Friday 31 December 2021

Favourite Toys of 2021

Favourite Toys of 2021

Another year has flown by, which means once again I'm picking out my ten favourite (plus one honourable mention) toy releases from the past 365 days. I started 2021 with an embarrassingly long back catalogue of reviews to do and I'm ending it with one too, but for the most part I think I've successfully managed to cover anything that had a good chance of getting into the top 10. As usual the list is limited to figures that were newly released in 2021, with only one repaint/remould slipping in this year. So read on to find out the full rundown, and be sure to let me know what your favourites were in the comments!

HONOURABLE MENTION: S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange (Battle on Titan Edition)
S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange (Battle on Titan Edition)

While the core figure might not have changed all that much since 2017, the second Infinity War version of Doctor Strange from Bandai Tamashii Nations is a significant improvement in all the right places. The improved head sculpt is great, but it's that pliable fabric cape that really sets this figure apart - finally giving Strange the one thing he should have had since the very beginning. Throw in more accessories than seemingly any S.H. Figuarts release has had in the past few years (and somehow it STILL doesn't have all the attacks and spells Strange used in the film) and you have what can only be described as the definitive MCU Doctor Strange figure. It only narrowly missed out joining the top 10 for the year, so is a very worthy honourable mention to the list.

History of the Daleks #7

Character Options have got into a comfortable pattern of releasing a number of History of the Daleks sets each year now, but with each classic Dalek story having previously been covered elsewhere can it really hold that many surprises? While this Day of the Daleks set might not have contained anything unexpected, it's the accuracy of the set that really made it stood out. Finally getting a gold supreme Dalek with the correct gold neck mesh was one thing, but those metallic gunmetal drone Daleks are something that have been sorely lacking from the line since its very beginning. With the Planet of the Daleks-themed History of the Daleks #8 revealing drone Daleks with opening domes it's possible they might have made the list in this set's place - if I could find the damn things that is.

Transformers Studio Series 86 Wreck-Gar

The Studio Series 86 line is the whole reason for me getting back into Transformers toys the way I have over the last year, and given the quality of these figures it isn't hard to see why. It is however surprisingly hard to pick a favourite amongst these modernised, largely cartoon-accurate releases, however after much debate I've settled for everyone's favourite Junkion leader. Why? Not only is that sculpt brilliant, but how can you not love a Transformer that's able to ride himself in alt mode? Dare to be stupid and get yourself a Wreck-Gar as soon as you can, because you definitely won't regret it.

Star Wars Black Series Bo-Katan Kryze

The quality of the Black Series has gone up so much in the last year or so that quite often they're even able to rival the considerably more expensive S.H. Figuarts Star Wars releases, and even though there isn't one to compare it to it's hard to imagine just how much Bandai would be able to improve on Black Series Bo-Katan. A perfect addition to any Clone Wars, Rebels or The Mandalorian display (how does this character seemingly not age?), Bo-Katan is the Black Series at its finest - a brilliant, wonderfully articulated sculpt with a photo-real head to be proud of. Yes she's a Mandalorian version of the character so she sadly doesn't come with the Darksaber, but by the sounds of it even if she did she'd only go and lose it anyway.

S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Dark Kiva

Most years see the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line dominating the top spots in these list, but perhaps 2021 saw the bubble begin to burst a little bit on this "premium of premiums" range - at least with most of the ones I picked up anyway. Big name releases like Kamen Rider Black and Ultraman Tiga fell short thanks to Bandai's insistence on using rubbery parts, while others like Kamen Rider Zeronos were good but didn't wow me the same way previous figures have. On the other hand, Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Dark Kiva might just be the nicest-looking S.H. Figuarts figure ever produced. What it lacks in accessories it definitely makes up for in aesthetic, with immaculate sculpting and that perfect metallic red and black colour scheme. Kamen Rider Kiva himself may still be the standout release in the line just because of its significance, but Dark Kiva really is something special.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Z Original

Ultraman Z Original isn't just a really great figure, it's also an example. This has been the year Bandai went all-in on their stupid "buy the first figure at a cheaper price and then all the other web exclusives to get its accessories" mantra with Ultraman, and as someone who doesn't for the most part buy multiple forms it has been a little frustrating to see figures I don't want come with cool effect parts for a figure I do own. While Ultraman Z Original isn't completely innocent of this, it is a far better example. It was only just over 1000 yen more than Alpha Edge, but that 1000 yen gave us a significantly bigger hand count AND a Zestium Beam effect part. On top of that, it's just a really great figure that captures the personality of Z in both the main series and the audio spin-off. AND it wasn't web exclusive!

S.H. Figuarts SC-1 Sevenger

If Z himself was going to make the list then of course the real MVP of Ultraman Z was as well. It's been another extremely kaiju-light year for Ultraman Figuarts this year (things are looking up though with both Golza and Kyrieloid due in 2022), but we did at least get some heroic robot kaiju goodness with S.H. Figuarts Sevenger. Though not the most articulated figure thanks to all the joint coverings, it certainly makes up for it in personality and expression. With King Joe joining the line next year and Windom on display at the last Tamashii Nations event, it hopefully won't be too long to wait before the three STORAGE robots are united once more.

Transformers Kingdom/Generations Selects Galvatron

Galvatron is my favourite Transformers character of all time, so of course this figure was going to make it into the list somewhere. It also helps that this latest "classics" rendition of Galvatron is also a really great figure to begin with, the one Transformers fans have been waiting years for. Even with the unfortunate shoulder mis-assembly present on the initial run of the figure, it still manages to be a great update to the original G1 design. Even better is that Hasbro gave collectors the option of which Galvatron they'd rather have - toon accurate purple in the Kingdom line, or toy accurate grey in Generations Selects. Both have their merits, and though the Generations Selects one may slightly edge out the Kingdom version in terms of quality (as I'd expect, it was more expensive after all), I'm extremely happy to welcome both into my collection.

MAFEX Spider-Man (Peter B. Parker)

Last year MAFEX and I didn't have the best relationship. My comic-paint Spider-Man had both wrist joints break five minutes out of the box, and getting replacement parts from Medicom was long and tedious (though ultimately successful). A few Into the Spider-Verse releases later though, and I totally buy the hype of this line. Miles was an amazing figure too, but as a much bigger and overall less fragile figure it's Peter B. Parker that makes the 2021 list. Medicom nailed the look of the animation model perfectly with that head sculpt, and as well as being just an all-round great Spider-Man figure underneath it's got all those soft goods clothes on top to make it even more exciting. Given that I'm still buying MAFEX figures now, clearly that relationship has been well and truly repaired.

Meisho Movie Realization Ronin Mandalorian

The Movie Realization line is back! Kind of at least - technically it didn't go away for all that long anyway, but it is quite strange to see it return in the form of US-exclusive releases that the Japanese Tamashii Nations website doesn't even acknowledge. Nevertheless, the Mandalorian was the perfect fit for the line so the fact it happened one way or another is the most important thing. While many fans may rather wait for the Beskar version being released alongside top-knot Grogu next year, as far as the core Mandalorian figure is concerned I argue that this is the stronger release. The Beskar version might have the jet pack, but the design feels oddly lacking without the signature cape. Meanwhile not only does this version have it, but it's the first (and currently only) use of soft goods in the entire line. On top of that, the older brown/tan colouring of Mando's armour just suits the line's aesthetic so much better - giving him a far more war-torn samurai look as well as a much better differentiation from the similarly silver Jango Fett. Granted I'll probably buy the Beskar version as well because who can say no to that Grogu, but it's impressive how its announcement didn't make this one feel any less special.

Power Rangers Lightning Collection Mighty Morphin Tenga Warrior

This year's top spot is just as confusing for me as it probably is for you. To this day the Lightning Collection Tenga Warrior still baffles me. How did Hasbro make a figure that's bigger, better sculpted and better painted than every other figure in the main range and STILL has as many accessories as it does? AND it's only $20? Yes it's an army builder figure, but when Ranger figures that all share the same mould constantly miss out key details you don't expect what's arguably one of the least reusable figures in the entire line to come out as amazing as this. The Tenga Warrior is both a blessing and a curse - a blessing in that it shows what the Lightning Collection is really capable of, and a curse in that it puts nearly every other figure in the line to shame. I have a feeling it's going to be a long time until the line puts out another figure as good as this one, so Hasbro should bask in this well-deserved victory.


As always I want to thank everyone who's taken the time to come and have a look at the site this year - no matter how in-depth your visit might have been. It's been an extremely good year for the site, as not only did I manage to post the most reviews in a single year since starting it up but it's also completely smashed previous records when it comes to both monthly and annual views. Hopefully 2022 will be another momentous year, as I finally make the steps to take My Shiny Toy Robots into its next phase. This starts with a brand new logo, making its debut on the title image for this post. Designed by artist and friend ARQ (@TheDuckGod), this is just the first step in a number of changes I have planned for this year. Whether I manage to tick them all off is another thing entirely, but at least a plan is in place. In the meantime, have a great new year's wherever you're reading it and I'll join you in 2022 for more reviews!

1 comment:

Oar said...

Happy new year, and the new banner at the top is really nice! I'll miss Don and Kouta looking over their identical children, though.

Who would have thought a lightning collection one-off mook would be the most impressive toy in all of 2021?! I certainly didn't. (Though Z Original would get my personal vote, either him or Peter B Parker.)