Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Series REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

After 42 years doing roughly the same thing over and over, it's hard to not to agree that Super Sentai is in dire need of a shakeup. Not that there was ever fundamentally wrong with what the franchise was doing, but declining audience ratings and a varying results when it comes to toy sales speak for themselves. Toei threw a curveball into the formula by introducing a total of 12 rangers in Uchu Sentai Kyuranger to some success, but in order to secure the longevity of the franchise they also tried to think bigger. The result of that planning is Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger - the 42nd Super Sentai series that introduces not just one, but TWO different teams. Combining the ever-popular Phantom Thief motif with their law-enforcement rivals, Lupinranger vs Patranger doesn't just see the Sentai teams face off against an invading evil, but also against each other.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 8100 yen

It's always nice when a Bandai toy line releases a consistent stream of retail items for collectors, but for the line to get really ambitious (as well as completist) any collector will tell you that eventually some of the best releases are going to be Premium Bandai exclusives. This is also true of Super Mini-Pla candy toy range, which has released a number of exclusives along its standard releases to quickly fill out the ranks of a particular series and ensure no design is left untouched. Previously Zyuranger's King Brachion and Liveman's Live Boxer have been released under the Premium Bandai banner, but as far as the Super Sentai range is concerned this is definitely the most exciting exclusive release so far. The Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru set complete the trifecta of key releases from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, releasing the same month as Muteki Shogun to provide fans with everything in one fell swoop. American fans may know these mecha better as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' Ninja Megazord and Falconzord, and given their popularity it's no surprise that these model kits were also distributed in the US by Bluefin under the Power Rangers banner.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Jango Fett

Release Date: October 2017
RRP: 9504 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations has more than earned its reputation for high quality and screen-accurate figures through its S.H. Figuarts and Robot Damashii lines, but among some collectors is equally renowned for the ingenious re-imaginings it's given to franchises over the year. The most prominent of these are the Kamen Riders (as well as other tokusatsu properties) of the Super Imaginative Chogokin (SIC) line, but in 2014 it also turned its attention towards Star Wars with its Meisho Movie Realization line, and then the Marvel Universe in 2016 with the similarly named Meisho Manga Realization line. Both lines re-imagine its characters with traditional Japanese styling, and given how much George Lucas borrowed from the samurai aesthetic when creating Star Wars it's truly a match made in heaven. Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Jango Fett is repaint of the Boba Fett figure released nearly two years prior in November 2015 – which in typical Boba Fett fashion now fetches a rather hefty price on the aftermarket.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader (A New Hope)

Release Date: April 2018 
RRP: 6480 yen 

The announcement of Star Wars S.H. Figuarts was a huge moment back in 2015, and in the past few years Bandai Tamashii Nations haven't wasted in any time in putting that license to good use. Though there are still dozens of main characters still be released (many of which have also been on display at various events), the line has done a good job of balancing releases between the three trilogies and anthology films. Given all the Stormtroopers there are it's a brand that's never shied away from variants though, and now Tamashii return with a second S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader. Whereas the previous 2015 figure was based on the Sith Lord's appearance from Return of the Jedi, this newer release is instead based on the version seen in A New Hope.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One

Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One

The Heisei era Kamen Rider summer movies have taken a lot of different forms over the years. First they started out as alternate universe adventures, but eventually began tying themselves into their respective series with varying degrees of impact. The recently they even took the form of an epilogue, with Ex-Aid's True Ending picking things up at the end of the series. So with all these different options at hand, it was going to be particularly interesting to see what route Kamen Rider Build decided to take – a series that's not only set in a parallel universe to begin with but also has been careful to tie its movies and spin-off material into the bigger picture. Released alongside Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film, Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One returns these movies to the usual post-Decade format – taking place just prior to the show's final endgame against Evolto.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Grand Admiral Thrawn

Release Date: July 2017 (SDCC Exclusive Version), Fall 2017 (Standard Retail Version)
RRP: £20/$20

Star Wars Rebels added a lot of great things to the new Star Wars canon, but undoubtedly one its most popular moves with bringing back Grand Admiral Thrawn as a main antagonist for its final three seasons. First appearing in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, the character was a huge part of the franchise's expanded universe and prominently featured in all manner of tie-in media. Following the rebranding of the expanded universe into the non-canon Star Wars Legends in 2014, Thrawn's future was up in arms. But since appearing in Rebels the Chiss admiral has once again become a popular part of the Star Wars universe - also appearing in a new trilogy of novels by his creator. So when Hasbro's Black Series toy line began tackling characters from Rebels, they couldn't have picked a much better choice. The Black Series 6" Grand Admiral Thrawn was first released as a 2017 San Diego Comic Con exclusive, joining the main line a few months later.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Gudon

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

If there's one thing you can't fault the S.H. Figuarts Ultraman range on, it's the variety of figures they've offered fans over the past few years. Whereas the likes of Kamen Rider has so many Riders and form changes to get through they rarely get to touch the monster designs from each series, the Ultra range has provided an excelled supply of both aliens and kaiju to face off against. Well, that was certainly true of both the original series and Ultraseven, but The Return of Ultraman doesn't seem to have been so lucky. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Jack was followed quickly by Twin Tail, but it wasn't for another six months that prehistoric kaiju's eternal rival Gudon joined them. The third release from The Return of Ultraman, S.H. Figuarts Gudon is also the first Tamashii web exclusive from the series - and no other announcements on the horizon, possibly the last as well.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Clone Captain Rex

Release Date: Early 2018
RRP: £20/$20

If there's one collecting rabbit hole I never truly wanted to get down, it's Star Wars figures. Although the franchise will always be dear to me, the sheer volume of characters and variants on offer makes it feel like a pretty overwhelming prospect. Previously I limited myself to a few select characters and have picked up a few S.H. Figuarts, but thanks to a current resurge in interest I finally find myself experiencing Hasbro's Black Series for the first time. This has been their main Star Wars action figure line since 2013, coming in both 3.75" form and a more Marvel Legends-esque 6" variety. As I'm currently going through a rewatch of Star Wars: The Clone Wars I just couldn't say no the Black Series 6" Clone Captain Rex figure – who was released as part of the main line last year after early previews as a 2017 Hascon exclusive. Commanding officer of the 501st Legion (which would later go on to become "Vader's Fist") under Anakin Skywalker, Rex is one of the few clones to escape the effects of Order 66 – continuing life in hiding until joining the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars: Rebels.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Kamina Review

Release Date: November 2018 
RRP: 4444 yen

Dig the wax out of your ears and listen close! The bad reputation of Team Gurren echoes far and wide in Giha Village. When they talk about its badass leader, that man of indomitable spirit, that paragon of masculinity, they're talking about him - the mighty Nendoroid Kamina! That's right, after nearly ten years since the last Gurren Lagann release Good Smile Company have finally returned to Gainax's beloved mecha series to round off the core trio of main characters - two years after the series has celebrated its tenth anniversary, but close enough. Simon will be joining the line later in 2019, but first it's time to celebrate the release of the man who first inspired him the pierce the heavens and kick logic to the curb. Kamina has finally arrived on the scene, and if he has anything to do with it you'll certainly hear about it. Just who the hell do you think he is?!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

SERIES Review: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2 - Sword Seekers

 Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2 - Sword Seekers
Thunderbolt Fantasy is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

In 2016 Gen Urobuchi went one better than just dazzling anime fans with yet another animation work - this time he did it with puppets. Teaming up with Nitroplus, Good Smile Company and Taiwanese company Pili International Urobuchi brought Thunderbolt Fantasy into the world - bringing the intricate art of Taiwanese glove puppetry to a whole new audience worldwide. The popularity of the show led to a one-off special entitled The Sword of Life and Death the following year, and then at the tail end of 2018 it finally returned for a full second season. Taking the subtitle of Sword Seekers, these further 12 episodes continue the story of Shāng Bù Huàn and were released in both Taiwanese Min-Han (in Taiwan) and Japanese (for the rest of the world).