Monday 1 June 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 01

Release Date: March 2020
RRP: 2376 yen (6 boxes, 1 complete model), 4752 yen (12 boxes, 2 complete models)

Super Sentai minipla may be all the rage these days thanks to the deep dives into its history Bandai’s Super Mini-Pla line getting up to, but at the same time the yearly range of candy toy model kits is still trucking away offering the same level of articulation for a fraction of the price. This year it’s the turn of Mashin Sentai Kiramager, a show that may have sadly taken a hiatus due to the COVID-19 crisis but has still wowed audiences with its classic Sentai stylings. The series’ first minipla release features all five of the team’s Kiramei Stones turned Mashin vehicles, not only able to transform into the mighty Kiramaizin but also break down in the small combos of Land Mage and Sky Mage.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Outer Box 02Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Outer Box 01

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As has been the case with Super Sentai minipla for a few years now, the Kiramazin set can be purchased either as a single set of six or a full case of 12. If you purchase the single six-box version, you'll also receive some rather nifty outer packaging featuring both the Kiramager suits and plenty of images of the model kits inside. You'll get a good look at all five individual components, as well as all three combined modes. 

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Box 01

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Box 02Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Box 03Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Box 04Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Box 05

In some years the individual boxes have featured different images (usually just the combination in a different pose) on the boxes, but since the single-pack versions were introduced Bandai have gone back to just using identical packaging for all of them. The only way to tell them apart is the numbering, and there's a key of which box contains what model found on the spine. The front and back of these smaller boxes all feature the same artwork that was printed on that outer box, which might seem lazy/redundant but makes sense when you consider how these boxes are all also sold separately in Japanese stores. Opening the packaging up and you'll find the various parts of each kit in a variety of different colours, along with a sticker sheet and a piece of Bandai-certified lemon candy. The building instructions for each kit is printed on the inside of the box, whilst combination instructions are included on a separate flyer included in one of Fire's sections.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Fire 01

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Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Fire 08Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Fire 09Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Fire 10Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Fire 11

Of the six boxes that make up the Kiramaizin set, the first three are all dedicated to Mashin Fire - Kiramei Red's fire truck mecha and the largest vehicle of the five. Mashin Fire is a rather futuristic looking fire engine with a pronged front and visor-like windows, armed with a rotating ladder that can extend and reveal a powerful water cannon. With three boxes to work with it's by far the most intricate and interesting of the vehicles included, but while it isn't especially sticker-heavy one it is the one where some of the stickers don't work quite as well - such as the white detailing that goes over the black pieces. Luckily all detailing has been moulded onto these kits, so they aren't too difficult to paint if you'd prefer to do so. With its free-rolling wheels and extendable cannon, Mashin Fire is a really fun build that's great for beginners as well as experienced Super Sentai minipla builders.

Each of the Mashins also have an alternate Kiramei Stone mode derived from their original forms, which can then be used to ram or crush enemies. They are essentially just giant cuboids, so they don't make for particularly interesting forms or transformations for that matter. Fire's is done simply by folding the front section upwards to meet the tip of the ladder, and then propping it upright to reveal the translucent red pieces underneath. It doesn't look too bad from the front or back, but from either side it isn't all that impressive at all.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Shovellow 01

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To give you an idea of how small the remaining Mashins are compared to Fire, box number four actually contains TWO of the remaining four vehicles. Presumably it's because their combined parts count was small enough to be spread across the same runners and fit into the same box, but it does mean we're looking at much simpler vehicles than some of the past ones Super Sentai has offered in the past. Anyway the first half of the box contains Shovellow - the excavator shovel mecha of Kiramai Yellow. A simple vehicle with some nice translucent elbow parts as well as an articulated arm and shovel bucket, it's a good one to start off with in the set if you're looking to ease yourself into the building process. Not too many stickers either, but it does have some nice glittery gold ones to put on the treads that would be a bit more difficult to replicate with paint. Shovellow's Kiramei Stone mode transformation involves twisting the top half of the vehicle around, and then angling the shovel arm to become support to stand it upright. Compared to Fire it's a much higher fit, though the gaps are visible head on here as well as from the sides.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Mach 01

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The second half of box four contains Mach, the smooth-talking speed star and Mashin partner of Kiramei Green. A simple but effective race car that uses plenty of translucent green plastic, Mach has a surprising amount of secret compartments and moving parts - the purpose of which will all become clear when dabbling in transformations and combinations. Mach also doesn't have too many stickers to do either - you've just got the green headlights and little bits of black line work on the sides of the car. To transform Mach to Kiramei Stone mode, just flip up both the bonnet and spoiler to turn the car into a neatly packed little cuboid.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Jetter 01

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Moving into individual boxes for the remaining Mashins, box number five contains Jetter - the blue aircraft Mashin that flies through the air with a zip and a razor so sharp. Despite taking up a whole box compared to the last two vehicles there isn't that much difference in size, but it does have more moving parts and is a little more intricate in build. Lots of those moving parts are for the combos though, so right now we just have a fairly basic looking jet with hinged wings. Sadly there aren't any ports on the model that could be used for a stand, so you'll need to rely on those articulated claw grips most come with as standard. It's a simple kit, but the bright white and translucent blue plastic make for a very striking colour scheme. Jetter's transformation Kiramei Stone mode involves bending down the nosecone, and then folding the wings forward to make up the front. As far as these rather uninspiring modes go it's actually one of the neatest looking ones among the set, since it has both solidly coloured parts and not too many gaps when viewed from the sides.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Helico 01

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The sixth and final box contains Helico, Kiramei Pink's helicopter partner. Another incredibly simple build, but again the combination of white and coloured translucent plastic makes it very appealing visually. This model has very minimal sticker work too, and those parts that do require them are very easy to paint if you have a bit of metallic pink handy. That said, many will probably see the stickers for the blades as a necessity - not just because they have that cool glittery effect that you can't really replicate with paint (especially on translucent plastic), but they're also a necessity for the combination too. Helico doesn't have much in the way of features, but the blades can rotate and there's even some sockets on the bottom perfect for a Tamashii Stage or similar stand - making the kit ideal for airborne posing. Her Kiramei Stone mode sees the back half of the helicopter fold around either side, with the rotors folding together to make the front. 

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Land Mage 01Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Land Mage 02Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Land Mage 03

On top of the full Kiramaizin form, the five Mashin's also have the ability to transform into two smaller robots. The first of these is Land Mage, made up of Fire, Shovellow and Mach. This transformation also makes up the bulk of the full Kiramaizin one as well. Fire's front section fold upwards to form feet, with the two sections then splitting apart to create the legs. From here pull Fire's back section up and twist it to form the torso and right arm. Shovellow becomes the other arm simply by twisting the top 180 degrees (so that the white sections on the two pieces match up), plugging it onto Fire's body and then extending the digger arm outward. Finally Mach clips onto the top of the body, splitting in hand to become a shoulder pad and reveal the combined mode head. Voila, Land Mage is formed!

This is the straight combination that doesn't involve any parts-swapping or cheating, but from here there are also a few additional steps that you can take to vastly improve the proportions and articulation. The first is an alternate head, which is both larger and fits via a ball joint instead of just pegging to Mach's back half. If you choose to use this head instead, the smaller one can still be fixed onto the robot to avoid having loose parts rattle around - simply plug it onto the underside of Mach out of sight. Additionally the red panels that are fixed to Land Mage's thighs can be removed from their ports and reconnected to hidden ball joints on either side of the robot's abdomen. This way the panels are fully moveable and won't impede the leg articulation in any significant way. Finally, the feet can be removed and attached to a moveable peg for ankle tilt goodness.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Land Mage 04

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While it’s a little disappointing to have another mecha that’s predominantly made up of the Red Ranger’s component immediately after Ryusoulger, there’s definitely an appeal to Land Mage’s strange asymmetry. Not having Mach and Shovellow both form arms was a wise choice, and even though it means Mach doesn’t do all that much in the grand scheme of things the single car shoulder pad makes for both a unique design trait and a very cool robot head reveal. The way Shovellow just latches onto the side is a big clash in aesthetics, as on the one side you have a neat robot hand and then the other a giant claw attached to a spindly arm. When you break it down it feels almost Frankenstein-esque in execution, but still looks and feels very much like a traditional Super Sentai robot. This is then enforced by the solid blocks of colour the body is split up into, with those translucent parts really making it glisten in the light. If you’ve never handled or seen the appeal in all those translucent variants the Super Sentai minipla have released over the years, this should definitely help change your mind!

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Land Mage 13

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As always articulation is undoubtedly the biggest draw with the minipla range (although you certainly can't argue with the price either!), and Land Mage gives you full rundown of what you can expect from Kiramaizin. From top to bottom the robot sports a ball jointed head, rotating and hinged shoulders, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, a right hand swivel and articulated left hand, waist swivel, ball jointed shoulders, thigh swivel, hinged knees and ankle tilts. That gives you a huge range of poseability to play with, and thanks to those huge feet there aren't any balances issues to be concerned about either. On top of all that you also have Fire's extendable cannon, which now folds out to be a hand-mounted blaster. Even before you pile on the remaining two vehicles Land Mage is a lot of fun, and with just as much to offer as Kiramaizin in terms of articulation it's awfully tempting to display the two Mages separately rather than a full combined mode.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Sky Mage 01Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Sky Mage 02Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Sky Mage 03

Jetter and Helico aren't completely left out though, as they can also combine to form their own smaller robot - Sky Mage. With less components and much smaller models its a more basic transformation that mirrors the old "Powerlinx" gimmick from Transformers Energon, but there's still a fair few steps to it. Jetter's nosecone folds over whilst the wings fold back, as that back half splits to reveal legs. Meanwhile Helico's back half splits and folds forward, with the front section swinging upward to expose them as the robot's arms. Finally the combined robot head pops up from the back of Helico, and the two parts clip together to form the agile robot.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Sky Mage 04

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Sky Mage might be a rather diminutive robot, but it makes for its lack of size and power with much greater speed and power. While the solid white of the body and legs would usually make for a fairly unexciting colour scheme unless you throw a bit of panel-lining in there, the added pink and blue sections are extremely eye-catching and really show off the beauty of this set's translucent parts. Sure the head might be tiny and the back legs are bulky, but it's an adorable little robot that you can't help but fall in love with.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin Sky Mage 13

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Given its small size you might be surprised to hear there's actually a fair bit of articulation packed into Sky Mage - obviously nowhere near as much as Land Mage but still more than you'd expect. Sky Mage has shoulders that are hinged in two places, so the arms cannot only raise outwards but there's also another joint just below it that allows them to bend upwards well. Below that, the leg section sports both ball jointed hips and hinged knees, allowing for plenty of movement and personality in both ground and midair posing. While the head may be static, the helicopter blades can still rotate for a little more variance. It's a bit of a missed opportunity that there isn't a port built directly into the model for a stand to plug straight into, but again the articulated claw grips seem to work wonders. While Sky Mage might not be able to do all that much, I expected it to be an almost completely static model so I'm very impressed. 

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 02

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Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 09Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 10Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 11

The full transformation to Kiramaizin is a breeze once you've figured out the Land Mage combination, since it's simply adding the extra parts onto that. Helico clips directly onto the pegs protruding from Land Mage's abdomen, with the translucent pink parts folding down to form the front crest. There's no set place for the parts to "lock in" so the angle is pretty much up to your discretion, however the back sections and rotors can (loosely) lock together to ensure better symmetry. Jetter's wings fold up to make the body more streamlined, and these's a handle piece that then swings out of the bottom to turn it into a holdable weapon. The best bit of Jetter's "transformation" though is the hidden blade piece that extends out of the middle of nosecone. Finally comes the head, which once again can be done in two different ways. For the "proper transformation" way, the combined mode head swings out of the inside of Mach, neatly sitting over the top of the fitted Land Mage head. But if you'd prefer a better proportioned and poseable version, a separate head can be fitted via the exposed ball socket. If you're using that one, simply keep the smaller one inside of Mach and fix the fitted Land Mage head to the hidden port at the back.

Kiramager Minipla Kiramaizin 12

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Even though there isn’t actually that much difference between Land Mage and Kiramaizin in terms of build, the one thing you can definitely say about the latter is that it looks much more complete. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with Land Mage’s chest, the added splash of white and pink really makes a difference. With the five different colours of translucent plastic together you can also appreciate just how much of a gem (pun intended) this model is. That plastic just glistens in the light, and is without a doubt the best part of this set as a whole. The new head also makes a big difference, and even though I’m not usually an advocate of stickers I love the crystal effect on that multi-coloured crest.

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As the Kiramaizin combination is simply adding extra parts onto Land Mage there isn't any notable changes in articulation between the forms, but naturally adding a thick helicopter piece to the torso does come with some minor drawbacks. The arms and legs all now meet a bit of resistance from Helico's hanging parts, but the waist joint is still fully functional so can provide a nice bit of swivel to avoid significant clashes. In addition to the new head and chest piece, Kiramaizin's biggest asset is the Jetter Sword, which fits directly into the robot's fist socket and shouldn't ever fall out. It's big and unwieldy like all the best Super Sentai mecha weapons are, but having a component transform into an entire weapon is a nice change from the norm. It is a little heavy, but the elbow joint seems to be doing a good job of holding poses. Even the most basic swing pose looks great just due to the size of the parts, so when you factor in all the leg and waist movement too you can get a fair bit out of this figure. 

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Due to both lack of funds, space and a general lack of interest in what Super Sentai has been doing over the last couple of years my mainline minipla buying isn’t what it used to be. However it’s great to know that the line hasn’t lost any of what made me fall in love with it during that absent. Minipla Kiramaizin isn’t the best set I’ve ever handled, but it is the embodiment of everything that’s great about the line - affordability, articulation and a figure that gives you a sense of achievement through building it. With the DX seemingly smaller than ever this year, this set will definitely show you why so many people are starting to pick these up instead. I wish the components were a little bigger and the transformation a little more involved, but that’s down to the design rather than the toy itself. A great toy from a line that rarely fails to impress.

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