Thursday 28 February 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Super Robot Chogokin Gunbuster

SRC Gunbuster 01

As anyone who bought it can attest to, the Revoltech Gunbuster figure than came out a few years ago wasn’t very good. While it was nice to finally have a modern cheap alternative to Bandai’s epic Soul of Chogokin version, it was spoilt by cumbersome revolver joints and a needless transformation gimmick. Fast-forward to 2013, and Bandai have returned to the world of Aim for the Top! to conquer small-scale Gunbuster figures too. Hot on the heels of their Gurren Lagann release, Gunbuster is the next entry in the Super Robot Chogokin line. Like his Gainax cohort he features Bandai’s new “crossover joint” feature and is compatible with the “Drill Set of Manliness” accessory set. Here is the review:

SRC Gunbuster Box Front

SRC Gunbuster Box BackSRC Gunbuster Insert Tray

Packaging is one of those things that can get boring to talk about after a while, but Bandai never fail to do a good job of it. Sporting a slightly larger box than the standard SRC, the front art features the figure performing Gunbuster’s trademark “Inazuma kick” pose. The left spine features the usual bookend style picture, and the back Gunbuster in some more poses. Open him up and you’ll find the accessories split onto two trays – a standard sized one with the figure and then a smaller one with the hands and chest pieces.

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Much like Gurren Lagann, Bandai have taken a few liberties with Gunbuster’s design. It’s not so much a matter of change, more elongation. I assume that by giving Gunbuster a leaner sculpt, it allows for a wider range of articulation – which is what this figure is all about. In all honesty I think it’s not as bigger deal as some people are making it out to be, though it's true that the blueish-tint grey colourscheme might not be to everyone's taste.

Considering it’s a mecha design with giant spaceship pieces jutting out of the shoulders, you might think that some areas of the articulation are hindered. Thankfully this isn’t the case, and Gunbuster displays that usual fantastic range Bandai put into this line. Double jointed elbows and knees, ball jointed head, shoulders, waist and hips – it’s all there. Even the shoulder pieces have limited articulation!

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Though Gunbuster didn’t actually appear all that much in Aim For the Top!, each appearance was full of accessory potential, pretty much all of which has been incorporated into the SRC. Included are 9 swappable hands, alternate “Buster Collider” forearm and leg panels, two “Buster Home Run” baseball bats, “Inazuma kick” foot spikes and skeletal chest/degeneracy reactor parts. That’s pretty much everything seen in the OVA plus something only used in the radio dramas.

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The chest piece is relatively simple to switch out, but connecting the foot spikes is a little more frustrating. The pieces seem to be wider than the indents in the foot, resulting in them popping out more often than not and a lot of unnecessary strain. The “Buster Collider” pieces are also straightforward – the arms involve switching out the entire forearm, but the legs make use of clip-on panels instead. Removing the standard leg panels reveals some really nice detailing in the lower legs (which also happens to be the only diecast content in the figure).

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The crossover joint capability allows Gunbuster to connect with Gurren Lagann’s wingpack or Shin Mazinger’s God Scrander, as well as swapping the arms around. The miniature drills from Gurren Lagann accessory set can be placed on the end of the “Buster Collider” guns, and the giant drill can also be plugged into the foot via a connector included. With the spinning effect part put over the top, this creates a more elaborate Inazuma kick effect. Just don’t expect to pose him like this without a Tamashii stand.

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Though he is compatible with Gurren Lagann’s drill parts, Gunbuster will also be receiving his own personal accessory pack later this year. This pack features a cloak, two axes and blast effect parts for the guns included in the main release. It comes with a pretty hefty price tag of 3990 yen (plus middleman fees) but thankfully it doesn’t include anything essential to a perfect Gunbuster display.

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Bandai have truly been spoiling Super Robot Chogokin buyers lately. Mid-last year saw the release of the excellent Daizyujin, and then last month Gurren Lagann. Gunbuster not only continues this trend, but somehow also manages to exceed both figures. What it lacks in hefty diecast content, it makes up for in a leaner sculpt, fantastic poseability and a superb amount of accessories. This is certainly a must-have purchase for mecha and Gainax fans alike, and those who own the Revoltech Gunbuster too can breathe a sigh of relief, transform it into the ship modes, pose it alongside the SRC and then never look back.

Friday 22 February 2013

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

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February is usually the time that introduces the latest Kamen Rider to Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts line, and 2013 is no exception. Kamen Rider Wizard is a series that’s going to bring in a huge range of new figures(at the time of writing there are eight Wizard forms announced, Kamen Rider Beast and two Phantoms), but for now we start things off with the character’s base form – Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style. Here is the review:

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style Box Front

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style Box BackSH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Insert Tray

While Figuarts packaging often looks great, it’s a pretty standard affair. However Kamen Rider Wizard’s box really puts others to shame and suits the character perfectly. The box has a smooth black finish, with the usual square window replaced by a circular one surrounded by one of the magic circles seen in the show itself. The spine features a similar aesthetic to the images and text on the front, while the back is the usual “figure in multiple poses” image. Open him up and you’ll find the pieces separated onto two trays – the first housing the figure and most of the accessories while the bottom holds the Tamashii stage and alternate robe parts.

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Kamen Rider Wizard himself is one of the more unorthodox Rider designs, featuring a flowing tailcoat and a helmet devoid of the obvious compound eyes Kamen Rider’s usually have (a first time for a main Rider since Kamen Rider Hibiki). Bandai have done a decent job translating this to a figure, but the execution is far from perfect. Wizard's neck is almost non-existent which makes the head feel oddly proportioned, while the feet are also noticeably large and throw the shape of the figure off. On top of all that the waist section is tiny, which leads to the Driver feeling sucked into the body as the torso section hangs out so far in front of it. The finish on the other is pretty great - the smooth black plastic of the coat contrasts excellently with the shiny red parts of the figure, which were also used for that striking helmet design.  The silver shoulder pads also feature the dragon/magic circle markings that they should.

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Articulation should be to the usual Figuarts standard, but this is where the figure really begins to show off some very serious flaws. The shortness of the neck becomes a little more noticeable since the coat collar gets in the way of him looking sidewards. The tailcoat piece is made from soft PVC so can be slightly moved to suit the leg poses, but nothing substantial enough to get a particularly impressive range of motion out off. The biggest problem however is the waist and Driver. The Driver is constantly prone to having the front panel pop off, and because of the tiny tabs used to fix it to the belt piece the connection is anything BUT secure. In turn forcing the piece back onto the belt will often result in the whole top half of the figure just popping off its ball joint, which is presumably a little less secure than a typical Figuart so that changing out the tailcoat pieces is a little easier. Over time the pieces just get less and less secure, so much so that it's almost impossible to pose this figure without one or the other popping off in the process. Proportion flaws be damned Wizard is still a pretty good looking figure in certain poses, but the process of getting him into said poses quickly becomes frustrating to the point where you don't even want to keep trying.

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So how do Bandai try to make up for these flaws? With one of the most impressive accessory counts you'll find on an S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider release. Included are 12 hands, the WizarSword gun in both sword and gun forms, an alternate Wizard driver plate in the opposite hand position and accompanying belt piece, flowing tail coat pieces and most significantly of all – a personalised Tamashii stage. It’s a rarity for them to come regularly packaged with a figure, and is extremely welcome with Wizard given how flashy his attacks are(it is show time after all!). Each hand has the “flame style” and “driver on” rings accurately moulded on, and the weapons feature a nifty hinged hand to recreate Wizard’s finishing attacks. The Tamashii stage is a translucent red colour, featuring a magic gate image and the name of the figure.

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While Wizard does have at least one separate accessory pack coming out in the near future, unlike Kamen Rider Fourze (who had numerous accessory sets and a designated stand set) there is more than enough here to keep a buyer satisfied with the figure alone. As an added incentive, the initial run of Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style comes with “Strike” robe parts as a bonus (packaged separately from the figure as you can see). Both this robe piece and the flowing one included in the main box are solid plastic as opposed to PVC, but are unlikely to get in the way of posing the legs. Changing the robe involves removing the torso (along with the Wizard driver), lifting the robe piece off the legs and then pegging the alternate one down. The downside to this switch is that by prying the waist joint away once, it makes the whole thing feel loose from there on out. What once felt like a tight figure from the package now breaks (not literally) in half with very little provocation. Like the belt issue its a rather irritating frustration, especially for someone who likes to regularly switch around their figure's poses.

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Much like the show itself, S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style seems to be a pretty big exercise in style over substance. The finish of the figure is one that lives up to the suit's overly flashy design, and the accessory count is more than enough to lure you in even if you aren't a huge fan of the series. But at the end of the day these are action figures meant to be posed, and this is where Wizard really struggles to make the cut. Even if you can overlook the obvious proportion issues, the problems with the waist and Driver are frustrating to the point where once you finally get the figure into a pose you're happy with you never want to touch it again for fear of it coming apart in your hands. Straight out of the box the toy seems wonderful, but it only takes an hour or so for these things to become all too apparent. Kamen Rider Wizard perhaps doesn't quite deserve the bad rap he gets, but functionally there are definitely some things Bandai could have addressed before release.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Nyaruko

Figma Nyaruko 01

There have now been over one hundred toy reviews since I started up this blog. I'll leave it up to you to decide whether this means I have too much time/money on my hands, but to celebrate this milestone one I decided to have a little fun. The Crawling Chaos herself, Nyaruko (or if you know your Cthulu mythos, Nyarlathotep) has finally been released in Max Factory's Figma toyline. If you've ever watched Haiyore! Nyaruko-san, you'll know that the series is chock full of gaming, anime and tokusatsu references - and this review is no different. Most of the pictures I've included here a either Kamen Rider or Super Sentai references, so see if you can spot them all!

Figma Nyaruko Box Front

Figma Nyaruko Box BackFigma Nyaruko Box Tray

Much like the opening to the series itself, Nyaruko's packaging is a vibrant mix of colours. The figure and her accessories (bar the hands and stand) can be seen in their entirety from the front window, while the back features numerous posed pictures of the figure as is the norm. Open her up and you'll be able to see the rather bare tray (more on this later) in all of its glory.

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There's not a whole lot of colour on Nyaruko, but her outfit is a great mix of black, grey and white. Having a soft spot for chequered things anyway, her and bowtie wins a lot of points with me. Her puffed sleeves do hinder more complex arm posing, but this is easy to get around after playing around with her for a while. Like most Figma her skirt is made of soft PVC to stop it getting in the way of leg posing, but I feel the fabric crease detailing is particularly worthy of praise on Nyaruko. Changing the faces involves taking off the fringe section so that the full face is exposed. While the fringe is taken off, the single hairpiece that sticks out of the top can also be taken off and repositioned should you wish.

One nitpick that comes with a word of warning is the bow on the back of her outfit. It's incredibly loose-fitting and wobbly, and doesn't feel like something that's meant to come off. It probably won't fall right off unless you're doing something very wrong with the figure, but at the same time it's something to keep in mind.

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Finally we come to Nyaruko's biggest flaw - her rather meagre accessory count. As well as the standard Figma inclusion of extra hands and a stand, Nyaruko comes packaged with two alternate faces (an action-look and a sly face), her two space C.Q.Cs (the "Hard-to describe crowbar-like thingy" and the "unholy hand grenade) and an additional hand to hold the grenade. That's it. Compare this with the Nendoroid, which included alternate hairpieces in different shapes and more notably her pet Shanta-kun. Not only does it feel like she doesn't come with very much, it looks like it too. Just look back at the packaging picture and see how much of the tray is blank space. A pretty disappointing thing for an otherwise pretty good figure.

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Nyaruko may be a great figure, but some fiddly parts of the sculpt and poor accessory count make her fall short being perfect. Regardless she's extremely fun to mess around with and poses, something that's only accentuated if you have any S.H. Figuarts figures for her to play around with. As what may be the only character from the series to get a figure too (although a second season is coming later this year so never say never) you won't be opening the floodgates for a whole new collection. Unless this is your first Figma that is...