Tuesday 29 June 2021

Series REVIEW: Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 3

Thunderbolt Fantasy Season 3
Thunderbolt Fantasy is available in streaming form on Crunchyroll

If prior to 2016 you told me that famed anime writer Gen Urobuchi was going to team up with NitroplusGood Smile Company and Taiwanese puppet production Pili International Multimedia to produce one of the greatest series he's ever done, I probably would have been sceptical no matter how amazing that already sounds on paper. But that is exactly what Thunderbolt Fantasy is, and 26 episodes spanning two seasons (as well as two additional movies) fans have been treated to a storyline that somehow manages to get more and more wild each episode, unforgettable characters and more puppet violence than you could ever hope for. Two years after the release of prequel/side-story The Bewitching Melody of the West, it finally returned for its long overdue third season which was delayed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sunday 27 June 2021

Anime REVIEW: Godzilla Singular Point

Godzilla Singular Point
Godzilla Singular Point is available in streaming form on Netflix

It's hard to believe that despite being a franchise spanning over 65 years at this point, there's never been a fully-fledged Godzilla anime series. We've had a couple of American cartoon series over the years and a trilogy of CGI animated films from Toho and Polygon in 2017-18, but in 2021 did the King of the Monsters properly jump into television anime with Godzilla Singular Point. A co-production between acclaimed studios Bones and Orange, Singular Point is a "Netflix Original" series that released weekly in Japan between April and June before all 13 episodes dropped worldwide on the 24th June. The series was written by Toho Enjoh, an award-winning Japanese author specialising in science and speculative fiction.  

Tuesday 22 June 2021

Anime REVIEW: SSSS.Dynazenon

SSSS.Dynazenon is available in streaming form on Funimation

After lying dormant for decades, Gridman the Hyper Agent has come a long way in the past six years. When Trigger revealed their Denkou Chojin Gridman: "boys invent great hero" short at the Japan Animator Expo back in 2015, who would have thought that a collaboration between the animation studio and Tsuburaya Productions would eventually lead to the creation of a Gridman Universe. Following the success of SSSS.Gridman in 2018, this universe continued to expand in 2021 with the release of SSSS.Dynazenon. This second animated instalment ran for a total of 12 episodes, introducing a whole new cast of characters and story despite the familiar setting. After being revealed to mean "Special Signature to Save a Soul" at the end of the previous series, here the "SSSS"-prefix takes on a whole new meaning right from the very beginning - "Scarred Souls Shine like Stars".

Sunday 20 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Batman (1989)

S.H. Figuarts Batman (1989) 01

Release Date: 7480 yen
RRP: September 2020

It's always fun when Bandai Tamashii Nations throw an absolute curveball of a release into the S.H. Figuarts line. While they've done a fair number of DC Universe figures (mostly live action movie-based, but also a couple from Batman Ninja surprisingly), but it's definitely fair to say that they're nowhere near as much a priority for the line as the Marvel Cinematic Universe figures are. So when it was announced that they would be producing a S.H. Figuarts Batman (1989) figure, based on the Dark Knight's appearance in Tim Burton's first big budget Batman film where he was portrayed by Michael Keaton, it came as a real surprise. The figure was released as a Tamashii web exclusive in Japan, but unsurprisingly was one of the more readily available Figuarts in foreign markets as well.

Friday 18 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo

Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: 5500 yen

One of the great things about the Super Mini-Pla line has been the fact that you just don't know where in Super Sentai history Bandai are going to revisit next. Whilst the higher-end candy toy/model kit line has largely stayed within the post-Zyuranger/Power Rangers section of the franchise, there's been no set pattern in terms of which series is done next - giving everyone's favourites a good chance of showing up relatively soon. Following on from Sun Vulcan Robo and the rest of the Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan releases at the beginning of 2020, the second half of the year belonged to KyuuKyuu Sentai GoGoFive. As well as bursting out the gate with their Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo release, Bandai quickly set about filling up the show's line-up - with the enormous Grand Liner releasing the same month and Liner Boy and Victory Robo Black Version following shortly after (Victory Mars is still sadly outstanding). Super Mini-Pla Victory Robo was a retail release for the line, comprised of a total of five individual boxes - one for each of the five 99Machines.

Monday 14 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Marvel Legends Carnage (Venompool Wave)

Marvel Legends Carnage (Venompool Wave) 01

Release Date: September 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

There are so many characters in the Marvel Comics universe that Hasbro could probably get away with brand new ones for each and every release and still not run out, but with new collectors joining all the time of course you’re going to keep all of the favourites in circulation. The psychotic symbiote and Spider-Man villain Carnage is one such character, having previously graced the line in 2018 as part of the Monster Venom build-a-figure wave and now having returned two years later in the Venompool build-a-figure assortment. A slightly different take on the classic character to the previous release, this Marvel Legends Carnage has also seen a re-release in 2021 - perfect for helping to generate hype in the lead up to Carnage’s cinematic debut in the forthcoming Venom: Let There Be Carnage.

Friday 11 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon 01

Release Date:  February 2021
RRP: 3520 yen

In what’s basically become standard practice for Bandai Tamashii Nations now, every time a new Kamen Rider or Ultraman series starts the titular character will be released in the S.H. Figuarts line at a significantly lower cost, acting as an entry point/gateway drug for any new collectors looking to dip their toes in the long-running toy line. It’s a pretty clever tactic, because even the most thrifty of fans are going to struggle to pass up something like S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon at the price of 3520 yen. The star of the second Reiwa era Kamen Rider series blazes into the S.H. Figuarts line with this reasonably priced release, quickly followed the month after by the more conventionally priced Kamen Rider Blades.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series Bo-Katan Kryze

Star Wars Black Series Bo-Katan Kryze 01

Release Date: February 2021
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

One of the highlights of The Mandalorian season two for many Star Wars fans was how it helped bridge the gap even more between the live-action and animated sections of the franchise, with many core characters making their leap to live-action after years of development in the animated series. One such character was Bo-Katan Kryze, the Mandalorian and former Death Watch operative who defied both Maul and the Empire before being presented with the Darksaber in a bid to unite Mandalore once more. When she appears in The Mandalorian (played by her voice actor Katee Sackhoff), not only is she instrumental in teaching Din Djarin that the ways of Mandalore are more flexible that he was taught, but has lost the Darksaber at the hands of Moff Gideon. She has been a key character in the development of the Mandalorians for many years now, which is why a Black Series Bo-Katan Kryze figure is LONG overdue.

Sunday 6 June 2021

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider: The Next

Kamen Rider: The Next

After retelling the origin story of double Riders Takeshi Hongo and Hayato Ichimonji in Kamen Rider: The First, Toei decided to push on with the story of this cinematic reboot - releasing Kamen Rider: The Next in 2007. The film was once again written by Toshiki Inoue, with both Masaya Kikawada and Hassei Takano reprising their roles as Hongo/Rider 1 and Ichimonji/Rider 2 respectively. This time around though the film was directed by Ryuta Tasaki, a regular to the world of tokusatsu who continues to direct episodes of both Kamen Rider and Super Sentai to this day. As well as continuing the story of the double Riders, The Next also brings Shiro Kazami aka Kamen Rider V3 into the mix - portrayed by actor Kazuki Kato (Daisuke Kazama/Kamen Rider Drake in Kamen Rider Kabuto, as well as Blue in the Sentai parody series Kanpai Senshi After V).

Friday 4 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (THE FIRST Ver.)

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (THE FIRST Ver.) 01

Release Date: September 2010
RRP: 2750 yen

Back in early 2008 Bandai Tamashii Nations started up a brand new action figure range with the tag line of “simply style and heroic action”. That line was S.H. Figuarts, and 13 years later it’s evolved and expanded far beyond what collectors dreamed of at the time. And to think it all started with figures from Kamen Rider: The Next. However it wouldn’t be for another two years that the reimagined double Riders would be reissued in their Kamen Rider: The First looks. The release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (THE FIRST Ver.) was a very different time for the line - one where preordering wasn’t such a mad rush, and the figures themselves were far more affordable.

Wednesday 2 June 2021

Movie REVIEW: Kamen Rider: The First

Kamen Rider: The First

The 50th anniversary celebration of the Kamen Rider franchise may have revealed that Hideaki Anno's Shin Kamen Rider will be releasing some time in 2023, but all the way back in 2005 there was another attempt at retelling the original 1971 series story in movie format. Kamen Rider: The First was written by Toshiki Inoue and directed by Takao Nagaishi, starring Masaya Kikawada (who would later play Kishiryu Sentai Ryusoulger's Master Red) and Hassei Takano (Kamen Rider Ryuki's Miyuki Tezuka/Kamen Rider Raia and Ultraman Gaia's Hiroya Fujimiya/Ultraman Agul) in the lead roles of Takeshi Hongo and Hayato Ichimonji respectively. The film was followed up by a sequel, Kamen Rider: The Next, in 2007 and currently remains one of the only pieces of Kamen Rider media released on home video in the US. Media Blasters released the film on DVD in 2007, although sadly the title is long since out of print.