Saturday 28 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. MonsterArts Gamera [1996]

S.H. MonsterArts Gamera (1996)

As much as I love Godzilla, when it comes to giant monster movies my heart definitely belongs to Gamera. Sure Godzilla has had the more illustrious film career, but the Heisei era Gamera Trilogy don't just rank as some of the best kaiju flicks you'll ever find - they're some of my favourite films of all time. The suits and practical effects are among the very best you'll find in modern tokusatsu, and the plots and characters are pretty damn good too! So imagine my excitement when Bandai Tamashii Nations announced that they would finally be visiting the Gamera franchise in their S.H. MonsterArts line - starting with the 1996 version of the character that appeared in the second instalment of the trilogy, Gamera 2: Attack of Legion. While the Gamera franchise did receive some love from Revoltech's SFX/Sci-Fi/tokusatsu subline a few years ago, this was a chance to see Bandai give it the same high quality treatment it's given the likes of Godzilla, King Kong and even the Alien/Predator franchises.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

The "Power/Rangers" fan film: A fan's reaction

Power/Rangers (fan film)

Fan films are nothing new to the internet. Every week it seems some budding director is hoping to be the next viral sensation by putting some sort of clever twist on an existing product rather than get their name out there with something original. However recently there seems to be some sort of special focus on the Power Rangers franchise. Whether it's because of it's return to the public eye since Saban Brands returned to the helm with Power Rangers Samurai, the recent 20th anniversary of the franchise or the forthcoming reboot movie, the internet has seen it's fair share of new takes on the series that started it all. We've had Matt Jayson's "The Ranger" (whose second part will be hitting later in the year) as well as the Kickstarter-backed-but-no-actual-product-so-far "MMPR". But neither of these have provoked quite the reaction Joseph Kahn's "Power/Rangers" has, which hit the internet yesterday.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

First Impressions: Shuriken Sentai Ninninger

Shuriken Sentai Ninninger

Super Sentai isn't a franchise to shy away from using the same theme multiple times. After recently hitting the hat-trick for dinosaurs with Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, 2015 marks the third use of ninjas with Shuriken Sentai Ninninger. With declining ratings and toy competition from the non-stop juggernaut that is Yo-Kai Watch, it isn't all that surprising Toei are playing it safe again with a motif that's proved a success in the past. After the final two episodes of Ressha Sentai ToQger were pushed back due to television coverage of tragic world news, Ninninger premiered a week later than originally intended on 22nd February. With that date actually marking "Ninja day" in Japan, it's surprising it wasn't meant to start that day anyway.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Master Asia

S.H. Figuarts Master Asia

For S.H. Figuarts collectors, there are few stories more infamous than that of Master Asia. The figure was originally revealed by Bandai Tamashii Nations all the way back in 2008, alongside fellow Mobile Suit G Gundam star Domon Kasshu. But while Domon got his release, Master Asia went on to arguably become the poster child of Bandai's "will they/won't they release it" tactics, appearing in magazine scans and multiple shows since with never any indication of an actual release. But when 2014 rolled around and Tamashii Nations started hitting up G Gundam for their Robot Damashii line the unthinkable happened - Master Asia got a release date. No longer the "Unreleased of the East", Master Asia was confirmed for January 2015 and as a mass release figure no less. So before we even begin the review there's a moral here - if Master Asia can get released after nearly seven years, then there's hope for every Figuart.

Truly the Undefeated of the East indeed.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: 66 Action Ultraman Wave 1

66action Ultraman Wave 1

Now that it's quite comfortably into the Kamen Rider franchise, it's time for Bandai's fantastic 66 Action candy toy range to dive into another beloved tokusatsu franchise. This time it's the turn of Tsuburaya Production's legendary Ultra Series - featuring Ultraman, one of Japan's most prominent superheroes. This first wave of 66 Action Ultraman figures features a range of characters from across the franchise's 50 year history, including the popular daikaiju (giant monster) as well as the titular heroes. Here we have the original Ultraman, Ultraseven, Ultraman Ginga Strium and Alien Baltan.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Movie REVIEW: Ressha Sentai ToQger the Movie: Galaxy Line SOS

Ressha SentaI ToQger the Movie: Galaxy Line SOS

There aren't many places where you can call something only 30 minutes long, but every year the Super Sentai franchise manages to get away with it. Released as part of a cinematic summer double bill with the accompanying Kamen Rider movie, sadly Sentai always seems to get the short end of the stick while the Riders get the full blown movie treatment. In 2014 it was the turn of Ressha Sentai ToQger with Galaxy Line SOS, hitting the silver screen alongside Kamen Rider Gaim: Great Soccer Battle! Golden Fruits Cup!

Monday 16 February 2015

Series REVIEW: Ressha Sentai ToQger

Ressha Sentai ToQger

As a tokusatsu fan there's nothing that quite makes me realise how fast a year goes by then when a currently airing series ends - especially in the case of Super Sentai. With the yearly switchover happening less than two months into the new year it's always a sign that the new year has properly kicked in, and this time it's the turn of the 38th entry in the franchise - Ressha Sentai ToQger. Following on from the successful (in terms of toy sales anyway) dinosaur-themed Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, ToQger takes on something very close to the hearts of the Japanese for it's motif - trains! However it's not just limited to this popular form of public transport, also taking on rainbows, light and imagination to form the core of what the show is all about. So not another dark Sentai show then.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Blue Beet

S.H. Figuarts Blue Beet

Forget Kamen Rider and Super Sentai, if the Tamashii Nation 2014 event taught us anything about the S.H. Figuarts line it's that it will soon be the time of the of the Metal Heroes. The Space Sheriffs came a few years ago, but at the event Bandai previewed a whole host of other heroes from the franchise and already 2015 is shaping up to be a great year. Megabeast Investigator Juspion will be joining us in May, but before then we have a likely more familiar hero - Blue Beet of the 14th Metal Heroes series, Juuko B-Fighter. Of course, those who grew up with Power Rangers and its various offshoots will also know him by a different name - the Blue Stinger Beetleborg of Big Bad Beetleborgs.

The best thing is that this isn't just a one-off release either, prior to the figure's release in January (as a Tamashii web exclusive), the rest of the team have been confirmed to be following - along with Blue Beet's infamous evil twin Black Beet. Black Beet will be coming in April, with a two-pack of G-Stag and Reddle following in May - all web exclusives of course. Along with the forthcoming Kikaider 01 figures, this is possibly my favourite year for Figuarts yet.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Motoko Kusanagi S.A.C. Ver.

Figma Motoko Kusanagi S.A.C. Ver.

You don't particularly have to be an anime fan to have heard of Ghost in the Shell. The 1995 film by Mamoru Oshii is widely considered one of the greatest anime films of all time, and the original manga and subsequent anime productions have also enjoyed their fair share of success. So with the franchise having just celebrated its 25th anniversary, it's the perfect time for Max Factory to bring lead character Major Motoko Kusanagi to it's ever popular Figma line! This particular version is based on her appearance in the Stand Alone Complex television series, with another figure based on her recent Ghost in the Shell: Arise redesign also teased for the future. Will a movie version also be teased to complete the trifecta? Who knows, but the Stand Alone Complex look for the Major is arguably her most recognisable look at definitely the version most worthy of joining the line first.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle

S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle

If there's one thing that S.H. Figuarts fans will constantly argue about, it's the state of the line's Super Sentai figures. Despite not having any official statement from Bandai Tamashii Nations about it, the figures seem to have never caught on quite as much as their Kamen Rider brethren - with the mass release reds usually ending up on clearance and the rest of the team given web exclusive status (if they're even fully released at all). However one thing's for sure - the line isn't dead yet, and nothing proves that more than S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle. While most of the Sentai Figuarts were revealed at events, this figure literally came out of nowhere when the Tamashii products for December 2014 were announced. The character hails from the 5th Super Sentai series Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan - a show notable for not only being the first to have three core members, but also the ONLY Sentai to be completely made up of male members. As one of the most popular Showa era Super Sentai Vul Eagle seems like an obvious choice for a figure, but he comes as a very pleasant surprise nonetheless.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider ZO

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider ZO

As we draw ever closer to having the full roster of main Kamen Riders in the S.H. Figuarts line, Bandai Tamashii Nations seems to have padded releases out with reissues and bike two-packs in order to keep their golden goose running for a little bit longer. That said, they still managed to see out 2014 with a new Rider release, which means we're only two (Kamen Rider J and Kamen Rider Kiva) away from having the whole lineup of veteran Riders. Rather surprisingly Kamen Rider ZO somehow managed to come out as a retail release despite starring in a single 48-minute movie. Sure he's still a main Rider, but Kamen Rider Shin wasn't so lucky in that regard was he? Poor Shin. 

Friday 6 February 2015

Anime REVIEW: Monogatari Second Season

Monogatari Second Season

With the Monogatari series proving to be one of Shaft's biggest anime franchises, it's just as well there's plenty of stories left to be adapted from Nishio Isin's light novel works. And though prior to Monogatari Second Season the franchise already had three successful entries behind it, everything about this entry screams bigger. Not only making the jump to a full 26-episode series (which originally aired between July and December 2013), Second Season differs from its predecessors by bringing a total of FIVE of Isin's novels under one banner rather than focussing on a single one. These stories are Nekomonogatari (Shiro), Kabukimonogatari, Otorimonogatari, Onimonogatari and Koimonogatari.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider ZO

Kamen Rider ZO

Kamen Rider may have taken a somewhat lengthy television hiatus between 1989 and 2000, but that doesn't mean the franchise was completely forgotten in those 11 years. Following the V-cinema release of Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue, a cinematic film by the name of Kamen Rider ZO was released in 1993. Despite only having a 48-minute run time, this film is not only notable for being the first joint-production between Toei and Bandai but was also directed by Keita Amemiya - the man behind the Garo franchise and Mechanical Violator Hakaider. Not only that, but the film also received an official English dub in the form of a (critically panned) Sega CD game - released in the US as The Masked Rider: Kamen Rider ZO.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles "The New Batman Adventures" Two-Face

DC Collectibles TNBA Two-Face

Arguably Batman: The Animated Series and it's follow up The New Batman Adventures owe a lot of their success to the brilliance of how it handled the Caped Crusader's rogues gallery. Whether it's Mark Hamill's portrayal of the Joker, Paul Dini's incredible reimagining of Mr. Freeze or the creation of the one and only Harley Quinn - many of Batman's most famous villains received some of their finest moments in these cartoons. So to kick off DC Collectibles new range of animated Batman figures, the first villain to follow Batman himself is none other than Two-Face, the criminal persona of former Gotham district attorney Harvey Dent. Though many of Two-Face's strongest episodes appeared in the original animated series, he also played a significant part in The New Batman Adventures - having close ties to the second Robin's origin as well as having his split personality fragment even more. As such, the toyline has turned to these appearances to craft a brand new Two-Face figure that celebrates these must-see shows.

Monday 2 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles "The New Batman Adventures" Batman

DC Collectibles TNBA Batman

Batman: The Animated Series is widely considered to be one of the greatest cartoons of all time, but despite this has never received any toys outside those that were released during it's original run (and those were actual toys rather than collectibles). But with the recent 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight, DC Collectibles have revisited the iconic show for a brand new range of high-end figures. Aiming to be as accurate to Bruce Timm's original designs as possible, this line not only features designs from B:TAS, but also the follow-up series The New Batman Adventures - which simplified the art-style somewhat to bring it more in line with Superman: The Animated Series and subsequently the rest of the DC Animated Universe. So to kick off the line is of course Batman, based on his 1997 New Batman Adventures look.