech figures were generally well executed. Assemble Borg is a line that needs excellent QC: parts need to fit perfectly, have to stay connected yet be easily detached. Shoddy QC would absolutely kill this line.

Thankfully, Kaiyodo got it right. There aren’t any problems with Mr. Assemble and there haven’t been any reports of any significant problems with the other sets released so far. The figure and the joints are made of tough, durable plastic and there’s nothing about Mr. Assemble’s body parts, accessories or Revolver joints that induce trepidation when you handle them. The figure looks capable of withstanding a few accidental drops without suffering any breakage.

The joints are very tight and removing them will take a bit of effort initially. To aid in this task, Kaiyodo sells a 200-yen Revoplier. As a bonus, it includes ports for Revolver joints so you can use it for a GaoGaiGar-inspired fanmode.
Kaiyodo Assemble Borg Mr. Assemble Revoplier
But even with it, removing parts can sometimes be a royal pain. Things will improve once the ports loosen up after you’ve attached and removed parts and joints a few times.


It bears repeating this isn’t a figure for those who buy figures to relegate on shelves. This is a figure that was designed to be played with and as noted earlier, there aren’t a lot of adult toy fans who do that.

Kaiyodo clearly recognises the line will appeal to a very narrow demographic and has accordingly made it a Japanese exclusive. Unfortunately, that means Mr. Assemble has a slightly higher price tag (2500yen) than Revoltech figures with some cost-cutting measures to ensure profitability.

(Compare Revoltech packaging and bonuses with Assemble Borg equivalents and consider the fact three of the four Assemble Borg sets released so far are largely from the same moulds.)

Even more unfortunately, this means toy fans outside Japan who are keen on the line should expect to pay high prices to third parties. Depending on where you live, you may have to pay more than USD100 to get both an Assemble Borg figure and the Barrels Speeder set. That’s a lot of money to spend at a time when everyone’s tightening purse strings.

That said, it’s a really clever line and it’s very gutsy of Kaiyodo to try something different and ambitious at a time when most companies are playing safe. The Japanese company is clearly willing to nurture Assemble Borg along as it develops its fanbase — something a toy giant like Hasbro wasn’t willing to do with Xevoz — and it looks like that cautious approach is paying off. Assemble Borg will never be a major industry-changing hit but it has developed a loyal following, one that appears sufficiently large enough to justify Kaiyodo’s continuing support.

So, buy or don’t buy?

As is, Mr. Assemble doesn’t appear to be a stellar buy. There are better-looking figures that may seem to offer better value. But you don’t want to buy this figure for what it is but what it represents and what it can potentially be. What it represents is a well-conceived and well-executed take on the classic mix and match play pattern and for the creative toy fan, it potentially offers tremendous fun.