Thursday 26 October 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Uchu Sentai Kyuranger Minipla Gigant Houou

Release Date: August 2017
RRP: 2150 yen (Single figure – 6 boxes), 4536 yen (Case – Two figures, 12 boxes)

The days of Uchu Sentai Kyuranger feeling crowded for having nine rangers now feel like an eternity ago, as it didn’t take long for the cast to continue to expand with ten, then eleven and now twelve Kyurangers in total. But Houou Soldier marks the arrival of the show’s “sixth” (a title that’s becoming more and more redundant every year) ranger, bringing with him a modified suit, a new transformation device and of course his own mecha. The fourth wave of 2017’s Super Sentai minipla range is Gigant Houou, a three-piece robot made from the Houou Voyager, Houou Station and Houou Base components. Gigant Houou is unique in that it’s Kyuranger’s first wholly independent mecha, with the limbs completely incorporated into the design rather than utilising the limb-swapping gimmick present in the previous releases.

Continuing this new tradition of individually packaged minipla Gigant Houou can be bought either as a six-box set containing one complete figure or the standard 12-box case (containing two figures). The one figure set includes its own lavish outer box featuring a nice big image of the fully built kit together with a stock image of Houou Soldier. The fact then takes a closer look at the Kyutamajin combo, outlining all the pieces required for the mighty 12-ranger robot. The top flap is notable in that it features a headshot of the actual Gigant Houou suit (rather than just the model) alongside Houou Soldier, giving you a closer look at all the detailing the helmets have to offer.

Inside you’ll find the six standard size boxes that make up the set, each featuring identical box art of Gigant Houou, the various pieces that make up the set as well as images of the various combinations. The only thing designating which box is which is the number, with the parts breakdown of each one then found on the side. As usual the building instructions are printed on the inside of the boxes (with an additional sheet for Kyutamajin), and inside you’ll find the runners alongside a single piece of Bandai-brand soda flavoured candy. For once there isn’t really any proper designation for what components fit in what box either, as the parts seem to just be randomly spread based on what parts could fit on what runners.

From this point on the images will feature a painted Gigant Houou. Set for comparisons with a set that’s only used the included stickers check out this review too.

The bulk of this set is comprised of the Houou Voyager – a traditional-looking Earth white space shuttle adorned with red flames, gold trimming and a phoenix emblem canopy. While the ship doesn’t a whole lot of individual play value, it does have some moving parts in the form of hinged wing sections and moving cannons along its sides. With the previous 11 Voyagers being animal themed a straight vehicle feels like a nice change of pace, and the Houou Voyager’s size and bulk make it one of the more impressive Voyagers in the Kyuranger collection.

Docked into Houou Voyager is the Houou Kyutama, which has been done up in a glittery translucent red plastic to differentiate it from previously released Shishi Kyutamas. Bandai have done another great job with the internal stickers here, with both the Phoenix emblem and Houou Soldier cockpit looking nice and clear. It’s still a bit of a blow that the “glister injection” versions come with proper figurines to go inside the Kyutamas, but the stickers have the advantage in making each ranger look both detailed and distinct.

The next part of the set is Houou Station – a hollow satellite spread across two of the six boxes. Houou Station has very little functionality of its own, other than the two solar panel sections which can not only be moved up/downwards but also rotated at two different points. The plugholes found on the body of the model are also perfect for Tamashii Stage (or other similar figure stands) arms, allowing it to be displaying as though it were floating rather than just awkwardly sitting on a surface. There isn’t a whole lot to it, but the satellite design is unique and goes really well with the rest of the set.

The final part of the set is the Houou Base – a mobile launching platform that has very little use outside of the Kyutamajin combo. On its own it’s just a big solid platform that Houou Voyager can be launched off, however the fact that the base is wheeled gives it a nice little bit of play value. Not having it incorporated into Gigant Houou is a missed opportunity though, with it now destined to still forgotten in most displays unless the kit is displayed either in its individual components or as Kyutamajin.

But even though Houou Base gets tossed to the side, Gigant Houou has one of the most satisfying transformation schemes Super Sentai has had in years. Simple as it may be, the whole sequence of docking Houou Voyager through the centre of Houou Station and then flipping up the canopy to reveal the face is just as satisfying to do as it is to watch onscreen (which in turn is also one of the best mecha sequences the franchise has had in years – those practical effects just can’t be beaten). Once locked in place the satellite panels need to be removed and pegged to their new position on the back on the robot, while the legs split open leaving a filler piece that can be thrown to one side.

And there we have it – Gigant Houou! It’s unique look really makes it stand out among the other Kyuranger mecha, while the general build and Phoenix-shaped visor give off a similar feel to Ohranger’s Red Puncher and Ohblocker. While the inclusion of the Kyutama keeps it nicely tied to the aesthetic of the other Kyuranger mechs that too has an air of individuality to it – embedded into the chest rather than fully on-show like all the others. Basically Gigant Houou does everything an additional (calling them a “sixth” seems a bit redundant at this stage) ranger’s mecha should – it looks different enough to feel unique and exciting, but at same time similar enough to instantly know what series it comes from.

It’s another winner on the articulation front as well, with Gigant Houou showing off all the qualities that make the modern minipla line so appealing to collectors. The figure features a ball-jointed head, two-way shoulders, hinged elbows, a waist swivel, two-way hips, hinge-swivel knees and ball-jointed ankles. The “wing” panels on the back can also be adjusted accordingly, as well as storing two swords for the robot to wield in battle. The chunky legs and booster feet provide ample balance for the figure to pose in a number of great action poses. All in all it’s an extremely solid figure, and thanks to the more symmetrical design a lot less clunky in its articulation than either KyurenOh or RyuteiOh.

Finally the twelve Kyurangers can come together to form the Kyutama Dai Gattai Kyutamajin! The term “come together” is used extremely loosely here, because in reality this combination is only really made up of Houou Station, the Houou Voyager, Houou Base and the Shishi Voyager. The other Kyurangers simply add their Kyutamas to the mix, surrounding the robot with a rainbow of globes.

With so few parts used it’s understandable why so many fans were disappointed with Kyutamajin, and while I agree with the sentiment there is something inexplicably impressive about what we did get. Kyutamajin is big, imposing and the giant rocket booster hands are dumb Super Sentai fun at its finest. The combination does have its flaws though, most notably that huge launch pads jutting out of the feet giving it massively obtrusive clown feet. The back is a bit off a mess too, with the bulk of Gigant Houou just hanging there without feeling properly incorporated into the design. With how brilliantly the smaller combinations turned out it is disappointing to see Kyuranger drop the ball so hard in bringing them altogether, but even so Kyutamajin comes across as surprisingly likable in minipla form.

A minimal amount of parts also means better articulation, meaning that Kyutamajin has far better poseability than most combined Super Sentai mecha you’d find at this stage of the show. With most of KyurenOh’s articulation localised to the Shishi Voyager all of it is present on this combo as well, combined with extra points from the new limbs. Altogether this includes a moving head, two directional shoulders, elbows, a waist joint, two directional hips, knees and ball-jointed ankles (the latter being essential to getting Kyutamajin to stand up properly). The head, elbows and knees don’t quite enjoy the full range of motion usually possible in these areas, but it’s more than enough to get some really decent poses out of the figure. The giant feet also prove their worth here, providing more than enough surface area to ensure balancing isn’t a problem.

The Kyuranger line has been some of the best Super Sentai minipla Bandai have put out in recent years and Gigant Houou is absolutely no exception, bringing some fresh to the collection while retaining that same level of quality, interactivity and playability. While the nature of the design itself leaves much to be desired when it comes to Houou Base and Kyutamajin, the minipla makes up for this with a great articulated combination that’s perhaps far better than it deserves to be. While it may seem that the mecha are beginning to lack the further we get into the show, it’s nice to know that these toys are still going strong.


Fisitron said...

I'm sure you've answered this before, but I have to ask what paints do you use for your kits? Especially your silver, it's wonderful!

Alex said...

Thank you for the kind words! The silver I used for the Kyuranger kits is Humbrol metallic silver spray, while the gold is Tamiya gold spray. Anything else is usually handpainted using Citadel paints. The metallic red I used here I’m not sure of the make though sorry - it was just a random pot I got off eBay without any label!

Fisitron said...

Thank you so much! Been a long time fan of your blog, especially your Sentai and Kamen rider write ups and minipla. You inspired me a year ago to try my hand at Sentai Minipla and after a lot of learning and a decent Gokaioh I'm ready to try again!

Alex said...

I’m glad to you enjoy them, it’s always great to hear from more people who enjoy the Minipla!

It’s taken me a good few years to get to where I am now with painting them but I’ve still got a lot to learn as well. Good luck with your Gokaioh - that was the first Minipla I bought and it’s still one of my favourites. Even gave it a pretty big overhaul not so long ago because back then I’d mostly used stickers.

Chris B. Bacon said...

>while the legs split open leaving a filler piece that can be thrown to one side.

On the back-molding of the filler piece, there's a hole that matches the size of those on the bottom of the mini Kyutama that come with these sets. As such, the panel can be stored on Gigant HoOh's back, atop the blue KyutamaJin head, where the HoOh Kyutama would go for the big guy.