Thursday 30 December 2010

Anime REVIEW: Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt

When the team behind Gurren Lagann first announced that this would be the name of their next project, along with this trailer, I'd be lying if I didn't wonder what the hell they were thinking. Gainax have always been known for taking things to the extreme, but this looked like it was that little bit too far. Nevertheless, because of the quality of Gurren Lagann and other Gainax works I planned to give this a go.

And I am so glad I did.

The plot is simple. It revolves around two angels by the names of Panty and Stocking, who were kicked out of heaven due to their behaviour and have been assigned with ridding Daten City of demonic creatures known as ghosts. They are guided by black-afro priest Garterbelt and aided by their pet/chewtoy Chuck (who is a homage to the disguised Gir from Invader Zim) and ghost hunter/geek boy Brief. Panty and Stocking's powers are as their name suggests - Panty has the ability to turn underwear into pistols (and various other weapons) while Stocking's stockings can be transformed into a pair of swords. While early episodes are mostly one-off shorts, recurring rivals soon appear in the form of demon girls Scanty and Kneesocks, and their master - the bondage loving Corset, and the bare bones of a story are revealed.

Its colourful, it's crude and it's genius. Panty & Stocking blends the art style of western cartoons such as Dexter's Lab and The Powerpuff Girls with crude humour and over the top action sequences. Ghosts range from excrement monsters to sperm monsters and the girls power up via a (tradionally styled anime) pole dancing sequence. Ghost deaths are provided by the detonation of papier mache and Gainax take a pop at Catholic priests in ways that have to be seen to believed. A kid's show this ain't.

Every episode title is a direct reference to something else - Excretion without Honour or Humanity (Battle without Honour or Humanity), Bitch Girls I & II (Bad Boys 1 & 2) but one episode takes it a lot further than that. Episode 7 part 1, entitled Transho'mers, is a fully fledged Transformers parody - completely with G1 inspired designs for the two lead characters, a whole heap of blink-or-you'll-miss-it references and a few pop shots at the live action movies. It's this kind of attention to detail that makes you wonder what a Transformers series would be like in Gainax's more than capable hands.

With a great cast of characters, fantastic (adult humour), a killer soundtrack and a cliffhanger ending that will leave you laughing, confused and eager for more , Panty & Stocking is everything you'd want from a comedy anime that differs from that norm. Gainax, you've done it again.

Anime of 2010? I'd like to think so.

Game REVIEW: Doctor Who: Evacuation Earth (DS)

Ever wondered what you get when you cross Doctor Who with a cheap imitation of Professor Layton? The answer is, unsurprisingly, an appalling game.

Evacuation Earth begins with a fairly interesting plot - The Doctor and Amy arrive in the Lake District in the far future, where the last remnants of humanity are preparing the leave the planet due to the incoming solar flares (the same ones mentioned in the season 5 episode The Beast Below) and get caught up in the evacuation due to the TARDIS going missing on-board the ship. Meanwhile the Silurians also have plans to evacuate the Earth and later some Daleks (who seem to be from the games Wii-counterpart Return to Earth) who are also in need of the Doctor's help/have their own dastardly plans. It'd be a plot that could carry an episode of the series - if it wasn't so damn short. The game is made up of a measly four chapters - the Daleks are beaten almost as soon as they turn up and the game can easily be completed in three hours (well, that's the time it took me, and I was playing it at a rather leisurely pace).

The gameplay, as I mentioned earlier, is nothing more than a cheap imitation of Level-5's Professor Layton series - so much it almost feels like plagiarism. You walk around areas, solving puzzles with give a set amount of points (which decrease every time you get the puzzle wrong). These puzzles are have three hints you can unlock spending these points and the answer is accompanied by a little 3-step animation (but instead of Layton or Luke, it's a materialising TARDIS). Of course these puzzles aren't half as engaging as the ones present in Layton - most of the time they amount to spot the difference or put some puzzle pieces back together. The only difficult puzzles are four sliding tile type ones - and they aren't even compulsory ones! Half the time the puzzles have little to do with the plot (picking out a fish for a crew member, rearranging a work rota etc.) and are really jarring to the story. Sometimes there'll be a few puzzles that feel like they belong in a Doctor Who game, such as charting a spaceship course or avoiding some patrolling Daleks, but its rather scarce. The game's main problem isn't how easy it is though, it's how poorly made it is. Controls are glitchy (things flash onto screen without pressing them, you'll press one side of the screen with the stylus and it'll select the other which makes the Sonic Screwdriver steady hand games really frustrating) and the puzzles are poorly worded (there's at least one instance where the answer doesn't match the question, therefore completely wrong, and that is downright unacceptable for a mass produced game).

To be honest I shouldn't have expected much from a game by Asylum Entertainment (responsible for games starring the likes of Peppa Pig and the Teletubbies) but I expected something at least relatively professional. Other sites have said that this game is great for younger children, but to be honest unless I was about 5 I'd feel exactly the same about this game as I do now. The only thing is game has going for it is a semi decent plot (and the cutscenes are probably up on youtube by now anyway) and some good 11th Doctor-esque dialogue. If this is this bad, I hate to see what Return to Earth is like, because apparently Evacuation Earth is a masterpiece by comparison...

My wait for a decent Doctor Who game continues.

Sunday 26 December 2010

Anime REVIEW: Dragon Ball GT

First off, I'd like to wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to every reader of this blog. Hope Santa brought you everything you want and you have a great rest of the year.

Next, here I decided to review something that I'd never seen but was already close to my heart. I'm a long time fan of Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z - DBZ was pretty much what INTRODUCED me to anime. But Dragon Ball GT (which after much searching the internet I found stands for Grand Tour) was something I had never watched. I don't know whether it was because of the debated canonicity or the fact most fanboys seem to hate the series, but it had always escaped me. So now after playing Dragon Ball Z Budokai: Tenkaichi 2 on the wii (whose story mode featured the sagas from GT) I decided it was finally time to give this series a go. Set 5-10 years (depending on the version) after DBZ, GT sees Goku returning to life as a child after an accidental wish is made on the Black Star Dragon Balls, which are then scattered across the galaxy and must be returned in a year otherwise the Earth will explode.

Surely it couldn't be that bad could it?

Well sadly the answer was pretty much yes. However it did have a few redeeming points, so those are what I'll look at first (don't hold your breath, there really aren't many). First off I have to give my praise to the people who designed Super Saiyan 4 - it looks magnificent. I've never been the biggest fan of Super Saiyan 3, and so this feels like a vast improvement. The initial sinister edge Goku has in that form is also interesting, and would have been quite good to see played further (to make him almost power mad of sorts). Uub (who was briefly seen at the end of DBZ) is also a great character who I was happy to see developed further - it's nice to see a character who can hold their own in a fight that isn't a Saiyan. As far as villains (and the odd anti-hero) go - Nuova, Eis and Syn/Omega Shenron are also great characters.

But the biggest triumph of GT and possibly the sole reason anyone should watch it other than because of curiosity is Vegeta. GT continues the massive character development that began in DBZ and amplifies is greatly, which is surprising given that he's actually hardly in the series. His growth from the evil Saiyan prince to father and husband to eventual protector of the Earth is possibly the best writing Dragon Ball has period. Its just a shame that the majority of this development (and the most character development in the entire series) comes in a clip episode no less.

And now its time for its flaws, and there's more than a few. For a series only 64 episodes long (and seems to pride itself on having no filler) there are far too many episodes that feel like filler. Its no wonder FUNimation decided not to initially air the Black Star Dragon Ball Saga, because its horrible. Full of forgettable sagas and boring mini quests. The next saga (The Baby Saga) was the first to have a super powerful big-bad and was a step up, but despite having some good episodes it seemed to take the drawn-out fights-where-little-happen-for-episode-after-episode DBZ is infamous for to new heights. Which is hardly fair given that this saga is 23 episodes long (longer if you consider that the first saga ties into it) and the following Super 17 saga, the one with perhaps the most potential, is a mere seven episodes long.

Despite this potential though, all it really amounts to is a rushed train wreck with far too many inconsistencies (why suddenly use 17 again? Where has 17 been all this time? How did Gero/Myuu regain control?). Not only that, but it managed to turn my two favourite villains from Z, Frieza and Cell, into nothing but comic relief. On that topic, comic relief villains is something that GT really suffers from, as is further emphasised by the first 4 dragons in the final saga of the series - The Shadow Dragon Saga. The whole concept of the saga is fantastic - 7 evil dragons created through the over use of the Dragon Balls, but the whole thing felt it should have been a bit more apocalyptic given the power of the 7 dragons. Again fight sequences are drawn out where very little happens (Vegeta ascends to Super Saiyan 4 and literally does nothing, Super Saiyan 4 Gogeta is reduced to nothing but comic relief despite the epic fight sequences he potentially could have had).

But without a doubt my biggest complaint of the series is Goku. Every character is portrayed as a weakling compared to him, and the only thing Gohan, Goten and Trunks seem to be are walking batteries for him when he runs out of power. Vegeta doesn't have one fight sequence where he isn't completely trounced and nobody gets any decent fight time apart from Goku. Piccolo is brought back for the sole purpose of being killed off. I understand that Goku is the main character of the series, but with the diverse and interesting cast Dragon Ball has far more could have been done. There was also no need for Goku to remain a child for the entirety of the series, GT would have been exactly the same (arguably better) if his ascension to SS4 had broken the spell cast on him by Black Star Shenron.

But the worst thing of all is the ending. After Shenron decides to leave Earth due to overuse of the Dragon Balls, Goku decides to go with him when the possibility of training in a new place is offered. Goku leaves without a second though, giving his family a 2-second goodbye and leaving his responsibilities in the hands of others. The moral of the story - Goku may be the strongest fighter in the world, but he's a selfish person and a terrible father/husband who doesn't deserve the supportive family he has. All those family values in DBZ amount to nothing.

Ultimately, GT attempts to blend the light-hearted comedy side of Dragon Ball with the epic quests/fights of Dragon Ball Z and fails at it miserably. I'm surprised the makers of Budokai Tenkaichi 2 were able to make it look so good. If you don't like Vegeta, this isn't for you because your opinion of every other character will only be lowered.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Anime REVIEW: K-On!

Admittedly I'm writing this one a little later than I should be since I finished the series (both seasons) two weeks ago, but admittedly I've been a little busy of late and better late than never I guess.

Anyway, moving away from the usual mecha, murderous notebooks, space bounty hunters and more mecha for a while, K-ON! is a heart-warming slice of life anime revolving around the lives of a group of school girls who are members of their school's light music club. The story takes us through the girls' three years of high school, starting with the beginnings of their friendship and their attempts to stop the club being abolished (due to a lack of members), to their first live performance and the arrival of a new member and more. In some ways, think Lucky Star but swap out the geek references for musical ones - from Black Sabbath to The Who and more (and for those with a keen eye, even Krauser from Detroit Metal City pops up from time to time). Don't think the rest of the series is filled with band practice though - in fact After School Tea Time (or Houkago Tea Time if you prefer) spend more time doing what their band name suggests - which can sometimes cause quite a problem when it comes to concert time!

The first season is compromised of 13 episodes and an OVA, while the second season (entitled K-On!!) is 26 episodes long. While I felt the second season suffered slightly by containing more of the conventions and cliches of high school student animes (festivals, school trips, exam study - you know the sort), it didn't ruin it, but rather made it (much to my surprise) a far fuller experience. With personalties ranging from joker to airheaded to dedicated, the band members are all so different to each other that its sometimes hard to pick a favourite (although mine ended up being Mio if you're interested). Meanwhile the supporting cast (while small) is sometimes as strong as the lead cast itself and the music is both catchy and an enjoyable listen in and outside the series.

For those fans of school girl/high school animes and/or music, this is definitely one I recommend to check it. I almost guarantee it'll have a) melted your heart b) had you singing along c) laughing d) crying or e) doing all of the above by the end of it. The news of a movie next year is definitely one thing I was happy to hear, as this is one series that could do a follow up nicely without ruining the story (although I imagine it'll be set somewhere within the series like the last few episodes were....never mind, the more K-On! the better!)

Saturday 11 December 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who New Paradigm Supreme, Eternal and Scientist Daleks

The Drone and Strategist each got their own review, but with the release of the Dalek Supreme, Eternal and Scientist happening at once (in a Dalek-only wave nonetheless) it's time to wrap up the Dalek Paradigm review in one more post. There's not a lot left to say about the figure itself, so I'll let the pictures do the talking. What I DO have to say though is that despite my reservations about the new Dalek design and claims that it was missing something both on screen and in toy form, bringing them together is what truly makes them shine. I'm guessing this is what the designers were going for when presenting them in a myriad of colours, but having a complete collection in this case really pays off. The Daleks have officially been brought into 2010, and I can't wait to see these Daleks in action in the future. Victory of the Daleks was just a teaser, I'm ready for the main event.

Oh, and about this being a wrap up? Scrap that, expect to see the stone Dalek on here sooner or later.

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Game REVIEW: Epic Mickey (Wii)

Games reviews aren't something I do often. In fact, I'd go as far as saying I don't buy games very often, and when I do they're usually big franchise games like Pokemon, Zelda and Sonic. But while the game I'm about to review stars the biggest franchise character in the world, he's hardly a gaming icon. But from a mere glance at the concept art, Warren Spector's Epic Mickey became my most anticipated game in a long long time. Not even Pokemon Heartgold and Soulsilver were this anticipated. When you look forward to a game that much, how often does the real thing match up to expectations? Well, this game sure does.

Epic Mickey follows the adventures of Mickey Mouse as he is sucked into a world now known as the wasteland - a land for forgotten Disney characters which has now been taken over by the combined forces of Mickey villains the Phantom Blot and the Mad Doctor. Using a magic paintbrush capable to both painting and thinning people and the land around him, Mickey must team up with the wasteland's first resident Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in order to stop the Blot, save the wasteland and get home.

Before we even get to the game play, what I love about Epic Mickey the most is that is was blatantly created by huge retro-Disney fans. This game feels many ways like a sequel to the Mega Drive game Mickey Mania, in which Mickey travelled through selected cartoons from his history. Some of the characters in this game are really really really old/obscure, and that just goes to show how much effort was put into creating the game, and really captures the games themes. Running through classics like Steamboat Willy and Mickey's Mechanical Man really make me want to sit down and watch old Disney cartoons. But its not just old cartoons that are referenced here. No, the entire wasteland is based upon the Disneyland theme parks, so there's even more to enjoy. Why the other day I fought Pete dressed as a character from TRON on top of Space Mountain - and you don't think that's fantastic, then we have nothing in common.

The game also has tons of replay value - there's a mountain of side quests and of course, most importantly, the ability to play the game with different morals. You have the option to paint (befriend) or thin (destroy) your adversaries, and this affects the paths you take in the game and who'll give you quests. From what I've seen so far, being good might be the right thing to do, but being bad seems to wield a lot more hidden items....

My only gripe with the game other than dropping Mickey's 'scrapper' form (in the original concept - using too much thinner would change Mickey to look more like his very early appearances) is the dubious camera angles in some of the sequences. It's not so bad that you'll die because of them, and the game play is fluid enough to override it in most cases, but there will be moments when you just can't see what the hell is going on and have to just take a stab at it. It's not like this game has a limited amount of lives anyway.

All in all I really can't praise this game enough, it's definitely one of, if not the, best Wii game I've ever played. I can fully see why it won the best Wii game at E3 2010 (and as far as I'm concerned it beat off some stiff competition there. Disney finally has a great game again that isn't a Kingdom Hearts title. Long may it continue.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Anime REVIEW: Death Note

Death Note is undoubtedly one of the biggest animes names in the world right now. Somehow it manages to stand alongside big names such as Bleach, Naruto and Fullmetal Alchemist despite being in most cases less than half the length of them. And until now I hadn't even sat down and watched it in its entirety (well, the anime anyway - I saw the two live action films a few years back). It was about time to rectify this....

Most people have heard about or watched Death Note by now so I won't go into any great detail with the plot - high school student Light Yagami finds a mysterious note book called the 'Death Note' which has the power to kill people and even manipulate the events leading up to said death. One large ego trip later and Yagami attempts to become god of a new world by killing all the people he deems 'evil' in the world. The world dubs him 'Kira' and it is soon up to the police and the mysterious L - the greatest detective in the world, to stop him. A battle of wits unfolds over 37 episodes with murder, mystery, and shinigami.

Its rare to see a series use the villain as the main protagonist (Code Geass is the only other example I can really think of) and so it certainly stands out immediately before its content is put under further scrutiny. Light is a great character, and watching his progression throughout the series up to him getting what he deserves at the end is brilliant. L is good too, however I believe that his failure to prove Light as Kira makes him not as good as his movie counterpart (comparing this is the movies isn't the best way to go as it's almost a totally different animal, but if you have watched them you'd know what I mean). Other characters such as Misa Amane and Teru Mikimi are more irritating (and in the latter's case, seemingly pulled out of the writer's hat at the last minute), but at the end of the day they're just there for Light to manipulate. And that he does well. Very well.

One of my main concerns about Death Note is its length - a 37 episodes it's a bit of a double edged sword. Events really drag on episode through episode but this is balanced out by the pay off at the end of it being so good. I understand that this is perhaps poorly worded, so I'll illustrate it a bit more. For example - once Light has relinquished his memories of the Death Note for the first time and a new Kira is discovered working for the Yotsuba company the episodes really begin to droll on with Light and L working together to catch the new Kira. However the instant Light retouches the Death Note and all his memories return it all seems worth it again. The same applies later in the series following the time-skip at a certain point in the series, however the final episodes of the series are arguably among the best. It is this problem that makes Death Note feel like a chore to watch in its entirety at times - but you carry on because you know that the pay off will always be worth it. And as my viewing of the first ReLight OVA (a shortened version of the first section of the series) proved, this isn't a series that CAN be shortened without skipping something important. I know it all needs to be there, but that doesn't make it any less boring at times.

I can't honestly say this is my favourite iteration of Death Note, I still vastly prefer the live action movies. However, this series is definitely worth the praise it gets (some may overrate it a tad, but its still a top notch series) and a great example of leading anime of our generation. Endearing characters and psychological thrills make this one that will remain a classic.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Game REVIEW: Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode 1

NB. This is a review of the wiiware version of the game, any differences between this and the psn, xbox arcade and iphone versions will not be covered as I have not played any of them.

There have been so many disappointing Sonic games over the last few years that it's begun to feel hard to believe that the hedgehog was once one of the greatest video games characters of all time, but when Sonic Team announced the episodic Sonic the Hedgehog 4 - a direct sequel to the Mega Drive's Sonic & Knuckles which would use the original 2d side scrolling style which made Sonic popular in the first place, there was finally a glimmer of hope that this could be the game that saved the hedgehog from being ridiculed forever. At 1500 wii points (or £10) it already has a tall order to fill given its status as a episodic game (as in this isn't the whole thing).

But right away this game feels so right. There are no proper cutscenes, no voiceacting, no extra characters - just Sonic, Eggman, badniks (for those not as familiar with classic Sonic terminology - the robots with animals trapped inside), chaos emeralds and a whole lot of rings. Despite it not being the full Sonic 4 experience there's still a good amount of content here - 4 zones each consisting of 3 acts and a boss, a final stage and 7 special stages. This game even includes the ability to play as Super Sonic after collecting all 7 chaos emeralds! As far as Sonic's abilities go he's back to just jump, spin dash and the inclusion of the homing attack (with I was initially skeptical about, but not fully understand the inclusion of). A minor gripe is that as Sonic falls he now comes out of a ball (leaving him vulnerable), but the inclusion of the homing attack makes instant death less likely once the attack has been properly mastered. The speed of the game is just wonderful, managing to maintain the speed a Sonic game should have without becoming too hard to follow or having the player lose control and fall into a bottomless pit. The special stages are a nice twist on the originals from Sonic 1 - only this time you control the tilt of the level rather than Sonic himself. So far I've only got 4 emeralds and they're becoming increasingly challenging - something that makes for a good replay value once you've finished the 4 zones.

The only main problem I have with this game (and funnily enough its also the exact opposite of what was wrong with every other recent Sonic game) is it's lack of originality. The levels are in some instances carbon copies of classic zones, there are no new badniks present in the game whatsoever and the bosses are the same other than the fact is they get an update toward the end (Green Hill, Casino Night, Labyrinth, Metropolis and Sonic 2 Death Egg zones to be precise). If I wanted to play these bosses, I'd play the original games. I'm all for homages as the next person is, but what I wanted to see was a classic style Sonic game with some new ideas, not constant throwbacks and updates to the originals.

Despite this, Sonic 4 is without a doubt the best Sonic game in a long long time and if episode 2 can fix the problems this episode has, we'll undoubtedly be looking at the best Sonic game since the Mega Drive era. Welcome back Sonic the hedgehog. You have been sorely missed.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Classics 6th Doctor/Stealth Cyberman 2-pack

Character Options have really been churning out the Forbidden Planet exclusive classic Doctor Who figures. Not really sure why, because if anything they should be focusing on the new series 5 figures (which so far have been less than impressive on the whole), but then I'm not going to complain. One of the more cost effective figures in their recent releases is 6th Doctor/Stealth Cyberman (or Cyberscout if you prefer) set from the story Attack of the Cybermen. Not much really to say about the figures on the whole so I'll let the pictures do the talking, but I still have a few words on the subject.

The 6th Doctor (as played by Colin Baker) is a straight re-release of the figure included in the very first wave of Doctor Who classic figures, albeit with a brand new accessory (which sadly isn't the Sonic Lance that was prominent in so much of the story). Despite the fact that many buyers will probably already own the figure, it remains a great likeness of Colin Baker's Doctor with a fair bit of articulation (not spectacular, but no Who figure is).

There's not much to say about the Cyberman I didn't cover in my earlier review of the Earthshock Cyberman....except that it's black. In fact, if you want to get technical, this isn't even an Attack style Cyberman. The show Cyberscout didn't wear moon boots and the mouth piece was solid black rather than clear. Nevertheless these slight inaccuracies don't detract from how good the Cyberman looks, and the solid black makes a nice variation in a display of what will be primarily silver giants.

So basically the worth of the set comes down to what figures you already own, because essentially you're paying £25 for a re-release and a (slightly inaccurate) repaint. I happen to not own a (loose) 6th Doctor and can't get enough of Cybermen, so this was an instant buy for me. On the whole though, as far as classic Who figures go it's pretty average and perhaps one that the less hardcore collectors can avoid.

Saturday 9 October 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Revoltech Professor Layton

This is it.

This is the review I've wanted to do for a long time.

Here we go.

Revoltech Professor Layton (which if you didn't know is the star of the Nintendo DS puzzle games of the same name) is a figure that has caught my eye and occupied my 'must buy' list for a long time now, but at the same time I never go around to actually buying him. Now, after a series of unexpected events led him to him appearing in my hands and (swiftly might I add) purchasing him, he is finally mine. It's time to see what the internet has been raving about and what pictures have been suggesting. Is Professor Layton one of, if not the, best Revoltech figures to date?

And the answer is yes. By god yes.

EVERYTHING works about this figure. The fact is proportions aren't realistically human make the sculpt really stand out and the revo joints integrate nicely into the design (something I've never really found with human/humanoid revoltech figures). The soft plastic of his coat adds some great variety to the types of materials used in the figure and (most importantly) his changeable features are easily removable. The hands are held in by small tabs which are both easy to remove and hold in nicely, and Layton's changeable faces are exactly the same. Ten out of ten so far.

His accessories are also utterly fantastic. Here we have a variety of hands (one of which is holding a teacup), an extra face, a base, a teacup and saucer, book, pen and even a table and chair set! Layton can sit down and drink tea like a true English gentlemen alongside any figure in your collection! Speaking of which, this is where Layton's full potential as a figure really comes into play....

....because not only is he compatible with his own slew of extra features, but also a ton of ones that come with other Revoltech figures! While admittedly he may not be able to hold some of them, this is a chance to see Layton as you've never seen him before, whether if be flying into the air, slashing swords or wielding pistols! And while he's doing this Layton doesn't lose any of his character, looking good in almost any situation he's put in. So far my personal favourite has been rocketing him into the air with Gamera's rocket legs.

In conclusion this figure is a triumph in pretty much every single way. Sure I prefer my Gurren a lot more, but even he doesn't hold as many possibilities as the good professor. If you're a Layton fan you should definitely own this, and if you're a Revoltech fan you should get this just for the endless fun Professor Layton offers.

Friday 1 October 2010

Book REVIEW: The Only Good Dalek

In attempt to both add something a little new to the blog AND break up the current cluster of figure reviews, here's a new section devoted to manga, novels, comics and all things book. The first thing up for discussion is the brand new Doctor Who graphic novel The Only Good Dalek, by Justin Richards & Mike Collins and starring Matt Smith's 11th Doctor and Amy Pond.

The synopsis reads;
Station 7 is where the Earth Forces send all the equipment captured in their unceasing war against the Daleks. It's where Dalek technology is analysed and examined. It's where the Doctor and Amy have just arrived. But somehow the Daleks have found out about Station 7 - and there's something there that they want back.

With the Doctor increasingly worried about the direction the Station's research is taking, the
commander of Station 7 knows he has only one possible, desperate, defence. Because the last terrible secret of Station 7 is that they don't only store captured Dalek technology. It's also a prison. And the only thing that might stop a Dalek is another Dalek...

As this synopsis suggests, the story deals with the possibility that there could ever be a good Dalek - a topic that has been brought up in various Doctor Who stories over the years. What this graphic novel has that the other stories don't though is a story complete with twists and turns where the reader is never really sure what side certain Daleks are on. This is the Daleks at their very best once again and something the new series (bar Dalek) has never really captured (although the 10th Doctor novel Prisoner of the Daleks did in spectacular fashion). Not only that, but the
re's plenty of classic references for the more knowledgeable Doctor Who fan. Within the first few pages there's Skaro's landscape, robomen, ogrons, slythers, varga plants and a heap of background cameos of classic Dalek designs. The art even bears similarity to (my much loved) TV21 Dalek comics of the 60s - particularly the spaceship interiors which look fantastic alongside the blue strategist battle computer Daleks.

All in all this is a must have for Dalek fans - great story and great art all around which brings the Daleks out back on top.

Saturday 18 September 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Bandai Composite Ver. KA Gurren Lagann

So after 2 weeks of no internet and a longer than expected (but nobody's fault) delivery time from AmiAmi, I finally get to do the review I've been waiting for - the highly anticipated (by me anyway) Ver KA Gurren Lagann!

The first obvious thing to point out is that it differs from other Gurren Lagann in that it is covered in highly stylised tribal markings/tattoos - a trademark of designer Hajime Katoki (famous for designing all kinds of mecha, including the mobile suits from Gundam Wing Endless Waltz). While this may be something that could potentially put you off the figure, if anything it was one of the things that drew me toward it even more. For a start its something different and it'll set it apart from the rest of my Gurren Lagann collection, but there's also much more to it than that. The tattoos are highly reminscent of those Kamina had, and in a series that openly flaunts the possibility of parallel universes, perhaps something he may have put on the robot had he had the chance. Secondly comes as something that was initially a blow to me, and something that could also put you off the figure - the paintwork. Now for months on end prior to its release and even on the figure's packaging it's shown as being a rather beautiful shade of metallic red, another element that made the figure catch my eye in the first place and something that would set it apart from my other figures. But no - in the end the figure was released in a flat-but-show-accurate red. I got over this pretty quickly, but I realise this could have been a selling point for some people.

But if you can get over these two things - you've got one amazing figure in your hands. The sculpt and build is spectacular and makes the revoltech Gurren Lagann look basic in comparison. Sure it's not as posable as the revoltech version but the poses you'll want to put a Gurren Lagann figure in it looks much better - especially the "Pierce the heavens!" point. Sadly however it can't manage a good looking Gainax cross armed pose, but then neither can the Revoltech.

It also has it beat on accessories - included are 2 extra set of hands (pointing and weapon holding), 2 dual drill wrist pieces, 4 sets of sunglasses (2 mini ones for the body and 2 full sized boomerang weapons), an additional head and another extra that deserves its own paragraph, so I'll come to it later. The revoltech figure may have the wingpack, but bear in mind you had to buy both Lazengann and Enki to get that, so it doesn't count.

As for that extra accessory - this is probably what sold the figure for many people, because it's a freaking GIGA DRILL!!!! Yup, this is the first (to my knowledge) posable Gurren Lagann figure to include such a thing. The drill itself is hollow and made up of three parts, then slotting into the figure as an additional hand. Since the drill is almost the size of the figure itself, it's pretty much unable to hold it up without the help of the supplied stand. Speaking of the stand, that's also a really nice touch as it includes not only the series' logo but also the pilots of Gurren Lagann (I know there were a few, but Simon/Kamina are the main ones so that's what's here).

Ver KA Gurren Lagann is an excellent figure no doubt, but it's also one that's going to divide fans. The lack of metallic paint is a bit of a bummer, but if you don't like the look of the tattoos from images then its unlikely that you'll like them in-hand either. But if you can get over these things -you're in for a real treat of a figure that is as unique as it is awesome.