Sunday 31 December 2023

Favourite Toys of 2023

It's that time again! Before we all start to ring in 2024 let's look back on another great year of toy releases and ten of my personal favourites. As usual the rules are simple - I've only selected figures that were first released in 2023, rather than anything I happen to have picked up this year. I won't spoil the contents, but as per usual it's been a pretty big year for Bandai Tamashii Nations, who take up over half the spots. Given the focus of my collection that probably isn't all that surprising to hear, but hopefully there are a few surprise entries on here that you might not have expected.

So without further ado, onto the list!

With the Scarlet Spider being yet another release of a body type MAFEX have been putting out for years now one could argue that collectors knew exactly what they'd be getting with this figure, but when the quality is this good predictability is never a bad thing. That tried and tested Spider-Man mould is as good as ever here, the simplicity of the all-red body suit made up for with that gorgeous soft goods hoody and little details such as the belt and web-shooter gauntlets. The Scarlet Spider also wins points for the fantastic range of webbing effects it comes with, including all of the staples we've been seeing for years now as well as a few more unique ones as well. The line's had its issues here and there, but time and time again MAFEX have proved they are the kings when it comes to Spidey figures at this size and price point.

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Geats MagnumBoost Form

"Titular Kamen Rider character at a cheaper price point" has been an S.H. Figuarts staple for some time now (although surprisingly that isn't the case next year with Gotchard), and it can be a bit of a toss up just how Bandai are going to play it. Sometimes they'll give you the bare minimum and it'll just be the figure itself, and other times they'll throw in accessories as they would any other release to sweeten the deal. Kamen Rider Geats MagnumBoost Form is easily one of their best offerings in this very select category yet, because not only did it include enough accessories to feel like a "complete" release but also brought with it one of the coolest gimmicks the Kamen Rider Figuarts range has seen yet. Form changing isn't a new concept for the line, but never has it felt this intuitive or so easy to pull off. A very slippery slope into wanting all of the Geats Riders.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Suit Jack -The Animation-

At the very beginning of the year I reviewed Ultraman Suit Taro, and it was one of the most disappointing S.H. Figuarts releases I'd picked up in a while. But I have always loved the look of Ultraman Suit Jack, and with ULTRAMAN Final having turned out so well nothing was going to get in the way of my excitement for this release. Bandai did not disappoint, offering up a brilliant rendition of the manga/show's most unique take on an Ultraman suit. Bulky yet surprisingly light and beautifully detailed, a minimal accessory count couldn't stop this from making the 2023 top ten. If you're going to buy any character from the ULTRAMAN range, make it this one.

Transformers Legacy Evolution Armada Universe Megatron

While my focus on Transformers recently for the most part has been the Studio Series 86 line, it's been great to see the Legacy range embrace the whole of Transformers history rather than just focusing on G1. Having never owned an original Armada Megatron, this was one release that definitely couldn't pass me by. The lack of a Mini-Con gimmick (or even mini-figure) is disappointing, but in my eyes the overall figure manages to make up for it. The original character design has hardly been tampered with at all, so much so that even the transformation is largely the same as the original toy. Just a whole lot of fun, and with the announcement of a Titan class Tidal Wave coming next year I hope the Transformers Armada Decepticon family continues to grow.

S.H. Figuarts Eleking

I have been crying out for an S.H. Figuarts Eleking since I first watched Ultraseven back in 2017, and finally Bandai have delivered. As I previously said in my review, this was perhaps the biggest gap in the Ultraseven range. It's yet another release where the sheer quality of the figure makes up for any shortcomings one might have about the accessory count, with both a fantastic sculpt and possibly the best articulated tail that Bandai Tamashii Nations have ever put out on an articulated kaiju figure. With Eleking having gone on to appear in so many other Ultraman series as well this is one that should have some pretty wide appeal, and the fact it was a retail release just makes it all the sweeter.

Power Rangers Lightning Collection Rita Repulsa

The Lightning Collection (as well as the Power Rangers franchise in general for that matter) isn't in the best of places right now. Not only were there a string of releases with QC errors, but now it seems to have gone on an indefinite hiatus. But if this really is the end, it definitely went out on a bang with Rita. While there's plenty to be cynical about with the six "Remastered" Rangers that also made up this 30th anniversary selection of figures, Rita Repulsa was a much needed addition to the line - having only previously appeared in a two-pack with Lord Zedd. This deluxe Rita really blew all expectations out of the water, far surpassing what the Lightning Collection had done elsewhere. I still maintain that these are among the best facial sculpts Hasbro have ever put out.

S.H. MonsterArts Gigan (1972)

Showa era Godzilla fans have plenty to be excited about as the S.H. MonsterArts line has finally started to show it the respect it deserves, and what better present to celebrate Gigan's 50th birthday than his long-awaited arrival into the line (in his classic guise at least anyway). MonsterArts figures seem to have their fair share of issues but there is very little to find fault with Gigan, who looks like he's jumped straight out of the film. He's going to look even better when Godzilla joins him at the beginning of next year, and then when Jet Jaguar and (hopefully) Megalon arrive too the party can really start.

S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Riderman

When it comes to Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider figures I imagine most people will be adding Faiz to their favourite toys lists this year (and with good reason, that was another great release), but the Showa fan in me can't ignore just how good Riderman is. Technically I could have also thrown V3 in here since I got him as part of his second January 2023 shipment, but there's just so much more on offer with Riderman. Not only are you getting a great figure (cloth scarves should have been staple on Shinkocchou Seihou Riders from the start), but those alternate arms really make sure you're getting your bang for your buck here. I'm sure there are some put there that probably feel a way about the exposed mouth, but the sculpt looks superb. As one of the most unique looking Riders in the franchise, it feels oddly fitting that he has one of the best figures.

S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Gokai Red

The Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts comeback tour has been an absolute pleasure to see, but having the franchise also join the prestigious Shinkocchou Seihou line just shows Bandai are showing renewed commitment even if full teams are unlikely at this point in time. As great as the figure was at the time the original Gokaiger mould hasn't aged that well, and that's if your lucky enough to have one where the hips haven't crumbled to dust. This new version is everything a Super Sentai fan could dream of, not only coming with every accessory the original came with (sans the first run bonus Gokai Darin of course) but also improving on them as well. Built in Gokai Cylinders, more key variations and most importantly the ability to pull off a convincing cross-armed pose without the need for a separate piece. The biggest tragedy of this release is that we probably won't see the rest of the team done to this standard. I can't wait to see Kyoryu Red get this level of love next year.

There's a reason I tend to use "favourite toys" rather than "best toys" when I put these lists together. BUZZmod Kamina probably isn't the best figure on this list (he certainly isn't the best value for money), but when you've waited 15 years for something it would have to be something really bad to not end up being your favourite somehow. My full review of this figure will be up in the next few days, but finally getting articulated figures of the Gurren Lagann cast is a dream come true. There's no denying these figures are expensive, but the quality is definitely there to back it up. As fiddly as it may be, it's hard not to instantly fall in love with that pliable soft goods cape. Yoko is already confirmed to be joining him next year, but I really hope Aniplex have plans to put out Simon and Nia as well. This is my first experience with the BUZZmod line so I don't know how likely it is, but based on what I've seen they seem pretty good at releasing main casts - they're just a little slow about it. I've waited this long for Kamina, I'm happy to wait a little longer if need be.


And that's all for 2023! Thanks again to everyone who's read or commented on any part of the site this year - you're the reason I keep doing this. While I haven't posted quite as much as I hoped to over the past 12 months (that backlog still hasn't gone down), I'd like to think there's been an improvement in quality to make up for the quantity? Speaking of which - next year I'm looking to downsize a little when it comes to my toy collection, so while I certainly won't be giving it up outright there'll probably be less of them once I've managed to get through said backlog. Well, I say this now but I know the stranglehold Bandai have over me. In it's place though I definitely want to put more focus back into show reviews, starting with finally completing Kamen Rider once and for all (I'm currently halfway through Skyrider, and after that it's just Super-1 left) before moving back to cover older Super Sentai and Ultraman shows as well. But enough about me! What were your favourite toy releases of 2023? Let me know in the comments below, and I hope you all have a happy and safe new year. See you in 2024!

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