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Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord

It was now a couple of weeks ago I posted about some toys I always wanted as a kid, but never got. Shortly after, I rectified some of those decades old injustices by purchasing the Dragonzord with Green Ranger from Bandai’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers line of action figures from 1993. The Dragonzord was my number 2 miss, but number 1 had always been the Deluxe Megazord from that same line. Well, predictably, I have now made peace with the two biggest toy omissions from my youth by securing my own set of Dinozords!

The Megazord was always appealing to me because it was essentially five separate toys that could combine into two additional toys. That’s basically seven toys in one box, and the fact that it was pretty screen accurate made it appeal to me even more. I was just a casual fan of the television show, but those toys were just too awesome to ignore. The demand for the toys was something I couldn’t overcome though, so I learned to go without. As an adult though, I don’t have to.

“We need Dinozord power now!”

I purchased a Megazord secondhand. Unlike the Dragonzord set I acquired, this one did not come with a box, but it did come with all of the parts. In my search for an authentic early 90s Megazord I found it was common to find some missing the sword, shield, and especially the canons that double as feet for the pterodactyl zord. Some also would feature a broken gun on the triceratops zord or missing horns. I assume most of these that were acquired in 1993 were played with and not kept on a shelf so it’s not a surprise that it’s hard to find a fully intact Megazord. It’s also why these things end up being quite expensive. I don’t feel as good about the price I paid for this set as I did the Dragonzord, but it is what it is. I’m actually relieved the seller no longer had the box or else I probably would have had to spend more!

Like the Dragonzord, I had some options when it came to buying a Megazord in 2020. Bandai released two different versions of the Megazord in 2010 as part of the Legacy line of figures. That one, from what I can tell based on video reviews, is very similar to this one. The functionality is virtually identical as both basically transform as it did on television. The standard 2010 version has a pretty ugly sword, but there was an updated version with some diecast parts and a much nicer looking sword. Overall, the 2010 Megazord appears to be a touch smaller, but the thing that bugged me about it is the triceratops zord lost the gun articulation on its tail. It’s a really minor thing, but it irritated me because it’s a clear downgrade. The 2010 version should have been superior in every way to a toy released in 1993! Also like the Dragonzord, there’s a Soul of Chogokin version from Tamashii Nations. It’s fantastic looking and easily the superior Megazord, but it’s also upwards of $300 at this point. There was also a model kit, Mini-Pla, version that’s almost adorably small and still retains the five zords into one (unlike the Build-A-Figure version from the Legacy Collection line that’s just an action figure) that I would have loved to consider, but it’s long since sold out and now fetches around 200 bucks on the secondary market. Ultimately, it was the 93 Megazord that vexed me as a kid so it was the 93 Megazord that I should acquire.

On their own, they’re merely okay, but put them together…

In case you’re not familiar with the Megazord concept, please allow me to present this refresher. The Megazord is the combination of the five Dinozords. Each of the five original Power Rangers was aligned with a prehistoric beast and each Ranger controlled what is essentially a giant robotic representation for each beast. They are: Tyranosaurus, Pterodactyl, Triceratops, Sabre-toothed Tiger (sic), and Mastodon. In nearly every episode, the monster of the day the Power Rangers are fighting grows to roughly the size of a skyscraper, so the Rangers attack via their zords. They can attack separately, though rarely do. Instead, they combine their beasts into one massive robot: the Megazord.

The Megazord actually has two forms: tank mode and battle mode. Tank mode is the less elegant version as it’s basically just the Megazord, but sitting down without a head. The T-Rex serves as the body, and the sabre-toothed tiger and triceratops form the right and left legs respecitively. The mastodon zord loses its head and wraps around the T-Rex to form the arms of the Megazord while the pterodactyl zord just sort of rides on the thing. The feet of the pterodactyl become the canons which attach to the mastodon arms, while the mastodon head sits on the T-Rex chest and the whole thing rolls similar to a tank.

There’s the face you know and love!

When the Power Rangers want to switch to the more memorable battle mode, the tank basically just stands up. The mastodon head is removed and the pterodactyl becomes a chest plate. The T-Rex head folds down and into its chest revealing the Megazord’s head and hands pop out of the arms. The canons from before are affixed to the Megazord’s back and look like boosters or something. The Megazord can attack with its fists, or rely on the power sword. The mastodon head can also be utilized as a shield, though it rarely was used in the show in this fashion.

Both transformations are essentially identical in how they occur with the toy as they do on television. This is probably due to the designer of the Megazord having to account for future toys down the road. At least, that’s what I assume. The show really only takes liberties in that once the models combine on the show, they’re swapped out with a costumed actor and the proportions change slightly. The most notable being the head of the costumed performer is much larger than what ends up on the toy. The only other aspect of the toy that isn’t entirely screen accurate is the T-Rex tail, which kind of just disappears on TV but is folded up the back of the toy. And the actor is able to move in a far more graceful manner than the toy. The Megazord is basically only articulated at the shoulders and hips and they’re just hinge joints. The lack of ball-jointed shoulders and basic elbow articulation really limit the available poses for the toy as it basically can only assume one position on your shelf.

This version of the Megazord is composed almost exclusively of colored plastic. This means there’s less opportunity for paint-slop and chipping over the years. The graphics and highlights are all done with stickers so when buying secondhand you’re at the mercy of whomever originally put these stickers on. Like the Dragonzord, the stickers aren’t 100% screen accurate, but it’s really only noticeable when doing a direct comparison. It doesn’t look like the original toy asked too much of parents and kids when it came to applying them and my unit looks as good as one could expect of a toy from 1993. It was clearly loved and enjoyed by a kid long ago and it shows. The sword is quite attractive as it has a shiny paint-app and is probably the portion of the figure that would be most likely to show ware. Same for the similar chrome portions of the other zords, namely the mastodon tusks and triceratops horns.

Whether you have instructions or not, transforming the Megazord is rather easy since you can basically just watch the show. The individual zords offer limited play. The mastodon and triceratops basically just sit there, though the triceratops has wheels. The pterodactyl also doesn’t do much, but since it’s a flier it doesn’t have to. The little canons can clip to it like feet, but they look stupid and I don’t recall seeing them in the show. The saber-toothed tiger has solid articulation though and it can emulate a running motion while also featuring moveable fangs. It’s a shame Bandai didn’t go the extra step of putting a hinged jaw on this one. The tyranosaurus has about as much function as you would expect, though it’s a little disappointing that it’s mouth has a big, red, wad, of plastic for the throat that makes it look odd. The connections are easy to utilize and pull apart just as easily, but they also won’t just fall off. The only complicated part is the mastodon which basically splits down the middle and clips around the T-Rex. Both of the leg zords are super simple, especially the triceratops which just has to fold its tail in and bend its neck, and even kids should be able to handle it.

In hand, the Megazord has some nice weight to it. It stands about ten and a half inches tall and is noticably larger than the Dragonzord, which is about nine and a quarter inches to the top of the head. Since it’s all plastic, it does get a bit creaky. The joints on mine are still fairly tight and I have no issues getting the Megazord to hold its arms out forward, basically it’s lone pose. On the individual zords, the tails of the triceratops and saber-tooth tiger are loose and getting them to stand in a blasting pose is a balancing act. The T-Rex tail is also a bit loose and doesn’t stay locked in place for very long. That’s also partly due to the toy needing to be bent forward at a pretty extreme angle so the legs don’t interfere with the tail. The little flaps that are the pterodactyl’s wings are also fairly loose, but they also don’t have to do much. All of the connections though are really satisfying and it’s a lot of fun to plug and play. It makes a nice clicking sound when things are put together and it’s really impressive what Bandai achieved since it seems like there’s little chance of forcing something into place at the risk of breaking it.

Of course, the fun doesn’t end here. If you have the Dragonzord, you can take advantage of that as well. The Dragonzord has a battle mode in which it basically assumed the role of the T-Rex zord in the Megazord construction. The mastodon becomes the arms as the chest piece is removed and the Dragonzord arms fold in to make a new chest piece. A face can then fall down from the Dragonzord head while the legs of the Megazord serve the same purpose here. The T-Rex and pterodactyl are free to do whatever they wish, and in the show the T-Rex would often fight alongside the Dragonzord in this battle mode, though in toy form the scale is way off. The Dragonzord’s tail also combines with the former chest piece and the included shaft to make the Power Lance, or Power Lazer Drill (as the box refers to it as). It’s pretty neat to behold, and like the Megazord the transformation process is really satisfying. The only thing I don’t like about it is the drop-down face on the Dragonzord has nothing behind it so it kind of just swings there. And while the lance is pretty cool looking, it’s functionally useless since it’s so huge. It has a handle that basically just rests in the hand of the zord, but the zord itself can’t actually wield the thing. Modern iterations make this aspect work better by fudging with the scale just like the show does by including an extra lance for play purposes.

If you wish to leave your Megazord intact though, you can still combine it with the Dragonzord to from the Mega-Dragonzord. This one is a bit less interesting as it’s basically the Dragonzord with the chest and tail removed and draped over the top of the Megazord. The tail can clip onto one of the sides, as can the discarded chest piece of the Dragonzord, though it basically just looks cool. This version of the character was deployed more like a tank in the show as it would just shoot a giant laser at the enemy as opposed to battling with fists and sword or whatever. It’s also this version that can combine with the unfortunately named carrier zord, Titanus, to form the Ultrazord. It’s another tank-like mode and the only change is the chest of Titanus is clipped onto the chest of the Mega-Dragonzord as it’s placed inside the carrier zord. I never really cared for the Ultrazord as a kid, so I have little compulsion to go after a Titanus so you probably shouldn’t expect a review of that one to come.

I don’t see myself getting a Titanus to form the Ultrazord.

There’s no doubt in my mind that had I been able to collect this line as a kid I would have loved the hell out of it. These are some of the best toys of the early 90s and it’s no surprise they ended up being incredibly popular. I could see myself transforming and de-transforming these things constantly and swapping in all manner of other action figures I had laying around as bad guys, maybe even big stuffed animals. I was also the type of kid that could busy himself for long stretches of time just playing with my action figures so imagination was never an issue. Not that these toys even require much since they’re so similar to what was presented in the show.

Acquiring both the Megazord and the Dragonzord has certainly scratched an itch for me. I don’t think it’s going to lead to much more from me where Power Rangers are concerned, but who knows? My kids have really taken to it, and I read Hasbro is looking to release a Megazord later this year so I may need to keep an eye out for that if my kids remain interested. In looking at the other iterations that have come, I’m certainly tempted to by the Soul of Chogokin version, but I likely won’t be able to justify the expense and take on another line of collecting. That’s fine though, because I have what I always wanted. It may have taken nearly three decades, but I finally have a Megazord!


Bandai Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Dragonzord

So a week ago I did a post that I titled The Toys that Got Away. It was about toys that I had pined for as a child, but for one reason or another, was unable to ever acquire. It wasn’t intended to be a sympathy piece or anything, because I had an awesome childhood and rarely was left wanting, and was intended to be a shared experience piece as everyone can likely recall a toy or other item that they wanted really bad at one point in time, but never attained. Well, the thing with toys is that they never go away. Sure, they disappear from store shelves (and in the case of toy stores, sometimes the very shelves disappear) and eventually go out of production, but there’s almost always a robust after-market for even the most obscure of toys. And once a kid becomes an adult, they usually have access to more money and that’s certainly the case for me so after making that post I went out and did the predictable: I bought a Dragonzord.

Back in 93, I found myself a fan of the show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Many kids at the time could claim the same and Bandai was unprepared for the show’s popularity. And that’s important because Bandai handled the distribution of toys which meant that come Christmas 1993 a lot of kids wondered why there were no Power Rangers under the tree. I was definitely one of those kids, to a point, but I think my fandom took hold more in 1994. That’s when I found a flyer for the Dragonzord which came bundled with an 8″ Green Ranger action figure. I hung onto that advertisement for months telling anyone who would listen that I wanted that for my birthday when the summer came around. I figured that was enough time for my mom or grandmother to find it somewhere, but alas I was wrong. I couldn’t tell you what I did get, probably some Genesis games, maybe some X-Men toys, but I did not get a Dragonzord.

It’s been 26 years and I’ve hung onto that. Not that it has haunted me or anything, but any time I encounter the Power Rangers franchise I inevitably think about those old toys I was unable to acquire. Recently, I’ve started watching the original series on Netflix with my own kids and they seem to like it. The show is just as insane as I remember and it often feels like it’s making up the rules of the setting as it goes along. As an adult, it’s really easy to now notice when the old footage from Japan is spliced into the American production. It’s still pretty fun, in a good-bad way, but more than anything it just constantly reminds me how much I felt I had missed out when it came to the toys.

After doing some light research, I decided to just go for it. Going after a Dragonzord in 2020 presents more options. Bandai reissued the big guy as part of its Legacy line and Tamashii Nations has also released one semi-recently as part of its Soul of Chogokin premium collector line. There’s even a mini-one from a separate line of model kits that was really tempting, but in the end I felt I had to just get the one I had wanted as a kid. Maybe I’ll be tempted to upgrade at a later date with a more modern one, but I feel like I’d be doing my inner child a disservice by not getting the one I had wanted all those years ago.

I was able to score a Dragonzord complete in box on eBay along with the coveted Green Ranger (aka the best Ranger). I feel a little crazy in doing it since I don’t consider myself a Power Rangers fan. I have no idea where I’ll end up putting this thing, but I finally have a Dragonzord.

Before this guy arrived I tried to keep my expectations in check. This is, after all, a toy from the early 90s and it’s not going to compare to what I’m used to buying these days. It’s also the Dragonzord, a character that was pretty stationary in the show. He’s got stubby arms and basically no neck. He can kind of walk and has a tail with a drill-bit at the end, but mostly he’s supposed to just stand there and look cool (unless you have a Megazord to combine him with). And then there’s also the fact that this is a used toy with stickers that have already been applied that likely aren’t going to look great now.

The box the figures come in is pretty intense looking. Mine, being used and supposedly stashed in an attic, is pretty beat-up, but the graphics are all intact. There’s even some bios on the side of the box and, of course, advertisements for the rest of the line on the rear. It’s a pseudo-window box release as there’s a space for the Green Ranger to peek through, so buyers knew they were getting the figure as well. To see the main event though, you have to open the box up.

The Dragonzord comes packaged without his chest piece and everything is housed tightly in styrofoam. There are instructions for how to piece the thing together and also how to integrate it with other sets. There would have been a sticker sheet as well, but that’s not the case with a used set. His tail is in one pice, and there’s also a stand, base, and handle for the Power Lance for use when combined with the Megazord set. The Green Ranger comes with his golden shield on so he looks cool in the box. I assume his blade-blaster was holstered as well originally.

The Green Ranger stands a little over eight inches tall – let’s call it eight and a quarter. In 1994 this line represented a new era in terms of articulation, though by today’s standards it’s not quite as good. Tommy is articulated with a balljoint at the neck that actually sits below the neckline and in the figure’s chest. Mine is a little loose, but he holds a pose no problem and has a good range of motion there. His shoulders, on the other hand, are nice and tight and they’re on balljoints as well. He has a bicep swivel, and hinges at the elbows, wrist, and knuckles. The thumbs are frozen in place, and the index finger on each hand is a separate piece to give him trigger-finger poses. His legs are on balljoints with swivels above the knee. The knee is a standard hinge joint and there’s a hinge joint at the ankle as well. Excepting the neck, all of the joints are good and tight on my figure so he can hold any pose I can put him in. He doesn’t have quite enough articulation to achieve a wealth of posing options as he’s really harmed by the lack of waist and torso articulation, but if I had a team of Rangers I could probably get a decent display out of them.

The sculpt for this figure is the same sculpt Bandai used for all of Rangers. For the males, it’s fine, but for the females it looked worse. He’s got some bulk to him, but nothing outlandish. A lot of the figure is molded plastic, save for the white diamonds on the body and the green ones on the gloves and boots. The only other paint is reserved for the helmet and it’s nice and clean. The shield is a hard, light, plastic and it clasps together at the top seam. It can easily be removed and if done so the chest features a power coin design, something Bandai did with all of these figures even though no such design is featured in the show. For the Green Ranger, the coin image also looks like Titanus for some reason, as opposed to the Dragonzord or the emblem he has in the show. Students of the show will also notice that the Green Ranger isn’t 100% accurate as he’s missing the gold bands around his biceps, and his gloves and boots should have gold trim. The green diamonds should also be triangles. This is Bandai just being cheap as they copied the same design as the other Rangers, just switching in green. Even still, he looks the part enough and is an attractive piece. The only other negative is those hands are a bit annoying. Articulated fingers were a bad idea, but we didn’t know it at the time. It can be more challenging than it should be to get the blaster into one of the hands and have it look right. The blaster is also unpainted, but that was pretty common of accessories back in the 90s. Also of note, there’s no dragon dagger! Oh well.

Now lets talk about the big guy. The Dragonzord is only slightly taller than the Green Ranger as he’s just a tick under eleven inches. Future zords in this line would come with tiny representations of the Ranger pilot, which actually would have made a lot of sense for this figure had Bandai thought of it since the Green Ranger sometimes stood on the Dragonzord’s head. The Dragonzord has a lot of stickers that I thankfully did not have to put on. Some have taken a beating and could use some glue, but all in all this guy looks pretty nice for an almost 30 year old toy. As anticipated, there isn’t a whole lot of articulation to speak of. He basically can move his legs only. The drill-tip of the tail can spin, and if you disengage the arms from the body you can kind of gain a little articulation there, but that’s pretty much it. The horn on his head can also slide back and forth as I think it’s supposed to position straight-up for the fighting mode transformation. He’s basically a dragon-shaped tank so he’s not supposed to do much aside from just stand there and look cool.

The Dragonzord disassembles pretty easily, and I presume attaching him to the Megazord components would be just as easy. Everything clicks together in a very satisfying manner, and the designer took care to make sure parts can only go in a certain way to keep things simple. Popping off the tail is a cinch and from there the whole body basically splits in two with the chest piece sliding out from there. The chest piece is battery operated and is supposed to blink and make Dragonzord sounds, but mine arrived with two batteries that long ago burst inside it so mine does not function. With the chest piece out, you can also drop open the Dragonzord’s mouth to reveal a robotic face underneath for when it’s combined with some of the Megazord parts to go into its fighting mode. It’s in that mode that it’s supposed to use the Power Lance, which is just the chestpiece affixed to a separate part and the tail attaches to the top. It’s a very cumbersome-looking weapon, but it’s still pretty cool. The whole unit has some nice weight to it. It’s a bit creaky, but doesn’t feel cheap.

That’s a big lance.

As a toy in 2020, this thing is actually still pretty cool. There’s not a whole lot that can be done to improve the Dragonzord. The tail isn’t entirely accurate as it’s supposed to be longer with more segmented parts, but then the Power Lance would look even more ridiculous. Modern toys basically just include extra pieces for the tail that get discarded when the lance is formed, but Bandai was likely looking to keep the extra pieces at a minimum since kids tend to lose them (plus they add cost). Some of the sculpting could be better, like the hands of the Dragonzord which feature stickers for the missile portions. For the most part though, this looks like the thing from my television so there’s little to nitpick. The Green Ranger could obviously have better articulation and a paint-job that better matches the show, but even he still looks pretty cool. Never underestimate the appeal of a shiny, golden, shield.

As a result, I have no regrets about picking this guy up. I do wish I had inquired with the seller regarding the electronics as that wasn’t disclosed in the listing, but I honestly don’t know if it would have stopped me from buying it. I could always buy another chest piece as loose parts show up on eBay from time to time anyway. And since this is an old toy, I don’t feel as much anxiety when I let my kids play with it. The only worry I have is that shield on the Green Ranger getting broken. Mostly, now I just wish I had a Megazord to combine with this one!


The Toys that Got Away

My whole life I have loved toys. Anytime I had money as a kid I wanted to spend it on a new toy, for my birthday I always wanted more toys, and when it came time to write Santa a letter I asked for more toys. Most kids like toys, that’s a given, but I feel like many mix in some other loves as well. Maybe arts and crafts, movies, books, comics, etc. And I liked a lot of that stuff too, but not enough to sacrifice even a tiny fraction of my toy allotment. As an adult, my love continues though I’m not as single-minded when it comes to my pursuits and hobbies. Though even now, few things thrill me in such a unique way as a brand new toy.

For a kid with a middle-class upbringing, I really wasn’t left wanting for too much. My parents usually delivered around the holidays and I had a grandmother that seemed to enjoy buying me toys as much as I enjoyed receiving them. It also helped that I liked action figures and they usually weren’t too expensive. Most Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cost less than a Barbie, and I never really got into more expensive properties like Transformers and Lego. Sure, I had a few from both lines here and there, but for the most part I focused on one major franchise.

Even though I rarely lacked for anything, inevitably there’s always something that remains elusive. Either the toy was hard to find or it arrived at an inopportune time, but there are a few items that vexed me as a child enough to still leave a lasting imprint. Now that I’m an adult, there’s sometimes a temptation to try and fill that void now that I have the means, even though I know doing such is often fleeting. A recent reintroduction of a certain property to my life has recalled some of these feelings though and is serving as the genesis for this post, and I’ll save those for last. This post though is about the toys I never got as a kid, but am sorely tempted to seek out now.

Venom II – Toy Biz 1992

Toy Biz had the comic book figure on lockdown in the 80s and 90s. It even held both the Marvel and DC license at the same time, before it eventually became owned by Marvel through one of the venerable comic book company’s many bankruptcy filings. Toy Biz no longer exists now, but it was best known for its Marvel action figures and the first line was simply referred to as Marvel Super Heroes. As part of that line’s second series, a Venom action figure was introduced. It came with a plastic spider that resembled the insignia on Venom’s chest. It could be inserted into a rather large hole on the figure’s back and squeezing it caused black goo to ooze from a hole on the figure’s chest. Eventually, a running change would be made to replace the spider with a generic red plunger that was instead intended to just use water instead of slime. The lame gimmick, combined with the giant hole it required exist in the figure, made this Venom kind of shitty.

Toy Biz rectified this with a new figure in 92. I recalled seeing it for what felt like a year on the back of other card-backs, but never could find it in stores. This Venom was leaner with a bit more articulation. It’s gimmick was a tongue-flicking action controlled by a little button on the figure’s back which was simple and didn’t detract much from the sculpt. It also came with a chest attachment that I guess was meant to create the illusion of a living costume, but it was kind of dumb. Venom would become my favorite Marvel character, due mostly to my dad taking me to a flea market where he bought me a copy of Lethal Protector #1. When the Spider-Man cartoon arrived in 94, it meant more Venom action figures so even though I really wanted this one, the sting of never finding him was mostly removed. This is the only toy on this list that I did seek out as an adult. Since I have him now, I can say if I had been able to find one in 92 it probably would have been one of my favorite toys for a long time, at least until the Venom II from the cartoon line with removable mask.

Monty Moose – Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1993)

I had a lot of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys as a kid, most of which are now gone which is unfortunate (kids, don’t let your parents throw away your old action figures!). That line was fairly easy to collect because it was well distributed and also pretty affordable. When the first figures came out, they retailed for $3.99 in my area – that’s a mere two visits from the Tooth Fairy! Because for a few years Turtles were all I wanted I usually cleaned-up at Christmas and birthdays and as a result there were only a few I didn’t get that I really wanted. Some of them included really popular characters like Baxter Stockman and the Rat King, but for some reason the only one that bothers me a little today is Monty Moose.

Monty even got featured in a commercial, though he never made it into the cartoon.

I don’t know what it was about Monty Moose I found so appealing. Moose are kind of funny looking in general, and Monty Moose certainly looked a bit odd with his huge antlers and long snout. I also really liked the blue and red color combo as a kid, so he was just eye-catching to me. And I saw him in a store on one occasion. It was an Osco Drug, which I don’t think even exists anymore. For those who don’t remember, Osco Drug is basically like a CVS or Walgreen’s and it was a store that was never known for its toy selection. My mom and I had to go into one for a prescription for some reason, it wasn’t our usual pharmacy, and we walked down the toy aisle and I saw Monty Moose staring back at me. I tried to get my mom to buy it for me, but I think my birthday was coming up so she was in no mood to buy me a toy with that on the horizon. My birthday would come and go and I had to beg my mom to take me back to that specific store now that I had some birthday money. She thought it was silly to go to a pharmacy, of all places, to spend birthday money, but she took me and of course the figure was gone. I’d never see him again.

Batman Returns Batmissile Batmobile – Kenner 1993

Despite being a bit dark, the Tim Burton Batman films were a merchandising behemoth for DC and Warner Bros. I had a few toys from the first film and the supplemental series Kenner produced in-between, but what really caught my attention was the Batmobile from Batman Returns. If you recall, in the film, the Batmobile demonstrates a new ability to shed the sides of the vehicle to take on the form of a skinny, missile-like, vehicle to fit through a narrow alley. Kenner made a Batmbile that could do the same with the push of a button, and when I saw the commercial I immediately wanted it.

I do wonder how well this thing actually worked.

I had that toy on my Christmas list for 1993, and when Christmas morning came there was indeed a Batmobile under the tree. Only it was the wrong one. I was never one to complain about gifts, so I was happy to have a Batmobile. This was one was a re-release of the first film’s Batmobile with pop-up machine guns. It was pretty cool, just not what I wanted. It was somewhat overshadowed though by another gift that year – a Sega Genesis. Sometime after the holiday, I even saw the Batmobile that I yearned for at the toy store. I had some money and nearly bought it, but I did the smart thing and decided to be happy with what I had and put that cash towards something else. And I feel good about the decision even now and I mostly have it on this list because I’m still curious if the gimmick worked well or not.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Green Ranger and Dragonzord – Bandai 1993

And now we get to the real deal. Recently, my son has shown an interest in Power Rangers largely thanks to his best friend having some affection for the property. We’ve watched around ten episodes or so of the original run, and it’s stirring some memories. Painful memories.

Power Rangers burst onto the scene in the late summer of 1993. Saban Entertainment had found it hard to sell the property to American broadcast networks for years, and maybe because of that there was skepticism that the property would be a success. Whatever the reason, the show ended up being a smash hit, but Bandai of America was woefully unprepared to meet the demand for toys. Which sucked because the toys were awesome! The Rangers themselves were huge, around 9 or 10 inches, with loads of articulation. I had never seen an action figure with finger articulation before, and it blew my mind! I wanted them, but I wasn’t quite sure how much since the show was pretty new. I was also at an age where it was almost taboo to like it. I was supposed to be growing out of toys, but I found them way too compelling.

When these came out, I thought they were the most incredible action figures imaginable.

I didn’t get any Power Rangers toys in 1993 and I spent much of 94 chasing them without much luck. I would eventually get a Power-Morphing Green Ranger, but that was nearly all I got. What I really wanted was the deluxe Green Ranger who came bundled with the Dragonzord. I even found a page from a flyer sitting outside at my grandmother’s house advertising the set. I carried that thing around and clung to it reminding my mom and grandma that I really wanted that toy, but try as they might, it just didn’t happen.

He’s practically a statue, but damn does he looks cool.

I never once saw that toy in a toy store. To this day, I’ve never seen it in person. None of my friends had it, and because of that I still kind of want it. Looking at the set now, I still think that Green Ranger is pretty slick. The Dragonzord impresses me less, but he’s still a delightfully, chunky, robot dragon and robot dragons are pretty awesome on their own. It doesn’t do much beside just look cool, but that’s basically all I ask of my toys in this day and age.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Deluxe Megazord – Bandai 1993

As much as I wanted that Green Ranger and Dragonzord, I think the toy I wanted most that I never was able to my hands on was the Deluxe Megazord from the same line. Tommy the Green Ranger was my favorite of the Power Rangers for the time I watched this show (basically up to the first movie), so I naturally wanted the best toy based on him along with the zord. The White Ranger was cool too, but not as cool as the Green Ranger. The Megazord though, was just too awesome to ignore. It was five robots that combined into one massive robot – how awesome is that?! Yes, I realize this made the toy very similar to Voltron, but the Voltron toy from the 80s didn’t impress me much because it didn’t really look like the cartoon. It had to fudge with the scale of the lions a bit to work in real life, and that’s the type of thing that would bother me as a kid.

Now you can re-enact that same transforming sequence you see every episode!

The Megazord, however, seems like it was designed to be a toy from the very start. The toy basically imitated the transforming sequence from the show to perfection. The only compromise really was in the articulation of the finished product. The show would feature models to assemble the Megazord, but once formed it then swapped that out for a guy in a costume who would battle the monster of the week. He could obviously move in ways a clumsy toy could not, but that seemed like a small price to pay for such accuracy.

Robots that combine to form bigger robots are arguably the greatest toys ever made.

Unlike with the Green Ranger/Dragonzord set, I did actually see the Megazord in the flesh. A kid in my class brought one into school, maybe for show and tell or something, and he showed it to me at his desk. Cruelly, he wouldn’t let me touch it, but he at least demonstrated the transformation including both the robot and tank modes. I was floored by it and I wanted it so bad, but it was just so impossible to find! I never saw the thing in stores and I’m sure my grandmother likely never did as well.

I was able to get the Red Dragon Thunderzord (left), but never did get the rest.

When the showed moved on from the original zords, the toy supply improved. For Christmas, my grandmother was finally successful when it came to Power Rangers and she was able to get me the Red Dragon Thunderzord as well as some of the roleplay toys (blaster and morpher). The Red Dragon was pretty cool, and if I’m being honest, a better toy than the Dragonzord would be. I was never able to get the other zords though to form the new Megazord, and by the following Christmas the fad had passed for me. I would put all of my energy towards video games at that point, leaving toys behind for a few years.

In 2010, Bandai re-released the original Megazord, now often referred to as the Dino Megazord. It was almost an exact recreation of the 93 toy with a few changes to make the set cheaper to produce. The wheels were removed from the Triceratops and Sabre-toothed tiger, as well as the articulation on their guns. Otherwise though, it’s basically the same. It retailed for $75 and I am kicking myself now for not just buying it then. The 93 version, if you can find one in good condition, easily fetches thrice that on eBay and the re-releases are expensive too. I was tempted to buy one when I was first on my own, but got cold feet and didn’t really know what I would do with. Maybe my son or daughter will become obsessed and force my hand, or maybe Bandai will re-release it again when the show turns 30 in three years and I’ll finally take the plunge. Or maybe the Megazord is just a toy destined to haunt me for the rest of my days.


Dragon Ball Z – Budokai HD Collection

budokai hdOh, you thought we were done with DBZ?! Oh no, I have some more Dragon Ball related material to share with you and even though we’re done with the movies, I thought now was as good a time as any to talk about some video games. If you’re a usual reader, you may recall I did a post earlier this year on Super Dragon Ball Z, the Street Fighter inspired fighter for the PS2. It was the upcoming release of Arc System Works’ Dragon Ball FighterZ that inspired me to revisit that old game, and the same can be said of the Budokai series.

In case you need a refresher, Dragon Ball Z – Budokai was the Infogrames fighting game franchise of the early 2000’s and it was also the first real entry point for DBZ into global gaming. Prior to Budokai, the only Dragon Ball video games to make it out of Japan were the NES platformer, renamed Dragon Power in the US, based on Dragon Ball and the PSX fighting game Dragon Ball GT – Final Bout. Yes, somehow a game based on Dragon Ball GT made it to American soil before a Dragon Ball Z game. That early Dragon Ball game for the NES was simply a case of anything being available in Japan was brought over to other markets. It was altered so that it barely resembled Dragon Ball and there’s a chance that gamers who owned the abysmal title and went on to become fans of the franchise likely needed to read about it later in life to make the connection. Final Bout was likely released outside of Japan because it coincided with the 3D fighting game craze and the first real attempt at bringing the anime to America as well. It was a truly abysmal game that sold poorly. The anime was a flop initially so it kind of went away, but once the show became popular via Cartoon Network the after market price on Final Bout went crazy as it was the only video game released in the territory and fans wanted something, even if it was terrible.

dragon power

Technically, this was the first Dragon Ball game released outside of Japan, though you wouldn’t know it by the cover.

Of course, if you were living in Japan you had plenty of options when it came to DBZ fighters. The Super Famicom especially had a bunch of them and the PSX had an additional 2 and all were based on Dragon Ball Z as opposed to the far less popular Dragon Ball GT. Fans desperate for some DBZ content for their video game machines, like myself, turned to imports and emulation to get their fix, but in truth few of these games were worth playing. The only ones I can recommend half-heartedly were Dragon Ball Z – Hyper Dimension, a 16-bit fighter that didn’t control particularly well, but the visuals were impressive. On the PSX, Dragon Ball Z – Legends was a pretty ugly looking early PSX game, but it’s 3 on 3 simultaneous combat was really interesting and the simple, timing based, combat was actually pretty satisfying. It was just a shallow experience and once you saw everything the game offered there was little reason to return.

Once the show finally became popular around the turn of the millennium, there was a substantial rush to get content to the newly created global audience. Irwin Toys started cranking out new action figures and accessories while clothing and posters started popping up everywhere. The games took some time, and Bandai was awarded distribution for Japan while Infogrames, and later Atari, received the North American license. Dimps was selected as the developer and they got set to creating Budokai. Simultaneously, a Game Boy Advance game was also developed and released as The Legacy of Goku, an action-RPG that was at least interesting though not particularly fun. Because there was such an appetite for DBZ anything, Budokai really didn’t need to be a good game to sell well. It also didn’t need to be particularly good to immediately become the best DBZ fighting game ever released. Review-wise, it received a somewhat ho-hum reaction from critics, but fans seemed relatively pleased. It sold well enough to spawn two sequels, and 10 years after its initial 2002 release it received a high-definition makeover alongside Dragon Ball Z – Budokai 3.

hyper dimension

If you absolutely need to import a DBZ game, I’d suggest Hyper Dimension.

If you have never played a Budokai game, then let me tell you how it works. At its cores, it’s a simple 3D fighter. Characters can move in the foreground and background and are capable of attacking, blocking, firing ki blasts, and charging up their power meter. Each character typically has multiple health bars so stronger fighters will have additional health over weaker ones that’s clearly illustrated. Characters can also fly, but not at will. Instead, if a combo attack sends a fighter into the air they’ll kind of just hover in place once they recover from the attack. Simply pushing the directional pad towards an airborne fighter will cause the player-character to take to the air in pursuit.

final bout

Before Budokai, this was the best American fans had.

The main criticism of the original Budokai was the lack of beam attacks. Rather than simply ordering Goku to unleash a Kamehameha wave, the move was affixed to the end of a combo. A series of punches would end in Goku performing his signature attack, but at very close range so it was hardly spectacular looking. Instead, the eye-catching attacks were left to the super moves which are the moves that are designed to be difficult to pull off, but when successfully deployed, unleash devastating amounts of damage via a cinematic. These moves include Vegeta’s Final Flash and the like.

goku vs vegeta

The original Budokai does a decent job of laying the groundwork, though the visuals were never considered great even for the time.

Dimps seemed to target two important factors when creating the game:  make it look authentic and make it easy to play. As a result, all of the fighters essentially feel the same and have the same move-set, just with different results. In order to make the game feel authentic though, Dimps made sure to include various transformations in its games. Once advancing passed the Freiza arc, Goku could unlock his Super Saiyan transformation and use that in battle. Prior to getting it, he also had his Kaio-ken technique. Dimps even gave Piccolo his fusions from the series with Nail and Kame as transformations. The game featured a story mode that went up through the Cell Games and featured a roster of 23 characters. Later games would focus on expanding upon the roster to include practically anyone who ever partook in a fight during the series.

budokai story

The first game does at least boast better presentation in terms of its story mode, though these visuals are kind of “yuck.”

Budokai was a success, and it soon became an annual franchise. Budokai 2, released the following year and not included in this collection, corrected a lot of what people disliked about the original. Ki blasts and flying were now more manual than before and the story mode received more cinematics and was overall more rewarding (though it featured a weird board game interface). The roster was also greatly expanded upon due in large part to the game featuring the Buu Saga. More transformations were available and the game was largely just more fun. Budokai 3 arrived the following year with even more characters and moves and yet another revamped story mode. Instead of playing through the events of the show, players could select specific characters and experience the story from their perspective. And doing so also allowed the player to simply fly around the world looking for the next event as well as hidden ones. It felt less restrictive, and was thus pretty exciting.

budokai 3 story

Budokai 3’s story mode was more engaging, if lacking in the presentation department. It makes up for it though with much improved graphics and styling.

So how do these games hold up in 2018? Well, not surprisingly the original Budokai is showing its age. The visuals have been upgraded to HD, but the textures were so bland and basic to start-off that there’s virtually no improvement. It makes everyone look like vinyl dolls and the empty battle maps are even more boring than before. The simple combat is easy to grasp, but also not particularly engaging. This game is basically here as a nostalgia trip and to illustrate how the series began. Fire it up if you either never played it or just want to relive it, but after that you probably won’t play it again.

Budokai 3 is the main attraction of this set. There’s still a section of the fandom that considers it the best DBZ fighter ever released. It was the last main Budokai title as the many sequels saw the series move in a different direction, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. There was a PSP edition of the franchise called Shin Budokai and some place the 2006 title Infinite World in the Budokai series, but this was the last numbered entry. It’s quite easy to see how refined the game is in comparison with its predecessor. The visuals took on a more cell-shaded approach with additional detail and the move to HD doesn’t highlight the imperfections like it does with the first game. DBZ has a pretty simple, yet distinct, look and it doesn’t require incredible processing power to do it justice.

dragon rush 2

Dragon Rush adds some chaos to battles, but at the cost of skill.

From a gameplay perspective, the game is not quite as fast as I remembered. You will still spend most fights dashing at your opponent to unleash combos attacks and build towards bigger moves. I had forgotten how odd the gameplay structure was. Much of the fights hinge on your ability to pull off super moves and Dragon Rush attacks. The Dragon Rush is a bit convoluted, but it’s essentially a follow-up attack from a teleporting move. There’s a lengthy tutorial section in the game that’s not particularly helpful. It’s one of those things you just have to perform for yourself to get a feel for how it works. When connecting with one of these maneuvers, a quick-time event is enabled that’s basically a version of Rock-Paper-Scissors. The attacker selects a face button and the defender does as well. If the defender guesses right, the attack is thwarted. If not, it continues with both players now having only 3 face buttons to choose from. If the attacker is able to string together three successful attacks via this encounter, then a big move is unleashed and the opponent’s stamina (as well as some health) is knocked away leaving them more susceptible to damage. Actual super moves are done fairly easily by holding a shoulder button, but it starts a slow animation that can be tricky to connect with. And if you miss, you lose all of the energy stored for the attack. Connect and you get treated to another cinematic while also doling out some big damage. There’s always another QTE spot, this time with a meter rapidly filling and decreasing that you have to time properly, that determines how much damage the attack does.

gogeta fusion

There are lots of power-ups that take the form of transformations including fusion.

Fights have a tendency to be very reliant on those two moves. Whoever is better at pulling them off usually wins. The QTE spot injects some chaos as it’s entirely random, unless you’re playing against a human opponent and look at their controller. It’s not the most rewarding system, or perhaps it’s more appropriate to call it frustrating if you’re on the losing side. If you’re on the winning end then at least the cinematics are typically fun to see. The interesting change for the third game though was mostly in the stored energy each character has. Energy will gradually accumulate up to a certain point so you really need only charge your ki if you want to go for the biggest moves possible. This was a smart addition as the constant need to charge in other games was always the least enjoyable aspect. Transformations also aren’t the energy hogs they were in prior games so there’s more incentive to use the best ones.

The story mode felt revolutionary in 2004, though now it does feel more limited. Basically, you pick a character and fly around the world. Your character has a map and can also find a Dragon Radar to look for Dragon Balls. Activating your “senses” can sometimes turn-up hidden spots on the world that usually contain an item but sometimes contain a small story event – an easter egg, if you will. Various cities and popular landmarks appear on as well but you can’t really interact with them. If the name of the place displayed when flying over it then you can enter, but it just leads to a brief exchange with another character who may or may not provide an item. These are all done with still images and text – there are no cinematics in story mode which is rather bizarre. The most interesting aspect of the mode is that it can change depending on how many playthroughs you have done and if you have finished another character’s. Goku’s is the most robust, and if you play it a second time after getting through some of the other character’s stories you’ll take on some GT villains and even unlock Super Saiyan 4.

budokai 3 cooler

Budokai 3 expands upon the roster by drawing from the movies and Dragon Ball GT.

The goal of story mode is obviously to see it through, but it also features some RPG elements in the form of experience and stats. Leveling up a character gives you an ability point to place in various offensive and defensive categories. Each character also can equip a set number of items, with stronger items taking up multiple slots. This has been a feature in most DBZ games and allows for some level of customization. Frustratingly though, transformations always have a prerequisite that includes the prior transformation so if you want to use SS4 Goku you’ll need to devote 5 slots to transformations. If you want to fuse into Vegito then you’ll have to give up something. Characters can unlock a special Breakthrough capsule which contains all of their unique moves and abilities at the cost of taking up all of the ability slots. For a character like Goku who has the most unique capsules, it won’t include everything though which is kind of a bummer. The other short-coming of story mode is that it doesn’t include everyone. A lot of characters are playable including surprises like Tien and Yamcha, but only one villain has a story mode (and it kind of sucks) and characters you would expect to have one (namely Trunks) do not. There’s enough here to keep you busy for awhile, at least.

After getting caught up with these games, my main take-away was that anyone who thinks Budokai 3 is the best DBZ fighting game released has not spent enough time with newer entries. It’s not a bad game, but I’d rather play the Tenkaichi Budokai games over it. This game wants to capture the unique combat of the anime and sacrifices skill and control to do so. The Tenkaichi games were not difficult games to play, but their arena fighter approach made the games even more authentic and the super moves weren’t huge factors. With that out of the way, I will say I still had fun with Budokai 3. It took me a little while to get back into the flow of combat, but once I did I had a good enough time. There is a shallowness to the gameplay present so it doesn’t have the staying power of a more robust fighting game, and I wish they had dropped the Dragon Rush, but it does right by its license. I do wish the story mode featured actual moving images to tell its story, and the rewards for summoning the dragon are kind of lame. Considering I didn’t have to pay much to get this collection, I’d say it was money well spent. As for the original Budokai, it didn’t need to be included on this collection and I’m surprised it is. I would have much preferred Budokai 2, even if that game is pretty similar to 3. At least it featured a different story mode while including most of the gameplay enhancements featured in the third entry.


Bandai Dragon Stars Super Saiyan Trunks

IMG_2529Dragon Ball Super did to me what basically every cartoon/anime does:  it made me want toys based on it. It’s a compulsion I’ve never outgrown, apparently, and Bandai has made it fairly easy (but not cheap) to get what I want. Months ago I did an entry on the SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta. That line is like the premium action figure line for Dragon Ball Z (as well as other franchises) and a single figure from that line routinely sells for over $50. Not all fans are into 6″ figures at such a price point, and even though I have two such figures I can’t say I’m really into it myself, and for those fans Bandai has its Dragon Stars brand. These action figures are more in-line with what you would get from Hasbro. They’re super articulated figures that run for around $20, which is sadly the going rate for such toys in this day and age. They often have a few interchangeable parts and also come bundled with a piece of another figure. Collect the whole line and you can assemble a sort of bonus figure. Back in the days of ToyBiz and its Marvel Legends line that bonus figure was often a giant figure twice the size of a standard one, but in today’s world it’s just a standard sized figure.

The Dragon Stars line has produced a few waves at this point. The first was basically a Dragon Ball Z wave, but the second was all about Dragon Ball Super. When I was really into DBZ and collecting toys from Irwin, I always found the majority of Future Trunks figures a bit underwhelming. When I saw the Future Trunks from the Dragon Stars line it immediately caught my eye because it felt like a figure that had eluded me for years. Even so, I passed on it several times before it finally won me over and I’m sure that was at least due in part to the Future Trunks arc airing on television from Dragon Ball Super. Eventually, I caved, picking this guy up at my local GameStop and now I’m going to tell you all about it.

Trunks stands roughly 6″ with the tips of his hair taking him a little beyond that. He’s more or less in scale with the other figures in the line (from what I can tell) and he even looks fine with the Figuarts Vegeta next to him. Since this is from Dragon Ball Super, he’s in his attire from that show which doesn’t differentiate much from his look in DBZ. He still sports charcoal gray pants and yellowish boots, the main difference being now he has a denim coat that actually fits properly and he’s tossed in a red ascot for good measure. His clothing is torn in places reflecting the harsh life he’s had to live in his future battling the likes of Goku Black. He’s in his boosted Super Saiyan form from later in the arc, which is kind of like Super Saiyan 2 in terms of looks only Trunks is way more powerful. The show never gave this form a proper name, but Wikipedia refers to it as Super Saiyan Rage. He’s armed with his trusty sword once more and his figure actually comes with two: an unsheathed sword to swing around and a sheathed one that pops into his back. He comes packaged with a pair of fists, but he also has a pair of hands that can hold the sword and a pair of open hands in a Gallick Gun/Burning Attack position. Lastly, he comes with the head of Fused Zamasu which looks pretty awesome and does kind of make me want to collect all six figures in the wave to complete the figure.

Trunks’ range of motion is pretty typical of a modern action figure. He has ball joints virtually everywhere and his hands pop off and on easily enough. His head is really limited though and I think it’s due to the collar on his jacket. He’s kind of always looking down slightly. His arms are also hindered a bit and he doesn’t possess as much range of motion there as one would think. For instance, he can’t really do a proper Gallick Gun pose or really cross his arms. The cuffs on his sleeves also prevent his hands from pivoting back much. The legs on my figure are also a little loose, but not enough to make it hard to pose or stand him. In the end, he can do just enough to make it interesting to mess around with him on a shelf, but I can see feeling a bit let down as far as the articulation is concerned.

When a figure feels a bit lacking in the pose department, I often turn to the sculpt for value. In truth, the sculpt is the most important part for me since my figures just end up on a shelf. In the case of Trunks, the sculpt is pretty good for the price. If this were a $60 figure, I’d probably be disappointed, but as a $20 he’s solid. The hair looks good and it’s a nice, vibrant, yellow. He has a determined, serious, expression on his face which is befitting the character. The jacket and pants look good with enough little texture details to make them interesting. The sculpt also hides the articulation well giving him a clean look. The boots, oddly enough, are perhaps my favorite part as there’s some nice detail here. His sword and scabbard also look nice and clean. I’m guessing Bandai opted for this approach over a traditional sword that fits into a scabbard so that it didn’t have to compromise on the actual size of the sword. Cartoon swords tend to be illustrated much larger than the actual scabbard they’re supposed to fit into so I consider it a nice touch.

So what’s missing? Well, in addition to the articulation shortcomings it should be pointed out that this figure could have wowed in other ways. Not having a non Super Saiyan head is kind of a disappointment considering it doesn’t look like we’ll get a figure of that down the line. It’s not even really a cost issue as he has a second head, it’s just not a second Trunks head. It also would have been neat to see him come with his Hope Sword, but it also wasn’t something I expected.

Considering this is the first Dragon Stars action figure I purchased, did it sell me on the line? Yeah, it kind of did. I don’t really want to get too far down the line with another series of figures, preferring to stay in my lane of TMNT and Bucky O’Hare, but I could see myself getting a few more. The other five figures in this wave were mostly good, the only one I did not care for was Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta who has a weird face sculpt. These things tend to sell out though, so I don’t expect to run across any in a discount bin other than maybe Zamasu or Hit. I do like this look for Trunks though, and I really enjoyed his arc in Dragon Ball Super. I enjoyed it so much that I’m really tempted by the upcoming SH Figuarts version of this same figure due out later this year. That one actually has the things I would have loved out of this figure including a normal head and the Hope Sword. About the only thing it lacks is a standard Super Saiyan 1 head and an affordable price. At $65, it may just be too rich for me, but at least I have this one which is pretty good on its own.


The Prince of All Saiyans – In Action Figure Form!

IMG_2274Jumping back into the world of Dragon Ball, and especially the SH Figuarts Vegeta figure, has made me especially nostalgic for all things Dragon Ball Z. Back in the early 2000s, I was an avid collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When Dragon Ball Z first showed up in America, Irwin licensed the old Bandai Super Battle Collection line of toys for distribution in North America. This proved a smart move because the show didn’t catch on so Irwin wasn’t out a ton of capital. The Bandai toys, and also a series also licensed by Irwin from a company called AB, were pretty dated in the late 90s. They contained minimal articulation, almost no accessories (something DBZ didn’t really lend itself well to, in fairness), and were just an adequate representation of the characters from the anime. Arguably their best feature was the nice box-styled packaging, something that was probably expensive relative to other toys so the Irwin ones came in standard blisters with “loud” 90s styling.

These toys, as released by Irwin, were largely peg warmers. They paled in quality to the stuff being put out by Toy Biz and McFarlane and since the show didn’t catch on kids really didn’t want them. They eventually made it into the discount bins, which was when I got my Super Saiyan Vegeta figure for a mere four dollars. Eventually, Cartoon Network picked up Dragon Ball Z and began airing it during the afternoon timeslot. It soon caught on, and suddenly America was in love with this series from Japan that had long since ended. Funimation, the company distributing the show in North America, eventually went back to the series to dub it in its entirety which also gave Irwin the confidence to go all-in on the license and start creating its own toys. DBZ was mostly a show that appealed to an older audience, so Irwin made it a point to appeal to collectors and longtime fans, which was pretty cool from a collector’s standpoint, but maybe not the best marketing decision. They first concentrated on characters that Bandai never tackled such as Nappa, Krillen, and the non-final forms of Frieza, to name a few. They didn’t even release a Goku until Series 4, which is pretty damn crazy since almost every series of modern figures includes one Goku.

In light of my enjoyment of the Figuarts Vegeta, I decided to dig out all of my Vegeta toys from storage and take a look at them. They’re all Irwin releases, except one. Irwin eventually went bankrupt as DBZ was basically its only successful property. They were able to sell the license to Jakks Pacific who would continue the line for a few years. The Jakks toys initially were fine because they were mostly unreleased Irwin designed figures, but the Jakks originals were rather poor which is when I stopped collecting. Jakks seemed to use a lower quality plastic and a much simpler paint application giving their toys almost a rubbery look, even though they were hard plastic. Their only good releases really were the re-releases of older Irwin toys that they were able to make paint corrections to, most notoriously Perfect Cell who had a very blue skin and no purple sideburns as released by Irwin. Lets take a trip through the toys I did get though. I did not get every Vegeta released by Irwin, but I did get all of the main ones (I mostly skipped the gimmick lines, with one exception) and one of the Jakks releases. Let’s start with the first one, the re-release of the Bandai Super Battle Collection Super Saiyan Vegeta.

This figure is pretty damn basic for a toy. He’s mostly comprised of colored plastic with minimal paint applications and almost no articulation, which was par for the course for this line. His only articulation is in the shoulders, wrists, and calves. His hair is glued on and doesn’t look particularly great, but in a way it accentuates his receding hairline. The battle armor is removable and it’s just two pieces of plastic that snap together. This was the standard approach for this line as most characters had a removable shirt. His boots are missing the yellow/gold tips. Still, for the time, the likeness was fine and he mostly looks like Vegeta, especially from the side. Not a fun toy by any means, but at least his bum looks nice in blue spandex.

Our next figure was Irwin’s first attempt at a proper Vegeta. Based on his look in the Androids Saga, this was a Series 4 figure and a much anticipated one. He’s a solid representation of what Irwin’s approach was. They utilized ball joints for the shoulders to go with legs, knees, and head articulation. It was pretty standard for the time, but obviously not on pair with what we’re accustomed to today. After all, he basically can’t be posed in any of his signature stances and what you see is kind of what you get since he has no elbow or wrist articulation. Like the Bandai toys, he is mostly done with colored plastic as well, but the white and yellow of his armor is painted on. The blue of his suit is a deep royal blue and the tips of his boots are molded on, but not painted. This was an artistic approach for the figures as we’ll see with the Super Saiyan version, Irwin would go lighter on the suit and paint in the boot tips. The likeness is solid, though something is off a bit in the face and I think it’s the thickness of the eyebrows. Part of the likeness issues is probably due to the relatively small scale Irwin is working with. Vegetal stands just under 5″ at about 4 7/8″ to the tip of his hair. This line is basically in-scale with the Bandai line, though most of the figures were about the same height with only the obviously taller ones coming in greater than 5″. This figure does accentuate what I love about this look for Vegeta which is the contrasting bright white of the armor with the rich blue of the bodysuit. It pops, and making the armor molded onto the figure is a much better choice than making it removable.

The next figure is Irwin’s first go at Super Saiyan Vegeta. Coming in the very next series following the non-super version, this figure had an entirely new sculpt which was a positive as I feared they’d just put a new head on him and call it a day. There’s evidence of minor enhancements too in Irwin’s sculpting process. This figure is more rounded in the torso, possibly to accentuate the bulkiness of Super Vegeta. He also has molded kneecaps and a slightly open hand showing that Irwin wasn’t going to shy away from doing fingers. The hair is much spikier, and there’s a pearl finish to the white of the armor. As I mentioned with the previous figure, this one is a lighter blue and the yellow pieces are slightly lighter as well to give off the impression of that Super Saiyan glow. The yellow tips of the boots are also painted in as well. For some reason, Irwin associated that feature with the Super Saiyan form as they would repeat this with Trunks. The face sculpting was more ambitious as well as he has sunken in eyes, a furrowed brow, and more detail in his ears. He looks pretty solid, though the shape of the hair feels off and I wish he had a sneer instead of a scowl. The pupils of his eyes aren’t lined up either and he looks kind of goofy upon closer inspection. I was pretty satisfied with him though at the time, and he is an improvement on the previous Vegeta in many respects, though at the expense of looking a little less like Vegeta.

Our next figure is from the non-mainline series and from the Striking Z Fighters line of figures. These ones all featured some action they could perform. In the case of this Super Saiyan Vegeta, clad in his Buu Saga attire, he’s supposed to do a flip. It’s an exceedingly lame action feature as you basically just hold one arm between your fingers and literally flick at him to make him spin around. Basically any figure can do this, this one just features a ratchet joint in the shoulder so he’ll move more freely and easily without getting so loose that the figure can’t hold its arm up when posing. The good thing is this lame feature doesn’t harm the look of the figure, but it does mean he lost knee articulation and can only stand with his right foot slightly in front of his left. This stance makes him shorter than our other Vegeta figures, which actually makes him more in scale with the likes of Goku and Trunks. He’s a quieter looking figure too when compared with the prior Super Saiyan version as his hair is less spiky and his facial features are more simple. He has a sort-of angry, smug look on his face that’s almost the much-wanted Vegeta smirk but not quite. He looks fine, though I wish he posed better. He came with a plastic board originally that he could flip through that I didn’t drag out as it was pretty lame. And it was nice that Irwin made the effort to put him in different attire, even though the Buu Saga was still a little ways off at the time of release.

The next figure is the first Vegeta from the Buu era of the show in the main series and it’s Majin Vegeta. He had an interesting existence as the first version released to retail incorrectly colored his hair black. If you’re thinking this makes that version rare and valuable you would be wrong. While perhaps it could become that eventually, the figure was mass released and I honestly don’t know which is more rare – the error version or the running change yellow seen here. Since it was so obviously an error, I’m sure many people bought multiples and kept them carded in hopes of re-selling them later. Unfortunately for them, this line doesn’t command much money probably due to the abundance of better DBZ toys out there. Anyway, this figure was a bit of a disappointment. Series 6 for Irwin marked a new era of paint experimentation that included applying a paint wash to give the toys more definition and personality. They also tried to give them a bit of a dirty look as well. This Vegeta came well after that and Irwin toned it down some, but they still had’t quite figured things out. His clothing is very muted while his skin has a lot of red to it, including around the eyes which should have been heightened with black for this version of Vegeta. The M on his forehead is nice and sharp, though his hair should probably be spikier given this is also our first Super Saiyan 2 Vegeta. His arms are posed oddly, making it look like he’s riding an imaginary motorcycle. Maybe this was done to recreate the scene where he gives young Trunks a hug before sacrificing himself in a bid to kill Majin Buu. This figure disappointed me at the time, but at least they did finally give Vegeta a cocky grin.

Next up is I guess what you would call dead Vegeta. This is after he’s been brought back by the Kais to help Goku defeat Buu, marked with a halo above is head. He’s in his super form and it looks like the head of the first Super Saiyan Vegeta may have been re-tooled for this figure. At least the hair looks to be about the same. The only real different is he’s sporting an open mouth instead of a closed one. The outfit is less drab compared with Majin Vegeta as Irwin dialed back the dark blue wash they used on that figure. There’s also way less red in the flesh, though the center piece of plastic on the shoulders remains unpainted. His gloves feature a lot of grime on them, as do his boots. Interestingly enough though, Irwin finally adopted elbow articulation so this Vegeta can be posed a little better than others. For the first time he can kind of look like he’s getting ready to power-up his Final Flash attack, so at least that’s pretty cool. The halo is a little warped from storage, though I recall most had a little bend in them, and is supported by a very sturdy peg. It’s not removable, and the tallness of his hair does a solid job of hiding the peg when viewed from the front. This was the last official Irwin Vegeta in the 5″ line and you could argue it was their best take on the character which isn’t a bad way to go out.

Our last 5″ figure is a Jakks Pacific release, but I’m pretty sure this was an Irwin design. This Vegeta was a bit of a surprise, but also a sign of where Jakks would take the line. This is Vegeta as he was on Planet Namek during his fight with Frieza. It features the Namek armor vest which lacked the yellow straps and it’s also battle damaged. The paint is a bit off though as the bodysuit is a very light blue, almost as light as the Super Saiyan Vegeta, when it should be a very dark blue that’s almost black. He also has the yellow tips on his boots when this particular version of Vegeta should have all white boots. The paint is a little sloppy in places, mostly where the vest ends and the bodysuit begins just before the neck, though overall I’d say it’s pretty good. The battle damage on the vest looks awesome and really adds depth to the armor pieces. He has a great looking cocky grin recalling the time just after Dende healed him and Vegeta challenged Frieza thinking he was a Super Saiyan. Best of all, he has more articulation than the other figures including ball-jointed elbows and twisting wrists. He even has ankle articulation, though the shape of the boots makes it very limited. Aside from the incorrect paint choice, the only drawback to this figure is his almost total absence of a nose. The nose is always one of the hardest parts to get right on these characters since they’re so small. It’s not awful, but his face looks a little weird as a result. After so many Super Saiyan versions of the character, it was nice to get another black-haired Vegeta. Jakks would release one more Vegeta that I believe originated as an Irwin sculpt, a version with a black jacket from the very end of DBZ. They would never top this one though.

Oh, but wait! We’re not done yet! In addition to the 5″ line of figures, Irwin also dabbled in the collector market. They first released a trio of figures in a 9″ scale – Goku, Super Saiyan 2 Gohan, and Super Saiyan Vegeta. These figures were more like statues and featured extensive battle damage. Goku looked pretty awful, but Gohan and Vegeta were pretty cool and both were depicted as they were during the Cell Games. This Vegeta is in sort of an odd pose as he almost looks like he’s surfing. As a result of the pose, he comes in at about 8 1/2″ tall. I’m not sure what the source material was, maybe the death of Trunks? What you see here is largely what you get. He does have a thin, black display stand I neglected to remove from storage that helps him stand, but he doesn’t need it. His attire is pretty well beat-up and there’s a real brightness to the blue of his suit. There’s some color blending on it as well that looks pretty sharp. The same trick is used for his skin tone and the color of his hair. It’s similar to what they did with their 5″ version of the character in an attempt to try and make it look like he’s glowing, only with this larger format the results are more convincing. He has a concerned look on his face which i suppose is appropriate. I would have preferred something else though. I really like the shape of his hair, and I wish they could have pulled this off with the smaller figures. He does have articulation in his shoulders and waist as well as his neck. No ball joints though. The rear of his vest has yellowed too, possibly due to when I had him on display which may have been in sunlight – I’m not sure. Oh well. At the time, this was one of my favorite pieces in my DBZ collection, but he’s kind of just so-so now.

Lastly, but not least, we have the IF Labs take on battle damaged Super Saiyan Vegeta from the film Cooler’s Revenge. After just the three figures in their special 9″ line, Irwin created the brand IF Labs (later re-named Giant Ape after the Jakks sale) for large scale collector figures. Most of the figures released in this line were based on the many DBZ films getting dubbed and released by Funimation, but they would eventually tackle DBZ characters like Vegito and Super Buu. This Vegeta is about 8″ tall, making him much shorter than most of the characters released in this line which actually put him in scale for once. His articulation is expansive when compared with the 5″ line – ball shoulders, neck, elbow, hips, knees, shins, and waist. He’s not capable of much in the way of dynamic poses, but his standard look is pretty nice on its own. The sculpting is the real stand-out with this Vegeta as his armor is cracked and broken in places, the bodysuit torn with fragments hanging, his skin is scratched and bleeding and is very evocative of the source artwork. He has an angry, but determined, look to his face and the hair is in two distinct pieces giving the spikes nice definition. There’s finer details as well like stitching on the boots and gloves really giving this figure a jolt of realism, even above what is present in the film. Some of that realism, like his teeth, actually take away from the figure slightly because he looks too real and unlike the actual cartoon. Otherwise, the attention to detail is rather impressive including the all-white boots which is film accurate, even though he always had gold-tipped ones when wearing this attire in the anime. The only thing that stinks about my particular figure is the tiny paint chip on the end of his nose, a terrible place for a spot of missing paint. This was probably my favorite Vegeta figure, until I got the Figuarts one, though I do have another non-Irwin/Jakks Vegeta I’m quite fond of. I suppose I would have preferred a really awesome, non-battle damaged version of the character in this line, but at least the battle damage looks good. They also did eventually do a normal Vegeta and he looked pretty terrible. A lot of the figures in this line suffered with scale as often the heads would be too small, but for at least this figure IF Labs nailed it.

Hopefully you had fun on this trip down memory lane with me and Vegeta. I plan on doing more Dragon Ball related posts in the not too distant future so if you like that franchise you might want to hit that subscribe button!


SH Figuarts Kid Goku

IMG_2167I was so happy with my Super Saiyan Vegeta from SH Figuarts that the very next day I purchased a second figure:  Kid Goku. Now I’ve mentioned more than once here that I prefer Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. It’s just a tighter and more fun series with better action sequences. The characters become so overpowered in Dragon Ball Z that the fight scenes became a series of dashing lines as characters move faster than sight and lots and lots of posturing. Dragon Ball has some of that too, but not nearly as much. And shining like a beacon through out it is young Goku. His ignorance of virtually all of society is what drives much of the show’s humor (as well as the perversions of one Master Roshi) and it’s a personality trait that suits the youthful version of our hero better than the adult version. This isn’t to say the adult Goku of DBZ isn’t charming, he’s just less believable.

I initially bought Vegeta instead of Goku for the simple fact that he was five dollars cheaper. I assume he runs a little less because Goku comes with more accessories. His little box is packed to the gills with extra hands, face plates, and power poles and even boasts a Flying Nimbus with an extravagant action stand. A stand is what’s really missing from the Vegeta figure and seems like something that should be included for all of the flying characters so I’m happy to see it here. So while Goku is certainly smaller than Vegeta, I’d wager this set has more plastic in it (and that Nimbus is quite dense) than most of the SHF figures.

For this figure, Kid Goku comes depicted in his orange gi that he first started wearing following his training with Master Roshi. Prior to that he sported a blue attire, and while I would have probably preferred that to the orange one, it’s not really a big deal to me. Goku is about 4″ tall from head to toe and nearly 5″ when you factor in his hair. Height-wise, he seems to be pretty much in scale with Vegeta, though the proportions aren’t quite perfect with Goku being a little chunky. Like most of the kids in Dragon Ball, he has an oversized head which also looks a little funny next to Vegeta, though in all honesty Vegeta’s head could probably have been a little bigger upon reflection. Either way, Goku feels like he’s at about the right size and I’m more curious to see how he compares with the upcoming Master Roshi when that drops.

Young Goku has tremendous articulation, which is to be expected of any toy in this line. The giant melon atop his shoulders doesn’t appear to hinder his ability to stand much too, which is nice. If anything, the smallness of his feet can make it a bit of a challenge to get him to stand in more dynamic poses, but you always have the stand if need be. His articulation is good enough to that he can handle a Kamehameha pose or event sit slightly cross-legged upon the Nimbus. I’ve had a lot of fun moving him around and seeing what I could get out of the stand. The stand has to be partially assembled and it has movable grabbing parts so it’s really easy to fit it onto Goku. I was initially skeptical that it would do the trick, but it’s plenty sturdy and even the additional legs for the Nimbus have no trouble supporting both the weight of the Nimbus and Goku. The stand also isn’t necessarily needed to position Goku on his trusty flying cloud, but it helps and provides peace of mind for standing poses while a seated Goku probably doesn’t need it.

IMG_2170

Look at all this stuff!

Goku has a vast assortment of hands and extra little bits, enough so that it was easier to just take a picture. In addition to his smiling, but determined expression he also has a happy open mouthed face and a giddy, squinty-eyed face. All are very appropriate for Goku and they are all easy to swap in and out. Goku’s bangs pop off and from there the face plate can be removed which does a great job of hiding the seams and keeping things nice and neat. His head pops off as well to allow his power pole sling to be worn (otherwise you won’t get it over his dome) which features the handle of the infamous pole sticking out. For when you want Goku to hold his weapon he has a separate extended pole he can wield, and to make sure everything is consistent, the handle on the holstered pole is removable preserving the illusion of an empty sling. His hands pop off and on just like Vegeta’s, though here I’m a little more concerned about eventual damage. Goku has some skinny arms, and the pegs his hands snap onto are even skinnier. Thus far, I’ve had no issues, but I probably won’t be switching poses too often with this one, at least with hand placement. Goku also has a pair of swappable tails, one that’s more natural and another that’s running up his back for when he’s seated. Rounding things out is Goku’s prized “Grandpa,” the 4 star Dragon Ball, which appears to be in perfect scale with the character and apparently can be fitted onto a base for the Shenlong/Eternal Dragon action figure.

IMG_2180Kid Goku is a damn fine piece of plastic. I think I like him more than the Vegeta figure, but that’s mostly due to my fondness for the IP. He looks great, moves great, and has enough accessories to keep you entertained if you’re the sort that likes to re-pose your display constantly. If you’ve been aching for a good Dragon Ball accurate Goku, it’s hard to imagine a better one than this will come along anytime soon (unless there’s a blue gi repaint, then maybe).


NECA San Diego Comic Con Exclusive TMNT Animated Series Action Figure Set

IMG_1436Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the franchise that won’t go away for me. I’ve been involved with it since the 80s when the cartoon series debuted and the first line of action figures started popping up in retail. I dropped the series when The Next Mutation came around, but picked it right back up when the 4Kids version of the Turtles debuted on Fox in 2003. And always there was a line of toys to go along with them that I happily indulged in. The only toy line I’ve really passed on was the current line that ties in with the Nickelodeon show. Even though I like that show, I never felt the need to go buy the toys. I thought, perhaps, I was finally maturing, but nostalgia for the original 1987 cartoon series has pulled me back into the world of TMNT toys.

Last year, Bandai gave us its take on the fearsome foursome based on the 87 series through its SH Figuarts brand. I reviewed all four and they were very impressive, but also costly. Those toys exist because they’re technically imports, though some retailers carry them in the US. When it comes to the real domestic products, Playmates still has a stranglehold on all things TMNT when it comes to action figures. Because of this, toy companies have had to get creative or get discouraged from even trying. NECA has been the leader in US TMNT toys and they’re willing to jump through the loopholes to get their versions of the Turtles to the public. When they wanted to do a set last year, they had to base it on the original TMNT arcade game which meant a bright, faux-digitized paint app for the figures. When NECA wanted to do a line of figures based on the 1990 movie, it meant they had to release them in a massive quarter-scale (and they’re awesome). Not satisfied, NECA has wanted to get cartoon accurate Turtles to market and finally got the clearance to do so. The catch, of course, was that it had to be a convention exclusive. Also possibly apart of the stipulation, was that it had to be a box set, which is how we ended up with this brand new set.

NECA’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive set of the TMNT is proving hard to get. NECA was granted permission to sell them on their website as pre-orders to be delivered the week of the convention. In addition to that, the set is available to buy at the convention the old fashioned way. It’s an eight figure set with a price tag of $200 that comes housed in a box meant to resemble the old action figure carrying cases of the 80s and 90s. I was fortunate enough to score one of the pre-orders which went live last month over the course of 4 days (and each day they sold out in about a minute) and my set arrived at my door last night. NECA is referring to this as the definitive take on the 87 Turtles, so how did they do?

The set comes housed in an attractive case. It’s decorated with all new artwork by Archie Comics artist Ken Mitchroney and depicts the Turtles outside the San Diego Convention Center with Shredder and Krang on the reverse. The case is likely made out of cardboard with a vinyl outer coating. Two clasps on the side made of metal close it up, though the case isn’t too rigid making the clasps hard to engage. This is clearly a case designed for decoration and to add a “Wow!” factor to the presentation, it’s not something you would have wanted to ferry back and forth between home and grandma’s like the case you probably had when you were a kid. I do find it a bit odd they went with an Archie look as the Turtles on the cover do not resemble the television show, but at least it’s original and not a stock image.

The set itself contains eight figures:  Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Donatello, Shredder, Krang, and two Foot Soldiers. The figures are packaged in a black plastic trays with a transparent outer shell that fits over it like a clamshell design. The trays are stacked in two layers, with the Turtles on top and the Foot on the bottom. The packaging is designed to be resealable, though it’s probably not durable enough to withstand repeated use. The figures themselves were pretty easy to remove, though some of the accessories were a bit trying (and there’s a lot of them, more on that later) and I worried I’d crack the plastic shell casing, but it held up.

If you’ve purchased prior NECA TMNT sets, then this one should feel some-what familiar. The Turtles are essentially the same figures released last year, just with a cartoon-specific paint application. Shredder is a composite of the two Shredders released last year (the arcade one and the Mirage Comics one), but with an all new head sculpt and re-tooled abdomen. The Foot Soldiers also borrow parts from last year’s Mirage Foot, but obviously with new head sculpts and new arms to represent the very long-armed look of the cartoon. The only all new sculpt is Krang, and that’s because he’s a pretty unique character and not one NECA has released before.

Let’s talk about the heroes first. The Turtles feature a dark, almost olive, paint-app for the majority of their body with a darker green used for shading on the backside of their limbs. Lots of black lines are used for definition and the look is certainly striking. The skin tone is quite close to that of the cartoon’s first season, especially for the scenes taking place in dimly lit areas like the sewers. The decision to add shading is a bit of a controversial one in the collector community; some like it, most don’t seem to care for it. I don’t think it works as natural light would have accomplished the same thing. A paint wash may have been a better approach, but it’s not something that kills the figures or anything. The colors of the pads and masks are vibrant, and each turtle sports a fighting expression. The articulation is pretty standard, and NECA hides the joints and cuts well within the sculpt. The only drawback is the hips feel a bit loose and some more ankle articulation would have been welcomed. The shells look great, and there’s no noticeable paint slop on any of mine. The only production error appears to be with Raph’s pupils, as one is centered in the eye and the other towards the top of the eye, making him look weird from head on.

The actual sculpt of the figures is also pretty solid. They’re about 5 1/2″ tall and fit nice in scale with Shredder and the Foot. The wrist bands and pads are all part of the sculpt and not separate pieces, and they look pretty good. NECA was able to get the kneepads to sort of hide the knee joints like an actual pad, though the elbow pads sit above the elbow joints. I’m always torn on what facial expression these 87 Turtles should possess since the show was so light-hearted and campy. In a perfect world, NECA would have included swappable heads, but those obviously add a lost of cost. Grim and serious works for Leo and Don, though I wish Raph’s sarcasm could have been reflected and Mikey’s more jovial nature. NECA also ran into the challenge of how to mold the head. These sculpts worked really well in nailing the likeness of the arcade TMNT, but they’re a little too frog-like for the cartoon. That’s partly because the Turtles in the cartoon look very different when they’re presented head-on or at an angle, versus a profile look (just watch the opening credits). The season one Turtles often had a vertical line on their beaks to give the impression of a sharper mouth that was mostly dropped after season one. NECA wisely didn’t try to incorporate that as I don’t think it would have turned out well had they. Overall, I do really like the look of these figures, though I think they come up just a tad short if they’re trying to be the definitive take on these characters.

The accessories for the Turtles are numerous and appropriate. Each character comes with his specific weapons which means Leo has two katana, Raph a pair of sai, Don a bo staff, and Mikey twin nunchucks. Don’s bo is especially well-detailed and probably the finest bo staff the character has ever come with. It also breaks apart in the middle which can make storing it in his belt a bit easier to manage as it’s really tight. Leo’s swords are quite broad and resemble a falchion more than a katana. This is consistent with the show, though the broadness might be exaggerated some (though his swords were kind of all over the place and not very consistent in the show). He has holsters too for his blades and they too are also really tight. I couldn’t really get them in and didn’t want to force it, though I’ve seen holstered pics online so it’s certainly possible. Raph’s sai are probably the worst of the bunch as they’re really out of scale and resemble tuning forks. Raph also carried his sai in his belt near his buckle on the show which isn’t possible with the figure as the belt is glued on. It would have been nice it NECA had found a way to make it possible without taking away from the look, but I see why they wouldn’t want to add a pouch or something where there really isn’t supposed to be one. Mikey’s nunchucks are twin pieces of plastic connected by actual metal linkage, a practice NECA basically started with its Mirage version of the figure 9 years ago that has been adopted by pretty much everyone since. One ‘chuck handle can detach and a “spinning” chuck attachment can go in its place, which is a pretty nice feature. Like Raph though, he can’t store his weapons in his belt, though I suppose you could wedge them under his arm if you wanted. In the show, Mikey stored them on his shell in little holsters that basically disappeared when he was holding his weapons (Don and Leo’s holsters often did this too, especially after season one) and NECA must have valued the look of his holster free belt over one that basically never existed in the cartoon.

Additional accessories include four turtlecoms; two are open and two are closed, that look awesome. There’s also an additional four pairs of hands that can be used on any turtle, since their wristbands are part of the arms. There’s a box of pizza from Weird Pizza with one slice missing. That slice is also present and even has a hole through the center for placement on Raph’s sai. The turtle-hook, which showed up in later seasons, is also here if you wish to change-up Mikey’s weapon. It’s slightly oversized but that’s likely because the hooks actually come out of it slightly. It’s not a great effect, but still appreciated.

Naturally, these editions of the TMNT invite comparisons with the Figuarts ones from last year. I think, overall, the Figuarts ones are superior, but they should be since they retail for around $65 a piece. Their articulation is better, the swappable heads help make the likeness better, and I really love that Bandai came up with those swappable belt pieces so all of the Turtles can holster their weapons. NECA’s chosen skin tone is definitely closer to that of the main show, while Bandai’s resembles the opening credits and later seasons. The Bandai Turtles also each had four pairs of hands, while the NECA ones share a community of hands. If I had to pick one I’d take the Bandai ones, but I wouldn’t feel disappointed if I only had these NECA ones. Both look great and they complement each other pretty well as now we have turtlecoms and a closed turtle-hook.

Of course, the NECA Turtles have one big advantage over the SH Figuarts ones:  they come with a Shredder! Shredder, for some reason, has really received some bad treatment from toy manufactures. Even from NECA, who delayed the release of their Mirage Comics Shredder by eight years (with part of that being attributable to Playmates, but mostly to a marketing decision). Toy manufacturers are scared that Shredder and other villains won’t sell. Playmates cancelled their own toon Shredder after showing prototypes, and Bandai has yet to bring theirs to market even though he was unveiled over a year ago. And the old Shredder toys from the original line? They were terrible, with Shredder having blue spikes and no shirt, plus that really weird semi-crouching pose. Naturally, this Shredder is the crowned jewel of the set as he’s a near perfect likeness to the cartoon. He comes in at nearly 7″ tall making him much larger than the Turtles. The head sculpt is perfect and conveys a lot of personality despite the restrictive nature of the character’s helmet. The spikes are a nice, soft, pliable plastic and the fabric cape adds a nice touch. I had to watch old episodes of the cartoon to spot any differences, and the only inaccuracy I could find was with the shoulder pads that featured fewer spikes on television, but I’m not going to complain about some additional spikes! My only other criticism would be the two-tone paint job is again a bit overdone, especially on the helmet, though overall it works better on Shredder than it does on his adversaries. His open hands also have some excess plastic from the mold that’s a bit ugly, though if it really bothers me I could probably trim it off with a razor blade.

Shredder comes with a few accessories of his own to go along with his excellent sculpt. He has a katana of his own, which is unique to him, for sword-fighting with Leo. He also has a gun that resembles the retro-mutagen ray from the cartoon and looks good in his hands. He has three sets if hands: fists, gripping hands, and open hands. He also has a com-link with a little picture of Krang on it as well as a blue canister of mutagen. I do not remember this blue canister from the show, but I’m sure it existed. I only remember the standard glass one with glowing, pink, mutagen contained inside.

The two Foot Soldiers are identical to each other. They are slightly stooped over and feature those long limbs they were known for. They too come with three sets of hands each:  fists, gripping fists, and open hands in a karate chop like pose. There’s also a rifle and a large gun with a bowl-shaped end which was featured in the cartoon and also with the Playmates version of the character as well. The two-toned paint works well on the Foot, probably due to their clothing have a lot of molded creases and folds, and it’s hard to find any fault with these figures.

Lastly, we have Krang, who too looks fantastic. He’s a light pink and features his trademark scowl lots of lumps and veins. Liberal use of black lining gives his face added definition, though they may have gone just slightly overboard with it. His tentacles are on ball joints and are also easily removable. This is so Krang can hop into his bubble walker and the tentacles clip onto outside joints to resemble the cartoon look. When not in his bubble walker, he also has his little tripod from the first season that he scooted around on before Shredder completed his body. This is a great touch by NECA as I don’t think this has ever been done before. It snaps into a recessed area on his underside so it stays in pretty well.

The villains really help round out this set as NECA hit a homer on each figure. It’s nice to have a new set of the Turtles without having to worry if they’ll ever have some villains to tangle with. Naturally, there are people who probably wish they could get more Foot Soldiers for display purposes, but that has more to do with licensing than NECA’s wishes. I have no idea what the future is for this property as it concerns NECA. The popularity of this set leads me to believe that NECA would like to do more, but it may have to wait until next year. Fans undoubtedly would love a Bebop and Rocksteady and Krang is just over here begging for a body. Other characters like Splinter, April, Baxter Stockman, and others would probably be welcomed too. I personally have no desire to go in too deep, but I definitely am hoping for more. If the property dies here though, it’s still a very satisfying collection of figures that will display well for years to come. I hope to be done with buying anymore action figures of the Turtles from this show, and I may even pass on the Bandai Shredder should he ever see release as I’m more than happy with this one. If you have the opportunity to get this set at a reasonable price, I fully recommend it.

UPDATE 2019! – If you’re finding this late and want to get a set of your own, in early 2019 NECA announced a new relationship with Target that will allow them to sell these figures at retail. The catch? Playmates mandates they not be in the toy section and retail for at least $50. NECA has a spot in electronics and as of this update you should start seeing TMNT two-packs on shelves either really soon or already. Each turtle comes with one villain and all of the accessories from this set are spread across the releases. Check them out if you can because these are absolutely worth owning and future figures are expected in the fall of 2019! Happy hunting!


Bandai SH Figuarts Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Michelangelo

img_0905At last, my quartet is complete! The famed heroes in a half shell have had their finest animated series likeness released to eager collectors around the globe and the results are pretty awesome. If you follow this blog, you may have caught my posts about the first three turtles. Leonardo and Donatello were released simultaneously in the late summer with Raphael arriving in the fall. The wait for the fourth, and perhaps most popular, turtle was a bit longer than expected, but Michelangelo is now being shipped world-wide by American distributors and the good news is; he’s probably the best of the bunch.

If you have seen either of my two posts on the other turtles, then you are likely familiar with the general look and construction of these figures. All four turtles are essentially the same figure, just with different swappable parts and their signature color scheme and belt buckle. They’re sturdy, mostly plastic figures with loads or articulation despite the fact that they’re hindered by their turtle anatomy. The lower portion of the figures, specifically from the knee down, is painted die-cast which gives them a solid base ensuring it will take more than the wind to knock these ninjas over. And even though those lower portions are die-cast, the paint job is seamless and you would never know by looking at them. Bandai’s SH Figuarts line is known for being a high quality line, and the turtles do not disappoint in this regard.

When it comes to the accessories, there’s been a clear pattern with these figures. Each turtle comes with two heads, with one featuring a serious, kind of generic expression that’s the same for all four turtles, and one that’s unique to each brother. They have four sets of hands:  fists, fists with a hole through the center for gripping weapons, slightly opened fists for a more gentle grasp, and open palms. Each turtle naturally comes with his signature weapon, a unique accessory or two, and a swappable belt piece that contains holsters for their weapons (in the show, these holsters would often “disappear” when the turtles didn’t have their weapons holstered and this piece allows collectors to do the same).

It’s the accessories that differentiate each turtle from the other, so not unexpectedly, it’s my enthusiasm for these that make Mikey my favorite of the pack. Someone over at Bandai must love Michelangelo, because he easily has the most accessories. Mikey comes with two sets of nunchaku:  one set is all plastic and features a frozen pose, the other has each end connected by an actual chain. The NECA Mirage Michelangelo was the first one I encountered that featured the real chain links on the nunchaku and I still love that effect even ten years later. There’s no denying though that the more realistic representation of the weapons does limit the poses one can achieve, which is why Bandai included the additional “frozen” weapons. Even though the chain on these is all plastic, the detail is still excellent making them look light-years ahead of anything Playmates has done with their figures. One ‘chuck is positioned in a triangle-like pose for an under-arm position, while the other has more of a swinging look. I’m torn on if I prefer these to the Revoltech nunchaku included in their version of Mikey from the current animated series, which features a disc at the end of the chain to really simulate the animated look of a twirling nunchaku. The nunchaku with the actual chain links are also great for posing as they have natural weight. They’re also the only ones that can really be holstered on Mikey’s back. Both offer great options for display.

The other included accessory is Michelangelo’s turtle hook. The turtle hook first appeared occasionally as a grappling hook carried by all of the turtles, but eventually the show would phase-out Michelangelo’s nunchaku and have him only wield the turtle hook due to the perception of nunchaku being too violent in some circles. It was pretty stupid to see Mikey standing there alongside his brothers with nothing but a grappling hook to defend himself, but it happened. Interestingly, virtually all of the toys associated with the cartoon would still feature nunchaku and I can’t recall a single one that had the turtle hook, so it’s inclusion as an accessory is certainly long overdue. Bandai used actual rope to connect the handle and the hook portion and it looks great. The hook portion can open and close a bit, but not all the way so it displays better in a splayed position. The rope is also too short for it to look like an actual grappling hook, but it probably would have looked sillier if it was absurdly long (the cartoon version stored the additional rope in the shell portion which isn’t feasible in reality). While I’ll always consider Mikey’s weapons to be his ‘chucks, I do love the look of the turtle hook and it’s a fun display piece.

Mikey’s second head features a smirking grin. It’s not unexpected that his unique head sculpt would be something light-hearted, as opposed to the angry expressions worn by Leo and Raph. I still find it kind of weird though as the smile gives his head a shape I can’t ever recall seeing depicted in the cartoon. In short, I think Bandai could have done Mikey better in this regard. And it’s also kind of disappointing that Bandai included the same generic facial expression for each turtle. I get it that it helps cut down on costs, but how expensive is it to make a new mold for such a small piece? Obviously, Michelangelo wasn’t always smiling and goofing off in the show, but who really is going to display their Michelangelo with the serious expression? Very few, I’d wager.

That about covers it. Any of the flaws possessed by the other turtles are naturally attributable to Michelangelo too, but so are all of the good points. These four represent a pretty awesome collection, but the true test lies ahead. Will Bandai continue to support this line beyond the four turtles? So few companies have. Shredder was unveiled last year, but I have yet to see anyone start taking pre-orders so I’m not holding my breath. With the New York Toy Fair drawing close, perhaps we’ll see how far Bandai intends to take this. I’d love to round out the villains at least with Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady joining Shredder. Foot Soldiers, Master Splinter, and April would be the icing on the cake, should they come to be. Anything beyond that would be unexpected, but most likely welcomed.

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Bandai SH Figuarts Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Raphael

img_0717A couple of months ago I posted about the Bandai SH Figuarts release of Leonardo and Donatello from their new line based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon from the late 80’s/early 90’s. Well, now I’m back to tell you about the next mutant to be released:  Raphael.

Everyone’s favorite wise-crackin’ turtle was the one to see the biggest change in personality between the comics and cartoon. Where Raph was a hot-tempered and moody character in print, he was more jokey and sarcastic in the cartoon. And really, this version of Raph only exists in the old cartoon which makes him rather unique among the four turtles, who mostly are depicted the same across all mediums. His personality may have been different, but his other traits were kept intact. He’s the only turtle to sport a red bandana no matter where he’s found and he is armed with his customary sai.

Raphael’s action figure in the Figuarts line is pretty much in line with what we saw out of Leonardo and Donatello. He comes with four sets of hands: closed fists, closed fists with holes for his weapons, partially closed fists with space between the index finger and thumb, and open hands. He has two heads, the grim, serious expression both Leo and Dona featured, and a unique head where his mouth is open. He comes with two additional accessories unique to Raph:  a kunai and shuriken. Raph’s construction is the same as well, featuring a plastic body with die cast shins and feet. His chest is soft plastic so it has some given when posing, and his belt buckle also happens to be die cast. He also has the same swappable belt piece feature on the back of his shell so his holsters for his sai appear as needed, just as they did on television.

img_0715Since this sure is essentially the same as the Leo and Don ones, just with different accessories, it should come as no surprise to read here that he’s of excellent quality. There’s virtually no paint slop to be found anywhere or chipping of any kind. Everything is clean and tidy. He has lots of pose-ability, though the shell will always limit any TMNT figure when compared with something like Batman or Spider-Man. For my particular figure, his belt piece fits quite snug and there’s no fear of it falling (unlike my Donatello). The sai sit in the holsters loosely, probably to prevent stripping of the paint when inserting and removing them. The bandana knot that’s swappable between head pieces is especially tight on my Raph and I did worry I was going to damage it when inserting it into the yelling head. The sai and kunai fit in both the closed fist and the partially closed fit hands, though the shuriken can only be held in the partially closed hand.

Raphael is a fine figure, but there’s also room for improvement. I’m a little disappointed with the unique head sculpt. His mouth opening almost looks like a smile, but his eyes are in a scowl indicating to me this is supposed to be an aggressive position. Sure, Raph and all of the other turtles sported a look like this at one point or another, but something that captured his more easy-going nature would have felt better. I’m also disappointed in the accessories. I understand the shuriken, but I can’t recall ever seeing any of the turtles use a kunai in the cartoon. Maybe one appeared in the background, and Splinter or Shredder may have produced one on a rare occasion, but I don’t think Raph ever did. Donatello came with a pizza slice, and Leonardo a manhole cover, so Bandai hasn’t exactly impressed in this department, unfortunately. I suppose in that sense, Raph’s accessories are better than Leo’s, but that’s not something to boast about.

Raphael obviously makes three, so we’re one turtle away from a full set. Michelangelo was expected to release in November, so I would guess he’s not too far from release at this point. Criticisms aside, this is the best set of turtles based on the original cartoon we’ve ever seen and it will take quite an effort to top them. I look forward to completing my set.

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