Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Black Widow (Black Widow Ver.)

SH Figuarts Black Widow (Solo Movie) 01

Release Date: June 2020
RRP: 6000 yen

Among all the key characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the one who’s had the most unfortunate time of things is undoubtedly Black Widow. First came her troubled subplot in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then came her rather unceremonious death in Avengers: Endgame and now after years of being denied one, her upcoming solo movie has been delayed indefinitely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the wheels of Hollywood may have stopped turning the merchandising game certainly hasn’t, with both Hasbro and Bandai Tamashii Nations having both put out their Black Widow movie offerings at the time of film’s originally proposed May 2020 release date. S.H. Figuarts Black Widow may come only a short time after the release of the Endgame version, but given her absence from the film’s final battle this general release figure fits in pretty well with Tamashii’s current slew of re-released characters. Whilst Hasbro have been fairly thorough with their Marvel Legends wave, this version of Widow and Taskmaster are currently the only characters released on the Bandai side of things.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts The Mandalorian

S.H. Figuarts The Mandalorian 01

Release Date: May 2020
RRP: 6000 yen

Compared to the more mixed reaction to the sequel trilogy The Mandalorian has become the first Star Wars franchise’s new golden goose, so it’s no surprise to see toy companies making the most out of the lucrative Disney+ series. Bandai Tamashii Nations have solidified their Star Wars range as a key part of the S.H. Figuarts brand, and now that only continues to expand with the release of S.H. Figuarts The Mandalorian. The first of what will likely be many releases from the series, this figure features the bounty hunter Din Djarin is his initial armour.

Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Anime REVIEW: Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise

Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise
Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll and YouTube

While the model kits have always been a huge part of Gundam culture, the arrival of Gundam Build Fighters in 2013 truly went and made them a significant Gundam multimedia. Sure there had been anime specials based on gunpla before, but this loving tribute to the hobby won the hearts of fans worldwide and ensured a whole string of gunpla-based sequels. Next came Gundam Build Fighters Try in 2016, followed by Gundam Build Divers in 2018. Finally we return to the virtual reality MMO of Gunpla Battle Nexus Online in Gundam Build Divers Re:Rise - a direct sequel to the previous show starring an all-new cast. Despite beginning in October 2019, the 26-episode series ended in August 2020 - owing not only to a one-cour break between its two halves but also a two month delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Captain Marvel (Avengers: Endgame)

SH Figuarts Captain Marvel (Avengers Endgame) 01

Release Date: June 2020
RRP: 7000 yen

Avengers: Endgame provided Marvel Cinematic Universe fans with the largest assembly of Marvel heroes on screen yet, and it's no surprise to see that Bandai Tamashii Nations are largely going the same way with their S.H. Figuarts releases as well. In fact so much so that they're also currently doubling up on the main cast members with "final battle" editions with decos and parts more accurate to the film itself (since a lot of the original releases were presumably based off of concept art). There's still plenty of gaps though, with one being filled with the release of S.H. Figuarts Captain Marvel (Avengers: Endgame)! The second S.H. Figuarts release of Carol Danvers, this Tamashii web exclusive release is based on her new costume and appearance following the film's five year time skip – notably appearing at the end of the film to help the Avengers' last stand against Thanos' forces.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who "The Jungles of Mechanus" Dalek Set

Doctor Who 'The Jungles of Mechanus' Dalek Set 01

Release Date: September 2020
RRP: £24.99

Between a wave of new modern series releases and their current slate of B&M exclusives Character Options have really impressed Doctor Who toy collectors with their 2020 offerings, but I don’t think anyone was fully expecting what they’ve pulled out for their latest Character online store exclusive. The 1965 story The Chase featured a number of Daleks not native to the television production, and were in fact borrowed from the forthcoming Dr. Who and the Daleks - a colourful movie adaptation of the first Dalek story. Though they originally appeared in the story sans fender and with smaller lamps as “Guard Daleks”, the final episode featured blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameos of them in their full movie glory. And it’s because of this technicality, that Character have been able to release The Jungles of Mechanus exclusive Dalek set - 2-pack of colourful and unique Daleks that definitely appeared in The Chase and aren’t in any way simply movie Daleks. Really, who could have seen that coming?

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

First Impressions: Kamen Rider Saber

Kamen Rider Saber

With Kamen Rider gearing up to celebrate its 50th anniversary next year and seemingly a harder push to bring previous shows and merchandise to North America (there'll be none of that "the West" business here), now seems to be a particularly pivotal time for the franchise as a whole. Although Kamen Rider Zero-One faced some difficulties during its final stretch thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the wheels at Toei keep on turning and now it's time to introduce the second Kamen Rider of the Reiwa era. Kamen Rider Saber is the 31st series in the franchise overall, joining Mashin Sentai Kiramager in the current Super Hero Time line up. The show is being written by Takuro Fukuda (Kamen Rider Ghost), and directed by longtime Rider director Takayuki Shibasaki. Saber also sees a changeover in the lead suit actor once again, with the mantle now being passed on to Kosuke Asai - whose credits include Zyuoh Eagle, Ninnin Red, Lupin Red, Kamen Rider Cronus and most recently Kamen Rider Vulcan.

Sunday, 6 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Kit Fisto

Star Wars Black Series Kit Fisto 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

The Star Wars Black Series has been showing a great deal of prequels love in recent waves, so it's about time that Hasbro filled out the ranks of the Jedi Council a little bit more. Joining Plo Koon in one of the most recent wave of releases is the Nautolan Jedi Master Kit Fisto, who appeared during the Battle of Geonosis in Attack of the Clones before being struck down by Darth Sidious in Revenge of the Sith. Fisto also appeared in both the 2d animated and CGI Clone Wars series, with both depictions helping making him a firm fan favourite.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Zero-One

Kamen Rider Zero-One

2019 saw the dawning of a new era for Kamen Rider, as after 20 series we said goodbye to the Heisei era with Kamen Rider Zi-O and welcomed in the Reiwa era. Though not as monumental as the franchise returning to television screens after a long absence with Kuuga in 2000, nevertheless there was plenty of speculation on what changes Kamen Rider Zero-One may bring to the table. Written by Yuya Takahashi (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Kamen Rider Amazons: The Last Judgement) and directed by Teruaki Sugihara (Lupinranger vs Patranger), Zero-One ran for a total of 45 numbered episodes, with five additional clip episodes produced during a hiatus brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

Custom Figure: ‘The Curse of the Daleks’ Supreme Dalek

Custom Curse of the Daleks Supreme Dalek 01

Back in 2015 in my Ultimate Adventure custom Dalek post I foolishly said that I wished The Curse of the Daleks had its own unique Dalek variant so that I could make customs from all three Doctor Who stage plays. This was actually incorrect, as Curse of the Daleks did indeed have its own unique variant - a black Supreme Dalek using the same body as the original 1963 Daleks. So, having an abundance of these Daleks at my fingertips thanks to the release of the B&M History of the Daleks sets, I set about finally filling this gap in my collection.

Monday, 31 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Vulcan Shooting Wolf

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Vulcan Shooting Wolf 01

Release Date: April 2020
RRP: 5500 yen

Kamen Rider Zero-One has already kicked the Reiwa era off with a plethora of Riders to choose from, but in typical Bandai Tamashii Nations fashion it’s inevitable that most of the will end up as Tamashii web exclusives. Other than Zero-One himself, so far only one Rider has managed to escape this fate. S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Vulcan Shooting Wolf is the second of the Zero-One releases in the line so far, and sees the figures returning to their standard pricing after Zero-One’s low price incentive. Debuting in the show as the captain of A.I.M.S., Isamu Fuwa had a hatred and vendetta against all Humagears. But as he began to spend more time with Aruto Hiden and saw how he fought for them, Fuwa was taken on a path of self-growth that lead him to chase a new dream.

Friday, 28 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Ranger Slayer

Power Rangers Lightning Collection Ranger Slayer 01

Release Date: June 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

While the Power Rangers Lightning Collection might have over 25 years' worth of television content to draw from, in the last few years the Boom! Studios comic universe has also developed quite the repertoire of original characters. Hasbro quickly showed an interest with the release of Lord Drakkon in wave three, but given Tommy's popularity (not to mention the need to truly stick it to Bandai of America) that seemed a given. It was where the line went next in regards to the comics that was really going to show how dedicated Hasbro are, and collectors didn't have too long to wait for the release of the Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Ranger Slayer in wave five. Another denizen of the World of the Coinless introduced in Shattered Grid, the Ranger Slayer is an alternate version of Pink Ranger Kimberly Hart – brainwashed to serve as Drakkon's enforcer. After breaking free of Drakkon's control, the Ranger Slayer has since gone on to lead a ground of time-displaced Rangers in Beyond the Grid, as well as most recently returning to her home dimension in an attempt to finally restore peace.

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Anime REVIEW: BNA: Brand New Animal

BNA: Brand New Animal
BNA: Brand New Animal is available in streaming form on Netflix

Between the successes of Kill la KillLittle Witch Academia, SSSS.Gridman and most recently Promare, it seems as though studio Trigger can do nothing wrong. Their combination of mesmerising animation and easy to follow social commentary has gone down a treat with anime fans, leading them to be a studio where everyone is excited to see what they have planned next. Their latest offering comes as part of Netflix's ever-growing "Netflix original anime" lineup, taking viewers to a world of anthropomorphic animals in BNA: Brand New Animals. Written by Kazuki Nakashima (Gurren LagannKill la KillKamen Rider Fouze) and directed by Yoh Yoshinari (Little Witch Academia), BNA comes hot on the heels of BEASTARS - another Netflix-fronted anime starring anthropomorphic animals. Could this be the furry revolution that we all saw coming?

Monday, 24 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Putty Patrollers

Power Rangers Lightning Collection Putty Patrollers 01

Release Date: August 2020
RRP: $29.99/£29.99

While the Power Rangers Lightning Collection might be fairly lacking on the villain side right now, at least Hasbro are getting some of the more obvious ones out of the way quickly. And if “Monster of the Week” figures are off the table right now, there’s nothing like a good army builder to swell up those ranks - and what better army builder than the original Mighty Morphin Putty Patroller? While first released as a set with the Fighting Spirit Green Ranger, the Putties are now returning to the line as a Hasbro Pulse exclusive two-pack, giving collectors the chance to pick up two at a slightly discounted price.

Friday, 21 August 2020

Custom Figure: 2015 Skaro Dalek

2015 Skaro Dalek Custom 01

While the classic Dalek design has managed to make it back for a few new Doctor Who episodes, it's fair to say that the 2005 update truly rules the roost in terms of default design these days. However there was one particular variant of the classic casing that proved quite favourable with fans, so much so that it's surprising that Character Options have done an official figure themselves as part of their ongoing toy line. I'm talking of course about the 2015 Skaro Dalek, which appeared in the series nine premiere two-part story The Magician's Apprentice and The Witch's Familiar. Taking the Doctor, Clara and Missy back to the Daleks' home planet of Skaro, the twelfth Doctor crosses paths with a dying Davros in a city filled with Dalek variants from across the years. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Series REVIEW: Dogengers

Dogengers

Local heroes are a huge part of Japan's superhero scene. From heroes that act on behalf of a specific company to heroes that represent cities or prefectures, these mascots are beloved across Japan - educating children and proving that being a hero goes beyond just what you see on television. Unfortunately they're also something many Western tokusatsu fans ever get a glimpse at. Even if you go beyond the obvious language barriers, the clue is in the name - many of these heroes act locally and thus their exploits are rarely seen on wider scale. However this year the various heroes of Fukuoka came together for Dogengers - a 12-episode crossover series which has quickly gained a cult following. The series was created with the intention of promoting "good health and wellbeing" and directed by Fumie Arakawa - notable for being the first ever woman director in tokusatsu, having worked on a number of Super Sentai series as well as last year's fan-favourite Tokusatsu Gagaga. The heroes featured in the series are Kitakyushu City's KitaQman, Ohga Pharmacy's Ohgaman, Yamashiro Gas' Yamashiron, the hero of Tengen El Brave and Fukuokalibur. Dogengers takes its name from "dogen", a phrase in the Hakata dialect similar to that of "y'all".

Monday, 17 August 2020

Custom Figure: TV21 Comics Dalek Drone

Custom TV21 Dalek Drone 01

Anyone who’s been following this blog will know I’m a HUGE fan of the Dalek comics printed in the pages of TV Century 21 (later simply TV21) during the 1960s and republished as The Dalek Chronicles. I’ve done a few custom figures over the past few years, even managing to source one of the rare Golden Emperor model kit. But with figures of the original 1963 proving quite pricey on the aftermarket, making any more has felt like a pipe dream. That is until Character Options announced the B&M Stores exclusive History of the Daleks sets. With the figures now back on the market, it’s time to fill up the ranks with a couple of Dalek drones. After all, you can’t have a proper Dalek hierarchy if you don’t have the ones at the bottom.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: GI Joe Classified Series Destro

GI Joe Classified Series Destro 01

Release Date: April 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

Hasbro’s
continuing expansion of its six-inch figure lines continues with the return of one of its most iconic properties - GI Joe! Whilst as a British person who grew up in the 90s I may not have experienced the popularity of the franchise in the same way America or other parts of the world did, its reputation and legacy shouldn’t be understated. But then neither should the fact that GI Joe has definitely fallen on hard times in recent years, likely due to the middling response to the two live-action movies. Now in 2020 Hasbro are ready to try once more on both the classic 3.75 and 6” fronts - the latter debuting in the new GI Joe Classified Series line. Among its first wave are operatives from both the heroic Joes and the terrorist organisation Cobra, including the Scottish arms dealer James McCullen Destro XXIV, better known as simply Destro. Through M.A.R.S. (Military Armament Research Syndicate), Destro maintains a steady alliance with Cobra in order to reap the profits of war - however he’s also not adverse to turning against them if it’s better for business.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Plo Koon

Star Wars Black Series Plo Koon 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

There once was a time where pretty much any Star Wars character, regardless of screen time, was guaranteed an action figure. These days this is far from the case even in the beloved 3.75" lines, let alone 6" collector series lines like The Black Series. There even staple characters can take years to be released - the line began all the way back in 2013 but it took until 2020 to get a Count Dooku. Among some of the other Prequel Era characters just begging for release are the Jedi Council members, many of whom appeared in the films themselves but had their popularity cemented through Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Now Hasbro have finally begun to answer collectors' prayers with their latest wave of figures, featuring two prominent members of the council (that aren't Yoda or Mace Windu). The first of these characters is Plo Koon, the Jedi Master recognisable by the antitox mask he wears over his mouth and eyes. In The Clone Wars series, he was notable for working alongside Clone Commander Wolffe and the Wolf Pack Squad, as well as being the Jedi Master that discovered a young Ahsoka Tano.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who History of the Daleks #2 Set

History of the Daleks Set #2 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: £19.99

After the release of The Daleks in 1963, the UK quickly entered the phase Doctor Who fans affectionately know as Dalekmania. Given their popularity it's no surprise that the BBC quickly made plans for a follow up in the show's second series. That of course is 1964's The Dalek Invasion of Earth, a six-part story that truly cemented the Daleks' place in the series. The story is also notable for being the first Doctor Who serial to make extensive use of location filming, as well as being the last appearance of companion Susan Foreman. Now The Dalek Invasion of Earth is being celebrated by Character Options in their second History of The Daleks set, released as part of the 2020 B&M store exclusive assortment. This set features both a standard silver Dalek and the black Supreme Dalek as they appeared in the story, complete with enlarged fenders and energy collection discs on their backs.

Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who History of the Daleks #1 Set

History of the Daleks Set #1 01

Release Date:
July 2020
RRP: £19.99

Doctor Who toys took a huge step toward recapturing their former glory last year, as the now (for the most part anyway) B&M Stores exclusive range of figures from Character Options debuted a number of new figures that included both brand new characters and designs based on the Big Finish audios. While the figures are still mostly retools and repaints, the level of ingenuity going into them to create what feel like all-new pieces boded well for the future. The line has returned for a new assortment in 2020, and that faith was certainly not misplaced. Among a range of three-packs covering both the classic and modern series, the Daleks have also made a grand return in the form of new two-packs that chronicle their evolution across Doctor Who. History of the Daleks #1 takes us all the way back to 1963 with their debut story The Daleks, with a pair of the ruthless aliens in the original livery.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Sun Vulcan Robo

Super Mini-Pla Sun Vulcan Robo 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: 5720 yen

1981’s Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan is notable for a number of different reasons. It is currently the only Super Sentai series to be a direct sequel to its predecessor, as well as the only team to be entirely comprised of men. But from a merchandise perspective it also added a significant staple to the franchise - a combining robot. Mecha had been a part of Sentai since Battle Fever J, but it wasn’t until Sun Vulcan that they were made of multiple vehicle components. Now Sun Vulcan Robo, the first combining Super Sentai robot, has joined Bandai’s Super Mini-Pla range - the model kit line that’s quickly become home to updates of these classic mecha. Though Sun Vulcan Robo was the only general retail item from the series it certainly didn’t come alone, with both the giant Jaguar Vulcan carrier and SODO versions of the team joining it as Premium Bandai exclusive items.

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Anime REVIEW: Space Battleship Yamato 2199

Space Battleship Yamato 2199

It’s impossible to overstate just how influential Space Battleship Yamato is. Both setting the standard and paving the way for future sci-fi anime, the 1974 series by Yoshinobu Nishizaki and Leiji Matsumoto touches nearly every faucet of how the medium is perceived and functions today - from its American dub adaptation Starblazers being instrumental in bringing anime to worldwide audience to its fandom being an integral part in the early days of cosplay. Some have even cited it as a huge influence on the original Star Wars. But while its influence has never dwindled, the combination of distribution and the perpetual cycle of newer shows means its legacy isn’t always recognised as much as it should be. However between 2012 to 2013 the landmark series saw a tremendous return to form under the guise of a brand new remake, Space Battleship Yamato 2199. Originally released as seven cinematic films, it was then later transformed into a 26-episode series - eventually releasing in the West once again with its Starblazers monicker (only this time without any significant dub changes).

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Disney Select V.I.N.CENT & B.O.B.

Disney Select V.I.N.CENT & B.O.B. 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: $24.99/£29.99

Coming from a time when the world was very much caught in a Star Wars frenzy, it isn't any surprise that the most memorable characters of Disney's The Black Hole are its robots. It may have tried to incite terror with the crimson Maximilian, but it also went for the "cute and sassy" market too with its hero robots. V.I.N.CENT (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) is part of the U.S.S. Palomino crew that finds itself aboard the U.S.S. Cygnus, where he meets an older model in his series - B.O.B. (Bio-Sanitation Battalion). B.O.B. helps the crew unravel the mysterious of the Cygnus and its captain Dr Hans Reinhardt, but is sadly killed by Maximilian during their escape. V.I.N.CENT on the other hand makes it out alive, journeying with the other survivors into the titular black hole. Both robots have been immortalised alongside Max in Diamond Select's Disney Select toy line, quickly becoming must-have releases for fans of this fun but somewhat troubled film.

Thursday, 23 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Dark Knight Kiba

S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kiba 01

Release Date: 
April 2020
RRP: 9990 yen

GARO has been a notable inclusion of the S.H. Figuarts line for some time now, but there’s no doubt that Bandai Tamashii Nations aren’t using the franchise to its full potential. Take a look at the releases so far and you’ll quickly see that nearly all of them have been versions of the titular golden knight, with the only exception being silver fanged knight Zero. For anything else, you'd have to look toward the different scaled (and now seemingly defunct) Makai Kado range. Now that the franchise seems to have effectively moved over to the S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- range, Bandai have finally branched out to their third Makai KnightS.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Dark Knight Kiba was the perfect choice for the next character in the line, given corrupted knight Barago’s place as arguably the franchise’s standout villain - appearing in the original series, his own spinoff special and most recently the Moonbow Traveler movie. Of course, like the rest of the GARO Shinkocchou Seihou figures Kiba was a Tamashii web exclusive, with a heftier price tag to match.

Friday, 17 July 2020

Custom Figure: Destroyed Dalek

Custom Destroyed Dalek 01

When I did my Dalek Time Controller custom figure all the way back in 2013, I needed to take parts from a second Character Options Doctor Who Dalek in order to do the additional neck rings the Time Controller's casing has. Seven years later and I STILL had that Dalek that was gutted for additional parts, albeit minus a few other bits it gave away to various other customs. I thought it was about time that I put that hunk of plastic to good use, and given there was only about two thirds of it left a destroyed Dalek was the most suitable course of action.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager Minipla King Express

Minipla King Express 01

Release Date: May 2020
RRP: 2160 yen (6 boxes, 1 complete figure), 4320 yen (12 boxes, 2 complete figures)

With the second wave of Super Sentai minipla usually taking that filler spot before the sixth Ranger’s mecha is revealed, just what exactly is in that wave can come in all shapes and sizes. Some years it contains a show’s second robot, while others have contained repeats and auxiliary units. Mashin Sentai Kiramager is definitely one of the more interesting years however, as this instalment not only features a second robot but also a villain unit! This latest candy toy selection features King Express, a train-themed robot comprised of Mashin Express and Mashin Jouki. Fans of the series will also know that the latter can also transform into the mighty Smog Jouki - a dinosaur mecha piloted by the Yodonheim general Galza.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Movie REVIEW: Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger vs Lupinranger vs Patranger

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger vs Lupinranger vs Patranger

The Super Sentai Versus Series films are back for another year, and once again it’s triple the fun as (technically) three teams get together for a further instalment of crossover goodness. Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger vs Lupinranger vs Patranger brings together the latest dinosaur team with the police and thieves dynamic of the previous series, checking in how things may have changed since its conclusion. Only recently hitting home video but released theatrically all the way back in February, the film was part of a “Super Sentai Movie Party” double bill alongside Mashin Sentai Kiramager Episode ZERO.

Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Disney Select Maximilian

Disney Select Maximilian 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: $24.99/£29.99

The Black Hole is 1979 film by Walt Disney Productions, released during a time when every film company was desperate to be the one to make the next Star Wars. At the time it was the most expensive film the Disney produced, and despite featuring some rather grand (and at times dark) ideas the film generally failed to capture the hearts and minds of audiences and critics alike. Over the years it has amassed some cult following though, and ever since seeing the film as a child it’s always been one of my favourites as well. Largely thanks to its great robot designs, which have received a fair few toys over the years but never anything that’s been particularly high-end/affordable. Now after all these years Diamond Select have finally stepped in with their Disney Select range, and I’ve finally added Disney Select Maximilian to my collection. The figure was designed by Yuri Tming, and sculpted by Gentle Giant Studios.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Series REVIEW: GARO: Versus Road

Garo: Versus Road

A franchise’s longevity often depends on just how well it can reinvent itself. Over the past decade and a half GARO has spread itself across multiple mediums and timelines, all unified by the appearance of the titular golden armour and the malevolent dark karma creatures known as Horrors. And in the year of its 15th anniversary, GARO: Versus Road has done it again. A brand new chapter in the GARO legacy, Versus Road brings in new characters and a brand new setting - one that seems very different to what has come before.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lighting Collection Cybervillain Blaze

Lighting Collection Cybervillain Blaze 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: $20/£20

While naturally a line like the Power Rangers Lightning Collection is going to gravitate toward to rangers themselves, four waves (and a handful of exclusives) in and it hasn't done a bad job of giving us some villain representation too. While it's only really Zedd, Goldar and the Putty Patroller covering the monster side of things, between the Psycho Red, Psycho Blue and Lord Drakkon there's been a fair few evil rangers to go around as well. Wave four boosts that number yet again with Lightning Collection Cybervillain Blaze! An evil avatar created by Evox, the twisted version of the Power Rangers Beast Morphers Red Ranger assists the virus in his bid to take over the Morphin Grid. With the Beast Morphers Yellow and Silver rangers still unaccounted for in the line, Blaze is a bit of a surprise entry for the fourth wave but certainly not an unwelcome one.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series The Child

Star Wars Black Series The Child 01

Release Date: April 2020
RRP: $9.99/£10.99

The Mandalorian has done many things for the Star Wars universe and fandom, but in terms of its impact it doesn't get much bigger than The Child. The best kept secret in the run up to the series premiering on Disney+, from the very first episode "Baby Yoda" fever swept the globe - and with no merchandise planned until the middle of 2020 Hasbro had to scramble to get their product ready to meet demand. It's been a bit of a wait, but finally the Black Series The Child figure has arrived. One of the more unique entries in the 6" collector figure line, The Child's small stature means it comes at a smaller price point than usual - and overall presentation is rather different as well.

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Mako Mankanshoku

Figma Mako Mankanshoku 01

Release Date: December 2019
RRP: 7000 yen

Admittedly the Figma line have never been the best at getting "complete" casts of characters out. Given that Kill la Kill was released all the way back in 2013 and Figma Ryuko Matoi and Satsuki Kiryuin were released in 2014 and 2015 respectively, you'd think that Good Smile Company and Max Factory would want to strike whilst the iron is hot and get more of the cast out. Yet here we are at the series' fifth anniversary, and only now are collectors getting their hands on Figma Mako Mankanshoku. Despite her having a very firm fanbase and receiving two Nendoroid releases in that time, it's only now that the undisputed star of studio Trigger's first full-length series gets a poseable action figure of her very own. The moral of the story here is never give up on these companies releasing figures - if they're popular enough and fans are vocal enough, you never know when they'll revisit the range years later.

Saturday, 20 June 2020

First Impressions: Ultraman Z

Ultraman Z

Is there no end to Ultraman's worldwide takeover? Not just content with a popular Netflix animated series based on an ongoing manga, reasonably-priced region-free Blu-Ray sets available in the West and a forthcoming Marvel Comics series, the latest series is available online to the masses! The next logical step from their release of Ultra Galaxy Fight: New Generation Heroes last year, Tsuburaya Productions have announced that Ultraman Z - the 32nd entry in the long-running Ultra Series, will be made available on their official YouTube channel with English subtitles. As well as the first series beyond the New Generation Heroes lineup (which ran from Ultraman Ginga to Ultraman Taiga), Ultraman Z celebrates the tenth anniversary of Ultraman Zero. Sadly the run up to its premiere has also been marred with tragedy, as it was recently announced that Kota Fukihara, one of its lead writers, had tragically passed away at the young age of 37. Whilst it isn't clear how much of the series had been written by Fukihara prior to his death, Tsuburaya have stated that their staff will "continue to strive to create an amazing final product for the series to which he gave all his spirit." So above all else, this one's for you Fukihara.

Friday, 19 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zero-One Rising Hopper

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zero-One Rising Hopper 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: 3300 yen

Kamen Rider has entered the Reiwa era, and Bandai Tamashii Nations are along for the ride! The Kamen Rider Zero-One S.H. Figuarts range launches with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zero-One Rising Hopper, which is of course the base form of the titular Rider. Following the trend of recent years Bandai have opted to make the lead Rider of the currently airing series a particularly enticing release, offering them at a notably lower price point than is typically seen for even general retail Figuarts these days. Aruto Hiden dreams of a world where humans and Humagears can co-exist peacefully, but have Bandai created a figure that allows both them and collectors to do the same? Keeping reading to find out! 

"A jump to the sky turns to a Rider Kick."

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger

Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: $20/£20

Now that we're four waves into the Power Rangers Lightning Collection collectors have a good idea of what to expect from the line, and while as expected the Mighty Morphin roster will likely be the first team out the door more and more are beginning to appear with each coming wave. Whilst Power Rangers Zeo's beginnings started with last year's SDCC-exclusive Dragon Shield MMPR Red/Zeo Gold Ranger two-pack, but wave four is where we get a first glimpse at the core team with the Lightning Collection Zeo Blue Ranger figure. It's not often we see a team kick off with a character that's a red or sixth/extra ranger, but given his past as the former Mighty Morphin Red Ranger the now blue Rocky DeSantos isn't too far off the mark.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Bemular -the Animation-

S.H. Figuarts Bemular -The Animation- 01

Release Date: February 2020
RRP: 7700 yen

The release of Production I.G.’s anime adaptation of the ULTRAMAN manga created an all-new interest in the ongoing series, and with Bandai Tamashii Nations having already produced the cast in figure form back in 2015 this was the perfect opportunity to get those toys back on the market. Whilst previously the manga versions of these characters had been produced under the collaborative S.H. Figuarts x Ultra-Act banner, the dissolution of the former line some years ago means that these new anime versions (featuring new tooling and alternate paint jobs) are strictly Figuarts. The range kicked off last year with the reason of both Ultraman and Ultraman Suit Ver 7, and now they’re joined by S.H. Figuarts Bemular -the Animation-. The mysterious entity that identified itself as “the first enemy” (taking its name from the first kaiju the original Ultraman battled in the 1966 series), Bemular is shrouded in mystery - showing hostility toward Shinjiro and his father but also an interest in developing the former’s Ultraman factor. His connection to Ultraman is another mystery yet to be solved. This figure was the first and currently only one in the anime range to be a Tamashii web exclusive, and its arrival leaves the Ace Suit as the only character only available via the original SHFxUA release.

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Movie REVIEW: GARO: Moonbow Traveler

Garo: Moonbow Traveler

Once upon a time you could have considered GARO to be an obscure tokusatsu series, at least when compared to some of the bigger name franchises. But after 15 years, multiple television series and movies, three anime spin-offs simulcast worldwide and several official English-subtitled US Blu-Ray releases it's fair to say that ship has long since sailed. The fact this particular film even had English subtitles for its Japanese home video release just reinforces the fact. Celebrating 15 years of the Golden Knight, GARO: Gekkou No Tabibito ("Moonbow Traveler") brings back Raiga Saejima and the cast of The Makai Flower for their long-overdue movie outing - bringing together the various threads of the Saejima family storyline for potentially the last time.

(Review contains minor spoilers)

Monday, 1 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 01

Release Date: March 2020
RRP: 2376 yen (6 boxes, 1 complete model), 4752 yen (12 boxes, 2 complete models)

Super Sentai minipla may be all the rage these days thanks to the deep dives into its history Bandai’s Super Mini-Pla line getting up to, but at the same time the yearly range of candy toy model kits is still trucking away offering the same level of articulation for a fraction of the price. This year it’s the turn of Mashin Sentai Kiramager, a show that may have sadly taken a hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis but has still wowed audiences with its classic Sentai stylings. The series’ first minipla release features all five of the team’s Kiramei Stones turned Mashin vehicles, not only able to transform into the mighty Kiramaizin but also break down in the small combos of Land Mage and Sky Mage.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Lost Galaxy Red Ranger & Psycho Red Ranger

Lightning Collection Lost Galaxy Red & Psycho Red 01

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: $39.99/£39.99

Thanks to the internet and clever fans able to quickly decipher coded toy listings, the Power Rangers Lightning Collection admittedly hasn't thrown out that many surprises collectors haven't seen rumoured or leaked beforehand. When Hasbro do manage to catch those fans unaware though, they definitely do it in style. The Lightning Collection Lost Galaxy Red Ranger and In Space Psycho Red Ranger set didn't just feel like it came out of nowhere, in typical Lightning Collection style it hit store shelves barely any time after its official reveal. The set takes its inspiration from the Power Rangers Lost Galaxy episode "To the Tenth Power", where the sinister Psycho Rangers are revived by Deviot to help destroy the rangers once and for all. Overwhelmed, it's only when the Lost Galaxy rangers team up with Andros and the Space Rangers that they're able to defeat the Psychos once more.

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Toei Tokusatsu World Official - First Episode Reviews

Toei Tokusatsu World Official

Over the past two months I've been working on a collaboration piece with the good people over at Toku Toy Store, in which myself and group of other writers challenged ourselves to first episode reviews for every one (or at least all the ones available in our region) of the shows uploaded to Toei's own Toei Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel. This is a recent undertaking by Toei to make their shows that little bit more available worldwide, with the first two episodes of each series available with subtitles in a range of different languages. Further episodes are being uploaded without subtitles, however Toei have said they're making a "public call" for fans to develop and upload subtitles themselves. The specifics of this aren't very clear and have been a subject of debate, but at the very least we currently have an official outlet with episodes of around 70 different anime and Tokusatsu series. While that does include some of the more well-known franchises like Kamen Rider, Super Sentai and Metal Heroes (where available), there's also a wealth of obscurer content which many fans probably haven't even heard of! If you ever wanted a primer on the Toei Fushigi Comedy Series or Shotaro Ishinomori's love of mascot-esque robots, then you've come to the right place.

Below are links to all 22 reviews I contributed to the project, one of which you'll also recognise as a show that got a full series review on this very blog. Please give them a read if you have the chance, they're a little shorter than my regular reviews if that helps! Also bear in mind that these are reviews of the first episodes only, so opinions are solely based on the content provided in those.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Bly

Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Bly 01

Release Date: March 2020
RRP: $20/£20

2020 truly is the year of the Clone Trooper. The final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars has come and gone, finally giving closure to the story George Lucas and Dave Filoni started all the way back in 2008. On top of that, 2020 also marks the 15th anniversary of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, where Darth Sidious finally made his move and activated Order 66 - commanding the clones to turn against their Jedi generals. Amongst the clones loyal to the Republic was Clone Commander Bly, who finally arrives in Hasbro's Black Series as part of its latest wave. Appearing in both The Clone Wars and Revenge of the Sith, Bly is most notable for his appearance in the latter - where he gunned down Jedi Master Aalya Secura on the planet Felucia.

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Custom Figure: Dr. Who & the Daleks (Movie) Black Dalek

Custom Black Movie Dalek 01

For the last of my three Character Options Dalek figures I recently acquired to do customs with, I decided to do something a little more popular. The 1960s Dalek movies starring Peter Cushing boast some of the most impressive looking and colourful classic-style Daleks out there, but sadly for whatever reason they’ve been overlooked by the current Doctor Who toy line. While previously I’ve done a simple base/light swap to make a Daleks - Invasion Earth 2150AD standard Dalek, but that definitely wasn’t enough. Time to bring in the big cheese himself - the Black Dalek from 1965’s Dr. Who and the Daleks.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider: Reiwa The First Generation

Kamen Rider: Reiwa The First Generation

It's the beginning of a new generation for the Kamen Rider franchise, and after a series celebrating the past 20 years of the Heisei era it's time to look toward the future. Kamen Rider Zero-One has kickstarted the Reiwa era in full force, but it seems Kamen Rider Zi-O has at least one more fight in him as the gang returns for the obligatory Winter crossover movie. But with Heisei Generations no more, it's time for a new banner to rise. Kamen Rider Reiwa: The First Generation sees the baton properly passed to Aruto Hiden, forging a new Kamen Rider legacy for the Reiwa era.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts MonsArmor Option Parts Set

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X MonsArmor Set 01

Release Date: January 2020
RRP: 7150 yen

When you have a gimmick as cool as turning iconic Ultra Series into cyberspace-styled armour, then just one figure is never going to be enough. Bandai Tamashii Nations were kind enough to give collectors a taste of that potential with the S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X & Gomora Armour Set, but if there was any Ultraman figure deserving of an additional accessory pack - it was this one. Accessory packs are a bit less common in the line than they used to be, but just over a year later Bandai came through and the S.H. Figuarts MonsArmor Option Parts Set became a reality. Naturally for something as niche as this Tamashii Web exclusive status was inevitable, as well as a price tag that's only really going to appeal to completionists. But take the plunge, and you'll have the MonsArmors of Eleking, Bemstar and Zetton to add to your Ultraman X arsenal.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Imperial Probe Droid

Black Series Imperial Probe Droid 01

Release Date: April 2020
RRP: $29.99/£27.99

May the 4th is a special day for Star Wars fans across the globe every year, but 2020 marks a particularly spectacular occasion. It's been 40 years since The Empire Strikes Back was first released in cinemas, so of course it's being celebrated with all manner of new toys and merchandise. Leading Hasbro's charge as far as the Black Series goes is a new selection of retro-carded figures akin to their 40th Anniversary A New Hope range, but there are plenty of other treats for collectors as well. The Black Series Imperial Probe Droid continues the (still relatively new) deluxe range of figures incorporated into the line, for characters that are a little too large and/or detailed to fit under that standard $20 price point. Given that the Probe Droid is the first thing we see in The Empire Strikes Back and sets the whole film in motion, arguably there isn't a better choice for the Black Series to celebrate this milestone anniversary.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Custom Figure: Denys Fisher "Red Top" Dalek

Custom Denys Fisher Dalek 01

Continuing my current lockdown project of creating some new custom coloured Daleks, I tried to look into various media that I hadn't sought inspiration from before. I've done movie Daleks before, and I've also done audio and stage play ones. But a toy deco one? That would be something new. One of my favourite classic Dalek toys is the 1977 toy by Denys Fisher, which sported a red dome and blue eyestalk. As far a toy-unique colours go I would say it's probably the most notable amongst all Doctor Who lines there's been over the years, so was the perfect choice for my latest custom.

Friday, 1 May 2020

Custom Figure: Brotherhood of the Daleks Red "Thalek" Dalek

Brotherhood of the Daleks Red "Thalek" Dalek 01

Like many I’ve suddenly found myself with a lot more free time over the past few weeks thanks to this Coronavirus lockdown business, and one thing I really wanted to dip my hand back into was the world of custom Dalek figures. It’s been some years since my last project, and the increasing scarcity/price of classic Daleks on the aftermarket hasn’t made getting back into it any easier. However luckily I was able to get my hands on a Classic Dalek Set #2 on eBay, so had three new canvases to work with. My first instinct is to always trawl through all the various Big Finish audios to find variants I hadn’t tackled yet, and this time my eyes turned toward the excellent Brotherhood of the Daleks by Alan Barnes. The cover for the story features a distinct red Dalek, revealed to a particularly special case as it’s not just a Dalek - it’s a Thalek.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Lord Drakkon

Lightning Collection Lord Drakkon 01

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

While the show itself might be continuing on strongly, for many older fans one of the more exciting Power Rangers projects to have come out in recent years is the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers comic book series from Boom! Studios, adding in brand new stories of the original team whilst bringing it into a more modern setting. The comic's first big event was Shattered Grid, which saw all Rangers across time, space and dimensions threatened by Lord Drakkon - an alternate universe version of Tommy Oliver that continued on the path of evil. Though the comics have created more of their own rangers since Drakkon has certainly had the most impact on the franchise as a whole, so naturally fans quickly clamoured for fans of the evil Green and White Ranger fusion. Bandai of America released a figure at the tail end of their Legacy line, but as a Power Morphicon exclusive it quickly became scarce and expensive on the aftermarket as well as being prone to significant QC problems. Not long after Hasbro step in as the new owners of the franchise, and immediately begin asserting their superiority over their predecessors with their own collector line. Lightning Collection Lord Drakkon joins the ever-expanding range as part of its third wave, not only making it far more accessible to collectors than Bandai's version but also showing Hasbro's dedication to the ongoing comics as well as the shows themselves in the line.

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Toybox REVIEW: NECA Aliens Xenomorph Warrior (Arcade Appearance)

NECA Xenomorph Warrior Arcade Appearance 01

Release Date: 2017
RRP: $29.99

If there's one thing NECA know, it's how to do a good repaint. While the company has produced a range of high quality horror and sci-fi figures through their Ultimate line-up, another particularly popular faucet of their repertoire has been video game-themed figures based on characters' appearances in retro console or arcade games. These releases have included the likes of Godzilla, Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Freddy Kruger, but the Aliens franchise has proven particularly lucrative. Whether its through their own games or the Alien vs Predator crossover, people can't get enough of Xenomorphs and honestly who can blame them. The Xenomorph Warrior (Arcade Appearance) figure is based on the classic 1990 side-scrolling arcade game from Konami, in which the player could choose from either Ellen Ripley or Corporal Hicks. Here the Xenomorphs took on bright neon colour schemes, with the warriors looking particularly garish in their pink and purple cel-shaded glory.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

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

S.H. Figuarts Thor Endgame 01

Release Date: January 2020
RRP: 6600 yen

Avengers Endgame’s moment in the spotlight has come and gone by now, but when you’re working on the kind of timeframe Bandai Tamashii Nations does it’s not surprise to see S.H. Figuarts being released months later. Unlike a lot of the other Avengers Thor was one of the characters whose design was kept completely under wraps prior to the release of Endgame, so not to spoil the big changes the character went through during the film’s five year time skip. So unable to join many of the other key characters in being released in the run up to the film, S.H. Figuarts Thor [Avengers Endgame] was finally released at the beginning of 2020 as a Tamashii web exclusive. Once again late to the party, this is the third of four Thor S.H. Figuarts to be an exclusive - the only retail release being the original Age of Ultron one all the way back in 2015.