Friday 9 June 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger Minipla RyuTeiOh

Release Date: May 2017 
RRP: 1890 yen (1 complete figure, 5 boxes), 3780 yen (Full case: 2 complete figures, 10 boxes) 

Uchu Sentai Kyuranger may have started as a series that teased nine legendary heroes taking back the galaxy, but it only took the series a mere nine episodes to throw that number aside. With the introduction of Ryu Commander and then Koguma SkyBlue the follow episode, Kyuranger now boasts an impressive total of eleven rangers with more still to come in the future. But in the meantime new rangers means new mecha, with the third wave of Bandai’s candy toy minipla model kits introducing RyuTeiOh into the mix. This set contains a total of five different boxes – three for the Ryu Voyager and then one each for the Koguma and Sasori Voyagers.

As per the new standard for Super Sentai minipla RyuTeiOh is available as either a single figure five-box set or a 10-box case, with the five-box set sporting its own unique outer packaging. One side of the box features a nice big image of RyuTeiOh alongside some smaller ones of the individual Voyagers and the variant Sasori Kyutama, while the other side is dedicated to the RyuTei KyurenOh combination it can make with minipla KyurenOh. The top flap however features some suit images of both the three Kyurangers represented in this set and RyuTeiOh itself.

The standard boxes feature the same images as the larger packaging, with an alternate star background on the front to keep things eyecatching. The left spine feature a rundown of each box’s contents and inside you’ll find the runners alongside the usual single piece of soda-flavoured candy. Building instructions are printed on the inside of the box, with the fifth box also including an additional instruction sheet for the RyuTei KyurenOh combination.

As usual I like to paint my minipla instead of using stickers, and with the Kyuranger line this particularly applies to any gold or silver areas. For comparison with an unpainted, sticker-only RyuTeiOh please see this review.

Taking up the bulk of this set is the Ryu Voyager – a glorious, 3-box sized purple Eastern dragon. What it lacks in bulk it certainly makes up for in length, nearly exceeding the length of my lightbox and easily the longest individual Super Sentai minipla that’s ever been released. As well as moving limbs and jaw the body is features up/down motion in a total of six different places, with sideways motion also implemented in two places as well. This allows for plenty of twisting, Dairanger-homaging movement that gives the model a much more natural look. Mid-air posing naturally requires a number of stands to support that length, but should you not have any handy the model also has a free-rolling wheels so can be pushed along a flat surface. The kit is made primarily from purple plastic with a handful of gold, silver and black pieces with stickers needed for the face, jaw and a handful of gold accents around the body.

The Ryu Kyutama features a nice translucent lavender sphere, clear enough to reveal the constellation and cockpit stickers fitted inside. As a core mecha component the Ryu Voyager stores its Kyutama in a rather unique way, pegging to the underside of the body near the front limbs to make it seem as if the dragon is actually holding it.

The fourth box contains the Sasori Voyager, which was previously released as part of the second KyurenOh set a few months earlier. Although the Kyutama may be a little different there’s absolutely no change to the model itself, which remains a nice little scorpion-themed robot with an articulated tail and leg sections (though the latter is used for limb transformation rather than poseability). Whereas duplicates could perhaps be considered frustrating in the past, at least this way collectors are able to display RyuTeiOh and both versions of KyurenOh without any leftover parts hanging around.

Just like what was done in the second KyurenOh set with the duplicate Shishi Voyager, this Sasori Voyager comes with a variant Kyutama featuring a scorpion tail attack sticker rather than the usual cockpit one. That single sticker may be the only difference, but regardless it’s still great to see Bandai doing something different with repeat boxes to make them more unique/desirable.

Completing the set is the Kuma Voyagers, made up of the larger “bear buggy” Koguma Voyager and the smaller unicycle Ooguma Voyager that sits in a small cavity on top of the larger vehicle. Both bears have articulated necks and free-moving wheels, while the Koguma Voyager also has additional suspension-like movement in the legs/wheel-struts. The model is predominantly cyan/sky blue with additional pieces of silver plastic, with stickers needed for the bronze sections and facial details. This is perhaps my favourite of the Voyagers released so far (with Koguma SkyBlue also being one of my favourite Kyurangers) – the concept of a bear buggy is so wonderfully silly and works extremely well, and the addition of a second smaller bear to symbolise the Ursa Major/Minor connotations was a stroke of genius.

To go along with these Voyagers is the Koguma Kyutama, whose sphere is a nice translucent cyan colour that lets you see the stickers inside nice and clearly. The Ursa Major/Minor sticker is a particularly nice one too.

When brought together the three Voyager form the mighty RyuTeiOh, with the Ryu Voyager forming the entire body and the Sasori and Koguma Voyagers acting as the arms. The Ryu Voyager’s transformation is simple but elegant, as after removing the gold helmet and silver “backpack” piece the two halves of the dragon’s body fold together to form a humanoid shape. The head and tail sections then rotate to form the legs, with the silver section splitting and fitting on either side to form the shoulders. Once inserted into the chest cavity the Ryu Kyutama doesn’t just act as a centrepiece – it also helps hold the two halves of the body into shape. Next the arms simply peg on via their Kyutama in the usual fashion, with the dragon helmet pegging onto the robot helmet to complete the look.

There’s a lot to like about RyuTeiOh’s design, with the predominantly purple colourscheme giving the robot a nice uniform look while the gold and silver highlights help accentuate all the detail loaded onto it. The oversized dragon helmet is a really nice touch, coming across like some sort of tribal headdress rather than any sort of practical battle armour. If I had to gripe about one thing it would be that the mismatch in size between the right foot look particularly silly, but on the whole it’s a great looking robot that isn’t too far flung from KyurenOh but has its own little flourishes to appreciate as well.

The similar body shape means articulation is generally the same that of KyurenOh’s only with a few little differences here and there. RyuTeiOh sports neck and waist swivels, two-way shoulder joints, bicep swivels, two-way hips and hinged knees and feet. Arm articulation is a bit more varied, as the Sasori Voyager has an additional hinged elbow joint that can be inserted to provide more movement, while the Koguma Voyager is just limited to the ball joint that connects the vehicle to the Kyutama. Since they’re part of the body rather than separate components the legs feel a little more solid than KyurenOh’s, but those big feet could do with a little more heel to give them better balance. The only other issue is the head, which on its own is perfectly function but that big dragon headdress can get in the way of sideways motion if the jaw isn’t lifted right up beforehand.

Of course since the Kyuranger mecha line is big on interchangeability all the previously released limb Voyagers can be used as arms, while Sasori and Kuma Voyagers can be used as arms or legs on KyurenOh. While we’ve seen this before with Sasori the Kuma Voyager is a brand new release, so the leg mode is definitely worthy of note. It folds up in a similar way to all of the other animal-based limb Voyagers, and because of this is means that the Ooguma Voyager unfortunately needs to be removed from its little cubby hole so that the Koguma head can fold up into a foot. 

Now comes the time to put them all (well, everyone except the Tenbin, Hebitsukai and Washi Voyagers anyway) to form the mighty nine-piece combination robot RyuTei KyrenOh!

Combining the two mecha into RyuTei KyurenOh is a fairly straightforward process, and mostly consists of plugging RyuTeiOh onto the back of KyurenOh ala Ohranger’s Buster Ohranger Robo. With the Koguma and Sasori Voyagers in place as KyurenOh’s arms the Kajiki and Chameleon Voyagers then plug into RyuTeiOh’s shoulder pieces, which when rotated upwards act more like platforms instead. Finally the dragon head plugs into KyurenOh’s chest, revealing the Shishi Kyutama when the mouth is opened. As far as combinations go it’s pretty underwhelming – not only is there no implementation of the three remaining Voyagers whatsoever but there isn’t a new head or helmet piece to speak of either.

As RyuTei KyurenOh the overall articulation takes a bit of a beating too. None of KyurenOh’s articulation is rendered useless, but there aren’t really many dynamic poses you can get out of it with a big purple robot clipped on its back. Much like Buster Ohranger Robo the combo feels like less of a robot and more like one big weapons platform, and while the articulation is still all there even the best designed minipla isn’t going to get much out of it if the suit design works against it.

Despite a lackluster combined mode with KyurenOh, RyuTeiOh is another winner for the Kyuranger minipla range. A repeat model might not be to everyone’s taste, but the quality of both the Ryu and Koguma Voyagers are more than enough to make up for another Sasori. After a simple but clever transformation RyuTeiOh proves to be as fun as it’s predecessor with just as much articulation to offer (bar some slightly restrictive headgear). Toy catalogue scans have suggested that larger combined modes perhaps won’t be improving anytime soon, but if the individual robos can continue to be this good then it’s going to be a good year for minipla fans.

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