Saturday, 16 June 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider 2

Release Date: May 2018
RRP: 6480 yen

Following the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider 1 at the end of last year it was fairly obvious just where Bandai were going to go next. Since you can't do one without the other, so the next Kamen Rider to receive a much needed update in Tamashii Nations premium Figuarts range was of course the original's direct successor - Kamen Rider 2, aka Hayato Ichimonji.  A simple release but one that's essential for any completed Rider lineup, S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider 2 is the second Showa era Rider to join this highly regarded line.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Live Robo

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: 4536 yen

When Bandai released Super Mini-Pla Daizyujin last year its creators expressed interest in expanding the line into other Super Sentai instalments, particularly mentioning Chojuu Sentai Liveman. With mecha that haven't had toys since their original DX counterparts way back in 1988, this was particularly exciting news to fans and now, true to their word, the line continues with Super-Minipla Live Robo! The core robot of the series comprising of three Live Machines, this fan-favourite is the first pre-Zyuranger mecha to be released in any form by Bandai in some time – making this one of the most notable Super Mini-Pla (as well as Super Sentai in general) releases for some time.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Mizuki

Release Date: April 2018 
RRP: 6296 yen 

Even though it took long enough to finally get to making one, there was no way that Max Factory was going to stop at just one Pokémon Figma. Good Smile Company have got a rather extensive little cast going with the Nendoroid line now, but when it comes to their articulated cousins where do you go after Red? After starting at the very beginning, it's time to jump to the latest generation of Pokémon games with the release of Figma Mizuki - aka the female trainer of Pokémon Sun & Moon. After travelling the islands of Alola, helping Lillie and Cosmog from the threat of Lusamine and the Ultra Beasts and becoming the first trainer in the region to tackle the Pokémon League, Mizuki now takes her place as the second Pokémon character to be part of the Figma line.

Monday, 4 June 2018

First Impressions: FLCL Progressive

FLCL Progressive

It's been 18 years and as unlikely as it may have ever seemed, FLCL is back. Thanks to a push from Cartoon Network programming block Adult Swim, the 2000 off the wall OVA series from Gainax and Production I.G. has returned for a further two seasons - FLCL Progressive and FLCL Alternative. While fans briefly got a taste of Alternative when the first episode ran as Adult Swim's April fools joke, it's now time to properly dive into Progressive head first as the series begins its six-episode run. Gainax are out of the picture, so animation is handled solely by Production I.G. in a production collaboration with both Toho and Adult Swim. Curiously, the Japanese language version won't be making it's debut until both Progressive and Alternative receive Japanese theatrical runs in September - making the English currently the only way to experience the show. That's right, the dub is airing months ahead of the Japanese version. What crazy times we live in.

Friday, 1 June 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Freeza -Resurrection Ver.-

Release Date: April 2018
RRP: 5616 yen

You know that a toy line has hit a high point when it's releasing reissues and renewals of previously released figures alongside a steady string of brand new moulds. That's been the case for the Dragon Ball S.H. Figuarts range for some time now, and now that Dragon Ball Super has finished airing collectors are clamouring for those hard-to-get older releases more than ever. Bandai Tamashii Nations have now answered these cries with the release of S.H. Figuarts Freeza Resurrection Ver., giving the Emperor of the Universe a shiny new paint job along with some new accessories to reflect his appearance in the latest series. Better still is that this new Freeza is also a general retail release, whereas the original final form Freeza and Golden form Freeza figures were Tamashii web exclusive figures.

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Jack

Release Date: April 2018
RRP: 5940 yen

Even though it might not be celebrating its 50th anniversary for another four years, Bandai Tamashii Nations' journey through the Ultra Series continues with its annual cycle as the S.H. Figuarts line delves into 1971's The Return of Ultraman. Though it may have been the first Ultra series produced without the leadership of creator Eiji Tsuburaya, the series is notable for being the first to introduce a shared continuity to the franchise – with both Ultraseven and the original Ultraman appearing by the show's end. As you'd expect the best way for a new range of Ultraman Figuarts to kick off is with its hero, as S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Jack joins his fellow Ultra Brothers as a retail release figure.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Alien Zarab

Release Date: April 2018
RRP: 5940 yen

It's been nearly two years since the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman and since then the line has moved onto the casts of Ultraseven and The Return of Ultraman (in addition to covering newer shows like Orb and Geed), yet by way of miracle Bandai Tamashii Nations still seem dedicated to the original Ultraman series. The latest invader to join the ever-expanding line is deceptive Alien Zarab, who first appeared in episode 18 "Brother from Another Planet" and is notable for being the first alien to actively intimate an Ultra hero after deducing the identity of SSSP member Shin Hayata. S.H. Figuarts Alien Zarab was another Tamashii web exclusive release, which is likely to be the fate of any original series character as the Figuarts line moves forwards into future franchise instalments.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger Minipla Lupin Kaiser

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: 1980 yen (1 complete figure, 5 boxes), 4536 yen (Full case: 12 boxes)

This year the Super Sentai formula has truly been shaken as police and thieves go head to head in Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger, but from a collectors' perspective two teams appearing simultaneously can only mean one thing - more toys! This year of minipla candy toys first yield two four-piece main mecha sharing the same core component, starting with the Lupinrangers' own Lupin Kaiser! This is the combination of the Lupinrangers' three signature Dial Fighters, together with the GoodStriker - a sentient piece of the Lupin Collection that's happy to align itself with both sets of heroes. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Soul of Chogokin GX-77 Gipsy Danger

Release Date: February 2018
RRP: 27,000 yen

When Bandai Tamashii Nations announced that they would finally be getting their long-deserved shot at the Jaegers of Pacific Rim, they certainly didn't take any half measures. While the cast of sequel film Pacific Rim Uprising are getting the highly affordable, highly articulated treatment from the Robot Damashii line, the originals are getting the premium treatment they've long deserved. That's right - Soul of Chogokin Gipsy Danger is finally a reality. At 27,000 yen it's not the most expensive entry in Bandai's "best of the best" mecha line, but it's still certainly one for those whose wallets run pretty deep. Gipsy is currently the only Jaeger released in the line, but with a Crimson Typhoon already on show at events it may only be a matter of time before the rest of the kaiju-busting robots join her.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending - Kamen Rider Genm vs Lazer

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Genm vs Lazer

First Kamen Riders Brave and Snipe had to face the revival of Lovelica and Saki. Then Para-DX and Poppy fought back against a mysterious Parado clone and the revenge of Dr Pacman's daughter Saiko Yaotome. Now the grand finale of the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid V-Cinema trilogy arrives with Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Genm vs Lazer. Not only have the previous two films been building up to this confrontation, but Genm vs Lazer (for the time being anyway) also acts as the final chapter in the Ex-Aid story. As well as sharing a long and chequered rivalry, both Riders have also previously held the title role in their own spin-off specials. The Kamen Rider Genm special showcased the Legend Rider Gashats whilst also acting as a prequel to Heisei Generations, while the Kamen Rider Lazer Hyper Battle DVD saw the Bakusou Bike Rider return once more prior to his permanent resurrection by Kamen Rider Cronus.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending - Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy

After casting the spotlight on Kamen Riders Brave and Snipe in its first instalment, the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid V-Cinema trilogy now turns its attention to CR's benevolent Bugsters in Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Para-DX with Poppy. While this is the first time Poppy Pipopapo has received her own title story in the series, Parado more recently featured as the star of the show's second Televi-kun Hyper Battle DVD. The DVD also acted as a lead in to the Another Ending trilogy – not only being referenced in the films but also concluding with Kuroto's escape from his digital prison.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending - Kamen Rider Brave & Snipe

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid Another Ending: Kamen Rider Brave & Snipe

When Toei said that "the game is forever", they sure weren't joking around. Not content with just ending Kamen Rider Ex-Aid through the series itself and the True Ending movie, the 2016-2017 Kamen Rider series has returned once again for a trilogy of V-Cinema releases – rather appropriately titled Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Another Ending. Like previous post-series V-cinema entries these movies each focus on a pair of Riders from the show's expanded cast rather than Ex-Aid himself, however unlike the others these three films also tie together into an overall plotline. Kicking off the trilogy is Kamen Rider Ex Aid: Another Ending – Kamen Rider Brave & Snipe, featuring arguably the two most prominent of the show's other Riders. This isn't the first time either Rider has had the spotlight either, with Brave previously taking centre stage in the Let's Survive! Revival of the Beast Rider Squad! special and Snipe's back story being uncovered in the Episode ZERO prequel miniseries.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Robot Damashii Obsidian Fury

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: 3564 yen

When Bandai Tamashii Nations announced that they would be producing figures for Pacific Rim Uprising, they certainly didn't mess around in releasing them at a steady pace. Three of the six main Jaegers preceded the film's release in February 2018, with the remaining three coming the following month just as Uprising landed in cinemas across the globe. As well as receiving a global release, one of the biggest appeals of these Robot Damashii (aka Robot Spirits) figures was a significantly lower price point - with Gipsy Avenger leading the charge at an incredible 2484 yen. Although the price of its fellow Jaegers such as Obsidian Fury here a slightly higher 3564 yen, they're still far more affordable than your average Robot Damashii figure. A mysterious rogue unit that attacks the PPDC council meeting in Sydney, Obsidian Fury is a Jaeger that's not just a force to be reckoned with but also houses a dark secret - revealing that humanity's battle with the kaiju and their alien Precursor masters isn't over yet.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Anime Review: GARO: Vanishing Line

GARO: Vanishing Line
GARO: Vanishing Line is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

Over the past few years GARO has gained some real traction in regards to Western recognition, an achievement that's certainly partly thanks to its spinoff into animated media. No longer the niche franchise known only among the tokusatsu fanbase it once was, the GARO anime are simulcast, dubbed and (in the US at the very least) released on physical disc – with the live-action series now following suite thanks to a number of Blu-ray releases by Kraken-Releasing as well as streaming on Hi-Dive (again, unfortunately US only). Last year saw the franchise return for its third anime outing – GARO: Vanishing Line. Like previous shows The Carved Seal of Flames and The Crimson Moon, Vanishing Line is a completely standalone series – starring an all-new cast and moving the action to a modern city setting.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Alien Guts

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: 6480 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations' impressive dedication to the Ultra Series and its inhabiting creatures continues with the release of S.H. Figuarts Alien Guts! Undoubtedly one of the most iconic aliens from Ultraseven, Alien Guts also hails from some of its best episodes – the two part story "The Seven Assassination Plan". After carefully analysing Ultraseven and his human disguise of Dan Moroboshi, a squad of Alien Guts were able to successfully defeat, capture and crucify the hero. It was only thanks to the efforts of the Ultra Garrison that Seven was eventually freed and able to defeat them. More recently the race have also appeared in the Ultraman Orb movie, as well as being a key character (albeit in a VERY different form) in the second season of moe monster girl spinoff anime Kaiju Girls.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Anime REVIEW: Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is available in streaming form on Netflix

With the world's biggest streaming platform now with anime firmly in its sights, 2018 is set to be a big year for Netflix anime content. As well as kicking things off in a big way with the release of Devilman Crybaby, Netflix is also making waves with Violet Evergarden – the latest series from Haruhi and K-On! maestros Kyoto Animation. Based on the (Kyoto Animation award winning) light novel series by Kana Akatsuki, the series immediately garnered attention through its strange release pattern – simulcasting weekly in some territories but then surprisingly being held back in the US until the series was complete. But wherever you may reside its now here for you, complete with a selection of different language options. Being an anime fan has never been easier.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Robot Damashii Gipsy Avenger

Release Date: February 2018
RRP: 2484 yen

When the original Pacific Rim film was released back in 2013, one of the biggest questions on collectors minds was "why don't Bandai Tamashii Nations have the licence to this?". Instead fans had to deal with the subpar offerings from NECA, many of which suffered easily broken joints, poor articulation and shoddy paintwork. However with the release of Pacific Rim Uprising the dream is finally being realised, with Tamashii Nations launching a double assault on wallets. For the high-end collectors there's the original film Jaegers coming in the coveted Soul of Chogokin line, while the smaller scale buyers have the new generation of mecha to look forward to as part of the Robot Damashii (aka Robot Spirits) line. But that's not all either, as Bandai aren't just launching an attack on their competitors in terms of quality - they're doing it in terms of pricing as well. All of the Uprising Robot Damashii figures sport notably lower prices than usual for the line, with Robot Damashii Gipsy Avenger leading the way at an unbelievable 2484 yen ($20 or £25 if you're buying domestically). 

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

First Impressions: Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory

Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory
Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

After 12 years even the most dedicated fan could give up hope of their favourite show ever returning. However for Full Metal Panic! fans 2018 is already looking to be a pretty fantastic year, as the franchise finally returns for its first new anime instalment since 2006. Better still, Full Metal Panic! Invisible Victory has been confirmed by its creator Shoji Gatoh to not only be a continuation but also "not contain any expository episodes" and "be full throttle from the get-go". Animation is once again handled by Xebec, and all of the original cast have returned to reprise their roles. Could you ask for much more than that?

First Impressions: Steins;Gate 0

Steins;Gate 0
Steins;Gate 0 is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

As I previously mentioned in my Persona 5: The Animation piece a few days ago I'm a fairly lazy gamer. I love video games and have every intention to play them, but life gets in the way far too often. So naturally one of the most anticipated shows to be starting this season for me (along with many other people) was Steins;Gate 0. The original Steins;Gate remains a firm favourite, and after being treated by an anime-exclusive OVA and movie to get a psuedo-sequel all these years after feels like a dream come true. But yes the gang are all back once more, with White Fox returning to handle animation duties as they adapt the visual novel of the same name from 5pb. and Nitroplus.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

First Impressions: Cutie Honey Universe

Cutie Honey Universe
Cutie Honey Universe is available in streaming form on HIDIVE

With 2018 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Go Nagai as manga artist, there's been a pretty noticeable revival of his most famous works in the past few months. The original 1972 Mazinger Z anime series received a continuation in the form of the Mazinger Z Infinity movie, while Devilman became the talk of the town after Netflix launched the Devilman Crybaby remake back at the beginning of the year. The only one missing from the trifecta is of course Cutie Honey , the 1973 manga turned anime series which had a huge influence on the magical girl genre and spawned numerous sequels, remakes and reboots. This spring season sees Nagai's fanservice favourite return in Cutie Honey Universe, a brand new series from Production Reed (the studio formerly known as Ashi Productions).

Monday, 9 April 2018

First Impressions: Persona 5: The Animation

Persona 5: The Animation
Persona 5: The Animation is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll 

Phantom thieves are all the rage these days. Lupin III is back for a new series this season, 2018's Super Sentai series is Lupinranger vs Patranger, and then of course there's also Persona 5. One of last year's most popular video games is now receiving its animated adaptation courtesy of A-1 Pictures, who previously handled both the Persona 4 series and the Persona 3 movies. Though Persona 5: The Animation will inevitably be a heavily condensed version of the game focussing on the main storyline, it presents the perfect entry point for viewers interested in the story that might not have 100+ hours to dedicate to the game itself.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Anime REVIEW: Dragon Ball Super

Dragon Ball Super
Dragon Ball Super is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

In 2013 Toei Animation shocked fans with Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods - a brand-new feature film that not only directly followed on from Dragon Ball Z, but was also written by creator Akira Toriyama himself. Its success led to Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' two years later - a direct sequel reviving the franchise's most popular villain and again written by Toriyama. There was no denying that Dragon Ball had well and truly returned, but it wasn't until Dragon Ball Super was announced that it really sunk in. Running for an impressive 131 episodes, this was the first proper Dragon Ball series since Dragon Ball GT all the way back in 1996. And with the advent of simulcasting in its absence, one of the most popular anime franchises on the planet could now reach a worldwide audience faster than ever before.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

First Impressions: Gundam Build Divers

Gundam Build Divers
Gundam Build Divers is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll and Youtube

While all Gundam shows are designed to sell model kits to some extent, it wasn't until Gundam Build Fighters came along that Bandai and Sunrise built a whole spin-off around it. While not the first gunpla-centric instalment in the franchise, the passion Build Fighters exuded for all things Gundam turned it into something much more than the generic tournament/product placement show it seemed from the outset. It's success led to sequel series Gundam Build Fighters Try in 2014, and now its returned once again for a third edition. Combing the worlds of Gunpla Battle and virtual reality gaming, its time to get those high grade kits ready once again as we dive into the world of Gundam Build Divers.

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Build Rabbit Tank Form

Release Date: February 2018
RRP: 3456 yen

2018 marks the tenth anniversary of the S.H. Figuarts line, and while you might think a milestone like that should persuade Bandai Tamashii Nations to finally release Kamen Rider Kiva in the line for now it seems like the ways they plan to mark it are a lot more low key. February 2018 saw the Kamen Rider Build range kick off a little earlier than usual with the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Build Rabbit Tank Form, available for the special price of 3456 yen. While that's not quite the price the very first Figuarts (Kamen Riders 1 and V3 from Kamen Rider the Nextretailed for all those years ago (2310 yen), it's still far more reminiscent of this than the prices some fetch today. Build isn't the only Figuart to be getting this special treatment either, with a renewal edition of Dragon Ball Z's Son Goku also releasing later this year at a similar price point.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

First Impressions: FLCL Alternative

FLCL Alternative

If there's anyone who knows how to pull a good April Fools joke, its Adult Swim. In past years they've brought back Toonami for one night only (eventually leading to the programming block making a proper return), as well as air the Rick and Morty season 3 premiere months months ahead of its official release. So of course all eyes were on them for their 2018 rendition, and in a move that feels both surprising and somewhat expected all at once, this year brought along a sneak preview of the long-awaited FLCL (aka Fooly Cooly) sequel. Just why they decided to go with FLCL Alternative (which acts as the third season and due for release in September) rather than FLCL Progressive (which airs in the summer) is anyone's guess, but that's just part of the fun.With Gainax properly out of the picture for these sequels the animation is solely handled by Production I.G., in a joint venture with both Toho and Adult Swim. As such, the dub will be airing alongside the Japanese version in the States - the latter of which was the version on show for this teaser.

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Geed Primitive

Release Date: February 2018
RRP: 5940 yen

The release of Ultraman Orb last year brought hope to collectors that Bandai Tamashii Nations would begin to tackle the modern generation of Ultra heroes in tandem with their journey through the franchise's history, and that hope has now been answered with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Geed Primitive! As well as kicking off the Return of Ultraman range later this year with Ultraman Jack and Twin-Tail, Bandai will also be covering the latest Ultraman series with a number of figures from Ultraman Geed. And of course there's no better place to start than right at the beginning, with Primitive - the base form of Ultraman Geed and a "Fusion Rise" of both the original Ultraman and the evil Belial.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Anime REVIEW: Time Bokan: The Villains Strike Back

Time Bokan: The Villains Strike Back
Time Bokan: The Villains' Strike Back is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

In 2016 Tatsunoko Productions' Time Bokan series made its grand comeback with the history perverting Time Bokan 24, tearing textbooks to shreds as it revealed everything they taught us to be a lie. After ending with the promise that it would be back for more and some successful television ratings, the series was true to its word and returned at the end of 2017 with Time Bokan: The Villains Strike Back. What ensured was another 24-episode joy ride into the past, with Tatsunoko once again teaming up with Level-5 for more semi-educational chaos.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Anime REVIEW: Junji Ito Collection

Junji Ito Collection
Junji Ito Collection is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

Junji Ito is a name synonymous with horror manga. Often heralded as the "master of horror manga", the artist has produced countless works stories that depict both the grotesque and the supernatural – many of which have been adapted into feature films Among the more notable offerings are Uzumaki, Gyo: Tokyo Fish Attack as well as the Tomie series. Ito was even set to be a collaborator on Guillermo Del Toro/Hideo Kojima's ill-fated Silent Hills, perhaps a further sign of the respect his work commands. So when Studio DEEN announced they would be animating a selection of his stories into the Junji Ito Collection anthology series, naturally hype and expectations were rather high. Not only did this present an opportunity to finally see these stories in motion, but also introduce newcomers to the twisted works of Junji Ito.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Anime REVIEW: Pop Team Epic

Pop Team Epic
Pop Team Epic is available in streaming form subbed by Crunchyroll, Hi-Dive & (in Australia and New Zealand) AnimeLab, as well as dubbed by Funimation

Animation is such a wonderfully diverse medium. It can be educational, comedic, heartwarming, all of the above or so much more. On the other hand, there's Pop Team Epic. Originating as a four-panel webcomic by Bkub Okawa, the series quickly shot to fame and it wasn't long before the internet was awash with out-of-context images of the two schoolgirls. If you've spent any time in the anime/manga circles of discussion boards or social media, you've probably encountered the likes of "your life ends 30 minutes from now" or "doesn't get it at all" at some point. So of course it was only a matter of time until Pop Team Epic arrived to conquer the world of anime, with the long-awaited adaptation kicking of 2018 and nobody quite sure what they were getting themselves in for. Calling it "unique programming" would probably be putting it lightly...

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Eternal

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 7884 yen

If there's one series the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line has shown a particular dedication to in the last year or so, it's Kamen Rider W. That isn't all that surprising really, given both the show's popularity and its surprise semi-revival last year with the ongoing Kamen Rider W: Fuuto Detective manga. First came Kamen Rider Double CycloneJoker at the end of 2016, followed by Kamen Rider Accel and Kamen Rider Skull last year. Now Bandai Tamashii Nations are kicking off 2018 with the last of the show's Riders - the villain of its summer movie Kamen Rider W Forever: A to Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate. However unlike the others S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Eternal was unable to escape the fate of being a Tamashii web exclusive, making him a little pricier than the others. But as you'll see further down in this review, the figure has a few surprises in store to try and justify this cost.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Anime REVIEW: Land of the Lustrous

Land of the Lustrous
Land of the Lustrous is available in streaming form on HIDIVE

The prevalence and use of 3D CGI in Japan is perhaps one of the biggest ongoing debates you'll find in the anime fandom. Despite the medium coming a long, long way in recent years and resulting in both notable films and shows, you'll always find that sect of fans that argue that it doesn't hold a candle to traditional 2D animation. However if there's one show that can hopefully change this, it's Land of the Lustrous (Hōseki no Kuni). Based on the manga series by Haruko Ichikawa and animated by CGI specialist studio Orange as their first lead project (though their vast repertoire includes the likes of Accel World, Macross Frontier, Ghost in the Shell: Arise, KanColle and more), Land of the Lustrous was one of the hottest shows of the 2017 fall anime season - and with very good reason.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Legends LG-60 Overlord

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 9180 yen

It was a sad day in the Transformers fandom when it was announced that TakaraTomy wouldn't be continuing with the Legends line as Hasbro moved into the Power of the Primes range - instead bringing over the US versions without any changes as part of a wider brand unification. Many (including myself) will miss Takara's more cartoon-inspired decos, but at least the beginning of 2018 has some pretty hotly anticipated releases. Amongst them is Transformers Legends LG-60 Overlord, a brand new version of the Decepticon general from the second Japanese-exclusive anime series Transformers: Super God Masterforce. The original toy was an exclusive release to Japan and Europe, however with Overlord gaining new popularity thanks to the Last Stand of the Wreckers and other IDW comics the time has finally come for this fan favourite to receive an updated figure. This figure is an extensive remould of Leader class Titans Return Black Shadow, however as that was not released as part of the Legends line this is the first time the mould is making its way over to Japan. And honestly, its better suited to (and arguably intended for) Overlord in the first place.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX Perfect Knock Out Gamer Level 99

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 6480 yen 

As anyone who has collected S.H. Figuarts for a while will tell you, Bandai Tamashii Nations will make some truly strange decisions sometimes. Just as the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid range was getting into full swing, Kamen Rider Para-DX in both his Perfect Puzzle and Knock Out Fighter Level 50 forms at various events and the Tamashii showroom in Akihabara. Getting no concrete release information with these displays is pretty common, but as time went on the figures disappeared and were never heard from again. Then all of a sudden S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX Perfect Knock Out Gamer Level 99 was announced as a Tamashii web exclusive release, completely skipping over the Bugster Rider's previous two forms. Even as the line continues into the later Ex-Aid forms there's still no sign of them on the horizon, suggesting that the pair may have indeed been sentenced to Tamashii purgatory. But for those who need their Parado fix at least there's this version, which not only encompasses both games he fights using but is arguably his definitive version going forwards into the epilogue movies and V-cinema releases.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Ex-Aid the Movie: True Ending

Kamen Rider Ex-Aid the Movie: True Ending

Although Kamen Rider summer movies have been tying themselves into their respective series for some years now, when one comes along with a name like "True Ending" that immediately suggests that it isn't going to be another parallel universe tale like the pre-Decade Heisei years were known for. Kamen Rider Ex-Aid the Movie: True Ending serves as the final conclusion to the 27th Kamen Rider Series, though given that both a crossover film and numerous V-cinema releases from that the title has become somewhat moot since then. But as far as Ex-Aid's time in the spotlight goes this could indeed be considered the end, and what better place to do than on the big screen. Not only was the film released as part of double-bill with Uchu Sentai Kyuranger the Movie: The Geth Indaver’s Counterattack, it also received a special Playstation VR preview which allowed fans to check out some of its fight scenes in glorious 360° vision.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Movie REVIEW: Thunderbolt Fantasy: The Sword of Life and Death

Thunderbolt Fantasy: The Sword of Life and Death is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

If there was one thing that stood out among Crunchyroll's simulcast offerings in 2016, it was Thunderbolt Fantasy. A 13-episode collaboration between Gen Urobuchi, Nitroplus, Good Smile Company and Taiwan's Pili International Media, the series was an assault of unique styles and visuals that brought the art of Taiwanese glove puppetry to a wider audience. 2017 remained a fairly quiet time for the show as fans patiently wait for its second season, however it capped the year off with the arrival of Thunderbolt Fantasy: A Sword of Life and Death – a direct to video movie that explores the time both prior to and following on from the series with some of its key characters.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: 52TOYS Beast Box BB-04 Moma & BB-04EL Elephinx

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 2678 yen/$21.99

Last year a little Chinese company by the name of 52TOYS rocked the world of transforming robot toys with their Beast Box line - affordable robot animals which all share an alternate cute mode. The line kicked off with the cute but deadly BB-01 DIO (followed closely by the remoulded BB-02 Ghost Dog as well as Police and Clear repaints), with BB-02 JOJO (along with flame and clear variants) coming some months later. That might not sound like many releases, but the line certainly made up for it in charm and ingenuity. Now they're kicking 2018 off with the third mould from their mechanical menagerie - BB-04 Moma! The mighty mammoth is currently available in three different variants - standard, clear and BB-04EL Elephinx.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome Anniversary Special Color Ver.

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 6264 yen

When Mikumo Guynemer and Freyja Wion were released last year it seemed like the time of Macross S.H. Figuarts had finally arrived. Sadly that time came and went in a flash, with the remaining members of Walküre sentenced to Tamashii Nations limbo alongside the likes of Char Aznable and a whole host of Super Sentai and Metal Heroes characters. However even Bandai weren't going to let the 35th anniversary of the Macross franchise go uncelebrated, and in an act of equivalent exchange Macross Frontier's galactic fairy has escaped from said limbo to arrive as S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome Anniversary Special Colour Ver.!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler

Release Date: January 2018 
RRP: 7020 yen 

Not content with simply exploring the early years of Tsuburaya Productions' legendary franchise, Bandai Tamashii Nations kicked off their range of modern-era Ultraman S.H. Figuarts last year with a number of releases from Ultraman Orb. Of course no Orb display would be complete without Gai's friend turned enemy turned usually-begrudging ally (it's a fairly complicated relationship to say the least), which is why they've kicked off what will hopefully be another great year of Ultra releases with S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler. Based upon his monster form which made its debut in episode 10 of the series, the figure is a Tamashii web exclusive item as well as the first Ultraman Orb Figuart to not simply be a remould of the titular character.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider 1

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 6480 yen

The Shinkocchou Seihou range of S.H. Figuarts is the cream of the crop. The best of the best. So far it's given birth to a wide selection of Kamen Rider figures that were desperately in need of an update, a main Rider that's been missing from the lineup for far too long and later this year will begin to venture outside of the Kamen Rider franchise. So after the end of another successful year, it makes sense to round it off with the one that helped start it all. S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider 1 was one of Bandai Tamashii Nations' final releases of 2017, alongside S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo as the perfect partner piece.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

First Impressions: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

Now that Uchu Sentai Kyuranger has properly broken the mould with its 12-member team, it's time for Super Sentai to really start experimenting with its format. 2018 is going to be a huge year for the franchise, as for the first time in its 43 year history it will be debuting not one, but TWO different Super Sentai teams in the same series. This year it's all about cops and robbers with Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger, capitalising on Japan's love for the "phantom thief" character archetype popularised by the likes of the Lupin III series and (more recently) Persona 5. Of course where there are dashing thieves the law enforcement isn't too far behind, which means the two teams will likely be butting heads even as they face off against a common enemy.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Series REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger

After Zyuohger marked the 40th anniversary of Super Sentai with a celebration of the format and tropes it had built up over the years, it only felt right that the franchise try something new with its 41st series. So when it was announced that Sentai would be heading out into the stars with the space-faring Uchu Sentai Kyuranger, things felt a little different. For the first time ever the series would be kicking off would an incredible nine different rangers (taking that number all the way up to 12 by its end), with each suit showing off more unique attributes outside of their designated colours. The production side of things also saw some change as TV-Asahi took on greater involved in the form of a chief producer role, Bandai of America participated in the early design stages and midway through Super Hero Time moved to a brand new timeslot. After 41 years change may be long overdue, but was it enough to usher in a new era of Super Sentai?

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 6264 yen

From the second it was first revealed at the 2016 Tamashii Nations event, S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo was a figure that was sure to get everyone talking. All of a sudden affordable articulated figures of Kamen Rider civilian forms didn't just seem like a pipe dream, igniting the hope that maybe one day other Riders would receive similar treatment. Of course the trouble with Tamashii Nations events is that not every figure seen at these events is going to definitely see release, but if one figure felt like it might eventually see the light of day it was this one. Jump forward to the end of 2017 and Bandai Tamashii Nations capped off the year with a trifecta of iconic tokusatsu heroes in their civialian guises - kicking off with Ultraseven's Dan Moroboshi before moving onto Space Sheriff Gavan's Retsu Ichimonji before finishing off with Hongo himself. Not just the perfect way to end another year of S.H. Figuarts, but the perfect partner piece to the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider 1 released in the same month.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Red

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 6296 yen

Good Smile Company has been dabbling with Pokémon figures in the Nendoroid line for some time now, but 2017 marked a big moment for collectors as Max Factory got involved with the Figma line. Capping off what has undoubtedly been a strong year for toys no matter what your preferred fandom or toy line is something that always felt like a possibility, but never quite felt like it was going to be reality. And with the year also marking the 20th anniversary of the Pokémon franchise it couldn't have come at a better time. He's conquered the eight Kanto gym leaders, beaten the Elite Four to become the Pokémon league champion and filled all 151 slots of Professor Oak's original Pokédex. But now, Figma Red has finally arrived to tackle collections across the globe.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: NX Edgestyle Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 3780 yen

2017 marked Gurren Lagann’s 10th anniversary, and though Gainax aren’t really in much of a position to give it the celebration it deserves at least there were at least some notable merchandise releases to mark its birthday. Myethos kicked off the year by finally releasing their 1/8 scale Nia Teppelin Wedding version statue, while Bandai Tamashii Nations closed it off with a double bill of surprise releases. Following on from November’s Proplica Core Drill was the release of NX EdgeStyle Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann – adding the titular mecha’s final form to Bandai’s growing range of super-deformed articulated robots. Bandai choosing Tengen Toppa over regular Gurren Lagann is a little surprising, but given the scarcity of other figures for the various forms (the only other articulated figure is the 2008 Revoltech) it’s far from unwelcome.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Ash Ketchum (Satoshi) & Pikachu

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 4630 yen

Ever since Good Smile Company first released their original Red Nendoroid way back in 2014 it seems that there's finally a good selection of Pokémon trainer figures on the market. Nendoroid have continued to chip away at characters from all generations of the video games, Kotobukiya and Megahouse have the static figure side of things covered while S.H. Figuarts and Figma finally answered fans prayers for some articulated action figures. To celebrate their 800th Nendoroid release Good Smile finally made the leap from games to anime with a figure not only highly desired, but one that couldn't have been timed any better given the 20th anniversary franchise celebrations. To Japan it may be Satoshi, but to me (and certainly many others reading this review) it's none other than Ash Ketchum together with his partner and best friend Pikachu.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Movie REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger the Movie: The Geth Indaver’s Counterattack

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger the Movie: The Geth Indaver’s Counterattack

Even though it wasn’t released until December, 2017 was a year that was surrounded by Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi hype. So much so that the film even unexpectedly showed up as a sponsor of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger as the release date drew closer. However that wasn’t the only link that could be drawn between the film franchise and the 41st Super Sentai series either, with Kyuranger giving it a few obvious nods in its summer movie – Uchu Sentai Kyuranger the Movie: The Geth Indaver's Counterattack. In typical fashion the movie was released alongside Kamen Rider Ex-Aid the Movie: True Ending in cinemas, taking place roughly between episodes 22 and 23 of the series itself.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

First Impressions: Darling in the Franxx

Darling in the Franxx
Darling in the Franxx is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

Given that the studio was founded by the people that helped bring Gurren Lagann to life, it's amazing that only now Trigger are creating a full-length mecha anime. Maybe it's just that trying other things were higher up on their priority list, because Darling in the Franxx still isn't a straight production. Instead Trigger have teamed up with A-1 Pictures (The Idolm@ster, Aldnoah.Zero), bringing together a number of notable staff members. The show is directed and co-written by Atsushi Nishigori (The Idolm@ster) with Naotaka Hayashi (Chaos;Head, Steins;Gate and Robotics;Notes) along with action directing by Hiroshi Imaishi (Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill) and mechanical design by Shigeto Koyama (Star Driver, Captain Earth). That's quite the list of talent straight off the bat.

Friday, 12 January 2018

First Impressions: Violet Evergarden

Violet Evergarden
Violet Evergarden is streaming in selected territories on Netflix

There are a number of extremely strong offerings amongst the 2018 winter anime season, but undoubtedly one of the most hotly anticipated shows kicking off this new year of anime is Violet Evergarden – based on the light novel series by Kana Akatsuki. As well as being the latest show from acclaimed studio Kyoto Animation (Haruhi, K-On! and more recently A Silent Voice), the first episode has also been premiered across a number of anime conventions last year to drum up anticipation. Now with Netflix simulcasting the series across a number of different territories (but surprisingly not the US), the streaming service properly enters the anime game on the same playing field as its genre-specific competitors.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Anime REVIEW: Macross 7

Macross 7

Macross 7. Those words alone are enough to make a certain section of Macross fans shudder. Despite the six-part Macross II: Lovers Again OVA arguably being the black sheep of the franchise, it’s undoubtedly Macross 7 that has the most mixed response amongst its English-speaking fans. But in its home country the success of Macross 7 cannot be understated, spawning a 49-episode television series, three OVAs, 12 home release minisodes, a five-part sequel OVA, a ton of albums, manga spin-offs and even a movie created solely as an advertisement for the Blu-ray remasters. So if Japan love Macross 7 that much, surely the show can’t be all that bad can it?

Monday, 8 January 2018

Series REVIEW: Ultraman Geed

Ultraman Geed
Ultraman Geed is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

After making a comeback in a big way over the past few years, Tsuburaya Productions continued the new generation of Ultra heroes in 2017 with Ultraman Geed, the newest entry in their signature Ultra Series. After briefly making his debut at the end of Ultra Fight Orb, Geed introduces the titular Ultraman properly to a worldwide audience thanks to the continued simulcast deal with Crunchyroll. The series also continues the fight between Ultraman Zero and Belial, which first began in Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends and continued through Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial and Ultra Zero Fight.