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.

One of the coolest things about the Super Sentai Super Mini-Pla releases is how the box art has been near-perfect recreations of the original toy box art. This Kakure Daishogun and Tsubasamaru set follows that same pattern, but does things a little differently thanks to the way it's been released. For a start the whole set has been crammed into one big box like a standard model kit, rather than individual components like you get with the standard release kits. Since the set also has two different DX releases in it it also means that artwork has to represent both, with one half featuring an updated version of the Kakure Shogun box art and the other Tsubasamaru's art. It's amazing just how closely Bandai are recreating these boxes, right down to moulding the shape of the carry case handles into the spine.

Since all the Ninja Beasts are coming in one box, it also means that the contents aren't separated in the same way they usually would be either. The colours of each runner are a pretty big giveaway as to which Beast they're for, but for some of the non-primary ones (black, white, silver and gold) there are bits for a number of different components. Similarly all of the stickers have been loaded onto a single sheet, laid out in numbered sections (which correspond with each Beast's instruction leaflet) to denote which is which. But most shocking of all, despite the price of the set, its Premium Bandai status and just how much has been packed in here - only one piece of that addictive Bandai brand soda candy has been included. Absolutely disgraceful if you ask me.

The first God Beast that the instructions suggest to build is God Saruder, the ape-like beast of NinjaRed. As the only humanoid component in Kakure Daishogun this build is actually quite similar to the Muteki Shogun Beast Generals - albeit with a much more streamlined form and more manageable articulation. It's a fully articulated kit sporting a rotating head, ball jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, rotating wrists, ball jointed hips and hinged knees. On top of that it's the only piece of this set to have accessories - the Saruder Double swords, which can also combine together (although with this model it's just a case of pegging them in on either side of the hand) into a twin-bladed spear weapon. When not in use, the swords can be pegged onto God Saruder's back. With a pre-painted head sculpt and leg sections as well as stickers that suffice even if you prefer to paint your kits, God Saruder is an excellent start to this set and a solid model kit even on its own.

Next up is God Kark, NinjaWhite's God Beast and known to Power Rangers fans as the Pink Ranger's Crane Zord (despite it actually being red rather than pink outside of the original Bandai of America release). God Kark is by far and large the smallest component of this set and thus both an extremely simple build and relatively uninteresting in terms of features. It does however feature moveable wings and a jointed head and neck section, both of which are required for its transformation to the head of Kakure Daishogun. Stored in its underside is the combined robot's faceplate, which like all Super Mini-Pla releases is pre-painted and ready to go straight out of the box.

Section number three features God Kumard, NinjaYellow's bear Ninja Beast. Like God Kark it's pretty much identical to the DX toy as far as functionality goes, only adding proper poseability in the front legs as well as places to store the fist pieces for Kakure Daishogun. However these look utterly ridiculous when attached to the model so I highly advise against doing it anyway. Again there isn't actually a whole lot of sticker work to be done here either, with it mostly being the gold strips on the body or black and red highlights on the head. Anything you do need to sticker is already moulded onto the kit though, so painting the details on isn't too taxing at all.

Fourth is God Logan, the wolf Ninja Beast of NinjaBlue. In typical minipla fashion this adds a nice bit of extra articulation to the design, giving the animal knee joints in addition to the existing leg movement the DX has. God Logan also has a moveable jaw, but perhaps best of all doesn't use a single sticker on the animal itself. All the stickers for this section are for the combined mode glove part, and even then it's only two blue circles. Pretty great if you want a nice clean looking model kit.

The last of Kakure Daishogun's components is God Gammer, a giant frog that wonderfully throws the  at least somewhat consistent scale of the other god animals completely out of whack. It's a really nice build though, complete with moving arms and feet to put the figure into some decent hopping poses. That said the articulation is pretty much identical to the DX toy, since most of it is what's required for the transformation. It does however add ball joints to the back legs and feet, as well as an opening mouth (sadly no tongue detailing, but that might be wishing for a bit too much). Sticker-wise there's actually very little going on here as well, with only the silver strips around the back legs being missing from the detail not provided by pre-painted pieces.

Rounding off this set is the second of the Three God Generals to appear in Kakuranger, the Holy Stealth Beast Tsubasamaru. Build out of white, grey and gold plastic, this giant falcon mecha features articulated wings, a moveable head and tail and ball-jointed legs and feet (with a hinged back talon on each foot). Topping it off are also translucent red plastic pieces for the tips of each cannon, which add even more striking colour to an already highly effective palette. Most significantly this model improves upon the original DX toy by adding an additional hinge halfway down the wing, meaning that not only can they flap more naturally but also just like they did in the show itself. Although the stickers do a good job of covering all the major details on the model the gold detailing is instead represented by yellow stickers, so painting definitely comes advised if you want it to match the pre-painted gold highlights on the tail feathers. As a unique model that isn't directly a component of either Kakure Daishogun or Muteki Shogun, Tsubasamaru really needed that extra wow factor to make it stand out and the quality on show here definitely does just that.

Combining the five Ninja Beasts is a very simple process, largely unchanged from the DX toy and with any differences easy enough to work out without having to consult the instructions. But for buying this set as their first experience with Kakure Daishogun basically the God Gammer folds out to become the legs, God Kumard compacts to become the torso, God Saruder and God Logan fold up to become arms (with the gloves fitting over the heads to become the hands) and then God Kark sits on top to become the head. It's not a far cry from the usual "torso plus limbs" combination scheme of most Super Sentai mecha, but its different enough to keep things interested. Plus it's always nice to have a mecha where the red piece isn't the primary component.

Put them together and Kakure Daishogun is formed! Whereas Muteki Shogun is an ornate, detailed mecha with numerous design quirks and oodles of texturing, Kakure Daishogun is completely the opposite in execution - offering simplicity to the same glorious effect. Though there are sections with moulded detail the design thrives on smooth surfaces and recognisable shapes, perfectly illustrating how sometimes less can definitely be more. The combination of black for both the legs and the majority of the body work well together to make the limbs and head stand out all the more, though the eyes always come back to that wonderful bear head making up the chest. Bandai really couldn't have done a better job with this model kit in terms of looks - even before you get into the finer details of articulation and functionality it just looks perfect. A worthy update to a timeless design.

Although the transformation and connections remain relatively unchanged from the original DX release, the Super Mini-Pla does add in a few new transformation steps to allow for even more articulation. As well as giving the right arm an extendable elbow section, the smaller frog legs can be removed from the front of the legs and folded up behind the head/crotch section. The shape of the arms has actually been moulded into the arms underneath, and just below them are removable panels which can be turned around to reveal the hand patterns. These steps are completely optional and the kit can be left in its original state if you'd prefer, but these extra features really add an extra level to just how dynamic you can make this figure.

Articulation has been the biggest selling point of mini-pla for decades now. As well as offering popular mecha at far more manageable sizes, these little model kits have always offered poseability far beyond what their larger counterparts could achieve (unless you move into the higher-end "masterpiece" lines like Soul of Chogokin of course). However when it comes to Super Sentai mecha there are usually limits - the designs are still partly derived from suits even if the toys come first, so mobility can often be limited by armour or other little design flourishes. Kakure Daishogun is a unique case among the Super Mini-Pla releases so far in that it doesn't have any of that. The third Beast God General is all about technique, and that's represented in this streamline, athletic build that puts mobility first. And this mindset is represented in the articulation available too, as Kakure Daishogun shows off what this line is really capable of. Altogether the model has a rotating head, extendable neck section (allowing the head to look upwards), ball jointed shoulders that can also swing forwards, hinged elbows, a waist swivel, ball jointed hips, upper leg swivels, hinged knees and ball jointed feet. There might not be any hand articulation to speak of, but since the mecha doesn't have hands per se this is perfectly acceptable (and for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, you can remove the wolf glove and have the figure hold Muteki Shogun's sword perfectly fine). None of this articulation is impeded by the design whatsoever, making the kit look both graceful and intimidating in any pose its thrown in. The large feet also provide plenty of surface area for balance, so you shouldn't have any worry about the kit suddenly toppling over either.

The fun doesn't end there though, as Tsubasamaru can combine with Kakure Daishogun to form Super Kakure Daishogun (Ninja Mega Falconzord in the series, Ninja Falcon Megazord in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie). This combination connects Tsubasamaru to the back of Kakure Daishogun to grant it the power of flight, with the Falcon God General hidden from front view other than those giant majestic wings.  With Tsubasamaru connected to the back the model kit doesn't suffer from any sort of balance issues, nor is the articulation impeded whatsoever. The one annoying thing however is that there isn't a designated way to attach a stand for flight poses, but thankfully there are plenty of places you can fit the articulated claw piece of a Tamashii Stage (or similar articulated stand) without it being too noticeable or difficult to hold the figure up.

Similarly Tsubasamaru can also combine with Super Mini-Pla Muteki Shogun to form Super Muteki Shogun (Shogun Mega Falconzord), amplifying Muteki's Shogun's firepower as Tsubasamaru's wings become powerful torso cannons. Transformation into this mode simply requires removing Muteki Shogun's arms and connecting Tsubasamaru in its place, then reattaching the arms to the pegs on its wings. The model doesn't really lose any of its articulation when in this mode, although the waist joint is much harder to work with when there's a huge falcon hanging off the robot's back. Of course by just being forward-facing cannons it isn't especially dynamic, but you can't really argue with a giant castle mecha suddenly getting massive guns.

At the end of last year I praised Muteki Shogun for being the best offering from the Super Mini-Pla line yet, and even gave it a place on my top 10 favourite toys of 2018. While I still stand by the quality of Muteki Shogun, that list would probably be very different had I finished this model kit before they end of the year. If Muteki Shogun is potentially the best the line has put out so far, then Super Mini-Pla Kakure Daishogun & Tsubasamaru is the best the line has put out. Six perfectly sculpted animals which either match or surpass their original DX counterparts, coming together to form a robot mode that finally gives Kakure Daishogun the articulation it's always deserved. Muteki Shogun might be the more impressive design on face value, but Kakure Daishogun's streamline figure just makes for a better figure. But comparing the two is ultimately pointless when they both absolutely deserve a place in your collection, and should be the number one priority of ANY Super Sentai or Power Rangers fan with a passing interest in mini-pla. Between the Megaranger and Jetman on the way, 2019 looks to be another great year for Super Mini-Pla.

1 comment:

Fisitron said...

what gold did you use for tsubamaru