Friday 8 September 2023

Toybox REVIEW: Shokugan Modeling Project Daidenjin

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Release Date: December 2022
RRP: 6600 yen

One of the great joys about the Shokugan Modeling Project (the line formerly known as Super Mini-Pla) is that it's producing it's fair share of classic Super Sentai mecha in addition to just the post-Zyuranger ones that most of the world is more familiar with. For example, immediately after going all-out with Hyakujuu Sentai Gaoranger it jumped a further 21 years back in time to visit a different landmark Sentai series - 1980's Denshi Sentai Denjiman. The fourth instalment in the franchise, this was the second to be co-produced with Marvel Comics and the only series to receive a direct sequel in the form of the succeeding show Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan. Shokugan Modeling Project Daidenjin is the first of two SMP releases from Denjiman, the second Super Sentai series its covered since its rebranding.

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Shokugan Modeling Project Daidenjin is comprised of two boxes, both of which are released as one "case". The outer case packaging is the usual two-colour gradient box, this time being a rather fetching aqua green that meets into a strip of white at the middle. Each side of the box sports a number of images of the finished kit in both modes alongside its name and the Denshi Sentai Denziman logo. Of course these are all images that are printed in full colour on the actual boxes, but it's always nice to see this outer packaging have some flair to it even if it's the first thing to be thrown away.

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Onto the main packaging itself, which as always is directly based on the original DX Daidenjin box (manufactured by Bandai subsidiary Popy) from 1980. This includes big dynamic images of Daidenjin in both modes - placed the SMP kit on the box where the DX toy would have originally appeared. There's also an appearance by the Denzi Tiger - a Flying Fortress which carries Daidenjin into battle. This was also released in the SMP line as a Premium Bandai exclusive. On top of all the images you all have all the other regulars like the Denjiman lettering and logos as well as the Bandai and Shokugan Modeling Project logo. Inside the kit's parts are spread across a number of different coloured runners, alongside some pre-painted parts, sticker sheets, building instructions and a piece of soda-flavoured candy (one piece per box).

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Daidenjin is notable not only for being the second in the pantheon of Super Sentai mecha, but also the first transforming robot in the franchise. Its vehicle mode is the Denzi Fighter – a futuristic fighter jet capable of speeds up to Mach 15. The first box of this mini-pla set comprises the front half of the Denzi Fighter, whilst the second contains the back half. As the instructions guide you to build the kit straight into Fighter mode, once both are built all you have to do is plug the two together. Like most SMP kits it's a fairly straightforward build that beginners should have no trouble with alongside more experienced modellers, with stickers mainly used for areas too detailed to be directly moulded into the plastic. There are a couple of wraparound stickers (such as the black on the robot's forearms) that are just as easily painted if you'd prefer. Upon completing the kit you'll have the Denzi Fighter in all its glory – a rather boxy but no less loveable retro sci-fi jet. The use of multiple coloured plastics really makes the kit pop, and there's sports of moulded detail dotted across the surface to add some panel lining if desired.

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The Denzi Fighter does have some moving parts (such as hinged wings), but as you can expect these are all really there to aid the transformation. In terms of functionality the mode itself has, the front landing gear can be retracted up and into the cockpit area. It also fits onto articulated display stands fairly well (no designated stand port, but plenty of surface area means it balances well), giving you lots of options for flight posing.

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The transformation from Denzi Fighter to Daidenjin isn't particularly complicated, but what's impressive about it as how clean the resulting robot mode is. Save for the cockpit piece hanging on the back and the folded wings on either side of the legs, there are barely any pieces on Daidenjin to suggest that it was ever a jet at all. It's a really striking robot mode that makes excellent use of colour placement, with that big yellow D standing out on the chest whilst the sections of red, white and black do a great job of breaking up all the blue. Two optional face sculpts are included with the release - a fully pre-painted one with yellow eyes, or a second one that you can add gold (with black dots) eye stickers too for a more detailed look. Truth be told I forgot all about the second face until I'd taken all these pictures, which is why it doesn't appear in this gallery. But either option is good, because what you have here is a design that really makes the most of those boxy, retro aesthetics.

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Articulation has always been a massive selling point of Super Sentai mini-pla (whether it be through the standard line or SMP), but when you're dealing with a simpler design like Daidenjin then it's able to shine more than ever. Altogether the model kit features; 
- Ball jointed head, waist and wrists 
- Three-point swivel shoulders and hips 
- Double hinge elbows and knees 
- Swivel-hinge ankles Single hinge feet 
- Bicep and thigh swivels 
The SMP line has always packed as much movement into these kits as possible, but in terms of sheer poseability this might just be their best Super Sentai offering yet. With nothing in that super-clean design getting in the way of anything, Daidenjin is free to pose with precision and fluidity. The three-point hips allow the legs to pull down further below the skirt section, adding even more movement to them without clashing against the body. Similarly the shoulder build adds butterfly movement as well as the ability to move upwards and outwards from the torso. The ankle tilt movement is just divine, with a full 90-degree tilt as well as additional movement from the foot hinge just above. Everything is just pulled off so flawlessly here that it's hard to find fault with anything.

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Accessories are another area the line goes all out, particularly with these earlier Super Sentai robos who make up for their lack of components with a more varied arsenal. Altogether Daidenjin comes with four pairs of swappable hands (open, two pairs of weapon holding and knife-strike hands), the Denjiken sword, the Daidenzine Boomerang and Denzi Ball meteor hammer. The latter weapon is a spiked knuckle attachment sporting a metal chain with a big spiked ball attached to the other end, akin to a flail. Usually just the sword would be enough to appease, so getting three very different weapons is very exciting. Each one features pre-painted parts, with stickers used for the logo detailing. It adds all the more variety to what was already a highly poseable figure on its own, as well as the opportunity to display a Super Sentai robot with something other than a sword – which is often lacking in some of the more recent entries.

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It starts to sound like a broken record after so much praise, but this line just never seems to miss. Shokugan Modeling Project Daidenjin is another incredible addition to this ever-growing range of Super Sentai mecha, taking even a comparatively basic design like this and turning it into something amazing. Sure you don't have the joy of combining or the more intricate design of later robots in the franchise, but between the satisfying transformation, incredible articulation, varied accessories and simply sheer wonder of the design's retro charm Daidenjin is every bit as good as its successors. Every time SMP touches Super Sentai it turns to gold, so long may it continue.

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