Wednesday 12 April 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger Minipla KyurenOh Set 01

Release Date: February 2017
RRP: 2268 yen (1 complete figure, 6 boxes), 4536 yen (Full case: 2 complete figures, 12 boxes)

After 40 years of relatively following the same format, Super Sentai has decided to go big this year with Uchu Sentai Kyuranger. As well as boasting an initial total of nine rangers (which looks to quickly be bumped up to 12), the suits are more unique than ever before – each sporting their own unique shapes and/or flourishes. Of course a new Sentai means a new year of minipla candy toys, and Bandai are kicking things off in style with the first of two KyurenOh sets. This first set includes the Shishi, Ookami, Oushi, Chameleon and Kaijiki Voyagers, with the remaining four held back for the following wave.

2017 marks a big change for the minipla line with the news that in addition to the usual case assortments each combination is also being released in its own separate packaging! This is a very welcome change for collectors who no longer have to sell off their additional boxes to recoup costs, while physical stores can still purchase cases to sell the boxes off individually. The individual six-piece set (two boxes for the Shishi Voyager, one box each for the others) comes in its own external packaging, featuring plenty of images of the components, KyurenOh combination and of course the Kyurangers themselves. The packaging looks gorgeous, and makes a nice change from the boring plain brown or green boxes the case releases used to come packaged in.

Since a portion of the art budget now had to go on designing that great outer packaging the individual boxes aren’t as varied as they have been in previous years, with each of the six boxes identical save for the number noting the contents. That said, the Zyuohger sets used identical box art for each wave last year too so it may just be something Bandai has slowly phased out to save costs. The front of the box features a nice, dynamic image of KyurenOh, while the back adds upon that with a look at each individual Voyager. Each box’s contents are broken down on the spine, while inside you’ll find all the pieces bagged together with the usual piece of soda-flavoured candy. The building instructions are printed on the inside of each box, with box six featuring an additional instruction sheet for assembling KyurenOh.

What follows below is a painted version of minipla KyurenOh, with all the grey plastic parts sprayed silver as well as various other details. For comparison with a stickered, unpainted version of the model please also check out this review.

Kicking off this wave is the Shishi Voyager, the lion-themed spaceship of Lucky/Shishi Red and the largest Voyager of the initial nine Kyurangers. As previously mentioned this model is spread across two boxes, with the first box covering the main body and the second the back section/obvious robot legs. The kit is moulded primarily in red, grey and black plastic with a few gold pieces thrown in for the front claws and centre section. Despite being the largest of the Voyagers the model doesn't have a whole lot to offer in the way of moving parts, most of which are the for the combination rather than the individual voyager. The only real movement is in the head (which can rotate side to side) and the jaw, which opens up to reveal the combined robot face. However for its size the Shishi Voyager actually uses a surprisingly few amount of stickers, only using them for the head and leg accents.

Each Voyager also comes with an in-scale Kyutama, with the central globe nicely done up in coloured clear plastic to match each Kyutama. Naturally these Kyutamas are a little bit smaller than the standard DX/Candy toy/etc. versions, but are still a pretty respectable size and would look great on display even without the Voyagers to accompany them. Inside each Kyutama is panel with two different stickers on either side – one featuring the Kyuranger’s respective constellation symbol and the other an image of the Kyuranger piloting their mecha. Clear red plastic means both the Shishi (Leo) constellation and Shishi Red cockpit stickers are nice and visible, while the Kyutama itself plugs into the Voyager’s central indent via two plugs protruding from its back.

Moving onto the limb components first we have the Ookami Voyager, which in terms of design is a fairly basic Sentai mech that could easily fit in with other animal-themed shows if it didn’t have a giant sphere hanging off the back of it. The kit is moulded primarily in grey plastic, with blue parts used both for the snout, ears and “fur” sections on the legs. All of the blue pieces sport some basic fur-like molded, which works as a nice contrast to the smooth texture of the main body and makes the Voyager feel like some sort of organic hybrid rather than purely mechanical. As well as a moveable neck, the Ookami Voyager also features a rotatable head and four moveable legs. Unfortunately the set only includes detail stickers (the yellow on the face and the circular panel on the back legs) for one side of the model, so you have a choice between either having an asymmetrical kit or giving it a little added paint to even things out a bit.

Thanks to the clear dark blue plastic, the stickers aren’t quite as clear inside the Ookami Voyager as they are with the Shishi Voyager but they’re still perfectly visible with the right amount of light. Each limb Kyutama connects to its respective Voyager via a ball-joint port located on the bottom, but since the frame for each Kyutama is identical they can be attached to any of the limb Voyagers and plugged into the core of the Shishi Voyager.

With its bulky frame and two sets of tank treads, not only is the Ouishi Voyager one of the coolest Voyagers seen in Kyuranger so far but it’s also the perfect design for a bull-themed ranger. This kit is made up of mainly black and grey parts, with an additional brown piece included for the head’s visor. It’s also one of the more sticker-intensive pieces of the set, with a number of different stickers needed for the wheel rims, black face sections and various bits of silver detailing across the body. The kit also has a number of moving parts in addition to the folding treads and moving neck required for limb transformation – the head can turn either side and the horns are also adjustable.

Unfortunately clear black isn’t the clearest translucent plastic around, so the Oushi Kyutama’s stickers are pretty obscured unless viewed in especially strong light.

In addition to the sheer amount of rangers one of the most eagerly anticipated elements of Kyuranger was the addition of a main female green ranger, sporting a chameleon-motif in a nice throwback (intentional or otherwise) to Gekiranger’s Mele. The Chameleon Voyager is a fairly simple kit but has some good little features, such as the mouth opening up to reveal an extending tongue. The kit is made up of green and grey parts, with an additional brown runner included for the panels on either side. Unfortunately this component is perhaps the most inaccurate in terms of colour, not only lacking the silver eye detailing but also the additional green colouring on the back section. Similarly the sticker sheet bizarrely only includes one side of nose detailing, leaving the finished model looking rather bizarre unless painted.

Unlike the previous two Kyutamas the Chameleon Kyutama’s stickers are nice and visible through the clear green plastic used.

Rounding the set off is the Kaijiki Voyager, which is a fairly basic robot swordfish spaceship – and that’s pretty cool in its own right. The kit is made up of just yellow and grey parts, with additional stickers for the eyes, nose and fin details. Thanks to the joint system in place to make the Voyager work as a leg the nose can move up and down, with the side fins both able to rotate a full 360°. Unfortunately the central fin is one time the detailing hasn’t been moulded on either side of the piece, as the non-stickered side has been kept blank to print the production information on. Out of the five Voyagers it’s easily the most underwhelming in terms of build and features, but the design itself is great and a swordfish a nice addition to the ever-growing menagerie of animal-based Super Sentai mecha.

Lastly we have the accompanying Kajiki Kyutama, with both stickers showing up perfectly through the clear yellow plastic sphere.

Returning to the standard “central component and four limbs” set-up, KyurenOh’s transformation is about as basic as you can get. All it really involves is standing the Shishi Voyager upright, turning the arms around 180°, spinning the lion head around and flipping the robot face down from inside the mouth. Each limb plugs into the body via the pegs on the Kyutamas, with the head and hinged pieces folding differently depending on whether you’re using the piece as an arm or a leg. Finally the hinged rocket sections on the legs fold back out of the way to give the legs a more seamless look.

Kyuranger’s premiere also featured a three-piece version of KyurenOh, which lacked legs but made up for it by flying using the Shishi Voyager’s back rockets. The show has rather disappointedly (but not unpredictably) never used this formation again, but the toy can recreate it by simply not attaching either leg components to the combination. It’s not really different or extravagant enough to be called an additional mode, but when used with a Tamashii stage or similar stage does make for a cool little bonus feature.

When five voyagers come together KyurenOh is formed! KyurenOh immediately has a nice traditional Super Sentai robo shape to it, with a nice bit of added bulk coming from the five bulbous Kyutamas protruding from the core and limbs. It gives KyurenOh a unique edge despite otherwise being rather generic in terms of shape, and seeing the five Kyuranger cockpit stickers shining through them is a really cool feature. The minipla does an excellent job of capturing the suit and DX toy without any real compromise coming from the fact it's a model kit, and with an added lick of silver paint on all the grey plastic the moulded detail on this figure really shines through.

Of course the biggest draw when it comes to KyurenOh isn't that it's just another five-piece combiner, but one where all of the limb components can act as arms or legs! That means with these five components alone there's already a good number of different formations on offer, and the release of the remaining four voyagers will drive that number up even more. While it's clear that some are meant to look better as arms than legs and vice versa (Kajiki and Chameleon as arms, Ookami and Oushi as legs), the ability to switch between them all is a simple yet effective gimmick that gives the robot a ton of play and display value.

Gimmicks can make or break a DX figure, but if implemented badly they can also have a detrimental effect on the minipla figures as well. Take Kyoryuzin for example, who ended up lacking any sort of elbow articulation thanks to the way the arms connected to the main body. With Kyuranger’s Kyutama gimmick having been successfully ported over to the minipa, I did have some initial fear about how four giant globes making up most of the arms/legs might affect movement. Thankfully those worries were quickly put to rest, with KyurenOh among the most articulated figures the range has put out thus far. Altogether the combination sports a turnable head, two-way shoulder joints, ball-jointed elbows, a waist swivel, two-way hip joints, upper leg swivels, knees and adjustable feet. That’s an incredible selection for something as seemingly bulky as KyurenOh, with the only real oddity being the ball-jointed elbows. But wait! The Chameleon and Kajiki Voyagers actually have extendable hinge joints built into them, thus giving them a full range of arm articulation. Sadly the same can't be said for the Ookami or Oushi Voyagers, but both still offer a fairly decent range of articulation that extends further than a simple upwards/downwards motion. In any of its multitude of combos KyurenOh is able to pull off all manner of great poses that either the suit nor DX toy could muster, and together with a compatible stand that possible range of poses is even bigger.

The Super Sentai minipla range just keeps getting better every year and with only one release Kyuranger has already set a new precedent when it comes to build, quality and enjoyment. Sporting more coloured parts than ever before, a ton of moulded detail and perfect integration of the Kyutama gimmick without sacrificing any of the articulation these kits are known for, KyurenOh is a near-flawless release that bodes well for the rest of this year’s offerings. The asymmetrical stickers might be an odd choice, but this complaint is not unique to the minipla and it only takes a steady hand and a little bit of paint to make the world of difference. Throw in a bit of patience and a can of silver spray paint, and the end result is even better. But whatever your build methods and/or skill level are, you can be sure this is not a kit to miss out on.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You may have noticed this by now, but the Kajiki and Chameleon Voyagers feature pull-out elbow joints that give them a lot more range than the balls by themselves. The Ookami and Oushi Voyagers don't have them.

Like you, I was bothered by the asymmetrical details. I was surprised, then to discover that these are actually accurate: the DX toys and the on-screen models are asymmetrical in the same ways.