Sunday 31 July 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.I.C. Kamen Rider Gaim Orange Arms

Bandai Tamashii Nations may have been providing collectors with highly articulated show-accurate Kamen Rider figures with the S.H. Figuarts line for over eight years, but they also have one line that's been doing more interesting things with your favourite tokusatsu characters for much longer. The Super Imaginative Chogokin (or simply S.I.C. for short) line has been going strong for the past  18 years, creating wild and highly detailed reinterpretations of characters that go far further than any suit could. Running a few years behind the current Kamen Rider show, the line has now begun tackling the highly popular Kamen Rider Gaim - pushing the traditional armour styling of the suits even further to the point where it looks like they could have jumped straight out of the history books. The first of these releases is of course Kamen Rider Gaim Orange Arms, with Kamen Riders Zangetsu, Baron and Ryugen soon to follow.

Friday 22 July 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Lord Baron

More often than not S.H. Figuarts collectors will find themselves left with a relatively incomplete cast from a particular series, but there are occasions where Bandai Tamashii Nations really do go the extra mile. The last two and a bit years have seen the cast of Kamen Rider Gaim grow and grow within the line, to the point now where the only things missing are some movie Riders, Overlords, some forgettable alternate forms and an even more forgettable epilogue villain. Considering there are now 23 figures out of 22 releases, that isn’t bad at all. However all things much eventually come to an end, with no more Gaim figures currently on the horizon. However if this is the end, Bandai are sure ending it with a bang. Their latest Tamashii web exclusive release is S.H. Figuarts Lord Baron, the Overlord version of rival and eventual villain Kamen Rider Baron. After eating the Helheim fruit and gaining his new powers, Kaito Kumon sets about destroying the world and then using the Golden Fruit to rebuild it. The only obstacle left in his way is Kouta Kazuraba, leading to an ultimate showdown where only one can survive.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Garo Leon Kokuin Ver.

When it comes to Bandai Tamashii Nations’ toy lines franchises can come and go in strange ways. For example the potentially lucrative world of Super Sentai Figuarts turned out to be a commercial failure, while the seemingly expansive world of Godzilla MonsterArts has recently slowed down to only cover the big G himself – and this is without mentioning at the unreleased figures seen at Tamashii Nations events over the years. Given the popularity of the Makai Kado line it’d have been easy to believe that the GARO sub-line of S.H. Figuarts died in 2011, yet here we are with the second of four brand new GARO figures set for release in 2016. Despite sticking to the Golden Knight himself, the Tamashii web exclusive Garo Leon Kokuin Ver. figure marks Figuarts’ first foray into the world of the GARO anime spin-offs. This unstable version of the suit was the one worn by the revenge-driven Leon Luis in Honō no Kokuin, also known as The Carved Seal of Flames or simply Garo: The Animation in the West.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Series REVIEW: Ultraman


Out of all the big tokusatsu anniversaries happening in 2016, this one is definitely the biggest. 50 years ago on July 17th 1966, the first episode of Ultraman aired - properly introducing Japan to a superhero who would go on to become one of their biggest pop culture icons. Following on from Ultra Q, this was the first entry in Tsuburaya Productions' Ultra Series to include a regular hero - with future iterations introducing their own editions of the red and silver giant. Over the years this series has spawned countless sequels, spin-offs and movies, as well as parodies and homages from across the globe. As we celebrate the hero of light from Nebula M713's 50th birthday, there couldn't be a more perfect time to look at one of toku's greatest champions.

Saturday 16 July 2016

Anime REVIEW: Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress

Many will have found the wait for Attack on Titan season two long and agonising, but animators Studio Wit haven’t been taking that downtime lightly. Director Tetsurō Araki teamed up with Code Geass writer Ichirō Ōkouchi to produce Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress (Kōtetsujō no Kabaneri) – an original 12-episode series that combines zombies, samurais and steam trains into one explosive package. As well as being part of Fuji TV’s prestigious Noitamina programming block, Kabaneri also saw Amazon enter into the world of anime simulcasting – with the series streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime around the world.

Thursday 14 July 2016

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Amazons (Season One)

Kamen Rider Amazons

Given that both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai are in the midst of celebrating big anniversaries, it’s no surprise that Toei have decided to declare 2016 “Super Hero Year”. A name like that also brings with it some big projects to mark the occasion properly, with Kamen Rider especially throwing out some rather nice surprises. First came a grand return for Hiroshi Fujioka, playing a newly updated Takeshi Hongo in the Kamen Rider 1 movie. But following that was an even bigger surprise – initially streaming exclusively on Amazon Prime, Kamen Rider Amazons is an extremely loose reboot of 1974’s Kamen Rider Amazon and another attempt at another adult Kamen Rider production. Previous offerings Kamen Rider Shin, Kamen Rider the First and Kamen Rider the Next may not have fared too well, but could Amazon at last be a success? 

Season one of this series is comprised of 13 episodes, with a further 13 due to follow later this year.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

First Impressions: Thunderbolt Fantasy

Thunderbolt Fantasy

After enjoying a string of successful anime shows, it shouldn’t be any surprise to see Gen Urobuchi branching out into a number of different mediums. 2014 saw the creator of Madoka Magica, Psycho-Pass, Gargantia and more take a stab at tokusatsu with Kamen Rider Gaim, and now he’s trying his hand at Taiwanese puppet drama. Yes, you read that correctly – Thunderbolt Fantasy is a collaboration between Nitroplus, Good Smile Company and Taiwanese puppet production company Pili International Multimedia, bringing the world of puppet drama into the Japanese spotlight.

Monday 11 July 2016

First Impressions: Ultraman Orb

Ultraman Orb

2016 is a pretty big year for tokusatsu anniversaries. Kamen Rider turned 45, Super Sentai hit the big 40 (though technically last year, the celebration comes with the 40th series) and GARO is also celebrating 10 years on the scene. But there's one anniversary this year that's even bigger, as July 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of Ultraman - arguably Japan's leading toku hero. Of course such a milestone can't go by without a party, so Tsuburaya Productions are celebrating with Ultraman Orb, the latest Ultra Series instalment. Western fans will also be pleased to hear that Crunchyroll are simulcasting the series with English subtitles, expanding their rather impressive Ultraman back catalogue all the more. With the site expressing a further interest in toku AND plans to move into the home video business, things could get very interesting in the future should these simulcasts continue to be a success.

Friday 8 July 2016

Special REVIEW: Garo: Ashura

Garo: Ashura

Garo: Makai Retsuden may have ended, but the tenth anniversary celebration of the GARO franchise isn’t over and done with just yet. Sandwiched between the aforementioned side character series and a HD remastering of the original series is a curious one-off TV special that goes by the name of Garo: Ashura. What makes it particularly curious is the fact that it is a collaboration with New Japan Pro Wrestling, with wrestlers Hiroshi Tanahashi and Togi Makabe starring in the lead roles. Outside of his wrestling career, toku fans might also recognise Tanahashi from his appearance in the Kamen Rider Wizard “Life is Show Time” music video back in 2013.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Anime REVIEW: Kiznaiver


Although Space Patrol Luluco may officially be the fifth anniversary celebration for Trigger, the Spring 2016 anime season proved to be a rather busy period for the popular anime studio as they also debuted another original work. Written by Mari Okada (the woman behind AnoHana, the Black Rock Shooter series, Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans and more) and the directorial debut of Hiroshi Kobayashi, Kiznaiver is an intriguing story of friendship and growing up with a sci-fi edge. The secret behind a strong friendship may be the bonds formed in sharing pain, but what if this was literal rather than just figurative?

Monday 4 July 2016

Anime REVIEW: Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3

Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3

Given the seemingly negative reception towards Sailor Moon Crystal it may seem surprising that Toei Animation would go ahead with a third season. But with plenty of material left to adapt the anniversary-charged, manga-accurate retelling of the legendary magical girl series is back once again with a further 13 episodes to cover the next chapter in the Sailor Moon story – the Death Busters arc. This new season also brought along with it a structural and cosmetic changes, returning as a fully-fledged weekly television series rather an as a bi-monthly ONA (original net animation). Story-wise it also marks the debuts of Sailors Saturn, Neptune and Uranus – joining Pluto to form the “Outer” Sailor Guardians.

Sunday 3 July 2016

First Impressions: Love Live Sunshine!!

Love Live Sunshine!!

The time of μ's may be over but the spirit of Love Live! School Idol Project continues! After dominating the idol genre for the past few years the franchise from ASCII Media Works, Lantis and Sunrise has renewed itself for what will likely be another run of dominating the anime scene, branching off with a brand new cast and setting. Now using the banner of Love Live Sunshine!! (perfectly timed with the start of the summer 2016 anime season), this series follows nine new girls as they set out to become school idols and compete in the prestigious Love Live tournament. Welcome to the stage, Aquours.

Saturday 2 July 2016

Series REVIEW: Garo: Makai Tales

Garo: Makai Retsuden

Can you believe it's been ten whole years since the first GARO series aired? In that time it has transformed from a gritty one-off production that should apart from most of its peers into a full blown franchise - encompassing various generations of the golden knight across multiple tokusatsu and anime productions. The tenth anniversary has brought about the announcement a number of new shows and movies, but among the ones at the forefront of the celebration is Garo: Makai Retsuden (or Makai Tales). What's particularly interesting about this offering is that it takes the focus away from those who have bore the title of Garo over the years, and takes a look at the various Makai Priests and Knights who have aided them in their battle against the Horrors.