Tag Archives: dragon ball super

S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Event Exclusive Color Edition Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku Kaio-Ken

He’s ready to rumble.

My isn’t that title a mouthful? This version of the classic character Goku comes to you from Bandai via New York Comic Con. If I were to simplify that title, I’d call it shiny Super Saiyan Blue Kaio-Ken Goku, which is still pretty wordy. I guess blame Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama for the obsession of stacking different power-ups in what I feel is an intentional bit of word play that he likely finds amusing. And I do too! At any rate, this is the last of the convention exclusives I ordered in 2021. All of the other ones, including other Dragon Ball related figures in Nappa, Goku, and Beerus, came from the world famous San Diego Comic Con. Well, that con didn’t actually happen in 2021 as it was virtual due to COVID once again. One of the few big cons to actually take place ended up being New York Comic Con, and while that one tends to be smaller than San Diego, some companies still like to issue event exclusives for it and that’s where this figure comes from. Bandai, in partnership with Bluefin Brands, made this version of Goku available at the event, but also made it available online for folks like me who weren’t going to journey to New York just to get a Goku. It meant a longer wait, but all things considered, this is one of the shorter waits I’ve have to endure in recent memory.

This box feels gigantic relative to other figures in the line, and with good reason.

This version of Goku hails from Dragon Ball Super and one of its first, major, arcs. The first two arcs of the show were adaptations of Dragon Ball Z movies, so this era is where Super really felt like its own thing to me. And it was just some tournament that was a bit of a friendly organized by two gods who happen to be brothers and share a rivalry. It introduced some new characters, most notably Hit, and it was during a fight with Hit that Goku dusted off his old Kaio-Ken technique. You remember that one, right? Kaio-Ken was all the rage for about five minutes when Goku took on Vegeta, but it was basically dropped after that. Yeah, technically, Goku used it against Frieza later on, but it was basically as a means to dismiss the technique which would essentially be replaced with the Super Saiyan transformation. It made Kaio-Ken one of those things fans had fun speculating on, “What would using Kaio-Ken as a Super Saiyan do for Goku?!” but the show was done with it.

Pissed off Goku.

If you need a primer on the form, it’s basically a technique that temporarily heightens Goku’s speed and power as a multiplier. He did it multiples of 2 and 3 against Vegeta, but would go up to 10 later. In Super, Goku turns to it after his Super Saiyan Blue transformation as the ultimate showing of his power at that moment in the series, though it’s not referenced much after. It does look cool though as Kaio-Ken by itself has a red aura, and combine that with the Blue transformation and you get a blue-purple look. It certainly made sense to explore the mode in figure form, and that’s what Bandai and Tamashii Nations did. And this being an event exclusive, they added some shine as well.

I love that shade of blue used for the eyebrows, so much so that I’d like to see other versions of Super Saiyan Blue Goku (and Vegeta) just go with that for all of the hair.

This version of Goku is obviously similar to other versions of Goku in the SHF line. He stands at about 5.5″ to the top of his forehead and roughly 6.75″ to the top of the hair when at his tallest. He’s basically in-line with my Super Saiyan Blue Goku, but this is actually mostly a differently sculpt. I don’t have it, but if I had to guess, this figure shares most of its parts with the Ultra Instinct Sign Goku which depicted Goku from his battle with Jiren. His gi is rather tattered so it needed its own sculpt to capture that. The only pieces this figure can share with the other blue Goku is the head, neck, and arms, though even some of that needed modification. I don’t have either version of Ultra Instinct Goku so this figure has more of a “new” feeling to me than it would others. It was honestly something I hadn’t thought much about until I had the figure in-hand.

The paint is rather lively on this guy and you can see the almost glitter quality in the shirt here.

What’s going to sell this guy beyond the sculpt is the paint job. The sculpt is fairly nice and I like the rips in the pants and shirt. The finish on the paint is of a pearl quality. The navy shirt takes on a metallic purple as a result and it’s pretty cool to handle and see how the light plays on it. The hair is a semi-translucent plastic with a touch of purple air-brushing, by the looks of it, which gives it a nice effect. The flesh is more saturated than we’re used to seeing due to trying to emulate the Kaio-Ken red effect. Bandai did have to do a lot more color-matching than usual though because of all of the rips in the clothing. The results are a tad mixed. The exposed portion of the chest could stand to be a touch more saturated as I feel like some of the navy color is showing through. The left knee is colored plastic, but the upper and lower portions of the leg surrounding it are painted and it’s not a perfect match. It probably won’t bother most on a shelf, but in-hand it’s pretty noticeable especially when the knee is bent all the way. This finish is also very glossy and gives the figure almost an enamel finish. It also has a different feel than most figures in the line. The plastic feels thicker and since almost everything has this finish applied it has a slippery feeling. That’s not a criticism, just an observation. Aside from the color-matching issues, my only real criticism for the paint is that I wish there was something applied to the torn parts such as a darkening to the interior parts of his pants. I just think it would help that part “pop” a bit more.

I can’t really complain because we get the aura effect with this figure, but we’ll never have enough Kamehameha effects.

The sculpt for this guy is overall pretty good. I already mentioned how the torn pieces of the gi look nice, and we get the usual musculature for Goku that other figures have. This one changes things up with some battle damage in the form of scuffs sculpted into portions of the arms, legs, and chest. I’m torn on if I think Bandai should have added some black linework to those scuffs to bring them out more as they’re not going to show from the shelf. This figure is going for a glowing aura look, so perhaps it would not have made as much sense, though I feel like in those moments Goku’s battle damage becomes even more noticeable in the anime. I could be wrong, I haven’t watched any of these episodes in years. One thing that did surprise me a little is there’s more evidence of mold release on this figure than usual. That’s those rough portions of the figure where it was removed from the actual tools used to create it. There’s basically a full tab on the underside of my figure’s right shoulder that makes it look like it was from a model kit no one bothered to snip. This figure also has those sleeves that peg into the shoulder which I really don’t like. Almost every Goku has that so it’s nothing new, but I’ll continue to complain until they find a better solution. Another common complaint is Goku also could be beefier. From the front, he looks okay. I’d probably widen the chest a little, but it’s mostly a nitpick. From the side though he looks thin. His chest doesn’t push out at all. It’s odd and almost comical. It’s also more pronounced because he doesn’t have the vest to add a little bulk, but this is something all of the figures in this line could stand to improve on. Goku, especially a powered-up Goku, should be thick and buff.

My lingering piece of criticism for this line is that nearly every character could stand to have some added girth. Goku should have a more pronounced chest when viewing him from the side.

There was a lot of new for me to take-in with the sculpt and paint of this figure, but articulation? That’s pretty much standard. His head is on a tiny, double-ball peg with another ball in the base of the neck. Despite that, he can’t really look up, but can look down. His head feels a little loose, but it seems to be holding a pose all right. The shoulders are on the peg and hinge system with a butterfly joint. The butterfly is really limited, but they at least colored it properly so it’s not ugly, just not particularly functional. There’s a biceps swivel and double-jointed elbow which bends past 90 degrees. The hands are on the usual ball pegs. In the diaphragm, we have the ball-hinge system so you can pull up on the figure if need be. It doesn’t really do a lot though as the figure can’t really crunch forward no matter what you do with the hinge, but he can bend back a little. Mostly, this joint just gives you some swivel and a little tilt, but you have to be mindful of paint rub. At the waist, you can swivel and the belt and rags is a floating piece. At the hips, Goku can almost do a split, kick forward, and kick backwards because he doesn’t have sculpted buns. There’s a little twist there too, and then your usual double-jointed knees below. The knee on the right has a bit more range backwards because it’s a standard, clothed, joint while the exposed left knee has reduced range, but still goes beyond 90 degrees. The ankles are on ball pegs and have the usual range for Goku’s boot design. It goes forward a little, back a fair amount, decent ankle rocker, and a lousy toe hinge. All of the joints are fairly smooth and required no break-in period, so that is always appreciated.

I can see people being against translucent plastic for Super Saiyan hair, but I do think this figure draws attention to how bland the approach to the hair was for the standard release. Granted, the figure on the left retails for only 30 bucks.

The other unique aspect to this release comes with the accessories and packaging. The optional hands and expressions are fairly standard. We get a stern look, scream, smirk, and a teeth-gritting expression. All of the faces are well painted and I love the shade of blue used for the eyebrows. I wish that was the standard shade of blue for this form of Goku. For hands, we get a set of fists, martial arts pose hands, Kamehameha hands, and wide open “Solar Flare” hands. For a box, he comes in this oversized standard box with the usual event exclusive coloring. It’s oversized because this Goku comes with an aura effect! That’s certainly unusual, and also why this guy cost $60 instead of $50, but it’s worth it. I love effect pieces and for this particular form it’s needed. It’s the standard aura piece, of which I have a yellow version already, and it comes in three pieces: a rear blast and two side pieces. It’s cast in translucent plastic with red at the edge and blue on the inside. The plastic is soft and and partially hollow. The only thing I don’t like is the translucent nature of the plastic means more of the seems are visible, especially towards the bottom of the center piece. It’ll get the job done though, and I hope it doesn’t get that sticky residue my other aura piece has acquired over the years.

If you like what you see then this figure is a worthy addition to the Super collection. If you’re someone who never cared about this version of Goku then you’ll probably be content to skip it.

This version of Goku is another good selection by Bandai when it comes to event exclusives. Not everyone needs a version of Goku so specific to one look from the show that doesn’t show up much, and the paint application is something that will appeal to some more than others. I thought this figure looked great in the promotional shots, so when Bandai made it available online I said “Why not?” The actual figure in hand pretty much lives up to my expectations. It’s eye-catching and fun and I love adding another aura, even if this one is really specific to this version of Goku. My guess is that most people who bought this are happy with it. I don’t think it’s good enough to win anybody over who didn’t see a spot for this in their collection, but those who want it should be content. Since it was an event exclusive, it’s currently sold out at MSRP so only secondary options are available. This strikes me as the type of release that might be high right now, but could come down in time as it is a bit niche. If you missed out and are having second thoughts, just keep an eye out. Who knows? Maybe a good deal will come around sooner or later.


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Event Exclusive Color Edition Beerus

The God of Destruction has arrived.

Let’s take a break from the Goku and Goku-adjacent figures and talk about a totally different character: Beerus. Or should I say Lord Beerus: God of Destruction! Beerus made his debut in the film Battle of Gods which essentially became the premiere of Dragon Ball Super. He’s some sort of cat creature who happens to be charged with destroying worlds within his assigned universe. Being a god, he’s only sort of a villain. I guess if he were a Dungeons & Dragons character he might be considered Chaotic Neutral, or maybe Lawful Evil? I honestly can’t remember if there’s a rhyme or reason to his destruction. When we’re introduced to him, he is seeking out the Super Saiyan God and has come to Earth in search of, who else, Goku. If Goku can’t impress him and show him the power of a Super Saiyan God, then he has no use for Earth and will destroy it, so I guess he’s lawful? Anyway, he’s one of the best new characters to come to the show so I’m happy to add this event exclusive edition to my collection.

Like many a Dragon Ball villain there’s a lot of power packed into a somewhat unassuming frame with Beerus.

Beerus embodies the power of a god and Dragon Ball villain, while also displaying the traits of a cat. He gets sleepy, can be petulant, impatient, and certainly carries himself in a regal manner. And like many characters in this universe, an easy way to please him is via his stomach. He loves food and it’s the food on planet Earth that initially spares the world from his destruction. He’s quite threatening, but easily slips into a comedic performance as the scene demands. He’s terrific. And this figure is actually an old one from 2016. It was part of Bandai’s San Diego Comic Con collection of exclusives from last year. Premium Bandai’s website basically couldn’t handle the volume of people interested when the item went up for sale, so they offered a make-up sale a couple of days later that was for a second batch. I really wanted the Nappa they released, so I just went for that because the site was so slow and buggy that trying to add multiple items to my cart felt like a risk I just couldn’t take. However, when the second sale went up I gave in and grabbed both Beerus and the Super Saiyan God version of Goku.

“Come at me, if you dare.”

Unlike Nappa, this version of Beerus is a better use of an event exclusive. I loved that Nappa, but he was a re-release of a figure done in his proper animated colors. That’s something most fans probably wanted from the original release, and making him an event exclusive kind of sucks. Since it ended up being easy to get, I guess little harm was done other than some folks felt compelled to get two versions of the same figure. With Beerus, his change is subtle. I don’t have the original release, but from what I can tell, the main difference is just in the collar-like shirt he wears. I don’t know the proper name for the garment, but it’s the blue and black item he wears over his shoulders. The original was a standard matte look, while this one is done with a shiny, chrome-like, finish. It looks cools, and it’s the type of thing that owners of the previous figure probably don’t feel compelled to buy, while those looking to fill a hole in their collection aren’t settling for some glow-in-the-dark variant or something.

The dreaded Finger Poke of Doom!

Being that Beerus is an older release, there’s going to be some dated things on him. Let’s start with the aesthetics. He looks like Beerus from the show/movie. His default, stoic, look captures that of the character and a cat as he appears content, but those narrow eyes have a menacing quality to him like his mood could change at the drop of a hat. His skin is a pale gray-violet which works well with the blues and blacks of his attire. The only shading on the figure is on the front of the pants while the other painted flourishes are rather clean. The sculpt is rather nice as it captures how thin the character is and Bandai did a great job at the hips which don’t jut out like the Goku Black I looked at recently.

These two literally do not see eye-to-eye.

As nice as Beerus looks, there are a few nitpicks to find. His neck gets a bit gappy where it meets the upper chest, and I wish his face had a wash or something on it as it looks rather plain. His nose should probably be darker than the rest and just some subtle paint touches on some of the lines, as we saw with the Super Saiyan 4 Goku, would really bring out the features. His feet appear to be cast in blue plastic, which is rather odd. I only know this because some blue is peaking out of the seems and at the pins in the toe. And lastly, he also seems a bit too tall. Beerus stands at about 5.75″ to the top of his head, 6.625″ to the top of his ears. Goku is about 5.625″ to the top of his head, so his eye level is lower than that of Beerus which doesn’t look right. It’s been a few years since I watched Dragon Ball Super and it wouldn’t surprise me if Beerus was drawn shorter in that than he was in his debut feature, sort of like how Vegeta was suddenly taller when he became more of a good guy, but I don’t think even this is accurate to Battle of Gods.

Yeah, that doesn’t look right.

Aside from the paint, this release is the same as the older one so the accessories included are also the same. They’re just appearance accessories, so optional heads and hands. In addition to the neutral expression, Beerus also has a yell and a yawn. Both look terrific and I think all three portraits have worth in a display as the more comedic yawn is still a spot-on depiction of the character. With the hands, things are less interesting as Beerus comes packaged with fists and can swap to gripping hands, open hands, and he has a right, sort of clawing, hand. It’s a gesture he uses when firing some of his attacks and could also be used as a “Come here” gesture. What’s curious though are the gripping hands as he has nothing to grip. Was there a short-lived directive at Bandai to make sure all of their figures came with gripping hands? It’s bizarre, as Beerus doesn’t wield any weapons in the film or show so they really are useless. I would have preferred more style posed hands, or maybe one with chopsticks and a bowl of ramen or something. There are no effects parts either, which is always bummer. It does help that Beerus doesn’t really have a signature attack, but he could still have something.

Those knees aren’t pretty. On the plus side, these yawning head is great!

Where the figure really feels dated is with the articulation, which also factors into the appearance somewhat. The head is on a ball hinge, like what Bandai uses for the wrists. It’s okay, but once the head is on you don’t really know where the hinge is so it doesn’t function super well. Also like the hands, it’s something you have to battle with just to get those heads on. There’s a ball joint in the base of the neck so he can bury his chin and also look up a bit with the usual rotation and tilt. The shoulders have part of that collared garment pinned to them, like most of the Goku figures do with the his sleeves. It’s a bit unsightly, and you need to be careful with those pieces as they will slide under the chest part and could get scratched. It’s a ball hinge so the shoulder can move up and down a bit, but the butterfly joint is useless due to the chest piece getting in the way. There’s a biceps swivel and double-jointed elbows and a ball-hinge wrist. In the torso, there’s a diaphragm cut but it’s pretty tight. It feels like a ball-hinge so if you pull up on it you can get him to crunch back. Leave it low and the figure makes some uncomfortable noises when rotating there, and he doesn’t get much forward crunch either way. The ball-joint at the waist is a bit better and that’s where you’ll get rotation and a little tilt.

Note the single tear squirting out of his right eye.

At the hips, Beerus has hinged ball-joints that drop down. Leaving them in the up position results in a nice looking joint that is reasonably functional out to the side and kicking forward and back. Dropping the leg doesn’t add a ton, just a little extra clearance on the kick, which is probably why we don’t see this joint too much anymore. The knee is where things really get poor though as Beerus has just a single joint with no cap on the front. When you bend that knee, you just see the joint at the kneecap and it’s ugly. It’s unfortunate because that yawning expression would lend itself well to certain sitting, bent knee, posing that will expose this shortcoming. This is simply just an outdated joint, as some of the early SHF releases featured the same, and has been retired in favor of what we see on other poufy pants characters like Goku. It’s too bad they couldn’t fix that for this release. At the ankle, we also have the old ball-peg system. You get good movement back, little forward, and the rocker is just mediocre. There is a toe hinge, but I don’t have much use for toe hinges. Beerus, being a cat, also has a tail and that’s connected via a ball-hinge. You get some decent posing out of it, but the tail itself doesn’t articulate further. It’s soft and pliable, but does not have a wire in it so it’s fairly static. It’s a thin tail, though, so I’m fine with it not being segmented for articulation.

Beerus is right to yawn in Nappa’s direction.

Beerus is an old figure with a shiny coat of paint added to go along with a fancy box. The sculpt has aged well so he should still look the part on your shelf. I have some nitpicks with his size, but I largely think he looks good. He just shows his age primarily with those knees and it’s the one thing I would definitely change. This isn’t a budget release, after all, as he retailed for $50 so it would have been nice to see an upgrade made there. Even factoring that in, I still think he’s worth the price tag and I do find myself quite charmed by this release. He’s very much an essential character if you’re collecting Dragon Ball Super. Since this figure was an event exclusive, you’ll need to seek him out on the secondary market. Big Bad Toy Store is carrying this edition, but at a significant markup (more than 100%) so you might be better off on eBay or Mercari. I like the figure, but I don’t $100 like the figure so I guess it will come down to how important it is for you personally to add Beerus to your display.

“Buy me or the Earth is destroyed!”

S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Goku Black – Super Saiyan Rosé

Wine enthusiast Goku has arrived.

Our last look at an S.H.Figuarts release was the Dragon Ball GT Super Saiyan 4 Goku. Now, we look at a figure from the series that effectively replaced GT: Dragon Ball Super. And perhaps the most popular villain from that new series is Goku Black. Without getting into spoiler territory, Goku Black is basically an evil Goku from an alternate timeline. It’s more complicated than that, but a big part of his saga is trying to figure out how he came into existence so I’ll refrain from elaborating. All you really need to know is he looks like Goku, which isn’t exactly new territory since we already have Bardock, who looks just like his son, and there was Turles from the Tree of Might who also looked like Goku, though he’s non-canon. Goku Black is actually worthy of looking like Goku and being the true doppelganger as he’s extremely powerful and also quite evil – the usual Dragon Ball enemy.

Goku Black is part of the series of S.H.Figuarts releases going to mass retail like Target. I had forgot about him until I came across him in store recently. I had seen this release on retail outlets online for the “budget” price of $35 and for some reason I didn’t make the connection to Target. This figure is a reissue, so that’s part of the reason why it can be priced so low relative to other SHF releases, and it omits some accessories (like effects parts) from that past release. The surprising part is that this figure is quite different from Goku. All of the Goku’s at this price point have basically been the same figure with a different deco: Goku, Kaioken Goku, SSGSS Goku, SS Goku. Goku Black basically only gets to recycle the hair and left hand from those figures. It’s possible parts of his body are shared with other releases (like Zamasu) that I just don’t have, so Bandai apparently got what it needed to out of the original tools and can put this guy out there for cheap. Still, I was surprised to see him head to Target before a more popular character, like Vegeta, but I wasn’t necessarily disappointed either.

Coming up with poses for this guy feels tricky without accessories.

This edition of Goku Black is in his Super Saiyan form, which he calls Super Saiyan Rosé since his aura is pink. The original release from 2018 came with extra heads and parts, but this one is just the super version. I always like to get the extra stuff, but I’d honestly never use the non-transformed head so I can’t really complain. The hair has that pearl finish we saw with the Super Saiyan Blue Goku and it is an attractive piece. It’s also the exact same mold as that previous Goku. That’s kind of it though as far as what he shares with that Goku as his left ear has an earring, so he gets new faceplates, and his right hand has a ring as well. For clothing, he wears a black bodysuit with a purple tunic over it. It’s not form-fitting like the body suits Vegeta is so fond of, so there are sculpted folds and wrinkles in the forearms and biceps as well as the pants. The torso is basically one piece, while the bottom of the tunic (including the belt) is an overlay. There’s a little shading on the front of the figure, but it’s fairly subtle. Most of the figure is molded plastic, but since the colors are deep and more muted than typical Dragon Ball costumes, it looks pretty nice. There’s no mis-matching colors and the little bits of painted details, like the jewelry and face, look nice.

What’s the matter, Black? Someone pee in your cereal?

There are two areas of the figure that don’t look great to me. The first is the shoulder area where Bandai is utilizing that peg system for the sleeve cuffs. This allows the arms to move unencumbered, but the sleeves do stupid things as a result and result in gaps. You can fiddle with them so that it looks okay in most poses, but it always felt unnecessary. The other part that doesn’t look great are the hips which flare out to an abnormal degree. His hips are wider than his shoulders which is pretty crazy and obviously not accurate to the source material. And it’s not the overlay causing the problem as that’s actually tight against his hips and thighs. It’s just a weird design.

Also, no flight stand included, but you probably could have guessed that.

When it comes to the articulation, we have some good and some not so good. The head is a double ball peg, though it might be of an odd design like we’ve seen on characters like Lunch and Kid Goku. It basically provides rotation, tilt, and together with the joint in the base of the neck allows the character to look down. He can’t really look up though as the cuff of his tunic blocks that, but I suppose Goku Black looks up to no one. At the shoulders we have those ugly sleeves, but aside from that the butterfly joint works fine as the shoulder can move up and down and he gets decent range going across the chest. The interior of the joint is painted properly too, unlike some of the Gokus we’ve seen. Biceps swivel, double-jointed elbow, and wrist peg all work as expected. Ball joints in the diaphragm and waist provide twist and tilt and also allows Black to crunch forward and bend back an acceptable amount. The hips, despite being ugly, at least function well as the character can do almost a full split and the thighs swivel. His double-jointed knees work very well, but it’s at the ankle where things kind of suck. He just has those ball-peg ankle joints which don’t provide a lot of range and are prone to popping off if you push it too far. He can bend the foot back okay, but he can’t really go forward and the ankle rocker sucks. The toe hinge is tight, but also really small and I don’t see it adding much.

Aww, they’re twins!

The articulation on this guy is largely acceptable. It’s really just those ankles that I don’t like and the sleeve system up by the shoulders. All of the joints are nice and tight without being overly tight. Nothing is loose, and despite being a cheaper release, this guy feels like a SHF release. Which means, as a budget release, his only true weak area is in the accessory department. This guy just has optional parts, so no effects pieces. It’s unfortunate because those pieces are already tooled, so for Bandai the only cost is plastic. I get it though, translucent, purple, plastic isn’t exactly usable on a lot of things so it probably costs more than most parts as the machines have to be loaded with the stuff and there’s probably a lot of waste involved. Nevertheless, I can still be disappointed. Black comes with four portraits: smirk, yell, side-eyed teeth grit, and a scowl. For hands, we get fist hands, open “clenchy” hands, martial arts pose, and one two-finger Instant Transmission right hand. The clenchy hands and martial arts ones have a slightly different shape when compared with Goku, but they’re fine. Each right hand has the ring sculpted and painted as well. It’s an adequate assortment of stuff, there’s just nothing to put it over the top.

In hand, Goku looks far more paler than Black, but the flash of the camera says otherwise.

The Super Saiyan Rosé form of Goku Black is a solid release made even better by the $35 price point. Marvel Legends comes with less stuff and are now hitting $25 or more at retail, so $35 for an average SHF release is practically a steal. And I think he looks, and feels, more premium than most of the Goku releases at that same dollar amount. I think that’s mostly a result of the color palette in use as that orange plastic we see with Goku has a cheap vibe. Even Black’s skin tone is more saturated and warm and all together just more pleasant to look at. While I miss the effects parts, I don’t miss them enough to want to pay the after market rate which is around $200 these days.

This guy is available at various specialty shops online and should be arriving at Target now. I grabbed him because, when he first came out, I was trying to stay away from collecting Dragon Ball Super, but now I regret passing on some of them. I mostly got this guy in hopes that Bandai will re-release the Dragon Ball Super version of Future Trunks as he would pair well. Hopefully that’s in the cards along with Super Saiyan Blue versions of Vegeta. And if not, Goku Black is still a worthy addition to my humble display.


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 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!”

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!

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

db super broly poster

Dragon Ball Super: Broly

The first movie under the Dragon Ball Super umbrella is one that sets out to take what was previously non-canon and adapt it into the main series. The most recent two Dragon Ball Z films; Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’, ended up being the start of Dragon Ball Super which is now well over 100 episodes into its own series and several volumes of manga as well. It was last year that the series took a pause, seemingly coming to an end, only for this feature to be announced soon afterwards. Over the summer it was revealed that the subject of the film would be the infamous Broly, a character created for the prior Dragon Ball Z films that is either a fan-favorite or fan-hated character, depending on who you ask. In that universe, Broly was the featured villain of three separate films, and according to this humble blogger only one of those three films was any good. Broly is simply an all style and no substance villain. He’s big, mean, and powerful, but he has no real motivations beyond wanting to annihilate the hero of the series, Goku, whom he despises because he made him cry when the two were infants. Yup, you read that correctly.

Finding out that Broly would soon be adapted for his fourth film and presumably brought into canon left me with mixed feelings. Those feelings quickly shifted to positive ones though as what reason did I have to really doubt series creator Akira Toriyama? Broly already had the look, and aside from the reason for hating Goku being quite lame, the rest of his origin was fine. There was enough of a skeleton there that could be fleshed out into something worthwhile. And after doubting that there was anything left in this franchise, I’ve been proven wrong time and again by the last two features and basically the entirety of Dragon Ball Super. Toriyama, and those working with him, seem to have a handle on what sets this world apart from others. It’s the humor, as well as the action, that makes it go. The series can’t stop to take itself too seriously, or else it will betray what it is. Anchoring the series on the Goku and Vegeta characters is also fan-service at its best. It’s their differences as characters that works so well. It meant taking away most of what once made Vegeta a villain, but Dragon Ball Super has managed to make him likable and understandable without also softening him too much.

dbs broly normal

Broly is re-introduced in this one as canon with a tweak to his base design.

Before I go any further, it is worth pointing out just where this film follows in the grand scheme of things. If you’re like me and have been following Dragon Ball Super via the dub that airs weekly on Toonami then you’re going to have some things spoiled for you. This film takes place after the events of Dragon Ball Super so far, so it’s after the Tournament of Power which has yet to officially begin. If you watch the Japanese dub of the show, then no problem as you saw the finale almost a year ago. For us just watching on a standard cable package, it means having the events of that tournament some-what spoiled. And I mean that very loosely as the setup for that tournament is that all of the universes who lose are destroyed. I don’t think any viewer expects the universe inhabited by Goku and his friends to be wiped out and have the story end there, so the fact that this film even exists is only the most mild of spoilers. The film doesn’t go into any detail about how that crisis was resolved, so I didn’t feel particularly spoiled by anything. Only the fate of one character would really count there, so if you want absolutely nothing else spoiled you may want to stop here as I can’t really discuss this film without mentioning that character at least in passing. There’s your final warning.

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King Vegeta’s court where Paragus is informed on the fate of his son.

Okay, with that out of the way we can freely talk about Dragon Ball Super: Broly! This is a review, not a synopsis like I did with my DBZ movie feature from last summer, so I don’t aim to spoil anything pertinent to the film beyond just going over the general plot and setup. If you’re a longtime fan, you’re probably most curious about how this new Broly (Vic Mignogna) equates with the old. He’s a different character, but it is also largely the same. The film begins several years before the present day when planet Vegeta was still a thing. In addition to seeing the early days of Broly, we’re also treated to something previously untouched upon and that’s the transfer of power over the universe from King Cold (Jason Douglas) to his son, Frieza (Christopher Ayers). It’s fun seeing that acknowledged, though it’s not particularly thrilling. Broly himself though is soon introduced as a baby, and like the prior Broly, he seems to have incredible untapped power. King Vegeta (Christopher Sabat) appears jealous that this child rivals his own infant son, also Vegeta (Sabat), and it may explain what he does next.

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The flashback also contains a brief look at young Goku in a somewhat touching scene.

Like the prior Broly, this one will find himself banished from planet Vegeta. His father, Paragus (Dameon Clarke), suspects the king did it out of jealousy, but the king claims he did it out of fear over what Broly is capable of. A power so terrible cannot be controlled and he could destroy them all. It’s hard to say what the truth is, but Paragus refuses to see his son exiled to a barren world alone. He steals a spaceship and chases after him all while swearing revenge on the king who did this to him and his son. We also get another peek at Goku’s father, Bardok (Sonny Strait), and even meet his mother, Gine (Emily Neves). It retcons the events of Bardock’s solo film a bit, and also shows us a softer side to the character which provides some context for how Goku (Sean Schemmel) came to be so different from other Saiyans. We also get to check in on a toddler Vegeta and Radditz, which is amusing, and see the destruction of planet Vegeta from another angle. There’s even a mention of a brother to Prince Vegeta that I was not aware of. I don’t know if that’s mentioned at all in the episodes I have not seen, or it could be a hint at something to come in a future movie or series.

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The design for Broly’s father, Paragus, is also still in-line with his old portrayal only now he’s aged up. He’s also still a dick.

After the lengthy setup, the film jumps to the present day and finds Goku and Vegeta sparring. They’ll soon find out that Frieza is up to not good, and his stealing of the Dragon Balls from Bulma’s (Monica Rial) lab is what sets the plot in motion. That will get all of our main players to Earth, including a now fully grown Broly and his father, where the action takes place.

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Goku and Vegeta showing off their trendy new winter duds.

To no one’s surprise, the majority of this film is action as the two heroic saiyans take on Broly. Broly is depicted as actually kind-natured this time around, but his power drives him mad. It’s a subtle change from the previous version we’ve seen, but it’s handled far better and this character actually has meaning. He’s a sympathetic character, much more so than before, and one the audience isn’t necessarily instructed to root against. His design is only a little different from his old one, but he has a slightly more refined look. There’s some grit there as well and he actually looks like someone who has lived his whole life in exile. He’ll find some sympathetic characters which help add to his story, and overall I think he’s a fine addition to the cast this time.

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Vegeta demonstrating his mastery of the Super Saiyan God form.

The action is the main attraction, and after the slow-paced opening I am happy to report that no action was spared as a result. This is a meaty film, and by its end you may even start to feel exhausted. It keeps upping the visual ante along the way though, so it never gets boring. New tricks are unleashed, some more abstract than others. My favorite was a first-person camera in the middle of the fight that really pulled me in. It sounds like a gimmick, but it worked really well to see the lightning-quick action unfold from such a perspective. It was also tastefully utilized, so it didn’t overstay its welcome. There’s plenty of big spots, and also some rather brutal ones. Nothing is gratuitous though, and overall if you’re a fan of action this is one satisfying and spectacular film. There is also less emphasis on fan-service this time around when compared with the last two films. There’s no effort to get all of the old gang back together and the cast is actually fairly trim. This one simply has a story to tell and a battle to feature.

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The film is visually stunning, but there are moments where I felt like I was watching a cut scene from Dragon Ball FighterZ.

The film is still mostly done in 2D with digital hand-drawn animation, the design of which was handled by Naohiro Shintani instead of Tadayoshi Yamamuro who has done virtually all of Dragon Ball previously so all of the characters have a slightly altered look to them, though I wouldn’t go so far as to say they appear off-model. Those hand-drawn parts are delicious for the eyes and Dragon Ball has never looked better. The movements of the characters are so fluid and sharp, and the slightly muted color palette is reminiscent of the manga more so than the actual anime. Vegeta’s battle suit, in particular, uses a more navy color than a bright blue and Goku’s orange gi is just slightly pale. This being Dragon Ball, there’s also lots of bright greens and blacks and some cute character designs amongst the villains. There are instances of obvious CG, most noticeably when space ships are shown. It’s also still used in battles, but it’s less of a distraction than in past films. There are still times though when I felt like I was viewing a cut scene from a video game as opposed to an anime. I wouldn’t go so far as to say those moments were jarring, but the hand-drawn stuff is just so flawless that I wish they just tried to stick with that as much as possible.

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Arctic settings are among my favorites in Dragon Ball. The brightly colored characters just look great against a cool backdrop.

The music composed by Norihito Sumitomo is also quite bombastic and in-time with the visuals. Some of the main themes, in particular Broly’s and a character I won’t mention by name as it would constitute a spoiler, include a chant in the song where the name of the character is spoken. It further adds to the fighting video game feel of some of the visuals and I’d consider it ludicrous if this were any other property save for maybe Mortal Kombat. It manages to add to the spectacle of everything. Also, some old favorites return though it’s worth mentioning this movie doesn’t feature an opening credits scene like the old ones. I kept waiting for it to pop-in, until I realized it wasn’t coming. It’s probably for the best, though I did kind of miss it.

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If you’re looking for some of the old Broly you know (and love?) you’ll get that here as well.

Ultimately, I was left feeling like seeing Dragon Ball Super: Broly on the big screen was very much a worthwhile experience. This film was designed for that setting, and I really enjoyed my time with it. I was surprised to find it actually showing at quite a few theaters in my area, and further surprised to find many shows sold out. Thankfully, I was planning on seeing this alone as I couldn’t find two seats side-by-side anywhere. The machinations of the plot are pretty contained so if you haven’t bothered to watch Dragon Ball Super you shouldn’t have too much trouble getting into this and and figuring out what’s going on, so don’t let that be an obstacle. If you ever cared about Dragon Ball, then you owe it to yourself to catch it on the big screen.


Dragon Ball Z Movie Wrap-up – The Rankings

teaser gokuWell I hope you’ve enjoyed the summer feature this year at The Nostalgia Spot – Dragon Ball Z Movie Monday. We’ve taken a look at all 13 original Dragon Ball Z films in chronological order, run-through their plots, dissected what they did well and not so well, and now we’re going to rank them. It should be noted that this ranking is going to be rendered obsolete in just a few short months as on the way is the first Dragon Ball Super movie:  Broly! Yes, Broly. He’s coming back for a fourth movie appearance, but this time it’s different. Those Dragon Ball Z films he was in are technically not canon. Yes, series creator Akira Toriyama designed the character of Broly and the general back story, but he was never intended to be a “real” character, so to speak. With the 14th and 15th DBZ films, things started to change. Both Battle of Gods and Resurrection ‘F’ are now canon and were adapted for Dragon Ball Super. Since Toriyama is involved with Broly, it stands to reason that this will be an all new version of the Legendary Super Saiyan and for the first time ever he’ll be an actual part of the overall Dragon Ball plot.

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Broly’s coming back, whether you like it or not.

That’s all well and good, but before we can even think about that movie we need to sort out these other 15, of which 3 feature Broly. The core 13 are what we covered this summer, but I had taken a look at the two most recent films previously and made entries about them. Even though their plots are now part of Dragon Ball Super, they were released as Dragon Ball Z films so it feels right to include them in the rankings. Hopefully the first Dragon Ball Super movie will challenge the best of these, but for now, this is what I think of the fine fifteen:

Goten urinating

Lets kick this one off properly!

15. Broly – Second Coming – It’s kind of funny the first film on my list just so happens to feature the character of Broly. If this version of Broly were returning for a fourth feature, then I would be disappointed. Broly was fine in his film debut, but his return engagements saw the warrior reduced to an even more mindless fighting machine. Broly – Second Coming also stars Trunks and Goten, and it feels like maybe they weren’t ready to anchor a feature. Gohan makes his presence felt in the film’s third act, but he can’t rescue this one. Broly – Second Coming is perhaps the most dull, with the biggest rule-breaking ending, and is thus my least favorite. It’s not without some charm, so I hesitate to call it flat-out bad, but it will be a long while before I revisit this one again.

cooler surprised

Maybe this was a bad idea.

14. Cooler’s Revenge – You will probably notice a trend amongst these bottom entries. The movies that just feel like one long fight do little to entertain me, and Cooler’s Revenge commits the sin of having Goku get taken out immediately only to sit on the sidelines for a large chunk of the film’s duration. No one wants to sit and wait for Goku to show up – not Cooler, and certainly not the fans. And the fights that do occur in this picture aren’t very engaging, but we do get some fireworks from Super Saiyan Goku and the transformed Cooler. It’s also his connection to Frieza that helps move this one past Broly – Second Coming.

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Not the best?! I don’t want to hear it!

13. Lord Slug – Similar to Cooler’s Revenge, this one also has Goku get taken out for a large portion of the film. Unlike with that film though, there’s not a great reason for that to happen. Yeah, he gets hurt a bit, but it doesn’t seem like the type of injury that should knock Goku out of commission for such a long time. Anyways, Lord Slug gets to move past Cooler because at least there’s some interesting visuals here. A lot of fun backgrounds and the enemy designs for Slug’s henchmen are interesting as well. I also think the fight between Slug and Goku is a bit better than the one with Cooler, even if it features that goofy half Super Saiyan thing from Goku. This is also a film I look at and can envision it being better than it is with just a few tweaks here and there.

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Swamp Thing got nothing on Broly.

12. Bio-Broly – It seems like this film is most often cited as the worst DBZ film and I can see why, on the surface, that would be the case. It returns Broly, but in an even weirder form than before that’s somehow even more mindless. There’s no Goku, Vegeta, Piccolo, or Gohan, and overall the stakes are possibly the smallest they’ve ever been. On the other hand, Goten and Trunks get another crack at being the stars and they’re more entertaining here than previously. There’s a good balance of nuanced humor with the childish brand that sometimes rears its head and we also get a good dose of both Mr. Satan and Android 18. Perhaps best of all, there’s no silly rule-breaking ending involving the dead Goku this time and in the end we get a film that’s perhaps not super engaging, but it makes up for it to some degree with humor and charm.

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Trucker hats rule.

11. Super Android 13! – Another extended battle movie, but this one ups the excitement by adding yet another Super Saiyan to the mix – Future Trunks. We also get more androids, which at this point in time felt a little like overkill since we already had five in the main series, plus Cell. Still, the android villains kind of work and given how secretive Dr. Gero was it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that he’d have even more waiting to awaken. It’s just too bad they all have the same general programming of needing to kill Goku. For the English dub, Funimation actually took some liberties and gave Android 13 a little personality. It wasn’t much, but it was something. The fights are generally satisfying, though the resolution kind of “meh.” More than most, this one is all about spectacle.

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Dragon Ball Z Movie 6 – The Mega Powers Explode!

10. The Return of Cooler – Cooler gets to improve upon his debut by pairing up with a super computer and gaining a shiny, new metallic body. Vegeta also gets to debut in a DBZ film as a Super Saiyan, and for the first time ever, he and Goku team-up to take on Cooler. There’s actually some semblance of a plot here and it’s not bad. There’s a little mystery, and if Funimation didn’t decide to go with such an obvious title the actual re-debut of Cooler would have come as a surprise. The film just kind of loses me in the final act. It’s no Spirit Bomb attack at least, but it is kind of odd.

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In this one, Goku fights a tree.

9. The Tree of Might – If this were a ranking of best looking Dragon Ball Z films then The Tree of Might would be a contender for the top spot. It hits the sweet spot between the very soft, round look of Dragon Ball and early Dragon Ball Z while also bringing in more definition. The characters are all muscled-up and impressive looking, the special effects mesmerizing, and the battles don’t move at a super-sonic pace. More interesting enemy designs, the debut of Icarus, and even a Giant Ape fight! The actual plot is just what holds everything back as a planet devouring tree hardly seems like an interesting adversary. And then there’s the confusing Turles and the lack of a really great fight involving him. If Goku and Turles were able to wage an all-out epic battle then that probably would have vaulted this one up the list, but instead it settles close to the mid-point of our list.

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Oh yes, that’s the good stuff!

8. Dead Zone – It’s rather appropriate that the debut film, Dead Zone, is right in the middle. I consider it a good measuring stick for all of the DBZ films. It has a simple, but effective plot revolving around the kidnapping of Gohan and a villain out for revenge and immortality via the Dragon Balls. That villain is Garlic Jr., who gets to follow a typical villain mold for this series in that he’s not imposing to look at, but he’s hiding a monstrous transformation. The fight choreography is top-notch and probably the best the series had. Watching Goku dodge the blade attacks of Garlic Jr’s minions is easily the film’s most fun visual. There’s also the odd drunk Gohan sequence that’s pretty amusing by itself, and we even get a pee joke. The film kind of falls apart in the final act, a common occurrence sadly for these films. We’re teased a Goku vs Piccolo fight that never gets going, and Garlic Jr. is defeated in a very anticlimactic fashion by Gohan. Basically, Gohan powering up alone pushed Garlic into the Dead Zone? I don’t know, it’s still a lot of fun though.

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Legendary Super Saiyan? More like Legendary Cry Baby.

7. Broly:  The Legendary Super Saiyan – Broly peeks on our list at number 7, which isn’t half-bad (literally). His debut film was the longest at the time totaling over 70 minutes and it utilizes its time well. It moves at a methodic pace teasing the emergence of Broly and then devotes a sizable portion of its run time to the actual fight. Where it stumbles is with its odd handling of Vegeta and, stop me if you’ve heard this one before, the resolution to the actual fight with Broly. His defeat just feels cheap. I don’t know what would have worked better since they kind of wrote themselves into a hole considering how powerful Broly is, but surely something better could have been utilized. Nonetheless, it’s still fine and this is how a Broly film should function where the plot revolves around him, but doesn’t necessarily require him to do much aside from just being there. The other characters move the narrative and provide the context. Oh, and his origin is great aside from why he hates Goku. I think that aspect of his origin was supposed to be funny, but it just doesn’t fit here.

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You wanna get nuts?! Let’s get nuts!

6. The World’s Strongest – The second DBZ film still feels a bit like an odd duck. It is somewhat rooted in the spirit of the original Dragon Ball, and bringing Master Roshi back into the fold is certainly welcomed by me. The sci-fi nature of the plot is slightly out of place for Dragon Ball Z, but less so when you consider some of what was featured in Dragon Ball. If the villainous duo of Dr. Wheelo and Dr. Kochin were given ties to the Red Ribbon Army then they would have felt right at home. Like Dead Zone, it gets a lot out of its visuals. The fight choreography is again top-notch, and the big finish with the Spirit Bomb works since it hadn’t been done before. I love the arctic location and the humor infused into it. Even the whole premise of the film, a couple of long dormant scientists mistaking Master Roshi for the strongest fighter in the world, is pretty amusing and the Metal Gear-like Dr. Wheelo is certainly an interesting opponent from a visual perspective. This is just another fun DBZ movie that moves at a brisk pace and is able to squeeze everything that’s charming about early DBZ  into it in a satisfying manner.

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When a god asks for pudding you give him pudding!

5. Battle of Gods – The return I had no idea I cared about. Battle of Gods both resurrected Dragon Ball Z as an anime brand and launched Dragon Ball Super. It introduced the God of Destruction, Beerus, and his godly attendant Whis who have become some of my favorite characters across all of Dragon Ball. Beerus is not only an all-powerful god, but a cat. We’ve seen cat creatures before, but Beerus is able to subtly weave in cat-like behavior into his mannerisms that’s so entertaining. The film also brings together basically everyone from DBZ as far as the earthlings go, and it’s heavily reliant on comedy. So much so that it comes at the expense of action, which is where some fans seemed to be let down. That and Goku’s Super Saiyan God form was fairly underwhelming. Still, what action is present is solid and the film looks fantastic when it’s not trying to use CG effects.

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Some cool guys and Yamcha.

4. Bojack Unbound – The first movie that did not try to rely on Goku, Bojack Unbound put Gohan in the spotlight in a bit of rehash of his fight with Cell and the awakening of his Super Saiyan 2 powers. It could have been a bit lame, but it’s anchored by some character development that works and the introduction of one Mr. Satan who never fails to be amusing. The entire film takes place on an island as the Z fighters have entered a tournament for riches. There’s plenty of humor to be found at the expense of both Mr. Satan and Krillin, and also plenty of action. The part of the film I liked most was the little peak at a post-death Goku Vegeta, who is essentially depressed about the loss of his rival. The film maybe could have been better if that had been its primary focus, but instead it chose to just make that a small piece. The actual villain, Bojack, is kind of boring to be honest, but we get a good series of fights out of him and his minions. It’s also fun seeing the Super Saiyan 2 moment rehashed, and the film just looks fantastic.

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Tears in Hell.

3. Fusion Reborn – Probably not surprising, but a film that spends quite a bit of time devoted to exploring the relationship of Goku and Vegeta is going to rank high on my list. These films often don’t go for character development, instead choosing to just capture the essence of the main characters and sticking that on-screen. For Vegeta, that typically means you just get a cocky jerk who is only fighting because he wants to be the one to defeat Goku instead of the villain of the moment. In this one, both fighters are dead, and they need to not only team-up to stop the Buu-like Janemba, but literally become one fighter via fusion. Vegeta can’t stand the thought, but Goku proves persuasive. The two seem to develop an understanding of one another and have a bit of a quiet reckoning leading up to the big moment, and it’s very rewarding and very sweet. In addition to that, the movie combines impressive visual flair with a ton of funny bits including Goten and Trunks taking on a resurrected Hitler. This one distills the qualities of the Buu Saga that I actually like into a tidy 52 minutes and it’s arguably the most “fun” of all the Dragon Ball Z movies.

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Play nice you two.

2. Resurrection ‘F’ – The most recent film may actually be the only one more fun than Fusion Reborn and that’s because it’s very much a fan-servicey kind of movie. It brings back Frieza, the most hate-able of all of the villains, for another round. Now he’s powered-up to a new form, but so are his chief rivals Goku and Vegeta. Debuting their new Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan (Super Saiyan Blue, for short) forms, the two Saiyans are basically on equal footing for the first time since their inaugural fight way back on Earth during the Saiyan Saga. In addition to watching them pummel Frieza, we get to see the other, lesser, fighters square off against Frieza’s minions including Master Roshi! Krillin shaves his head, Gohan gets angry, it’s basically all here. Beerus and Whis also return and they’re just as amusing as before and the film’s visual style is truly stunning. This may be the best looking DBZ film so far as it dials back on the crude CG from Battle of Gods. I think I still prefer The Tree of Might’s look to this one, but it’s close. Ultimately, this one works because we get to see that jerk Frieza get bested once again, and Vegeta even gets a little revenge. It also further adds to the Goku/Vegeta dynamic in a worthwhile way, something that Dragon Ball Super will continue to explore.

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This is a sweet one, right up until a child is asked to execute his buddy.

1. Wrath of the Dragon – I guess when it comes to these movies, I’m more of a “plot guy” than an “action guy.” Wrath of the Dragon doesn’t feature a ton of fighting, but it does spend a long time on the quieter things. I enjoyed the introduction of Tapion and his story, and seeing a different side of Trunks felt very rewarding. We’ve seen Goku take on all kinds of crazy beings, so it was nice for a change to just spend a lot of time looking at a character that’s mostly been underserved by both the films and the series. It gives the film a different mood. It’s a bit sad, but also endearing, and it still packs in some moments of triumph. Some of the early plot machinations are a bit silly, and the almost total absence of Vegeta felt puzzling, but Wrath of the Dragon still manages to tell the best story of all 15 films and that’s primarily why I placed it here.

In truth, the top 5 films felt pretty interchangeable for me. Bojack Unbound is really watchable because of the action pieces, while Battle of Gods feels the most dense because of all of the new lore introduced. Fusion Reborn and Resurrection ‘F’ bring a lot of humor and silliness to the table, making both very re-watchable, while Wrath of the Dragon just seemed to strike a nice balance for me. Hopefully, the upcoming Broly can match the best Dragon Ball Z put out. It’s basically guaranteed to look amazing, and I’m sure we’ll get some flashy action sequences no matter what. I’ve had fun revisiting these films. I never held a high opinion of them, but I think I had more fun with them now than I did when I was younger and a bit more cynical. They are what they are and they exist simply to entertain for 45 minutes or so (and make money) and as long as they don’t betray what the series stands for then that’s good enough for me.


Bandai Dragon Stars Super Saiyan Trunks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dragon Ball Z – Resurrection ‘F’

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Resurrection ‘F’ (2015)

Dragon Ball Super still feels very much like a new series to me, which is kind of funny since it just concluded with episode #131. Although it may have just ended (and production company Toei Animation has suggested it’s likely to continue), I’m currently about 80 episodes behind since I’ve been watching it on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block which just aired episode #59. It’s been really interesting seeing the franchise resurrected, no pun intended, after being seemingly relegated to video games for the foreseeable future. Maybe it was getting older, maybe there were just new stories to tell, but something compelled series creator Akira Toriyama to return to the franchise that made him famous around the world. And wouldn’t you know? The fans have been there and willing to re-embrace this franchise. It’s been something to behold as I personally never saw it coming after Dragon Ball GT was so poorly received, but here we are.

Battle of Gods was the film that got the ball rolling on this new era of Dragon Ball. It brought the old gang back together and introduced some new characters in Beerus, the God of Destruction, and his attendant Whis. It was a mostly fun little film that managed to rise above the Toei Dragon Ball Z films that were largely generic filler. It certainly helped that Toriyama wrote the picture, but it also really helped that it was both canon and it is basically a replacement for the unimpressive GT. Still, some fans were left feeling a bit underwhelmed. The movie was heavy on personality and humor and light on DBZ’s trademarked action. It may have also disappointed fans to see their hero, Goku, actually fail in his bid to top the God of Destruction giving the film a very different feel from the usual fair. I was actually pretty receptive to the film. While I could see the obvious faults and the age-old formula at play (minus the little twist ending) I found it very charming and really enjoyed the introduction of both Beerus and Whis.

Battle of Gods was a fairly simple reintroduction for the Dragon Ball franchise, enough so that it was adapted as the first arc of Dragon Ball Super (along with the movie I swear this post is about), but it was light on fan service. In to make up for that is 2015’s Resurrection ‘F,’ and make no mistake, the ‘F’ is for Frieza.

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Pilaf always has to be starting trouble.

Frieza was the big baddie of DBZ’s second major story arc. In some ways, he was the ultimate villain of DBZ as he was responsible for the death of Goku’s father and his home world, though to Goku neither was a huge loss. Frieza was also the catalyst for Goku’s transformation into a Super Saiyan, the blond-haired ultra-powerful version of the character that’s almost now more famous than the old black-haired spiked version. He was an incredibly detestable villain, a ruthless tyrant willing to kill anyone who stood in his way – including children. He casually ended the lives of many of Planet Namek’s inhabitants as well as both Krillen and Vegeta, just when the audience was warming up to the Saiyan Prince.

Toriyama apparently felt there was more to do with old Frieza, even though the protagonists of Dragon Ball Z have long since surpassed the villain’s strength. Frieza barely survived his battle with Goku, needing to be partially rebuilt using cybernetics, and briefly returned to battle only to meet his end at the hands of a debuting new character – Trunks. Ever since then he’s been dead, confined to Hell which is where our story begins. What looks like the setting of a preschool show is actually Frieza’s own personal torment. Teddy bears and bunnies happily prance about playing happy songs in a pastel paradise where the once mighty Frieza (Chris Ayres) dangles from a tree like a pupa. He’s obviously agitated and the implication is this has been going on ever since the tyrant’s demise many years ago.

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He’s back! Technically again, since Cyborg Frieza was his first surprising return.

In deep space, the remnants of the Frieza Force, lead by the diminutive Sorbet (Jeremy Schwartz), are struggling to maintain control over Frieza’s once vast empire. Sorbet has decided they can no longer continue without their lord, and having failed to locate the new Planet Namek, he decides that he and a small force need to head to Earth and find the Dragon Balls there to revive Frieza. He’s done his homework and knows that the fighters of Earth are capable of detecting power levels without a scouter and thus the decision to only bring along one attendant is made. Aiding him in his mission is that fact that both Goku and Vegeta have journeyed to the home world of Beerus to be trained by Whis while the other earthlings are too busy with their own day-to-day lives to notice Sorbet’s presence.

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Goku and Vegeta have been spending their time training with Whis, apparently ignoring their families back home.

Using the aid of an old enemy, Pilaf, Sorbet is able to locate the Dragon Balls and make his wish. Unfortunately for Frieza, since Trunks decimated his body the dragon can do little except restore life to a pile of flesh and cybernetics. Sorbet indicates they have the technology to heal Frieza, even from this state, without the need for cybernetics. Pilaf’s underling, the canine-like Shou, uses the second wish to acquire a million Zeni and Sorbet, along with the remnants of Frieza, take their leave.

In space, Frieza is healed and quickly decides his first order of business is revenge. When some of his followers politely suggest that this may be unwise, considering that Goku has since defeated Majin Buu who even Frieza feared in his old life, he lashes out killing some and making his point clear. For the first time in his life, Frieza decides to train and work hard to make himself stronger, which is how Toriyama is going to convince the audience that Frieza could perhaps go toe-to-toe with the current version of Goku. Apparently Frieza’s power before was just natural talent. He was never tested or forced to work and was able to effortlessly take whatever he wanted. He concludes four months should be enough, and thankfully, we’re in for a time jump.

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Making the leap from manga to anime is Jaco, and his impressive artist’s rendering of Frieza.

On earth, the Galactic Patrolman Jaco (Todd Haberkorn) makes his series debut when he arrives on Earth to warn Bulma (Monica Rial) that Frieza was alive and coming for Goku. Bulma is only slightly concerned, but there is the issue of Goku being too far away to get ahold of easily. She explains to Jaco that Whis can be lured to Earth with tantalizing sweets, and Jaco doubts that Beerus and Whis even exist assuming the God of Destruction is the stuff of fairy tales. Still, Bulma is only slightly annoyed when Whis fails to notice the strawberry sundae she’s waving at the sky, but then becomes a bit concerned when Jaco informs her that Frieza will be there within the hour. Well, that changes things a bit!

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Some old friends are going to have to get their hands dirty while they wait for Goku and Vegeta to arrive. Nothing really changes.

Krillen (Sonny Strait), introduced doing some cop stuff, along with the other fighters assemble. Krillen even has his wife 18 (Meredith McCoy) shave his head so he can capture that classic Krillen look before he heads out to take on Frieza. 18 correctly reminds him that she’s stronger than he and should go, but he thinks it’s more important she stay behind to take care of their daughter and she puts forth no argument. She remarks that he’s so cool as he flies away, which is the most affection we’ve ever seen her show up to this point (that I can recall, anyway).

In the outer reaches of space, Goku (Sean Schemmel) and Vegeta (Christopher R. Sabat) are sparring with their latest teacher, Whis (Ian Sinclair). Unable to land even a single blow, Whis explains to the two their weaknesses. In his estimation, Vegeta is always one step behind Goku because of the rather large chip on his shoulder. Meanwhile, Goku is too arrogant and lets his guard down too easily, which Whis demonstrates with a sucker punch. Their training awakens Beerus, who nearly annihilates them all with a simple sneeze. Whis warns the Saiyans to be careful around him for Beerus once accidentally destroyed the sun their planet orbits around. Goku is pretty shocked to hear that and assumes they have the power to give birth to the very stars, but Whis corrects him by explaining he can actually rewind time by a few minutes and was able to undo Beerus’s mistake. Beerus is still agitated about being woken up from his slumber, but Whis cures his angst with some pizza he acquired on Earth. If you didn’t see Battle of Gods, the gimmick, if you will, of Beerus and Whis is their fascination with Earth cuisine. They love experiencing new dishes and could best be described as foodies. It’s also why Beerus decided to spare the Earth from destruction.

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Goku’s got a new look to debut.

With Goku and Vegeta occupied, the other fighters of Earth are forced to confront Frieza and his army of 1,000 men when they show up. Leading the charge is Gohan (Kyle Hebert) along with Krillen, Piccolo (Chris Sabat), Tien (John Burgmeier), and Master Roshi (Mike McFarland). Two notable absentees are Trunks and Goten, and it’s explained that Bulma didn’t want them to know about Frieza to keep them safe. Frieza’s army offers little resistance when it engages the fighters, which is fine because it’s a way for the film to shine a light on some of these forgotten characters. It’s been a long time since Master Roshi, in particular, got to mix it up and do some damage and it’s definitely a whole bunch of fan service. When they’re out of the way, it’s down to Frieza who quickly puts Gohan on his back. Since this is a film, we don’t have time to mess around and Goku and Vegeta quickly show up to challenge the old tyrant.

Frieza is delighted to see Goku and immediately goes to his final form. Goku does a lot of posturing while Vegeta angrily waits his turn. After some warming up, the two decide there’s no point in holding back. Goku unveils his new form, Super Saiyan God Super Saiayan. That mouthful of a form will eventually be simplified as Super Saiyan Blue as it’s basically just Super Saiyan but with blue hair instead of yellow. Of course, in terms of power it’s well beyond even Super Saiyan 3. Not to be outdone, Frieza unveils a new golden form that appears to be roughly equal with Goku’s new form. The two trade blows until Goku boasts about discovering Frieza’s weakness. When he starts to take control of the fight, Frieza resorts to some dastardly tricks and interference like a classic wrestling heel, forcing Vegeta to enter the fray. Frieza, holding out some hope that Vegeta will return to him and kill Goku, is shocked when Vegeta turns down his offer to be his Supreme Commander and he too transforms into this blue-haired form for a final showdown.

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Frieza’s new form is quite statuesque.

As a plot, it’s simple and fast-moving though the picture still ends up around 90 minutes. It doesn’t drag at all, unlike the Dragon Ball Super version of this arc which stretches it out over the course of 13 episodes. It’s packed with fan-service as a pretty sizable portion of the plot is devoted to the Goku/Vegeta rivalry and how the two view it and each other. It firmly confronts and establishes how those two coexist and view each other, and it’s kind of sweet to see it confronted openly. It’s also a source for a lot of humor and having both Beerus and Whis around adds to that. The film also teases a team-up between the two proud warriors, with both of the god-like characters remarking the two Saiyans would be unstoppable if they worked together.

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For once, Vegeta and Goku have reached a new level of power together making the two as close to equals as they’ve ever been.

Resurrection ‘F’ is also the best Dragon Ball Z has ever looked. There’s still some of that CG junk that marred Battle of Gods, but it’s relied upon sparingly here. The opening, featuring an underwater scene, is kind of ugly, but thankfully not a harbinger of things to come. The colors all pop and are richly vibrant. There are no obvious animation shortcuts and some genuinely nice uses of CG like a battle among some colossal trees that invokes images of Endor, only the speeder bikes have been replaced by supersonic warriors. The film also slightly upends the old formula of the other DBZ movies which often featured Goku having to clean-up after Vegeta was defeated. It’s a small change, but welcomed.

The score for the picture is also quite well done. It feels very much like a DBZ score, but with a modern touch. There’s some contributions from two noted Japanese bands, Momoiro Clover Z and Maximum the Hormone, the latter of which served as the inspiration for the plot as Toriyama was a fan of their song “F,” which was all about the villain, Frieza. It’s good stuff, and the English voice cast is pretty great as well. Voicing Frieza is Chris Ayres, who took over voicing duties for the character when Funimation went back and re-dubbed the series for Dragon Ball Z Kai. His Frieza is stupendous, and he does an especially great job of screaming as the character. And I continue to be a huge fan of both Whis and Beerus, even though their obsession with food will start to feel repetitive come Dragon Ball Super, but here it’s still funny.

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Oh, and this is apparently what Hell looks like.

Battle of Gods was the return to Dragon Ball Z I never knew I wanted. Resurrection ‘F’ manages to top it, even if it sounds kind of stupid on the surface. Somehow the film is able to make Frieza a compelling threat so many years after his defeat and I didn’t realize how much I appreciated him as a villain until I revisited him. It’s also nice that he’s just confined to this movie, as opposed to a massive arc where a single confrontation is spread over 30 episodes or whatever the old fight encompassed. And since I had already seen this plot covered in Dragon Ball Super, it was interesting to see what changed when they stretched it out over more than a dozen episodes. Super did deal with one long lingering pothole that the film does not touch, the frog version of Captain Ginyu, but other than that it doesn’t add anything important and really just contains a lot of subpar filler. That’s Dragon Ball though, you kind of have to both love it and hate it at the same time. At least here, for a brisk 94 minutes, you’re able to mostly just love it.


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