Thursday 27 June 2019

Series REVIEW: Kamen Rider Den-O

Kamen Rider Den-O

The Heisei era of Kamen Rider has produced a number of highly popular series over the years, but of all the success stories there's one that truly stands out amongst the rest. First airing back in 2007, Kamen Rider Den-O not only spawned a 49 episode series, anime spinoffs, seven direct movies (four of which released under their own "New Den-O" banner), as well as prominence in significant crossover productions like OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Riders and the first Super Hero Taisen. Its lead actor Takeru Satoh has gone on to have the most successful acting career of all the Heisei Kamen Riders, yet the popularity of the series allowed it to endure even when he was no longer able to continue to play the role. This of course made his surprise cameo in Heisei Generations FOREVER a particularly big deal. So what is it about Den-O that's made it so well loved? The series was written by tokusatsu veteran Yasuko Kobayashi (who's key writing works include Kamen Riders Ryuki, OOO and Amazons) and served as the eighth Heisei Kamen Rider series and 17th overall.

Tuesday 25 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form)

Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 7560 yen 

In February 2008 Bandai Tamashii Nations first launched S.H. Figuarts, a toy line over the past 11 years has covered tokusatsu properties, anime, Hollywood movies and so much more. However its success and longevity is definitely mostly thanks to Kamen Rider, and in that time the line has released a substantial number of characters and forms from across the franchise's long history. But there's always been someone missing. 2008 was also the year Kamen Rider Kiva aired, and with the titular character's base form appearing in the Souchaku Henshin (something of a precursor to Figuarts) line he was initially omitted from release to make way for other characters. However as time went on and more and more Riders were released, Kiva remained absent. Fast forward to 2019, and S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form) has finally arrived. The final Heisei era Rider as well as lead Rider overall to be released, Kiva's release coincides with the 20 Rider Kicks anniversary celebration of 20 Heisei era series. For Figuarts collectors this is a monumental moment in the line's history, and a day many were beginning to thing was never going to come.

Monday 24 June 2019

Anime REVIEW: Sarazanmai

Sarazanmai is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

If you're ever looking for anime that shows off just how wild the medium can get whilst also tackling a myriad of mature themes and subjects, then look no further than the works of Kunihiko Ikuhara. From his early days on Sailor Moon to creating Revolutionary Girl Utena, Mawaru Penguindrum and Yurikuma Arashi, Ikuhara has garnered quite the reputation despite what seems like a relatively limited filmography. However in 2019 he returned with his latest creation - Sarazanmai. A joint production between studios MAPPA and Lapin Track, Sarzamanzai aired as part of Fuji TV's prestigious Noitamina programming block. Drawing heavily on Japan's kappa folklore at 11 episodes it is Ikuhara's shortest original work, but that doesn't make it any less heavy on the symbolism.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku

Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 6696 yen 

When Bandai Tamashii Nations first announced that they would be producing Star Wars figures in the S.H. Figuarts line, few probably expected that they'd pay quite as much attention to the prequel trilogy as they have so far. As it stands they've currently produced more Obi-Wan figures than they have Luke Skywalkers, and something from all three prequel films while still no releases whatsoever from The Empire Strikes Back. This however has led to the production of S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), a Tamashii web exclusive release of the Separatist leader and Sith Lord Darth Sidious' trusted apprentice throughout the Clone Wars. Curiously the figure is based on Dooku's appearance in Revenge of the Sith rather than Attack on the Clones (where he made a far more substantial appearance), but it's not the strangest choice the line's ever made. Alternatively, maybe Bandai were just eager to let fans recreate that iconic beheading scene…

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 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.