Sunday, 29 September 2013

Series REVIEW: Garo: Yami o Terasu Mono

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Zen Gai Makai Knights

As many Western Garo fans patiently wait to see the end of Kouga's story in Demon Dragon of the Blue Cries, in the meantime there is a new chapter in the Garo legacy that has begun. Presumably taking the action long after Kouga's time as the golden Makai Knight, Garo: Yami o Terasu Mono (The One Who Shines in the Darkness) picks up with a brand new knight wearing the armour, a new setting and a brand new threat. 

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Ryuga Dougai
Much like Kouga, Ryuga has good taste in coats

Yami o Terasu Mono takes place at the huge Vol City, a thriving metropolis built around a volcano and swarming with the demons known as horror. Ryuga Dougai, the Makai Knight who has inherited the title of Garo, arrives in the city after being summoned to help his former master - Makai Priest Burai, take them down. Joining forces with fellow knights Takeru Jakuzure, Aguri Kusugami and Makai Priest Rian, Ryuga aims to once again make the now-greyed Garo armour shine once again. But the Horror problem in Vol City lies deeper than they originally thought, with the emergence of the more powerful Madō Horrors and a plot to awaken an ancient evil.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Makai Knights Ryuga Takeru Aguri Rian
Makai badassery

As mentioned earlier as it currently stands Yami o Terasu Mono is almost completely detached from the original two Garo seasons, with the only returning character being the Madou Ring Zaruba...who barely appears in the show either until nearer the end. Instead our new cast consists of the wizened Makai Priest Burai, beautiful badass Rian, the hotheaded Takeru, collected Aguri and of course Ryuga. While Ryuga seems to possess a similar level of fighting prowess to his predecessor, he feels like a very different Garo simply for his slightly more laid back demeanour and ability to crack a smile once in a while. Unfortunately back stories are a little on the light side - Ryuga and Rian get a fair amount (the latter getting her own special prelude episode at the end of the series), but Takeru and Aguri don't get so lucky. Takeru is kind of offset by having his own side-story, but Aguri may as well just be a background guy that fires an arrow every so often.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Tousei & Sonshi
Smug doesn't even begin to describe

The more urban setting of Vol City allows the Horrors to be explored in a new way, with Madō Horrors placed in certain positions of the city's hierarchy to maintain their scheme.The reveal of the "mastermind" behind the Horrors and the revival of the ancient Horror general Zedom is a excellently crafted moment, simply because of the fact it's not just the last person you expect, but he proves to be such a spineless worm that its hard to believe its him that's behind all of this.

But perhaps one of the show's biggest success stories is Enhou, who just goes to show how unrelentingly twisted and tragic Garo can be at times. Starting off as the captain of Vol City's elite SG1 guard, she goes from being against Kouga to allying with him and befriending Rian to...well, that would spoil it. Her story is very cleverly paced, using visual clues in earlier episodes that won't mean anything until further in. The Horrors themselves may not be as grotesque or weird as they used to be, but you'll see that they really do live up to their name here.

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Enhou
Poor Enhou

Aside from the cast changeover, perhaps the biggest noticeable difference of this new Garo is the absence of physical Makai Knight suits. While the move to completely CGI suits was slowly being implemented during the course of Makai Senki, it's here that we see it fully realised. While the CGI suits for Garo, Zen and Gai (the latter two being Takeru and Aguri's suits respectively) are nicely detailed, anyone familiar with tokusatsu shows will now that Japan's CGI budget's aren't quite what you see in Western productions. However if you can get over this you'll certainly have a blast with the fight sequences, even with their very brief nature. This is because despite the 99.9 seconds rule established in the first Garo series being thrown out of the window by now, the use of the suits still very much feel like a last resort with the majority of the fights being done out of suits. 

Garo The One Who Shines in the Darkness Garo Armour
How awkward would it be if all it needed was a good polish?

While it doesn't quite live up to the standard of the first two Garo series, Yami o Terasu Mono is still a worthy follow-on and one of the best series of its kind out there at the moment. The new cast are very likeable even if some of the backstories are vague and/or underutilised. The connections between this and the original series are still very unclear (as is how the Garo armour lost its golden shine) but with plenty more Garo stories yet to come in the future, I'm hopeful that these are still answers yet to come in the future. If Kouga's story must really come to an end, then it's time for Ryuga Dougai to start really shining.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Anime REVIEW: Gatchaman Crowds

Gatchaman Crowds

Although it hasn't been in a public eye for a good while, Ninja Science Team Gatchaman is an anime icon. 70s/80s cartoon fans might know it better by the names Battle of the Planets or G-Force, but the sci-fi Sentai style show reached worldwide fame under whatever name it was using. 2013 proved to be the year of a Gatchaman review, with a live-action film remake of the original series and a brand new anime series that went by the name of Gatchaman Crowds. With the film not doing quite as well as people hoped at the Japanese box office (I still can't wait to see it though!), does this 13-episode series deliver to bring the world of Gatchaman back into the public eye?

Gatchaman Crowds Hajime Ichinose
You're gonna love her or hate her.

Our story is set in the city of Tachikawa, Japan in the year 2015. The world has become enthralled with a new social media app named GALAX, which rewards its users with points for various "missions" they complete. Eternally cheery high-school girl Hajime Ichniose is one day inducted into a group of superheroes known as the Gatchaman, who defend the city from attacks from alien entities known as MESS. Completing the team is schoolboy swordsman Sugane, the gloomy Utsutsu, effeminate OD, gruff and silent Jou and their panda-like alien leader Paiman.

When Hajime wraps up the issue of the MESS by going against the team's wishes and simply befriending them, the Gatchaman are faced with a new threat. The destructive alien Berg Katze has arrived on Earth to turn humanity against each other, and uses GALAX creator Rui Ninomiya as a means of doing so. Rui plans to use GALAX to make the world a better place, given a chosen hundred the power of CROWDS - an ability that manifests their will into a physical form. But not everyone shares the same ideals for the world as Rui, and as it stands CROWDS could prove integral to the world's downfall.

Gatchaman Crowds Rui Ninomiya
I assure you Rui is a guy, even if he does make a pretty girl

Before even beginning to discuss the positives and negatives of this series on its own merits, anyone planning to watch this show hoping it to be a real successor to the original Ninja Science Team Gatchaman is going to be sorely disappointed. The only real similarities going on here is the presence of superheroes, aliens and the names "Gatchaman" and "Berg Katze" - all things point to this being a completely separate universe aiming to tell its own story. With that in mind, Gatchaman Crowds isn't really much of a superhero series either. Sure there are some flashy costumes and some action sequences sprinkled here and there, but the heart of this show is a sci-fi style tale about the power social media can hold. While the series promoted itself on the battle against the MESS, this is resolved and never brought up again in about three episodes so that the story can move into its REAL direction. The use of such a red herring is certainly clever, but there are so many questions left unanswered about the MESS and nobody ever brings it up again aside from a very random 5 second cameo in the final episode.

Gatchaman Crowds Berg Katze
Meanwhile Katze is just fabulous

The viewer's enjoyment of the show is also going to highly depend on how you react toward the lead character. Hajime may be clever, optimistic and played up to be the greatest of the Gatchaman (in terms of seeing the best in everyone and thinking outside the box anyway) but make no mistake, the writers have purposely intended to make her as annoying as possible. You may not feel that way, but when almost every character in the show sees her the same way it's hard to not feel its intentional. If you're favourite character is any of the other Gatchaman, you might as well give up on the hope of them having any sort of real development (other than coming to like Hajime) because they're all background characters. Arguably the best character in the show is Rui, who is central to the story making it just as much about him as the Gatchaman. Though his backstory is a lot lighter than perhaps it should be, he's the one character that constantly develops throughout and if anything, the show's best asset. And while he may not be the same as his classic series namesake, Berg Katze proves to be a fantastic villain. Though campy and childlike, Berg Katze's twisted outlook on things, chaotic nature and insistence on making humans destroy themselves make him all the more twisted. He rarely gets his own hands dirty, but when he does it shows that he's more than capable if he wanted to.

Gatchaman Crowds GALAX
GALAX: Like Habbo Hotel is it were actually good

It may get off to a slow and rather tangential start, but when Gatchaman Crowds gets going to proves to be a pretty enjoyable series. Unless your name is Hajime and Rui you're doomed to poor characterisation, but it presents some interesting questions about the good and bad things complex social media can do and what makes someone a hero. Which makes it all the sadder that the series ends on such a dour note. It spends so much time building things up, that when it comes to the big climax everything feels rather rushed. The team don't get together to fight until the end of episode 10, which is also the first time we see Utsutsu's Gatchaman form. OD doesn't reveal his until the final episode, and despite dropping huge hints that it's going to be something special it's onscreen for all of about five minutes probably. The final episode skips over quite a lot of details and leaves things wide open, so unless the writers have another season in mind it's a very unsatisfying conclusion.

Gatchaman Crowds CROWDS
Internets gone crazy

To conclude, Gatchaman Crowds is a very mixed series in terms of content. What it does well it does very well and what it does bad it does pretty damn badly at. It almost feels like watching two different series at once sometimes. The whole social media message is well played out but the superhero side of things is stale, limited and dull (which could be part of the point, but doesn't make it any less boring to watch). With such fantastic costume designs its strange they don't spend much time around because they were almost born to become a toy line (S.H. Figuarts comes to mind). It might not be the Gatchaman sequel many hoped for, but Crowds has enough going for it to spark interest among the more curious of anime fans.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Anime REVIEW: Nisemonogatari

Nisemonogatari Fire Sisters Tsuhiki Karen Araragi Shaft

It's not very often that a series as good as Bakemonogatari comes along, and being only 15 episodes long its easy to be left wanting more from it. So it's just as well Shaft decided to continue animating the light novel franchise, continuing with the sequel Nisemonogatari (which translates as "Fake story", or "Impostory" if you still want a clever pun out of it) in 2012. The show ran for a total of 11 episodes.

Nisemonogatari Fire Sisters Tsuhiki Karen Araragi Shaft
Our fire sisters: Tsuhiki & Karen

Continuing on some time after the events of Bakemonogatari, Nisemonogatari picks up with two new arcs concerning the two characters we saw little of in the first season - Koyomi's younger sisters Karen and Tsuhiki. Nicknamed the "Fire Sisters" at school, the hot-headed Karen and short-tempered Tsukihi are a duo and perform deeds in the name of justice. When this of justice lands Karen in trouble with a conman named Deishū Kaiki, as usual its up to Koyomi to save the day and deal with what turns out to be a supernatural threat. Later, when Tsuhiki runs foul of an onmyōji by the name of Yozuru, Koyomi must spring into action once again despite learning a dark secret about his youngest sister.

Nisemonogatari Koyomi Araragi Shaft
We later learn Koyomi has some rather interesting ideas about oral hygiene...

Though the series mainly concerns Karen and Tsuhiki, once again the show is based on Koyomi's point of view and all of the main cast return from Bakemonogatari. Of course Tsubasa, Suruga, Mayoi and Nadeko have much more limited roles, but the series makes sure each of them have some sort of role and/or a memorable moment. As Koyomi's girlfriend Hitagi appears a little more, but her importance is still rather limited despite having links to Kaiki. It's all about the relationship between Koyomi and his sisters - a brother that would clearly do anything for them, even if that relationship borders on the incestuous side far more often than it probably should. There isn't a whole lot to say about the sisters themselves as their development is rather limited (both arcs concern them rather than actually involve them), but Karen gets that little bit more as her story overflows into the second arc.

Finally we have our "villains" for the series - the aforementioned Kaiki, Yozuru and her shikigami Yotsugi. While Kaiki is quite entertaining as a gloomy conman, the other two fall a bit flat as "final boss" characters, memorable only by their quirks and story rather than the characterisation itself.

Nisemonogatari Koyomi Araragi Shinobu Oshino Shaft
What? Have you never taken a bath with a vampire in an 8 year old's body?

However the real star of Nisemonogatari was, is and always will be Shinobu. After making a VERY strong impression at the end of the first season, the strong-but-silent vampire is back to steal though once again - although this time once she starts talking she won't shut up. Not only do we have Shinobu stealing the show in the show's big climax once again, but now an oh-so-slightly older looking (don't worry loli fans, you're still covered!) Shinobu has some pretty great exchanges with Koyomi. Not to mention her obsession with doughnuts is taken to an absolutely adorable level. If Shinobu hadn't become one of your favourite characters by the end of Bakemonogatari, she sure will here.

Nisemonogatari Deishū Kaiki Shaft
What about this picture DOESN'T scream "conman"?

Despite all these great characters, Nisemonogatari falls short in the other area its predecessor excelled at - story. The series is split into two arcs - the seven episode "Karen Bee" and the four episode "Tsuhiki Phoenix". Considering the arcs in Bakemonogatari ranged mostly between two and three episodes, on face value these arcs seem pretty long in comparison. However very little of the content has to do with their subject matter, with the main crux of the story crammed into the last episode or two and the rest made up of filler and fanservice. Tsuhiki is barely in her own arc! For example "Karen Bee" feels it necessary to slow reintroduce every character from the original series again, just adding new little details like Nadeko being a secret slut and Suruga spending most of her time naked. They make for funny moments, but these take up huge portions of episodes or even entire episodes altogether. With lots of sequences where nothing much is going on, the conversations become easier to lose than ever and in the end its just Shaft's gorgeous art holding scenes together.

Nisemonogatari Toothbrush Scene Orgasm Karen Koyomi Araragi Shaft
Well, things just got awkward in here...

Then of course there's episode eight, which is so notorious it deserves a paragraph to itself. This is the episode that features the infamous "toothbrush challenge" (if you haven't already heard of it, just Google or Youtube it), one of the most awkwardly fun anime moments I've seen. It's incredibly annoying that this takes up an entire episode of Tsuhiki's arc (considering she already got the short end of the stick on the episode count), but it's definitely the most memorable moment of the show that DOESN'T involve Shinobu.

After the masterpiece that was Bakemonogatari, the far inferior Nisemonogatari can be a little hard to swallow. While the original managed to pull off five great arcs in the space of 15 episodes, this struggles to pull off two in 11. The once-interesting tangential conversations feel inane and dull, and the bulk of the episodes are packed with filler and relentless fanservice. When Nisemonogatari does decide to go all out the result is magnificent, but by then it's too little too late to save the series as a whole. Still, the art is as gorgeous as ever, the characters fun (in the case of Shinobu, even moreso) and no one will ever quite forget that scene, cementing Nisemonogatari as a watchable, if not flawed, sequel.

And at the very least, you can thank this series for Platinum Disco. Best. OP. Ever.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Black

Kamen Rider Black

Over the past 42 years there have been 24 Kamen Rider series alongside movies, specials and more. However there are few that have a reputation like Kamen Rider Black does. This 1987 series is currently the ONLY Rider series to have had a direct sequel continuing with the same protagonist is often cited as one of the best that both the Showa era and franchise as a whole have to offer. 26 years later, does Kamen Rider Black still live up to these expectations?

Kamen Rider Black Kotaro Minami
The show that DIDN'T become Saban's Masked Rider

Just like the original Kamen Rider series, Black continues the tradition of our hero being an augmented human originally created for evil. However telling the same story all over again would be boring so there's quite a different angle to it. On the night of their 19th birthday, stepbrothers Kotaro Minami and Nobuhiko Akizuki are kidnapped by the evil Gorgom cult. The two are considered to be the "Century Kings" and subject to cybernetic surgery - with a "King Stone" housed in each of them. They are then destined to fight each other to the death, with the victor becoming Gorgom's next Creation King.

Before he can be brainwashed into becoming "Black Sun", Kotaro escapes Gorgom and vows to defeat them and rescue Nobuhiko, under the new identity of Kamen Rider Black. But despite his many battles against Gorgom, Nobuhiko one day emerges from his transformation as Shadow Moon - vowing to destroy Kamen Rider Black and become the next Creation King.

Kamen Rider Black Battle Hopper
A true bro.

Despite the many tragedies he suffers throughout the series, Kotaro Minami is a true hero and very much like his Kamen Rider predecessors. He never falters even through hardships, is eternally optimistic, a great fighter and always manages to save the day. Though this doesn't offer much in the way of character growth, he is the perfect example of a Kamen Rider as a superhero. Aiding him throughout his battles is his motorcycle Battle Hopper, who proves to be just a great a character as most of the humans that appear. Battle Hopper is a true friend to Kotaro, saving him on more than one occasion and even being involved in some of the series' more emotional moments. Kamen Rider Black also has another bike, Road Sector, however this one isn't sentient and nowhere near as interesting. You'd have to have a heart of stone for Battle Hopper not to win you over by the end of it.

The Gorgom Priests - Baraom, Darom and Bishium, don't fare quite as well as villains. Although look great and come across and powerful and imposing, their plans often don't reflect this. In fact, sometimes it's even hard to tell what their end goal is - one week they'll be trying to kill Kotaro and take back his King Stone, the next they'll simply be continuing their plans for destroying humanity or even just causing random chaos. Though their use of Gorgom cultists (over-convoluted) placed into society (such as typical evil scientists) is interesting, they don't really gain any real direction until the Gorgom warrior Bilgenia arrives on the scene. From there we have a power struggle being the two Gorgom factions, with Bilgenia taking much more a physical role - engaging Kotara in battle while the Priests just send mutant after mutant. This finally culminates in the arrival of Shadow Moon, who takes full control and becomes the main villain for the remainder of the series. As the first true evil Kamen Rider, he leaves a huge impact and it's no wonder that he is fondly remembered as one of the best villains in the franchise.

Kamen Rider Black Gorgom Priests Darom Baraom Bishium
What ridiculously complicated plan can we come up with today guys?

The action is fantastic and the suit designs are brilliant. Kamen Rider Black himself is exciting and the mutants range from impressive to downright terrifying - putting even some of the new series monster designs to shame. However there is one flaw that keeps Black from being the perfect series it is said to be. While an episodic structure with very little continuity between episodes is a common aspect of the Showa era Kamen Rider shows, the strong premise of Black turns this format into a very real problem. The series begins with Kotaro escaping the clutches of Gorgom and gaining full control over his new powers, fully aware that Nobuhiko is still their prisoner and will eventually become Shadow Moon. However for 33 episodes Kotaro does absolutely NOTHING to try and save his stepbrother, instead continuing with day to day life and only fighting Gorgom when he stumbles across their scheme of the week. It's true that Kotaro doesn't know where Gorgom's base is, but ANY effort to try and save his brother would be appreciated. There are even long stretches of episodes where the show barely acknowledges that he exists!

If you can make it through these sometimes difficult episodes (they'll be enjoyed much more individually than back to back), the final 19 episodes will show you just why Kamen Rider Black has earned such high regard over the years. Once Shadow Moon enters the fray, the plots gain a much greater sense of scale and peril, with continuity building more and more as the episodes go on. The finale is absolutely fantastic, with some of the best episodes the whole franchise has to offer. The emotional conflict between these two brothers and the build-up to the sad realisation that they MUST fight to the death is the heart of Kamen Rider Black, and it's a massive shame that the series takes so long to utilise it properly.

Kamen Rider Black Shadow Moon Nobuhiko Akizuki
With a name like Shadow Moon, you're badass just standing there.

So does Kamen Rider Black live up to the hype? The answer is both yes and no. The series as a whole can prove to be pretty difficult to get through at first, with its main plot buried beneath a ton of episodic stories. But once it manages to burst out, Kamen Rider Black deservedly earns its reputation with a relentless stream of high quality episodes that still stand out today. This is one show where your patience will really pay off.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

With all the main mecha and extra limbs out of the way, it's now time to see what Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger has to offer in the way of big additional robots and movie exclusives. First up is the Zyudenryu I've been looking forward to the most - Kyoryu Violet's Plezuon.I say Violet, but sadly Red seems to use him more often. Alas, this is a rant for a different post.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

Plezuon is a hefty robot, and so takes up three boxes all to himself (though his "wave" also saw re-releases of Gabutrya, Stegotchi and Dricera too). One box contains the torso and head, the second contains the arms and Plesiosaur head and the final one the legs. Inside you'll find the figure moulded in purple and white plastic, which each box also containing the obligatory piece of soda candy. As usual here on out my review photos will be of a painted kit, so check HERE to compare to a fully-stickered version.

PLEZUON

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

It seems being a plesiosaur isn't different enough for Plezuon, as this Zyudenryu has quite a different aesthetic to the previous ones. After being upgraded for space travel by original Kyoryu Violet Dr. Ulshade, Plezuon becomes some sort of strange-yet-cool rocket/dinosaur hybrid. I was originally slightly put off by this as I was hoping for a proper plesiosaur mecha, but the chunky design has grown on me since. Being made up of three boxes worth of contents means Plezuon is a pretty hefty model, with surprising quite a few moving parts. These include the thrusters on the back, the white ski-like pieces on the bottom and of course a snapping jaw.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

Overall the stickers do an excellent job of covering all the necessary details (although the gold chest emblem falls a bit flat) with only one really noticeable thing missing. The head and neck section is moulded in solid purple, yet the areas above and below the battery are white and black respectively. There are a few white stickers for the top bit, but the black area is left completely untouched. If you're going for the all painting route you'll need gold, grey, yellow, white, black and a dab of silver to get the job done.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

PLEZUOH

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

But enough about spaceship dinosaurs, let's talk about the main draw of this set - PlezuOh. The transformation into this mode features a fair bit of parts swapping, with the leg section having to be rebuilt almost entirely. Once completed, PlezuOh stands tall as by far and large the best thing the Kyoryuger minipla have to offer thus far. Two standard arms are supplied, however as the dinosaur head/neck section is usually the right arm the space can be neatly stored on the robot's back. 

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

So what makes PlezuOh so great? ELBOWS! And multi-directional shoulders! Finally a Kyoryuger figure gets the kind of articulation they should have tried to implement in the first place, making PlezuOh feel like more like a standard minipla and less like a scaled down version of the DX toy. As you can expect the dinosaur arm doesn't have any articulation (aside from the jaw that is) but it looks damn impressive as a huge snapping weapon. Other articulation is of the usual minipla fare, including a fully rotational head, multi-directional hips, knees and feet. The only thing it's lacking is a waist joint, but due to the nature of the design this articulation was probably redirected into the hip area.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

Just like Gabutyra and PteraidenOh, PlezuOh can also make use of Stegotchi, Dricera, Zakutor, Parasagun, Ankydon and Bunpachy. To connect the arms all you need to do is remove the lower arm (slotting it into the back just as you would if you were using the dinosaur headpiece), leaving the standard connection peg you'll see on the other main Kyoryuger bodies. Doing so of course removes any sort of elbow articulation, but the wider range of shoulder movement still makes things a lot better than they are with previous releases.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla PlezuOh Plezuon Kyoryu Violet Bandai Super Sentai

BAKURETSU KYORYUZIN

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

To round the review off we have the next ultimate Kyoryuzin combination - Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin, the combination of Gabutyra, Plezuon and Bunpachy. Though turning Gabutyra's body around gives this design Magi GokaiOh levels of ridiculousness, it makes a nice change of pace from the relatively boring Raiden Kyoryuzin. Once again the transformation involves quite a bit of parts-forming, but it's interesting to see where different things end up (PlezuOh's legs becoming shoulders for example). My only real complaint would be that the torpedo feet look a little odd under Gabutyra's giant dino feet.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

While here I've only played around with the standard Bakuretsu Kyoruzin configuration, there's plenty of potential of interesting fan combos here. You could switch out Bunpachy for one of the many other arms, or alternatively drop the dinosaur head arm altogether for a more cohesive look. If you're prepared to drop some of the stability, you could even take off the standard PlezuOh arms and use the pegs to add a further 2 arms! With such glorious overkill the only question that remains is what you'd do with the spare parts lying around.

Oh, and you could probably throw in Tobaspino instead of Gabutyra too. I'm sure blue and purple go together just lovely.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bakuretsu Kyoryuzin Plezuon Gabutrya Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

After a few disappointments with the Kyoryuger minipla, I can finally say I'm completely happy with what we got here. I've given up expecting the additional Zyudenryu attachments to have any sort of elbow articulation, but since PlezuOh FINALLY has additional shoulder articulation that is much easier to overlook. Giving the standard robot mode proper working arms is also a huge plus, even if the dinosaur head is completely static. In short, here you have a plesiosaur (how often do we get those in Super Sentai?) with an interesting dinosaur/ship mode, a brilliant standard robot mode and an imposing combined form. If you were only to get one entry in the Kyoryuger minipla line so far, make it this one.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon & Bunpachy

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

After a rather lengthy hiatus, I have returned to the world of Super Sentai minipla to finish what I've started - the Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Zyudenryu. This third offering from the 37th series features Kyoryu Gold's Pteragordon, as well as Kyoryu Grey's Bunpachy. What makes it even more exciting is that Pteragordon is able to transform into its own robot mode, PteraidenOh, as well as combine with the previously released Kyoryuzin for even more dino-samba fun.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Bunpachy Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Bunpachy Bandai Super Sentai

These dinosaurs are broken up into three boxes - two for Pteragordon (top and lower halves) and one for Bunpachy. As per usual the building instructions are printed on the inside of the box, and each model kit also comes with a single piece of soda candy for you to enjoy. For candy toys, they sure don't come with that much candy eh? Continuing this review you'll be seeing my painted models, so to also see how they look stickered check out the pictures on this blog.

PTERAGORDON

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super Sentai

So first up is Pteragordon, which is Kyoryu Gold's Zyudenryu in its pteranodon form. The figure is mostly moulded in black plastic, with a tiny section of dark grey for the head. All of the colouring is provided by stickers, with the gold instead being Bandai's usual sickly yellow colour. If you're a stickler for accuracy, you have a pretty extensive paint job ahead of you there are LARGE sections of gold with plenty of silver bits to do too. The blue stickers look good enough, but since I had a bit of a mishap with mine I decided to paint those details as well.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super Sentai

The build itself is really straightforward (although the end product will be in PteraidenOh mode if you follow the instructions) and upon completion you'll find yourself with a rather hefty looking pteranodon. Looks are only so much though, and it's disappointing to say that articulation is this form is minimal. With no proper shoulder joints flapping wings are a no go, so what you're left with is movable hands (hinged on the back, left-to-right motion on the front) and a hinged beak. With a very obvious head inside, you might want to be careful about opening that mouth too wide though...

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super Sentai

PTERAIDENOH

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super Sentai

With that aside, let us next turn to the more interesting aspect of this Zyudenryu - Pteragordon's robot mode PteraidenOh. The transformation mostly involves splitting the body in half, doing a bit of repositioning and putting things back together, but the pièce de résistance is changing the masked faceplate out for PteraidenOh's proper face.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteragordon Pteraidenoh Kyoryu Gold Bandai Super Sentai

Though the shoulders once again only rotate 360° and don't have any kind of up or down movement, the upper arms can swing left to right and PteraidenOh is even graced with the power of elbows...kind of. Okay so they aren't really elbows, but Pteraidoh's oversized hands have a similar range of motion giving the upper body a little more variety. Moving down the body is much better, with a fully functional waist and hinged hip, knee and feet joints. As a final bonus, the ends of the Pteranodon wings can fold out to act as blade weapons.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteraidenoh Western Zakutor Parasagun Bandai Super Sentai

Just like Gabutyra, PteraidenOh can also make use of the various Zyudenryu arms for multi-dino configurations. To access these the arms have to be changed a bit - as if you were transforming it back to Pteragordon mode, only keeping the wing tips folded and swinging down the connector pegs. While PteraidenOh has used several different combinations in the show, here I've just taken pictures of the best one - PteraidenOh Western.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteraidenoh Western Zakutor Parasagun Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Pteraidenoh Western Zakutor Parasagun Bandai Super Sentai

Unfortunately this is where PteraidenOh beings to suffer from the same flaws as Kyoryuzin. Now that we're dealing with the same type of arms, the lack of elbow come into play. The Western configuration is great, but its not enough to overlook how disappointing the overall design of these minipla have been. We have a gunslinging, sword-wielding robot, and he can't bend his arms to slash? The limited shoulders only add insult to injury. 

RAIDEN KYORYUZIN

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super Sentai

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super Sentai

This brings us to our first big multi-robot combination (limb-swapping doesn't count) of Kyoryuger, the rather epically named Raiden Kyoryzin. Through the lightning combination of Kyoryuzin and Pteragordon, the Kyoryugers can then take to the skies with even more power. Though theoretically it could use any arms, the show so far has only seen it using Stegotchi and Dricera.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super Sentai

Raiden Kyoryuzin's combining sequence couldn't be much easier. All that needs to be done is removal of Gabutyra's tail and the head from Kyoryuzin and Pteragordon's head (note: he needs to be in dinosaur mode). Then Pteragordon's body clips onto the back of Kyoruzin, with the closed tail (with the head placed inside for safety) added to the back for extra support. Finally open Pteragordon's mouth to reveal the Raiden Kyoruzin head, clipping into onto the body to complete the sequence.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Raiden Kyoryuzin Gabutyra Stegotchi Dricera Pteragordon Bandai Super Sentai

Despite looking rather imposing, Raiden Kyoruzin isn't really that exciting. Aside from the the cool new head, it's just standard Kyoruzin with a static wingpack. While the wings don't get in the way of Kyoryzuin's limited arm articulation, the added bulk naturally gets in the way of the waist rotation. If you have a stand handy to pull off some flying poses then there might be a bit more fun to have here, but a grounded Raiden Kyoryuzin isn't as fun as its components are separately.

BUNPACHY

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bunpachy Kyoryu Grey Bandai Super Sentai

Before we begin the review, can we just take a moment to fully appreciate the sheer ridiculousness of a dinosaur wearing a hard hat? Because that is possibly one of the most genius things in Kyoryuger. Right, now that that's out of the way let's take a look at the Pachycephalosaurus-partner of spirit ranger Kyoryu Grey, Bunpachy. This single-box model is another arm-type Zyudenryu, with a similar build to Zakutor and Parasagun from the previous wave.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bunpachy Kyoryu Grey Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bunpachy Kyoryu Grey Bandai Super Sentai

Bunpachy is once again a bi-pedal dinosaur, however his unique feature is a ball and chain attachment to the tail. This has been shrunk down really well for the minipla, made up on a number of individual links to give the chain a pretty good range of motion. The ball itself is both missing the bottom and hollow, so that it can be used by Bunpachy as an even fancier hat when he isn't in battle mode.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bunpachy Kyoryu Grey Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Bunpachy Kyoryu Grey Bandai Super Sentai

Like with most limbs the stickers cover most of the important details, but as always a lick of yellow paint will prove much more vibrant and effective. If you choose to use all of the stickers, the only bits you'll really be missing is the silver colouring of the ball and chain, which are moulded in the same dark grey as the body.

KYORYUZIN KUNG-FU

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Kyoryuzin Kung-Fu Gabutyra Bunpachy Ankydon Bandai Super Sentai

With Bunpachy in hand we can now take a look at the final of the arm-swap Kyoryuzin combinations, the bizarrely named Kyoryuzin Kung-Fu (because a hammer and flail SCREAM kung-fu). This combination uses Ankydon and Bunpachy, and while it arguably looks the most impressive of them all it still runs into the same problem - no shoulder hinges or elbows. You can play around with the waist and legs to get some half way decent poses, but without these things all you're getting arm-wise is up or down. Still, the armaments are very impressive and I'm sure the configuration will look great on the now-released Tobaspino minipla.

Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Kyoryuzin Kung-Fu Gabutyra Bunpachy Ankydon Bandai Super SentaiZyuden Sentai Kyoryuger Minipla Kyoryuzin Kung-Fu Gabutyra Bunpachy Ankydon Bandai Super Sentai

So is this set worth getting? Once again it depends how much of a Kyoryuger fan you are. Pteragordon is a fun kit but requires EXTENSIVE painting to look halfway decent, then its combinations are either limited or just plain underwhelming. Bunpachy on the other hand is just yet another limb, even if he is perhaps the best out of all six Zyudenryu arms. Aside from the weapons it's nothing Zakutor and Parasagun haven't done already, and with them being main Zyudenryu they come out on top as a priority choice. For the Kyoryuger fans and completists these are probably essential purchases, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're perfect toys.