Tuesday 14 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Mashin Sentai Kiramager Minipla King Express

Minipla King Express 01

Release Date: May 2020
RRP: 2160 yen (6 boxes, 1 complete figure), 4320 yen (12 boxes, 2 complete figures)

With the second wave of Super Sentai minipla usually taking that filler spot before the sixth Ranger’s mecha is revealed, just what exactly is in that wave can come in all shapes and sizes. Some years it contains a show’s second robot, while others have contained repeats and auxiliary units. Mashin Sentai Kiramager is definitely one of the more interesting years however, as this instalment not only features a second robot but also a villain unit! This latest candy toy selection features King Express, a train-themed robot comprised of Mashin Express and Mashin Jouki. Fans of the series will also know that the latter can also transform into the mighty Smog Jouki - a dinosaur mecha piloted by the Yodonheim general Galza.

Minipla King Express Outer Box 03Minipla King Express Outer Box 04Minipla King Express Outer Box 05

Once again for anyone purchasing the single-figure box of six collection you’ll receive your minipla in some nice outer packing showing off the models in their various components and modes. Only Kiramei Red is featured on the packaging, which makes sense since he’s the only one to pilot King Express but it would have been nice to see Galza on there too as Smog Jouki’s pilot. As usual, no respect for the villains at all. Inside you’ll find all six smaller boxes neatly arranged and in order.

Minipla King Express Box 01

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The individual boxes inside all feature the same primary image of King Express used on the larger box, which is a bit of a shame given how prominent Smog Jouki is both as part of the set and the show itself. Sure the robot is roaring ominously behind in the background, but it would have looked amazing as the main focus on at least a few of the boxes. Regardless all of the images featured here are repeats of the ones used on that outer packaging, with the case breakdown properly listed on the spine so you know exactly which boxes contains what. Open the boxes up and you’ll find the various parts of each kit moulded in a number of colours, along with a sticker sheet and single piece of candy. The building instructions for each piece are printed on the inside of the box, and then there is a separate paper flyer that covers the main combination.

Minipla Mashin Jouki 01

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Usually when you get a train as part of a Super Sentai mecha it’s usually just the engine portion itself, so Mashin Jouki is something rather special. Comprised of four whole boxes, this is a multi-carriage liner with a chomping dinosaur head at the front and a chainsaw at the back - easily making it one of the coolest trains the whole franchise has ever put out. The model kit features numerous translucent purple parts and even slightly curves it give it a more distinct-train feel, and it’s pretty impressive how long this thing is when fully built. The kit includes numerous metallic purple stickers to make up the carriage detailing, but as usual every bit of detailing (with the exception of the chainsaw) has also been moulded onto the kit. So if you’d rather paint your model, that option perfectly viable.

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Much like the components of Kiramaizin, Mashin Jouki also has a Kiramei Stone mode which incorporates the WHOLE of the train. It does involve a little bit of parts forming/separation though, as the front and back carriages unclip from the central pieces and then reattach once those have folded and joined together. This simple transformation makes for the biggest and perhaps the best-looking Kiramei Stone mode in the line so far, largely thanks to how good those translucent purple parts look against the black plastic. Unfortunately though the back pieces aren't quite the same length as the front (even when extended), which does make it a little unbalanced but overall it looks pretty good for a mode barely anyone is going to display.

Minipla Smog Jouki 01

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What makes Mashin Jouki special though is that it also has the ability to transform into its own robot mode - ferocious mechanical dinosaur named Smog Jouki. From Stone mode panels on either side of the central carriages fold out to become the legs, whilst the front and back carriages connect together and then plug on top to become the head and back. Finally, the chainsaw folds out to become the tail. It’s a really simple transformation, but INCREDIBLE effective. Smog Jouki looks like the perfect fusion of dinosaur and train, getting the right proportion and body shape whilst also clearly looking like a mix of train parts. The robot made a big impact during its Kiramager debut, and is easily the highlight of this set before you even touch Mashin Express and the King Express combo.

Minipla Smog Jouki 10

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The look alone of a black and purple train dinosaur should be enough to win you over, but what makes the kit even better is that it’s surprisingly articulate as well. Not quite as much as a standard Sentai mecha, but enough to get a few decent poses out of it. The way the head plugs onto the main body allows it to turn both left and right, which takes the spine/back section with it. That in turn can get a bit of bend thanks to the way the carriage pieces connect, and the chainsaw tail can raise and lower. Moving onto the body itself the arms have both ball joints at the shoulder connection and hinged elbows, while the legs can rotate at the hip connection. There isn’t any leg articulation lower than sadly, but you can at least pose Smog Jouki either bending over or roaring up in triumph. Speaking of which, the jaw can also open for that full dinosaur effect.

Minipla Mashin Express 01

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The final two boxes of this set feature Mashin Express - King Oradin’s emergency Kiramei Stone transformed into a modern-style bullet train. This particular vehicle has some real ToQger vibes, and anyone who dipped into that minipla range a few years ago will definitely get a pang of nostalgia while building this. That isn’t entirely a good thing though, because these boxes are really boring compared to Jouki. The front half of the train has some cool moments since that’s where most the transformation is, but the second half is literally just a box. Both parts also feel incredibly small and basic compared to Jouki’s components, as if there’s barely enough to fill two boxes here. Still, it’s a complete style clash to Jouki - swapping out the black and purple for bright white and entirely clear plastic, which dashes of red, blue and silver for a really striking colour scheme. This is one kit where painting will definitely add to the finish, especially if you can get your hands on a good metallic blue for the occasion.

Minipla Mashin Express 08Minipla Mashin Express 09Minipla Mashin Express 10Minipla Mashin Express 11

Mashin Express is unique in that it splits into two different Kiramei Stones, both of which are roughly the size of the Kiramaizin components with the exception of Mashin Fire. Neither are particularly involved transformations even for Kiramei Stone standards - the front half simply has the nose piece fold over, and the back part just stands upright. There isn't really much more to say about these other than that - since there's no colour in the translucent parts they just get lost in the solid pieces behind them.

Minipla King Express 02

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The transformation to King Express is a relatively simple one that follows the typical Super Sentai combination pattern, but does have a few interesting moments to it. The middle components of Mashin Jouki fold to become legs, with Mashin Express then sitting on top. The top half of Express is the removed so that the upper section of the remaining piece can fold out to become shoulders. Following that the arms, which are the front and back carriages of Mashin Jouki, can be attached. The front half of Mashin Express then reattaches, with the front section splitting and folding outward to become the V-shaped chest crest as well as revealed the combined robot head underneath. Of course since this head was designed to fit inside the train mode it's woefully disproportioned and doesn't look good on the body at all. Bandai of course knew this, so as there was with Kiramaizin there's a few improvements you can then make for a better proportioned robot mode. On top of an alternate head with better proportions, the side armour can unplug from the sides of the legs and then clip onto the torso to both add articulation and provide a better silhouette. The arms can both extend somewhat for better proportions, and then finally the toe sections at the bottom of each foot can be removed and then plugged in a socket closer to the front of the foot. When that's all said and done, your King Express is ready to go!

Minipla King Express 10

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A black and white robot with a sunglasses-sporting head, chainsaw-wielding left arm and dinosaur-head right arm might not be the first kind of mecha you’d expect for a show like Kiramager, but as strange a concept it might seem the end result is pretty great. It does feel a bit like the white torso has just been lumped onto a sea of black limbs, but the colour clash is striking and does a decent job to convey the tonal struggle that goes on with the combo (Galza is still in Jouki’s cockpit through all of this after all!). In terms of the minipla itself it does a great job of capturing the look of the onscreen suit, but a bit of that mass does feel lost - particularly in that spindly torso. King Express has a very different feel to Kiramaizin, but it still has that high quality that the mainline minipla have shown in recent years.

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King Express has pretty much the same base articulation as Kiramazin, but the advantage of a thinner and more basic frame is that this mecha can make much better use of it. Altogether the kit features a ball jointed head, rotating shoulders connected to a horizontal butterfly-style joint, upper elbow swivels, hinged elbows, rotating waist, rotating hips with outward hinged motion, upper knee swivels, hinged knees and rotating toe pieces. The toe pieces don’t really add anything in terms of stability, but the lower legs are bulky enough to support most poses anyway. The hip armour is also moveable via a hinge when connected to the waist rather than the legs. All in all it’s a pretty solid range of articulation, and the oversized crest doesn’t impact on the shoulder movement too much. It’ll clash with the arms when they’re brought up at a 90 degree angle, but you can still get some decent poses out of the kit regardless.

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Minipla King Express is another winner for the Kiramager range, and it’s only real flaw is that it’s a victim of its own design. King Express might seem cool, but the truth is Smog Jouki is even cooler. The strange combination doesn’t hold a candle to that sweet dinosaur mode, and combined with the rather disappointing build of Mashin Express the overall wave doesn’t have quite the same fun factor that building Kiramaizin did. That aside it’s still a great kit that delivers everything fans have come to expect from the range by now, and whether you display it as King Express or Smog Jouki it’ll look great alongside Kiramaizin and everything else to come from the Kiramager line.

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