Monday 21 May 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger Minipla Lupin Kaiser

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: 1980 yen (1 complete figure, 5 boxes), 4536 yen (Full case: 12 boxes)

This year the Super Sentai formula has truly been shaken as police and thieves go head to head in Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger, but from a collectors' perspective two teams appearing simultaneously can only mean one thing - more toys! This year of minipla candy toys first yield two four-piece main mecha sharing the same core component, starting with the Lupinrangers' own Lupin Kaiser! This is the combination of the Lupinrangers' three signature Dial Fighters, together with the GoodStriker - a sentient piece of the Lupin Collection that's happy to align itself with both sets of heroes. 

One of the best things about last year's Kyuranger line was the opportunity to purchase a smaller box comprised of a single figure, rather than having to worry about a full case and all the extras that come with it. That move was obviously a success since Bandai are back doing it once again, with Lupin Kaiser available as a five-box set in addition to the usual 12-box case. These smaller boxes also sport much more dynamic packaging, featuring some nice big splash images of minipla Lupin Kaiser along with breakdowns of what each individual box contains. Its a shame that box sides of the box use the same main image, but it's nice to see the actual show suit used on the top flap along with the Lupinrangers themselves. Inside you'll find the five boxes that make up Lupin Kaiser - one each for the three Dial Fighters, and then the final two for GoodStriker.

Unfortunately since the introduction of the larger case packaging the individual boxes have taken a bit of a hit, and that's especially true for the Lupin Kaiser boxes. Not only is the image on the front of the boxes exactly the same as that of the larger box, but its also repeated again on the back. Pretty much all of the other images on there are also reused assets, so all in all there really isn't a whole lot to say about them. Inside you'll find the individual runners bagged together along with a single piece of Bandai brand candy, with the instructions for the model printed on the inside of the box.

(As usual the following images will be of a painted model, so if you'd like to see what the kit looks like with stickers alone please also check out this blog post)

First out of the box is the Red Dial Fighter – a fairly generic-looking red jet with black wings and a dial sitting atop the body. Now first thing that's immediately clear about these Lupinranger vs Patranger minipla is that in terms of complexity they're a pretty big step down from the Kyuranger range. The Dial Fighters are all pretty small and relatively basic, with the majority of moving parts being those needed as part of the transformation. It's also disappointing to see Bandai slip backwards a bit when it comes to moulding the detail on the plastic, as the Lupinranger logos are completely absent from the wings and thus require the stickers to get the full effect. This isn't just a case with the Red Fighter either – in fact all four models in this set absolutely require the stickers in certain places. Of course this might not bother you in the slightest, in which case at least the sticker sheets for all these models are pretty small. The Red Dial Fighter is also notable for having the only functioning dial (as in it actually does something other than turn) in the set, but more on that later in the review.

Next up is the Blue Dial Fighter, a more traditional aeroplane vehicle with a nice big gatling gun sticking out of its rear. With a turning dial, rotating propeller and articulated rear half (which is mainly because it turns into an arm, but the vehicle regularly curls while flying in the show as well) it's thankfully got a bit more to it than the Red Dial Fighter does. It's still a fairly small model though even by minipla standards, and again lacks the Lupinranger logos printed on the wings so stickers (or a very steady hand) are a necessity.

Rounding off the Lupinrangers' personal vehicles is the Yellow Dial Fighter, which is by far and large the best looking of the three. A bulky yellow gyrocopter with a caged red cockpit area and big circular saw weapon, it's a really great looking kit that feels like it has a lot more to it than the other two even though in reality it actually doesn't. The model sports hinged gyro sections and a movable saw, in addition to being able to have the back half swing down ala the Blue Dial Fighter. While there's no wings here to sticker, however the vehicle does have a small area reserved for a Lupinranger sticker that isn't quite moulded in. The shape is there, but not the inner detailing.

The last piece of the set is something a little more substantial, as GoodStriker flies in to lend a helping hand! The fact that the model is made from two boxes' worth of parts is a bit of a giveaway to the fact, but GoodStriker feels positively huge compared to the three Dial Fighters – easily double in both length and mass. The bigger size means you get a pretty detailed model, but unfortunately for painters the issues present on the others are a lot more glaring here. For example the face section isn't moulded onto the plastic at all, so you have no choice but to use the wraparound stickers to get that detail on. Admittedly it would be an extremely intricate job so many would probably opt for the stickers anyway, but the option definitely would have been nice. As well as the turning dial and a selection of hinged parts for the transformation, the GoodStriker model also features eight small free-rolling wheels to give it a little bit more play value.

When you place all four vehicles together you really do get a sense of just how small the Dial Fighters are compared to GoodStriker. Admittedly it's also more a case of how chunky GoodStriker is (it seems like a lot of plastic for only two boxes), but the discrepancy in size between the two definitely highlights how the bulk of the Lupinranger vs Patranger robots isn't in the teams individual vehicles.

The transformation to Lupin Kaiser is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some neat little steps packed into the GoodStriker portion of the transformation, as the vehicle not only folds up on itself but also extends to reveal the upper leg sections. Unfortunately the problem is that GoodStriker sections are also pretty much the entire transformation. The arms just twist downwards and plug on, while the Red Dial Fighter plugs onto the top and then folds downwards to form these chest. There is one last satisfying element to the transformation though - turning the dial at the top to reveal the face. It's such a great little gimmick on the show, and proves just as effective here even when shrunk down to tiny size.

Kaitou Gattai! Lupin Kaiser!

Despite the bulk of the robot being GoodStriker the actual parts layout of Lupin Kaiser works surprisingly well - with the three primary colours of the Lupinrangers immediately eye-catching on the top half of the robot. The overall sculpt of minipla Lupin Kaiser looks excellent, with lots of the models' moulded detail on show. The sculpt is also surprisingly flush, with the only additional ports hinting towards future combinations on show being the two plugs sticking rather obtusely out of the hips. Unfortunately the robot's dial gimmick results in a rather puny looking face that not only looks a bit out of proportion from certain angles but also gets outright obscured pretty easily. As far as scale with other Super Sentai minipla goes Lupin Kaiser seems to fare pretty well, until its stacked up next to KyurenOh and then all of a sudden it looks positively tiny.

But though the size might be a little lacking, Bandai have at least made sure that the articulation is up to scratch. Minipla Lupin Kaiser sports two-way shoulder joints, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, moveable left fist, a waist swivel, two-way hips, upper leg swivels and hinged knees. Given the way the Red Dial Fighter transformers a neck joint was sadly pretty much impossible, but thanks to the dial gimmick you can at least turn the face some way to give poses a bit more character. It would be a lot worse if the kit didn't have a working waist joint, as it's those that don't have either that tend to suffer the most. The bigger omission here is the lack of ball-jointed feet, which while wouldn't have added much more to the articulation would have at least made the feet look a little more natural in action poses. As far as the general articulation of Super Sentai minipla goes this isn't the best the line has had to offer in the last few years, but it's far from the worst. Certainly enough to see why some collectors prefer these figures over their DX counterparts that's for sure.

It was going to be a difficult task to match the superb Kyuranger minipla range from last year, and while this first Lupinranger vs Patranger offering doesn't quite hit that bar the 2018 Super Sentai line certainly isn’t off to that bad of a start. Though Minipla Lupin Kaiser might seem small and relatively simplistic for the most part, it remains a fun little build that a fair bit of charm to it in combined mode as well as a pretty good range of articulation. So despite a few flaws, there's more than enough here to satisfy both newcomers and existing minipla collectors alike. However given just how unique this year's Super Sentai series is, there's every possibility this line could surprise us as more mecha are released and we have a better idea of where the combinations are headed.

No comments: