The Ultra Series has been particularly notable amongst the various tokusatsu properties covered by Bandai Tamashii Nations because its the only that's ever had the honour of its very own distinct toy line. For the past 16 years the Ultra-Act line has covered a wide range of characters from Tsuburaya Productions flagship franchise, but despite nearly approaching a total of 80 different releases it seems the line's time is finally up. Ultra-Act had slowly turned to renewal figures rather than unreleased characters, and a crossover between the Ultra-Act and S.H. Figuarts brand was shortly followed by the news that Figuarts was soon to have its own selection of Ultraman figures. This meant the same classic characters once again in a whole new scale, so it's no surprise that not every collector welcomed the news with open arms. For many however this was an exciting new direction for both Figuarts and the Ultra Series, and the timing couldn't be better with Ultraman celebrating his 50th Anniversary in 2016. Such an occasion meant not just one, but two releases of the new S.H. Figuarts Ultraman figure - a standard release and a special anniversary variant that also shows off Tamashii's latest offshoot - Option Act.
Monday, 22 August 2016
Sunday, 21 August 2016
The Mobile Suit Gundam franchise may well be a multi-million yen space-faring epic about the horrors of war, but everyone knows that's only one side of it. The other half is all about how many model kits Bandai can sell at the same time, and the Gundam Build Fighters spin-off isn't one to shy away from fully embracing it. Though not the first gunpla-themed spin-off from Sunrise, Gundam Build Fighters captured audiences in a way its predecessors had failed to - not only showing the hobby off in a brilliant way but also proving itself to be worthy celebration of Gundam's long heritage. It was quickly followed by sequel series Gundam Build Fighters Try, and now its cast have returned for a one-off special episode entitled Gundam Build Fighters Try: Island Wars. Like both series this episode has been made available for free on Youtube via GundamInfo, welcoming audiences across the globe back to the world of Gunpla battle.
Friday, 19 August 2016
Transformers toys are currently in a pretty good place. The success of the Combiner Wars line has been followed by the revival of another classic Generation One gimmick - the Headmaster. Here, each robots head is in fact itself a smaller robot (or Nebulon partner, depending on your choice of fiction) - acting as a pilot or gunner when the larger body is in its alt mode. Over in the West this line is known as Titan Return, with Hasbro reviving several classic Headmaster characters while reimagining others using the gimmick. Meanwhile in Japan new figures continue to be implemented into their Transformers Legends line, which also encompasses various figures from Hasbro's Generations line. The 23rd release in this line is the new Titan Master version of Galvatron, the reformatted version of Megatron who acted as Unicron's herald in Transformers: The Movie and the new Decepticon leader for the rest of the G1 cartoon. With the last G1 Galvatron figure being a poorly received deluxe in 2008, not only is a new figure long overdue but with 2016 marking the 30th anniversary of Transformers: The Movie it couldn't have come at a better time.
Friday, 12 August 2016
Just as the latest Kamen Rider is beginning to find his footing, his predecessor returns for one last goodbye as part of a Movie Wars crossover which has been a franchise staple for the past seven years. This time it's the turn of Kamen Rider Ghost, reuniting once more with Kamen Rider Drive in the time-travelling Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Ghost & Drive: Super Movie Wars Genesis. Other than boasting a "super" along with the typically lengthy title, Movie Wars Genesis throws one big format change into the works - making it a particularly notable entry in this popular series of crossovers.
Tuesday, 9 August 2016
Though all Super Sentai series eventually come to an end, that doesn't mean that viewers have seen the last of that team just yet. While their final (save for the odd big movie crossover) appearance is usually reserved for the succeeding team's Vs. Series movie, the Returns V-Cinema release has also becoming something of an annual tradition in the past few years. These usually truly take place at the end of a show's timeline, acting as the end of their story while also throwing in a few new surprises as well. 2016 was the turn of Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, returning in the heftily titled Come Back! Shuriken Sentai Ninninger: Ninnin Girls vs. Boys FINAL WARS. While the general English-speaking consensus seems to be that Ninninger failed to impress, could one last outing be enough to turn some of that around?
Sunday, 31 July 2016
Bandai Tamashii Nations may have been providing collectors with highly articulated show-accurate Kamen Rider figures with the S.H. Figuarts line for over eight years, but they also have one line that's been doing more interesting things with your favourite tokusatsu characters for much longer. The Super Imaginative Chogokin (or simply S.I.C. for short) line has been going strong for the past 18 years, creating wild and highly detailed reinterpretations of characters that go far further than any suit could. Running a few years behind the current Kamen Rider show, the line has now begun tackling the highly popular Kamen Rider Gaim - pushing the traditional armour styling of the suits even further to the point where it looks like they could have jumped straight out of the history books. The first of these releases is of course Kamen Rider Gaim Orange Arms, with Kamen Riders Zangetsu, Baron and Ryugen soon to follow.
Friday, 22 July 2016
More often than not S.H. Figuarts collectors will find themselves left with a relatively incomplete cast from a particular series, but there are occasions where Bandai Tamashii Nations really do go the extra mile. The last two and a bit years have seen the cast of Kamen Rider Gaim grow and grow within the line, to the point now where the only things missing are some movie Riders, Overlords, some forgettable alternate forms and an even more forgettable epilogue villain. Considering there are now 23 figures out of 22 releases, that isn’t bad at all. However all things much eventually come to an end, with no more Gaim figures currently on the horizon. However if this is the end, Bandai are sure ending it with a bang. Their latest Tamashii web exclusive release is S.H. Figuarts Lord Baron, the Overlord version of rival and eventual villain Kamen Rider Baron. After eating the Helheim fruit and gaining his new powers, Kaito Kumon sets about destroying the world and then using the Golden Fruit to rebuild it. The only obstacle left in his way is Kouta Kazuraba, leading to an ultimate showdown where only one can survive.
Wednesday, 20 July 2016
When it comes to Bandai Tamashii Nations’ toy lines franchises can come and go in strange ways. For example the potentially lucrative world of Super Sentai Figuarts turned out to be a commercial failure, while the seemingly expansive world of Godzilla MonsterArts has recently slowed down to only cover the big G himself – and this is without mentioning at the unreleased figures seen at Tamashii Nations events over the years. Given the popularity of the Makai Kado line it’d have been easy to believe that the GARO sub-line of S.H. Figuarts died in 2011, yet here we are with the second of four brand new GARO figures set for release in 2016. Despite sticking to the Golden Knight himself, the Tamashii web exclusive Garo Leon Kokuin Ver. figure marks Figuarts’ first foray into the world of the GARO anime spin-offs. This unstable version of the suit was the one worn by the revenge-driven Leon Luis in Honō no Kokuin, also known as The Carved Seal of Flames or simply Garo: The Animation in the West.
Sunday, 17 July 2016
Out of all the big tokusatsu anniversaries happening in 2016, this one is definitely the biggest. 50 years ago on July 17th 1966, the first episode of Ultraman aired - properly introducing Japan to a superhero who would go on to become one of their biggest pop culture icons. Following on from Ultra Q, this was the first entry in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Series to include a regular hero - with future iterations introducing their own editions of the red and silver giant. Over the years this series has spawned countless sequels, spin-offs and movies, as well as parodies and homages from across the globe. As we celebrate the hero of light from Nebula M713's 50th birthday, there couldn't be a more perfect time to look at one of toku's greatest champions.
Saturday, 16 July 2016
Many will have found the wait for Attack on Titan season two long and agonising, but animators Studio Wit haven’t been taking that downtime lightly. Director Tetsurō Araki teamed up with Code Geass writer Ichirō Ōkouchi to produce Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri) – an original 12-episode series that combines zombies, samurais and steam trains into one explosive package. As well as being part of Fuji TV’s prestigious Noitamina programming block, Kabaneri also saw Amazon enter into the world of anime simulcasting – with the series streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime around the world.