Saturday, 14 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Dragon Shield Black Ranger


Release Date: September 2019
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

The Power Rangers Lightning Collection being comparable to other Hasbro toylines like Marvel Legends or the Star Wars Black Series doesn’t just relate to the quality of the figures themselves, but also the release strategies they’ll have. On top of the mainline figures and the odd convention exclusive here and there, specific store exclusives are another big avenue for figures and Hasbro have wasted no time bringing Power Rangers into that fold. The Lightning Collection Dragon Shield Black Ranger is the first of what will likely be many figures exclusive to Walgreens in the US (international distribution will be far more varied). Appearing in An Oyster Stew (the final episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season one), Black Ranger Zack Taylor takes this form after Green Ranger Tommy Oliver transfers over his waning powers so that Zack can break the spell of the Oysterizer. The form is also notable for being completely exclusive to Power Rangers, and does not appear in its Super Sentai equivalent Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger


Release Date: July 2019
RRP: $49.99

If there’s one thing Hasbro know, it’s how to make a great convention exclusive. So when the company announced that they would be taking over the Power Rangers brand, naturally fans were eager to see what they had in store for San Diego Comic Con. They certainly hit the ground running with the Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger set, celebrating the forms of veteran ranger and original team leader Jason Scott Lee. The Red Ranger figure also depicts him wearing the Dragon Shield armour, passed on to him by Green Ranger Tommy Oliver following the loss of his powers.

Monday, 9 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist Set


Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The War Doctor is perhaps one of the boldest concepts to have come out of Doctor Who since its 2005 relaunch, second only behind that of the Time War itself. An incarnation of the Doctor kept completely secret to viewers, willing to do the things that his previous incarnations weren’t and an instrumental part in the Time Lords’ war against the Daleks. Though he only properly appeared on screen in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, prior to actor John Hurt’s death in 2017 Big Finish brought the character back for four special audio adventure sets that expanded on his exploits in the Time War. As another of their extremely significant contributions to Doctor Who lore, it’s only fitting that the War Doctor joins the Seventh and Eighth Doctors in Character Options B&M exclusive figure sets. The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist set is based upon the story A Thing of Guile, the second story of the War Doctor’s second Time War set.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime Set


Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

Although after the 1996 TV movie the Eighth Doctor wouldn't be seen again until 2013's The Night of the Doctor mini-episode, that doesn't mean that he was completely forgotten during Doctor Who's wilderness years. While he was initially expanded upon through novels and comics, arguably it wouldn't be until Big Finish came along that that he was truly defined. From his main range adventures to boxsets like Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition and Ravenous, Big Finish have made a huge contribution to developing a Doctor that has only ever had two onscreen appearances. So much so, that the direct namedropping of his companions in The Night of the Doctor has even made them canon for the most part. So when Character Options announced that they would be producing three Doctor/Dalek two-pack figure sets as part of their 2019 B&M Stores exclusive range, of course the Eighth Doctor would be included. Say hello to the Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime set, based on the story In the Garden of Death from the second Eighth Doctor Time War set.

An extremely limited edition variant version of this set was also made available from Bigfinish.com, with only 150 in existence.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek Set


Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The 2019 assortment of B&M store exclusive Doctor Who action figures was teased to be the most exciting yet, and all Character Options needed to do to confirm that as being true was utter two simple words - Big Finish. For the last 20 years Big Finish have been the company behind Doctor Who audio adventures, expanding the mythos for all of the classic Doctors as well as producing a number of spin-off series and pressing forward with more unexplored concepts from the relaunched series such as the Time War. As part of their offerings for this year Character have announced three sets based on popular Big Finish adventures, pairing an incarnation of the Doctor up with his deadliest enemy - the Daleks. This also marks the first time that the Dalek figure mould has appeared among the B&M exclusive assortments. The first of these sets we'll be looking at is the Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek set, based on Gallifrey VI - the sixth entry in the Gallifrey spin-off series.

An extremely limited edition variant version of this set was also made available from Bigfinish.com, with only 150 in existence.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: DX Full Power Gridman


Release Date: May 2019, July 2019 (reissue)
RRP: 15,278 yen

When the SSSS.Gridman anime was first announced, one of the biggest questions for collectors was just who would be handling the toys. Whilst the Denkou Chojin Gridman toys were produced by TakaraTomy, Bandai’s domination of the tokusatsu market (as well as their more recent releases in the Ultra-Act and Super Mini-Pla lines) made them feel like a certainty. However while Bandai and Megahouse have both developed their own version of the titular character, studio Trigger’s links with Good Smile Company undoubtedly had a hand in them arguably leading the way when it came to SSSS.Gridman toys. But on top of their various Figma, Nendoroid and scale statue releases, the crown jewel in their offerings is the DX Full Power Gridman – a fully transformable and combinable set that includes both Gridman and his four Assist Weapons.

Monday, 2 September 2019

First Impressions: Kamen Rider Zero-One

Kamen Rider Zero-One

The arrival of Kamen Rider Zero-One is more than just your usual Kamen Rider premiere. With new series starting annually fans are used to see Riders come and go, but rarely do they see one usher in a whole new era. Zero-One marks the beginning of the Reiwa era for Kamen Rider just as Kuuga did for the Heisei era back in 2000, and while this doesn't come after a long hiatus off the air it still aims to be just a significant a landmark in franchise history. Written by Yuya Takahashi (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Kamen Rider Amazons: The Last Judgement) and directed by Teruaki Sugihara (Lupinranger vs Patranger), Zero-One also sees legend Seiji Takaiwa pass the mantle of lead suit actor onto Yuya Nawata – whose previous portrayals include Kamen Riders Geiz, Cronus and Neo Alpha.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Zi-O

Kamen Rider Zi-O

Over the past 20 years the Kamen Riders have battled against the likes of the Grongi, Unknown, Fangire, Orphnoch, Greeed and so many more. They've been doctors, demon hunters, wizards and detectives. Some have journeyed through the decade and travelled through time, while others hail from parallel universes. But eventually all things come to an end, and as the curtain closes on the Heisei era a new one is about to begin. But before welcoming the Reiwa era with Kamen Rider Zero-One, Toei celebrated the longest consecutively-running period in Rider history with Kamen Rider Zi-O. As the 20th and final Heisei series Zi-O pays tribute to everything from Kamen Rider Kuuga all the way up to Kamen Rider Build, with plenty of guest stars and surprise developments to see the era off in style.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi


Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $20/£20

The 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series has become both a landmark and definitive piece of Star Wars fiction, but for many fans exposure to the franchise's great conflict came five years earlier with Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Despite only running for 25 episodes spanning around three hours in total runtime, the Emmy award winning series included many notable moments – including the proper debuts of both Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. Though it has mostly been wiped from official Star Wars canon, it remains a firm favourite amongst fans and its legacy continues with Hasbro's Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi. This figure depicts Obi-Wan in the outfit he wore in the show's first season, and is a Walgreens exclusive release in the US.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Victory


Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Now that the Ultraman S.H. Figuarts range is truly in full swing, it feels like anyone's guess as to what could come next. For many years the line seemed to simply follow the pattern of covering an older Showa era series each year along with what's currently airing, but now it's also begun digging back into other areas of the back catalogue with releases like Ultraman Zero, Ultraman Belial and Ultraman X. Now it comes one step closer to completing that New Generation Hero line up with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Victory. Like X this is a significant release as the character was previously denied an Ultra-Act release, debuting just as the line was winding down prior to the franchise's integration into S.H. Figuarts

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set


Release Date: August 2018
RRP: £16.99 

Even though the demand for Doctor Who toys seems to be at its lowest since the series relaunch and physical toy stores/aisles are on the decline, credit has to go to Character Options for doing their best to keep the brand alive. For the past few years they've teamed up with UK chain B&M Bargains to produce sets exclusive to their stores, mostly made up of repaints and retools from pre-existing moulds. One such set is the Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set, which looks back on the eras of the Third and Fourth Doctors. Included are the Fourth Doctor in his costume from The Talons of Weng Chiang, the Brigadier and a standard Auton as they appeared in Terror of the Autons.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Regenerated Fourth Doctor and TARDIS


Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £20

Despite being the longest-running science fiction franchise in the world, the Doctor Who toy line isn't in the best of states. What was once huge toy shop displays at the height of the 2005 relaunch is now a string of remoulds, repaints and the odd new head sculpt, with Character Options doing everything they can to keep the brand alive in the increasingly difficult market. These efforts led them to partnering with B&M Bargains to provide exclusive releases to their stores across the UK, including multi-figure packs and Doctor/TARDIS sets. Among the releases in early 2019 was the Fourth Doctor Regenerated and TARDIS set, chronicling Tom Baker's debut as the Doctor in the 1974 four part story Robot. This is the third version of a regenerated Fourth Doctor from Character, having previously been released as a single card figure and in the limited edition Fourth Doctor Time Capsule.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85


Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Avengers: Endgame marked the end for many aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we currently know it, but for many fans the main thing it'll be remembered for is its place as the final chapter in Tony Stark's story - the man who first shaped its origins way back in 2007's Iron Man. The character is not only the MCU's biggest star but also one of Bandai Tamashii Nations' biggest sellers in the S.H. Figuarts line, given the number of different suit variants the company has put out over the years. So when a number of characters were suddenly announced a few weeks prior to Endgame's cinema release, there was no doubt that the latest rendition of Iron Man was going to be among them. However S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85 was actually the last of these initial general sale Endgame Figuarts to be released, with a third version of the Infinity War Mk50 suit preceding it the month before.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Movie REVIEW: Ultraman R/B the Movie: Select! The Crystal of Bond


The annual team up movie is a tokusatsu staple no matter the franchise, and since the beginning of the New Generation Hero chapter in the Ultra Series it’s very much customary for the latest Ultra warrior to crossover with their closest predecessor. 2019 was the turn of Ultraman R/B, as the cast met with that of Ultraman Geed in Ultraman R/B the Movie: Select! The Crystal of Bond. As well as acting as an epilogue to R/B itself, this movie is the final piece in the Ultra Series to be released in the Heisei era - with Tsuburaya Productions off the Reiwa era in style a few months later with Ultraman Taiga.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: SDCC 2019 Exclusive Star Wars Black Series 6" Boba Fett (Toy Colours)


Release Date: July 2019 
RRP: $27 

San Diego Comic Con 2019 may have come and gone, but the various exclusives released at the event live on as both a reminder and potentially the bane in collectors’ wallets. Being one of the biggest toy lines out there Star Wars has had some pretty good exclusives over the years, and 2019 was no exception. 3.75” Vintage Collection fans had a both special prototype style Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker Jedi Destiny 3-pack to enjoy, while over in the 6” Black Series there was a sneak peek at The Rise of Skywalker with an early look at the Sith Trooper. But along with that was something some collectors have been lusting after for years, a special edition Boba Fett figure decked out in the colours of the original 1979 Kenner figure to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. Despite the colours of the toy eventually being revised the deco has remained a piece of Star Wars history, appearing on various bits of merchandise before finally being immortalised as part of the Black Series.

Wednesday, 31 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Boba Fett (Prototype Armor)


Release Date: 2014
RRP: $20

Boba Fett is living proof that all some characters need is a fantastic design. Despite not really doing all that much in the films themselves the notorious bounty hunter became one of most iconic designs in all of Star Wars, and his popularity has continued to grow through various spin-off media and, of course, numerous bits of merchandise. But did you know that originally Boba Fett wasn't envisioned as a bounty hunter, and instead proposed as a sort of Empire "Super Trooper". The story of Boba Fett from concept to screen is a pretty interesting one, and his initial all-white design has been immortalised in toy form several times over the years. With Fett being one of the earliest releases in the 6" Black Series back in 2013, it didn't take Hasbro long to take advantage of such an obvious repaint. One year later, the Star Wars Black Series 6" Boba Fett (Prototype Armor) arrived in the US exclusively at Walgreens stores.

Saturday, 27 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Captain America [Avengers: Endgame]


Release Date: May 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations have been pretty on the ball with their Marvel Cinematic Universe releases in the S.H. Figuarts line, and with a release as big as Avengers: Endgame it's no surprise to see how quickly they went all out. The film's release was followed by three months in a row of multiple new figures, and among them was of course a brand new version of America's ass himself. The Endgame edition of S.H. Figuarts Captain America released alongside Ronin and a second nano weapon set of the Iron Man Mark 50 armour in May, all of which were general retail figures.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Anime REVIEW: Shinkansen Robo Henkei Shinkalion

Shinkansen Robo Henkei Shinkalion

Every year there are dozens of anime series released whose main purpose is to sell toys. With these toys mainly limited to Japan, the shows rarely reach a worldwide audience (be it through streaming or otherwise) and many are simply forgotten about. There are however the ones that do that little bit extra and do get noticed across the globe, even if both the show and toys fail to officially make it out of Japan. Shinkansen Robo Henkei Shinkalion is the latest venture from TakaraTomy to expand their long-running PlaRail toy line, teaming up with the Japan Railways Group to create a transforming robot show deeply rooted in Japan's love for its rail system. The 76-episode series was animated by OLM, Inc., whose experience with merchandise-driven shows led to them to previously work with TakaraTomy on both the Zoids and Tomica Rescue Hero revivals.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Chopper (C1-10P)


Release Date: May 2019
RRP: £20/$20

It's taken a few years to get there but Star Wars fans are coming ever closer to having the complete main cast of Star Wars Rebels in six inch figure form, as the collector-orientated Black Series adds a further two characters to the range in its latest wave. Finally joining Kanan, Sabine and Hera are Ezra Bridger and the ill-tempered astromech droid Chopper, leaving only Zeb to round off the Ghost crew. A valuable member of the Spectre rebel cell, C1-10P participated in numerous raids and attacks on Imperial targets. Though a loyal and competent droid, his bad temper and argumentative attitude frequently meant he came to blows with his fellow crew members.

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Dyna Dragon & Gridman Sigma


Release Date: February 2019 
RRP: 6480 yen (Gridman Sigma & Dyna Dragon), 4860 yen (Dyna Dragon only)

The Bandai Super Mini-Pla line has shown itself to be fairly comprehensive in its series coverage thus far, so even though the Denkou Chojin Gridman range only received one retail wave there was no way they were going to stop there. But not only did Bandai offer the fans to pick up Super Mini-Pla Dyna Dragon through their Premium Bandai web store, but also went the extra mile to show just how extensive the line can be. In addition to a single release, Dyna Dragon was also released as part of a two-pack alongside Gridman Sigma - the proposed successor to the original Hyper Agent. As well as including the King Jet and Dyna Fighter/Dragonic Cannon Assist Weapons, this set also includes all the necessary parts to form the mighty King Gridman combination.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Anime REVIEW: One Punch Man Season 2

One Punch Man season 2
One Punch Man season 2 is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

Every so often a show rolls around which doesn't just strike a chord with existing anime fans, it also inexplicably has that extra spark that pulls newcomers into the fold as well. Attack on Titan was one of those series, and 2015's One Punch Man was another. All of a sudden a somewhat crude but distinctly drawn web comic became one of the hottest animated shows on television, making its mark on the superhero genre with stunning visuals and simple but effective comedy. However much like Titan it then disappeared for years, with fans having to turn to the web comic and manga remake as they continued to hope for a second season. Four years later and that time has finally come, as One Punch Man season 2 arrived to continue the adventures of Saitama for a further 12 episodes. Sadly director Shingo Natsume and studio Madhouse are out of the picture this time around, replaced by Chikara Sakurai and J.C. Staff.

Friday, 12 July 2019

First Impressions: Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV

Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV
Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

It's hard to think back and imagine a time without Symphogear. Ever since the first season Senki Zesshō Symphogear launched back in 2012 anime fans have been treated to multiple seasons of incredible action, over the top spectacle, catchy music and some of the best ass-kicking girls you'll find. However sadly all good things eventually come to an end, and it's with a heavy heart I write that its fifth season, Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV is supposedly its last. However judging by the franchise's ability to consistently one up itself, it's certainly likely to go out on a bang. As usual animation duties are handled by Macross -maestros Satelight, with music provided by composer group Elements Garden.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

First Impressions: Fire Force

Fire Force
Fire Force is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

If there's one thing I admire about anime and manga above anything else, it's how its creators can seemingly take any concept and turn it into something completely off the wall. 2019 seems to be the year of fire fighting, as Trigger take to the big screen with their Promare movie while on television screens Fire Force also makes its debut. Adapted from the manga series by Atsushi Ōkubo. (most famously known as the creator of Soul Eater), the series has already caught the attention of fans due to its impressive production staff – animated by David Production (JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, Cells At Work!) and directed by SHAFT regular Yuki Yase.

Monday, 8 July 2019

First Impressions: Ultraman Taiga

Ultraman Taiga

July has arrived once again as usual that signals the start of a brand new instalment in the Ultra Series, the first of which to be released in the Reiwa period. Ultraman Taiga is the 31st entry in the overall franchise as well as the seventh New Generation Hero series, a subset of Ultraman shows that began back with Ultraman Ginga in 2013. Ultraman Taiga introduces three new Ultra heroes in the form of Taiga, Titas and Fuma as well as containing several links to older shows. Ultraman Taiga is the son of Ultraman Taro (and thus the grandson of Father of Ultra) while his partners Titas and Fuma hail from the planets U40 (the home of Ultraman Joneus) and O-50 (the home of Orb, Rosso and Blu) respectively.

Sunday, 7 July 2019

First Impressions: Dr. Stone

Dr. Stone is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

A new season of anime shows is upon us once more, and many are touting this to be one of the strongest summer lineups in some time. Among the most talked about shows premiering in the next few weeks is Dr. Stone, the latest in a long line of Shonen Jump manga adaptations. Animated by TMS Entertainment, this post-apocalyptic adventure series written by Riichiro Inagaki pits science against nature and even comes complete with its own scientific consultant to ensure its science wizardry has an element of realism to it.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Simon


Release Date: May 2019
RRP: 5093 yen

Where the mighty Kamina goes, his bro is sure to follow. Good Smile Company continue their launch of new Gurren Lagann merchandise with the release of Nendoroid Simon, following on from Kamima's long-awaited debut in the line at the end of last year. With his release GSC have finally at the very least completed the core trio of the acclaimed Gainax series, with Nendoroid Yoko having come out all the way back in 2009. Speaking as an unashamed Nia fan Good Smile still have plenty left to do, but at the very least it's amazing to see not only the show getting some love 12 years after its release but also seeing the characters finally get figures they deserved long ago.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Anime REVIEW: Attack on Titan Season 3

Attack on Titan season 3
Attack on Titan season 3 is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

It was only a few years that you couldn't escape from Attack on Titan. The success of that first season reached excelled beyond that of an average anime series, reaching a far wider audience as everyone seemed to want to talk about it. Even after its 25-episode run Hajime Isayama's manga series continued, and the series was also adapted into two live-action films as well as a comedy spin-off. However the years continued to go by with no sign of a second season on the horizon, until that finally arrived four years later. Though fans' patience had finally been rewarded, a shortened 12-episode runtime made it feel like the Titan hype train was beginning to run out of steam. Thankfully Studio WIT has freed up its schedule to ensure the wait for the next season wasn't anywhere near as gruelling, with Attack on Titan season three arriving shortly afterward for a full 22 episodes. The first 12 episodes aired in the summer of 2018, with the remaining ten following in spring 2019.

Monday, 1 July 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Moderoid Gurren Lagann


Release Date: May 2019
RRP: 3981 yen

Why exactly it's taken Good Smile Company to properly jump on the Gurren Lagann bandwagon is uncertain, but for fans of Gainax's love letter to all things super robot now is a pretty good time when it comes to merchandising. GSC have reignited the franchise with new statues and Nendoroid figures, but on the strictly robot side of things have also churned out a surprise entry in their Moderoid line. This still relatively new line is GSC throwing their hat into the world of mecha model kits, with other entries currently including Mazinkaiser, Godmars, Strelizia from Darling in the Franxx and various E-series trains from Shinkansen Henkei Robo Shinkalion. Though model kits isn't strictly a new market for Good Smile Company it isn't one they're especially known for these days

Thursday, 27 June 2019

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Den-O

Kamen Rider Den-O

The Heisei era of Kamen Rider has produced a number of highly popular series over the years, but of all the success stories there's one that truly stands out amongst the rest. First airing back in 2007, Kamen Rider Den-O not only spawned a 49 episode series, anime spinoffs, seven direct movies (four of which released under their own "New Den-O" banner), as well as prominence in significant crossover productions like OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders and the first Super Hero Taisen. Its lead actor Takeru Satoh has gone on to have the most successful acting career of all the Heisei Kamen Riders, yet the popularity of the series allowed it to endure even when he was no longer able to continue to play the role. This of course made his surprise cameo in Heisei Generations FOREVER a particularly big deal. So what is it about Den-O that's made it so well loved? The series was written by tokusatsu veteran Yasuko Kobayashi (who's key writing works include Kamen Riders Ryuki, OOO and Amazons) and served as the eighth Heisei Kamen Rider series and 17th overall.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form)


Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 7560 yen 

In February 2008 Bandai Tamashii Nations first launched S.H. Figuarts, a toy line over the past 11 years has covered tokusatsu properties, anime, Hollywood movies and so much more. However its success and longevity is definitely mostly thanks to Kamen Rider, and in that time the line has released a substantial number of characters and forms from across the franchise's long history. But there's always been someone missing. 2008 was also the year Kamen Rider Kiva aired, and with the titular character's base form appearing in the Souchaku Henshin (something of a precursor to Figuarts) line he was initially omitted from release to make way for other characters. However as time went on and more and more Riders were released, Kiva remained absent. Fast forward to 2019, and S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form) has finally arrived. The final Heisei era Rider as well as lead Rider overall to be released, Kiva's release coincides with the 20 Rider Kicks anniversary celebration of 20 Heisei era series. For Figuarts collectors this is a monumental moment in the line's history, and a day many were beginning to thing was never going to come.

Monday, 24 June 2019

Anime REVIEW: Sarazanmai

Sarazanmai
Sarazanmai is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

If you're ever looking for anime that shows off just how wild the medium can get whilst also tackling a myriad of mature themes and subjects, then look no further than the works of Kunihiko Ikuhara. From his early days on Sailor Moon to creating Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum and Yurikuma Arashi, Ikuhara has garnered quite the reputation despite what seems like a relatively limited filmography. However in 2019 he returned with his latest creation - Sarazanmai. A joint production between studios MAPPA and Lapin Track, Sarzamanzai aired as part of Fuji TV's prestigious Noitamina programming block. Drawing heavily on Japan's kappa folklore at 11 episodes it is Ikuhara's shortest original work, but that doesn't make it any less heavy on the symbolism.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku


Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 6696 yen 

When Bandai Tamashii Nations first announced that they would be producing Star Wars figures in the S.H. Figuarts line, few probably expected that they'd pay quite as much attention to the prequel trilogy as they have so far. As it stands they've currently produced more Obi-Wan figures than they have Luke Skywalkers, and something from all three prequel films while still no releases whatsoever from The Empire Strikes Back. This however has led to the production of S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), a Tamashii web exclusive release of the Separatist leader and Sith Lord Darth Sidious' trusted apprentice throughout the Clone Wars. Curiously the figure is based on Dooku's appearance in Revenge of the Sith rather than Attack on the Clones (where he made a far more substantial appearance), but it's not the strangest choice the line's ever made. Alternatively, maybe Bandai were just eager to let fans recreate that iconic beheading scene…

Friday, 14 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Avengers Thanos [Avengers: Endgame]


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 9504 yen

Avengers: Infinity War was the biggest gathering of Marvel Comics heroes on the big screen there  had ever been, but for many it wasn't the good guys that came out of that film as the runaway hit. After being teased throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity War properly unleashed Thanos upon audiences, shocking them as he gathered the six Infinity Stones and succeeded in his mission to wipe out half of all life in the universe. With the first major chapter in the MCU coming to an end in Avengers: Endgame the Mad Titan returns once again, with Bandai Tamashii Nations immediately added him to their S.H. Figuarts line up. First announced at the beginning of April before being released a mere few weeks later, this new S.H. Figuarts Thanos depicts his appearance in Endgame - returning him to the armoured look he shed at the beginning of Infinity War.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Lord Zedd


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: £20/$20

The scarcity of villain figures has always been a problem for Power Rangers toy collectors, and arguably tokusatsu fans in general. Credit where its due Bandai of America's offerings have always been considerably more vast than what's on offer across the pond in Japan, but for a franchise with such a rich history of villain designs to choose from there was always the sense more could have been done. Now that Hasbro have taken control of Power Rangers and have kicked off both their Beast Morphers and collector-orientated Lightning Collection ranges, it's time to show they mean business. And what better way to show that than to kick off their first wave of figures with the most iconic exclusively Power Rangers villain - the Emperor of Evil himself, Lord Zedd. While far from Zedd's first toy, Bandai's previous offerings have always left much to be desired. Can the Lightning Collection Lord Zedd right these wrongs and finally give the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain the figure he truly deserves?

Monday, 10 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Ahsoka Tano


Release Date: Early 2016
RRP: £20/$20

Dave Filoni's additions to the Star Wars mythos through both the Clone Wars and Rebels series have been vast, but of all the characters those series have introduced one arguably stands out as the most significant. Introduced in the very first Star Wars: The Clone Wars "movie" as Anakin Skywalker's new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano battled through the Clone Wars before eventually leaving the Jedi Order and surviving Order 66. Following that she become an informant for the Rebellion under the alias Fulcrum, battling against her former master as Darth Vader and eventually witnessing the fall of the Galactic Empire. With that kind of legacy, it's no surprise Hasbro eventually chose her to become part of the Black Series line. Though rather than go for her more iconic Clone Wars appearance, the first 6" Star Wars Black Series Ahsoka Tano figure is based off her older Rebels look.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection SPD Shadow Ranger


Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: £20/$20 

Collector-orientated Power Rangers figures have been something of a sore point for some time now. Over in Japan Tamashii Nations' S.H. Figuarts range died a much-talked about death, and even when Bandai of America stepped up to the plate it was the same kind of disproportioned, minimally painted figures they offered in their standard ranges. But with Hasbro's surprised purchase of the franchise from Saban came hope, and now that hope has materialised in the form of the Power Rangers Lightning Collection! This 6" collectors' line is cut from the same stock as Hasbro's Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series figures, and will offer a range of characters from across the franchise's long and illustrious history. Among this first wave of figures are the Mighty Morphin White Ranger, Dino Charge Red Ranger, Lord Zedd and the subject of this review – the SPD Shadow Ranger. As a long demanded figure, especially in the wake of Tamashii Nations completing the core Power Rangers SPD (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger) team in the S.H. Figuarts line, the inclusion of Shadow Ranger was a sign that Hasbro planned to kick this line off with a bang.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 5940 yen

As had been the case with Ultraman Zero, S.H. Figuarts didn't immediately spring for the obvious when they release Ultraman Belial as part of their Ultraman Geed range in 2018. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial Atrocious was a great figure in its own right, but arguably not quite the version of the evil Ultra Warrior fans were clamouring to add to their collection. Now just a few months after Zero a new S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial has arrived – based on his standard appearance first seen back in 2009's Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends the Movie. After being banished from the Land of Light for attempting to steal the Plasma Spark, Belial was corrupted by the Alien Rayblood into an Ultra Reionics and sought revenge against the Ultras. He was eventually defeated by Zero, but has returned numerous times to face off against his rival – most recently "fathering" Ultraman Geed with his genetic material.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Kanan Jarrus


Release Date: Early 2016
RRP: £20/$20

If there's one thing the Star Wars franchise has never failed at it's been giving every character, no matter how small or insignificant their role may be, the opportunity to get a toy. And though admittedly Hasbro's Black Series line has been mostly preoccupied with characters from the various films, they haven't shied away from offering collectors something outside of those as well. The cast of Star Wars Rebels being rife for potential in its 6" scale, kicking things off with the Black Series 6" Kanan Jarrus figure. A Jedi Padawan who managed to escape the effects of Order 66, Kanan then joined Hera Syndulla's band of rebels aboard the Ghost – with their team becoming an integral part of the Rebel Alliance's early days.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ant-Man [Avengers: Endgame]


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 6264 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations are usually fairly content with releasing S.H. Figuarts months after a series has started or a character has made their onscreen debut, but for big cinema releases they've increasingly been rolling out figures to coincide with their initial release to capitalise on the hype. The massive hype behind Avengers: Endgame has seen the company pull out possibly their biggest turnaround yet, with not only all the figures being announced the same month as the film's release but also the first selection of them arriving a mere few weeks later. Among these initial releases is S.H. Figuarts Ant-Man, a character who despite being absent for Infinity War plays a key role the conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first ten years.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Galaxy Mega & Delta Mega


Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 6912 yen

Having the Super Mini-Pla line revisit the history of Super Sentai and breathe new life into older designs with modern, articulated model kits is one thing. But the fact there's no clear pattern to what's coming next makes these releases all the more exciting. After wowing collectors with Muteki Shogun and Kakure Daishogun at the end of last year, Bandai have decided to jump forward a few years next to 1998 and Denji Sentai Megaranger. Even better is that they've made this a double release, with Super Mini-Pla Galaxy Mega & Delta Mega coming together in one retail-release set – giving buyers the opportunity to own Super Galaxy Mega right off the bat. Power Rangers fans will also know these two as the Astro and Delta Megazords from Power Rangers in Space.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Like many Japanese shows Kamen Rider has been known to put out some great April Fools' jokes over the years, but no matter how great they'd be as a real thing they usually stay as just that – a joke. However clearly the power of Kamen Rider Drive shouldn't be underestimated, as the 2017 joke has now become reality with the release of Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain. Originally "teased" to be coming out in 2035, this two-part Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club exclusive fulfils the Rodimude's comment about eventually becoming a Rider himself at the end of Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Heart as well as technically making him both the last of the Heisei era Kamen Riders and the first Reiwa era Rider.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

An end of an era deserves a proper send-off, and after 20 series' worth of memories it's finally time to say goodbye to the Heisei era of Kamen Rider. After hastily jumping the gun titling the previous film Heisei Generations FINAL, Toei have decided to round off the Heisei Generations trilogy of films with the more inspiring sounding Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER. Like the previous films in the series the film serves as a crossover between both the current and preceding Riders, in this case Kamen Rider Zi-O and Kamen Rider Build. However as part of the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration it also includes appearances from all 20 Heisei era Riders, with particular reference to Kamen Rider Kuuga, Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider W.

(This post is also part of a cross-promotion with Tokunation.com - please visit the site and discuss your thoughts on the movie at the dedicated discussion thread there!)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

The Super Sentai summer movie is a funny little event. Though the films are rarely long enough to be the dramatic action pieces Kamen Rider summer movies strive to be, they are an opportunity to break away from the main story and have a little fun with the setting and/or characters. For Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film Toei saw an opportunity to stretch the Arsene Lupin references even further, as the two teams meet 'Herlock Sholmes' – a detective that battled wits with the legendary thief in Maurice Leblanc's original novels. This film was released as part of the usual Super Sentai/Kamen Rider double bill alongside Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Geiz


Release Date: March 2019 
RRP: 5400 yen

When an evil overlord of time threatens the future, a brave resistance fighter from the year 2068 travels back in time to prevent his rise to power. That might be the reason that Geiz Myokoin travelled back to the year 2018, but it wasn't long before he realised that the Sougo Tokiwa he has encountered in the past couldn't possibly become the Oma Zi-O he knows from the future. Not wanting to slouch on the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration of 20 years (and the end) of Heisei era Kamen Rider, Bandai Tamashii Nations have quickly followed Kamen Rider Zi-O with the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Geiz. Both the second general retail item from the Zi-O series and the second release from the series overall, Kamen Rider Geiz is an ideal companion piece to the 20th Heisei Kamen Rider.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi

Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi

Celebrating 20 series of Heisei era Kamen Rider is one thing, but Kamen Rider Zi-O definitely has some lofty goals when started playing around with the future of the franchise as well. But even though the future Riders of the years 2022, 2040 and 2121 certainly won't be getting series of their very own when the time comes, conceptually they're just too good to simply be relegated to one-off appearances. Clearly Toei felt the same, as Kamen Rider Shinobi returned in a three-part miniseries exclusive to the Toei Tokusatsu Fan ClubRider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi. The miniseries sees Hideya Tawada (Ninninger's Kinji Takigawa/Star Ninger) reprise his role as the titular Kamen Rider, as Lupinranger vs Patranger writer Kaori Kaneko introduces us properly to his own time.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Samurai Taisho Darth Vader


Release Date: December 2014, November 2016 (Reissue)
RRP: 9504 yen

Though its scope is much more limited and releases much fewer than other Bandai Tamashii Nations toy lines, it didn't take long for the Meisho Movie Realization line to mark itself as one to look out for. There are dozens of companies out there making Star Wars figures, but ones reimagined as if they walked straight out of feudal Japan? It's amazing that it took this long for a toy company to think of it. This line is to Star Wars what Super Imaginative Chogokin is to Kamen Rider, and just like SIC some of the ideas they come up with are nothing short of ingenious. Designed by Takayuki Takeya and sculpted by Junichi Taniguchi, Meisho Movie Realization Samurai Taisho Darth Vader is the one the one that started it all.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Everyone should know by now that the end of Kamen Rider series is never the last we see of its characters. Besides the various crossover movies that will keep bringing back characters for years to come, for the past five years or so each series has consistently received one or more V-cinema sequels focusing on some of the other Riders that appeared. That trend has followed through to Kamen Rider Build, which puts the spotlight on fan-favourite Ryuga Banjou in Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z. The film enjoyed a brief theatrical release at the beginning of 2019 before arriving on Blu-Ray a few months later, with a special edition bundled with Cross-Z's new Muscle Galaxy Fullbottle.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O


Release Date: February 2019 
RRP: 3240 yen

It's not just a 20th anniversary celebration for the Kamen Rider franchise, it's the end of an era. With this series we say goodbye to the Heisei era that began with Kamen Rider Kuuga back in 2001, and usher in a new era as the Reiwa period begins in Japan on May 1st. It's only fitting that Kamen Rider go out on a high, and between the time travelling antics and Rider alumni returning for Kamen Rider Zi-O it's fair to say it's doing just that. Bandai Tamashii Nations are also getting in on the celebration, most notably of all finally release Kamen Rider Kiva to complete the Heisei line up but also a number of other S.H. Figuarts releases in and around the final Heisei series. Kicking off with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O himself.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Anime REVIEW: Ace Attorney Season 2

Ace Attorney Season 2
Ace Attorney is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

When compared to the numerous other video game anime adaptations that have come and gone over the years, Ace Attorney (or to those in Japan, Gyakuten Saiban) fared surprisingly well. Though at its best it was merely a "serviceable but not stand out" adaptation of the first two games in Capcom's beloved legal drama visual novel series, it didn't miss the mark like so many others have in the past. It also must have done fairly well because two years later and its back for a second season. Phoenix, Miles, Maya and the rest of the gang are all back for another 23 episodes from Cloverworks (who have now parted ways with A-1 Pictures), with this season dedicated to the third game in the Ace Attorney series – Trials and Tribulations.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" General Grievous


Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £30/$30 

Releasing a toy line at a single price point is a great idea when it comes to affordability, but it does beg the question of what you do when certainly characters don't quite fit into that fairly rigid mould. The Star Wars universe features characters of all shapes and sizes, many of whom wouldn't be done justice at the standard price point of the 6 inch Black Series line. But rather than go all Marvel Legends on collectors and introduce a build-a-figure to each wave, Hasbro have instead introduced a new "deluxe" range of Black Series figures – ones that can have the size, materials and price point they need to do them properly. Kicking off this new range is a character that's been on many collectors' want lists for some time now – the Separatist droid general and feared Jedi hunter General Grievous. Despite Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith being his sole movie appearance, Grievous' popularity also stems from his appearances in the two Clone Wars animated series as well as various other bits of expanded tie-in media.