Tuesday 31 December 2019

Favourite Toys of 2019

Favourite Toys of 2019

Has another year gone by already? 12 months a whole lot of reviews later the time has come to sit down and think about what were some of my favourite toy releases from 2019. As usual it's worth noting that I'm only counting figures that were first released in 2019 (so reissues like the excellent S.H. Figuarts R2-D2 are sadly disqualified) and that I've managed to review for the blog so far. There are a fair few releases from November/December that I sadly haven't got around to yet (or in some cases, haven't even arrived yet), but even so I'm fairly confident in my picks this year. So without further ado, let's bring on the list and find out what my favourite toys of 2019 were!

(and if you think including two-packs is technically cheating, you might want to look away now)

Monday 30 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Stormtrooper (A New Hope)

S.H. Figuarts Stormtrooper (A New Hope) 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 5800 yen

Despite there being so many different characters in the Star Wars universe Bandai Tamashii Nations  could choose to make figures of, they do seem quite content in just bringing out new versions of the same ones every couple of years in the S.H. Figuarts line. But then again, that shouldn't be all that surprising when its fairly common practice for any company making Star Wars toys in general. Although a standard Stormtrooper was one of very first figures produced in the line, new films and slight mould tweaks have resulted in the iconic design being rolled out multiple times already. Not counting some of the more unique variants, the S.H. Figuarts Stormtrooper (A New Hope) version is the third. The general retail figure was released alongside the new Return of the Jedi Darth Vader - the second Return of the Jedi version in the line and also the third Vader figure in total. Maybe Bandai just really like doing things in threes?

Saturday 28 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ginga

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ginga 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 6050 yen

When Ultraman first joined the S.H. Figuarts line back in 2016 there was a clear focus on the Showa era of the franchise, given how the line seemingly progressed through each series chronologically in its first few years. However things have definitely changed in 2019, as Bandai Tamashii Nations turned their attention towards completing the New Generation Heroes line up of series - running from 2013's Ultraman Ginga all the way up to 2019's Ultraman Taiga. As the final modern Ultra to be added to the now defunct Ultra-Act line, it's no surprise that an S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ginga was going to take its time to surface but the Spark Doll powered hero has finally arrived - joining Rosso, Blu and Victory to complete the current line up as we head towards the Ultraman Taiga range.

Tuesday 24 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Heavy Infantry Mandalorian

Black Series Heavy Infantry Mandalorian 01

Release Date: November 2019
RRP: $29.99/£29.99

Overall The Mandalorian has done an incredible job of keeping spoilers underwraps until the episodes air, but one of the things Star Wars fans were treated too prior to the series was the confirmation that other Mandalorians would indeed be appearing. But while the solicitation of the Black Series Heavy Infantry Mandalorian may have revealed this, what it didn't tell us was said character would also go by the name of Paz Vizla – relating back to Pre Vizla and Clan Vizla, significant pieces of Mandalorian lore. The character was even played by none other series creator Jon Favreau, who voiced Pre Vizla back in The Clone Wars. Hasbro's second deluxe Black Series figure of 2019, the Heavy Infantry Mandalorian was released as a Best Buy exclusive in the US and through multiple channels in the rest of the world.

Saturday 21 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts R2-D2 (A New Hope)

S.H. Figuarts R2-D2 01

Release Date: July 2017, November 2019 (Reissue)
RRP: 4620 yen

If you're going to make Star Wars toys, then making droids is a must. Battle droids, Astromech Droids, Protocol Droids - it doesn't matter where you go with it, much like doing troopers it's an excuse to produce repaint after repaint without anyone batting an eyelid. But strangely it doesn't feel like something Bandai Tamashii Nations have taken full advantage of with the S.H. Figuarts line, and it took them two years since starting the range to get to the droids that kicked the whole saga off. S.H. Figuarts R2-D2 originally arrived alongside his best friend and compatriot C-3PO back in 2017, but after a few years off the market has been reissued on his own in the lead up to the release of  The Rise of Skywalker. Not only is this perfect timing from a promotional standpoint, but unlike the previous films in the sequel trilogy the plucky droid has a far more prominent appearance in this film. And about time too.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease

It's been over a year since we saw Sento Kiryu save the world and defeat Evolto, but Kamen Rider Build is still going strong thanks to a selection of V-Cinext (formerly V-Cinema) releases. After first being introduced to the show's brave new world in the Kamen Rider Cross-Z movie, the second instalment in the Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD series focuses on the third of its Riders to be introduced. Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Grease reunites Kazumi Sawatari with Akaba, Aoba and Kiba – the trio of farmers turned soldiers known as the Hokuto Three Crows. As is typical for V-Cinema releases the film also debuts a new final form for Grease, with the DX Grease Perfect Kingdom transformation device bundled in with its physical releases.

Monday 16 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Blastoise -Arts Remix-

S.H. Figuarts Blastoise -Arts Remix- 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 6050 yen

Not all that long ago Bandai Tamashii Nations had a toy line named D-Arts, featuring articulated video game characters from the likes of the Pokémon series, Digimon, Megaman and more. However as many lines do it eventually went defunct, and was swallowed up into the much larger entity we know the S.H. Figuarts line as today. Although Pokémon continued to see a handful of releases through Figuarts, the older D-Arts releases quickly began to climb in price on the aftermarket – particularly Mewtwo and the three evolved Generation One starters. Charizard was soon rectified with a special Tamashii web exclusive release, but it wasn't until 2019 that these original D-Arts returned under the guise of the -Arts Remix- range. Following on from Mewtwo earlier in the year, S.H. Figuarts Blastoise -Arts Remix- is the second Pokémon to get this special reissue treatment – with a few new surprises also thrown in to make this more than just a simple reissue.

Saturday 14 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus

Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus 01

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 5500 yen

While Kamen Rider may have its collectible figures and high-end transformation belts, when it comes to Super Sentai the money has always been in the mecha. And though the DX toys certainly have their fans, as far as adult collectors are concerned the future definitely lies in the Super Mini-Pla line. In a few short years Bandai have pulled from all corners of the franchise in their more advanced candy toy range, tackling the likes of Zyuranger, Kakuranger and Megaranger as well as pre-Power Rangers entries such as Liveman. For their second Sentai offering of 2019 Bandai have returned to the year 1991, revisiting Chōjin Sentai Jetman with the Super Mini-Pla Jet Icarus set. As the first toys of these designs in some years, these are undoubtedly the most articulated and affordable Jetman toys currently on the market.

Sunday 8 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Boba Fett (Return of the Jedi)

S.H. Figuarts Boba Fett 01

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Ever since Star Wars S.H. Figuarts first arrived on the scene in 2015, there's definitely been one particular character on fans' minds. Bandai Tamashii Nations' sculpt-work and the iconic Mandalorian armour seem like a match made in heaven, so a figure based on the galaxy's most popular bounty hunter should have been a given. But years went by, and other than the odd appearance at a Tamashii Nation or Tokyo Comic Con event there was no sign of Boba Fett. Which felt especially strange since Jango Fett was released in 2016. But fast-forward a few years and S.H. Figuarts Boba has finally arrived, though not the variation you'd immediately think off. Continuing the line's baffling omission of anything The Empire Strikes Back, this figure is instead based on the Return of the Jedi version of the suit – sporting some slight design and colour alterations.

Thursday 5 December 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider OOO TaToBa Combo

SH Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider OOO TaToBa Combo 01

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: 6600 yen

There aren't many S.H. Figuarts out of the 100+ I own that I can honestly say I outright hate, but S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider OOO TaToBa Combo is definitely one of them. Between the poor ankles, gummy plastic and just general cheapness of the figure it ranks pretty highly as one of my least favourite entries in the line (second only perhaps to the dreaded Kamen Rider ZX). So imagine my joy when Bandai Tamashii Nations annouced the base form of Kamen Rider OOO's titular Rider would be the next character receive the prestigious S.H. Figuarts –Shinkocchou Seihou- treatment – hot on the heels of Kamen Rider Wizard's equally needed glow-up and the long awaited arrival of Kamen Rider Kiva. But on top of delivering the usual high quality the line usually strives for, S.H. Figuarts –Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider OOO TaToBa Combo also comes with a few other surprises up its sleeves – teasing more articulation than ever before as well the surprising implementation of the show's much-loved gimmick.

Saturday 30 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man Advanced Suit

S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man Advanced Suit 01

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations have been at the Marvel game for a while in the S.H. Figuarts line, but until now it's been entirely limited to the Marvel Cinematic Universe - leaving other companies like Medicom or Kaiyodo to pick up the slack when it comes to the wider Marvel Universe. However that looks as though it's about to change with the release of S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man Advanced Suit, the first of their figures to be based on the 2018 Spider-Man game by Insomniac Games for the Playstation 4. Delving into the new Marvel Gamerverse, the Spider-Man game features a 23-year old Peter Parker battling against the likes of Mister Negative, Electro, Tombstone, Scorpion and Doctor Octopus. The game also features a myriad of suits from across Spidey's long history, but as the one that appears on the box the "Advanced Suit" is certainly the best place to start.

Friday 22 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Fox

Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Fox 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: : £20/$20

Triple Force Friday has come and gone, and while it primarily celebrated the 2019 Star Wars trifecta of Jedi: Fallen Order, The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker it still had plenty of other surprises from across the Star Wars universe. Clearly eager to gear fans up for the imminent return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hasbro continue to bolster their grand army of the Republic with the release of Black Series Clone Commander Fox. Designated number CC-1010, Commander Fox led the shock troopers stationed on Coruscant – upholding the law in the Galactic City and thus becoming one of the most decorated soldiers in the military. Though he appeared in several episodes of the show, perhaps Fox's most significant role was his involvement in the capture of Ahsoka Tano after she was framed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple by rogue Padawan Bariss Offee. Like Commander Wolffe, Fox was released as a GameStop exclusive in the US and then a shared exclusive in the UK and other parts of the world.

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Gridknight

Figma Gridknight 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 6296 yen

Thanks to their good relationship with studio TRIGGER, Good Smile Company continue their domination when it comes to SSSS.Gridman merchandise with the release of Figma Gridknight! Using his copy ability, the kaiju Anti transforms into a form similar to that of his former rival - his obsession to defeat the titular Hyper Agent having now transformed into a desire to protect him. Gridknight is second character from the show to be released as part of Max Factory’s Figma line, surprisingly making it to production before the likes of leading ladies Rikka and Akane - both of whom have dominated the market when it comes to SSSS.Gridman merchandise. While of course they’re not too far behind, it is nice to see the giants of the series get in on the action figure game outside of a number of expensive and often flawed combining sets.

Friday 15 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Diend

SH Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Diend 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 7700 yen

It's been three and a half years since S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Decade was originally released, but despite showing up at the Tamashii Nation event that very same year his rival Kamen Rider Diend has been nowhere to be seen. But now fans of the world-hopping thief's prayers have been answers, as S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Diend has finally arrived in a rather unexpected way. Daiki Kaito's latest target is collectors' wallets, as Diend appears as the Shinkocchou Seihou Tamashii Nation 2019 event exclusive. But though the means might not be what people expected the timing couldn’t be any better, as the two Kamen Rider Decade Riders returned to butt heads (and then team up, in typical fashion) earlier this year in Kamen Rider Zi-O – the final chapter in the Heisei Rider chronology.

Tuesday 12 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series The Mandalorian (Carbonized Collection)

Star Wars Black Series The Mandalorian Carbonized Collection 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: $20/£20

This year’s Triple Force Friday was a particularly special time for Star Wars collectors because not only did it debut product from the forthcoming Rise of Skywalker film, but also the Jedi: Fallen Order video game and Disney+ series The Mandalorian. With anticipation for all three instalments at an all-time high, Hasbro knew exactly how to entice fans and produced a number of different variants of the new Black Series figures. As well as being available in both standard and First Edition versions, a select few were also released as part of the Carbonized Collection - sporting metallic paint jobs and premium foil packaging. Undoubtedly the most anticipated of them all, the Star Wars Black Series The Mandalorian (Carbonized Collection) figure was released exclusively at Target stores in the US and through StarActionFigures in the UK. Today, on the US release of the Disney+ and the premiere of The Mandalorian, we take a look at this mysterious new bounty hunter with no name.

Saturday 9 November 2019

Movie REVIEW: Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger

Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger

When an Uchu Sentai Kyuranger and Doubutsu Sentai Zyuohger crossover film was passed on last year in favour of the second Space Squad instalment, some fans thought the worst about the future of the Super Sentai franchise's annual tradition. However some traditions don't die so easily, so of course the Versus Series returned in 2019 in triple-threat format with Lupinranger vs Patranger vs Kyuranger. This V-Cinema (now known as V-Cinext) release brings the Kyurangers out of their parallel universe once more, this time teaming up with the rivalrous teams of Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger – together with a few more surprises along the way.

Thursday 7 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Nebula

SH Figuarts Nebula 01

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

The S.H. Figuarts line may have been tackling the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a good few years now, but when it comes to character diversity there’s still a lot of untrodden ground. On the one hand who can blame them when Iron Man continues to be Bandai Tamashii Nations’ golden goose, but on the other it would be nice to see a bit more variety among the releases. But every so often a new character finally manages to slip through, with S.H. Figuarts Nebula finally joining the line this year as a Tamashii web exclusive release. The second daughter of Thanos is the fourth Guardians of the Galaxy character to be released but definitely one of most overdue, and although the figure is based on her Infinity War appearance with her significantly expanded role in Endgame this figure couldn’t have come at a better time.

Tuesday 5 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Figma Gridman (Primal Fighter)

Figma Gridman (Primal Fighter) 01

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: 6296 yen

There seems to be plenty of options out there when it comes to SSSS.Gridman toys, but which one is the perfect choice isn’t as obvious as you may think. Megahouse kicked things off with a fully transforming, but small and somewhat overpriced release with their Acti-Builder version. Then Good Smile Company went bigger with their DX Full Power Gridman set, but their 90s style design came with a whole bunch of problems. Meanwhile Bandai got in on the action with the Super Mini-Pla line, but their similarly high price point also came with the condition of having to build the thing yourself. Finally there’s the Nendoroid - a perfectly well-made but super deformed style figure. But if that wasn’t enough choice, Good Smile are back with a third go with Figma Gridman (Primal Fighter). Produced by Max Factory, this version of the titular hero makes up for the lack of combining capabilities with superior articulation and poseability.

Friday 1 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Boba Fett

Star Wars Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Boba Fett 01

Release Date: November 2015, September 2019 (Reissue)
RRP: 9680 yen

If there's one regret I have as a toy collector, it's taking until 2019 to get into the Meisho Movie Realization line. Bandai Tamashii Nations' Super Imaginative Chogokin-esque reimagining of iconic Star Wars characters styled like warriors from feudal-era Japan was a stroke of genius, and judging by the price some of these figures command on the aftermarket collectors seemed to think so too. The third release in the line way back in 2015 was Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Boba Fett, and much like any limited run figure based on the original (though no longer canonically) Mandalorian bounty hunter it's one that will cost you a pretty penny on the aftermarket. That is until four years later however, when a surprise reissue was announced for Western territories such as the US and UK. This was a particularly unexpected move on Bandai's part, since there's no sign that the figure ever received the same treatment over in Japan. But as an opportunity to own a figure I regret not picking up all those years ago for a price not too far off Japanese retail, I certainly wasn't going to question it.

Monday 28 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Monsterarts Gamera [1995]

SH MonsterArts Gamera [1995] 01

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: 10800 yen

It isn’t very often we see something that isn’t Godzilla related in the S.H. MonsterArts line these days, but every so often Bandai Tamashii Nations creeps something through that reminds fans just how much untapped potential the line has. One of the most pleasant surprises in 2015 was S.H. MonsterArts Gamera [1996], based on the titanic turtle’s appearance in the second of the Heisei era Gamera trilogy - Gamera 2: Attack of Legion. Though sadly an accompanying Legion figure never came to fruition a version of Gamera based on the 1999 instalment Gamera 3: The Revenge of Iris eventually arrived in 2018, and now in 2019 the trinity is finally complete with S.H. MonsterArts Gamera [1995]. Based on the monster’s appearance in Shusuke Kaneko’s epic Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, this is the only of the three Gamera figures to have been a Tamashii Web exclusive.

Friday 25 October 2019

Anime REVIEW: Beast Wars Neo

Beast Wars Neo

Beast Wars and the wider Beast Era is largely considered one of the best (if not controversial) periods in Transformers history, but over in Japan there's much more to the story than some fans might realise. During the long delay between the release of seasons one and two of the original series, Japan took things in their own direction with two of their own 2D animated Beast Wars series – 1998's Beast Wars II and 1999's Beast Wars Neo. Now 20 years later, once again thanks to the work of Karyuudo Fansubs Beast Wars Neo: Super Lifeform Transformers joins its predecessor in being fully available with English fansubs. With its own cast of exclusive characters and the return of one of the most iconic figures in Transformers history, is Beast Wars Neo everything fans had hoped for?

Wednesday 23 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures Darth Vader

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: $10/£10

Star Wars Galaxy of Adventures is an ongoing series of Youtube shorts that takes key moments from across the Star Wars universe and reimagines them with stylised animation. Though the series has had an accompanying toy line for some time, previous waves have simply been re-releases of other lines done up in new packaging. For 2019 though Hasbro are going all in on the animated aesthetic, relaunching the line with a brand new 5" range that fully embraces the look and feel of the series. Additionally figure also has its own unique gimmick – truly putting the "action" back in action figure. Among the first wave of figures to debut at this year's Triple Force Friday is of course none other than the mighty Sith Lord Darth Vader, and as a huge sucker for stylised figures like this I knew that I just had to check the line out and see what it has to offer.

Sunday 20 October 2019

Toybox Review: MAFEX Iron Spider

Release Date: July 2019, August 2019 (Reissue)
RRP: 7800 yen

After beating off the likes of Revoltech and Figma, Bandai's S.H. Figuarts line ruled the roost for a good while when it came to collector-grade Japanese figures in 6" scale. However in the last few years they've begun to face some stiff competition from Medicom and their "miracle action figure" MAFEX line - directly challenging them with their own versions of characters from Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and more. Discussions of inconsistent quality prevented me from buying into the line for some time, but as it begins to extend further into both comic and movie-based properties I've found myself more and more interested. While other lines are now turning their attention to Avengers: Endgame, Medicom are still trailing behind covering Infinity War – and among their releases this year was the MAFEX Iron Spider figure. But despite coming nearly a year after the S.H. Figuarts version, Medicom's edition of Spider-Man's hi-tech suit still got plenty of attention – not just selling out on release but also getting a reissue only a month later.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Woz

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: 6050 yen

IWAE! Whether he is in the service of the overlord Zi-O or the saviour Geiz, the mysterious retainer from the year 2068 arrives in the S.H. Figuarts line! S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Woz is both the third Rider and third general release figure from the Kamen Rider Zi-O range, though as far as the latter is concerned he’s also likely the last figure from the show Bandai Tamashii Nations will give such treatment. Though Kamen Rider Woz and the Miridewatches were introduced with the arrival of the alternate future White Woz, the powers were later taken by the main timeline’s Black Woz and continued to be used by him after his counterpart’s erasure.

Saturday 12 October 2019

First Impressions: Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE

Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE
Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll and Youtube

Bandai and Sunrise caught lightning in a bottle when they made Gundam Build Fighters. If their success at turning a completely merchandise-driven show into a charming and heartwarming tribute to the Gundam franchise wasn't enough to prove that, their less successful attempts to replicate that since are. That isn't to say said shows aren't highly marketable though, as we return to Gunpla Battle Nexus Online in Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE. Following on from the original Gundam Build Divers some time later with a brand new cast, the series celebrates 40 years of the Gundam franchise and is available not only via Crunchyroll but also Sunrise/Bandai themselves on their own GundamInfo Youtube channel.

Thursday 10 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Ezra Bridger

Release Date: May 2019
RRP: $20/£20

It may have taken Hasbro over three years to get there, but slowly but surely we draw ever closer to having the full main cast of Star Wars Rebels as part of the Black Series. Kicking off with Kanan and Ahsoka all the way back in 2016, more and more of the Ghost crew have found their way into the franchise's premier six-inch line until now we stand with only one absent from the line-up. But before we lament the lack of Garazeb "Zeb" Orrelios, let's take a moment to look at the Jedi Padawan and revolutionary hero from the planet Lothal. Star Wars Black Series Ezra Bridger was released as part of the line's 21st wave, alongside fellow Rebels star Chopper.

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Anime REVIEW: Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV

Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV
Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV is available in streaming form via Crunchyroll

All good things eventually come to an end, and sadly in 2019 we say goodbye to a series that’s continue top itself in heart, action and of course excess with each and every season. The fifth and final season of Satelight's beat-thumping sci-fi magical girl series Senki Zesshō Symphogear has arrived, rounding off seven years and 52 episodes worth of story build up in another 13-episode package. This time the season goes by the full name of Senki Zesshō Symphogear XV, with the typically outlandish subtitle of “Create a history, with the light God could not know”. So strap yourselves in and prepare for "All Systems Green", because if there's one thing Symphogear guarantees it's one hell of a ride

Sunday 6 October 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Stormtrooper with Blast Effects

Release Date: 2018
RRP: $24.95/£34.99 

If there’s one thing any budding toy photographer needs in their collection, it’s effect parts. But while buying them separately is all well and good, it’s always nice when figures themselves come with them as well. Hasbro have done an excellent job making them standard with their Power Rangers Lightning Collection figures, but over in the Star Wars Black Series it’s few and far between. When they do release one though they really make it count, such as this deluxe Black Series Stormtrooper with Blast Effects figure. Decking out their standard Stormtrooper with some new scorch mark battle damage, this set also comes with a variety of effect parts and a display base. It was released as a Disney Store exclusive in the US, with further exclusivity varied around the rest of the world.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Kiva

How do you follow on from a smash hit like Kamen Rider Den-O? This is the exact problem Toei faced in 2008, when the time-travelling train series was about to make its final stop (that is until the deluge of sequel films of course). Their answer was to go a little bit horror with Kamen Rider Kiva – bringing in veteran writer Toshiki Inoue (Kamen Rider Agito, Kamen Rider 555) once more to spearhead the series. The 48-episode series served as the ninth entry in the Heisei series (and 18th Kamen Rider series overall), starring actor Koji Seto in the lead role of Wataru Kurenai. Seto would go on to immediately reprise his role at the beginning of the following series, helping to set in motion the events of the world-hopping anniversary series Kamen Rider Decade.

Friday 27 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Wolffe

Release Date: 2018
RRP: $19.99

Along with expanding on existing prequel-era characters and introducing fans to brand new ones, one of the great things Star Wars: The Clone Wars did was put some focus on the clones themselves. The series even managed to turn many of them into completely unique characters, which is pretty impressive given many of them looked nearly identical and they were all voiced by the same actor. One such clone is CC-3636, who took on the name Wolffe and led the 104th Wolfpack Battalion. Working closely with Jedi Master Plo-Koon as well as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, Wolffe was also one of the few clones to resist and survive the effects of Order 66 - eventually living on the planet Seelos with his brothers Captain Rex and Clone Commander Gregor. Black Series Clone Commander Wolffe was released as a GameStop exclusive in the US, and then a shared exclusive in the UK and other parts of the world. 

Tuesday 24 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Psycho Blue Ranger

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: $20/£20

If you were to ask Power Rangers fans what the most notable thing Bandai of America did with their ultimately short-lived Legacy Collection line was, the answer would probably be finally producing action figures of the Psycho Rangers. But ultimately even that didn’t go according to plan, as by the time Hasbro took over the Power Rangers brand only three of the core Psycho Rangers had actually been made – with Yellow and Pink passed on in favour of the “comic original” Psycho Green and “not actually real” Psycho Silver convention exclusives. But now Hasbro are here and to show they aren’t messing around, they’re tackling the popular Power Rangers in Space villains within their first year of releasing product. The first to arrive is Lightning Collection Psycho Blue Ranger, available exclusively via GameStop in the US and as a shared exclusive in other parts of the world. Created by Astronema through harnessing the power of Dark Specter, the Psycho Rangers were designed to be unbeatable opponents to their heroic counterparts.

Sunday 22 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Black King

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: 7560 yen

While 2019 has seen the Ultra Series branch of S.H. Figuarts dive into more different points in the franchise than ever before, it hasn't been quite as generous on the kaiju front than it has in the past. This is especially true when it comes to The Return of Ultraman, which so far had only seen two giant monsters released for Ultraman Jack to face off against. Until now that is, with undoubtedly one of the show's most famous creatures arriving in the form of the Tamashii Web exclusive S.H. Figuarts Black King. Appearing in episodes 37 and 38 of the series (Ultraman Dies at Sunset and When the Ultra Star Shines), the bodyguard of Alien Nackle proved a formidable opponent to Ultraman Jack - defeating the hero in their first encounter. It was only after the original Ultraman and Ultraseven saved Jack from execution on Planet Nackle was he able to defeat the pair once and for all. Since then, Black King has also reappeared in Ultraman X, Ultraman Orb, Ultraman R/B and Ultraman Taiga.

Friday 20 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultimate Aegis/Ultraman Zero Armor Option Parts Set

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: 3240 yen

If there’s one thing that Bandai Tamashii Nations have excelled at with the Ultra Series above all of their other ranges, it’s accessories and effect parts. Even though the new S.H. Figuarts line isn’t quite as expansive as Ultra-Act once was, most releases still come packed with an impressive array of optional parts. But in some cases that still isn’t enough, and that’s where these additional accessory sets come into play. Though not uncommon to Figuarts as a whole the S.H. Figuarts Ultimate Aegis/Ultraman Zero Armor Option Parts Set is the first produced especially for Ultraman, based on the dimension-travelling armour Ultraman Zero receives in Ultraman Zero the Movie: Super Deciding Fight! The Belial Galactic Empire. Later on a replica of the Ultimate Aegis is bestowed upon Ultraman X through a new Cyber Card, granting him the Ultraman Zero Armor. As such, the parts included in this Tamashii Web exclusive set are compatible with both S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero and S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X.

Wednesday 18 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Emperor Palpatine & Throne

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $39.99/£39.99

With the Star Wars Black Series now over six years old and sculpting having come a long way since then, naturally some of the older figures in the line are beginning to show their age. One such figure is Emperor Palpatine, who was originally released all the way back in 2015 as part of the phase two "Blue label" assortment. Now with Palpatine set to make a return in some fashion in Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, Hasbro have given the evil Darth Sidious in the form of a special deluxe release. The Black Series Emperor Palpatine & Throne set is again based on the character's appearance in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, and is exclusive to online retailer Amazon in the US (release elsewhere varies by country).

Monday 16 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Goldar

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $22.99

Whenever a new range of Power Rangers toys starts one of the biggest questions is “will there be villain figures?”. While it was clearly never much of a priority for Bandai of Japan with their Super Sentai lines, despite their flaws Bandai of America did at least try to make their waves a bit more varied with the most recent series. So far Hasbro seem to be doing a great job following suit with the Beast Morphers range, and the Lightning Collection came out swinging by including Lord Zedd in the first wave. Hasbro aren’t stopping there either, with Lightning Collection Goldar being announced and released shortly afterwards as the line’s first GameStop exclusive. No Mighty Morphin Power Rangers collection would be complete without Rita and Zedd’s loyal general, and for him to be released ahead of half the ranger team is quite the pleasant surprise.

Saturday 14 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Dragon Shield Black Ranger

Release Date: September 2019
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

The Power Rangers Lightning Collection being comparable to other Hasbro toylines like Marvel Legends or the Star Wars Black Series doesn’t just relate to the quality of the figures themselves, but also the release strategies they’ll have. On top of the mainline figures and the odd convention exclusive here and there, specific store exclusives are another big avenue for figures and Hasbro have wasted no time bringing Power Rangers into that fold. The Lightning Collection Dragon Shield Black Ranger is the first of what will likely be many figures exclusive to Walgreens in the US (international distribution will be far more varied). Appearing in An Oyster Stew (the final episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season one), Black Ranger Zack Taylor takes this form after Green Ranger Tommy Oliver transfers over his waning powers so that Zack can break the spell of the Oysterizer. The form is also notable for being completely exclusive to Power Rangers, and does not appear in its Super Sentai equivalent Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger.

Thursday 12 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: $49.99

If there’s one thing Hasbro know, it’s how to make a great convention exclusive. So when the company announced that they would be taking over the Power Rangers brand, naturally fans were eager to see what they had in store for San Diego Comic Con. They certainly hit the ground running with the Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Red Ranger & Zeo Gold Ranger set, celebrating the forms of veteran ranger and original team leader Jason Scott Lee. The Red Ranger figure also depicts him wearing the Dragon Shield armour, passed on to him by Green Ranger Tommy Oliver following the loss of his powers.

Monday 9 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The War Doctor is perhaps one of the boldest concepts to have come out of Doctor Who since its 2005 relaunch, second only behind that of the Time War itself. An incarnation of the Doctor kept completely secret to viewers, willing to do the things that his previous incarnations weren’t and an instrumental part in the Time Lords’ war against the Daleks. Though he only properly appeared on screen in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, prior to actor John Hurt’s death in 2017 Big Finish brought the character back for four special audio adventure sets that expanded on his exploits in the Time War. As another of their extremely significant contributions to Doctor Who lore, it’s only fitting that the War Doctor joins the Seventh and Eighth Doctors in Character Options B&M exclusive figure sets. The War Doctor & Dalek Scientist set is based upon the story A Thing of Guile, the second story of the War Doctor’s second Time War set.

Sunday 8 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

Although after the 1996 TV movie the Eighth Doctor wouldn't be seen again until 2013's The Night of the Doctor mini-episode, that doesn't mean that he was completely forgotten during Doctor Who's wilderness years. While he was initially expanded upon through novels and comics, arguably it wouldn't be until Big Finish came along that that he was truly defined. From his main range adventures to boxsets like Dark Eyes, Doom Coalition and Ravenous, Big Finish have made a huge contribution to developing a Doctor that has only ever had two onscreen appearances. So much so, that the direct namedropping of his companions in The Night of the Doctor has even made them canon for the most part. So when Character Options announced that they would be producing three Doctor/Dalek two-pack figure sets as part of their 2019 B&M Stores exclusive range, of course the Eighth Doctor would be included. Say hello to the Eighth Doctor & Dalek Interrogator Prime set, based on the story In the Garden of Death from the second Eighth Doctor Time War set.

An extremely limited edition variant version of this set was also made available from Bigfinish.com, with only 150 in existence.

Saturday 7 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek Set

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

The 2019 assortment of B&M store exclusive Doctor Who action figures was teased to be the most exciting yet, and all Character Options needed to do to confirm that as being true was utter two simple words - Big Finish. For the last 20 years Big Finish have been the company behind Doctor Who audio adventures, expanding the mythos for all of the classic Doctors as well as producing a number of spin-off series and pressing forward with more unexplored concepts from the relaunched series such as the Time War. As part of their offerings for this year Character have announced three sets based on popular Big Finish adventures, pairing an incarnation of the Doctor up with his deadliest enemy - the Daleks. This also marks the first time that the Dalek figure mould has appeared among the B&M exclusive assortments. The first of these sets we'll be looking at is the Seventh Doctor & Axis Strike Squad Dalek set, based on Gallifrey VI - the sixth entry in the Gallifrey spin-off series.

An extremely limited edition variant version of this set was also made available from Bigfinish.com, with only 150 in existence.

Thursday 5 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: DX Full Power Gridman

Release Date: May 2019, July 2019 (reissue)
RRP: 15,278 yen

When the SSSS.Gridman anime was first announced, one of the biggest questions for collectors was just who would be handling the toys. Whilst the Denkou Chojin Gridman toys were produced by TakaraTomy, Bandai’s domination of the tokusatsu market (as well as their more recent releases in the Ultra-Act and Super Mini-Pla lines) made them feel like a certainty. However while Bandai and Megahouse have both developed their own version of the titular character, studio Trigger’s links with Good Smile Company undoubtedly had a hand in them arguably leading the way when it came to SSSS.Gridman toys. But on top of their various Figma, Nendoroid and scale statue releases, the crown jewel in their offerings is the DX Full Power Gridman – a fully transformable and combinable set that includes both Gridman and his four Assist Weapons.

Monday 2 September 2019

First Impressions: Kamen Rider Zero-One

Kamen Rider Zero-One

The arrival of Kamen Rider Zero-One is more than just your usual Kamen Rider premiere. With new series starting annually fans are used to see Riders come and go, but rarely do they see one usher in a whole new era. Zero-One marks the beginning of the Reiwa era for Kamen Rider just as Kuuga did for the Heisei era back in 2000, and while this doesn't come after a long hiatus off the air it still aims to be just a significant a landmark in franchise history. Written by Yuya Takahashi (Kamen Rider Ex-Aid, Kamen Rider Amazons: The Last Judgement) and directed by Teruaki Sugihara (Lupinranger vs Patranger), Zero-One also sees legend Seiji Takaiwa pass the mantle of lead suit actor onto Yuya Nawata – whose previous portrayals include Kamen Riders Geiz, Cronus and Neo Alpha.

Thursday 29 August 2019

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Zi-O

Kamen Rider Zi-O

Over the past 20 years the Kamen Riders have battled against the likes of the Grongi, Unknown, Fangire, Orphnoch, Greeed and so many more. They've been doctors, demon hunters, wizards and detectives. Some have journeyed through the decade and travelled through time, while others hail from parallel universes. But eventually all things come to an end, and as the curtain closes on the Heisei era a new one is about to begin. But before welcoming the Reiwa era with Kamen Rider Zero-One, Toei celebrated the longest consecutively-running period in Rider history with Kamen Rider Zi-O. As the 20th and final Heisei series Zi-O pays tribute to everything from Kamen Rider Kuuga all the way up to Kamen Rider Build, with plenty of guest stars and surprise developments to see the era off in style.

Thursday 22 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: $20/£20

The 2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars series has become both a landmark and definitive piece of Star Wars fiction, but for many fans exposure to the franchise's great conflict came five years earlier with Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky's Star Wars: Clone Wars animated series. Despite only running for 25 episodes spanning around three hours in total runtime, the Emmy award winning series included many notable moments – including the proper debuts of both Asajj Ventress and General Grievous. Though it has mostly been wiped from official Star Wars canon, it remains a firm favourite amongst fans and its legacy continues with Hasbro's Black Series Clone Commander Obi-Wan Kenobi. This figure depicts Obi-Wan in the outfit he wore in the show's first season, and is a Walgreens exclusive release in the US.

Sunday 18 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Victory

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Now that the Ultraman S.H. Figuarts range is truly in full swing, it feels like anyone's guess as to what could come next. For many years the line seemed to simply follow the pattern of covering an older Showa era series each year along with what's currently airing, but now it's also begun digging back into other areas of the back catalogue with releases like Ultraman Zero, Ultraman Belial and Ultraman X. Now it comes one step closer to completing that New Generation Hero line up with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Victory. Like X this is a significant release as the character was previously denied an Ultra-Act release, debuting just as the line was winding down prior to the franchise's integration into S.H. Figuarts

Thursday 15 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set

Release Date: August 2018
RRP: £16.99 

Even though the demand for Doctor Who toys seems to be at its lowest since the series relaunch and physical toy stores/aisles are on the decline, credit has to go to Character Options for doing their best to keep the brand alive. For the past few years they've teamed up with UK chain B&M Bargains to produce sets exclusive to their stores, mostly made up of repaints and retools from pre-existing moulds. One such set is the Doctor Who "The 1970s" Collectors Figure Set, which looks back on the eras of the Third and Fourth Doctors. Included are the Fourth Doctor in his costume from The Talons of Weng Chiang, the Brigadier and a standard Auton as they appeared in Terror of the Autons.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who Regenerated Fourth Doctor and TARDIS

Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £20

Despite being the longest-running science fiction franchise in the world, the Doctor Who toy line isn't in the best of states. What was once huge toy shop displays at the height of the 2005 relaunch is now a string of remoulds, repaints and the odd new head sculpt, with Character Options doing everything they can to keep the brand alive in the increasingly difficult market. These efforts led them to partnering with B&M Bargains to provide exclusive releases to their stores across the UK, including multi-figure packs and Doctor/TARDIS sets. Among the releases in early 2019 was the Fourth Doctor Regenerated and TARDIS set, chronicling Tom Baker's debut as the Doctor in the 1974 four part story Robot. This is the third version of a regenerated Fourth Doctor from Character, having previously been released as a single card figure and in the limited edition Fourth Doctor Time Capsule.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Avengers: Endgame marked the end for many aspects of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we currently know it, but for many fans the main thing it'll be remembered for is its place as the final chapter in Tony Stark's story - the man who first shaped its origins way back in 2007's Iron Man. The character is not only the MCU's biggest star but also one of Bandai Tamashii Nations' biggest sellers in the S.H. Figuarts line, given the number of different suit variants the company has put out over the years. So when a number of characters were suddenly announced a few weeks prior to Endgame's cinema release, there was no doubt that the latest rendition of Iron Man was going to be among them. However S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mk 85 was actually the last of these initial general sale Endgame Figuarts to be released, with a third version of the Infinity War Mk50 suit preceding it the month before.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Movie REVIEW: Ultraman R/B the Movie: Select! The Crystal of Bond

The annual team up movie is a tokusatsu staple no matter the franchise, and since the beginning of the New Generation Hero chapter in the Ultra Series it’s very much customary for the latest Ultra warrior to crossover with their closest predecessor. 2019 was the turn of Ultraman R/B, as the cast met with that of Ultraman Geed in Ultraman R/B the Movie: Select! The Crystal of Bond. As well as acting as an epilogue to R/B itself, this movie is the final piece in the Ultra Series to be released in the Heisei era - with Tsuburaya Productions off the Reiwa era in style a few months later with Ultraman Taiga.

Monday 5 August 2019

Toybox REVIEW: SDCC 2019 Exclusive Star Wars Black Series Boba Fett (Toy Colours)

Release Date: July 2019 
RRP: $27 

San Diego Comic Con 2019 may have come and gone, but the various exclusives released at the event live on as both a reminder and potentially the bane in collectors’ wallets. Being one of the biggest toy lines out there Star Wars has had some pretty good exclusives over the years, and 2019 was no exception. 3.75” Vintage Collection fans had a both special prototype style Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker Jedi Destiny 3-pack to enjoy, while over in the 6” Black Series there was a sneak peek at The Rise of Skywalker with an early look at the Sith Trooper. But along with that was something some collectors have been lusting after for years, a special edition Boba Fett figure decked out in the colours of the original 1979 Kenner figure to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. Despite the colours of the toy eventually being revised the deco has remained a piece of Star Wars history, appearing on various bits of merchandise before finally being immortalised as part of the Black Series.