Friday, 14 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Avengers Thanos [Avengers: Endgame]


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 9504 yen

Avengers: Infinity War was the biggest gathering of Marvel Comics heroes on the big screen there  had ever been, but for many it wasn't the good guys that came out of that film as the runaway hit. After being teased throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity War properly unleashed Thanos upon audiences, shocking them as he gathered the six Infinity Stones and succeeded in his mission to wipe out half of all life in the universe. With the first major chapter in the MCU coming to an end in Avengers: Endgame the Mad Titan returns once again, with Bandai Tamashii Nations immediately added him to their S.H. Figuarts line up. First announced at the beginning of April before being released a mere few weeks later, this new S.H. Figuarts Thanos depicts his appearance in Endgame - returning him to the armoured look he shed at the beginning of Infinity War.

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection Lord Zedd


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: £20/$20

The scarcity of villain figures has always been a problem for Power Rangers toy collectors, and arguably tokusatsu fans in general. Credit where its due Bandai of America's offerings have always been considerably more vast than what's on offer across the pond in Japan, but for a franchise with such a rich history of villain designs to choose from there was always the sense more could have been done. Now that Hasbro have taken control of Power Rangers and have kicked off both their Beast Morphers and collector-orientated Lightning Collection ranges, it's time to show they mean business. And what better way to show that than to kick off their first wave of figures with the most iconic exclusively Power Rangers villain - the Emperor of Evil himself, Lord Zedd. While far from Zedd's first toy, Bandai's previous offerings have always left much to be desired. Can the Lightning Collection Lord Zedd right these wrongs and finally give the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers villain the figure he truly deserves?

Monday, 10 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Ahsoka Tano


Release Date: Early 2016
RRP: £20/$20

Dave Filoni's additions to the Star Wars mythos through both the Clone Wars and Rebels series have been vast, but of all the characters those series have introduced one arguably stands out as the most significant. Introduced in the very first Star Wars: The Clone Wars "movie" as Anakin Skywalker's new Padawan, Ahsoka Tano battled through the Clone Wars before eventually leaving the Jedi Order and surviving Order 66. Following that she become an informant for the Rebellion under the alias Fulcrum, battling against her former master as Darth Vader and eventually witnessing the fall of the Galactic Empire. With that kind of legacy, it's no surprise Hasbro eventually chose her to become part of the Black Series line. Though rather than go for her more iconic Clone Wars appearance, the first 6" Star Wars Black Series Ahsoka Tano figure is based off her older Rebels look.

Friday, 7 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection SPD Shadow Ranger


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

Collector-orientated Power Rangers figures have been something of a sore point for some time now. Over in Japan Tamashii Nations' S.H. Figuarts range died a much-talked about death, and even when Bandai of America stepped up to the plate it was the same kind of disproportioned, minimally painted figures they offered in their standard ranges. But with Hasbro's surprised purchase of the franchise from Saban came hope, and now that hope has materialised in the form of the Power Rangers Lightning Collection! This 6" collectors' line is cut from the same stock as Hasbro's Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series figures, and will offer a range of characters from across the franchise's long and illustrious history. Among this first wave of figures are the Mighty Morphin White Ranger, Dino Charge Red Ranger, Lord Zedd and the subject of this review – the SPD Shadow Ranger. As a long demanded figure, especially in the wake of Tamashii Nations completing the core Power Rangers SPD (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger) team in the S.H. Figuarts line, the inclusion of Shadow Ranger was a sign that Hasbro planned to kick this line off with a bang.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 5940 yen

As had been the case with Ultraman Zero, S.H. Figuarts didn't immediately spring for the obvious when they release Ultraman Belial as part of their Ultraman Geed range in 2018. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial Atrocious was a great figure in its own right, but arguably not quite the version of the evil Ultra Warrior fans were clamouring to add to their collection. Now just a few months after Zero a new S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial has arrived – based on his standard appearance first seen back in 2009's Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends the Movie. After being banished from the Land of Light for attempting to steal the Plasma Spark, Belial was corrupted by the Alien Rayblood into an Ultra Reionics and sought revenge against the Ultras. He was eventually defeated by Zero, but has returned numerous times to face off against his rival – most recently "fathering" Ultraman Geed with his genetic material.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Kanan Jarrus


Release Date: Early 2016
RRP: £20/$20

If there's one thing the Star Wars franchise has never failed at it's been giving every character, no matter how small or insignificant their role may be, the opportunity to get a toy. And though admittedly Hasbro's Black Series line has been mostly preoccupied with characters from the various films, they haven't shied away from offering collectors something outside of those as well. The cast of Star Wars Rebels being rife for potential in its 6" scale, kicking things off with the Black Series 6" Kanan Jarrus figure. A Jedi Padawan who managed to escape the effects of Order 66, Kanan then joined Hera Syndulla's band of rebels aboard the Ghost – with their team becoming an integral part of the Rebel Alliance's early days.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ant-Man [Avengers: Endgame]


Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 6264 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations are usually fairly content with releasing S.H. Figuarts months after a series has started or a character has made their onscreen debut, but for big cinema releases they've increasingly been rolling out figures to coincide with their initial release to capitalise on the hype. The massive hype behind Avengers: Endgame has seen the company pull out possibly their biggest turnaround yet, with not only all the figures being announced the same month as the film's release but also the first selection of them arriving a mere few weeks later. Among these initial releases is S.H. Figuarts Ant-Man, a character who despite being absent for Infinity War plays a key role the conclusion to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first ten years.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Galaxy Mega & Delta Mega


Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 6912 yen

Having the Super Mini-Pla line revisit the history of Super Sentai and breathe new life into older designs with modern, articulated model kits is one thing. But the fact there's no clear pattern to what's coming next makes these releases all the more exciting. After wowing collectors with Muteki Shogun and Kakure Daishogun at the end of last year, Bandai have decided to jump forward a few years next to 1998 and Denji Sentai Megaranger. Even better is that they've made this a double release, with Super Mini-Pla Galaxy Mega & Delta Mega coming together in one retail-release set – giving buyers the opportunity to own Super Galaxy Mega right off the bat. Power Rangers fans will also know these two as the Astro and Delta Megazords from Power Rangers in Space.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain

Like many Japanese shows Kamen Rider has been known to put out some great April Fools' jokes over the years, but no matter how great they'd be as a real thing they usually stay as just that – a joke. However clearly the power of Kamen Rider Drive shouldn't be underestimated, as the 2017 joke has now become reality with the release of Kamen Rider Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Brain. Originally "teased" to be coming out in 2035, this two-part Toei Tokusatsu Fan Club exclusive fulfils the Rodimude's comment about eventually becoming a Rider himself at the end of Drive Saga: Kamen Rider Heart as well as technically making him both the last of the Heisei era Kamen Riders and the first Reiwa era Rider.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER

An end of an era deserves a proper send-off, and after 20 series' worth of memories it's finally time to say goodbye to the Heisei era of Kamen Rider. After hastily jumping the gun titling the previous film Heisei Generations FINAL, Toei have decided to round off the Heisei Generations trilogy of films with the more inspiring sounding Kamen Rider Heisei Generations FOREVER. Like the previous films in the series the film serves as a crossover between both the current and preceding Riders, in this case Kamen Rider Zi-O and Kamen Rider Build. However as part of the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration it also includes appearances from all 20 Heisei era Riders, with particular reference to Kamen Rider Kuuga, Kamen Rider Den-O and Kamen Rider W.

(This post is also part of a cross-promotion with Tokunation.com - please visit the site and discuss your thoughts on the movie at the dedicated discussion thread there!)

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film

The Super Sentai summer movie is a funny little event. Though the films are rarely long enough to be the dramatic action pieces Kamen Rider summer movies strive to be, they are an opportunity to break away from the main story and have a little fun with the setting and/or characters. For Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film Toei saw an opportunity to stretch the Arsene Lupin references even further, as the two teams meet 'Herlock Sholmes' – a detective that battled wits with the legendary thief in Maurice Leblanc's original novels. This film was released as part of the usual Super Sentai/Kamen Rider double bill alongside Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Geiz


Release Date: March 2019 
RRP: 5400 yen

When an evil overlord of time threatens the future, a brave resistance fighter from the year 2068 travels back in time to prevent his rise to power. That might be the reason that Geiz Myokoin travelled back to the year 2018, but it wasn't long before he realised that the Sougo Tokiwa he has encountered in the past couldn't possibly become the Oma Zi-O he knows from the future. Not wanting to slouch on the 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration of 20 years (and the end) of Heisei era Kamen Rider, Bandai Tamashii Nations have quickly followed Kamen Rider Zi-O with the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Geiz. Both the second general retail item from the Zi-O series and the second release from the series overall, Kamen Rider Geiz is an ideal companion piece to the 20th Heisei Kamen Rider.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi

Rider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi

Celebrating 20 series of Heisei era Kamen Rider is one thing, but Kamen Rider Zi-O definitely has some lofty goals when started playing around with the future of the franchise as well. But even though the future Riders of the years 2022, 2040 and 2121 certainly won't be getting series of their very own when the time comes, conceptually they're just too good to simply be relegated to one-off appearances. Clearly Toei felt the same, as Kamen Rider Shinobi returned in a three-part miniseries exclusive to the Toei Tokusatsu Fan ClubRider Time: Kamen Rider Shinobi. The miniseries sees Hideya Tawada (Ninninger's Kinji Takigawa/Star Ninger) reprise his role as the titular Kamen Rider, as Lupinranger vs Patranger writer Kaori Kaneko introduces us properly to his own time.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Samurai Taisho Darth Vader


Release Date: December 2014, November 2016 (Reissue)
RRP: 9504 yen

Though its scope is much more limited and releases much fewer than other Bandai Tamashii Nations toy lines, it didn't take long for the Meisho Movie Realization line to mark itself as one to look out for. There are dozens of companies out there making Star Wars figures, but ones reimagined as if they walked straight out of feudal Japan? It's amazing that it took this long for a toy company to think of it. This line is to Star Wars what Super Imaginative Chogokin is to Kamen Rider, and just like SIC some of the ideas they come up with are nothing short of ingenious. Designed by Takayuki Takeya and sculpted by Junichi Taniguchi, Meisho Movie Realization Samurai Taisho Darth Vader is the one the one that started it all.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z

Everyone should know by now that the end of Kamen Rider series is never the last we see of its characters. Besides the various crossover movies that will keep bringing back characters for years to come, for the past five years or so each series has consistently received one or more V-cinema sequels focusing on some of the other Riders that appeared. That trend has followed through to Kamen Rider Build, which puts the spotlight on fan-favourite Ryuga Banjou in Kamen Rider Build NEW WORLD: Kamen Rider Cross-Z. The film enjoyed a brief theatrical release at the beginning of 2019 before arriving on Blu-Ray a few months later, with a special edition bundled with Cross-Z's new Muscle Galaxy Fullbottle.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O


Release Date: February 2019 
RRP: 3240 yen

It's not just a 20th anniversary celebration for the Kamen Rider franchise, it's the end of an era. With this series we say goodbye to the Heisei era that began with Kamen Rider Kuuga back in 2001, and usher in a new era as the Reiwa period begins in Japan on May 1st. It's only fitting that Kamen Rider go out on a high, and between the time travelling antics and Rider alumni returning for Kamen Rider Zi-O it's fair to say it's doing just that. Bandai Tamashii Nations are also getting in on the celebration, most notably of all finally release Kamen Rider Kiva to complete the Heisei line up but also a number of other S.H. Figuarts releases in and around the final Heisei series. Kicking off with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O himself.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Anime REVIEW: Ace Attorney Season 2

Ace Attorney Season 2
Ace Attorney is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

When compared to the numerous other video game anime adaptations that have come and gone over the years, Ace Attorney (or to those in Japan, Gyakuten Saiban) fared surprisingly well. Though at its best it was merely a "serviceable but not stand out" adaptation of the first two games in Capcom's beloved legal drama visual novel series, it didn't miss the mark like so many others have in the past. It also must have done fairly well because two years later and its back for a second season. Phoenix, Miles, Maya and the rest of the gang are all back for another 23 episodes from Cloverworks (who have now parted ways with A-1 Pictures), with this season dedicated to the third game in the Ace Attorney series – Trials and Tribulations.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" General Grievous


Release Date: March 2019
RRP: £30/$30 

Releasing a toy line at a single price point is a great idea when it comes to affordability, but it does beg the question of what you do when certainly characters don't quite fit into that fairly rigid mould. The Star Wars universe features characters of all shapes and sizes, many of whom wouldn't be done justice at the standard price point of the 6 inch Black Series line. But rather than go all Marvel Legends on collectors and introduce a build-a-figure to each wave, Hasbro have instead introduced a new "deluxe" range of Black Series figures – ones that can have the size, materials and price point they need to do them properly. Kicking off this new range is a character that's been on many collectors' want lists for some time now – the Separatist droid general and feared Jedi hunter General Grievous. Despite Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith being his sole movie appearance, Grievous' popularity also stems from his appearances in the two Clone Wars animated series as well as various other bits of expanded tie-in media.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki

Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki

As the final farewell to Heisei era of Kamen Rider, there was no way that Kamen Rider Zi-O wasn't going to go all out in celebrating the past 20 years of the franchise. The time travelling series has paid tribute to both the past and potential future of Kamen Rider, with numerous special guest actors returning to reprise their roles from their respective series. But when it comes to the obligatory spin-offs the show has, no one could have expected Rider Time: Kamen Rider Ryuki – a three-part miniseries that serves as a sequel to 2002's Kamen Rider Ryuki. Airing exclusively on Japan's Video Pass streaming service, the miniseries was written by original series co-writer Toshiki Inoue and brings back several members of the original cast to reprise their roles.

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Anime REVIEW: Steins;Gate 0

Steins;Gate 0
Steins;Gate 0 is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

In 2011 the anime world was taken storm by Steins;Gate – a series based on a 2009 visual novel from famed developers Nitroplus. Its popularity led to a follow-up OVA and movie, both of which were original material that continued the story beyond that of the original game. When a sequel game was released in 2015, it was only a matter of time before it also received an anime adaptation. Fast forward to 2018 and Steins;Gate 0 was unleashed upon the world, presenting fans with a familiar but very different world to the ones they were previously used to. The series ran for a total of 23 episodes, along with a bonus OVA released shortly after its completion.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Poppy Toki Meki Crisis Gamer Level X


Release Date: March 2019 
RRP: 6264 yen

Despite still arguably taking up the majority of the S.H. Figuarts line's tokusatsu slots, Kamen Rider releases have become a lot less predictable than they were a few years ago. It's April 2019, and the final forms for the titular Riders from the last three years are still surprisingly absent. However you can always rely on Bandai Tamashii Nations to throw out a few surprises, and with Kamen Rider Ex-Aid's popularity still going strong one of their latest ones was S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Poppy Toki Meki Crisis Gamer Level X. Poppy Pipopapo's well-deserved ascent to Rider status was a very popular move by the series, however despite her being a main character she didn't transform nearly enough as she should have. But getting a Figuarts release is still more than Ex-Aid Hyper Muteki has achieved so far, even if it is a Tamashii web exclusive.

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Anime REVIEW: ULTRAMAN

Ultraman is available in streaming form on Netflix

Although the franchise has always remained a staple of Japan's superhero culture, Ultraman has been enjoying something of a revival on a worldwide scale in the past few years thanks to a number of different factors. Legal subtitled streaming options and Tsuburaya Productions finally taking full control of global distribution after years of legal difficulties might be key ones, but not all of Ultraman's modern recognition has come from onscreen. In 2011 an ongoing manga series written by Eiichi Shimizu and illustrated by Tomohiro Shimoguchi began publication, serving as a direct sequel to the original 1966 series. Eight years and 12 volumes later, ULTRAMAN now has its own 3DCG animated adaptation. Originally announced in 2017 alongside the production of SSSS.Gridman, the series has been co-produced by Production I.G and Sola Digital Arts and is available exclusively on Netflix.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Hera Syndulla


Release Date: September 2017
RRP: £20/20

It's proving to be a rather arduous process, but slowly but surely Hasbro seem to be working their way through the cast of Star Wars: Rebels. Though there doesn't seem to be any clear plans for Zeb, at the very least Ezra and Chopper will both be coming out later in the year to round out the main crew. But before then cast your minds back to late 2017, when ace pilot, captain of the Ghost and rebel leader Hera Syndulla was finally added to The Black Series. A Twi'lek and central figure in the beginnings of the Rebel Alliance, Hera is a particularly interesting character in the modern Star Wars canon - with her ship having made a cameo appearance in Rogue One and her being retroactively confirmed (albeit offscreen) to have participated in the battle of Endor during Return of the Jedi.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Sabine Wren


Release Date: November 2016
RRP: £20/$20

The Star Wars universe is one that inhabits movies, animated series, books, comics, video games and more, but as far as the Black Series collector toy line goes its the films that naturally take priority. However every so often Hasbro will throw fans of the extended universe a bone, and in 2016 produced a handful of figures to coincide with Star Wars: Rebels. First came Jedi Kanan Jarrus and Ahsoka Tano, but they were soon followed by the show's resident graffiti artist and Mandalorian heroine Sabine Wren. Prior to her release Sabine had come second in Hasbro's fans' choice poll in 2015, which is all the more reason why her release was so hotly anticipated.

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Thunder Gridman


Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 6480 yen

With the original series celebrating its 25th anniversary last year and returning to television screens in animated form with SSSS.Gridman, tokusatsu fans are currently experiencing a Gridman revival. But while Good Smile Company are off creating new merchandise for Trigger's anime series, Bandai are also capitalising on the hype as the original Denkou Chojin Gridman line-up joins the Super Mini-Pla range. The first big name Gridman toys to be produced since the Ultra-Act releases back in 2012, the Super Mini-Pla Thunder Gridman set offers a fairly comprehensive look into Tsuburaya Productions' 1993 classic. Included in this four piece set are Gridman himself, along with the three Assist Weapon vehicles – the Thunder Jet, Twin Driller and God Tank.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Series REVIEW: Ultraman R/B

Ultraman R/B

With the Ultra Series having firmly established itself as an annual franchise once more, Tsuburaya Productions have finally been getting the traction they needed to go stand by side with its closest rivals once again. Merchandise revenue is on the up, and with both Tsuburaya's victories over Chaiyo in court and interest in bringing Ultraman to a global platform the state of the series is looking pretty great right now. The Ultraman New Generation continued in 2018 with Ultraman R/B – the 30th entry in the franchise overall and the last that will be produced during Japan's Heisei era. Sadly this is also the first series since Ultraman X to not be simulcast with English subtitles via Crunchyroll, with the relationship with the streaming service and Tsuburaya seemingly having come to an end for at least the time being.

(This post is also part of a cross-promotion with Tokunation.com - please visit the site and discuss your thoughts on the series at the dedicated discussion thread there!)

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero


Release Date: February 2019
RRP: 5940 yen

Ever since the Ultra Series was integrated into the S.H. Figuarts line back in 2016, Bandai Tamashii Nations' pattern of releases has been fairly predictable. Each year has progressed coverage of the classic shows one by one, and then in the last few years it's also split off the cover the newer Ultraman series as they're released – with both Ultraman X and (soon) Ultraman Ginga coming later to round off the "New Generation" Ultra releases. While there's no indication of when all the things in between the two will be covered, there's one key hero that was just too important to wait for. Appearing throughout the New Generation Ultra Series as well as having a key supporting role in Ultraman Geed, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero has been released in his original form. This is actually the second release for the son of Ultraseven in the line, with Ultraman Zero Beyond having previously been released among the Geed range.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Cross-Z Magma


Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

Once upon a time the thought of a secondary Kamen Rider getting more figures than the lead character was unthinkable, but if the last two years have proved anything its that just because your name is the title of the series it doesn't mean your the most marketable character. Just as Bandai Tamashii Nations have produced more Kamen Rider Genm figures in the S.H. Figuarts line than they have Ex-Aid, it's Kamen Rider Cross-Z that seems to be enjoying the most releases from Kamen Rider Build. With the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Cross-Z Magma at the beginning of this year, all four of Ryuga Banjou's main in-series forms have been released in the line. Admittedly all of them with the exception of Cross-Z Charge have been Tamashii web exclusives, but since that's the way most things seem to get released these days that's still a pretty impressive track record.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

First Impressions: Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger

Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger

If there's one thing Toei feel they can always rely on to save the Super Sentai franchise when it's in a pinch, it's dinosaurs. Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger was there to raise toy sales after Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters failed to meet expectations, and now after Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger vs Keisatsu Sentai Patranger struggled to leave a mark they're hoping that Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger will do the same. Ryusoulger will be the fourth series in the franchise to utilise a dinosaur motif, and the 43rd entry in the franchise overall. Ryusoul Black and Ryusoul Green previously made cameo appearances in the four part Super Sentai Strongest Battle special, which bridged the gap between this series and its predecessor.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Miniseries REVIEW: Super Sentai Strongest Battle


After running consecutively for over 40 years, it isn't all that surprising that the release pattern for Super Sentai has become fairly predictable by now. So when Toei do decide to do something that deviates from the norm, it feels like a pretty big deal. The first big shock of 2019 was from the news that Kaito Sentai Lupinranger vs. Keisatsu Sentai Patranger wouldn't immediately be followed with Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger, but rather a four part crossover special celebrating the legacy of Super Sentai. Super Sentai Strongest Battle (aka Super Sentai Saikyo Battle) brings together previous cast members in an all-out battle royale, as well as featuring the debut appearance of the fourth dinosaur Sentai team.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

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


Release Date: January 2019
RRP: 7020 yen

Though it often feels sidelined due to its mid-series retooling or simply how different it feels to the other Heisei era Kamen Rider shows, it's nice to see Kamen Rider Hibiki getting the love it deserves as far as the S.H. Figuarts line is concerned. It's crazy to think that nearly five years have passed since Bandai Tamashii Nations released the titular Rider as part of the Shinkocchou Seihou line, but in their usual display of "better late than never" 2019 will be the year the show's core line up will be completed in figure form. Last summer saw the release of Kamen Rider Ibuki, and now Bandai are kicking off the new year with the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Todoroki. As was the case with Ibuki this is another Tamashii web exclusive release, and as you can probably guess Kamen Rider Zanki will be following in similar fashion in the coming months.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: NECA Bride of Chucky Ultimate Chucky & Tiffany


Release Date: December 2018
RRP: $58.99

It's no secret that the Child's Play/Chucky series is my all-time favourite horror franchise, and while NECA's Ultimate Chucky figure from 2017 certainly scratched my itch for a good quality action figure, I was still left wanting more. Because as great as the original Child's Play films are, my all-time favourite instalment in the series is 1998's Bride of Chucky. It's completely trashy and its follow-up film is something that should never be spoken of again, but damn is it a fun movie. So I was ecstatic to hear that NECA would be continuing their popular toy line with a Bride of Chucky Ultimate Chucky & Tiffany 2-pack – bringing the Lakeshore Strangler's murder-fetish girlfriend into the fold alongside a new version of Chucky that reflects the major changes to his design brought about in the film.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

First Impressions: Power Rangers Beast Morphers

Power Rangers Beast Morphers

After shaking the Power Rangers fandom with the news last year that the franchise would be leaving the hands of both Saban and Bandai of America and joining the Hasbro family, the true dawn of the Hasbro Era is finally upon us. This fourth chapter in Power Rangers history kicks off with Power Rangers Beast Morphers, a show that becomes even more interesting when you consider the Super Sentai series it was adapted from. Tokumei Sentai Go-Busters was originally released all the way back in 2012, having previously been skipped over following the completion of Power Rangers Super Megaforce in favour of the supposedly more marketable Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger (Power Rangers Dino Charge). But given that Go-Busters features transforming (in addition to combining) mecha as part of the teams arsenal, Beast Morphers seems like the perfect series for Hasbro to kick off their Power Rangers tenure.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Series REVIEW: Kami no Kiba: Jinga

Kami no Kiba: Jinga

Masahiro Inoue may have made his name among tokusatsu fans as the lovably dickish Tsukasa Kadoya in Kamen Rider Decade, but in the last few years he's been making just as a big of an impact as part of GARO as well. First appearing in Gold Storm -Sho- back in 2015 and then returning once two years later in Kami no Kiba, the Makai Knight turned Horror Jinga has gone on to become not only Ryuga Dougai's recurring rival but also one of the most engaging villains in the whole franchise. A character who was just perfect for a spin-off of his very own, and in Kami no Kiba: Jinga (Fang of God: Jinga) he finally has just that. But exploring Jinga's history as a Makai Knight prior to his son's death and fall to darkness would be too easy, as this 13-episode series takes a much more interesting approach to expanding the character.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Blu Aqua


Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 5400 yen

When you're marketing a superhero series that has two co-leads, the worst thing you can do is not release both characters at the same time. Clearly Bandai Tamashii Nations recognised this when they moved onto releasing figures from Ultraman R/B, with S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Blu Aqua arriving the same time as his big brother Ultraman Rosso Flame. Just why exactly these couldn't have been released as a two-pack I don't know (since not many people are going to be buying one without the other), but I guess that's just not the way Bandai roll anymore. Still, to get both figures before 2018 was out and on the same month no less is some pretty timely manufacturing on Bandai's part for sure.

(As this figure is largely identical to S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso outside of sculpting and colours, this review will be mostly identical with changes only made where appropriate)

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame


Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 5400 yen

One of the biggest woes of being an S.H. Figuarts collector is seeing a cool design on a brand new show and knowing that you probably won't see a figure of it for months - and in many cases long after the series has come and gone. But in recent years Bandai Tamashii Nations have gotten better and better at releasing figures closer to the times the shows are airing, and as far as the Ultra Series goes they've got the closest they've been yet with Ultraman R/B. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame arrived a mere week before the series finale aired in Japan, with his brother Ultraman Blu Aqua also releasing on the same date. 

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Series REVIEW: Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger

After 42 years doing roughly the same thing over and over, it's hard to not to agree that Super Sentai is in dire need of a shakeup. Not that there was ever fundamentally wrong with what the franchise was doing, but declining audience ratings and a varying results when it comes to toy sales speak for themselves. Toei threw a curveball into the formula by introducing a total of 12 rangers in Uchu Sentai Kyuranger to some success, but in order to secure the longevity of the franchise they also tried to think bigger. The result of that planning is Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger - the 42nd Super Sentai series that introduces not just one, but TWO different teams. Combining the ever-popular Phantom Thief motif with their law-enforcement rivals, Lupinranger vs Patranger doesn't just see the Sentai teams face off against an invading evil, but also against each other.

Friday, 15 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru


Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 8100 yen

It's always nice when a Bandai toy line releases a consistent stream of retail items for collectors, but for the line to get really ambitious (as well as completist) any collector will tell you that eventually some of the best releases are going to be Premium Bandai exclusives. This is also true of Super Mini-Pla candy toy range, which has released a number of exclusives along its standard releases to quickly fill out the ranks of a particular series and ensure no design is left untouched. Previously Zyuranger's King Brachion and Liveman's Live Boxer have been released under the Premium Bandai banner, but as far as the Super Sentai range is concerned this is definitely the most exciting exclusive release so far. The Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru set complete the trifecta of key releases from Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, releasing the same month as Muteki Shogun to provide fans with everything in one fell swoop. American fans may know these mecha better as Mighty Morphin Power Rangers' Ninja Megazord and Falconzord, and given their popularity it's no surprise that these model kits were also distributed in the US by Bluefin under the Power Rangers banner.

Monday, 11 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Jango Fett


Release Date: October 2017
RRP: 9504 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations has more than earned its reputation for high quality and screen-accurate figures through its S.H. Figuarts and Robot Damashii lines, but among some collectors is equally renowned for the ingenious re-imaginings it's given to franchises over the year. The most prominent of these are the Kamen Riders (as well as other tokusatsu properties) of the Super Imaginative Chogokin (SIC) line, but in 2014 it also turned its attention towards Star Wars with its Meisho Movie Realization line, and then the Marvel Universe in 2016 with the similarly named Meisho Manga Realization line. Both lines re-imagine its characters with traditional Japanese styling, and given how much George Lucas borrowed from the samurai aesthetic when creating Star Wars it's truly a match made in heaven. Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Jango Fett is repaint of the Boba Fett figure released nearly two years prior in November 2015 – which in typical Boba Fett fashion now fetches a rather hefty price on the aftermarket.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

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


Release Date: April 2018 
RRP: 6480 yen 

The announcement of Star Wars S.H. Figuarts was a huge moment back in 2015, and in the past few years Bandai Tamashii Nations haven't wasted in any time in putting that license to good use. Though there are still dozens of main characters still be released (many of which have also been on display at various events), the line has done a good job of balancing releases between the three trilogies and anthology films. Given all the Stormtroopers there are it's a brand that's never shied away from variants though, and now Tamashii return with a second S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader. Whereas the previous 2015 figure was based on the Sith Lord's appearance from Return of the Jedi, this newer release is instead based on the version seen in A New Hope.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One

Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One

The Heisei era Kamen Rider summer movies have taken a lot of different forms over the years. First they started out as alternate universe adventures, but eventually began tying themselves into their respective series with varying degrees of impact. The recently they even took the form of an epilogue, with Ex-Aid's True Ending picking things up at the end of the series. So with all these different options at hand, it was going to be particularly interesting to see what route Kamen Rider Build decided to take – a series that's not only set in a parallel universe to begin with but also has been careful to tie its movies and spin-off material into the bigger picture. Released alongside Kaitou Sentai Lupinranger VS Keisatsu Sentai Patranger en Film, Kamen Rider Build the Movie: Be the One returns these movies to the usual post-Decade format – taking place just prior to the show's final endgame against Evolto.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Grand Admiral Thrawn


Release Date: July 2017 (SDCC Exclusive Version), Fall 2017 (Standard Retail Version)
RRP: £20/$20

Star Wars Rebels added a lot of great things to the new Star Wars canon, but undoubtedly one its most popular moves with bringing back Grand Admiral Thrawn as a main antagonist for its final three seasons. First appearing in the 1991 novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, the character was a huge part of the franchise's expanded universe and prominently featured in all manner of tie-in media. Following the rebranding of the expanded universe into the non-canon Star Wars Legends in 2014, Thrawn's future was up in arms. But since appearing in Rebels the Chiss admiral has once again become a popular part of the Star Wars universe - also appearing in a new trilogy of novels by his creator. So when Hasbro's Black Series toy line began tackling characters from Rebels, they couldn't have picked a much better choice. The Black Series 6" Grand Admiral Thrawn was first released as a 2017 San Diego Comic Con exclusive, joining the main line a few months later.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Gudon


Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

If there's one thing you can't fault the S.H. Figuarts Ultraman range on, it's the variety of figures they've offered fans over the past few years. Whereas the likes of Kamen Rider has so many Riders and form changes to get through they rarely get to touch the monster designs from each series, the Ultra range has provided an excelled supply of both aliens and kaiju to face off against. Well, that was certainly true of both the original series and Ultraseven, but The Return of Ultraman doesn't seem to have been so lucky. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Jack was followed quickly by Twin Tail, but it wasn't for another six months that prehistoric kaiju's eternal rival Gudon joined them. The third release from The Return of Ultraman, S.H. Figuarts Gudon is also the first Tamashii web exclusive from the series - and no other announcements on the horizon, possibly the last as well.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series 6" Clone Captain Rex


Release Date: Early 2018
RRP: £20/$20

If there's one collecting rabbit hole I never truly wanted to get down, it's Star Wars figures. Although the franchise will always be dear to me, the sheer volume of characters and variants on offer makes it feel like a pretty overwhelming prospect. Previously I limited myself to a few select characters and have picked up a few S.H. Figuarts, but thanks to a current resurge in interest I finally find myself experiencing Hasbro's Black Series for the first time. This has been their main Star Wars action figure line since 2013, coming in both 3.75" form and a more Marvel Legends-esque 6" variety. As I'm currently going through a rewatch of Star Wars: The Clone Wars I just couldn't say no the Black Series 6" Clone Captain Rex figure – who was released as part of the main line last year after early previews as a 2017 Hascon exclusive. Commanding officer of the 501st Legion (which would later go on to become "Vader's Fist") under Anakin Skywalker, Rex is one of the few clones to escape the effects of Order 66 – continuing life in hiding until joining the crew of the Ghost in Star Wars: Rebels.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Kamina Review


Release Date: November 2018 
RRP: 4444 yen

Dig the wax out of your ears and listen close! The bad reputation of Team Gurren echoes far and wide in Giha Village. When they talk about its badass leader, that man of indomitable spirit, that paragon of masculinity, they're talking about him - the mighty Nendoroid Kamina! That's right, after nearly ten years since the last Gurren Lagann release Good Smile Company have finally returned to Gainax's beloved mecha series to round off the core trio of main characters - two years after the series has celebrated its tenth anniversary, but close enough. Simon will be joining the line later in 2019, but first it's time to celebrate the release of the man who first inspired him the pierce the heavens and kick logic to the curb. Kamina has finally arrived on the scene, and if he has anything to do with it you'll certainly hear about it. Just who the hell do you think he is?!

Sunday, 13 January 2019

SERIES Review: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2 - Sword Seekers

 Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 2 - Sword Seekers
Thunderbolt Fantasy is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

In 2016 Gen Urobuchi went one better than just dazzling anime fans with yet another animation work - this time he did it with puppets. Teaming up with Nitroplus, Good Smile Company and Taiwanese company Pili International Urobuchi brought Thunderbolt Fantasy into the world - bringing the intricate art of Taiwanese glove puppetry to a whole new audience worldwide. The popularity of the show led to a one-off special entitled The Sword of Life and Death the following year, and then at the tail end of 2018 it finally returned for a full second season. Taking the subtitle of Sword Seekers, these further 12 episodes continue the story of Shāng Bù Huàn and were released in both Taiwanese Min-Han (in Taiwan) and Japanese (for the rest of the world).

Friday, 11 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style


Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 7884 yen

With figure construction and engineering having come leaps and bounds in the ten years the S.H. Figuarts line has been around, it's natural that some Kamen Rider figures are looking a little dated compared to newer releases. While arguably all the pre-Gaim figures could do with some sort of modern update (if they haven't received one already), there are few more sorry cases than that of Kamen Rider Wizard. The original toy was released in 2013 so wasn't even that old compared to some figures, but despite boasting an impressive accessory count was plagued by structural issues (i.e. it constantly fell apart) and off proportions. However five years later and Haruto Soma is finally getting the justice he deserves, with the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style!

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Figure Complex Amazing Yamaguchi Spider-Gwen


Release Date: June 2017
RRP: 5900 yen

Between Infinity War, Venom, the Playstation 4 game and of course Into the Spider-Verse, 2018 was truly the year of Spider-Man. My enjoyment of that last release in particular found me wanting to go back and pick up some of the Spidey figures I've missed over the years, and Figure Complex (aka Revoltech)'s Amazing Yamaguchi Spider-Gwen seemed like the perfect place to start. Parallel universes have always been my absolute favourite sci-fi trope, and from what I've read of the Spider-Gwen comic the writers have done an excellent job of twisting pre-established Marvel characters into something new and exciting. Both the comic and her design itself have proved exceedingly popular, and between her appearances in both Into the Spider-Verse and Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors it seems Spider-Gwen's popularity will just continue to rise.

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Anime REVIEW: SSSS.Gridman

SSSS.Gridman
SSSS.Gridman is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

As completely different mediums the worlds of tokusatsu and animation rarely properly collide, but whenever they have in the past it's usually turned out to be something special. Whether it's the anime adaptation of Shotaro Ishinomori's original Kikaider manga, the recent expansion of the GARO mythos, the wonderfully weird Kamen Rider SD or even the various Ultraman animated attempts you're usually in for an interesting ride. 2018 saw Tsuburaya Productions announce a number of new animated projects, including an adaptation of the ongoing Ultraman manga due for release on Netflix later this year. But much bigger news was their plans with studio Trigger, as they prepared to bring back the Hyper Agent himself - Denkou Chojin Gridman. Directed by Akira Amemiya and written by tokusatsu veteran Keiichi Hasegawa (head writer on Ultraman Dyna and Ultraman Nexus, among many other works), SSSS.Gridman breathed new life in the 1993 hero as well as introducing him to a brand new audience.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Zero


Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 9990 yen

While S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo may have taken a whole four years to go from its initial Tamashii Nation event reveal to becoming a reality, Bandai Tamashii Nations were much quicker at following it up with another high quality GARO release. Why settle for just the Golden Knight when you can have the Silver Fanged Knight too? Rei Suzumura has arrived as the second non-Kamen Rider release for Figuarts' premium offshoot - S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Zero. Coming seven years after the release of the original Zero Figuart, this new edition follows in its footsteps as a Tamashii web exclusive. It's also one of the pricier standard sized Figuarts on the market too, originally selling for the same 9990 yen price tag as Garo himself.