Monday, 25 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Cross-Z Magma

Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Once upon a time the thought of a secondary Kamen Rider getting more figures than the lead character was unthinkable, but if the last two years have proved anything its that just because your name is the title of the series it doesn't mean your the most marketable character. Just as Bandai Tamashii Nations have produced more Kamen Rider Genm figures in the S.H. Figuarts line than they have Ex-Aid, it's Kamen Rider Cross-Z that seems to be enjoying the most releases from Kamen Rider Build. With the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Cross-Z Magma at the beginning of this year, all four of Ryuga Banjou's main in-series forms have been released in the line. Admittedly all of them with the exception of Cross-Z Charge have been Tamashii web exclusives, but since that's the way most things seem to get released these days that's still a pretty impressive track record.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

First Impressions: Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger

If there's one thing Toei feel they can always rely on to save the Super Sentai franchise when it's in a pinch, it's dinosaurs. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger was there to raise toy sales after Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters failed to meet expectations, and now after Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger struggled to leave a mark they're hoping that Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger will do the same. Ryusoulger will be the fourth series in the franchise to utilise a dinosaur motif, and the 43rd entry in the franchise overall. Ryusoul Black and Ryusoul Green previously made cameo appearances in the four part Super Sentai Strongest Battle special, which bridged the gap between this series and its predecessor.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Super Sentai Strongest Battle

After running consecutively for over 40 years, it isn't all that surprising that the release pattern for Super Sentai has become fairly predictable by now. So when Toei do decide to do something that deviates from the norm, it feels like a pretty big deal. The first big shock of 2019 was from the news that Kaito Sentai Lupinranger vs. Keisatsu Sentai Patranger wouldn't immediately be followed with Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, but rather a four part crossover special celebrating the legacy of Super Sentai. Super Sentai Strongest Battle (aka Super Sentai Saikyo Battle) brings together previous cast members in an all-out battle royale, as well as featuring the debut appearance of the fourth dinosaur Sentai team.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

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

Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 7020 yen

Though it often feels sidelined due to its mid-series retooling or simply how different it feels to the other Heisei era Kamen Rider shows, it's nice to see Kamen Rider Hibiki getting the love it deserves as far as the S.H. Figuarts line is concerned. It's crazy to think that nearly five years have passed since Bandai Tamashii Nations released the titular Rider as part of the Shinkocchou Seihou line, but in their usual display of "better late than never" 2019 will be the year the show's core line up will be completed in figure form. Last summer saw the release of Kamen Rider Ibuki, and now Bandai are kicking off the new year with the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Todoroki. As was the case with Ibuki this is another Tamashii web exclusive release, and as you can probably guess Kamen Rider Zanki will be following in similar fashion in the coming months.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: NECA Bride of Chucky Ultimate Chucky & Tiffany

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: $58.99

It's no secret that the Child's Play/Chucky series is my all-time favourite horror franchise, and while NECA's Ultimate Chucky figure from 2017 certainly scratched my itch for a good quality action figure, I was still left wanting more. Because as great as the original Child's Play films are, my all-time favourite instalment in the series is 1998's Bride of Chucky. It's completely trashy and its follow-up film is something that should never be spoken of again, but damn is it a fun movie. So I was ecstatic to hear that NECA would be continuing their popular toy line with a Bride of Chucky Ultimate Chucky & Tiffany 2-pack – bringing the Lakeshore Strangler's murder-fetish girlfriend into the fold alongside a new version of Chucky that reflects the major changes to his design brought about in the film.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

First Impressions: Power Rangers Beast Morphers

Power Rangers Beast Morphers

After shaking the Power Rangers fandom with the news last year that the franchise would be leaving the hands of both Saban and Bandai of America and joining the Hasbro family, the true dawn of the Hasbro Era is finally upon us. This fourth chapter in Power Rangers history kicks off with Power Rangers Beast Morphers, a show that becomes even more interesting when you consider the Super Sentai series it was adapted from. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters was originally released all the way back in 2012, having previously been skipped over following the completion of Power Rangers Super Megaforce in favour of the supposedly more marketable Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger (Power Rangers Dino Charge). But given that Go-Busters features transforming (in addition to combining) mecha as part of the teams arsenal, Beast Morphers seems like the perfect series for Hasbro to kick off their Power Rangers tenure.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Series REVIEW: Kami no Kiba: Jinga

Kami no Kiba: Jinga

Masahiro Inoue may have made his name among tokusatsu fans as the lovably dickish Tsukasa Kadoya in Kamen Rider Decade, but in the last few years he's been making just as a big of an impact as part of GARO as well. First appearing in Gold Storm -Sho- back in 2015 and then returning once two years later in Kami no Kiba, the Makai Knight turned Horror Jinga has gone on to become not only Ryuga Dougai's recurring rival but also one of the most engaging villains in the whole franchise. A character who was just perfect for a spin-off of his very own, and in Kami no Kiba: Jinga (Fang of God: Jinga) he finally has just that. But exploring Jinga's history as a Makai Knight prior to his son's death and fall to darkness would be too easy, as this 13-episode series takes a much more interesting approach to expanding the character.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Blu Aqua

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 5400 yen

When you're marketing a superhero series that has two co-leads, the worst thing you can do is not release both characters at the same time. Clearly Bandai Tamashii Nations recognised this when they moved onto releasing figures from Ultraman R/B, with S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Blu Aqua arriving the same time as his big brother Ultraman Rosso Flame. Just why exactly these couldn't have been released as a two-pack I don't know (since not many people are going to be buying one without the other), but I guess that's just not the way Bandai roll anymore. Still, to get both figures before 2018 was out and on the same month no less is some pretty timely manufacturing on Bandai's part for sure.

(As this figure is largely identical to S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso outside of sculpting and colours, this review will be mostly identical with changes only made where appropriate)

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 5400 yen

One of the biggest woes of being an S.H. Figuarts collector is seeing a cool design on a brand new show and knowing that you probably won't see a figure of it for months - and in many cases long after the series has come and gone. But in recent years Bandai Tamashii Nations have gotten better and better at releasing figures closer to the times the shows are airing, and as far as the Ultra Series goes they've got the closest they've been yet with Ultraman R/B. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame arrived a mere week before the series finale aired in Japan, with his brother Ultraman Blu Aqua also releasing on the same date. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Series REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

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

Friday, 15 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 8100 yen

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Jango Fett

Release Date: October 2017
RRP: 9504 yen

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

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

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

Release Date: April 2018 
RRP: 6480 yen 

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

Thursday, 31 January 2019

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

Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One

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

Saturday, 26 January 2019

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

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

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

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Gudon

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

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

Friday, 18 January 2019

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

Release Date: Early 2018
RRP: £20/$20

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Kamina Review

Release Date: November 2018 
RRP: 4444 yen

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

Sunday, 13 January 2019

SERIES Review: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2 - Sword Seekers

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

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

Friday, 11 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 7884 yen

With figure construction and engineering having come leaps and bounds in the ten years the S.H. Figuarts line has been around, it's natural that some Kamen Rider figures are looking a little dated compared to newer releases. While arguably all the pre-Gaim figures could do with some sort of modern update (if they haven't received one already), there are few more sorry cases than that of Kamen Rider Wizard. The original toy was released in 2013 so wasn't even that old compared to some figures, but despite boasting an impressive accessory count was plagued by structural issues (i.e. it constantly fell apart) and off proportions. However five years later and Haruto Soma is finally getting the justice he deserves, with the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Figure Complex Amazing Yamaguchi Spider-Gwen

Release Date: June 2017
RRP: 5900 yen

Between Infinity War, Venom, the Playstation 4 game and of course Into the Spider-Verse, 2018 was truly the year of Spider-Man. My enjoyment of that last release in particular found me wanting to go back and pick up some of the Spidey figures I've missed over the years, and Figure Complex (aka Revoltech)'s Amazing Yamaguchi Spider-Gwen seemed like the perfect place to start. Parallel universes have always been my absolute favourite sci-fi trope, and from what I've read of the Spider-Gwen comic the writers have done an excellent job of twisting pre-established Marvel characters into something new and exciting. Both the comic and her design itself have proved exceedingly popular, and between her appearances in both Into the Spider-Verse and Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors it seems Spider-Gwen's popularity will just continue to rise.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Anime REVIEW: SSSS.Gridman

SSSS.Gridman is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

As completely different mediums the worlds of tokusatsu and animation rarely properly collide, but whenever they have in the past it's usually turned out to be something special. Whether it's the anime adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori's original Kikaider manga, the recent expansion of the GARO mythos, the wonderfully weird Kamen Rider SD or even the various Ultraman animated attempts you're usually in for an interesting ride. 2018 saw Tsuburaya Productions announce a number of new animated projects, including an adaptation of the ongoing Ultraman manga due for release on Netflix later this year. But much bigger news was their plans with studio Trigger, as they prepared to bring back the Hyper Agent himself - Denkou Chojin Gridman. Directed by Akira Amemiya and written by tokusatsu veteran Keiichi Hasegawa (head writer on Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Nexus, among many other works), SSSS.Gridman breathed new life in the 1993 hero as well as introducing him to a brand new audience.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Zero

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 9990 yen

While S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo may have taken a whole four years to go from its initial Tamashii Nation event reveal to becoming a reality, Bandai Tamashii Nations were much quicker at following it up with another high quality GARO release. Why settle for just the Golden Knight when you can have the Silver Fanged Knight too? Rei Suzumura has arrived as the second non-Kamen Rider release for Figuarts' premium offshoot - S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Zero. Coming seven years after the release of the original Zero Figuart, this new edition follows in its footsteps as a Tamashii web exclusive. It's also one of the pricier standard sized Figuarts on the market too, originally selling for the same 9990 yen price tag as Garo himself.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who 2018 New Year's Day Special - Resolution

2018's series of Doctor Who has been all about breaking traditions. We've had a female Doctor, no returning monsters for the entire season and now it seems even the annual Christmas episode is no more. At least for the now anyway, as this year it was replaced by a special New Year's Day episode instead. Given that it's already been announced that the next full series won't be landing until 2020, Resolution could quite possibly be the only Doctor Who for the year so it had quite a lot to live up to. Written by show runner Chris Chibnall and directed by Wayne Yip, Resolution also welcomes the return of a familiar old foe.