Monday 6 November 2017

Toybox REVIEW: 52TOYS Beast Box BB-03 JOJO

Release Date: September 2017 (Japan)
RRP: 2678 yen

There have been a lot of great toys released in 2017, but few have won me over quite like 52TOYS’ Beast Box line has. This year saw the Chinese company’s humble little line hit worldwide, with transforming toy collectors all scrambling to pick up their charming (and affordable) transforming cubes. Only a few months after the mass release of their BB-01 DIO and BB-02 Ghost Dog dinosaur figures, they’re back with a brand new creature – Beast Box BB-03 JOJO. This ferocious gorilla is the second animal in their planned series of releases, with a triceratops also initially teased on the back of BB-01’s packaging. Like DIO JOJO also comes in a variety of different colourschemes to suit every taste – kicking things off with both the standard purple and a red/blue “flame” variant.

With the Beast Box range now having caught the attention of collectors across the world, BB-03 marks design overhaul for the line in regards to packaging and presentation. Gone are the small white boxes, replaced with larger cuboid boxes featuring one solid colour (black for the standard JOJO, and blue for the flame variant) and impressive wire-frame art. Of course the Beast Box logo is still featured across the side of the box, and all of the usual company information is neatly presented on the back. The toy itself is now on show via a windowed section at the top of the box, making it seem like half the box is just empty space. However packaging isn’t the only new thing the line has introduced here, and once you open the thing up you’ll see there’s a lot more on offer here as well.

Since there's a bit more to the transformation here than there was with the BB-01 mould, just printing the instructions on the back of the box wasn't going to cut it. So in true Transformers fashion the transformations now have their own little two-sided pamphlet, which breaks down the cube-to-gorilla process on one side and then the reverse on the other. The pamphlet has been printed on course sturdy paper, and the added orange highlights for key areas make the whole process nice and easy to understand while adding a splash of colour to the mix.

Another element that's had a significant overhaul are the tech-specs, which have also been removed from the packaging and now added to a gorgeous ID card complete with illustrated art and a small character bio. Unfortunately for those picking up both the standard and Flame releases there isn't any difference between the two cards other than the colour scheme and background - both versions have the same abilities and bio. Still, the cards are a really nice touch and bring them even closer in line with the features you'd expect from mainline Transformers releases, as well as showing the effort the team are making to inject some life in their creations.

Before we get onto the figure itself, the other big new addition here is the inclusion of a clear plastic storage case, which was tucked away inside the opaque part of the packaging. The cases are a perfect size for JOJO, but since the DIO mould is considerably smaller the dinos will just rattle about in there. The cases also clip together both vertically and horizontally, making the great for uniform display even if they’ll probably go completely ignored by the vast majority of buyers.

As previously stated the JOJO mould is noticeably larger than the DIO one, which means that the cube it transforms into is also much bigger. But regardless of size it’s a similar style of colourful futuristic cube, although the gorilla features perhaps aren’t quite as well hidden as DIO’s were. Both the fists and head are visible, though the latter is somewhat tucked away to leave just a pair of eyes glaring at you. The more complex design does lead to a more interesting cube mode though, with each side different from the others. Basically 52TOYS have taken what they did with the dinosaur mould and just scaled it up, making an all-new cube that’s made of different parts but still quite visibly the same line. Cubes might not sound all that exciting, but damn does this line know how to make them look good.

DIO’s transformation was so simple that it could quite easily be figured out without referring to the instructions, but JOJO’s is a little more intuitive. It’s still simple enough that you can memorise it without any problems, but a quick glance at the 10-step process wouldn’t hurt just to understand the more intricate bits. It starts with bringing the arms outwards and then lifting out the head, followed by pushing the two sections of the chest into place. After that the shoulders push down and swing around, with a section on the gorilla’s back pushing down and locking into place. Next come the feet, which the instructions warn can be fragile and should only be handled in a specific way to prevent breakage. Completing the transformation (in the most satisfying of ways) is the arms, which extend outwards into a proper gorilla shape. And voila, your Beast Box cube has now become the mighty JOJO!

JOJO is a fantastically-proportioned little robot gorilla, looking suitably impressive with his massive arms and moulded fists ready for action. As was the case with DIO 52TOYS have done injected so much personality into this figure, with that disgruntled little headsculpt adding so much cartoonish character. The purple and orange colourscheme is gaudy in all the best ways, clashing with each other but both working nicely alongside the industrial greys of the arms, legs and face. It took me a second to realise it but presumably the “99” tampo on the chest is a fancy way of writing JOJO, which works nicely alongside the similarly mechanical D10 monicker. The plastic quality is also nice and sturdy, everything fitting together perfectly and no obviously loose joints in sight.

JOJO's articulation mostly consists of ball-joints in the head, shoulders, hips and feet as well as bicep swivels and a few more-limited areas that come from the transformation scheme. The most significant of these are the elbows, which are hinged but can only bend back by about 45°. This means you get a can a great realistic gorilla stance out of the toy, but not a lot else in terms of action poses. Of course anything super dynamic is also dampened by the lack of a waist joint, but what the toy can manage is pretty good given how top-heavy the thing is. It can stand up without the support of the arms and (kind of) beat its chest, which are arguably the main things you'd want a gorilla toy to do. Since there's a bit more to it one could argue that JOJO isn't quite as posable as the dinos (it definitely feels like something could have been done with the fists here) but it's pretty much in the same ballpark.

However if the "Awakened Evangelion Unit 01" colour scheme of the standard JOJO doesn't tickle your fancy, then it also comes in a rather nifty blue and red "Flame JOJO" variant that seems to have modelled itself off of the movie-verse Optimus Prime. The fact the toy is also a gorilla also makes this a cool (if likely coincidental) double-homage to Beast Wars Optimus Primal, who probably would have ended up with a colour scheme like this if he'd ended up in the movies. Regardless the colours really work for the toy in both modes, and together with the altered "99" chest font make this feel like JOJO's cooler-looking, if more hot-headed brother in arms.

Don't be fooled into thinking Flame JOJO is on the same variant-level as Ghost Dog was to DIO though. The two gorillas share the same BB-03 designation, which means they're exactly the same in every way other than colour. So same transformation, same articulation etc. Whether we'll get a BB-04 with a remoulded head in the same way DIO became Ghost Dog is yet to be seen, but even if that never happens 52TOYS still have a few other variants they're toying around with. A Neon Blue version was recently released as an exclusive (so commands a slightly higher price than these standard releases), and they've also been teasing some rather fetching camo versions of both DIO and JOJO via their Facebook page. Personally I think Flame JOJO just slightly edges out the original, but with colour being the only factor it's entirely a matter of preference.

When BB-01 and BB-02 finally hit wider release it didn't take long for them to receive pretty high praise from the transforming toy community. With the release of BB-03 JOJO 52TOYS have now cemented themselves as a company to look out for. Although the gorilla comes with a slightly higher price point, arguably you get a bigger, more refined product in return. Better packaging, sturdier plastic, a more intricate transformation and a nice little storage box to boot (even if it's probably going to go unused in most cases). If you're looking for a fun little desk toy that oozes personality and can be repeatedly transformed with ease, then the Beast Boxes are going to be your best find of 2017.

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