Saturday 27 August 2011

Toybox REVIEW: Engine Sentai Go-Onger mini-pla Seiku-Oh

The third mecha in Engine Sentai Go-Onger's hefty mecha line-up, Seiku-Oh is the combination of the engines Jum-bowhale, Toriptor and Jetras, and is piloted by the Go-On Wings (Go-On Gold and Silver, who were also my favourite characters in the series). Toriptor is Gold's engine, Jetras is Silver's, and Jum-bowhale does not have a pilot. This candy toy comes in 3 boxes - one for each engine. However it should be noted that because of Jum-bowhale's size, his wings are included with Toriptor and Jetras rather than his own box.

While the candy toys require a varying amount of paint to look semi show accurate, out of the ones I've come across so far Toriptor is by far the one that needs the most paint to look even remotely good. The red wraparound stickers are poorly cut and don't cover half as much as they need to, and the helicopter rotor blades look plain stupid in gold plastic with single silver stickers stuck on. I'm not entirely happy with my finished Toriptor, but adding red, white, black and silver paint to him has made him look far better than he would have otherwise. Jetras on the other hand doesn't need any paint to look good, and Jum-bowhale only needs a spot of blue and black paint if you really want to add it, and would probably look just as good without it. The stickers on my release of the toy are extremely poor, nearly ripping when taken off the sticking sheet and having incredibly poor adhesive. The toys themselves are pretty good, if a bit static. While Jetras doesn't really have any particular features, Toriptor includes spinning rotor blades and Jum-bowhale's wings are hinged.

On the subject on Jum-bowhale, the sheer size of him is extremely impressive for a one box candy toy, towering over any of the other releases I have (except perhaps Kishamoth, but Jum-bowhale is far wider than him). To transform the 3 engines into Seiku-Oh, Jum-bowhale's head is removed and the tail is split apart to form the legs. After bringing the figure upwards the wings are rotated to form the shoulders and the whale head is attached to the torso. Toriptor and Jetras and stretched out and form the arms of the robot.

While very accurate to the show model, I've always found Seiku-Oh to be a bit lacking. The body is made up of entirely one robot, and the arms don't have any visible hands or features, and simply look like vehicles attached as arms rather than have any sort of proper transformation. Seiku-Oh's legs are of a very strange design, but still maintain a great amount of posability. Posing the arms is a bit more difficult due to the limitations of the shoulders, but even then you can get a pretty good variety of poses out of it. Toriptor and Jetras can also be attached to the Engine-Oh candy toy (as shown below), and the figure also includes instructions to make Engine G9 using Engine-Oh and Gunbir-Oh.

Seiku-Oh is certainly the weakest of the 4 Go-Onger mecha, and its definitely reflected in this release. Combined with the poor sticker quality and extra amount of detailing Toriptor needed, this is certainly one of the weaker candy toys Bandai have put out in recent years.

Friday 26 August 2011

Toybox REVIEW: Engine Sentai Go-Onger mini-pla Kyoretsu-Oh

Dinosaurs are awesome. And trains are pretty damn awesome too. So by that logic, dinosaur trains must be something pretty damn special. The final mecha in the Go-Onger line up - Kyoretsu-Oh, the "Powerful King of Trains is made up of the three ancient engines Kishamoth, T-Line and K-Line and primarily piloted by Go-On Red. This candy toy assortment comes in 4 boxes - 2 for Kishamoth, and one each for T-Line and K-Line. This review is of the Hong Kong release of the figure (much like my earlier Engine-Oh review) and so any quality issues I stress may not affect the Japanese release - but in this instance they will affect my overall rating at the end of the review.

Being made of 2 different boxes, Kishamoth is obviously the largest and most complex of the 3 ancient engines. At twice the length and about 3 times the mass of the other 2, Kishamoth has an impressive level of detail for a candy toy - complete with moveable tusks and a retractable trunk. While smaller and far more simplistic, K-Line and T-Line are also excellent for their size - although mainly for the robot mode, having moveable jaws in engine mode is a nice little touch. What's great about these figures is that they need barely any paint to look good - other than K-Line's tusks and horns (which look much better painted gold, but there are stickers if you'd prefer) the stickers nicely cover all the excess detailing, and the wraparound stickers are too cumbersome for once.

As well as being able to combine together in robot mode, the 3 train modes can also attach (as trains would) to create a larger train, with T-Line and K-Line serving as the carriages. It's not much to look at, but at the same time its a nice little extra and accurate to the characters' appearance in the show.

To combine the 3 engines in Kyoretsu-Oh, Kishamoth requires quite a bit of parts swapping and moving about (which is well illustrated in the instructions), while the other two fold out to form the legs (with the jaws fully opening to create stable feet). In its combined form Kyoretsu-Oh's huge mass really help make it look the strongest and most imposing of the 4 Go-Onger mecha. With articulation in the head, shoulders, elbows, waist, hips and knees, the figure is also capable of a wide variety of poses that other versions of the mecha can only dream of. Its somewhat disappointing that there is no weapon for Kyoretsu-Oh nor do his hands have any articulation, but at the same time he didn't use any weapons in the show so its accurate in that respect. The waist joint on my figure is a little loose, but other than that the figure is nice and sturdy due to its size and maintains any pose I put it in.

As this is the last release in the Go-Onger candy toy line, also included are instructions to make Engine G-12. As I currently don't own Gunbir-Oh, I can't comment on how that form looks, but you can draw your own conclusions from any google search.

I really like Kyoretsu-Oh. I don't know if its just because its a love of both dinosaurs/prehistoric animals and trains combined, but the figure itself is excellent and lacks any of the problems I found with my Engine-Oh candy toy. The only real problem is that without any definitive weapons or hand posing, action posing is a little thin on the ground for the figure. Still, it looks absolutely fantastic in both modes, and is definitely worth a place on anyone's Power Rangers/Super Sentai shelf, with or without its Go-Onger buddies.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Retrofire Zeo Megazord

Along with the new Power Rangers Samurai toyline came a return of another old Power Rangers favourite - the retrofire line. First appearing in 2009 under the 'Super Legends' banner, the retrofires are smaller, stylized and articulated zords from previous PR series'. Originally returning with the SPD Delta Squad Megazord and Jungle Fury Jungle Pride Megazord, the second batch in the Samurai line includes both a reissue (the Mystic Force Titan Megazord) and a brand new (well, it was originally slated for release before the line's earlier cancellation) figure - the Zeo Megazord from 1996's Power Rangers Zeo. News of this release was extremely exciting to me, as Power Rangers Zeo is my all time favourite Power Rangers series, and the Zeo Megazord is among my favourite Megazord designs.

While all of the Retrofire figures thus far have received some sort of anime=esque stylization I think perhaps its most apparent with the Zeo Megazord, and it is also the figure than has benefited the most from it. The most obvious new feature would be Phoenix/Zeo Zord 5, which now has its wings outstretched at the back of the robot rather than folded in. I really like this new feature, as I always felt Zeo Zord 5 was somewhat hidden from the overall design of the robot from the front, and this new feature makes it stand out more and helps the robot look much more impressive. But for those preferring a more traditional look, the Phoenix wings are also removable from the figure. Other stylization includes a lot more curvature on the flat, boxy surfaces (such as the shoulder pads) and a slight redesign of Zeo Zords 1 and 2 to make them look more like articulated legs and not single blocky pieces.

Articulation on the whole is decent - the figure has a waist swivel, along with a moveable head, arms and hands. The legs are moveable at the hips, knees and feet. A nice little touch is the shoulder pads, which can rotate around the arm, so that they can remain in the right position whatever pose the arms are placed in. The only accessory included with the figure is the Zeo Megazord Saber, which can be held in either hand.

However, what really let's this figure down is the same thing that lets down almost every other retrofire figure - bizarre/disappointing articulation. Thankfully the Zeo Megazord doesn't suffer from having unsymmetrical articulation like previous figures in the line have, but it does have one other obvious flaw - a lack of elbow joints. What makes this even more glaring is that looking at the figure I can't see any reason why it would have been difficult to put some sort of elbow joint on the arm design, and having the arms posed permanently in a position where the arms are bent at the elbows makes the figure look like some sort of muscle-bound body builder. The newer retrofire figures also suffer from a lack of accessories, with the rather nifty lightning bolt stand taken away for some prettier packaging.

Design-wise, I can't fault this figure - it has really benefited from the redesign and it arguably the best the Zeo Megazord has ever looked. But objectively, the huge flaw of a lack of elbow articulation and no stand does bring this figure down a notch overall. Bandai have already proved that they can do excellently articulated Megazords with the Jungle Pride Megazord, and although this may be an earlier design not going back and adding such an obvious piece of articulation (or even not having it in the first place) is just sheer laziness on their part. Still, an excellent figure, and more than worthy of being a part of anyone's Power Rangers collection.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Anime REVIEW: New Getter Robo

Getter Robo is a franchise I've been meaning to look into for a long time. As a fan of both super robot animes and other Go Nagai works (particularly the Mazinger franchise), it's something that would probably tick all the right boxes with me. Since I wasn't particularly in the mood to start with a 51 episode series from the 1970s (although I might revisit this later), I decided to start with something a bit more modern. 2004's New Getter Robo is an alternate retelling of the Getter Robo story, and was an OVA series that ran for 13 episodes.

Taken from anime-planet;
Humanity is under attack by the Oni - fierce demons of unknown origin - that can only be defeated by Dr. Saotome's Getter Ray-powered robots. However, these robots are only a stopgap, buying time for the next generation of Getter-powered robot: Getter Robo. Able to change shape into three combinations to suit the current task, and vastly more powerful than its predecessors, Getter Robo requires three pilots to fully utilize it. Dr. Saotome selects three interesting individuals for the task: Ryoma Nagare, a headstrong martial artist; Hayato Jin, a power hungry terrorist; and Benkei Musashibou, a bear of a man who has turned to the way of Buddha. Together, these oddly-matched teammates must find out where the Oni come from and stop the threat that they pose.

Unfortunately the story is by far the weakest aspect of New Getter Robo. It often seems to be going in an interesting direction, but I can't help feel that perhaps the writers attempted too much into a 13-episode show. There is a hell of a lot going on (including ancient demons and time travel in the past and future among the typical super robot science fiction and over the top action) without very little explanation behind it. Villains change hands with very little build up it, and in reality the villains are about as thinly developed as they come. Initially I really liked the three main protagonists - who were about as stereotypically manly as anime males can get, but as time went on I even began to lose interest in them. Ryoma, as the main character of the show, receives the most development, but eventually lulls into the stereotype of the crazed anime hero. Its a somewhat important story point, but at the same time makes him feel a little one dimensional until the series comes to its (rather interesting) conclusion. Hayato is introduced as a complete psychopath, killing pretty much everyone and everything in his path, but then without any real explanation goes through a complete character change, becoming probably the most reasonable (and sanest) member of the trio. And Benkei, well, other than some light comic relief moments he was never that interesting in the first place.

What this anime clearly wants to do is be loud and obnoxious - and it does this in spades. The violence is completely over the top (with multiple blood drenched decapitations and even monsters getting their spines ripped out), the fights are long and numerous, and the screams of "GETTER BEAM" and "GETTER TOMAHAWK" are loud. Action-wise, its the heart and soul of the super robot genre and a style that Go Nagai has not only nailed, but also help create.

As a huge fan of Go Nagai's character/mecha designs and art style, visually the show was a treat to watch. Getter Robo, much like Mazinger Z, has a very important place in super robot/mecha history - it was the first anime robot to be made up of multiple components and combine. What's interesting about Getter Robo is that its made up of three different ships (the Eagle, Jaguar and Bear) and that they can combine in different ways to create three different Getter Robos. Getter-1, the most iconic of the three, is certainly the show's main highlight. Go Nagai's retro styled, simplistic robot designs really come to life with modern animation technology and Getter-1 is sure that everyone's eyes is fixed on it when it appears. Getter-2 and 3 are much less memorable designs, but I do like how different they are from Getter-1 - which is even more impressive when you consider that they're made from identical components. Getter-2 is far skinnier and has a giant drill for an arm (which is always a plus if you know me) and Getter-3 is squat with tank treads for legs/feet. Each Getter unit is designed for a different style of combat and that is reflected in their attacks. The other robot designs and monsters featured in the show are nothing particularly special, but this helps the Getter stand out much more - so whether this was intentional on the staff's part, it does work quite well.

With a soundtrack from veteran super robot musicians JAM Project - music is one of the areas New Getter Robo does manage to succeed in. However, the show's opening theme (entitled 'Dragon') can only be played over a fight sequence so many times before it begins to lose its impact. And since it's played over pretty much every major fight in the series (so at least once an episode) by the time you've reached the show's big climax all power and effect the music is supposed to have is long gone.

What New Getter Robo lacks in depth though it certainly makes up for in over the top violence, gore and robot vs monster action. If this is what you're looking for in a series, then I can't recommend it enough - but I was certainly left wanting more. This will by no means be my last foray into the world of Getter Robo, but I can't say its off to an excellent start. New Getter Robo is certainly a very accessible start for people looking to get into the franchise, but I can't help feel that there are probably much better options out there.

Toybox REVIEW: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger mini-pla Gojyujin

Following on from the first set of Gokai machines, the next mecha from Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger to receive the candy toy mini-pla treatment is Gojyujin - the personal mecha of the latest Gokaiger, Gokai Silver. Armed with the great powers of TimeRanger, ZyuRanger and Abaranger, Gojyujin is able to transform into three distinct modes - the GozyuDrill spaceship (TimeRanger), the dinosaur GozyuRex (ZyuRanger) and then the robot mode, Gojyujin (Abaranger). Armed with a giant drill that opens up to reveal a spear, its finishing attack is the Gojyu Triple Drill Dream. This candy toy is made up of three boxes - one containing the legs, another the torso and head, and then the final the arms.

Overall, Gojyujin doesn't particularly need any painting as the stickers bring out a lot of the details in the model, but then there are a few areas to pay attention if you want that extra bit of accuracy. The drill especially, as it sorely lacks the gold detailing on the drill's spiral. The feet could also benefit from a lick of paint, as personally I find the claw stickers somewhat lackluster looking even if you apply them perfectly (the same applied for MagiDragon and GaoLion), and the teeth of the GojyuRex head look much better with some silver if you feel like a bit of detailing. Assembly is very straightforward, with the instructions for each part well illustrated on the inside of each box. When all three parts are complete, put them all together and your very own Gojyujin is ready to battle evil!

To begin with we'll look at the figure's various transformations (instructions for which are supplied on a separate leaflet with each box). While the transformations do require a bit of parts swapping (the arms need to be removed each time you transform it), this is actually accurate the Gojyujin's portrayal in the show and therefore not so much of a huge issue - the mini-pla even manages to retain the openable chest compartment for the head and the moveable prongs on the head. The GozyuDrill mode doesn't have a lot to it, and therefore is probably the weakest of the three modes (but then its the least used in the show ANYWAY), but even then its extremely accurate and quite long. To transform it the legs fold back behind the torso, and lock nicely into holes provided. The dinosaur head/right arm goes to the back of the ship and the drill is applied to the front.

The GojyuRex has much more play value, and probably my favourite of Gojyujin's three modes. The legs are bent and the torso hunched forward, the drill arm attached to the back as the tail, the dinosaur head plugged in at the top and finally the spindly dinosaur arms attached to the side of the torso. Along with the arms' basic range of motion, the dinosaur jaw is also articulated (although opening it too wide reveals a very obvious fist).

Finally there is Gojyujin, which is the assembled mode if you've been following the model instructions. As is the standard with the miniplas', this version of Gojyujin displays articulation that the DX version can only dream about (but obviously doesn't have the DX's spinning gimmick). The drill itself can spin if pushed, and opens up to reveal the spear weapon. As an added bonus, the arms can be removed and attached to Gokaiger (a formation which has yet to d├ębut in the show). To be perfectly honest, it isn't that impressive - but that's hardly the fault of the toy, as it won't look impressive in the show either).

To conclude - as much as I love my GokaiOh minipla, Gojyjin is definitely the stand out winner of the Gokaiger mini-plas so far. The execution of the three modes is flawless, the figure is well built and detailed, and most importantly tons of fun to play and mess about with. A must buy for all Gokaiger fans, and worth checking out if you're a fan of transforming robot dinosaurs too.