Monday 23 August 2010

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Classics The Master & Axon 2-pack

The early 70s could have been a disasterous time for Doctor Who. The Doctor was exiled to Earth and therefore unable to travel in the TARDIS, meaning that week after week the monsters had to come to him. Earth was repeatedly invaded by aliens and it was up to the Doctor and UNIT to stop them. The format could have become stale and repetitive quickly, but (in my own opinion) it had the best core cast Who ever had to stop that from happening. And a lot of that praise would go to Roger Delgado's original (and still by far the best) Master. And finally he has his own figure, following hot on the trail of the Anthony Ainley Master figure (which I still do not own, as I am hoping for a rerelease in his standard Traken costume).

The Master is an entirely new sculpt, in the all black costume Delgado wore for the majority of his appearances as the character and comes with his signature weapon, the Tissue Compression Eliminator. The headsculpt captures Delgado's likeness brilliantly, emphasising that calm, collected evilness all interpretations of the Master have lacked since. It's a simple figure, not requiring as much detail and/or colours as some of the figures in the line, but it's utterly fantastic. The Doctor's greatest single foe finally gets a figure worthy of his name. Hands down my favourite humanoid Doctor Who figure Character Options have produced.

The Axon is also good, but certainly not on the same scale. As far as big lumbering monsters go it's a fantastic figure (it also helps that the Axons are one of my favourite generic Doctor Who monsters, but there are a few little issues. Firstly, the figure is a repaint of the unreleased Krynoid figure from the 4th Doctor story The Seeds of Doom (which I think was originally going to be the Build-A-Figure in Classics Wave 2). While admittedly the Krynoid costume was a modified Axon costume, the changes were noticeable and to those with a keen eye and/or an eye for accuracy the figure is a krynoid painted orange. Compare the figure to photos from the series itself and you'll notice what I mean. Now I'm not particularly bothered about this - the figure still looks like an Axon and I don't particularly care for Krynoids, but as Character Options have seemingly been striving for accuracy down to the littlest detail on some of their figures, this may come as a disappointment. Secondly I think the colours might be a little too light...but that might just be me nitpicking.

In conclusion the set is worth the purchase for the Master alone. The Axon is merely a lovely bonus. Now my favourite Doctor has his main foe to be posed with. I am a very happy fan right now.

Monday 9 August 2010

Custom Figure: The Last Dalek


I honestly think Character Options missed out not releasing this one. Sure they released versions of it that appeared later on in the episode - the 'Genetic Print' Dalek (pictured below) and the Mutant Reveal Dalek, but the caged 'Metaltron' version of the lone Dalek from 2005's Dalek is by far the most visually striking. Powerless and alone, the former last Dalek in existence used cunning and trickery to escape its captivity, proved that the Dalek plunger arm is more deadly than it looks and then went on to be more deadly and far scary than any other Dalek has been since the revival of Doctor Who.

This custom was made by first taking the Dalek apart and cutting/bending specific panels to create the battle damaged look it had in the series. Chunks were also carved out of the gun arm to replicate the damage. I used Humbrol Brass enamel paint on the body followed by a wash of very watered down black paint for the dirty look. The base colour is a mix of Citadel chaos black and mythril silver.

Tuesday 3 August 2010

Anime REVIEW: Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop is a popular animated series, let alone anime. As well as hitting top spots in pretty much every "Top (insert number here)" anime lists, Bebop has also managed to hit a few general animated series lists too, one example being IGN's Top 100 Animated TV series from a few years ago. The series has been described as having "sophistication and subtlety that is practically one-of-a-kind" ( and that "From beginning to end this may be one of the best anime ever...". Until now I've never even watched Cowboy Bebop. I think it might be time to see what all of the fuss is about....

Cowboy Bebop is a 26 episode (and one movie, but we'll come to that later) series set in the year 2071 and revolving around bounty hunters (or cowboys) Spike Spiegel and Jet Black, who are later joined by femme fetale Faye Valentine, androgynous computer hacker Ed (or "Radical Edward") and a dog named Ein who might be more intelligent than the viewer initially perceives. While the show does follow a fairly "bounty of the week" format, every so often the episodes are interspaced with insight into the characters' pasts (Spike as a former member of a crime syndicate, Jet as a former ISSP officer, Faye's mysterious forgotten past etc.), which (in Spike' case anyway) builds up toward an explosive finale.

Not that the self contained episode is a bad thing, because they each deal with very different things and have very different styles. From sinister assassins with childlike minds to a more comedic tale concerning Ed and some hallucinogenic mushrooms, Bebop's stories are a perfect blend of action, comedy and, usually, a deeper meaning.

The animation and writing quality isn't the only thing that really sets Cowboy Bebop apart from other animes though, this music also plays a significant part in creating the flavour that the show offers. Yoko Kanno (of Macross Plus, Escaflowne and Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex fame to name a few) creates a score for the series that is like no other, assembling a band (called 'The Seatbelts') to create the jazz and blues style music throughout the series, and their hard work pays off to great effect. Music's influence over the series can also be seen in the episode titles, which either make use of a genre name (Cowboy Funk, Jupiter Jazz) or pay homage to rock music from the 70s/80s (examples include Hard Luck Woman [KISS], Toys in the Attic [Aerosmith] and Bohemian Rhapsody [Queen]).

This trend doesn't only follow in the series, but also extends to Bebop's movie, entitled Knockin' On Heaven's Door, set somewhere between episodes 22 and 23. While the film itself isn't quite up to the standard of the series, it's still a fun ride and a highly enjoyable movie, putting the Bebop crew up against larger stakes, resulting in a much more widescale plot and some fantastic action sequences. Kanno's score also continues to excel expectations.

A truly perfect series is a very rare thing indeed. But Cowboy Bebop is definitely one of those. With a perfect series length that doesn't drag nor feel too short, fully fleshed out characters, superb writing, an ending with enough ambiguity to keep the viewer second guessing about the fate of our heroes, along with brilliant animation along with a soundtrack like no other, there is nothing about Cowboy Bebop that is in need of bettering. This is something not only anime fans will enjoy, but one that has something for everyone. That's what all the fuss is about.