Tuesday 12 April 2016

Toybox REVIEW: Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger Minipla Zyuoh King

A brand new year means a brand new range of Super Sentai toys for fans to enjoy, and with the franchise celebrating its 40th anniversary this year Dobutsu Sentai Zyuohger is a series that will likely be seeing even more attention than normal. This year’s series combines an animal motif with a transforming cube gimmick, with the components stacking in a totem pole fashion before transforming into robot mode. The DX toy of the team’s first mecha ZyuOh King has already been met with mixed reception by fans due to its simplicity, however as usual Bandai have a smaller, cheaper and more articulated alternative on offer as part of their annual minipla candy toy line. Kicking things off is the standard version of ZyuOh King, made up of Zyuoh Eagle’s Cube Eagle, Zyuoh Shark’s Cube Shark and Zyuoh Lion’s Cube Lion, with the auxiliary Cube Giraffe mecha thrown in for good measure.

The ZyuOh King minipla set is spread across a total of five boxes, which equates to one for each Cube Animal other than Eagle which is split across two. All five boxes feature completely identical box art save for the bottom corner, which is unusual as typical each box will feature the combined mecha in a slightly different pose. The only other part of the box that’s different is the top, which features a small image of the contents alongside the Cube Animal’s respective ranger (Giraffe also used Zyuoh Eagle). Inside you’ll find the required runners sealed in a plastic bag with the sticker and sheet and combination instructions, with the standard piece of soda-flavoured candy rattling around loosely. The instructions for the models themselves are printed on the inside of the box, and the box needs to be torn down the perforated spine to read. 

Those buying a whole case of the figure will receive a total of 12 boxes – two complete sets of the figure plus two extras. My case had an extra Cube Giraffe and half of Eagle, but I can neither confirm nor deny that this will be the case for all cases.

(From here on out all images will be of a PAINTED Zyuoh King minipla set. If you're curious to see how it looks using only the stickers included with each box, I recommend checking out this Japanese review alongside mine).

First up of course is Cube Eagle, the first (and arguably main) Cube Animal of this year's red ranger - Zyuoh Eagle! Being made up of two boxes worth of parts Cube Eagle is naturally a little more complex than the rest of the animals featured in this set, but it's still nothing that even beginner modellers wouldn't have any trouble figuring out. The model is made up of a mix of red, yellow, white, black and grey plastic pieces, with the additional blue piece you can see above coming from the Cube Shark box. The stickers are mainly there to cover all of the white piping that runs across the body (and in cube form makes up the "1" symbol), but also included are the green eyes and red foil panels to go on the underside of the wings. 

To transform Eagle to cube mode, simply sit the bird upright and fold the head down into the dented section in the underbelly, fold the wings in and then unplug the panel they’re attached to away from the body, swinging them both backwards and in towards to top of the bird. While the end product can certainly qualify as a cube, it is a little rough around the edges in terms of visible gaps and various holes and plugs sticking out of it.

The second Cube Eagle box also comes with the pieces to build Zyuoh King's head, which accurately retains the plug-in gimmick from both the show and the DX toy (albeit without the other spring-loaded sections to the DX toy has). The piece itself doesn't attach to Eagle in any way so for now it's just lying around, but we'll come back to it later in the review when the transformation and combined mode are covered.

Next up is Cube Shark, which belongs to Zyuohger's only sea-based team member, Zyuoh Shark. Sadly this model features no chomping action, or any other real articulation to speak of. What you do get is a pretty sturdy looking pixel-inspired shark, complete with stubby little fins poking out of either side. The model is made up of predominately blue plastic parts with a few bits of white thrown in, along with two yellow pieces kindly donated from the Cube Lion box. Again the stickers are mainly for any other bits of white there are on the mecha, along with it's striking red eyes. However for anyone who'd rather paint their Cube Shark all the detailing comes pre-moulded on the kit, which even includes the outline for the "2" on top.

The transformation to cube mode involves taking the propeller “fin” piece off the back of, splitting it in half and pegging them on the inside of the body. Following that the head at the front can also be broken in two, which each half then swinging backwards to form the missing two sides. Finally the fin piece on top also folds down so that the “2” side is completely smooth.

Rounding off the main Zyuohger mecha included in this set is Cube Lion, which is perhaps one of the most interesting pieces of the four. Although the build itself is simply, Cube Lion has a lot of etchings and detailing moulded into the body (particularly the legs) which is barely noticeable unless brought out using a light paint wash or Gundam marker. There's also detailing in the head and back (the parts which make up Zyuoh King's shins) which also look much better when highlighted. But despite being a kit that really shines when given that little extra touch-up, Cube Lion also has one pretty big flaw when it comes to going beyond what the stickers can do. The back of the head doesn't feature any moulded detail, and unfortunately this is exacting where the "3" sticker needs to go. The gold foil stickers look good, but it comes as a huge shame when all the other animals have the detailing pre-moulded into the figure so you at least have the option. Without some really heavy modding and great hand-painting skills you're pretty much forced to use the sticker here.

As you can probably guess from just looking at it Cube Lion’s transformation to cube mode is even more basic than the others, and simply consists of folding the back legs forwards and pulling the head down 180° to reveal the “3” hiding behind the head. On the other hand it’s also one of the neatest looking cubes of the bunch, with each side relatively smooth and lacking any plugs popping up to break the flow.

Rounding this set off is Cube Giraffe, the first of what will likely be a number of auxiliary Cube Animals that primarily function as power up weapons. Getting an auxiliary mecha before the main team has even been rounded off probably comes as a bit of a surprise to some, but with Cubes Elephant and Tiger joining Gorilla in the forthcoming Zyuoh Wild set this seemed like a nice way to pad out the Zyuoh King wave. Cube Giraffe is a simple little kit moulded primarily out of orange plastic, with a few pieces of grey thrown in for the neck and gun barrel. Like Cube Lion the orange pieces quite a bit of moulded detail, so if stickers aren't your thing you might want to try accentuating it a bit with a light paint wash. Cube Giraffe is also an unnumbered machine, instead featuring an exclamation mark like some sort of Super Mario box reject.

Giraffe’s transformation to cube mode considers of folding the head down into the neck and then moving the neck sidewards to form the front half of the cube. With the other animals’ transformations based on them folding in on themselves, having the Giraffe neck fold to the side seems a lot more intuitive than it actually is.

Though the lack of a proper gimmick and a small size and price point may have resulted in less streamlined cube modes to ensure everything fits together, the Cube Animals themselves are all great little toys that have plenty to offer both straight-builders and advanced modellers. Those happy with just relying on the stickers can be satisfied with a minimal sticker count and multi-coloured pieces, while painters can look forward to testing their skills by bringing out some of the more intricate detail these have on offer. However this of course is only half of what these sets can do, so now it’s time to move on and look at whether the combined form makes or breaks this little menagerie.

In theory the Zyuoh King transformation is largely similar to its show and DX toy counterparts, however to account for the lack of a spring loaded gimmick does require a bit of parts-forming to split the legs and access the articulation. The minipla does however faithfully carry over the head gimmick, which has the head (attached to the sword sheath) plug into to body and then rotate to reveal the face. It doesn’t activate any surprises like on the DX toy, but to have it included so accurately is a nice treat nonetheless. The sword included with Cube Eagle can also be stored in this part, with the hilt acting as the turntable to spin the head around before being removed from the sheath to use as a weapon.

3-2-1, Zyuoh King is formed! One of the issues mostly commonly cited about the DX toy are its woeful proportions, with the toy essentially made up of three solid blocks with some spindly arms popping out of either side. Admittedly the minipla doesn’t quite match up to the proportions of the physical suit either, but it’s a far closer approximation and the separated legs make a huge difference. While undoubtedly simple-looking ZyuOh King is still a nicely designed suit with a fair bit of unique detailing, so getting a good looking toy makes a big difference in how one perceives it. More advanced modellers might also want to consider filling some of the gaps in the legs, since a side view of the figure does reveal a lot of hollow pieces. It’s hard to hold it against the kit given its size and cost – it looks good regardless and this is merely something you might want to consider to get it looking even better.

Let's be perfectly honest - the included sword piece that can be pulled out of the helmet is small. Pathetically small. It looks like Zyuoh King is brandishing a bread knife and really ruins the otherwise far better proportions the minipla model has. Thankfully Bandai also noticed this, and seemed to have included this sword primarily to just replicate the gimmick (and appease anyone who's only planning to get Eagle, Shark and Lion I suppose). To use as an actual weapon for display and posing, Cube Giraffe also comes with a larger sword piece which is far better proportioned to the figure. Strangely neither versions of the weapon have much in the way of a hilt, with only a tiny nub popping out of the bottom to fit into the fist holes. It's small, but fits pretty firmly so there's not much to argue about in the way of results.

One particularly cool thing about the minipla figure is that the Shark's "2" back panel can be removed and used as a sort of psuedo-shield, thanks to an additional plug point on the back which slots into the hands. Removing the panel does leave a rather unsightly looking gap on the legs, but it also adds a bit more leeway in terms of movement so it's a pretty fair trade off. Using the piece as a shield also looks great, so much that it's hard to believe this wasn't part of the original design to begin with.

But the all-important question for minipla fans is just how well does Zyuoh King fare in the articulation department? The model features a moving head, rotating shoulders, hinged elbows, a waist joint, two-way hip movement, hinged knees and ball-jointed feet. Overall there are a couple of shortcomings, such as the elbows not being able to bend at a complete 90° thanks to the panels over the top of them, but on the whole that’s a fairly wide array for this line. Often you’ll get a kit that’s missing one bit of articulation here or there, but ZyuOh King has all the most important bases covered serviceably. It’s worth noting that the plugs on either side of the head prevent it from turning in a full circle when inserted, but there’s nothing to stop you just taking the head off and repositioning it as required.

And of course you can't forget about Cube Giraffe! As well as making a cute little auxiliary animal, Cube Giraffe can also transform into a bazooka weapon to be used by Zyuoh King in long-range combat. Well, the term "transformation" is used pretty loosely here, since all you actually need to do to transform it into bazooka mode is flip the head up and pull out the connection port folded up inside the neck. It's pathetically simple, but the sheer bulk of the piece when attached to the main figure does make it look like a fairly imposing weapon. There's not a lot to it, but simply as a extra it can't really go wrong. 

While the DX toy may be coming under fire for its overly simplistic nature, the minipla Zyuoh King is a fantastic start for this year’s entries and suggests great things in the future for the minipla line in general. The Cube Animals might not be particularly complex and the some liberties have been taken when it comes to the cube modes, but the designs themselves ooze enough charm and personality to offset this. The additional of multiple runner-colours also offers so much more to the model-building process, with the end results looking far better due to a more minimal need for stickers or paint. Most importantly though, Zyuoh King is just a fun toy. It’s fun to build, the combined mode sports great proportions and articulation and Bandai have even thrown in a few little extras to make this release all the more unique. Zyuoh King is a great looking mecha that might not get the praise it deserves thanks to a divisive DX toy, but at the very least this version is one that shouldn’t be missed out on.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I found a use for the tiny sword that comes with the head. You'll find that you can plug it into the underside of Zyuoh King's fist. Doing so with the same hand holding the full-sized sword gives the impression of a very large, double-ended blade. I love it, and I suspect it's deliberate rather than a happy accident.