Sunday, 16 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Meisho Movie Realization Akazonae Royal Guard

Meisho Movie Realization Akazonae Royal Guard 01

Release Date: May 2016
RRP: 8856 yen

While Bandai Tamashii Nations' Meisho Movie Realization line seemed like a brilliant idea right from the get-go, the fact it's managed to last so well over the years is a testament to just how perfect samurai versions of iconic Star Wars characters really is. Admittedly the line so far has been particularly villain-heavy, but when those are the designs that lend themselves to best to that aesthetic who can blame Bandai for sticking to the bad guys. The ranks of the Galactic Empire have been filled out rather nicely with two versions of Darth Vader and a legion of Stormtrooper variants, but for real prestige look no further than the Meisho Movie Realization Akazonae Royal Guard. "Akazonae" translates to "blood-red armour", and specifically refers to the crimson armor worn by famed Sengoku era General Sanada Yukimura. The perfect reference for Emperor Palpatine's elite bodyguards, which are among the figures in the line to have been released as a Tamashii web exclusive.

Friday, 14 February 2020

Series REVIEW: Inazuman

Inazuman

The early 1970s saw a boom in the popularity of live-action superheroes shows on Japanese television, spurred on by the success of series such as Kikaider, The Return of Ultraman and of course Kamen Rider. In 1972 Daisuke Ban had already become tokusatsu royalty for his portrayal of Jiro in Kikaider, and the following year he not only reprised that role in Kikaider 01 but also took the lead in another Shotaro Ishinomori creation. Running from October 1973 until September 1974, the psionic-powered Inazuman is notable for having its story split across two distinct "chapters". Whereas the first 25 episodes were simply released under the name Inazuman, for the subsequent 23 it was renamed Inazuman Flash – featuring a brand new villain and a slightly darker tone. That first half also saw significant success in Hawaii alongside both Kikaider series and Kamen Rider V3 – all of which have since been officially licensed by the Honolulu-based JN Productions (aka Generation Kikaida). In subsequent years Inazuman would go on to cross over with Kikaider in both manga and animation, made a cameo alongside other Ishinomori heroes in 2011's OOO, Den-O, All Riders: Let's Go Kamen Rider and then finally a reimagined version teamed up with Kamen Rider Fourze in 2012's Kamen Rider x Kamen Rider Wizard & Fourze: Movie Wars Ultimatum.

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Doctor Who The Sontarans Collector Figure Set

Doctor Who 'The Sontarans' Set 01

Release Date: August 2019
RRP: £19.99

Summer 2019 was a big season for Doctor Who toys. After years of multi-pack repaints (with the odd new figure) exclusive to B&M stores that largely slipped under the radar, Character Options came out with a huge new range that injected some energy back into the once great line. There were Big Finish-inspired Dalek sets, there were TARDISes and there were of course more three-packs. Among these was The Sontarans Collector Figure Set, which not only paid homage to one of the show’s most popular monsters but also gave collectors the one thing they’re always crying out for - another companion. Included in this set at Commander Linx from 1973’s The Time Warrior, Field Marshall Styre from 1975’s The Sontaran Experiment, and popular Fourth Doctor companion/Royal Navy Surgeon-Lieutenant Harry Sullivan.

Monday, 10 February 2020

Reviews in Space & Time: Doctor Who 12x07 - Can You Hear Me?

Doctor Who 12x07 - Can You Hear Me?

We’re moving into the final stretch of Doctor Who series 12 now, and while many fans are already looking forward to the mystery of the Timeless Child being solved with its two-part finale there’s still time for a few more one-off adventures before then. Can You Hear Me? is adventure spanning multiple locations (this time across time and space), directed by Emma Sullivan and written by the combined efforts of Chris Chibnall and series newcomer Charlene James. The next episode preview following the end of Praxeus suggested a good old fashioned dose of Who-brand horror, but if there’s anything that this series has proven so far it’s that looks can often be deceiving.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda

Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda 01

Release Date: June 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

When it comes to Japanese toy lines collectors often have to wait a few months between releases, but it seems Bandai have got themselves into a nice little groove with their Super Mini-Pla range. Retail releases are often paired up with a related Premium Bandai exclusive, which has resulted in a nice little double whammy of primary and secondary mecha releases on the Super Sentai side of things. So when it was finally Chōjin Sentai Jetman's turn, Jet Icarus was of course paired up with a Super Mini-Pla Jet Garuda release. Of course that Premium Bandai exclusivity does mean this release goes for a slightly higher price than it's counterpart, but as you'll soon see there's more than enough on offer here to ensure that Jet Garuda justifies it.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Reviews in Space & Time: Doctor Who 12x06 - Praxeus

Doctor Who 12x06 - Praxeus

While audiences may still be reeling from the shocking events of Fugitive of the Judoon, the Doctor herself doesn’t have time to process the fact that everything she thought she knew may be a lie. The mysteries of the Timeless Child and an unknown incarnation of the Doctor take a back seat this week, as Doctor Who returns to its usual episodic shenanigans with Praxeus. Kerblam! writer Pete McTighe returns to pen the episode alongside Chris Chibnall, with the episode directed by series 12 staple Jamie Magnus Stone. It’s time to put those revelations to the side for now, because Earth is in peril once more.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer

Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer

Kamen Rider Summer movies have always marched to their own beat. Though there’s been a more consolidated effort to bring them into series canon since Kamen Rider Double, throughout the Heisei era they’ve ranged from side stories, true endings and even alternate universes. When the 20th anniversary and finale of the era has to top all of that, it better have some pretty big plans in store. Following on from Be the One’s strange new idea of being named after the show’s opening theme, Kamen Rider Zi-O the Movie: Over Quartzer is another cinematic opportunity for Kamen Rider Zi-O to round out the Heisei era in style. But whereas Heisei Generations FOREVER was most definitely a 20 Kamen Rider Kicks celebration of the main 20 Heisei series, this particular film is a little more interesting in its approach...

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

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

S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Beast 01

Release Date: November 2019
RRP: 7700 yen

The release pattern of the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line isn’t quite as easy to predict as it was a few years ago, but there’s still some framework there that Bandai Tamashii Nations seems to follow. For the most part when a main Rider is released the secondary will eventually follow, and these days they’re also almost certainly a Tamashii web exclusive. Given that Kamen Rider Wizard came out all the way back in November 2018 Bandai have taken their time to get to him, but 2019 featured some pretty big releases for the line so S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Beast was a good way to ring the year out. The latest Rider to be revitalised in Bandai’s premium Figuarts range, Kousuke Nitoh is also it’s second Kamen Rider Wizard release. With no sign of Haruto’s other forms it could also be its last for some time, but at least with Flame Style it is in excellent company.

Monday, 27 January 2020

Reviews in Space & Time: Doctor Who 12x05 - Fugitive of the Judoon

Doctor Who 12x05 - Fugitive of the Judoon

We're at the halfway point of Doctor Who series 12 now and the official social media accounts have been teasing big things for this episode. Not that the return of modern series favourites the Judoon isn't big enough, but Fugitive of the Judoon has been touted as something much more than just that. The episode was directed by Nida Manzoor and written by both Chris Chibnall and Vinay Patel, the latter of whom was responsible for the rather brilliant (and my personal favourite of the previous series) Demons of the Punjab. Strap yourselves in for spoilers, speculation and some potentially hot takes, because there is A LOT to unpack with this episode.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga 01

Release Date: December 2019
RRP: 3520 yen

With S.H. Figuarts now fully caught up on the back catalogue of New Generation Hero Ultraman releases, it's time for Bandai Tamashii Nations to start looking forwards and they certainly aren't wasting any time on it. Only a few months after the release of Ultraman Ginga in October, Bandai sent off 2019 in style with the release of the latest Ultra Hero - the son of Taro, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga. Hailing from the seventh New Generation Hero (and potentially last if the movie title "New Generation Climax" is anything to go by) series, Ultraman Taiga is a particularly interesting release as it sees Tamashii try a few things they've done with the Kamen Rider range - possibly suggesting that, much like the show itself, the Ultra Series has risen to once again stand at equal footing with it's long-time rival. Makes no difference to Bandai either way, as they're reaping the benefits regardless.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin

Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin 01

Release Date: March 2018
RRP: $20/£20

There are so many characters in the Star Wars universe crying out for a figure, that sometimes even the most obvious candidates take their sweet time to become a reality. Good things do usually come to those who wait though, and a lengthy wait Black Series Grand Moff Tarkin eventually arrived at the beginning of 2018. Portrayed by legendary actor Peter Cushing, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin was the right hand man of Emperor Palpatine himself - overseeing the completion of the first Death Star before dying aboard the battle station after that critical blast from Luke Skywalker. Though in terms of the saga movies he only appeared in a A New Hope, the character went on to appear (thanks to both incredible and at the same time uncanny advancements in CGI) in Rogue One as well as the Rebels animated series. A younger version also appears in Star Wars: The Clone Wars - depicting his first meeting with Anakin Skywalker, the man who would go on to become Darth Vader.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who 12x04 - Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror

Doctor Who 12x04 - Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror

If there's one thing this current era of Doctor Who will be remembered for (aside from the obvious of course), it'll be its return to the show's historical roots. Before the days of Daleks and Cybermen, Doctor Who was perceived as a time-travelling show which would educate as well as entertain. Chris Chibnall's time as show runner has already seen the Doctor meet the likes of Rosa Parks, King James I, Ada Lovelace and Noor Inayat Khan - and now that continues on in the fantastically named Nikola Tesla's Night of Terror. Written by Nina Metivier and directed by Nida Manzoor, series 12 episode four puts a new spin on the Serbian-American scientist and his struggle for recognition during his lifetime.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taro

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taro 01

Release Date: November 2019
RRP: 6050 yen

For a time it seemed like Bandai Tamashii Nations' plans for integrating the Ultra Series into the S.H. Figuarts line were clear. Working from the very beginning they'd tackle a new series each year – starting with Ultraman in 2016, Ultraseven in 2017 and so on. This pattern lasted as far as The Return of Ultraman in 2018, before Bandai decided to throw all my carefully planned theories out the window at the end of last year with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taro. Completely skipping over Ultraman Ace for the time being, Taro's surprise announcement was likely to do with his involvement in the then-airing Ultraman Taiga, where he is of course the titular hero's father. Coming at such a late point in the year Taro is currently the only release from his 1973 series in the line, however if the 2019 Tamashii Nation event was anything to go by hopefully it won't be long before he's joined by a kaiju or two.

Monday, 13 January 2020

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who 12x03 - Orphan 55

Doctor Who 12x03 - Orphan 55

After all that excitement and series-wide arc teasing from Spyfall, it already feels like Doctor Who could do with a bit of a breather and a well-deserved holiday. But of course, no holiday ever goes according to plan in this show. Entitled Orphan 55, episode three takes the Doctor and fam to a far away holiday resort with a dark secret. The story was directed by Lee Haven Jones and written by Ed Hime, making it the first episode of series 12 to not have been penned by show runner Chris Chibnall.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Purge Stormtrooper

Star Wars Black Series Purge Stormtrooper 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: $24.99/£23.99

The end of 2019 saw the world gripped by a new wave of Star Wars mania not only coming from both The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian, but from Jedi: Fallen Order - the brand new video game thrusting players back to fallout of Order 66 and the great Jedi purge. The release of the game was also celebrated as part of Triple Force Friday with a wave of new releases from Hasbro's Black Series line, which also included a few store exclusive releases to keep collectors on their toes. If fans wanted to bolster out their Stormtrooper ranks with Darth Vader's elite Jedi extermination unit, they'd need to visit GameStop to get a hold of the Black Series Purge Stormtrooper figure. In the US the figure was also available to those who preordered the special edition of the game, while in the rest of the world fans unfortunately needed to clamour to whichever online retailer was lucky enough to have it for sale.

Friday, 10 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Garo (Saejima Raiga)

SH Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo (Saejima Raiga) 01

Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 9082 yen

Despite first being unveiled at the Tamashii Nations event all the way back in 2014, it would take S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo a further four years to finally see release. The end result though was certainly one of the figures tokusatsu figures Bandai Tamashii Nations have ever produced – one so good that they certainly weren't going to be content with only releasing it just once. First we got the Saejima Kouga version, and now his son carries on the legacy of the Golden Knight with the Tamashii web exclusive S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo (Saeijima Raiga) version! First appearing the Makai No Hana ("Makai Flower") series, Raiga's story recently continued in the 2019 film Gekkou No Tabibito ("Moonbow Traveller") – finally reuniting him with his father as well as yielding a few other surprises for long time GARO fans. One surprise which this particular figure also shares…

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

First Impressions: Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story

Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story
You can watch Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story on Funimation Now, Crunchyroll & Hi-Dive

Nine years ago Puella Magi Madoka Magica was released, and anime was never really the same again. While it was far from the first magical girl series to put a darker spin on the genre, it’s success has led to more than just a few pale imitations. Madoka Magica also helped put Gen Urobuchi on the map, and arguably he’s gone on to become one of the most well known writers in modern anime fandom. Well it’s the beginning of a new decade and the world of Madoka is back, in the brand new spin-off series Magia Record: Puella Magi Madoka Magica Side Story. Based on the mobile game of the same name, this series lacks the Urobuchi touch but does feature several familiar names from the original. Shaft are still fronting the series, with Gekidan Inu Curry (the team behind the witches and labyrinths of the original series) are now directing and writing. For worldwide release the series will be made available first on Funimation Now, and then on both Crunchyroll and Hi-Dive a few days after its Japanese broadcast.

Monday, 6 January 2020

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who 12x02 - Spyfall, Part Two

Doctor Who 12x02 - Spyfall Part Two

The Master is back! The Doctor is trapped in an unknown place and her companions are falling their deaths! If there was anything Spyfall Part One succeeded in, it was giving Doctor Who the kind of jaw-dropping cliffhanger that the show hasn’t seen for a good while. Thankfully it’s mid-week debut on New Year’s Day meant that fans didn’t have to wait long for the second part, which saw the series return to its current Sunday evening time slot. Written by series show runner Chris Chibnall and directed by Lee Haven Jones, Spyfall Part Two already has a lot riding on it.

Saturday, 4 January 2020

Movie REVIEW: Thunderbolt Fantasy -Bewitching Melody of the West-

Thunderbolt Fantasy -Bewitching Melody of the West-
Thunderbolt Fantasy -Bewitching Melody of the West- is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

As well as continue to prove that ornate puppet murder is the way forward for entertainment, Thunderbolt Fantasy season 2 presented fans with plenty of new things to speculate on. One such topic was the prominence of Làng Wū Yáo, the mysterious red haired musician and old acquaintance of Shāng Bù Huàn. Voiced by Takanori Nishikawa (better known by his stage name T.M. Revolution), the character was created as a means for the musician to promote the franchise but quickly added to the series proper by creator Gen Urobuchi. Now his origins are explored in Thunderbolt Fantasy -Bewitching Melody of the West-, a new feature-length presentation released at the end of 2019.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Reviews in Time & Space: Doctor Who 12x01 - Spyfall, Part One

Doctor Who 12x01 - Spyfall Part 1

With no Doctor Who on television screens since Resolution, 2019 has felt like an especially long year. But with the dawn of 2020 that long wait is finally over, as the 13th Doctor (and fam) return for the show’s 12th series since it’s 2005 relaunch. Already we know from the trailer that this series promises both Cybermen and Judoon, and if you’ve been paying any attention to the filming pictures in the last year a few other surprises along the way. The series kicked off on New Year’s Day with the secret agent-styled Spyfall, Part One, the first two-part story since 10th Doctor swan song The End of Time to retain the same title across both parts.