Tuesday 24 October 2017

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Dragon Caesar

Release Date: August 2017
RRP: 3780 yen/$45.00

When it comes to giant transforming robots, there’s no way Bandai can ever stop at one. So when Daizyujin was added to their Super Mini-Pla line earlier this year, it was only a matter of time before Dragon Caesar and King Brachion would be joining him. Super Mini-Pla Dragon Caesar is the both the second Super Sentai and Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger release in the line, releasing at retail as a single candy toy model kit rather than being made up of individual components. Like Daizyujin, Dragon Caesar has also been made available in the West via Bluefin Tamashii Nations – giving them new gunpla style packaging as well as of course rebranding them as the Megazord and Dragonzord respectively.

As previously stated Super Mini-Pla Dragon Caesar comes in a single box, making it a “complete” model kit as opposed to the cheaper, segmented releases you see in the standard Super Sentai minipla range. The box is done up beautifully as a homage to the original DX Dragon Caesar packaging, featuring the same front art placement and logos. The sides then all feature multiple images of Dragon Caesar in its various modes, including the Gouryuzin and Zyutei Daizyujin combinations it can make with the Daizyujin components.

The kit is made up of a variety of black, silver, gold and green parts spread across multiple runners, with a few additional loose parts also thrown into the box (including a translucent red piece for the chest unit “lights”). Also in the box is a surprisingly small sticker sheet, building instructions, combination instructions and a single piece of the usual Bandai-brand soda flavoured candy. Usually I’m quite critical about the gold and silver plastics used for Bandai model kits, but credit where it’s due the shades used here actually suit the kit pretty well. Painted will still look better of course, but if you’re someone who likes to build their kits straight from the box you won’t be losing much in terms of appearance.

The build itself is pretty simple but intuitive, and anyone whose owned the DX Dragon Caesar/Dragonzord toy in the past will quickly notice the similarities in how all the pieces come together to make the combinations work. Despite using a few stickers there’s also some nice bits of moulded detail on the kit, such as the green segments that go inside the tail or the gold logos that fix on in various places. Upon completion you’ll have what is undoubtedly the cutest Dragon Caesar to ever roam your desk – perfect in its accuracy but at such an adorable size. While the Super Mini-Pla line could stand to be much cheaper, Bandai have at the very least nailed the details when it comes to the finished product.

Usually the main draw with these Super Sentai model kits is that they offer far more articulation than their DX counterparts, but Dragon Caesar’s design means that there isn’t actually that much more to offer. There’s no neck, no waist and the arms and hands are hinged as part of the transformation. Those bits you’ll find on any Dragon Caesar figure, but the Super Mini-Pla’s legs have a little bit more to them. As well as hinged knees, the model also has ball-jointed hips and feet to give it that extra variation when it comes to posing. The tail segments are also connected together via ball-joints to give them a little bit of bend when brought together – not a whole lot, but enough to look more natural than just being stuck out straight like the original toy (the newer Legacy Dragonzord figure has a similar feature). So while there isn’t much that’s brand new here, Bandai have at least made changes to all the places where it was possible.

Scale-wise Dragon Caesar sizes rather nicely with Daizyujin, which should be expected really given that the two models are compatible. Dragon Caesar feels maybe a little bit smaller compared to Daizyujin than he does on screen, but it’s certainly nothing to scoff at. The two look great together whether they’re facing off against each other or finally united in the fight against evil.

When combined with the Triceratops, SaberTiger and ZyuMammoth, Dragon Caesar becomes the Mighty Dragon God Gouryuzin! Said to be larger and stronger than Daizyujin but also slower and less agile, Gouzyuin wields the mighty Dragon Antler Staff – a weapon formed from Dragon Caesar’s tail and chest plate. Creating this titan involves removing Dragon Caesar’s tail, which in turn allows the model to be split open and the chest also removed. The feet then flip up, creating ports for the Triceratops and SaberTiger to act as legs. Dragon Caesar’s arms are folded into their side sections, which are then entirely removed, pegged together and attached to the front of the robot. Removing these sections from the sides reveals two hidden plugs, which can be used to fit ZyuMammoth firmly to the robot (an additional plug is also hidden inside of Dragon Caesar’s neck). However before fitting the chestplate the head also needs to be removed and replaced with the alternate Gouzyujin face, as this does not simply flip down from the jaw like it does on the DX toy. So other than a few minor bits of parts swapping the transformation is pretty faithful to its onscreen appearance/DX toy, and the end combination looks pretty fantastic overall. One issue I did encounter was that the crotch didn’t peg together very well, however this could just be a side effect of me painting the kit and not a running problem across the board.

Being made up of mostly the same components Gouryuzin’s articulation is similar to that of Daizyujin’s, sporting working shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. The main hindrances come from the Dragon Caesar component, since the design and transformation scheme immediately cut out the possibility for a neck or waist joint. The lack of a neck isn’t too bad, but with there so much articulation packed in elsewhere this combo could have really benefitted from waist joint to bring out its full potential. Still it’s nice to finally have a Gouryuzin figure that can hold its weapon properly, even if the damn thing is too heavy for the arms to hold it in any particularly elaborate poses. Despite its shortcomings Gouryuzin is a nice little figure, making up for its lack of a waist joint with a really striking design that left a huge impression despite limited appearances.

Finally bring the six Guardian Beasts together and they form the mighty Zyutei Daizyujin! Again the kits combine identically to the DX figures, with Dragon Caesar splitting open and resting over the top of Daizyujin. Finally the chest piece and tail are added to each side, clicking in to the sockets revealed on the undersides of the folded up feet. Some additional features of this model include the chest piece extending to properly fit in front of the feet, as well as the instructions recommending the removal of the largest two tail segments for a more manageable length and extra accuracy. It might seem like a really basic way of combining the two robots, but the end result looks fantastic. Big, imposing and just like a giant beast god should look.

In terms of articulation Zyutei Daizyujin has pretty much everything that the original Daizyujin has – except of course now it’s wearing a giant dragon headdress. This means that head movement is immediately out of the picture, along with the waist articulation thanks to the way that arms, tyrannosaurus tail and Dragon Caesar all lock together. The shoulders still have their outward movement, but because of the way the Dragon Caesar pieces drape over the sides action poses end up looking a little silly. So in reality all you’re really left with is the leg articulation, forward shoulder movement and then the elbows and wrists. Not amazing, but still far more than you can get out of a DX toy. Zyutei Daizyujin is one of those combos that looks impressive standing still, but doesn’t really do anything in the way of moving so articulation doesn’t end up benefitting it much. The whole combo is just a precursor to Ultimate Daizyujin anyway, which just adds a few extra pieces to the mix along with a giant chariot.

Super Mini-Pla Dragon Caesar is a wonderful little model kit that gives you all the charm of a full-sized toy at half the size and a fraction of the cost. That isn’t to say the line has fully escaped its rather high pricing just yet, because these things still cost far more than they should. Nevertheless Dragon Caesar is a fun build and a great figure that works both on its own and as a companion piece to Daizyujin. Super Mini-Pla King Brachion may be a horribly overpriced exclusive that’s only going to appeal to a fraction of buyers, but don’t let that put you off just how fun this adorable little dragon can be.

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