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S.H.Figuarts Bulma

Bulma’s back and packing a bigger gun.

It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the S.H.Figuarts release Bulma – Adventure Begins. I believe I mentioned in that review that the figure I was reviewing was the second Bulma released by Bandai/Tamashii Nations for the SHF line of action figures based on the classic manga/anime Dragon Ball by Akira Toriyama. It was that version of Bulma that I was interested in because it depicted her as she appeared in the very first episode of the anime. The previous version of Bulma had not interested in me as she was in her Mad Max-like outfit from the show’s ending credits and some promotional art. For whatever reason, that version of Bulma has apparently appealed more to companies looking to make collectibles based on the show. When Irwin launched their own line of Dragon Ball toys in the early 2000s, they too went with that look. A lot of statues and other collectibles have gone with it, and I guess it’s just because these companies view their clientele as mostly male and males want to buy the rugged version of Bulma with the machinegun, not the one with the ponytail and pink skirt.

I’d wager most who buy this figure will pose her exactly as she appears on the box.

As someone with a fairly modest Dragon Ball collection, I definitely do not need versions of characters that didn’t even make it into the show. However, the past year being what it is, boredom and clearance pricing has led me to make some purchases I otherwise would not which is why I’m about to tell you all about the first version of Bulma released in the S.H.Figuarts line. Simply titled “Bulma,” this is that biker/raider/whatever iteration of the character. I believe it’s based on artwork by Toriyama, but otherwise those ending credits are where I know it from. It appears about 30 seconds into it and is preceded by quick shots of Bulma putting on her gloves and loading her gun. She’s positioned with a dirt bike too, and the Irwin release included the bike as a stand, while this version is just the figure. It’s certainly an interesting look as she’s covered in bandages and for some reason her pants are missing a leg. Her hair’s in this side ponytail and her name is emblazoned on her shoulder pad. She looks cool, a bit of a rugged cute, she just never looks like this in the actual anime.

“Is that ME?! What am I wearing?!”

The figure basically matches that art to perfection. About the only difference I notice is she has a little grime on her exposed knee in the picture that Bandai didn’t bother to paint on. She’s about five inches tall, which makes her a little taller than Kid Goku, but doesn’t really put her in true scale with anyone in the Dragon Ball line save for maybe Tao. It’s basically a choice Bandai had to make when doing the kid characters for they’d have to be really small to be truly in scale. Bulma comes with her goggles which are basically just intended to be held or draped over her neck as they are in the image. To do so, you just pop her head off and that’s how you complete the look. A lot of the details in her sculpt are done with separate pieces like the satchel at her hip and the shoulder pad on her left arm. I’m not sure if the pad is glued on or just pegged in, but the satchel is pegged and it can be lifted up. The straps across her back and left thigh are sculpted in and painted and the paint application is very clean. The only paint issue I can find concerns some of the hands where the blue rectangle isn’t perfectly lined up with the sculpted-out area for it, but it’s very minor. I really like how her boots turned out and even the little clasps on those are painted silver without slop which is kind of incredible. My only real criticism with the sculpt and paint of this figure rests with the hair. I wish there was a wash or something added to the figure’s hair to reduce the very plastic look it has. It’s matte, but that shade of blue comes out looking a little like Play-Doh.

Look! She can put her gloves on!

This figure likely shares parts with the other version of Bulma and her articulation is essentially the same. Her head sits on a fairly large ball-peg and can rotate, tilt, and look down quite a bit. Her hair prevents her from being able to look up though. At the shoulder she has ball-pegs with a small butterfly joint. She can raise her arms out past 90 degrees at the side, though you have to work with the shoulder pad on her left arm, and rotate all around. The arm swivels basically at the shoulder and above the biceps. At the elbows, she has the SHF disc joints which aren’t my favorite, but it’s what Bandai seems to go with when it’s sculpting characters with thin arms. She can bend past 90, but the joint is rather funky looking when the elbows are not bent. At the wrist she has ball joints with great range and the joint isn’t as awkward looking as it is on some figures because her hands and wrists are fully gloved. In the torso she has a ball joint just below her bust. This allows her to tilt and crunch forward and back with really no gapping issues. It works in conjunction with a ball-joint at the waist resulting in her being super flexible. At the leg, she can lift her legs out to the side a fair amount, but can’t pull off a split. She kicks forward and back to about 90 with a thigh twist up by the ball-joint. The knees use the same disc system as the elbows so they’re single-jointed, but allow the figure to go a little past 90 there as well. The joint here works a little better from an aesthetic point-of-view as the disc is only visible from the back. Below the knee, she surprisingly doesn’t seem to have a boot-cut, but she does have ball-joints at the ankle. They’re a bit limiting though, likely due to the sculpt, so she can’t go forward and back too far and the side-to-side “rocker” action is a bit limited as well.

Dragon Radar: don’t leave home without it!

Bulma is sort of like a tale of two figures when it comes to the articulation: great on top, so-so below the waist. She can still do whatever you need her to. She’s more than capable of hitting the pose from those ending credits, as well as the other product shots on the box. And when it comes to her accessories, there are no problems there as well. Her main accessory is that machinegun she’s seen casually holding in the art. It has a sling that pegs into the rear and side so she can wear it over her shoulder, hold it by the top, or hold it in a more conventional firing position. The gun has a very long stock which makes it a challenge to position properly if you want her to look like she’s actually firing the gun. Not impossible, but it’s definitely not the position Bandai prioritized when developing it. She has those goggles I mentioned which are well-painted and look nice wherever you choose to put them. They just can’t actually fit across her face. She also has the Dragon Radar that the other Bulma comes with. This one has a different decal that doesn’t show any Dragon Balls. Just like with that Bulma, this one comes with a special right hand for the Dragon Radar to peg into since it’s such a small accessory. Definitely try not to drop it on a carpet. She also has an assortment of other hands and most seem like they serve a specific purpose. There’s a set of curved, open, hands that appear intended for holding the Dragon Ball or possibly handlebars. There’s a right, trigger, hand, a right fist, and a right, open, hand. That open hand appears to work in conjunction with a left hand that’s almost a fist, but her thumb is forward in a pinching position. Based on the rear of the box, it appears to be to simulate her pulling on her right glove (the open hand) which is certainly specific. There’s also a left, pointing, hand and a left gripping hand for holding the gun by the top of it as she is in the art. Lastly, there’s a five-star Dragon Ball and I think I now have all seven, plus the “pearl” one that came with Jackie Chun.

One flaw with this line is that Bulma basically scales with no one.

To go with all of that stuff are two additional portraits. Bulma comes with a standard smile in the box, plus an open mouth smile and a winking face. Swapping them is simple as her hair comes off granting access to the face-plate. What’s kind of neat is she can also use the face-plates from the second Bulma release. The smile expressions are basically the same, except this version has a band-aid on her cheek. The open mouth on this Bulma has her looking to her left, while the other is looking straight-ahead. The main difference between the two is the winking face for this figure, and the terrified scream on the other. I can’t see myself swapping faces between the two releases, but it’s nice to have that option. If you wanted to, you could also place her on the SHF Bulma’s Motorcycle accessory, though she doesn’t fit as well as the other Bulma. That’s due to the crotch piece limiting the legs at the hip so it’s a bit tricky to get her all the way down onto the seat and have her feet where they’re supposed to be. It can be done, but that bike definitely works better with the other Bulma since she has a new skirt piece specifically designed to get her properly seated.

It’s a bit of an awkward fit, but if you want to, Bulma can ride the motorcycle.

This is a solid release from Bandai for the SHF line. Despite this version of Bulma never appearing in the anime proper, it’s still associated with an iconic image of the character so it’s not as if it’s unwanted. It’s different enough from Bulma – Adventure Begins that it serves a purpose. It can do the pose that it needs to do, but it also has a range of other possible poses that all look good on a shelf. The only changes I’d make to the figure would be to improve the grip on the trigger hand and apply a wash or something to the hair. Otherwise, I’m happy with the sculpt and paint and the articulation is sufficient for what this figure needs to do. This wasn’t the version of Bulma I decided I needed to have for my Dragon Ball collection, but now that I have it I’m certainly glad it’s here.


S.H.Figuarts Piccolo: The Proud Namekian

A real proud one.

When the S.H.Figuarts line was launched years ago and Dragon Ball Z was at the forefront, it wasn’t Goku who got to be the first figure out of the gate. Nope, it was Piccolo. That figure caught my attention when it was announced even though I had not purchased a Dragon Ball figure in quite some time. I came close, but ultimately never did pull the trigger. The line originally adhered very close to the original Dragon Ball manga so Piccolo sported a light purple gi with yellow, puffy, things (whatever that portion of Namekian anatomy is), and a red sash at the waist. An event exclusive version would follow that depicted an anime color scheme and by all accounts it seemed like most people really liked this figure.

Piccolo looks like a fun guy…

Of course, time being what it is, Bandai has had numerous opportunities to improve upon that original figure. The mechanics of the average SHF release have been altered to create more articulation and better sculpting. As a result, the figures released more recently tend to look quite a bit better than the original ones, even though when those first ones dropped few could imagine a DBZ figure looking any better. Many of the original figures have received updates, but it took awhile for old Piccolo to finally get his. Released towards the end of 2020 though was Piccolo: The Proud Namekian. This figure is a complete do-over with basically nothing retained from the original figure. For longtime collectors of this line, this figure was overdue and just judging it based off of promotional pictures seems to indicate it’s a superior product, but how much better is it really? Well, time to find out!

I don’t think he really wants to come out.

Piccolo comes in the standard SHF window box, but he comes a bit different from what some may be used to. Piccolo has a lot of stuff on him right out of the box. I suppose it’s not surprising to see him with his shoulder pads and turban/helmet thing, but I was a little surprised to see that he has the crossed-arms pose in the box. That look is probably the signature Piccolo look so it’s not that surprising that they would go with that pose, it’s just surprising because usually that crossed-arm piece is an included accessory and not the default pose. Instead, Piccolo’s arms are just kind of chilling right there beside him since the crossed-arms pose is one piece.

Let’s cast this stuff aside for a minute.

Anyway, I’m going to start off discussing Piccolo without all of that stuff. He stands around 6.5″ which puts him on the taller side, but he’s probably not as big as he could have been. His size does kind of vary at times in the anime and the character literally can grow to any size, though that’s a seldom used power kept in his back pocket. Out of the box, he has a big, missing, chunk in his back and that’s because his cape is going to peg into there as well as some other pieces. When not wearing the cape, he has a filler piece that’s made to look like his purple gi and it plugs right in. Mine isn’t quite flush on the right side and I wonder if that’s intentional to make it easier to remove? Either way, it looks good to my eyes and it’s on the figure’s back so it’s not something I’m terribly concerned about.

Bandai included a plug to hide all of the ports on the figure’s back, which is expected of a $60 action figure.
I’ve had this Piccolo animation cel on my wall for 20 years so I’m very accustomed to his face. This scene takes place right after Piccolo’s fusion with Nail on Planet Namek.

Piccolo’s default expression is a stoic one. It looks okay, but something about the face seems a touch off to me and I’m not sure what it is. I think his eyes maybe too small and there’s too much “face” below them. The angle of the jaw is probably off too as it should come in tighter towards the center of his neck. I do not like that they painted his mouth red since he does not and has never had red lips so that choice is odd to me. He has his antennae though and they can be pulled out and if you really wanted to you could reposition them. Do be careful though as I once dropped an antennae from my King Piccolo figure and it was a pain to find in my very shallow carpet. I can’t imagine how hard it would have been had my carpet had more volume. Piccolo is depicted in his anime color scheme so purple gi, a very saturated green flesh tone, pink musculature or whatever we’re calling those, with red trim and a blue sash. He’s the “proud Namekian” as we’re calling him so I guess that makes this figure a late Frieza saga version or perhaps a Cell saga version of the character. Prior to that, he was a straight-up villain who wanted to avenge his “father” by killing Goku and then take over the world. He gradually turned to the side of good, thanks to his bond with Goku’s son, Gohan, and by the time he arrives on Namek to confront Frieza and see his home world for the first time he’s very much a good guy. Piccolo doesn’t really change much visually throughout the course of the show, so it’s not that important. In Dragon Ball, he had slightly different anatomy that included pink kneecaps, but otherwise he’s been pretty consistent ignoring the whole height thing I mentioned. Which is good, because this guy can fit in wherever you need him to. If you want him fighting Frieza that’s no problem or maybe you want to put him up against Android 17? That should work too.

This is a figure that definitely benefits from some effects parts.
Obviously, this is the more appropriate charging pose for Piccolo.

From a sculpting perspective, the figure is pretty solid. The gi he wears is sort of nothing new as a lot of characters wear something similar. And in the case of Piccolo, he looks like a scaled down version of King Piccolo and even a lot of the hand options are the same. He has a decent amount of paint since the red and pink portions of his body needed to be painted and it’s all quite clean. His gi looks to largely be unpainted though, likely because it’s a very dark color to begin with. I do wish it had more of a matte appearance because it’s quite shiny. That sheen does help to accentuate the folds, but it doesn’t help to create the illusion of realism. The only other critique of the overall sculpt and paint I have is that his upper body looks a touch undersized. Piccolo is a pretty beefy dude, or alien, whatever, and I feel like his shoulders could be a little broader and his chest a bit more pronounced. I’m guessing, they had to find a happy medium that worked with both the shoulder pads and without since it’s not as apparent when he has those on. I still think he looks good, but if I could improve something that would be it.

I much prefer this face to the more stoic one.
This figure is very stand-friendly.

Of course, if I was unimpressed with the basic, combat, look of Piccolo I could switch to his default look which includes the shoulder pads and cape. In order to put them on (or take them off) you simply pop the head off of the figure and slide the shoulder pads over it. There’s an opening on the back for the cape to peg into and the peg rotates so you can position the cape however you see fit. You can technically use whatever portrait you want with the cape, but Bandai included two heads that work with the turban: a stoic one and a yelling one. The expressions are both duplicated without the turban piece so I dislike the stoic one here, but the yelling one looks great. It just doesn’t work as well with this look since Piccolo usually ditches his weighted clothing when fighting, but he does engage in some fisticuffs with this on here and there. It’s a good look though and if I liked that stoic expression more I’d have a hard time not displaying the figure this way, but I think I’ll go in a different route ultimately.

If I liked this portrait this would be a hard pose to resist.
Though if you want that cape flowing out behind the figure you’re going to need a lot of shelf space.

Piccolo comes with plenty of things, though there’s at least one thing absent. For starters, he has five heads: stoic, stoic with turban, yelling, yelling with turban, and a teeth-gritting looking to the side expression. The heads intended for the turban don’t have a skull-top, but a chunk of plastic with a key on it so the turban can only go on one way. The other three heads have a full top and antennae. The yelling and teeth-gritting feature added veins and both look quite nice. The open mouth on both yelling heads are fully sculpted and the paint is pristine. For as much as I dislike the stoic expression, I love the other two. Piccolo also has the crossed-arms piece mentioned earlier. To use, you disconnect the arms just below the should and plug that piece in. It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done if you make good use of the butterfly joints. Just be careful about putting pressure on the shoulder piece because it has a cap that kind of just floats on it which can slide down and pop off on you. For hands, Piccolo has the usual assortment: fists, style pose, open palms, and a Special Beam Canon right hand. He also has an arm stump that clips on the left shoulder and features some sculpted, purple, blood dripping off of it. This is great if you have a Raditz figure and want to recreate that scene, though we sadly don’t have a barefoot Goku to go with it. Lastly, there are two plugs for the rear of the figure intended to be used with a Tamashii Nations stand (not included). It adds a port for the stand to plug into under the cape, and the larger of the two plugs is intended to help the cape stay up. The best application for this is so Piccolo can achieve his floating, meditative, pose. I do wish they had included an eyes closed portrait to really sell this, but oh well. The only big, missing, item is, of course, a blast effect. This guy is crying out for a Special Beam Canon effect piece and I really wish it could have been included. Seriously, if it means another 5 or 10 bucks added to the MSRP then just do it, Bandai!

I love that they included an arm stump!
This looks pretty bad ass, but it would be so much better with an actual effects piece.

Piccolo has plenty of stuff, but what good would it all be if he can’t be positioned well with it? Worry not, for he’s about as articulated as anything in this line. The head is on a ball peg with another joint at the base of the neck, and since Piccolo is bald, he has no restrictions in looking around. The shoulders are quite impressive as he has a butterfly joint, ball-hinge, and another hinge that allows the arms to drop down. This is to better accommodate the shoulder pads. The butterfly joint can swing out extremely far, which I believe is to make it easier to get the arms-crossed attachment on and less for actual posing, because it would look ridiculous to pose him like that. He swivels just past the shoulder at those ports where his arms come off and has the usual double-jointed elbow and the spacer piece looks quite lovely. The wrists are ball-jointed and the red trim helps hide them without hindering the range. In the diaphragm, you have a ball-hinge so he can rotate and pivot, but also crunch forward and back. There is some gapping if you go too far, and as usual, you want to be mindful of the parts rubbing against each other. At the waist he can twist and pivot and at the hips he can kick forward and back about as far as you need him to and swivel at the thighs. The knees are double-jointed and look okay when going past 90 degrees and the ankles are ball-jointed as well. They aren’t the best, though it could be due to the shape of the character’s shoes, but I don’t have problems standing him. He has a toe hinge as well, but it’s not particularly useful. Lastly, the cape is articulated so the ends can slide out for a more dramatic pose. It can also pivot up and down and you could turn the peg at an angle if you wished. It’s kind of funky because it’s in 3 pieces, but I think it works better than a wired, cloth, cape for this aesthetic. The superior option would probably have been to just do two capes, one just hanging and the other blowing, but maybe this was the more affordable option.

I brought in one of the effects pieces from my Yellow Power Ranger figure and it works okay.

Piccolo has all of the parts and articulation to really achieve the bulk of his signature poses and looks from the show. He can bring his hands together for his Cell saga energy blast, and his range of motion on his arm is perfect for the Special Beam Canon charging and blasting pose. The open hands work as a Masenko attack or if Piccolo wants to steal Tien’s Solar Flare he can do that as well. In terms of just posing, I like the style posed “claw” hands and the fists. The grimacing expression really adds a lot of personality to the figure so he can look angry or desperate with a touch of worry too. If the box included the stand and a blast effect this would be the total package as far as I’m concerned. One thing I also like about the figure, is you can use the “claw” attachment on the stands to support the figure if you want to, but I actually prefer to just peg into the figure either via those included adapters that work with the cape, or with the port on his back for the actual cape. He’s a very dynamic figure, which is what most want and expect from this line.

We have to do the father-son picture!
A time paradox!

Bandai’s 2.0 approach to Piccolo is a very good attempt. He’s definitely an improvement over the original, which is over 10 years old at this point, and does a good enough job of capturing the character’s likeness from the anime in certain poses. I do wish his default expression looked better and I feel like the character could have been bulked up a touch in the shoulder area. Also, the shiny-ness of the pants is a bummer. And there’s the lack of a blast effect of some kind, but that’s a criticism for the entire line as so few figures come with that. Even so, this figure has a lot of display options at his disposal which is great for collectors like me who enjoy changing things up every so often. I’m going with a wounded, Special Beam Canon, charging pose for now, but who knows what Piccolo will be doing 6 weeks from now? If you’ve been holding out for a better Piccolo from this line, this will probably get the job done for you, even with the obvious room for improvement.


S.H.Figuarts Nappa – Event Exclusive Color Edition

Here comes Nappa!

When it comes to my S.H.Figuarts collection, I’ve been able to largely keep to just Dragon Ball. And by Dragon Ball, I mean the original anime and manga that centered on a young boy named Goku. Even though that’s my favorite edition of the venerable series, it doesn’t mean my favorite is the one shared by millions across the globe. Most fans prefer Dragon Ball Z to any other iteration of the anime (the manga just kept the name Dragon Ball until Dragon Ball Super became a thing) so there is ton more merchandise for those fans than there is for me.

Now, just because I have a preference, does not mean I dislike Dragon Ball Z. Like many American viewers, I saw DBZ way before I ever saw Dragon Ball. I saw it briefly when it was on a broadcast network in my area really early in the morning, but I became a fan when Cartoon Network started airing it. The popularity of the show led the network to center a whole block of action cartoons, most of which were anime, around it and Toonami was born. During those early days, only the first 56 episodes or so were dubbed in English (it’s confusing because there was enough material cut that the English dub had a smaller episode count for awhile), and since the show had failed to catch on initially, there were no plans to dub more. Those same episodes then aired over and over so we American fans came to know those characters and arcs rather well. And one of the early villains of the show was the Saiyan warrior: Nappa.

I hope you like yellow and black.

Nappa arrived with Vegeta following Raditz’s defeat with the idea being to get vengeance for his fallen comrade. Even though he viewed Raditz as weak and pathetic, there was enough Saiyan pride in the grunt to want to seek revenge. His comrade and superior, Vegeta, had other ideas though. He cared nothing for Raditz and only wished to find the Dragon Balls so he could wish for eternal life. Unfortunately for Nappa, Vegeta’s lack of affection for Raditz extended to him as well, and when Goku delivered a devastating blow to the warrior that left his back snapped in two, Vegeta decided to put the beast down rather than help him rehabilitate.

Yeah, I know, it’s the wrong Vegeta.

As a result, Nappa’s presence on the show was fairly brief. He shows up, beats up the lesser fighters, and then gets to be the sacrificial lamb to Goku in a bid to demonstrate how far the warrior has progressed in his training. Still, I always thought he was a really effective bad guy. A remorseless killing machine who just loves to fight. His design is simple in that he’s just a massive piece of man-beef with a bald head and moustache. He wears the giant Saiyan armor that was still rather new to viewers at the time, but has shown up in a myriad of places since, and just really looks the part of a guy you wouldn’t want to mess with. So many villains in the show are intentionally drawn small and unimposing as series creator Akira Toriyama seemed to enjoy toying with expectations. Nappa was different, though also kind of the same since the much smaller Vegeta was considerably stronger than him.

I love that scouter look.

A few years ago, a version of Nappa was released in the Bandai/Tamashii Nations S.H.Figuarts lineup that was really tempting. A comic book store near me had one on display in a glass cabinet, but I never could bring myself to bite on it. He even got marked down eventually, a paltry 10%, but a discount nonetheless, and I still passed. That version of the character had more of a manga appearance. His armor was basically black and brown, but he still looked cool. In the anime, his coloring was slightly different which happened from time to time. His shoulder pads were more of a yellow and the black portions had a blue hue to them. That was my Nappa, and when Bandai unveiled a version of the character that matched that appearance I finally gave in.

“Hands off the tail, Namek!”

During the virtual San Diego Comic Con in July, Bandai put what would have been its exclusives on its Premium Bandai webstore. The whole thing was a shit show, and getting from one screen to the next was incredibly tiring as the website was just overrun by collectors looking to buy one of the five Dragon Ball exclusives. It took me over an hour, but I did get an order in for Nappa. I had to wait over a month for delivery though, which funny enough, makes Nappa the first SDCC exclusive I have received in 2021. Either because the global shipping crisis delayed release, or because manufacturers expected they wouldn’t need to have product on hand for a physical con, most of the exclusives ended up being pre-orders. My NECA purchase might arrive in October, or it might arrive in December and my Mondo purchase is dated January. My guess is the reason for the delay is actually a combination of both reasons spelled out, but ultimately, it’s a case of “it is what it is.” You want this stuff? Cool, you got it, but you’re going to have to wait.

These chop hands really draw attention to how massive his hands are.

Nappa arrived in the usual SHF window box only this one features a black and yellow motif to accentuate that it’s an event exclusive. My event exclusive Kid Goku was packaged similarly, though I never did post a review of that figure since he’s the same as the other Kid Goku, just with a blue gi instead of orange. Nappa is a chunky boy. He’s not the tallest SHF figure I own, but he’s probably the heaviest. He stands just a tad shy of 7″ and really fills out the package he comes bundled in. He’s a great figure to hold as he looks and feels like a collector grade action figure. The plastic is firm and each, individual, piece has a lightness to it, but the sum of its parts results in a nice heft for this guy. All of the musculature is well sculpted and the anatomy and design of such really echoes the source material well. As is the case for most of the figures in this line, there’s not a ton of paint, but what’s there is clean. Nappa actually commands more paint than usual as his gloves and boots feature some gray piping with mustard braids around the wrists and ankles. The mustard yellow of the abdomen, shoulder pads, and skirt pieces are all painted and there’s even a slight wash on his muscles. The painted portion of his upper chest area matches the sculpted flesh color of the neck well. The only paint application that looks a little odd to me is the moustache on his smirking head because it doesn’t follow the crease of his smile on the right side. I don’t think it’s supposed to though, it’s just one of those things that looks odd. I’d have to closely inspect the source material to see if I’m wrong, but it only looks odd when the figure is placed right in front of your face. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the aesthetics of this guy.

He’s a bit of a ham for the camera.

Where the SHF line rises above most is in its ability to wed these impressive sculpts with a ton of articulation. Nappa has a whole bunch at his disposal and it’s all of the stuff you would expect. He has a ball joint at the head plus another at the base of the neck so he can look all over the place including up and down. At the shoulders, he has a ball joint plus a butterfly joint. Because of the bulky armor, he can’t bring his arms out and across his chest as well as some figures. The shoulder pads are on hinges so they can be moved out of the way, but the bicep hits the edge of his pec. There’s a biceps swivel and double elbows, but his arms are so thick that he can’t bend past 90 degrees. On the plus side, none of the plastic joiner pieces are over-exposed to accommodate a truly wide range of motion so his arms look pretty nice in whatever position you place them in. His hands are attached via ball pegs, and even though they’re recessed in those gauntlets he’s wearing, he can still move them around pretty well. In the abdomen, he has a ball-joint that I don’t think is hinged. At least, mine won’t go up. He can bend back okay, but not forward very well and you definitely have to be mindful of the upper chest area rubbing on his abs and ruining the paint. At the waist, he has a very small ball-peg that basically just affords swivel rotation. There’s a little tilt there, but nothing game-changing. At the hips, he can kick forward and back about as far as you would ever need him to. There’s a thigh twist and double-jointed knees that go just a tiny bit past 90. At the ankle I believe we have a ball-joint. It’s nice and tight, which is what a big figure like this needs, but doesn’t provide a huge range of motion. There’s also a toe hinge, but it’s not very good and is kind of ugly because the joint is too far forward.

I couldn’t really get him into a kneeling pose to sell this one better.

Nappa moves reasonably well. Obviously, there’s no getting around that armor he wears. It’s big and bulky. The hinges on the various flaps help to some degree, but there’s only so much they can do. While I wish he could reach out in front of himself better than he can, I wouldn’t want to put any cuts in the armor to facilitate that so I’m happy with the choices Bandai made. It helps that Nappa doesn’t really have a signature energy blast like a Kamehameha or Special Beam Canon that he needs to mimic. He’s more of a brawler, and if Bandai ever did want to do a more articulated version of him they could also do a battle damaged one that doesn’t have the armor. As I mentioned in the prior paragraph, the lesser articulation means his joints mostly look really good. His elbows and knees look pretty great whether bent or out straight and there’s not a lot of gapping issues on him. The only area, besides the useless toe hinge, that I think looks a little unsightly is the neck. He’s always going to have a small gap there and since his neck is bare there’s no way to hide anything. The trade-off for the neck articulation is one I’d make though. He is an action figure, after all, not a statue.

Time to fly!

There’s a lot of plastic in Nappa, so it’s probably not surprising to see his accessory count is on the smaller end. Nappa comes with four, distinct, facial portraits. He comes with a smirking face, a yelling face where he’s looking straight-ahead, a yelling face where he’s looking down and to the left (or like he’s trying to look behind himself because there’s a guy grabbing onto him) and a smirking face with scouter. The scouter is non-removable so you only get one display option if you wish to use it. I always think of him as having the scouter on so that’s my preferred look, but I like the others as well. The head where he’s trying to look off to the side is definitely present so you can recreate the scene where Chaoz blows himself up why clinging to Nappa’s back. It’s even illustrated on the back of the box. I don’t have that figure though.

The base of the stand looks pretty cool, it’s just that Nappa isn’t the best figure for such a stand.

In addition to the alternate heads, Nappa also comes with 3 sets of hands. He has fists in the box, but also has grabbing hands and a set of hands that are in a “chop” position. I’m assuming he does some chops in the anime, though I really can’t recall specifics (maybe when he’s smashing up the jets) and the product shots on the box are of no help as none feature them. He also has a seventh hand which has two fingers extended. It functions like a cool, style, pose sort of thing and he may have done an attack that utilized such a gesture, or I could be mistaken. I think it’s present because that’s how he makes holes in the ground to plant the Saibamen. Of the sets, I definitely prefer the grabby hands, but all of them feel like they have use and I’ll likely switch them up, though I don’t know that I’ll ever display him sans scouter. That’s it though for accessories. As usual, there’s no blast effect which would have been nice. A big, mouth, blast would have been pretty fun and unique. I think the standard version might have come with a small one? Or the shop I used to see him at just happened to display him with such. That blast effect wasn’t the best, but I’d still take it over nothing.

Goku, on the other hand, works just fine. The third stand (not pictured) uses Whis’ symbol for the base.

That’s not all I have to talk about though. For SDCC, Bandai had four figures available plus a fifth set which was a box of action stands. They’re personalized to coincide with the figures they did and I grabbed a set. I think it was 40 bucks, but it got you 6 stands, 2 each of the following design: Goku, Whis, and a Saiyan Space Pod. I grabbed it because I really did need more stands and I thought they looked pretty slick. Unfortunately, when it comes to Nappa it doesn’t work too well because he is just so thick. The stand is designed to grab the figure around the waist and has some added crotch support, because even action figures need crotch support. The clasp really can’t get around Nappa’s waist, but he can at least be position on the crotch piece. You will likely need to tighten the screws in the stand as far as they’ll go to accommodate his bulk or else it will just topple. I like that the pack came with two of each style though since anyone who has the previously release Saiyan Saga Vegeta will likely want to use one with him. I do not have that figure, though if he ever gets a re-release I’ll probably grab one now. I was able to finagle a flying pose for Nappa with the stand, though I don’t think I’d trust it on a shelf. That means it’s more like a base for Nappa, and having the space pod as a base is kind of cool in its own way, but it would have been nice if it had been specially engineered to work better with the bulky Nappa.

This figure has some shortcomings, but ultimately it nails what it needed to the most and that’s the look. This looks like Nappa from Dragon Ball Z and he looks fantastic. It would have been awesome if they had found a way to make him move a little better, (and at least one of the product shots on the back of the box must be a render because he can’t wipe his mouth with the back of his hand) or stuck in a cool effects part, but he can definitely can hit all of the important poses for the character. Really, the biggest negative about him is now I want more figures that display well with him. A Saiyan Saga Vegeta is the most appropriate, but it did cause me to look at the recently released Kid Gohan, but I don’t think I need him. I considered Kaioken Goku, but he squared off with the unarmored Nappa so that doesn’t feel necessary. I did grab one figure, and I’ll tell you about him soon enough, and I also pre-ordered the new Krillin so Nappa should have a few guys to play with in due time. This is a guy that enjoys being violent, so I definitely need to feed him.

This dude looks good and he knows it. He’s not quite as tall as King Piccolo, but definitely chunkier.

This action figure is an event exclusive from Premium Bandai. Other retailers did buy some stock, but they tack on a sizable surcharge. Even with that surcharge, it looks like most have sold out so if you want him you may have to go to the secondary market. Some people are probably looking to flip him, and Bandai did open a pre-order window since their website was so terrible so some people (and possibly retailers) will get him in Q1 2022 so if you don’t like the prices right now you can wait and see if they improve next year. Bluefin Brands has also been hosting a pop-up shop that will be selling the con exclusives. They’ll probably only hit major cities like LA and New York, but maybe you have a buddy who can get to one for you or something. If you prefer the older version, maybe the release of the more anime-accurate Nappa has knocked the price down on that guy a bit. I’m pretty happy with him, even if my Saiyan Saga collection is rather light, and I don’t think any DBZ collection of S.H.Figuarts should be without a Nappa.


S.H.Figuarts Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku

That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.

Do you like your Goku stoic?

The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.

Or do you prefer him smug? I like smug.

This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.

Of course, there’s also pissed off Goku.

Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.

And when Goku gets mad, he starts working on something…

As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.

Like the good old Kamehameha attack!
In case you prefer a side view of the destruction.

Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.

Since I don’t have a proper Dragon Ball Super villain, King Piccolo is just going to have to take one for the team.

People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.

“Keep you low power, Super Saiyan, stink away from me, Vegeta.”

The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.

Just a couple of cocky Saiyans.

And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.

“Bye!”

Another Comic Con Season is Over and it was Expensive!

San Diego Comic Con has come to be a convention that means a lot of things. It only vaguely has anything to do with comic books and instead is more a celebration of, and I hate to use the term, “geek” culture: video games, movies, comics, toys, etc. It’s also a huge commercial event with many companies exhibiting wares like a trade show and also hawking rare, convention, exclusives to hungry patrons looking to get their hands on something unique. The problem is, these convention exclusives were once novelties, but in the toy industry, they’ve become practical necessities for fans of certain products and it creates a hyper-competitive environment full of broken websites, tapped-out wallets, and frustrated fans.

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the event to be done remotely. At least with this year, companies had plenty of time to plan for that and many crafted special videos or hosted live panels to show off to fans what’s expected to come later this year and into next. Unfortunately, a global shipping crisis could not be foreseen so a lot of product that would have been sold at physical booths this year are still in transit. It certainly takes a damper out of things when, as a consumer, you fight scalpers and busted websites only to secure an order for something that won’t even ship for 6 to 8 months. In that case though, at least the consumer can be happy to have secured a coveted item and the waiting is just what it is.

It’s been an interesting season. I was musing on Twitter how this time of year that purports to celebrate the collector, toy, industry instead brings out the worst in the industry. As one would say though, it is what it is. I spent a lot of time, and money, going after the stuff I personally wanted and watched from afar as plenty of other fellow collectors tried to get the things they wanted. Some experiences went better than others, but I can at least say that I did get everything I really wanted, and the things I didn’t I passed on because it just wasn’t worth it to me.

This fall, the mask comes off!

The company always in my sights this time of year is NECA. I have been collecting NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles products ever since they started making the stuff back in 2008. NECA chose to use this time of year to only highlight items expected to arrive in stores between now and October, so while there weren’t a ton of reveals, there was certainly plenty to get excited about. On the film front, they had a new Casey Jones to feature that now comes with an unmasked portrait as NECA was able to get the likeness rights to actor Elias Koteas (with some help from April actress Judith Hoag) around the time the original figure was released. It looks great, though considering it’s basically the same figure I already have just with a new head and elbows means I may pass on it. Complicating the matter is Walmart posting a preorder just last night for a mystery two-pack claiming to be April and Casey from the farm portion of the film. There was no image to go with it, but being a TMNT product, it sold out. It’s dated for November so I suppose it’s not a surprise it was withheld from the show. Also from the movies is Shredder from the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze. He’s largely the same figure as the first film except he’s purple and has a new cape and helmet. Still, he looks pretty awesome and would pair quite well with Tokka and Rahzar.

From the cartoons, NECA had some two-packs that we knew were coming thanks to a Target leak, but had yet to see. Groundchuck and Dirtbag will be arriving together which makes sense since they debuted together in the same episode of the show. Dirtbag even has a nifty feature where he can separate at the torso and be placed in a sculpted pile of rubble like he came up from out of the ground (since he’s a mutated miner or something). The other big two-pack shown was Wingnut and Screwloose who too looked quite impressive. Screwloose in the cartoon was a much larger character than someone like Joe Eyeball so he gets a full figure this time around, which is awesome. He looks to be roughly the same size as Baxter. Those were the only new reveals, but they did show additional shots of some of the figures NECA put up for preorder earlier in the year and also teased a cartoon Tokka and Rahzar two-pack. For the comics, they only had a teaser for Fugitoid and nothing for the video game line was shown or teased which was expected as the comic line is intended to replace it.

I don’t know if the kid version of me would be excited for this group, but the adult version certainly is!

As expected, NECA did have an exclusive set to sell this year as they have every year going back several years now. And for TMNT, they actually had two. The first is an exclusive Super Shredder that will be sold at Walmart stores. It’s another paint variant meant to resemble a European version of the old Playmates toy, similar to how the Shadow Master variant was an homage to a mail order exclusive of the same toy. This one is basically hot pink with metallic blue shoulder pads and spikes. It’s fine, though most fans were more interested in the cartoon 4-pack that went on sale at NECA’s webstore yesterday. Titled The Catwoman from Channel 6, the set contains four figures: Mutated Cat April, Irma, Vernon, and Burne as well as a bunch of unique Channel 6 themed accessories like cameras and little mutated versions of Vernon and Burne as turtles. It’s a pretty cool looking set as the box is done up like the deluxe releases with f.h.e. inspired artwork, but mostly it’s the first chance at an Irma and Burne. They may not be heroes or villains, but they were in a lot of episodes of the cartoon and it’s hard to have a display that doesn’t include them. Many were disappointed that the Cat April doesn’t come with a new, non-mutated, April head, but her skin tone is different as a cat and it wouldn’t have made sense. Irma comes with rat parts, like Vernon, while the cowardly cameraman has two new portraits to differentiate him from his prior release: a scared version and a blindfolded one. The set was sold with some “swag” like last year’s Musical Mutagen Tour and set collectors back $175. A version without the swag will arrive at Target in the coming months and retail for $150. I was able to place an order yesterday as the set remained in stock for awhile relative to other NECA exclusives, which means about 15 minutes. International versions are still available, and really the only downer is NECA has not provided a release window so I have no idea when this thing will ship.

She looks perfect!

In non-turtle news, NECA had some horror stuff to show based on Halloween and Gremlins II. I’m not really into that aspect of their business, but I am very interested in one of their newest intellectual properties: Gargoyles. Despite boasting that they have around six or seven sculpts already completed, NECA was content to just show two characters: Demona and Thailog. Demona had been teased already so this was just a chance to get a closer look at her, and predictably, she looks terrific. Thailog, being a clone of Goliath, was a bit underwhelming as he’s basically a Goliath variant. He has a new portrait that’s rather smug looking, and I like it, but I would have preferred to see another new sculpt. Demona was confirmed as the second release, and I believe Thailog was confirmed as the third, but no release window was given. Since Goliath still hasn’t shipped, it would probably be generous to expect both to arrive before October is through, but hopefully Demona can at least make it out before Halloween. Goliath is my most anticipated action figure release this year and I can’t wait to go hands-on with this line!

After the NECA hysteria died down, my focus turned to Bandai. I am a casual collector of Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts line and it’s Dragon Ball figures, but one of their exclusives this year caught my eye. An anime accurate Nappa was going on sale following the manga-inspired version that was released a couple of years ago. I had seen that figure on display several times at a local comic shop and came close to pulling the trigger, but ultimately passed. I decided I would not do the same this time, but Bandai seemed to have other ideas. The sale started at 9 EST last night and it was doomed from the start. The website crashed and no one could check out. Twitter was flooded with complaints while the social media accounts for Bandai and Bluefin Brands tried to push patience. It was a repeat of last year, and despite promises to do better, Bandai came up short. After an hour of constant refreshing and baby steps, I finally got through, but others weren’t as lucky. It helped I was only going after one of the four Dragon Ball exclusives, the others being Goku, Whis, and Beerus. I would have liked to have grabbed Beerus as I enjoy that character, but I just didn’t feel like spending more money. Same for the special stands that were on sale which featured a custom base. At least with Nappa, I have an expected delivery window of August, so the wait for this exclusive should be fairly quick.

I can’t believe this exists.

The longest wait though is reserved for Mondo. I am a first-time buyer of Monda, though I’ve seen their stuff before. They did a line of Mirage-inspired Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles that were pretty cool and also have tackled Batman: The Animated Series. Their figures are 1/6th scale, so they’re around 12″ usually and quite expensive. Last November though, the company unveiled a figure in a new line: Wolverine. Not just any Wolverine though, Wolverine from X-Men the animated series. I was immediately interested despite the scale and cost and I only became more interested when the company teased it earlier this week. This thing comes with the photo frame of Scott and Jean that Wolverine broods over and has become a popular meme over the past few years. And to top it off, he comes packaged in a window box that simulates Wolverine laying on his bed pining for Jean. It’s ridiculous, and also ridiculously expensive at $200. A standard version should arrive sometime next year that will certainly be cheaper. How much cheaper I’m unsure of as the world of action figures continues to get hammered by shipping price hikes. This figure comes with a sad Wolverine head and we know that’s exclusive to this set, but is the picture? Or the alternate Morph head? The turkey leg?! Yes, he comes with a turkey leg.

I wish I didn’t have to wait until 2022 to get it!

Mostly, I just felt the need to show my support for anything X-Men animated as that has become my new grail toyline. NECA has crafted the TMNT lines of my dreams and are now going to dip their toes into Gargoyles. X-Men though was my biggest love as a kid and I’ve talked about my desire to see that cartoon get dedicated action figures based on it. Some will wave the retro-carded line by Hasbro in my face and say “This is X-Men animated,” but it’s not. Doing figures based on the designs of Jim Lee is not the same as doing an actual cartoon line. This figure from Mondo appears to get that right based on the paint deco which uses two shades of yellow, two shades of blue, and doesn’t have over-the-top detailing like stubble on Wolverine’s face or individually sculpted teeth. Unfortunately, I’ll have to wait until January (if not longer) to find out just how good this thing is as that’s the current expected ship date. Apparently, this wouldn’t have been ready to sell at a physical booth had the convention happened.

It was quite a week though, and it followed a week of reveals by Super7 the prior week which got G.I. Joe fans talking. The state of the shipping industry makes it hard to say how many of the products shown off this week will actually reach collector hands this year, but it’s fun to know what’s coming. Right now there’s a lot of waiting going on which is rarely fun, but often necessary. And I’m an adult capable of being patient when it comes to my toy hobby. Still, waiting on the chance to try and buy these exclusives was anxiety-inducing when it doesn’t have to be. It’s great companies are creating products people want, but why the artificial scarcity? And with so many of them not even shipping for months, why not just open preorders for most of them? I get it if you’re selling some goofy, expensive, variant that not everyone needs, but a character like Nappa from Dragon Ball Z in his show accurate colors should be something every DBZ collector has a chance at. NECA appeared to meet demand with its set, and they have more shipping to stores as well, so I give them high marks this con season. Plus, I think the exclusive figures in that set, namely Irma and Burne, will see release in the main line at some point too. Even the mutated April might get a re-release and if that happens the only truly exclusive things in that set will be the large cameras and alternate Vernon portraits. And that’s fine! I want to get the toys that I like and I want everyone else to as well. I don’t need these things to be hyper exclusive to have value for me. Some people see things differently, but I’m confident in saying they’re the minority in this day and age. It’s a time of year I both look forward to a lot and also dread. It’s over now though and I’m largely feeling good so…mission accomplished?


S.H.Figuarts Juckie-Chun/Jackie Chun

It was about a week ago in my write-up on the Dragon Stars World Martial Arts playset that I bemoaned my decision to pass on the S.H.Figuarts release of Jackie Chun and I hypothesized I might rectify that. Well, it didn’t take me long to make up my mind as here I am to tell you all about Jackie Chun! The martial arts master and winner of the 21st World Martial Arts Tournament has been cast in plastic and is ready to join my humble Dragon Ball collection. What motivated me to finally pull the trigger on this guy was largely my completist nature. The Dragon Ball set from Bandai is pretty small when compared with the assortment of Dragon Ball Z figures, so why not get them all? I have the first Bulma Bandai released in my Pile of Loot at Big Bad Toy Store so the only one I’m missing now is kid Chi-Chi. I can’t get past her costume though, so I don’t know if I’ll ever pickup that particular figure.

“Boy, you sure do look familiar!”

The reason I initially passed on Jackie is because he’s very similar to Master Roshi. Not only do they look strikingly similar, they’re literally the same figure. For the most part. The only difference in terms of sculpting is the head and lower leg area, but the torso is the same. Jackie just dresses all in a deep navy blue, almost black, as opposed to Master Roshi’s much more colorful attire. And if you didn’t notice right away that they’re essentially the same, the give away rests on the back of the figure where Bandai just glued in the plug piece intended to seal the peg hole for Master Roshi’s turtle shell accessory. It’s a minor eyesore on Jackie, but the figure is helped out by the fact that we’re dealing in dark colors here and it is on the back of the shirt. At the same time, it’s a bit annoying since the shirt is in three separate pieces and one has to wonder how much money was really saved by not redoing it. At least he has a peg hole if you want to utilize a more dynamic stand.

He can pose.

Being that he’s essentially the same figure as Roshi, the articulation is also the same. That figure had some good and bad to him, and a lot that has to do with the clothing. The shoulders flare out and the wrist area is surrounded by large cuffs so it all limits the articulation a bit. The shirt is also intended to be a long martial arts uniform, and since Bandai doesn’t utilize cloth goods, the only way to properly articulate that is to “scallop” the sculpt and insert a series of ball-pegs into the torso. It’s not the cleanest sculpt in the torso as a result, but it’s not truly an eyesore either. Again, the dark color of Jackie works to the figure’s advantage in hiding this somewhat, but I do wonder how he’d have come out with a cloth robe.

He can siiiiiiiiing!

Bandai doesn’t use much paint with its S.H.Figuarts line, and it is a common complaint I hear from other collectors. Jackie is no except as he’s mostly just colored plastic. The only paint on the body of the figure is the white stripe and black fasteners down the center of the shirt and the gray soles of the shoes. The rest is reserved for the head and face where the eyes and eyebrows are well-painted. There may be a touch of a wash in the hair and beard as well which helps bring out the sculpted details and looks pretty sharp. His hair color has a gray to it, unlike Master Roshi’s all-white beard, which helps distinguish him further. The choice of doing the figure in a very dark blue as opposed to black is a little curious. As far as I can tell, his outfit is sheer black in the anime. And unlike many comic books, there’s no blue shading to speak of. I don’t know if this was based on information from Toei, or if Bandai just made an artistic decision not to go full black. As a result, under some light he looks a little blue and others a little gray, but always pretty dark. It’s not something that bothers me, I just find it curious. The finish is at least fairly matte which cuts down on the plastic sheen some figures in this line feature. Ultimately, the likeness is pretty on point and the sacrifices the figure makes in the sculpt to accommodate the articulation are worth it in the end.

“Ka…”

If you wish to know precisely how he’s articulated, I’ll run it down for you here. If you’re familiar with the Master Roshi figure, then skip ahead. Jackie has a ball peg at the head and base of the neck and he has some pretty solid range. Surprisingly, he can look down quite well despite the presence of the beard, it’s looking up that he’s not great at. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges with a butterfly joint. He can raise his arms out to the side better than expected and the butterfly joint allows him to achieve his Kamehameha pose fairly convincingly. There’s a biceps swivel below that and single-hinged elbows. The elbow is probably the least impressive part of this figure as they’re on these big ball-hinges that look funny from some angles. They also can’t achieve a 90 degree bend due to the way the sleeves flare out. It’s close, but not quite there. At the wrist are ball-joints which is a good choice since the sleeve works to conceal the ball-hinge which can be unsightly on other figures. In the diaphragm is a ball-hinge mechanism that mostly affords tilt and twist. Twist too far though and you end up with some ugly gapping. The hinge allows the upper body to lift up and crunch forward, but the shirt doesn’t seem to want to cooperate. A lot of rubbing occurs and I worry about smudging if utilized too much. Below that is another ball-peg at the waist allowing him to rotate and tilt. At the hips he can kick forward about 90 degrees and spread his legs out to the side almost into a split. He kicks back a little bit and the double-hinged knees basically give him 90 at the knee. There are thigh swivels and the feet are on ball-pegs. They’re not great, but the cuffs at the end of the pants were going to limit him anyway. There is a toe hinge as well.

“…ha!”

Jackie-Chun should be able to get into the poses he needs to be able to get into. Martial arts posing and energy blasting all are achievable. Helping him to do all of that are the loads of extra parts Bandai tossed in. Probably as a make-up for him containing a ton of parts reuse, Bandai made sure to give him an array of hands and facial expressions. He has the one head, but three separate faces. And like Master Roshi, you can swap the mouth and beard piece between the faces to mix and match expressions. You basically get angry eyes, serious eyes, and excited eyes to go along with a closed mouth, an angry yell, and a surprising, or singing, open mouth. That last one pairs with a microphone stick, as is the case with many Dragon Ball characters, there’s a serious side and a playful side to Jackie which this figure seeks to capture. As far as hands go, he comes with two crane pose hands which are unique as the peg basically goes into the underside of them to achieve the proper the shape. He also has two Kamehameha hands which are essentially the opposite as they peg into what I would call the top of the hands. He also has a set of peace sign hands, some chop hands, fists, martial arts pose hands, splayed open hands, and one gripping, right, hand for the microphone. Unique to Jackie are also swappable forearms. These are present so that he can roll up his sleeves. The arms separate below the elbow and the new ones just peg in. They don’t appear to be designated as left or right so either side works. They allow for more freedom with the hand articulation since this eliminates the cuffs from play, though another point of the figure that can come apart means there will be times you pull the arm off when you don’t intend to. A minor annoyance for an interesting feature. Lastly, there’s a 3 star Dragon Ball. This one has a pearl finish to it as I believe Bandai has already released seven standard balls so this new finish is being applied to the line going forward.

“No, Goku!”

Posing and utilizing these parts is all pretty painless. The hands pop on and off with minimal fuss, though the left arm of mine features a loose forearm connection so often the whole thing comes off when I’m just trying to swap the hand. The extra forearm doesn’t seem to peg in snug either so it becomes a balancing act posing him with the sleeves up. Unlike with Master Roshi, I don’t feel like we’re missing any expressions as far as the hands go, though a “drunken master” face would have been excellent. What’s really missing though is an energy effect. A charging one would have been nice, or just a Kamehameha attack since this guy is the master of that technique. I am guessing Bandai wants to do a Kamehameha Master Roshi that’s all bulked up and that’s why we don’t have that here. At least this time we have the hands.

Jackie Chun looks pretty good opposite the kid figures when placed on the World Martial Arts Tournament set. He is, more or less, in scale with them. It’s not perfect, but that’s more of a critique of the kid characters which were sized-up for the figure release. Bandai seemed to prioritize scaling Master Roshi, and Jackie Chun as a result, with Kid Goku and Krillin so he looks kind of silly next to Bulma, who is just way too small. King Piccolo towers over him well enough, though that figure should probably be bigger than he actually is. Scale is a limitation of this line in general and Bandai just seems to approximate it as opposed to trying to make it totally accurate.

I couldn’t quite get them into the double kick pose from the anime.

Adding Jackie Chun to my collection allows for me to pose him opposite Goku or Krillin, leaving Master Roshi to be more of a goof off to the side. I like that Jackie has the singing face and microphone for when I don’t want him on the battlefield, or I could just let him be the stern, wise, old, master watching silently. I liked the Master Roshi figure so it stands to reason I like this one. Is he essential for a Dragon Ball collection? Probably not, but it’s not as-if the character isn’t memorable. I hope Bandai continues to release more dedicated Dragon Ball figures so my display can continue to grow. They have Lunch/Launch coming this summer, but nothing has been announced beyond her. There’s still Pilaf and his gang, end of Dragon Ball Goku and Chi-Chi, Tien, and plenty more. I’d be interested in basically all of them, so hopefully Bandai comes through. Right now though, I have a fun little collection that’s pretty nice to have all on its own.

Yes, this’ll do nicely.

Dragon Stars World Martial Arts Tournament Play Set

One of the main draws for me in getting the NECA Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles diorama was that it was going to open up some more space for me. The diorama allowed me to move my TMNT collection from a shelf to a new place since now my display had a vertical component. This was necessary since that prior shelf featured my TMNT collection basically jammed together with my Bandai SH Figuarts Dragon Ball collection. I know some people out there like mixing their collections, but I am not some people. I prefer to keep my intellectual property separate and only display different IPs beside each other when I just have no other alternative or my collection in a certain IP is relatively small (which is why D&D’s Drizzt is standing next to Batman on a shelf).

The Dragon Stars line has certainly grown over the years.

It was several months ago that I grabbed a Bandai Dragon Stars World Martial Arts Tournament play set from a sale at GameStop. It was so long ago, that it was in the same order as the Capsule Corp motorcycle I reviewed. I had been eyeing this particular play set for a couple of months because it looked like something that would work well as a backdrop for my modest Dragon Ball collection. Normally, this isn’t the type of thing I buy since this is really more of a true toy intended for kids as they act out battles from the show and take advantage of the built-in play features the set comes with. However, I liked how it looked and when the price came down to a point that made sense to me, I jumped on it.

I’d say it looks the part. Could use a ring announcer though.

If you’re not into Dragon Ball collecting, basically what you need to know is Bandai has two, distinct, main, figure lines: SH Figuarts and Dragon Stars. SH Figuarts is the collector line and figures range from around $50 to over $100. Dragon Stars is the more general audience line aimed at kids and casual fans. That doesn’t mean collectors don’t or can’t collect the line, it’s just a line not specifically courting that market. The Dragon Stars figures are usually around $25, so not exactly cheap, but a far cry from the SHF product. Bandai is also able to pump them out quicker and the character roster is quite robust at this point. It started as a line focused on the latest iteration of Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Super, but it also includes most, if not all, of the main characters from Dragon Ball Z at this point. And it’s that line that this play set is from.

The scaling is a bit wonky, especially when you introduce an actual Dragon Stars figure like Future Trunks.

Now, even though this is a Dragon Stars release, I would say the play set is not exactly to scale with that figure line. It would have to be positively massive to properly scale with any line, but I don’t know that it would appeal to collectors looking to pit Goku vs Piccolo or whatever. I only have one Dragon Star figure, Future Trunks, and he looks a bit silly standing on it. However, I grabbed this for my Dragon Ball display specifically eyeing it for Kid Goku and Krillin. It’s still not perfect, but as a backdrop and platform to draw attention it gets the job done. The set itself measures about 12 1/2 inches tall and 11 1/2 inches deep. The platform is about 15 1/4″ wide, and the backdrop extends about a half inch off either side. It’s not small, but not as big as it should be. How small is too small will be a bit subjective, but for what I want to do with it I think it works fine.

Introduce a figure like King Piccolo and the set really starts to look silly.

The set is essentially three parts: the ring surface, the rear wall, and the rear building. There’s a small gap between the rear wall and building, but not big enough to do much of anything with. If you had some paper cut outs of characters I suppose you could try slipping them in as spectators, but you’re not going to fit any figures in there. The main attraction of the set is its play features. Just as the ring and building tended to get beat up over the course of a tournament, so too can your set. The wall comes apart, mostly on its right side (the left side if you’re standing in front of it) to simulate damage as if something was thrown into it or a wayward energy blast smashed into it. The marquee is removable so you can display it ajar in a dilapidated state and a center panel in the ring can be lifted out. In its place you have a crater formation to swap-in which is pretty fun. These are all features I’m not going to get much use out of, but it’s cool to have should I want to change-up my display at all and that gap between the wall and backdrop can at least accommodate the wall fragments. There’s sadly no real way to store the optional crater though. I thought maybe I could get away with storing it underneath the platform, since it’s hollow, but there’s just enough stuff on the underside to make that problematic. I suppose the flat panel is easily stored though.

With these guys? It looks pretty good!
“Take that, Goku!”

The set itself is just largely comprised of molded plastic. There’s some nice detail on the various ugly heads that adorn the structure, but no added paint effects to bring them out. A confident collector would take this and probably dry brush it to bring out some of that detail, but I am not confident in my abilities in that regard. In terms of accessories, there isn’t much to speak of. There’s just the bits of wall, the marquee or sign that goes over the entry way, and another sign that you can position wherever to go along with the crater piece. It would have been nice if Bandai tossed in an exclusive figure like the ring announcer, who likely would never see a retail release as a stand-alone figure, but not having one at least keeps the cost down. The only letdown for me is the tine, or point, alongside the entryway on my set is warped and bent. It’s made of a flexible material, maybe as a safety measure since it’s pointy, and I was able to fix it with some hot water.

Let’s turn up the intensity!
That crafty Krillin.

In short, this set does what I need it to do. I think it looks great as a little battleground for Kid Goku and Krillin. Should Bandai ever do a Dragon Ball Tien then that could get interesting. Would he look too silly being that he’d be a bigger character? Possibly, but maybe not enough to bother me. I passed on the Jackie Chun release, and now I’m kind of rethinking that as I think he would look okay battling Goku. Should Bandai ever get to end of Dragon Ball Goku and Piccolo Jr. then I probably would keep them off of this thing, but since Bandai doesn’t have any plans to release either of those figures I’m not going to worry about it. For now, this is a solid, eye-catching, item that adds a little prestige to my humble Dragon Ball display. Hopefully, it’s a display that will continue to grow!

The new display! More figures coming soon too!

Hasbro MMPR Combining Dino Megazord

The only Megazord that matters.

I wasn’t going to do a post on this particular figure, but there probably is some curiosity about it and how it works with the Hasbro Power Rangers Lightning Collection, so here we are. Last year, I fulfilled an almost lifelong ambition and acquired a Bandai dino Megazord from 1993 based on its appearance in the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers television show. The toyline was white hot in the early 90s, and it was something I had to make due without as a kid (and for the record, I did just fine, so don’t weap for my childhood). It turns out, the kids of 2020 also enjoy Megazords from the 90s and my own children spent a fair amount of time playing with it, assembling it and disassembling it enough that I went to eBay and grabbed them some Power Rangers from the same era to play with. When Christmas came around, it made sense for my son to ask Santa for a Megazord he could call his own, and the big man delivered.

It was late last summer, or early fall, that Hasbro rolled out its own version of the classic Bandai toy. The zords were scattered across three blister pack releases that could be purchased at big box retailers and online at various toy and hobby websites. What was most attractive about the set was that it was really affordable. Each release retailed for $15 so kids, and collectors, could assemble a Megazord for a mere $45. I’m pretty sure it cost more in 1993 dollars to do the same. Of course, this meant the release was compromised compared with past iterations. The zords probably lost about 25-30% of their size and are primarily assembled with colored plastic with little or no paint. On the plus side, there were no stickers to place as the decals came on the toys, though they still appear to be as prone to peeling and such as stickers applied by the consumer.

The dino zords have never been particularly fearsome on their own.

As mentioned already, Hasbro chose to distribute these dino zords across three releases. The mastodon and pterodactyl come bundled together as do the triceratops and saber-toothed tiger. The tyrannosaurus, being the largest of the five zords, comes solo, but Hasbro did toss in the power sword so it wouldn’t feel so lonely. I’m not sure why Hasbro opted to do things this way rather than simply sell it as one, complete, set. They probably could have even jacked the price up another five dollars and sold it at 50 bucks. It’s just unlikely anyone would want just one set and not all three, because lets face it, most kids don’t want to play with the individual zords. All this does is make it a little harder to find everything you need. Thankfully, the zords weren’t terribly difficult to track down, but I know in my frequent trips to Target I rarely saw all three sets readily available, it was usually just one or two

Dinosaurs! Assemble!

These toys aren’t technically in the Lightning Collection, but are in that lesser line Hasbro mostly markets to kids. All that means is that these aren’t technically being marketed to collectors, though I’d wager most of the people buying stuff based on the Mighty Morphin era are folks my age. The engineering on all of the zords is very similar to the Bandai originals as Hasbro has largely preserved the transformation as it appeared on television. The sheer amount of plastic utilized though has been significantly scaled back. It can be seen in the tail of the T-Rex zord which has a lot of chunks just cut out of it and the rear of the mastodon which is fairly open. It’s definitely not a set as attractive as the old ones, though there are areas where things have been improved slightly. The T-Rex, for instance, has its mouth canons sculpted in now and they look pretty nice. Some of the joints are also tighter, specifically the tails of the triceratops and saber-toothed tiger, though I’m also comparing a relatively new toy to one almost 30 years old. Given time, maybe they’ll be just as loose.

Top: new sword, Bottom: old sword. It’s not great.
Paint is apparently expensive.

Where this set comes up short though is just in the details. The wheels on the saber-toothed tiger, for example, aren’t painted black and are just sculpted gray like the rest of the legs. The canon at the tip of the triceratops tail doesn’t articulate so it looks pretty lame, plus it doesn’t have actual wheels to roll on. I also miss the chrome details some of the old figures had, though I mostly miss it on the Megazord’s power sword. It’s just unpainted plastic with some of the design sculpted on just one side of the blade. It’s very bland and is the aspect of this release I see the most complaints about. Hasbro also utilized a new peg system for the legs of the Megazord which works fine, but it also means the T-Rex now has red pegs jutting out from its knees. I also dislike the head of the T-Rex and how it snaps in place with the Megazord head contained underneath. It doesn’t seem to want to actually snap and it just feels very cheap. The “horns” on the Megazord itself can slide all the way to one side and just seems junky, even though it does, in the end, get the job done.

The new one can’t articulate its canon, but at least it can hold its tail up unlike gramps here.
The pterodactyl zord didn’t have to make too many compromises, though I’ve always really loved that old decal on the front of the original so that’s a bummer.

Playing with the zords on their own doesn’t seem like a great experience, based on how my kids interact with it. Thankfully, combining them is fairly easy even for a kid. The legs take a bit of effort to seat properly, and the pterodactyl can be a bit finicky, but it goes together largely in the same manner as before. I actually like how securely the mastodon clips on with this release, though I hate how easily the legs of the mastodon pop off. The tail of the T-Rex also no longer has a joint towards the end of it so it sticks up more pronounced than before and isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye, but it’s not a big deal. You can also still do tank mode, but it’s just as janky as before and more of a novelty than a fun way to play.

The tyrannosaurus continues to be the only zord that’s any fun solo, though those new, red, knee, pegs are an eyesore.
The mastodon turned out kind of junky on its own and it differs most from the original as the head is now all black, but at least it functions very well as the arms of the Megazord.

Once together, the Megazord does very much look the part. Once again, we’re missing some of the details of past releases, but it’s certainly far from an ugly thing. The face is where some extra paint would have really been welcomed as that vintage Bandai release just looks sharp. And, of course, the sword sucks, but I already mentioned that. What is better than before though is the articulation. The classic Megazord can’t do much of anything, but this one at least has some joints. The arms can rotate and raise out to the side a bit and the Megazord now has elbows! It can bend them about 90 degrees and also swivel too. At the legs, it can kick forward and back still, but it also can fan its legs out slightly for a wider, more natural, stance. The legs also swivel there as well. There are no knee hinges, unfortunately, but you can swivel the lower legs at the knee pegs. The only thing missing that really should be here is a head swivel. It just seems like that would have been a very easy and cheap thing to include that would have really added some personality to the poses available because even a kid wants to put this somewhere prominent in his or her room when it isn’t being played with.

Tank Mode is still a thing, if you care.
I had to pull back so damn far to get that whole sword into the shot.

Obviously, this thing doesn’t scale at all with the figures in the Lightning Collection. Even the original doesn’t and in order to scale properly it would likely need to be six feet tall. It’s big enough at around 9″ tall though that I think it can be a reasonable centerpiece in your MMPR display. And if you’re ambitious, you could paint this thing up into something a bit more special. Hasbro sculpted most of the details one would expect, it just didn’t bother to paint them. As a toy, it seems pretty neat, to me. Admittedly though, my kids haven’t played with this much since Christmas and my daughter even told me she wants to play with my Megazord, not this one. Go figure. I think she just likes the sheer size of the original one, and as easy as it is to transform this one, it’s a bit easier for her to transform the original. Mostly I think it’s just a case of her being more familiar with that one and not wanting to take the time to get to know this new one.

The sculpt work is mostly there, it just needs a little love from a paint brush.
It’s a little smaller than the original, but also trimmer and less statue-esque.

If you’re a Lightning Collection fan that wants a Megazord, this is certainly an affordable option. It’s not a collector grade release though and that shows. Even with light play, some of the decals are already starting to peel on this one and that’s disappointing. It’s possible the same will happen for those who just set it on a shelf and forget it. The biggest thing this release has going for it is obviously the price and availability. A Bandai one from 93 will probably set you back a couple hundred dollars, while the Legacy Collection release is a bit cheaper, but also not as nice as the original and it suffers from a lot of the same shortcomings as this one. And then there’s the Soul of Chogokin Megazord which I think retailed for something like $350 and is no longer in production so it’s likely to cost even more than that now. This set is for kids and casual fans that need a Megazord, but don’t want to break the bank. I’ve seen this one getting dumped on a bit by collectors, but at $45, I think it’s pretty good. I definitely wouldn’t recommend displaying it in dino mode as the individual zords aren’t terrific looking, but who would do that anyway? As long as your expectations are reasonable, I think this will please most who buy it.

Definitely a more posable release.

If you are a collector looking to add a Megazord to your collection, you will soon have some more options. If you just want a posable Megazord, Super7 recently announced that it has gained the Power Rangers license. The company has already shown some vinyl, minimally, articulated Megazords, but it will be doing zords in its Ultimates! line and I can only assume a proper Megazord will arrive at some point. They’re doing the tyrannosaurs first though, and I don’t think they can do a combining Megazord so it figures to be a stand-alone zord. I could be wrong, but time will tell. Grabbing this Hasbro one at $45 doesn’t feel like a tremendous risk to me, but if you can wait, maybe hold out to see what’s coming.

Whether it’s a permanent part of your display or just a placeholder until something better comes along, the Hasbro Megazord is certainly an affordable option.

S.H.Figuarts Bulma’s Motorcycle (Dragon Ball)

Looking around my basement office and thinking back on all of the various toy reviews I’ve done over the years has made me realize that I’ve never done a vehicle review. Vehicles are not all that common in the collector community, usually they’re more of a kid’s toyline occurrence. That doesn’t mean they aren’t fun when they do come along or that I’m not interested in them, they just need to convince me a bit more of their worth and work in a display. Oh, and they need to not cost an arm and a leg. And recently, the cost of vehicles is a hot topic in the collector community and it’s a topic that probably isn’t going away as NECA is expected to unveil a Turtle Van in its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line at some point this year.

When it comes to Dragon Ball, there are a handful of vehicles that come to mind. Especially in Dragon Ball Z where Vegeta and the other Saiyans travel through space in those adorable little pods. There are a few other spaceships and the occasional car as well. In Dragon Ball, there were arguably more vehicles, though I don’t know that many are truly memorable. They were more of a necessity though as in that series few characters could fly so if they wanted to traverse the world they needed help. And the character usually able to aid the most in that regard was Bulma and her wonderful assortment of capsules. The famous Capsule Corp that her father founded created the technology to store vehicles, homes, food, you name it, in tiny capsules that could recall the product in seconds. It’s a fun concept for a television show and an especially convenient one if you don’t want to have to explain how the characters manage to carry so much stuff with them on their adventures.

Hooray for stuff!

One of the earliest capsules we see in the show is Bulma’s number 9 – her motorcycle. After Goku smashes up her car, Bulma is forced to turn to the bike to resume her journey for the seven Dragon Balls and Goku comes along for the ride which is essentially how the story begins. Bandai decided this moment was important enough to be immortalized in plastic and commissioned a version of the bike for its S.H.Figuarts line of products.

I hadn’t even thought of it until I got this set, but the capsule Bulma is holding is the #9 capsule so nice forward-thinking on the part of Bandai.

When Bandai first showed the bike I thought it looked great. When I saw the functionality that would be built into it and the accessories it came with, I was further convinced it would be a fantastic item to add to my Dragon Ball collection. When I saw the price, I was a little less enthusiastic. This bike retails for between $70 and $75, which is almost twice what the actual figure of Bulma costs. I knew I liked it, but did I like it enough to spend that kind of dough on it? Thankfully, a clearance sale at GameStop made it easier when I scored the set for 25% off. I had to wait a little while for it to arrive as apparently a lot of people were like-minded and the product actually sold out and my order was changed to backordered, but eventually GameStop came through.

She’s a beaut!
It’s almost a shame that the nicest part of the sculpt is arguably the tech around the handlebars, since that’s an area that doesn’t really show when displayed.

The bike comes in the same window box packaging we’re used to with this line. It has some nice product shots on the front and is using a white and teal color scheme. Once removed, the bike can either stand on its own via a working kickstand or be placed on an included stand. It’s about 7 inches long and scales well with the Adventure Begins Bulma figure that I reviewed last year. In fact, the bike is intended to work with her and even includes some new parts for that figure. The handlebars are functional and turning them will cause the front wheel to turn. The overall look of this bike is just fantastic. I love the rounded edges, the clean, white, finish, and the big, oversized, tires. The rear wheel is noticeably larger than the front wheel and we do have some diecast parts added in, such as the kickstand. There’s some nice sculpting down around the handlebars and the clear, curved, plastic, windshield removes easily to position a figure on the bike. There’s not a ton of paint on this thing, but since it’s basically white plastic I think it looks fine. There’s colored plastic for the turn signals and clear plastic for the non-working lights. The decals are all very cleanly applied and this is just a very pristine looking item.

Let’s go for a ride!
A frontal view of the happy teen.

The bike does roll on those tires which appear to be made of rubber, or a similar substance to rubber. They’re not as squishy or bouncy as some rubber tires, but it definitely isn’t a hard plastic. If play is your thing, you absolute can place a figure on this bike and have a good time. Since this is a collector line though, my guess is most will want to place this on a shelf. And if you do, the kickstand works fine. It’s quite tight, so tight that I doublechecked the included instructions to make sure it was meant to function before I really laid into it. The bike is probably too heavy to have a figure support the weight of it with one leg Akira style, but you can easily fudge that with the stand. The base of the display stand Bandai included is a simple plastic circle with the Capsule Corp logo printed on it. There are two inserts and there are three different stands to choose from that plug into the base. One stand is a simple straight up and down stand so the bike looks like it’s in motion. There’s an angled stand to make the bike look like it’s turning which is pretty neat and can be angled for either a right turn or a left one. And then there is a third stand that’s the wheelie stand which raises the front wheel higher off the ground than the rear. It’s a great variety of poses available and if there’s any room for complaint it’s that maybe the wheelie stand could have been more exaggerated, but at least as-is there are no stability concerns.

Left turn stand.
Wheelie!

In addition to the stands, we get some extra parts. There are two gripping hands for Bulma since she didn’t come with plain, old, gripping hands before. Interestingly, both hands are painted when normally the flesh-colored hand is just plastic. It’s strange because if ever you wanted to avoid having painted hands it’s with hands that will be gripping handlebars. The color looks a little off compared with her arm, but it’s not terribly noticeable. There’s also a new skirt piece for Bulma since her other skirt really wouldn’t allow for her to sit on a bike. This one has ridges in it for her knees to fit into to create a more natural sitting pose. Bulma simply separates at the waist to facilitate swapping the parts. It’s easy to get her apart, but a little frustrating getting her back together again as you need to contend with the skirt and her belt. There’s also a swappable rear seat on the bike which is easy to make use of. The extra set has a peg on it and it’s for our last accessory: a terrified kid Goku. This Goku, unlike the actual figure, is in-scale with Bulma so he’s pretty small. He’s a little painted guy with some very minor articulation at the head and tail. He’s meant to just be along for the ride and looks pretty great. I suspect many will pose the two on their shelf with Bulma sporting her terrified expression as the two pop an unexpected wheelie.

Goku seems to be enjoying himself.
It’s a bit crazy to see just how small Goku would have to be to be in scale with Bulma.

For a premium price you should expect a premium product, and Bandai delivered with this release. Not everyone is going to want a motorcycle in their Dragon Ball display, but any who do are likely to be very happy with this release. Especially if you’re able to get it on clearance like I did. It’s well made, high quality, and Bandai included basically everything it needed to. Whether you have Bulma sitting on it, or standing beside it, the big going to attract attention to your display. Maybe some will wish Bandai had gone even further and included some electronics, but I’m happy to not have had to pay for that since that’s something I’d rarely use. If you want Bulma to have a bike though, this is pretty awesome!

“Come on, kid, please put it down!”

S.H. Figuarts Dragon Ball Kame-Sennin (Master Roshi)

The legendary martial arts master has arrived!

Collecting certainly has a gambling component to it. Sometimes, when a new action figure is released it can pay off to wait a bit and see if the price comes down or a retailer has a sale. Other times, that strategy can completely backfire. Such was the case with the S.H. Figuarts release of Kame-Sennin, better known to westerners as Master Roshi from Dragon Ball. A couple of years ago I started my Dragon Ball figure collection with a Goku from this line. Seeing how readily available he continued to be gave me confidence that a character like Master Roshi, a less popular though still much beloved figure from the anime, would play out the same way. It did not. Maybe Bandai had less confidence in the figure than it does some others, or maybe it had something to do with western distribution seemingly picking up after the figure’s release, but this guy came and went pretty fast. Subsequent figures have not, and I scored several this past summer on a sale, but Master Roshi was seemingly lost.

Well, I finally gave up. When Bandai released a Jackie Chun figure, which is basically Master Roshi in black and with a wig in place of his glasses, I figured that closed the door on a re-release. And thus I was forced to turn to the secondary market. To lessen the blow, I actually sold some figures from my collection that weren’t going to see a shelf which essentially paid for this one, but it still stings to know I could have had this figure for considerably less had I acted sooner. Is there a lesson here or did I simply just play the game and have it go against me? If there is one, it’s simply make sure you get the figures you don’t want to live without. I can have a Dragon Ball collection without a kid Chi Chi and be content, or without a version of Bulma that only appeared in the show’s ending credits. I cannot have one without Master Roshi though.

Master Roshi comes well equipped to add some sizzle to your display.

For this figure, Bandai opted to present Master Roshi in his somewhat official outfit: his orange and blue martial arts uniform. He has quite a few different looks in the manga and anime that are a bit more casual, and if I’m being honest that’s how I tend to picture him in my head, but by going in this direction it gives the figure a bit more versatility. You can go for a comic pose, pose him with his shell, or display him ready for a fight. He can’t do his bulked up Kamehameha pose, but that’s to be expected as it basically requires a whole new sculpt. The figure stands right around the 5 and a half inch mark which allows him to scale pretty well with the rest of the line. His trademarked red and green sunglasses are removable and fit on both of his heads and they rest well on the figure. The orange and blue are both plenty vibrant and it’s mostly just colored plastic. There’s no real paint flourishes on display here which is par for the course. Bandai certainly could have opted for something here to bring out the folds in the shirt, but it’s really not supposed to possess many as it hangs long and loose on the character in the show. I think it looks fine, but I know some others out there wish there was a little more flair to these figures as far as paint is concerned.

Note the plug inserted into the figure’s back to fill the peg hold needed for the turtle shell.

Master Roshi comes loaded with the usual assortment of articulation. It’s certainly needed to get him into various martial arts poses, but with this figure the articulation does detract some from the sculpt. The issue lies with the shirt which is very large relative to the figure. Bandai obviously felt it couldn’t do something like a soft rubber piece over an articulated figure and have it work, and they’re probably right. Instead, a lot of the joints have to be baked into the shirt and it does give it this choppy, scalloped, look. It’s unfortunate as it’s a bit of an eyesore, but ultimately, I think Bandai made the right call since the alternative would be to have very little articulation in the torso and arms. Perhaps soft goods could have been utilized, but that would have been just as, if not more, controversial a choice. The only area of the sculpt that does sort of bother me resides in the character’s elbows. There’s a big, circular, component that just jumps out and looks unnatural. The good thing is, simply posing him with bent elbows largely conceals this. Roshi does have a peg hole on his back to keep his shell sturdy, but if you don’t want to display him with that on, Bandai provided a little, orange, peg to fit into that hole to cover it up. Considering the hole is on the figure’s back, this really wasn’t something Bandai had to do, but it’s pretty cool that it did.

The old man can still move.
Though this requires little in the way of dexterity.

Master Roshi’s shirt may look a bit odd, but at least it does deliver in making this figure fully articulated. His head has the usual range of motion expected of this line. He can look up, but not down much as his beard hinders him a bit. There’s a joint at the base of the neck, but the head moves so smoothly that it’s hard to move the neck without taking the head off completely. The shoulders have terrific range and are also butterfly-jointed with that part of the articulation being completely hidden by the shirt which is pretty cool. There’s a bicept swivel and the elbows are single-jointed with his hands are on ball joints. They are buried a little in the sleeves so the range might not be as great as other figures in this line, but it’s fine. In the torso there’s a lot going on with upper torso articulation and waist articulation. The upper torso basically just allows him to pivot a bit without full rotation. The waist is similar though you could probably get him to turn all the way around if you were determined, but I wouldn’t advise it. The legs are on ball joints and swivel just below that joint. He has double-jointed knees and terrific range at the ankle with rotation and rocker action. Lastly, we have the toe hinge for when he needs to get a little taller, maybe to sneak his perverted, old, man eyes over a window sill or something.

It really is a nice looking shell.
Can’t forget about the Dragon Ball!

Master Roshi has a solid assortment of accessories and interchangeable parts. For starters, he has an optional head that’s basically his pervert face. It works with or without his glasses and it’s not hard to imagine many fans posing him in such a position. Only thing missing is a way to make it look like his nose is gushing blood. You can also swap the bearded portion on each head in effect doubling your range of available expressions. He also has five sets of hands to go along with the fists he comes packaged with. He has gripping hands for his staff, a set of pointing/pinching hands, a set of martial arts styled hands, an open left gripping hand for use with the Dragon Ball, a left hand making a “peace” symbol, a relaxed open palm left hand, and a firm open palm right hand. He has his trusty staff or cudgel and his three-star Dragon Ball. And then, of course, he has his big old turtle shell. It clips into his back and it also has straps that can pop in to make it look like it’s something the character simply slipped his arms through. The peg on the back of the figure makes it sit nice and I really like the sculpt of this thing. It has that very “Dragon Ball” look to it as far as the texture goes with lots of line work and I do enjoy the almost lilac color it has. Bandai even saw fit to make the middle panel of the shell removable so you can still use the action stand with the figure, whether he’s wearing the shell or not. Lastly, Bandai included an action stand for him which is always appreciated. It’s a real nice allotment of stuff that Master Roshi comes packed with. If anything is missing, I guess it would be Turtle? That’s probably asking too much though since he would require quite a bit of plastic. The only other obvious omission is the lack of Kamehameha style hands. I guess Bandai didn’t see the point since he can’t bulk up, or maybe they figured they’d include those hands with the Jackie Chun release. I can’t say I miss them since I wouldn’t pose him like that, but I can see that being a disappointment for some. Especially Dragon Ball Z collectors who may have wanted to line up all of the Z fighters performing Master Roshi’s signature technique.

Look who decided to join the party.
Of course, we have to bring in Goku too. These three look pretty great together.

Making use of Roshi’s accessories is not quite as smooth as it is with other figures. His head pops on and off just fine, though you do have to make sure the ball-joint is orientated properly. The hands are a bit trickier though. The cuffs of the shirt mean the pegs are recessed and they want to move all over the place when pressing a hand onto them. I don’t feel like I’m ever in danger of breaking anything, but it is annoying. The straps on the shell are also a bit troublesome. I find it’s easier to insert the top peg first on each strap before putting it on Roshi’s back. Then you have to kind of finesse the bottom pegs into their respective hole. It at least doesn’t need to be real snug, but if you don’t have patience for such things it could drive you mad. Once you have the setup you want, the hands at least all function the way they should. He can hold his staff with either gripping hand with no problem and the Dragon Ball rests in the open hand just fine. He also stands well with or without the shell on his back making the action stand Bandai included feel unnecessary which can free it up for another figure in your display, should you desire such.

I am so sorry, Bulma.
Maybe I should look into acquiring Lunch so he has someone of-age to menace.

Master Roshi fits in well with the other Dragon Ball releases so far. I maintain that the kid versions of Goku and Krillin are a bit too big, but it doesn’t stand out as much with Master Roshi as it does with Bulma. She’s still the odd one of the bunch though as she should probably be taller than Master Roshi, but instead she’s pretty close in height. It almost looks like he’s designed to scale to Goku and Krillin, with Bulma and the others scaling better with each other. The only other disappointing aspect of the display is just in the choice of attire. Roshi mostly wore this get-up during the training sequences where Krillin wore his yellow gi and Goku sported his blue pants and white tank top look. By the time the two get their Turtle School gi, they’re at the World Martial Arts Tournament where Roshi is in a formal, black, suit. Oh well. I’m definitely glad this version isn’t in the black suit, but I am still partial to his beach bum look when Goku and Bulma first meet the old man.

Yes, I realize I need a dedicated shelf for my Dragon Ball guys.

Acquiring this figure of Master Roshi more or less finishes off my humble Dragon Ball collection from Bandai. The only other figures released in the line include an alternate version of Bulma, Jackie Chun, Lunch, and kid Chi Chi. I don’t really feel a need to grab any of those, though if Jackie and Lunch ever make it to a sale I could be persuaded. The big omission so far is a Dragon Ball version of Yamcha and I would like to have him. Tien, Chiaotzu, Grandpa Gohan, Adult Goku, and Piccolo Jr. would all be intriguing as well. And if they could get an Oolong into one of those releases that would also be great. At least with Master Roshi in the fold I no longer feel like I have a major hole in my collection. He looks awesome and he really is one of my favorite characters from the show. Hopefully he won’t be my last acquisition from this line.


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