Tomopop Review: SDCC Exclusive Transformers Combiner Hunters

Jul 05 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars: Combiner HuntersFigure Maker: HasbroRetail Price: US$74.99Available at: San Diego Comic-Con - booth #3329 I love this box art; it'll likely be my favorite of the year (though the Transformers D-Style model kits have really cool art). The girls are all upfront and angry, and if you look closely at Arcee's sword you see Devastator's reflection. Strangely, the weapons are much smaller in the art than the figures. And for some reason, Wingblade is holding her regular sword instead of her special Spectrospear. The art is a slip cover and there's a window box underneath. Note that it just says Transformers and Generations on the front: no mention of Combiner Wars or Combiner Hunters.  Back of the slip cover. For some reason, this is where they stuck the Combiner Hunters logo, right on the back; rather strange place to put it. While the back of the box looks like glossy black if you hold it under the right light, it's got the faint texture of a star chart with coordinates and a huge Transformers logo scrawled across it. The star chart is a running theme in this set: I'll be pointing it out a few more times. Hunting combiners means a lot of traveling apparently.  The Combiner Wars logo finally makes an appearance on one side. Again, a strange place to put it.  I really don't like this logo. They started using it with Age of Extinction I believe and it usually appears on all of the major collectibles. But what is it? A fireball? A meteor? I really don't get what they were going for and I'm kinda tired of seeing it. It's also on the top of the slipcover. Joy... Here's the set with the slip cover off. It's a nice, large window so if you don't want to open the box but still want to enjoy looking at the figures, it's a great alternative way to display them. One couldn't do that with a box flap, but you'll be stuck with a homeless slip cover. The Combiner Hunters logo finally appears on the front, but you'd already have to own and open it to see it and by that point you already know what it is so, yeah, strange to not put it on the outside front of the box. OK, fine, you probably wouldn't buy these blindly anyway, but it still seems strange. Also, inside the box as the backdrop is line art for the three girls and Devastator. You'll also find more of those star charts from the back of the slip cover.  The back of the box features the same art from the front of the slip cover, just not zoomed in and layered up. I'm still not sure why Windblade isn't shown with her new weapon. Devastator is still present in Arcee's sword. Of course, that's supposed to be the SDCC Devastator since Hasbro is trying to cross-promote their Transformers exclusives this year.  Inside the box you're greeted by this. What is it? It's a poster! On one side you've got the instructions for all three figures, on the other is a poster of the three with the fully realized star chart. On it is information for each of the special weapons, various planets with listings of which combiner is found on them, their threat level, and the story for where the weapons came from. Interestingly one of the planets is Unicron and the combiner found there is listed as "unidentified". No doubt it's Galvatronus. I'm not sure why they didn't just come out and say it as the figure has been out for a little while now. Still, it's a neat, unexpected little bonus.  OK, enough with the packaging. We've got a lot of figure stuff to talk about. Since I don't own a regular Arcee thanks to short supply, we're going to give her the first look. I'm pretty happy with the way the colors turned out. They could have easily just used the same paint pattern as the regular figure, just in black. Thankfully they didn't so we get some neat applications here. The paint is also much more extensive than on normal retail figures with a ton of special patterning. Expect nothing less from an SDCC exclusive.  Her head is really interesting with the bright blue eyes, face paint, and the Autobot faction symbol. This might have been a little bit over ambitious though, as they were only able to get the line down one side of her face instead of both to make room for the symbol. The symbol already throws off the symmetry so I don't really mind. The problem is her actual face: it's too cute! She's supposed to be angry and hunting giant robots, but she's so bright-eyed it's hard to picture her being mad at anyone.  The condensed version of the figure mold's story is that one of Takara Tomy's designers really wanted to see a proper Arcee figure made so they made one on their own. Hasbro liked it and ran with it. The problem is she was sculpted to look like her G1 cartoon self: she's got that cute, kinda happy face. Meanwhile, Hasbro is basing all of their figures off of the IDW comics where Arcee is tough as nails and always angry, so her figure doesn't quite fit with the actually angry looking Chromia and Windblade figures. She's also modeled differently from the other two by having ratcheting elbows that the other two (or most Generations figures for that matter) don't have, and lacks the wrist articulation that the other two do have. The figure mold also originally had her fingers connected to her thumb in an O, but a running change opened the hands up to look more like the other figures. Good stuff, the elbow ratcheting comes in very handy for her huge weapon.  Speaking of her huge weapon, here it is on the right. It's called Combiner Slayer which feels a bit generic. It's a repaint of the sword that came with the massive Beast Hunter Optimus Prime. Maybe repaint isn't the word for it since the original wasn't painted. The new one is molded in a more rigid plastic, probably to take the paint. I don't know if it was intentional, but the new plastic actually feels lighter than the old one, which is great for being held by a figure that was never meant to hold it. The pink gradient is really nicely done and the black parts are covered with sparkles so there's a nice contrast there.  Can you spot the difference? On the new version the peg has a grooves facing towards the front and back of the blade while the old one has a groove facing the tip and handle. No idea why it was changed since the peg doesn't have any use to Arcee. Later this year Takara Tomy and e-Hobby are releasing Unite Warriors Grand Scourge which also comes with this same sword in all red called the Matrix Breaker. Not sure what the story is with exclusives and this sword. Incidentally the original version of the sword was called the Dragon Hunting Sword, though that could just have been a description. A lot of people were wondering if she could actually hold a pose with the sword and the answer is yes she can, even free standing like this. That's partially thanks to tight joints, but also those elbow ratchets. Nicely done.  She also comes with her swords from the standard figure. I would have rather she came with her guns since she already has that giant sword, but these are basically her default weapons from the comics so I guess it's fine. You can also stick them into the slots on her arms near her elbows.  Car mode is just like from the original cartoon and movie, just, you know, black. They really put a lot of extra work into the paint that makes it stand out against most other Transformers figures. There aren't very many black Autobots, so it's a nice change. Lots of really cool details inside like seats and a steering wheel.  There are a bunch of places you can store her swords and even turning them in different directions make them look like something different.  Time to move on to the repaint of Fan Built Bot 2014 Windblade! Combiner Hunters Windblade now features an entirely new color scheme of bright red, blue, gold, and dark gray. It's a really nice look, like a variation on the primary colors so they all compliment each other nicely.  Like with Arcee, the paint pattern is entirely new for this figure. Her chest has been painted to look like ribbed armor which I didn't care for at first, but up close it looks pretty good. The paint is excessive in a very good way on her torso between the red, black, gold, blue, and dark gray.  The face paint is a lot less kabuki/geisha this time around. Where the original was mainly white, black, and red, the new one is in stark contrast with silver, red, and blue. Plus her more traditional "hair" has gone from black with blue and gold "hair pins" to a very nontraditional red, gold, and blue, looking more like the helmet it really is. Plus her big hairpiece/fan in back has gone from gold(-ish) to translucent orange. I really like this look. Am I the only one who sees a little bit of inspiration here? The same shade of gray and gold, a different shade of red, but red nonetheless. No? just me? We'll come back to this.  Here's her special weapon, the one that's missing from the box art: the Spectrospear. The spear is repurposed from a weapon that comes with the Robots in Disguise 2015 12-inch electronic Titan Heroes Bumblebee. It's not bad, though I think it would have been better without the gradient: it looks a little cheap this way. The real problem with spears is that they're hard to make look cool on Transformers without the proper wrist articulation. They just sort of hold them out and wave them around like a giant baton.  You might actually be better off going with her sword. Here's something people often miss: there are two different places to mount her sheath. This is the first and most obvious spot on the side of her leg like a proper samurai. It looks good there, but is a little in the way if you're doing a lot of posing.  This is the less obvious spot, on the side of the cockpit at her back like a ninja. It's out of the way and easily blends in. This is my preferred spot, mainly because I'm constantly knocking it off her leg.  The new figure features a translucent blue blade its entire length while the old blade was purple and fades at the end. I like the the purple sword more to be entirely honest. We'll also take a moment to compare the two figures in bot mode. I like the red and black of the original, but the new figure is definitely more ornate and interesting.  Jet mode is not quite as interesting as bot mode. No special paint apps or anything, just red, gray, and gold. It has a little problem with the tail fin splitting, but that's a mold issue since it does the same thing on the original retail figure. I wish they would have found a way to clip the halves together, but it is what it is.  I didn't bother doing this with Arcee since you don't usually see the bottom of cars, but jets are a different story. This is what you're getting yourself into. I've certainly seen worse and aside from the arms the rest changes intricately enough.  They look pretty similar to me. Of course not perfectly the same, but I really feel like there was some inspiration here.  You can store the sword by plugging it in underneath. I'm not too crazy about this and the way it hangs off the back, but it serves a purpose.  Red, gray, and gold versus red, black, and white. It's hard to say which is better. I do like the translucent turbines. The old figure also has translucent turbines, but they've been painted white. Oh well.   You can also do this, making her a proper VTOL jet. Yay play features! You can spin the turbines too, but there's too much friction for them to do so for any amount of time if you flicked them with your finger.  Moving along, let's see how Arcee's original wave mate from the Generations line turned out.  Chromia has an unusual new color pallet. You don't see silver and white matched together like that very often. It actually works pretty well with the metallic blue. However, this isn't quite as creative as the other two. It's like they did the crazy stuff with Windblade first, followed by a black Arcee with a lot of interesting pink markings, and then lost steam with Chromia so they replaced the light blue with silver and mixed all of the colors around. I think they could have done a bit more here.  By the way, I'm not too crazy about the gun storage here. I wish there was a peg on the side so she could play RoboCop or something.  This is rather strange and interesting. Do you know who the wrestler the Ultimate Warrior is? Tell me that doesn't look like someone on the Transformers design team's strange tribute? I actually like it, it really stands out compared to pretty much every transformer ever made. She's a tough cookie so she's certainly the best fembot for it.  A look from the side. I wanted to show that there are two ways to configure the kibble on her back. The new figure is showing the default positioning with the lower part just hanging off the back. I'm not crazy about this since it prevents the legs from moving properly. With the original Chromia I've moved the piece up and under the clear part on her upper back. This moves it right out of the way, though it also makes it stick out a little bit further from the back. It's all a matter which compromise you're OK with. I prefer it tucked up and out of the way so that's how I'll have it for the rest of the review.  Time to look at her giant sword! This one is the Primeon Blade and it's pretty nice. It's a repaint of the sword that came with the Robots in Disguise 2015 Titan Heroes Optimus Prime. It has a lot of color with only the blade being a gradient at the tip, while there's a sharp division between each section of the sword just like with Arcee's Combiner Slayer (which makes me dislike the Spectrospear all the more). But that's not the best part of this sword. There's a tally of Devastator chest wings on the side. I don't know if it's a tally of how many combiners she's taken out, how many times she's beaten Devastator in battle, or how many of the six Constructicons she's taken out. Doesn't really matter, it's a neat detail.  She can also hold a pose with the sword. Although, I did find she has a bit of trouble with her grip. If it isn't held well and at the right angle, it falls out of her hand sometimes. It's not a big deal for me though, because I actually like her holding it with both hands over her head like in the first shot more.  Here's her primary weapon from the original release. Actually it's her only weapon from the original release. They had initially advertised her as coming with two guns, but they realized the second gun was actually Arcee's so Chromia got left with just the one. Pretty annoying because she gets just one little gun while Windblade has her big sword and bigger sheath and Arcee gets two swords and two guns. Talk about a bum deal.  Alt mode! It's hard to really nail down exactly what it is. In the G1 cartoon she turned into something that looked like a two wheeled van while this is often referred to as a motorcycle. Personally I like to look at it as a two wheeled car considering its size. It's a little more interesting in this mode, unlike Windblade who got a little blander in jet mode. She has some sort of design on the front on both sides, plus she's got some nice translucent red going on. Overall it looks really good.  She can be propped up by a kickstand on her side. Just wanted to point that out.  Removing the light blue makes quite the difference in the overall look. I wouldn't buy a car in that many different colors, but it's definitely interesting to look at. I like them both, but in this mode I'm leaning towards the Combiner Hunters version. I think it's the translucent red that sells me on it.  And that's the end of this very long review of one nifty box set. Normally unusual repaints like these don't get a lot of attention, but between the extensive details, huge weapons, and comic appearances, this is a pretty great way to make characters worth getting a second time.  Now have at it! [A combiner sized thanks to Hasbro for providing Tomopop with this review sample!]
SDCC Combiner Hunters photo
Walk quietly and carry a massive sword
It's July and San Diego Comic-Con is next week! We're taking an early look at Hasbro's exclusive Transformers Generations Combiner Wars: Combiner Hunters Arcee, Windblade, and Chromia. It's a ridiculously long name, but it fe...

Tomopop Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Brake-Neck

Apr 30 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Deluxe Brake-NeckFigure Maker: HasbroRetail Price: TBAAvailable at: Coming soon! To start things off we'll take a quick look at the packaging. It's pretty much the same as the other Combiner Wars figures. He's in the North American packaging so it should be interesting to see if there are any sales limits for countries that would normally get their figures in international packaging. He comes with a copy of IDW's Combiner Wars #8 comic, the same as Dead End.  The back of the package has a strange little oversight on it. Even though it's supposed to feature all five G1 characters they accidentally replaced Dead End with Brake-Neck instead of Offroad. Oops.  Bot mode is pretty imposing. He's big and bulky and has one neat feature not found on any of the Aerialbots. The molds used for Breakdown and Dead End (and of course Brake-Neck) have an extra part making up the chest that covers the combining peg. It's something unique that really changes up their look compared to other Combiner Wars figures. I do wish he had something that resembled feet, not having feet might be a little too G1. For the most part the Stunticons feature new bot modes while their vehicle modes, heads, and color pallet are the only things that carry over.  Yeah, he has a bit of a backpack, but it sits in such a way that it doesn't really effect the look of the figure that much I think. It's also light enough that it doesn't throw off his balance at all. His legs open with a hinge on the side to fold them over when transforming. It's not entirely unlike the way these figure would transform in G1. I'm not sure what the story is with the orange paint, it should be dark red. It doesn't even match the red plastic it's supposed to blend in with.   The head sculpt is like what we used to see in the G1 cartoon and comics with the barbs sticking out of the side of his head rather than the the square head the original figure had. This is a very, very good thing. I'm glad Hasbro stopped using light pipes for the eyes on these figures, but for some reason they've been given really tiny eyes. They're painted, but they're so small it can be hard to tell. Speaking of the eye paint, if you have a choice of figure try to pay attention to the condition of the eyes. I've found a lot of them have chipped paint, probably from their assembly. It seems to be a pretty common problem so I hope they get this fixed for later releases.  Articulation is good, consisting of a mix of ball and clicking joints. Of all the strange places to put one of those clicking joints is the wrists where they fold in for the transformation. No idea what purpose that serves, maybe they're worried about them becoming floppy? Each figure comes with two weapons. For the Stunticons their primary is a melee weapon of some sort. In Brake-Neck's (and Dead End's) case it's a pipe. Not sure why they went with a pipe when the others got swords and axes, but it is what it is. The secondary weapon is like the multi tool of Combiner Wars. For the Deluxe class figures it's a gun, but for the combined mode it's either a foot or hand, while some of the Stunticons also have them acting as external engines for their vehicle modes.  I've got a few complaints about car mode. First, as mentioned before, the orange paint is just strange. It's not a case of them not being able to match the red plastic because the windows are painted red. Also not crazy about the out of place red block under the window, really should have slapped some gray paint on that. On the bright side the tire rims are painted, that's always good.  I do like the silver patch, the offset Decepticon symbol and that they painted the headlights properly, I have to give them credit on this, he looks very good from the front.  Unfortunately that's where they stopped. There isn't even the smallest bit of paint on the back so no rear window and no taillights. I suppose not all cars have rear windows, but they could have at least stuck some of that red window paint on the lights.  See, Dead End got a window. To be fair there isn't a window molded in there and the original Wildrider figure didn't have a rear window while the original Dead End did. Like with Quickslinger and Firefly it's likely this mold was designed with both figures in mind from the start.  As the story goes, after Wildrider (or Brake-Neck) parts ways with the Stunticons this new guy named Offroad shows up and takes his place. They're uneasy about replacing their departing teammate, and even more so when Offroad appears in Wildrider's colors. When Offroad was first announced and we had only seen his truck mode people thought he was the same character as Wildrider.  But the similarities end with their vehicle colors. Bot mode shows them with entirely different pallets. In reality Hasbro had intended for Offroad to be an update of Triggercon Ruckus, but that guy is dead in the comics and Hasbro couldn't really justify making him a Stunticon so they turned him into a new character. The head mold is still very much Ruckus'.  I guess this is why they gave him a pipe for a weapon. If it weren't bent on the end you could say it doubles as a gun, but no, it's just a pipe. The other weapon doesn't serve any other purpose than a gun in car mode.  Here's the entire team. What was once five is now seven. Five Deluxe class, one Legends class (Blackjack), and one Voyager class. They make for a pretty imposing troop. But it wouldn't be Combiner Wars if they didn't have one more function.  Menasor is one big bundle of hate and looks the part! Like the individual Stunticons his primary weapon is a giant sword rather than a gun, made by combining Motormaster's weapons. Like Superion he's an action figure in his own right with a full range of articulation. Unfortunately the part of Motormaster that the cars connect to is pretty weak and comes apart easily when you move his arms. Also his hip joints, which are already awkwardly designed, are very stiff and hard to manipulate. Blackjack can just barely stay in his chest as the pegs holding him in are too short and thin. Some people have come up with an alternate method of configuring him in there, but you may just want to keep the chest doors closed, it looks more G1 that way anyway.  I do love that head sculpt! The horns are new, they weren't quite like bull horns on the original figure or the cartoon, but they kinda work. What I love is the face sculpt. A lot of photos don't really capture the details adequately, but there's a lot of depth and layers to the sculpting. Plus I think the expression is perfect! Leg mode is a simple matter of folding over the front of the car and adding a foot. It's basically the same idea as the G1 figure, but I wish the front could be folded up to hide the joint the same way the Aerialbots can. Unfortunately this is the only way the front will fold in this form.  As an arm the transformation is a bit more involved, but it's basically the robot mode with some modifications. I like that Hasbro tried to make Brake-Neck's arms do something different rather than just sitting at his side. So there you have it. Brake-Neck isn't a bad figure by any means, but I think there are just a couple areas that could have made him a great figure. His transformation is as complex or more-so than some of the other Generations figures we've gotten in recent years and his sculpt is really great. However it's hard to overlook that orange stripe and I rally wish they had put some paint on the back end so it isn't just a blob of gray plastic. As limbs he's very functional, though I wish he could hide the knee joint in leg mode. Weapon could have been better, but it's not that far different from the rest of the Stunticons. In the end only people who will be buying Brake-Neck are people who already own the other members. If you're already that committed you probably already know what to expect and will get Brake-Neck to complete the team regardless anyway.  [Giant-sized thanks to Hasbro for providing the review samples!]
Transformers Brake-Neck photo
Prepare for a wild ride(r)
Brake-Neck is an interesting name. It's a dual play on words using brake in place of break since he's a car and making it part of a phrase meaning to drive recklessly at high speeds. It isn't a terrible new name for a guy onc...

Tomopop Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Quickslinger

Apr 30 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Deluxe QuickslingerFigure Maker: HasbroRetail Price: TBAAvailable at: Coming soon! And here we are! Nothing really different about the packaging compared to the other figures in the line. He's in the North American packaging rather than the international packaging so it should be interesting to see what this means for availability in other countries. He comes with IDW's Combiner Wars comic #3, likely the same comic that Firefly (Fireflight) comes with.  From the back of the box. An error was made in the diagram for Superion showing Quickslinger as the same mold as Skydive instead of Firefly. At least the G1 team members are correct, unlike on Brake-Neck's package. But that's enough about the package, let's get to the figure. And here's Quickslinger! People who already own Firefly will know what to expect from Quickslinger, but there are still some things worth pointing out. The colors come from a couple difference influences. For the most part the figure is based on the colors from the original G1 figure. However the black hands and feet make their way from the G1 cartoon. The blue visor is likely IDW's doing or maybe just Hasbro wanting to break things up a bit. If you want him with the orange visor you'll have to get the Takara Tomy version. The use of black really helps to separate the two even though they're basically the exact same figure. The gold paint is also nice, it's very shiny. Firefly's silver on white treatment doesn't really do it for me. Don't get me wrong, Firefly isn't a bad looking figure, I just don't find it as interesting despite all the red.  From the side you can get an idea of how massive his lower legs are. I actually don't mid that since it gives him some great stability. People complain about the legs being hollow, but really, they kinda have to be for the transformation process. He's actually a pretty sturdy figure and the hollow legs help with the combined mode.  He does have a lot of stuff on his back, all of the Aerialbots do, but it's a far cry from the original G1 figure that had what amounted to tiny jets on their backs. His transformation isn't quite as straightforward as it looks.  A closer look at his face reveals something interesting. I don't know if it's intentional or just a flaw in the mold, but there's this 'crack' going across his forehead. He was killed in the comics (though expected to return somehow eventually) hence him being left out of the team originally, so I'll take it as battle damage. Typically he's viewed as a little guy and something of a braggart, but that face is all business. Dying sure does change a bot.   His articulation pretty good, a nice combination of ball joints and clicky ones. I'm especially happy with the bicep swivel that all Combiner Wars figures have. Every now and then Hasbro leaves them out so I'm always happy to see them used. Wrist articulation would have been nice, but this is what's normal for Deluxe class figures these days.  He does have the added benefit of being able to look up. His head is sculpted in such a way to give enough clearance for him to do this. Not all of the figures in the line can do this and it's not a part of the transformation so it's a nice little extra.  He's also pretty well armed. All CW figures have two weapons. The first is their primary which varies from figure to figure. Some have guns and others have melee arms. Then there's the secondary weapon, capable of  taking multiple forms. Aside from being a weapon it can also turn into a foot or articulated hand for the combined form. In vehicle mode some even turn into engines. Some say they're too small as feet and too big as hands, but I think they're fine as is. I feel like this jet mode suits him better than it does Firefly. On the G1 figure his wings run even with the top of the jet where the original Firefly (or Fireflight) had his wings run even with the bottom of the jet. In all likelihood this mold was designed with both figures in mind from the start, but I definitely see more G1 in this figure than in the Firefly version. Usually all white would make a figure blander, but for some reason I like him more than the red. Maybe it's the orange cockpit, I was never a fan of the silver one.  It's a bit strange, but these Deluxe class figures don't have proper landing gear. This mold does have a front wheel, but the others don't. So he basically just props himself up on his feet. I wish they would have sculpted fake wheels into his feet at least. I guess he's lucky to have feet at all, some of the others don't.  He does a fair enough job of hiding his bot parts. Surprisingly they didn't take the simple method of having his lower legs slide up over his thighs. Instead the legs split and fold up and over the thighs. It seems more complicated, I'm not entirely sure what the benefit is, except that in the long run you don't have to worry about the sliding parts wearing out and the figure not properly standing. Nearly all of the CW figures use a variation on this leg transformation.  Of course you can also mount the weapons under the wings if you want. These figures all have multiple 5mm ports you can plug weapons into so you can stick weapons into different places. Each figure has ports in different places so placement is up to you. The complete team is pretty impressive, made up of five Deluxe class, one Legends class, and one Voyager class. A lot of people thought Alpha Bravo looked too much like Quickslinger, but side by side they couldn't be any more different. Of course we still have to cover their main purpose, to combine! Superion is nothing short of impressive towering at a foot tall. Here I have Quickslinger acting as a leg. Back in the G1 days the jet side of the leg was always in the back. I was never a big fan of that. If a giant robot is made of a bunch of vehicles I want to see vehicle parts. I'm happy with the way these are configured. I've seen a lot of people display these with the lower legs backwards, but you lose the knee joint in the process so I don't really see the point.  Superion is an action figure just like any other and has all of the articulation you'd expect from a large figure. He's also very solid and well balanced, possibly the best combiner that Hasbro has ever made.  Here's Quickslinger as an arm. Where the leg configuration isn't all that much different from his jet mode, the arm configuration is more like his bot mode. There's a lot of clearance here thanks to the jets being fairly thin characters so you get a lot of ROM from the arms. The bot thighs acting as an elbow joint lets him flex a little bit more and the bot pelvis works like a bicep swivel. The shoulder joint is the leg mode's knee so there's a lot of movement there as well.   Hey, remember a couple years ago when Hasbro tried to make a combining Fall of Cybertron Bruticus? That figure was something of an abomination, but it had the right idea using a universal combination joint allowing for components to act as both arms and legs. It wasn't very well executed, but I like to think that Hasbro learned a lot from that experiment and Combiner Wars turned out all the better for it. I do wish they made  a way for the weapons to combine as well, but with all of the ports on the figures you can probably find a way to make the most of them all the same.   So there you have it. Now that Quickslinger is here we have a genuine complete G1 Aerialbot team for the first time in nearly 30 years! It's been a massive undertaking for Hasbro and it has paid off in a big way. It's a modern approach to a vintage character without doing a massive overhaul of the character design. This is just the tip of the iceberg in Hasbro's two year plan for Combiner Wars. The Protectobots are starting show at the time of this writing, a massive Devastator will be here later in the year, the Fan Built Combiner is in the works, and rumors have been running wild over many other additions among other things. Hasbro has been putting so much work into this it might very well be another 30 years before we see them take on another project like this.  [Huge thanks to Hasbro for providing the product samples used in this review!]
Transformers Quickslinge photo
He may have a new name, but Slingshot is back!
When Hasbro did their year-long reveal of the Combiner Wars theme for the Transformers Generations line last year fans were simultaneously excited and confused. On one hand we're getting proper updates to popular G1 combiner ...

Tomopop Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Powerglide

Apr 11 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Legends PowerglideFigure Maker: HasbroRetail Price: US$9.99Available at: Entertainment Earth | Big Bad Toy Store | TFSource | Hasbro Toy Shop Packaging is pretty good and does a nice job catching the eye despite being so dark and gritty. It's also fairly small, especially when compared to the Legends figures from the previous wave and earlier. The figures used to come with small robot partners that could turn into weapons and armor, but for some unknown reason Hasbro dropped them without dropping the price. I'm sure it was to save money, but it left most of these guys weaponless. Here's a closer look at the card art. It's nice art, it comes from the Transformers Legends mobile game, but the card... not so much. If you look closely you'll see the edges are frayed, that's because it's not card stock like a trading card, but rather a thin piece of cardboard. Pretty cheap and doesn't exactly makeup for the loss of the partner figure. The back of the card is basically just advertising the series.Would have been an ideal place to put a bio, even it were multilingual.  Let's take a closer look at the figure. The first thing that really stands out for me is the color. Hasbro for a while seemed to struggle with red plastic, often coming out more pink than anything (you'll see what I mean later). Powerglide here is colored perfectly! This is probably the best likeness we'll ever get since a Masterpiece will probably never happen. For the most part this figure is spot on.  Hasbro just keeps getting better and better with their face sculpts! Only his eyes are visible, yet he appears to be very expressive. I've mentioned this before, but I really hate light piped eyes. Thankfully Powerglide is sporting painted eyes and they look great! Not a lot of kibble hanging off which is always a welcome sight. He also has great proportions with good shoulder alignment. When figures have arms that don't connect to the body directly they occasionally aren't aligned properly, but that's not an issue here.  From the back; Sure, you can see the cockpit, but this isn't a case of the jet parts hanging off his back, this is his back.. I like his broad shoulders, he looks like he's ready for a fight. With the flap hanging off the bottom this reminds me of those images of old martial arts masters from behind. Articulation isn't bad at all. Most of his joints are ball jointed which is the ideal jointing method I think. His shoulders even feature reinforced balls with a pin to keep them from breaking. I do wish he had slightly better arm articulation, but more on that in a bit.  There was something in the sculpting that really caught my eye. Typically to save on plastic they'll make parts hollow as an easy way to cut costs. Usually the hollow parts are pretty bland with only enough sculpting inside to keep them structurally sound, but they're mainly just empty space. This is one of the rare times I've seen actual detailed sculpting inside the part. You can see what looks like a hydraulic for the thigh in there. Someone really put a lot of love into this figure.  Transform! Once again Powerglide retains his A-10 Thunderbolt II mode though some liberties have been taken to the design. Not quite as cartoon accurate as his bot mode, but still a great looking flight mode. The one issue I have with the transformation itself is that the legs don't stick together very well and tend to come apart a little too easily. The hands are quite a bit more visible than I would like, too; it's hard to see them as anything but. I guess if there's a benefit it's this: They do give you a place to stick additional weapons, in this case it's Legends Swerve's Micromaster partner Flanker (in blue) and Legends Cosmos' Micromaster partner Payload (in white) in their weapon modes. Can you see why I wish Powerglide and the other later Legends figures included partners or at least weapons? He doesn't look all that bad from the underside. Where a lot of figures at this size just look like a robot with vehicle parts hanging off it, but the bot bits hide pretty nicely in the transformation. Couldn't help but notice his feet transform the same way the feet on the old G1 Seeker jets (Starscream and the like) did. Kinda funny because the Legends Starscream figure doesn't have feet like that himself.  And finally, here he is in gun mode. As a member of the Aerialbots he acts as Superion's second gun (or only gun since they can be combined). He's pretty effective in this form, equipped with three barrels and a pair of missile pods, maybe even more depending on how you look at him. The front landing gear doubles as a 5mm handle and is stiff enough to support him. Overall he's a deadly looking weapon is enough removed from his flight and bot modes to be convincing. That's basically it for Powerglide so let's compare him to some his past selves. Unfortunately I don't currently own an original G1 Powerglide figure, that's been lost to the ages.  This little guy came with Kabaya's Fortress Maximus DX gum toy and is one of the smallest Transformers I own. He does Transform, but you have to pull the arms out and put them back in to do it.  This here is Cyberverse Commander Powerglide from the Dark of the Moon movie line. For four years or so this was the stand in G1 Powerglide for many people. It may only loosely resemble the guy, but he's quite the transforming marvel. He's a little smaller than Legends Powerglide, but has a lot more articulation and probably twice as many moving parts to his transformation. He's also armed to the teeth (or mouth plate) with missiles. He may not be accurate, but he's one heck of a cool figure.  Finally we'll add in the pair of Transformers Universe Ultra class Powerglide figures. The guy on the left was sold at regular retail and while an OK figure people hated him in those colors. A Powerglide that isn't red isn't Powerglide. Hasbro listened and Walmart stores got the exclusive repaint on the right. Well, he isn't quite red, more of a pink, but it was a step in the right direction. Incidentally this figure ended up being more accurate than the Takara Tomy version which was very red. Too bad these two have funky leg ratchets that either keep them too close together or too far apart which makes him look very rigid standing and hard to pose. The figure would later be repainted based on the even smaller Micromaster Stormcloud.  All have the same basic A-10 form. And while the movie figure might be the most slavishly realistic one, Legends Powerglide is the funnest.  Let's end this by looking at scale. He's roughly the same size as his fellow Legends figures, but there's been a noticeable increase in quality when compared to the Bumblebee figure from 2013 with some pretty thin yellow plastic. Behind him we've got a fairly average size Generations Voyager class figure in Springer, a taller Deluxe Reveal the Shield Jazz, and smaller Deluxe Generations Rattrap. In front are some of the Micromaster partners as seen earlier in bot mode. It's been a while since Hasbro has given us a proper Basic/Scout class size line and this is pretty much what we're getting from Legends. It would have been nice if they had dropped the price when they stopped including Micromaster partners, especially when they're still using molds that used to include partners. Still, as long as they keep remaking G1 Mini Vehicles in this way I'll keep buying them. 
Combiner Wars Powerglide photo
And away we go!
When Hasbro first announced the Combiner Wars theme for 2015 the possibilities seemed endless. And when fans began coming up with different ways to incorporate Legends figures into the combinations the doors were blown wide o...

Tomopop Review: Mecha Workshop's Armarauders Bellerophon

Mar 01 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Armarauders BellerophonFigure Maker: Mecha WorkshopRetail Price:  Roughly ¥28,800Available at: HobbyLink Japan | AmiAmi | Big Bad Toy Store [[Quick editor's note: This review is based on a prototype that I had to return after shooting. Due to various timing issues, I wasn't able to write the review during that period so I wasn't able to go back and take additional photos of things that didn't come out quite as nicely as I had hoped (as well as not having access to some of the photos in my other camera which I wound up misplacing). Additionally, I realize that I may have missed showcasing a few of the features... especially because I had almost forgotten about the docking stand entirely.]] The Bellerophon stands roughly 23-cm tall (about 9-inches), has a lot of die-cast parts, and is billed as featuring more than 70 points of articulation. While I didn't personally count each point, I saw enough that I'd take Mecha Workshop's word for it since the figure is articulated right down to the fingers (that's right, no need for interchangeable hands). More on the articulation later. The basic design, without most of the add-ons, is seen here. The prototype I used for this review came with the shields (?) attached to the calf, but I later realized that they're removable as well. The pilot is tiny. He comes with a translucent flight stand (which I didn't notice until I was packing things back up) as well as a backpack unit. You can apparently pop the figure's head off to remove the backpack (which looks like a combination of a jetpack and weapons system). Apparently it can disassemble to form weapons for the pilot. The pilot features articulation at the head, shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees. I can't remember if he also had wrist articulation, but he definitely lacks ankle joints. The figure is fully sculpted, fully painted, and designed to fit into a fully detailed cockpit inside the Bellerophon. The cockpit can be opened by pulling out the chest piece (which took more effort than I thought it would the first time, but was easy once I had the process down), as shown in the first image, then opening it up as seen in the second. I suppose that this mechanic may seem like a relatively minor touch, but this makes the mech seem more fully functional and vastly increases the number of display options. Speaking of display options, here's the Bellerophon with all of its accessories attached (minus the Pegasus drone, which I'll discuss later). All of the add-ons are in some way articulate, having a moveable joint where they snap onto the figure and, in some cases, additional joints on the piece itself. The shoulder-shields featured some longer joints so they could be moved quite a bit. The shoulder cannons feature a lot of mobility as well. The shoulder pads (as seen in the earlier photos) are open to reveal additional firepower. That's in addition to what look like nipple-pistols. Two jetpack pieces snap onto the back. These are surprisingly awesome since they feature articulation at the nozzles, allowing for cooler flight mode displays. In addition to the parts, some kind of an energy chakram attaches to the figure's forearm (or technically chakri). The blades are detachable and possibly a little dangerous due to the sharp tips. The whole unit can spin which presumably makes this into either some kind of an energy shield or an energy buzzsaw. Unlike the other accessories, the rifles don't snap onto Bellerophon's body. Instead, they can be held in his hands thanks to those FULLY ARTICULATE FINGERS. Bellerophon comes with two rifles so if you wanted him to go full Robo-Rambo, you totally could. By now you've probably heard me talk about these amazing fingers a dozen or so times and really want to know more. Each finger is attached to the hand with a ball-joint, giving them a wide range of motion. Then there are ANOTHER two joints on each finger. These pin-joints mean that Bellerophon can hold weapons, slap another robot, punch an alien in its face, flash music or gang signs, taunt other robots with the middle finger, and more. The thumb features a larger joint on the side to help make some of the hand poses look more realistic (and was especially useful when trying to make a fist). There's also an alternate, transparent piece. Given that I've never read the accompanying comic, I'm not sure what it's for but it still looks cool. Finally we have the adjustable docking station. This is just "Part A" of the docking station. Part B is described as "a mobile docking stand with rubber wheels that docks the Pegasus Drone which will merge up with the Bellerophon, much like a flight pack." And, of course, the whole thing can also be displayed with the packaging (which, again, wasn't included with the prototype) to form a larger diorama. The station is adjustable... but I was never able to get the pillars back down again. I was told that you're supposed to push the small button in to lock it into place (it automatically locked for me) and you're supposed to use your nails to pull out the button to unlock it again. The only problem is that my nails are usually really short. (There's also an additional piece that can snap in there to hold the Bellerophon in place which I wound up not using. If you to leave the Bellerophon in the display over a long period of time, you should probably use the piece to make sure that the Bellerophon doesn't fall over.) The "wings" of the upper platform can separate and swing apart. The little extension between the two pieces retracts back into the right wing (or stage left wing). Overall, it makes for an incredible display piece. Imagine how cool it would be to have a bunch of these platforms right next to each other... All things considered, the Bellerophon seems pretty cool. Given that this is a prototype, there were some issues with loose joints, etc, which should be corrected in the final product. The copy I received also apparently had some things glued on which should detach. Otherwise, it's a solidly designed figure with tons of accessories and a multitude of display options. You may have noticed that I didn't go into the overall articulation as much as some of my other reviews. That's because I decided to just cover it in an accompanying video. If you have five or six minutes to listen to my completely unscripted ramblings, be sure to check it out: There's a lot to say about this release... in fact, too much to say. As such, expect a follow-up story in the next few days that covers some of the additional items that weren't included with the prototype such as the Pegasus Drone. [Big thanks to Mecha Workshop for lending us this prototype]
Armarauders photo
One mean machine
A few years back, collectors caught their first glimpse of Mecha Workshop's Armarauders line. While the giant fighting robots were awesome, I was even more excited to see that the line used tiny articulate pilots who could fi...

Tomopop Review: Sentinel's Metamor Force Dino Getter 1

Jan 12 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Metamor Force Dino Getter 1Figure Maker: SentinelRetail Price: ¥14,800Available at: HobbyLink Japan Starting with the box this is some really great package art. Artist NINNIN (XELFLEX) captures the figure perfectly which might really be more of a testament to how good the figure looks. Often the artists have to add a lot of embellishments to their art, but here it's basically a drawing of the figure. Off to a good start. The back of the box is a bit boring, just a gallery of photos, no story or attempt to hype the figure.  As I said, the art is basically a drawing of the figure and the figure looks fantastic! While not based on any specific previous version of Getter 1 this one shares enough cues with Shin Getter Robo that it might have been it's inspiration. This is by far the most detailed of the Getter 1 designs as the typical Go Nagai designs are very smooth and rounded thanks in part to their '70s origins. This figure has lots of jagged, sharp and angular parts, some of which, like the wing tips, can do some damage if you don't handle them right.  It's hard to visualize in photos, but this figure isn't just satisfying to look at, it's also satisfying to hold. Why? Diecast, that's why! It's scattered throught the figure, mainly in the body and legs. That big orange pelvis of his is a particularly nice chunk. One of the things you look for in expensive robot figures is diecast and this one has a good amount of it. However, at nearly seven inches tall he's surprisingly light.  By now you've certainly noticed the giant wings on its back. They look like they would make him fall over constantly, but they're extremely light weight, yet rigid, so they're sturdy and not likely to break with ease. That's good because you're going to be using those wings to support him in a lot of poses. They also sit very low on his back which helps adjust his center of gravity. There are joints at the base, but its more like a stress point than a place to fold them back. He has a one foot wide wing span so they can get a little in the way, thankfully they're easily removed, but he doesn't look as nice without them.  Let's pull it in a little. Love the head sculpt! It's different from the other Getter 1s, but instantly recognizable. Have you noticed yet how clean the paint is? There isn't even an hint of over spray or smudging on this entire figure. It's really amazing, I've never seen paint this flawless before.  The clawed dino feet are really neat, especially since they aren't part of his dinosaur mode. I should also point out that unlike most Getter Robos that use bright white in their color schemes, Dino Getter 1 uses bone white with some highlighting to really drive the dino theme.  Aricticulation is pretty good. There's some ankle articulation, the knee's are pretty good, hips aren't bad, but a little limited by their designs. Shoulders have the best range which is surprising because of those huge shoulder pads. Unfortunately the elbow articulation is very limited considering it's double jointed. Yeah, it has two joints and still can't do better than 90 degrees. Very sad. Surprisingly he does have a limited range of twisting and bending in his body and it's not even related to his transformation so that's a nice little bonus. Let's take a look at the weapons. The primary weapons, as with most versions of Getter 1, are these massive Getter Tomahawks. Not really sure how a Native American melee weapon got into the Japanese vernacular (along side the Zaku Heat Hawks) but it continues to amuse me. Despite their massive size they're relatively light like the wings so the arm joints handle them well. The pointy tips are pretty sharp again and you could probably cut something soft with the blade edge. Definitely not for kids! His second weapon is the enormous scythe formed from his wing edges which should now explain whey they're so pointy. The handle is the only part that can't be incorporated in the figure which I guess isn't so bad. You get two of them, one from each wing bringing his total number of oversized weapons to two pairs. Time for Pterodactyl mode! Pterodactyl mode is pretty creative and mostly successful. The dino head pops out of the chest and joins with a piece from the back hiding the bot head. The arms don't do a whole lot, but the hands can fold up and reveal little dino claws. The most elaborate transformation comes from the legs. The hips fold up close to the body and the lower legs split in half and join with the wings to make little rocket pod type things. The Getter Tomahawks can collapse in on themselves and combine together to make something similar to tail wings on the back. Unfortunately the dino mode can't stand on its own so for anything other than flying you'll need to find a stand to keep him somewhat upright. It's a bit strange for him to have such a non-menacing dino mode when Getter 1 is usually seen as the dominant Getter mode. A T-rex would certainly seem like the best choice, but they probably didn't want to make him too much like the Transformer Grimlock. Instead they made Getter 2 a T-rex that looks a lot like Beast Wars Megatron. Oops. As prehistoric flying transforming dinosaur robots go he's definitely one of the best. He has an imposing bot mode and a convincing enough dino mode. He's got huge weapons, decent articulation, and a satisfactory amount of diecast. Now, I know the price is kinda high, but consider this: for the material, its size, what it comes with, and what it can do this is a pretty standard price for high-end robot collectibles that are far from kids' toys. He's no Studio Half Eye, but few things are. If you've got the money and a thing for transforming dinosaur robots then give this one a shot. Now, how about a crossover? I know I'd like to see this fight. [Extra large thanks to HobbyLink Japan for the review sample!]
Dino Getter 1 photo
Getter Robo gets teeth
There have been a lot of Getter Robos, but never one quite like this. What was originally a group of three aircraft that could be reconfigured into three different robot modes (Getter 1, 2, and 3) has now been reimagined as a...

Tomopop Review: DST's Marvel Select Amazing Spidey 2 Spider-Man

Nov 22 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Marvel Select Amazing Spider-Man 2 Spider-Man with baseFigure Maker: Diamond Select ToysRetail Price: US$24.99Available at: Diamond Select Toys DST's Amazing Spider-Man 2 Spidey comes in the usual Marvel Select packaging. As we've seen in the past, these movie (and tv) figures seem to forgo the usual heavily decorated inner box in favor of something basic (most likely due to licensing issues or the like). In this case, it's a generic lightning-looking design. The back of the card features a large character illustration alongside a brief bio. This space is usually dedicated to some product images of the figure and other offerings in the line. The other selections is naturally absent because Spidey was the only ASM2 character to receive a figure (which again goes back to an issue with DST getting reference materials in time. Granted, the company *could* have done an Emma Stone Gwen Stacy but there probably wasn't enough fan demand). While I like the visual, it's just weird to not see any product images at all. I own maybe thirty figures from DST's "Select" lines (in addition to seeing box shots) and can't recall one other instance of this happening. Before we go any further, I should mention that there are at *least* three configurations for this particular figure. I had known about the comic/specialty shop-exclusive "Fireman" Spidey and the Disney/ exclusive unmasked variant. However, until this arrived on my doorstep, I don't believe that I was even aware this one existed. As near as I can tell, it might just be a direct offering from Diamond Select Toys. What's so different, you ask? Both of the previously announced versions went very heavy on the accessories and lacked a base. This one takes the opposite approach by virtue of featuring only one alternate hand, two web accessories, and a wall diorama piece (which can be mounted on your wall). If that wall looks familiar, you might remember that it was the Marvel Select ASM1 Spidey's accessory that seemed to come with every version of that figure. It's not a bad accessory, but I imagine a lot of fans probably already have one from whichever version of the MS ASM1 Spidey they picked up. It's something of a baffling decision as well when you consider how many alternate parts the comic/specialty and Disney releases featured. The actual figure looks great, however. The sculpting is great, the paint apps feature crisp colors, and the jointing is generally unobtrusive. The paint on my copy features a few scrapes that, for the most part, are more visible in photographs due to the greater amount of lighting. Now for the all-important question: How does the "sequel" stand up to the previous version? For the most part, the Marvel Select ASM2 Spider-Man holds its own against the Marvel Select ASM1 Spider-Man (note: this is the Disney Store variant which uses a metallic paint). Despite both being movie Spider-Man figures, the two are surprisingly hard to compare. The baseline aesthetic is great on both figures but the ASM2 Spidey sports some very different jointing. The difference is most notable in the torso area. The ASM1 Spidey has a torso that seemingly gets slimmer as it gets up to the chest to accommodate the joint. The ASM2 instead sculpted the joint underneath the full ribcage which gives the torso a more consistent (although less athletic) look. The second notable change comes in the arms which have been greatly simplified. Where the previous model had 5 joints per arm (shoulder, bicep, pinned elbow, forearm, and pinned wrist) the new only features three joints (shoulder, elbow, wrist). I can understand dropping the forearm in favor of a more versatile wrist joint, but I was initially a little surprised that the bicep joint went as well. To compensate for the lack of a bicep joint, the ASM2 Spidey features a more versatile elbow joint. I'm less fond of the fact that the ASM2 Spidey is missing an extra joint at the calf since that added point of rotation helps when balancing with the foot pivot/ankle rockers. On the whole, both are good figures. However, the overall look of the ASM2 Spidey might be a bit nicer. Interestingly, the ASM2 Spidey looks larger (or beefier?) than his ASM1 counterpart despite being of very similar height. It may come down to the difference in torso or the ASM2 Spidey's larger head. The ASM2 Spidey poses fairly well. The hip joints might be a bit thinner than the previous model and thus allow for better movement. The open-hands are great for allowing things like hand-stands in addition to wall-crawling and spidey-sense-tingling poses. Assuming you buy the specialty store or Marvel/Disney exclusive, you'll also have an array of additional hands including web-shooter hands with webbing add-ons. Those additions seriously increase the display value of the figure. All versions of the MS ASM2 Spidey seem to come with the new "modular weblines" accessories. One of the webbing accessories has a piece that can peg into Spidey's fist for web-swinging poses. A connector on the other side can hook into the other webbing piece. While I'm honestly not sure how this is intended to work, you can snap the pieces together for a variety of effects. I was going to say that it's perfect for Rhino wrangling, but that didn't quite work out. Oh well, I guess comic book Spidey had his issues trying to web down Rhino as well. All things considered, Diamond Select Toys' Marvel Select Amazing Spider-Man 2 Spidey is probably the nicest version of the character in the affordable figure bracket. The overall design is good, the paint generally looks great, and he has most of the poseability you could want. The biggest drawback is that this particular configuration doesn't include all of the alternate parts that you'll find with the other variants. The diorama piece, while nice, certainly seems a little redundant given that many fans will own the Marvel Select ASM1 Spidey which also included the piece. Be sure to check out the rest of the Rhino fight in the gallery, among other photos.
ASM2 Spider-Man photo
Is the sequel an improvement?
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was the somewhat lukewarm follow-up to Sony's Spider-Man reboot. The film notably improved on Spider-Man's costume, giving movie-goers something closer to what they were used to, while jumping all ove...

Tomopop Review: DST's Creature from the Black Lagoon

Oct 29 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Universal Monsters Select Creature from the Black Lagoon Ver. 2Figure Maker: Diamond Select ToysRetail Price: US$24.99 (or around US$15 for the TRU version, if you can find it in stores)Available at: Diamond Select Toys | Entertainment Earth Long time readers may recall that the Gill-man, a.k.a. "the Creature", is by far my favorite Universal Monster. After all, I've only mentioned it, oh, a good forty or fifty times over the years including the occasional lengthy story about a time when Toys "R" Us refused to sell me one of my grail figures. If you read that story, you'll recall that I barely had time to enjoy that long-sought version of the Gill-man before DST dropped this awesome bomb... about a full year and a half before it was set to release. The plain Select packaging does little to convey how awesome this figure is. Like many of the other movie figures, the inner box is basically devoid of decoration (the popular Marvel Select line, by contrast, usually fills that space up with comic art). I imagine that it's probably due to a cost issue associated with licensing old movie stills or the such. The back of the box shows off Gill-man and provides a little backstory that wisely only references the first film (and leaves out the fact that he would eventually walk among us). Also included on the back is the Son of Frankenstein version of Frankenstein's Monster which closes out the wave (well, I guess there's also the DST-original version of Van Helsing but he's technically not part of the series) and, for that matter, the series. That's right, after giving fans a super-articulate Gill-man DST decided to drop the mic and walk away. DST's Gill-man stands close to 8-inches tall and features impeccable sculpting (courtesy of the game-changing Jean St. Jean, the sculptor behind figures like the much-praised MS Venom) along with a surprisingly deep paint job. Jean St. Jean has really pushed some boundaries in recent years, demonstrating that you don't have to sacrifice sculpt for articulation, which shines through in this figure. That said, the sculpting and articulation aren't blended to perfection. There are at least a few points where the joints are hindered by the sculpting (particularly at the head which looks as if it's jointed for a good amount of forward/back motion but the sculpt doesn't accommodate that). However, and this is important, in no place on this figure does the articulation truly hinder the sculpt. The joints, while somewhat visible, generally don't detract from the figure's overall appearance (with the possible exception of the exposed thigh pins). The overall craftsmanship is incredible. The character design itself facilitates many of these hidden joints, with hanging scales/platelets covering elbow and thigh cuts, for instance. The articulation represents a hodgepodge of different jointing concepts. The hands feature rotation at the lower wrists with a single pin-joint right above them (you may recall a similar trick being used on the Retro Cloth Phantom of the Opera (reviewed)). The elbows sport a kind of ball-joint which *could* have been used at the wrists as well, but the combo that was chosen instead helps to keep the wrists from looking ungainly. (EDITOR'S NOTE: My copy has a damaged right wrist (at the point of rotation) where the joint is jammed and, if a previous Select figure was any indication, the part will fall off if the joint is forced.) The head rotates, but his gills can get stuck on the frill running along his back. The torso features two joints, one directly above the abdomen with a second at the waist. While it doesn't work anywhere near as well as I had hoped (the forward/back is limited), you get a wide range of natural-looking rotation. The hips feature forward and outward motion, but are a little impeded by the sculpt (it's not a major issue). There's a thigh cut which offers rotation and helps with posing. The knees and ankles both feature single-pinned joints, a design choice that leads to only average balance. For the most part, the Select Gill-man can do most of the things you may want. The jointing isn't perfect, but it's worlds better than any previous version of the character that I can think of, especially within the affordable price ranges. It's worth remembering that Toys "R" Us also has an exclusive version of this figure. Priced closer to US$15, the biggest difference might be in the choice of accessories. The Select version gets an exquisitely designed underwater "swim" stand/base (seen here) while the Toys "R" Us version gets a smaller, generic stand. While the design is nice enough on its own for a background piece, it's intended for so much more. The product images on the packaging stupidly doesn't show the fact that the Gill-man can be posed right on the rock to recreate a swimming scene. It's something that DST fans will remember from a previous image on the DST Facebook page, but this awesome feature just isn't advertised. Granted, there's no piece or peg to actually hold him in place. The stand is just designed that the Gill-man can rest on it from certain angles. It's also, as DST Zach told me, the big reason for giving the Select Gill-man all of his articulation: the figure was designed to swim. Knowing this, I'm absolutely baffled why this gimmick doesn't have proper billing. Did DST feel that the trick might be too difficult for some fans? Diamond Select Toys has released quite a few Gill-man figures (including the first Select figure seen left and The Munters Select Uncle Gilbert (reviewed) seen right). While I don't have all of them (for instance, I'm missing the vinyl bank busts and the Retro Cloth version (which was hard to find at retail)), this new Select Gill-man is definitely my favorite and quite possibly my favorite among the Gill-man collectibles that I've owned over the years. Yes, it's not quite as awesome as I had assumed but it hits all of the right areas and features some great worksmanship. Plus perfect is overrated anyway, right? [A sizable spooky thanks to DST for sending over this review sample.]
Review: Gill-man photo
Not to be confused with the Creature from the Black & White Lagoon
Diamond Select Toys has taken quite a few stabs at the Universal Studios classic movie monsters, albeit with somewhat mixed results. Early entries often took a more statuesque approach, focusing on the sculpt rather than the ...

Tomopop Review: S.H. Figuarts Super Mario + Sets A & B

Jul 02 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: S.H. Figuarts Super Mario, Diorama Playset A and BFigure Manufacturer: Bandai Tamashii NationsMSRP: SHF Mario - $24.99, Set A - $19.99, Set B - 19.99Available At: Amazon: Super Mario | Set A | Set B Big Bad Toy Store: Super Mario | Set A | Set B Entertainment Earth: Super Mario | Set A | Set B [Thanks to Bluefin Tamashii Nations for providing this sample for review!]
Review - SHF Super Mario photo
Let's see how they can 1-Up this
Mario is the figure that so many have wanted a quality representation of. While there have been a few over the years, they did little more than just move arms up and down. Earlier this year, Bandai brought the news that many ...

Tomopop Review: Square-Enix's Play Arts Kai Helena Harper

Jun 14 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Play Arts Kai Helena HarperFigure Manufacturer: Square-EnixRetail Price: ¥8,800; currently on sale for ¥5,720Previously Available At: HobbyLink Japan Although I own a number of Play Arts figures, this is the first time I've gotten my hands on a Play Arts Kai figure. The packaging is certainly something of an upgrade, as it includes an additional flap to protect the window. The back of the box, however, features a somewhat average mix of product images along with a teaser for Leon S. Kennedy. The inner flap contains a character bio along with some weapon details... which is great because I didn't know the name of that handgun and now I won't run the risk of sounding like a rube by getting the make wrong. The window features some decoration at the bottom but otherwise provides a view of the figure and her accessories. The stand is hidden behind that black tray. The stand is glued onto a card insert which also lists some instructions. Many of the instructions are self-explanatory (such as changing out hands), but it shows you how to put the stand together. The stand is surprisingly cool. It's fully adjustable (there's a hexagonal peg which fits into any of the holes on the extension) and is reasonably sturdy. It comes with the choice of two claws (one large, one small) for the connecting piece. Unfortunately the claw to extension connection isn't terribly strong. There's probably some workaround for the issue, though. It did manage to hold Helena in place long enough to take a jumping photo. The other accessories are an alternate set of hands (one with a trigger finger), a Piscator (handgun), and a Hydra Shotgun. The Hydra Shotgun has a neat design but, at least in Resident Evil: Revelations, didn't seem to be a terribly useful weapon. The sculpting and paintwork on Helena is pretty great, especially when it comes to her outfit. There's a rich use of color on her vest and pants. You'll also notice a lot of ruffles sculpted into her pants. Granted, the shoulders look a bit off and the joints don't look great in flesh portions, but those are relatively minor (and expected) issues. The butt is rather interesting... well, in ways besides the sculpting. The whole groin-plate is made from a soft, rubbery plastic which not only conceals the joints (making them less invasive) but provides more clearance so the joints themselves are less restricted. I'm not sure if that's a line standard, but it's really cool. Decidedly less cool is how Square-Enix handled the neck, which only features jointing at its top for the head. Given that the PAK line is supposed to be more articulate than its predecessor, you'd think they'd add a lower neck joint as well. Besides that, the neck sculpting is a little awkward. I think it's because they wanted to make the neck long enough that the hair wouldn't impede the articulation, but it seems odd from certain angles. The actual face sculpt is attractive enough. The shading brings out some distinction in the face although it stands in almost stark contrast again the other flesh-colored portions of the figure. The figure's overall jointing is good in most areas. The articulation includes a ball-jointed head, ball-jointed shoulders with an additional shoulder span joint (for forward/back), bicep rotation, ball-jointed elbows, ball-jointed writes, an upper torso joint, a lower torso joint, ball-jointed hips, and hinged knees. There's also what might be a ball-joint at the ankles but I had difficulty in getting a full range of motion. The pistol can be stored in Helena's holster but it needs to be really pressed down to get the top strap around it. The downside is that it's *really* hard to get it out again. Given that this is my first Play Arts Kai figure, I was curious to see how it stacked up against my Play Arts figures; especially because I had heard that the PAK line was taller. I wound up grabbing two Play Arts figures not in a display (thus avoiding a potential domino effect), the Advent Children Yuffie and a... well, version of Vincent. While I'm not sure that they're the best reference points, there's a definite size difference at play. All things considered, Square-Enix's Play Arts Kai Helena Harper is a pretty decent figure. The sculpting is great, the paint is good (except the flesh tones), and there's a good range of articulation (with well-concealed joints in places). I suppose the only sticking point might be the price, but the cost is somewhat reasonable for the size and, I might add, is currently marked down at HobbyLink Japan. [Big thanks to HobbyLink Japan for sending out this review sample]
Review: Helena Harper photo
President got turned into a zombie on your watch? Better keep your service a secret
Resident Evil is one of those franchises you'd assume a horror fan would be into, but it's never quite caught on with me. The zombies and assorted monsters are cool, but I've always been turned off by all the convoluted consp...

Tomopop Review: Takara Tomy Transformers Generations Metroplex

Jun 08 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Generations TG-23 Metroplex Figure Maker: Takara Tomy Figure Price: ¥19,000 Available At: HobbyLink Japan This is a big box! I mean, it kinda has to be since the figure in it is nearly two feet tall standing inside. It's actually bigger than the American retail box because they kinda cheated and removed one of Metroplex's arms to make the box smaller. In fact this is the same exact box as the one that Encore Fortress Maximus comes in all the way down the shape of the flaps, it's just decorated differently.  The back is alternately just as good as the front. Really it's hard to call one side the front and the other the back, one looks just as good as the other and I'm not entirely sure which is which. Note the bit about lights and sounds as well as the part that says batteries not included. You'd think that for a US$200 figure they could throw in a couple double As, but they probably figured if you can spend that kind of money you can probably pony up for the batteries. It's a little strange that a figure like this only scores a four out of five in difficulty. Sure he isn't super complex, but his size does make him harder to manipulate.  Here's one side showing off all three of his modes. City-bots all have three modes, typically a robot mode, a city/fortress mode, and a mobile battle mode. Of course this updated version of Metroplex is no different and retained the modes of the original figure. This side also points out all of the features of the figure, and it's a lot! The other side shows the same modes, but without the features and on a red backdrop. The purple background on this side runs a little counter to what we usually see for Autobots.  Here he is inside the package. Everything is pretty neatly packed in there including his four guns, two missiles that I swear or standard size, claw, and Scamper (more on him later) and his gun. As big as the box is he takes up every inch of it.  And here he is freed from his restraints. Not entirely in all his glory, he needs his guns and more importantly... ...he needs his stickers. That's a big sticker sheet, but not as big as the one Fortress Maximus comes with. They number up to 74, but there are several multiples so there's really more than 100 individual stickers to place. It took me several hours to get them all applied. Thankfully these are very high quality foil stickers that don't rip if you need to pull them up and reapply them. Problem with big foil stickers is the sheer act of pealing them off the sheet generates static so sometimes when you go to stick them on they'll jump to the plastic before you're ready. Incidentally there are four different versions of Metroplex and all of them have different sticker sheets.  Now this is Metroplex in all his glory. I know he doesn't look all that different aside from having his weapons in place, but the stickers are more important to his alternate modes than his bot mode. There's a few stickers on his front, mostly on his knees.  From the back each of the little round thruster looking things on his back and lower legs take a round sticker, 18 in total. There's a few other stickers that are used in his alternate mode. I'm glad his back is so nicely detailed, especially on the back of his legs which aren't seen in his alternate modes. It's easy to skimp on the quality of the barely seen parts of a figure this big to keep the costs down, but thankfully he looks great from all directions.  Let's check out the head. This one and the two convention exclusive versions all have silver chromed faces just like the original G1 figure had. The Hasbro retail version has a white face. It's hard to tell, even in person with ideal lighting, that his eyes are sculpted and actually articulated. There's a little lever on the back of his head that you can turn side to side to move his eyes back and forth. I've ranted about this before, but I hate light piping in eyes, it makes them very hard to see, they just look so dark and lifeless. I kinda want to take his head apart and paint his eyes. If you pull down on one of his antennae it will drop down his visor. In the cartoon (at least for part of it) he had a red visor even though the original figure had regular eyes. Unfortunately the visor doesn't stay in place all that well and tends to fall back down over his eyes at random. I like him both ways so I can accept it.  Also note the red windows below his head. That entire thing is one big button for his light and sound features. His eyes and the circle on his chest light-up and he plays one of seven voice clips of five sound effects from the Transformers: Fall of Cybertron game. It's basically all of his lines from the game which is kinda funny considering this isn't the same Metroplex design, but it's a neat feature. It's also rather unexpected as all of the clips are in English since the game was never released in Japan. Even more so when Hasbro actually made a sound box without the voice clips for the international market they could have used. No complaints here. Hasbro versions also have Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Bumblebee, and Arcee peering out those windows, something I wish this figure included to help push his scale.  Now that we've talked about some of his bot mode features let's take a moment to talk about scale. It's hard to just look at a figure and get a scope for how big it is, especially when it's all by itself. Back in the '80s when Fort Max was released Hasbro billed him as the biggest Transformer at two feet tall. Well, they were half right. He was the biggest Transformer at the time but he wasn't two feet tall, he was actually just a hair shy of 22 inches. Metroplex here is billed as over two feet tall, but that's arguable. The measurement goes to the tip of his shoulder mounted guns (about 24.25 inches) which is removable so I'd rather call it from the tip of his head mounted guns/antennas/horns/ears/whatever which puts him at about 22.5 inches. He's still the biggest Transformer yet, but Hasbro and Takara's need to overshadow a figure they made together nearly 30 years ago inflates things a bit. Can't quite get a grasp for what nearly (but not quite) two feet of robot really look like? Here he is holding the Transformers the Movie DVD. Just hold a standard DVD case in your hand and you should be able to get an idea of how big he is.  I've compared him quite a bit to Fort Max so here's a shot of them together along with Mattel's 24 inch (to the wing tips) Voltron for good measure. It's more bot than my photo table has room for so from here you're going to see several shots taken to the floor. This is a lot of toy.  More comparisons as we go! And here he is with Sky Lynx sitting on his shoulder like a parrot because he can. Easily one of the coolest things I've taken a picture of ever.  A big figure needs big guns and Metroplex has the biggest. Check out his big red canon compared to Fort Max's not quite as big blue canon. Metroplex's guns have a bunch of small details that imply these are actually human-size space battleships. If you look closely at the top you can see something that resembles a battleship command tower. Just imagine a giant robot treating the space battleship Yamato as a hand gun. Same idea. I have big hands and even for me the guns look big, imagine them in the hands of an eight-year-old. Hasbro even did the tips on their versions in safety orange just to be safe. Not particularly comfortable, though. Those shoulder mounted guns can just as easily be handheld by flipping down the gray part into a handle. They're smaller, but it's impressive to see a figure this big get an arsenal. Most Transformers have one weapon they can use, he has four.  Likewise you can shoulder-mount the red guns as an alternative. Those are the official positions anyway, he has a number of peg holes in different places that you also stick the guns to as you please.  Moving on we'll take a look at Metroplex's little buddy before we look at transformations. Scamper is a remake of the original Metroplex's scout figure, this time given a real transformation thanks to being in the style of the current version of the Legends class. They've made some changes to his design since the last time we saw him, namely the added details and use of color. Where the original figure was pure black this one has added silver highlights and blue windows. It's a little abstract, but still feels like an upgrade of the same vehicle mode. Bot mode is much less faithful to the original. This mode is entirely unique to this figure and not based on the cartoon or comics. It's been suggested by fans that he might have originally been planned to be a different character, but had his vehicle mode altered to look more like Scamper. About the only thing in common between the two is the bot mode chest. Hasbro's version didn't have the big Autobot symbol, just a little one which was a sticker. The Takara version has a nice big tampograph of the symbol on his chest more in line with the original.  Biggest question mark goes to his inexplicable red head. He's never appeared with one before so why suddenly give him one now? And the sculpt looks nothing like any version of Scamper we've seen before either adding more fuel to the theory that he was originally meant to be someone else. I've heard Bumper thrown around, you never know.  Unfortunately there are two glaring absences in this set. The little tank is Slammer, he didn't have a robot mode, but he could turn into one (two on the Encore release) of Metroplex's city mode towers. The big guy is Sixgun, the bot mode of all of Metroplex's guns combined into one figure. He was a great concept that I wish all of the city-bots used, but unfortunately didn't. He would have been a great addition to this set, even better than Scamper, but it didn't happen. Thankfully there are a few third party groups that have taken it upon themselves to rectify this with their own takes on Sixgun and Stamper to complete the group. Now if someone would just make a better head for Scamper.  OK, time for some more comparisons. On the right you'll recognize the original G1 Metroplex figure (actually the 2008 Japanese Encore reissue). He barely comes up to the new Metroplex's knees, talk about a growth spurt! But Generations Metroplex isn't the first time Takara Tomy and Hasbro tried to rebuild the giant. On the left is Transformers: Cybertron Metroplex (Galaxy Force's Megalo Convoy in Japan), the Autobot leader on planet Gigantion (aka the Giant Planet), but rather than turn into a city or a fortress he turns into a simplified version of one of those giant earth-moving excavators. He's a huge figure, but even he can't clear the new guy's hips.  And here he is with the original G1 Scorponok (never reissued), still the biggest Decepticon city-bot to date. Despite being Fortress Maximus' counterpart he was much smaller and can't even clear Metroplex's legs. Impressed yet? Check out what happens when we transform him! This is when we need to really move things to the carpet. The transformation from bot to his mobile battle station mode is pretty simple. Just sit him down, flip the front of his legs over like an open book, swing the arms back, change the head, slide the shoulder canons into place, and reposition the guns. Simple, but the added size is very impressive. He's basically a rolling aircraft carrier and here is where the that little claw comes into play, unfolding from the deck.  Here's the picture that a lot of people love to take and I'm no different. The original figure doesn't even cover the runway deck of the new one. That's huge! Things are once again much closer with Fort Max. This is Max's battle station mode or what the Japanese renamed his starship mode (because the Japanese love Gundam and it kinda looks like White Base if you squint). Fort Max is about an inch longer than Metroplex, mostly thanks to the ramps on the back.  Scorponok didn't have a base mode, trading it for fitting scorpion mode. He's a little more impressive this way next to Metroplex thanks to his added length from his claws and tail. Scorponok still wouldn't stand a chance in a fight, though.  The majority of the stickers are in this mode. These all need to be hand applied to both legs so plan on setting aside a couple hours. It's definitely worth your time, I just wish they covered the screw holes.  Here's the city mode. I prefer to transform him like this a little closer to the original, but the legs can't bend quite right. The official transformation moves the right leg in so that the ramp coming from his chest leads right into it. Transformation is a bit more complex. Out of bot mod the legs are bent backwards, opened the same way as the battle station mode, and then opened again sideways. The body is spun around, the right arm is stuck out forward while the left arm is moved around to his back on a special hinge and the left side of his chest if opened to make a helicopter pad. The head is changed the same way again, ramp is pulled out of his chest and all of the guns are moved to his back to make city towers. I've always wondered if it's an unsettling feeling in Autobot City knowing you live inside a giant gun.  With G1 Metroplex. It's in this mode that I really with Sixgun was available, his body made a large tower behind the helipad which has been replaced by two little red bars that don't really serve a purpose. There were also more "windows" on the G1 version to really drive home the fact that this is a city. I miss those.  Fort Max had a much more compact city mode, but gets an extension from the ramps. It's hard to say if the new biggest bot is better or worse than the former biggest bot. I do like that unlike all of the other city-bots the only parts you need to remove to transform Metroplex is his four guns.  Scorponok has a very unique transformation among city bots, especially using the arms as towers instead of trying to hide one or both of them. Even with his extra wide city mode he doesn't reach Metroplex's width.  Pretty much all of guns that pop out of Metroplex's body (head, left shoulder, and right arm) can be used by Scamper or any other Legends figures thanks to 5 mm pegs they can grasp. That's the kind of interaction I like to see in what's basically a giant sized playset.  Here are some of the city mode stickers, made to represent a bunch of computer screens and monitoring systems. I wish they were sculpted in, but the flat surfaces are likely a byproduct of the sculpting.  This is my favorite sticker in the bunch. I don't read Cybertronian, but from what I understand that's graffiti that reads "Soundwave". I can just imagine Frenzy or Rumble sneaking into Autobot City just to do that.   And that brings us to the end of the review, I'm sure you can guess, but this is definitely a figure I can recommend. His price, while a lot, is actually pretty decent and ¥10,000 less than Encore Fortress Maximus in the same year and only a little more than twice the price of Transformers 4 Premiere Optimus Prime and you probably know how I feel about that figure by now. He's huge, well made, and full of fun features making for a very hard figure to dislike. I would definitely be behind a follow up of this quality. Unfortunately on the Japanese side Takara Tomy found the sales to be kinda slow, while on the western front Hasbro couldn't even get this into major retailers and it had its price slashed by three quarters at wholesale clubs. I can't say if either company sold enough to make another, but from the outside it doesn't seem likely. If you can find one at the right price don't hesitate to buy one, you'll be glad you did! [A humongous thanks to HobbyLink Japan for providing such a great review sample!)
Metroplex Review photo
G1 homages don't get bigger or better than this!
For the longest time Transformers fans wanted two things: New combiner figures and a reissue of Fortress Maximus. The combiner part happened several times over, but has yet to be done in a way that really excites. As for the ...

Tomopop Review: Funko's Pop! Teen Titans Go! Raven

May 06 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Pop! Television series Teen Titans Go! RavenFigure Manufacturer: FunkoRetail Price: US$10Available At: Entertainment Earth | Amazon Raven comes to us in the usual Pop! packaging. As always, the packaging has some strong display value of its own thanks to the colorful design and character illustration. A large window shows off the figure inside. The box is a solid storage option. The side of the box features a larger character illustration while the back shows off the other selections in the wave: Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, and Starfire. While there's (sadly) no Terra or "Slade", it's worth mentioning that Funko has a New-52 version of Deathstroke the Terminator (a.k.a. Slade Wilson) on the way although it's apparently a Diamond Comics exclusive. Speaking of exclusives, Raven is also available in her white outfit via Hot Topic (image via an ebay listing). Given that it was a more popular look for the character, I'm a little surprised that it didn't get a wider release with one (or some) of the personality-split Ravens instead getting the exclusive treatment. Pop! Raven uses a somewhat atypical body that matches the general style of Teen Titans Go! (which similar to the look of the previous cartoon, etc). I like the style a bit more than the usual female mold and it's worth noting that the upcoming Pop! Buffy and Willow (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) feature something similar. While the TTG! Raven is often depicted with her cloak closed (and floating above the ground), the open-robe is definitely more visually interesting. As you've probably already noticed, my copy has a rather unfortunate paint defect where some of the purple from Raven's hood has bled onto her face. It's a noticeable defect but it could be worse. Raven's half-open eyes match the character's style in TTG! as well as the character's general attitude in the previous cartoon. The only drawback is that, without the context of pupils, the character almost looks a little mean depending on the angle. I suppose these kinds of things will pop up when you're trying to conform to a certain style. If you caught my recent "Fun with a black light" feature, you probably heard that the figure really glows under UV-A lighting. The glow is useful for providing a contrast so you can get a better look at the sculpting and some of the paint (the broach, for instance, wasn't all that visible in some of the previous photos). Pop! Raven looks deceptively small due to her body type (which looks great alongside larger Pop! builds, as you can really appreciate the distinct appearance), but she's basically the same height as other characters in the line. Standing next to her are Pop! Mumm-Ra (reviewed) and the ever-adorable Pop! Bumble. Funko's Pop! Raven has captured the character's look fairly well. Although most faithful to the most recent cartoon, I imagine that she'll have a broad appeal among many Teen Titans fans regardless of what inducted them into the franchise (well, fans from the All-New series onward, at least). The whole Teen Titans Go! line-up looks pretty good and hopefully we'll see more characters in the future. [Big thanks to Funko for sending over a review sample]
Review: Pop! Raven photo
Azarath Metrion Reviewing-stuff
Like many long-running titles, the Teen Titans have undergone some significant revamps over the years. Beginning as a "Junior Justice League" consisting of superhero sidekicks, the title was revamped as The All-New Teen Titan...

Tomopop Review: Bandai's S.H. MonsterArts Alien Warrior

Apr 29 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: S.H. MonsterArts Alien WarriorFigure Manufacturer: BandaiRetail Price: US$56Available At: Entertainment Earth | Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store As with other entries in the S.H. MonsterArts line, the Alien Warrior comes in a package with a window taking up most of the front of the box. The back and side feature some additional product images. The front of the box denotes the character's origin as being from Alien vs. Predator. I'm not sure if that was meant more as the first film (ie, Alien vs. Predator) or whether it refers to the series itself because Predator Wolf, a character who only appeared in Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, has the same label. At the risk of sounding a little xenomorphobic, all the Alien Warriors all look the same to me. The Alien Warrior doesn't come with a ton of accessories (I guess Predator Wolf must have been hogging everything?) although, in fairness, there's not a lot that a xenomorph actually needs and that over-sized tail takes up a good chunk of space. The two main accessories are a chest-burster and a xenomorph egg. While the chest-burster is an iconic stage of development, I think I would have preferred to see a face-hugger (or both things) especially if it was compatible with Bandai's S.H. Figuarts offerings (ie, adjustable legs so it could cover their heads and an adjustable tail to coil around their necks). Could-have-beens aside, the egg looks great and is a welcome addition to the set and the chest-burster is an okay add-in that bulks up the accessory count. The other accessory is the stand, which features a custom base. I'm usually not a fan of stands (it feels like cheating), but I found using one necessary for things like running poses (due to the tail) and leaping poses (due to gravity). I was somewhat conflicted on showing a vanilla pose because xenomorphs rarely just stand up straight. Usually you'll see them crouching, running, climbing, or doing some other action-y thing. If you pick up an S.H.MA Alien Warrior, odds are you aren't going to display him just standing straight. That said, it's a good reference point for the character's height as you can't fully appreciate it in some of the other poses. The detail in this figure is insane. The sculpting is intricate and the paintwork brings this detail out beautifully. It's something that you need to be relatively close to the figure to admire. The head features a translucent plastic dome for the head. It's darkened enough that at low lights it looks more solid but, under brighter lighting, you can appreciate the detail underneath. Also present is the iconic second "mouth". The Alien Warrior's lower jaw is jointed so it can move down, thus opening the Warrior's mouth. The inner mouth (or tongue) can then slide forward. The Warrior can have his mouth open without the tongue sticking out and the tongue itself is adjustable. So you can have a little tongue... ...or a lot of tongue. It all depends what you're into. Although the tail can be a wild card when it comes to posing, the figure stands well on its own two feet. Surprisingly, the toes are INDIVIDUALLY JOINTED which is something you very rarely see. The two center toes feature a wide range of movement while the outer ones were likely restricted for additional stability since they only feature vertical movement. As with Bandai's other figures, the hands (specifically the fingers) lack movement. The Alien Warrior comes with the choice of three sets of hands: clenched (default), outstretched hands with thumbs tucked in a bit, and outstretched hands with the thumbs stretched wide (shown). The fully outstretched hands, generally the best for action poses, are a little confusing since the things look nearly identical in terms of "thumb" lengths where the left one on both hands looks larger than the right one. However, the way the other figures are posed will give you some idea. The tail comes as a separate piece and, given the small size of the hole in relation to the larger connecting piece (ie, trying to jam something big into something small), inserting the piece can be difficult (and, even with careful wording, it *still* sounds like innuendo). I finally got the tail connected by twisting a bit at the same time. The tail is highly articulate. Each segment seems to have a joint (although some joints have a better range of motion) except for the last few pieces near the tip of the tail. This allows for some dynamic posing although, sadly, the joints aren't strong enough to hold a pose for long. The tail had begun to droop a little within five or ten minutes although, to the tail's credit, it still stayed up in the air. The Alien Warrior has some great jointing with the joints themselves being exceptionally well-concealed. For instance, the upper torso appears to be one solid piece at a glance but above the waist joint he has a mid-section joint that fits seamlessly into the torso as well as movement at the rib cage itself. That's some straight-up ninja articulation. There's a rather large joint in his neck with a sliding piece on the back of the neck that allows extra movement. Top of his head can pivot to the side; I believe that's tied into the ability to take the top of his head off if the tongue-mouth gets jammed (the instructions show that his lower can be removed to get the tongue-mouth unstuck. I'm not sure if you can remove the tongue entirely.) The tendrils on his back (which apparently sport small markings that look like suction-cups?) are articulate at the base/stem. The arms and legs have relatively standard articulation (other than the toes). The one issue I had was with the wrists. I wasn't able to get the hands to lie flat against the ground which meant I couldn't replicate some of the box art. It was something of a disappointment. Bandai's S.H. MonsterArts Alien Warrior is a very solid rendition of the Xenomorph. The sculpt, paint, and jointing are all exceptional. The only real drawback, I suppose, is that these figures would probably be a little too expensive to army-build with since they retail for around US$56. However, if you're a fan of the franchise, it might be worth picking up at least one. [Big thanks to Bluefin Distribution for sending over a review sample]
Review: Alien Warrior photo
The Xenomorph. Nature's perfect predator. Acidic blood. The ability to incubate in almost any living thing and take on the host's characteristics. A sleek black, bony exterior. Truly one of the greatest monster designs out th...

Tomopop Review: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Agito Shining Form

Apr 17 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Agito Shining FormFigure Manufacturer: Bandai Tamashii NationsRetail Price: USD $40.99Available at: Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth Oh, old style SHF boxes, how I have not seen you in so long. Agito still follows the old, conventional style of Figuarts boxes, albeit with the shine emitting from the window. Given that any of the newer series will have their own style now, it's kind of interesting that they went back and went with a mix of the two. It's not anything that will make you go, "Oh God, what an amazing box to describe in a review of a Japanese toy" but rather, "Oh, neat I guess." Let me say this to start, Agito Shining lives up to the name. The white armor is treated in a pearl finish that really picks up any light. It's not going to glow at you, but it will stand out from the other whites that you have. The other thing you'll notice is that it's a bit taller than your standard S.H. Figuarts. It's a little less than a head taller than my SHF Zeronos, so he'll stand out in that way too. The color contrast on Agito is pretty special. The candy coat red, in combination with the pearl white, is simply stunning. As you'll notice here, the chest of Shining Form is patterned with ridges. No outlines to draw your attention to it, just the light that hits it. It's a nice, subtle effect. Let's just say that Shining's helmet is so much better than Agito Ground Form. The accents along the mouth, not to mention the additional horns make it stand out that much more. It's strange, as Agito Gound form is already in my favorite color palette (gold, black, and white), but this just looks so much better. I would be remissed though if I didn't talk about how great the eyes look. Bandai has really done a great job in replicating the look of the helmets in their figures. Agito Shining is no different and certainly lives up to its screen counterpart. Moving on down, we take a look at the henshin belt. We trade in the mostly red belt from Burning Form and add in some more silver and black. The center is a very nice deep purple, which again adds to the nice palette of colors already on this figure. After bemoaning the lack of them in several of the previous figures I've reviewed, they're here! Bicep swivels! I can move around the arms as I please as they are to do. I can make them throw punches and hold other poses that don't really necessitate bicep swivels, but I will still be happy about them! Agito Ground Form was known for its lack of accessories. Thankfully, Shining has hands AND swords. Again, will they may be just swords, these are the Shining Calibur in its twin mode. While it might be cool to make them into one sword, that's only for weak inferior forms like Burning. Being strong means using two swords, even though they're really the same sword, just twice. Here's a better look at the swords themselves. They feature the same purple that the henshin belt does, along with the silver and deep reds found elsewhere on Shining Agito.  This wouldn't be a Rider review if there wasn't a Rider Kick, in this case the Shining Rider Kick. As it's been done before, even the feet receive attention as the sole matches that of the series. It would be more of a surprise if it didn't feature this given the track record from Tamashii Nations lately. At the end of the day, this is a Kamen Rider SHF. Shining Agito is a great looking figure if you're already a Rider fan. While the prospect of karate bugmen is enticing, this is a figure that is made with fans of Agito in mind. It's the standard we expect from Bandai, so it's the figure you've wanted of Agito given that you know that Kamen Rider Agito exists. [Thanks to Bluefin Distribution for providing this sample for review.]
Review - SHF KR Agito photo
Agito finally gets some hands
Kamen Rider Agito has had his share of figures. It was one of the notorious early releases in the S.H. Figuarts line, namely due to the fact it only came with the standard figure and two extra hands. Since then, the other for...

Tomopop Review: S.H. Figuarts Power Rangers Ninja Storm Blue and Yellow

Apr 15 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: S.H. Figuarts Power Rangers Ninja Storm Blue and Yellow RangersManufactured by: Bandai Tamashii NationsRetail Price: USD $89.99Available at: Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth  As you can see in this box, there are not one but TWO. Yes, two figures in this package. You might be saying, "Hey, wait! What's Hurricane Blue and Hurricane Yellow?" It's called Japanese packaging, specifically as these were originally Tamashii Web Exclusives, but were able to brought over to the U.S. by Bluefin. This sample just didn't have labels that the retail versions will have.  As Ranger figures tend to go, you're going to have a lot of similarities between figures. However, we can easily spot the differences here that went into making them unique. As you'll note, Blue is wearing a skirt with the chainmailesque pattern for the legs like the arms. If you're wondering why Yellow doesn't have that pattern, it's due to the fact that unlike MMPR, Yellow wasn't changed to being a girl this time around. It's a dude. One that enrages PR fanboys because of a single, throwaway line. Seriously. Much like the predecessor, by that I mean every Ranger ever, they all have the same standardized weaponry. Just as Red before them, they each have their swords. Just as with Red, I'll lament the lack of bicep swivels, but that won't really interrupt too much of the poses you can do with them. Speaking of poses, here are their character poses. I had the hardest time getting Blue into this pose, but just about any figure would. After much trial and error, I was able to do it. Mind you, most figures this is a job for a stand. However, given the joints in the feet, it can be done with Figuarts. Let's get close up. You can get a good look here at the sleeves, which have the same pattern on her legs. As for the helmet, the lines representing waves and nicely detailed, not to mention the dolphin crest at the center of the helmet. Yellow is much the same, this time with claws and the sides resembling the mandible of the lion, which of course happens to be the crest on both the helmet and uniform. The signature weapon for Blue is her megaphone. As to why a megaphone, well, why the hell not? She basically screams at you and kills enemies. There's a joke in there somewhere, something with me ending up on the couch later tonight. Yellow gets a giant hammer, which appears to be fashioned out of a giant screw. What you can't see though is that the hammer itself resembles a lion's face. When you have a giant dolphin tail on a megaphone, you might as well put a lion's face on a hammer. Here's the gang altogether with each of their trademark weapons. What I really like about the Wind Rangers are their color palettes, especially Blue's. Ninja Storm was different in a lot of ways, especially with only having three Rangers to start, and amazing deep colors on them, then adding in two enemy Rangers with equally unusual colors in maroon and navy. While it looks like the weapons should combine into really cool weapon, they unfortunately don't. It would've been a nice touch, but no such luck. What really did impress me about this release is the hand count. 11 extra hands for Blue and 12 for Yellow let you do pretty much anything you want with these two and I really appreciate that. I really enjoyed this pair, especially with their vibrant colors. They're different than the usual Rangers that we're used to seeing and that goes a long way. Granted, if you don't care for Ninja Storm, let alone Power Rangers, there's nothing here that's going to change your mind dramatically. That said, I'm finally glad I was able to complete the Wind Rangers. Now to get my hands on the Thunder. [Thanks to Bluefin Distribution for providing this sample for review!]
Review - SHF Ninja Storm photo
The Wind School is now complete
I mentioned it last time, but Ninja Storm was the series that got me re-interested in Power Rangers. I really liked the S.H. Figuarts Red Wind Ranger, so I figured that I should probably complete the team with Blue and Yellow...

Tomopop Review: Robot Damashii Wing Gundam

Apr 14 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: Robot Damashii Wing GundamFigure Manufacturer: Bandai Tamashii NationsRetail Price: USD $49.99Available At: Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth Hooray! It's a box telling and showing us what's inside. As you notice, the Gundam is visible through the clear plastic, but the Wing is shown in its Bird Mode, indicating that this figure can transform. How? Well, the figure's inside so let's just get it out. Back when the first Gundam Wing figures hit the U.S. market, two versions were made, presented in either gold or yellow trim. As for the Robot Damashii, the main yellows have remained yellow while only the shoulder armor markers have the metallic gold to them.  As for balance, there really isn't any issue. While the large wings may have lead to some having concerns, I haven't encountered any problems with getting a good pose. Don't worry and stand him as you need to. The main weapon of the Wing Gundam is the buster rifle. What is nice is that the rifle is done in different colors. The energy containers and nuzzle of the rifle are done in gunmetal while the rest is the standard dull gray. Only problem is that the seam line down the middle of the rifle is off-putting. What might have some worried is how the figure holds the rifle itself. In my time with the figure, I've yet to find it sagging down or wearing down the shoulder or elbow joints' strength. This is more to the actual suit design, as the talon on the forearms helps hold the rifle in place. It's nice to have the rifle in there and not falling off. My favorite part of this figure though is the shield. Just as in the show, the shield can open up to reveal the lone beam saber. The shield itself can be moved in different positions about the arm thanks to the piece connecting the forearm. It's been a problem for some Gundam figures in the past, but it's largely alleviated due to the newer RDs including it. However, let's get to the sabers. Yes, plural. While there is only one beam saber, you have your choice of two effect parts for the beam. You can either display it as above, with the energy coming off the beam as it swings down. Or you can just have the standard, normal straight-as-an-arrow beam saber. Yes, I prefer the energy effect saber much more. Definitely the energy effect. Ah yes, Bird Mode, the transforming aspect of this Robot Damashii. Getting it to this state is a tad complicated. While the transformation was relatively simple in the show, for a figure, there's just one more step, namely a parts swap. As you'll note here, the Tamashii Stage connects to the torso via a swapped in part. Other than that, it's simple. Clip rifle to shield, move wings to side, rotate torso, add shield/rifle to back and you have Bird Mode.  While Bird Mode isn't all that impressive to me from a design standpoint, the Robot Damashii does it better than the previous Master Grade, HGAC, or old MSiA did it. Perhaps the coolest accessory added in to the package was the alternate head, featuring half of it blown off. If you're wondering where this comes from, it was a shot during the first opening where the Tallgeese had made the damaging blow. Unfortunately, I don't have a Tallgeese, so this unbelievably menacing Leo will have to do. Taking it all in, the Robot Damashii Wing Gundam is the figure you wished you would of had back when it was airing on Toonami. It fits into the standard that Robot Damashii has established, and if you like them already, you'll like this. Wing is what started me down this path and this will go nicely in that collection. [Thank you to Bluefin Distribution for providing this sample for review!]
Review - RD Wing Gundam photo
The shooting star she saw
I've had a lot of fun with the recent Robot Damashii I've acquired. The Leo Flight Type is the grunt I've always loved, and Deathscythe Hell has become one of my go-to figures. Cut to the latest entry, the Wing Gundam, the fi...

Tomopop Review: Bandai's D-Arts Black Zero

Jan 29 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: D-Arts Black ZeroFigure Maker: Bandai/Tamashii NationsRetail: US$38Available at: Entertainment Earth | Big Bad Toy Store | Amazon Black Zero features the same sort of cool-busy packaging that we've seen with previous D-Arts Mega Man X figures, such as X himself (reviewed). The amount of decoration is especially impressive since it doesn't have an overly cluttered feel despite using virtually every millimeter of the package. The most eye-catching detail is probably the giant "X" that jumps across the massive window. The other three sides feature product images. The back shows off all three alternate face-plates (meaning Black Zero has a total of four possible faces rather than the three (?) included with the Zero Type-2). Black Zero comes with a pretty solid array of accessories which includes the option of his Zero Buster Cannon (works with either arm), the choice of two nozzles for said cannon, three hand sets (open, fists, and saber-holding), two versions of the Z-Saber, and an attacking version of the Z-Saber. Additionally, he has the option of four face-plates but more on that later. The sculpting work is still incredibly solid, capturing Zero's likeness remarkably well. Basically everything on the figure except the face has a tendency to reflect light although the black armored bits have the highest sheen, as they're able to reflect in low lighting settings. The crystals on his helmet and armor are pieces of translucent, colored plastic with what looks to be a painted silver area underneath which helps give them more of a shine. As in the games, Zero can store his Z-Saber on his back. The beam portions of the swords can disconnect from the hilt, which allows one of the smaller hilts to plug into a peghole. It's a neat touch. The default face features the sort of stoic expression I so often associate with the character. It's a decent enough looking face, although it seems out of place with action poses (as seen above) so it won't pop up much during the rest of the review. The second face you won't be seeing much of in the review is this smiling and winking one, which strikes me as being totally out of character. It's been a decade or so since I last played any of the Mega Man X games (I'm certainly tempted to replay them now...), but I don't recall Zero ever being that expressive. Then again, I'm also more used to his moody Mega Man Zero-series counterpart, which could have given me an entirely different impression of the character. All the same, I enjoy the humor in seeing a quiet badass acting a bit out of character. (I also wonder if the faceplate works with the previously released X figures, since it seems like a face that I would associate with either X or Copy-X). Here we have the "shouting" face, great for things like leaping poses. The pupils in the eyes are facing to the right (apparently the normal one face differently? I guess that makes for a neat perk). It's awesomely action-y. Finally, we have the teeth-gritting face, perfect for sword parries, looking injured, or just plain being angry. As mentioned, Black Zero comes with three swords. The first two are variations on the normal Z-Saber. I imagine they reflect different game styles but it's not something that I remember from the series, assuming I noticed a difference at all. The blades themselves are purple (rather than the usual light blue), which reflects their powered up state. The "blades" have pegholes in them which attach to the top of the hilt. The bottom of the hilt (the silver ring with the black spike) can also unpeg from the hilt, which allows you to just slide the weapon into Zero's hand. Another convenience is the fact that these two hilts are identical so you don't need to switch them out if you want to change blades (the third Z-Saber, the action one, features a larger peg which renders it functionally incompatible with the others). The sword coloring is pretty neat. The alternating lighter and darker shades give it more of a video game appearance, looking as if it were part of an animation. The swinging-animation Z-Saber is probably the most eye-catching of the bunch. Given the size and heft of the blade, it makes use of a larger peg to keep it in place and balances better than I thought it would. It's good for any number of poses which look great from certain angles, but said angles don't always photograph well. I also can't seem to get a perfect swinging all the way down to the ground pose, as is seen in the games. Although Zero is most often associated with his swordplay, the character has had his Z-Cannon as a back-up weapon (or primary weapon) in most of the games. The cannon looks fantastic. The green "crystal" features the same effect as the other crystals on his body while the two smaller green circles on the side of the cannon use a shiny metallic paint. Black Zero comes with the choice of two optional parts for the cannon's nozzle. The default is a reddish crystal (seen right) while the alternate has an empty space in the center. Although no buster shot parts were included, I imagine it's probably compatible with the buster shot accessories that came with the various D-Arts Mega Man X releases and Zero Type-1. The overall articulation is very strong. The jointing works a lot better than what we saw on the D-Arts Classic Mega Man that came out not that long ago. The jointing is remarkably smooth and has a good range in most areas. The only real issue (besides that hair...) may be that the feet/calves/boots don't have much weight to them, which can affect the balance at times. This mostly impacts Matrix-style posing where the character is leaning a bit backwards. The surface area on the soles (or treads?) on his boots and the ankle joint otherwise compensate for the issue. Zero's hair can also be somewhat problematic, as it's only really jointed for side to side movement. It can't even rotate to simulate a falling pose, let alone move up to allow extra clearance at the head/neck. Finally, for the all-important question of whether Black Zero can play soccer with D-Arts Classic Mega Man, the answer is yes; yes, he can. They might want to find a soccer ball first, though (maybe it's something that Bandai can include in a future Mega Man-themed D-Arts release!). All in all, D-Arts Black Zero is a pretty cool redeco of an already great figure with a perk or two over the previous version. Although it may be a colorway, it's something canonical to the games and represents a recurring secret feature (or a palette-swap in other games). It's not something I imagine you'd necessarily buy instead of the standard version, but it's certainly something that might tempt you if you already have the D-Arts Zero Type-2. [Big thanks to Bluefin Distribution for providing this review sample]
Review: Black Zero photo
Once you go Black Zero, you can't go back... to your normal armor if you're playing Mega Man X 4, 5, or 6
The Mega Man franchise is all about upgrades (often in the form of new abilities taken from defeated opponents) and, when Mega Man X swung around, Mega Man (now called X) got a few fancy new armors ... two of which were made ...

Tomopop Review: Robot Damashii Gundam Deathscythe Hell

Jan 28 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: Robot Damashii (Spirits) Gundam Deathscythe HellFigure Manufacturer: Bandai Tamashii NationsRetail Price: $49.99Available At: Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth As with any consumer product, it comes in packaging designed to both promote and protect the contents inside. Such a package is generally referred to as a box. As with this box, you will note the product within, a Robot Damashii Gundam Deathscythe Hell figure and along the box, a series of notes indicating its product line, title of said product, its manufacturers, and a variety of poses that can be achieved with the product. Inside is a plastic casing to house all of the various accessories for the Deathscythe Hell. The active cloak is done in two pieces, which slide onto pieces on the shoulders. There are 3 sets of extra hands in addition to two staffs for the namesake scythe, buster shield and beam effect piece, and a special clip to add to the backpack for use with Action Bases. I greatly recommend getting an Action Base Stage 5 for this as it will greatly enhance the ways for you to pose this figure. As the Deathscythe Hell is in its normal state, it comes with the active cloak closed. I'm not really a fan of this look as it really limits posing. There isn't really anything you can do. Sure the hands peek out and they could hold a weapon, it's just not exciting. What I will say though is that the cloak does close nicely thanks to some tabs to some tabs on the inside. However, let's let those wings loose and see the real Deathscythe. That's much better. The wings, when up, stay up. You won't have to worry about any sagging wings or weight bringing down the figure's top half. The black of the cloak is contrasted nicely by the deep dark blue tone of the suit's normal armor. What's most noticeable in this position is the exposed rib pattern. The color is done quite well, with no bleedover in the painting. Hell always had a unique look to it and it maintains it fairly well in this release. In this shot, you also get a look at the elbows, which are double-jointed and allow for great articulation of the arms. There is one error with my Hell, as the head pieces aren't correctly lined up. Mine seems to be an isolated problem as I've noted other reviews where this wasn't an issue. I just happened to be on the end of some bad luck. That said, the patterns for the head are rather intricate. As someone who painted these detail lines on the 1/144 Gunpla version of this suit, it's not something I exactly envy. The painting was done decently here, but my version had some fading in the white towards the back. This again appears isolated to mine, but you may want to inspect in-store to make sure. What I love so much about this figure is its scythe. An upgrade from the original, the Hell features a double beam scythe. Both emitters for the beams are movable, which allow for the piece to be stored in the rear when not in use. This pose here is why I highly suggest getting an action base to allow for these kinds of mid-air poses. As of current, this is how I have it posed on my desk. The only thing that would make this pose better would be the moon rising from between its wings. If not for the scythe, the trademark weapon would be the Buster Shield. The coffin with a giant cross and thrusters makes the perfect shield for the Gundam of Hell. As you can note, the paint job here is about perfect with the faded gold. It fills nicely with the pattern, if just for the smallest of barely-visible spillover. When the buster shield opens up, both pieces move with each other so there won't be that awkward uneven space. You can also fit the beam effect part to increase the damage here. The shield connects via a simple peg and can be fit into either arm. If you'd like to go crazy, buy two and have one on each. It wouldn't be Gundam Wing if you didn't see a Leo destroyed. Just a bit of a teaser for an upcoming review. All things said, I really like this figure. Deathscythe Hell was just one of those mecha that even non-fans liked. While mine had its flaws, I chalked that up to me finally receiving a bad draw with mass production. What the figure can do definitely allows you to forgive those flaws, especially when your attention will be focused on a giant scythe. [Thanks to Bluefin Distribution for providing this sample for review.]
RD Deathscythe Hell photo
Scythe in my right hand, this figure in my left
Gundam Wing is what started me down my dark path into pure mecha obsession. While my favorite was the Gundam Heavyarms, there was the undeniable coolness to the Gundam Deathscythe Hell. With Robot Damashii having a focus on t...

Tomopop Review: figma Hatsune Miku 2.0

Jan 13 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: figma Hatsune Miku 2.0 Figure Maker: Max Factory Price: ¥3,900  Available at: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | AmiAmi | Play Asia | J-List | ToysLogic | Plamoya | Big Bad Toy Store So here we are once again. figma 200, like figma 100, is Hatsune Miku. She's been through a lot of changes since the first Miku figma was released back in 2008, as has the line as a whole, so it does make some sense to revisit the 14th regular figma once again.  When you see the figure for the first time there's a number of things that will jump out at you, but when you see the box for the first time there's only one thing that sticks out: That thick, black bar. What the heck is that? It takes up over a third of the box and goes around all four sides, plus a black strip on the top and bottom flaps. It's ugly and takes a lot away compared to the previous boxes with all of that empty space. When Miku Append was released as figma 100 we got one of the best looking figma boxes ever thanks to all of the shiny silver lettering. U Unfortunately this isn't a one-time thing; figma following up this release will also have that ugly back bar as well. It's almost like they wanted to put one of those sleeves on the box like old Revoltech boxes had, but changed their mind and just applied it directly to the box.  And here she is. As expected she looks great right out of the box. The most obvious new feature is the hair which now has a more flowing sculpt to it and is molded in clear plastic. I'm not too crazy about the clear ends, I think it would have been better to do her in translucent color instead. Still, it doesn't look terrible and I love the little twist in the tails. I'll talk more about the differences between what we'll retroactively call Miku 1.0 from here on out and 2.0 a little later.  She really does pose nicely. The added articulation makes it hard to do a bad pose. She somehow seems more lively now, even compared to other new figma. She includes three expressions; this is her new neutral face.  This is my favorite of the new expressions: The winking smile. It's just so adorable, it's hard to not be cheered up by it! And this is expression three: the blushing, sideways glance. This one is pretty cute, too. To do this pose requires the special hidden joint in her waist that slides out to give her some added flexibility. If you've ever tried to make a figma sit then you know it can be a chore thanks to the legs not always wanting to bend forward enough at the hips, but Miku pulls it off with ease. She's also using special hands with extended forearms so she can place her palms flat on the surface.  Play around with them enough you can probably come up with other uses for those hands like this pose which could either be a two-handed wave or a mime trapped in an invisible box. She also comes with a pair of special hands for playing her included guitar. One hand is sculpted for holding the guitar while the other is holding a pick. The winking face is the closest she comes to a singing face which is a little disappointing.  All together she comes with a surprising seven pairs of hands. Unfortunately she only has the two joints to use with those hands so be sure not to break them! I've heard complaints of people not being able to get the hands to stay on or not being able to get the joint into the hand, but I had no such problem with mine.  One of her other new hidden features is the ability to clasp things in both hands in front of her. This is done by pulling slightly on the shoulders to slide them out and increase their forward angle. It's very effective, though it does expose the shoulder joints more on the figure overall. I should also point out that this mic is 100% the same as the ones that have come with previous Miku figma.  Final new part is the wings. They're cute, but there isn't a lot to say about them. They don't plug into her directly, but rather connect via an extension for the stand. That's unfortunate, I think, because the wings can't be made to look good from the back; she'll always have that extension sticking out of her back when the wings are on.  You might have also noticed a little bit of her final hidden feature which is the ability to pull the body in half and direct the inside joint to bend in whatever direction you want. Here she's tilted slightly to the side.  OK, time to do some comparing! He we have Hatsune Miku 2.0 with the three common variations of the original 1.0. From left to right we've got the chromed EX003 Wonder Festival 2009 [Summer] Live Stage ver., the standard figma #014, and the glossy #114 Cheerful Japan ver. Right away it should be obvious how different the 2.0 proportions are over the 1.0 versions. 2.0 stands noticeably taller than 1.0 which is a pretty radical change in itself after years of Mikus at pretty much the same height. Let's take a look at some other changes from the top down. We've already talked about the hair, but I also wanted to point out that the hair on her head has more detail than the previous in the back, not just the front or tails.  Moving down, the new neck, which is basically a joint of its own now with a sleeve over it, is much more practical than the one found on the original as it now gives her the ability to look up! Doesn't sound like much, I know, but one of the drawbacks of the 1.0 neck was that you couldn't make her look forward without arching her back or else she's stuck perpetually looking down. Her previous shiny gray shirt is now a dark silver and has sharper sculpted details. There are also a few extra details painted in like the little boxes at the bottom. Her skirt also has better details and an equalizer has been added to it. The electronics on her sleeves appear to be identical on both figures, but now go in different directions from each other. The proportions of her legs have been improved and made a little bit thicker and more realistic. The part where the top of her boot meets her thigh is now a swivel point on the 2.0 figure. The part above her toes is now rounded off like crocks rather than flat like on the 1.0 figure.  Overall 2.0 is a great improvement over the 1.0 body in every way possible. Until I got this figure I didn't realize just how stiff the original felt. She still looks good, but 2.0 looks great!  Here's something else that has been changed dramatically: There's a rather significant difference between the styles of 2.0 (on the left) and 1.0 (on the right). All version of 1.0 have relied on sculpting the mouth for added detail while the 2.0 mouth is nothing more than a black line. The eyes have also bee reworked greatly with the 2.0 version painting in much more detail than the original. The new eyes look much more lively now. The eyebrows have also been colored instead of left black, though this was actually corrected with the Cheerful Japan figma. There's also a noticeable difference in the skin color. There is one less known feature here. 2.0 is compatible with all previous Miku faces! Here she is with the Cheerful Japan ver. exclusive face. If you can overlook the skin color it's a nice feature. Here she is with the Live Stage ver. exclusive sleep mode face. This photo happened by accident, but I liked the way it looked like she was moving along with some music she was hearing. You can get a better idea of what I meant by the sculpted mouth details of the 1.0 series here.  Of course if you want something different the Append faces are also compatible. This face certainly changes the mood. You should be warned that even though the face fit they look best from the front. Notice how the bangs seem to be sticking out kinda far? While the shape is generally the same, the 2.0 faces are thicker, which leaves a little more space between the bangs and face. It's not so bad; the difference in skin tones is more noticeable.  And there you have it, the all new and improved figma Hatsune Miku 2.0! If you're a fan of Miku, or just like really well made figma, then you should really consider getting yourself one of these. Even if you already have one or more of the original Miku releases this still has enough changes and improvements to be worth picking up. I'm really impressed by how few complaints I had when I got her. I mean really, if your biggest complaint about a figure is its packaging then it must be good. I feel a lot better about paying the higher price for figma today knowing I'm getting a much better figure for my money.  Now the real question is which 1.0 figma will be upgraded next? Black Rock Shooter or perhaps Saber? Maybe it's time to revisit Haruhi again? There are a lot of possibilities, and I can't think of too many I'd be against. 
Miku 2.0 Review photo
So you don't think you need another Miku?
It was nearly a year ago when Max Factory first revealed their plans for figma Hatsune Miku 2.0 in February 2013, closely following Good Smile Company's Nendoroid redo of the character. At the time her update appeared to be v...

Tomopop Review: S.H. Figuarts Daft Punk

Dec 10 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: S.H. Figuarts Figure Maker: Bandai/Tamashii NationsPrice: $44.99 eachAvailable at: Thomas Bangalter - Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment EarthGuy-Manuel de Homem-Christo - Amazon | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth  Getting started, the boxes are actually worth talking about. The window is done in the outline of the duo's signature helmets. The boxes, like the releases themselves, are minimalist. There aren't any accessories outside of hands, so the showcase is on the figures and a limited view of hands. Sure, there may not be any accessories, but they make up for that in hands. There are a total of 8 pairs of hands, which I believe is the highest count of any Bandai figure to date. The hands are mostly to achieve individual poses rather than grabbing things, so the strength of this release has to be the figure itself. Putting the two of them together is where they really shine. I understand the reasoning as to why they were sold individually, but this was something that should have been sold as a set. I don't really see how you can get Thomas but not Guy, or vice-versa. In taking the pair together, they are what you would expect of figures of Daft Punk and those made by Bandai. While they do look to be identical, there are slight differences other than their distinctive helmets. Thomas is slightly taller than Guy, and features a bit of a more filled-out jacket to go along with that extra height. There's also a very subtle distinction in the zipper tabs' direction.  The attraction of Daft Punk's look has always been their helmets. Bandai certainly had the right touch when making these. Of the two helmets, my favorite is Guy's. It's been nicely recreated here with full reflective plating. The heads aren't made of die-cast, but the paint would make you think otherwise. The highlight here though is how they handled the display on the helmet. They've certainly had experience with all of the Kamen Rider S.H. Figuarts and the same treatment was done here. I would have really loved for it to be able to light up, but the price might have scared most folks off. As for Thomas' helmet, it's different than what it usually is. For the mouth, it has a slight smile. If you look at the box and Daft Punk recently, the mouth is just a straight line. There was a time when the helmet did feature this, it wasn't as pronounced. That said, it's not too distracting, but purists may be annoyed. Just like any other S.H. Figuarts release, there's plenty of posing with these two. They have double-jointed elbows and knees, hands are easily swappable on the peg wrist joints, and the heads feature full movement on the ball joint. They're just like every other release. However, I am disappointed by the lack of bicep swivels, but this appears to be a feature that's left out of a lot of figures lately. The hands are the accessories here, which allow you to recreate the group's iconic poses. You get to throw up the horns to recreate this photo, hands for the prism, and a pair of hands I think are best used to imitate Chris Farley. You can also have them be victorious or kawaii uguu. Your choice on the implication. Alas, the superior music comes out on top! The real plus of these figures is that you can pretty much do what you want with them. The various hands lend you to be able to do some creative things with them. However, that's also this set's biggest flaw. All you have are hands, This is a set that could greatly benefit from a stage or at least a papercraft of some form. It might be something that you'll want to consider doing on your own for a weekend project. The Daft Punk pair of Thomas Bangaltar and Guy-Manuel de Homme-Christo is your typical S.H. Figuarts release. That's a good thing as the typical effort from Bandai means that they are going to be great figures. If you're a fan of Daft Punk, you'll no doubt want to add these. If you're not a fan of the duo, then you'll just be picking these up for looks alone and maybe some hands. [Thanks to Bluefin Distribution for providing these samples for review!]
Review - SHF Daft Punk photo
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
There are some figures that just come out of nowhere. You never thought of them, but you always wanted to have them. That's the case of S.H. Figuarts Daft Punk. While they did have a RAH release, these come in at a much more ...

Tomopop Review: 3A Real Steel Noisy Boy

Dec 06 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Real Steel Noisy BoyFigure Maker: 3APrice: US$380Available at: HobbyLink Japan | Hobby Search | Entertainment Earth | Sideshow Collectibles | Big Bad Toy Store Before we talk about what's wrong with this figure let's first talk about everything that's right about it.  First and foremost this thing is amazing looking! The likeness is perfect and looks exactly like the Noisy Boy from the movie. Tons of tiny little pieces were put together to make this one massive bot look as screen-accurate as possible. There's very, very little bare plastic; everything is coated in shiny metallic paint.  From the back he looks just as good. Pretty much anything that looks like it can move does. There are hydraulics, hinges, and pivots that go every which way. That's amplified by the heavy amount of sculpted details throughout.  The armor on his back is removable to access his batteries, and they didn't skimp at all on the mostly obscured details under there. The metallic silver paint and black paint wash really adds an incredible amount of detail.  The most stunning feature is the lights! Noisy Boy has over 500 LEDs running throughout its body. He's got them in his eyes, forearms, chest, back, abs, thighs, and lower legs. The biggest eye-catch is the synchronized lights on the front of his forearms that change patterns at random just like in the movie! I'd say this had something to do with the high price, but seeing as how Noisy Boy is priced similar to the other bots from the line it's possible 3A is taking a hit on this feature. Either way it's phenomenal light work! There's no shortage of articulation either. It isn't super articulated, but it doesn't need to be. His articulation is screen-accurate so he can move the way he does in the movie, but he won't be doing an splits and that's OK. His head can turn side to side, but is a little limited moving up and down thanks to his armor. His shoulders have a full range of motion and you may have noticed that his shoulder armor is movable, so there are no limitations there. There's even a little bit of forward and back pivot to them. You can also spin the forearm and what basically amounts to a wrist. He also has things that resemble thumbs. They don't pop all the way out, they just sort of bend up a little. The elbows only go 90-degrees, but that's accurate. I did this staggered, recoiling pose to demonstrate some of the body articulation that gives him multiple pivot points and twists. The legs don't have a ton of articulation, but what's there is functional. The hips can be spread a little and they can move forward and back fairly well, but there are some limitations caused by the armor. His knees also have about a 90-degree bend to them; no double joints here. The armor on the front of his legs can move a little, too.  His feet are pretty interesting. Aside from looking really cool they have a good amount of articulation allowing them to move in every direction, but only in small amounts. The bottom of his feet are rubberized, but it's really hard rubber so you might not even notice. By now you've probably figured out he has really good balance. Two factors are at work there: Big feet and a surprisingly light body. The figure really doesn't weigh much since most of the body is framework, and there's no diecast. Hilariously (or maybe I'm the only one who thought this was funny) the box this was mailed in had a pairs lift sticker on it even though I own books that weigh more than the whole thing boxed. It also helps that he has satisfyingly stiff joints, some are even the 'clicky' type you find on larger Transformers.  Then there's his size. You didn't think this was actually a small figure at that price did you? Noisy Boy measures in at a very impressive 17 inches tall. By comparison in the back you got the 23 inch Transformers Fortress Maximus and Mattel's 24 inch Voltron. On one side is one of the biggest Power Rangers bots, the Super Train Megazord, and on the other is Takara Tomy's G1-painted Unicron from Armada (Micron Densetsu). Why 17 inches? Because the Real Steel bots are 1/6 scale which means they're made in scale with 12 inch figures. In fact the Bambaland exclusives come with controllers and headsets to be used with 12 inch humans. It's a really great concept. OK, so that's a pretty glowing review so far, right? Everything looks and sounds good? So let's take some time to talk about what went wrong. Very, very wrong.  Disclaimer: This is an advance release for review purposes. It was shipped loose in a cardboard box (albeit with a lot of bubble wrap, packing paper, and styrofoam peanuts) so anything can happen. The figure won't be released to the masses until mid 2014 and all sorts of adjustments and fixes can be made in that time. Take the following as a guide for things to watch out for and not as a list of certain things that will go wrong for everyone.  First off there are a few spots with a tiny amount of paint blemishes, but this one on the top of his helmet is pretty big and hard to overlook. A big section of paint is missing from the back plate. It's not caused by rubbing or anything, it just looks like they missed a spot. Here on the front of his right leg there's a piece on his shin that refuses to stay clipped in place. The piece doesn't serve a function, it simply slides up and down when you pivot the foot to give the impression that it's a functioning part.  It should look like this. On his inner thighs he has these big hydraulics. Both legs are even here. On the right side you can see that the silver piece at the top pivots with the leg. On the left side the silver piece was frozen by the paint, and even after I got it unstuck it was very stiff. That's not the entirety of the problem. Inside the hydraulic is actually a spring that guides the piece back when the leg straightens out. Since the silver part doesn't move right the spring will sometimes get stuck and as you can see it has gotten stretched and uncoiled at the end. The top of his leg rubs terribly on on his 'belt' causing some really nasty looking paint scuffing. Thankfully it's on the back of the leg, but unfortunate all the same.  Here's where things get extra nasty. Notice something strange about the neck hydraulic on the left? The way it sits lower than the one on the right? That's because it snapped right off at the top and slipped down. See, the top and bottom of all four hydraulics (two in front; two in back) are ball jointed, but some of these balls got frozen by the paint. I had no way of knowing that, so after posing him for an hour the piece just broke off. This is actually the second one to break, one on the back of his neck also broke and came off completely. Take a look at his neck in the second photo in this review, you'll see it. Even after these broke I wasn't able to free the joint, they're stuck in there really well.  I'm showing this picture again to illustrate the last problem. You see, the purple armor on each side is a little flexible and normally there's a big piece of armor in the middle covering the battery door in the center. To take that middle section off you're actually asked to "open and hold the scapula armor" and "pry up the back armor". Well that's much easier said than done. First off there's no way of telling how much effort it should take to do any of this. While pulling the scapula armor to the side one side came unglued. It didn't break off, but it isn't being held on as well either. After a ton of effort I finally got the back armor off. Now, the whole reason I had to go through all of this is because even though 3A was nice enough to install batteries (the retail version doesn't include them so have fun with all of this on yours), they came loose in shipping. Be careful with the screws, they aren't plugged at the end and will fall out if you're not careful. Once I got the batteries back in place and got the door back on I tested the lights which all worked fine. Thinking all I had to do was reverse the steps I thought I was out of the woods. I was wrong. The back armor is just as hard to put back as it is to take off and it snapped back into place with a pretty loud snap. That snap was one of the armor ribs partially cracking. Arg! And to make matters worse I managed to jostle the batteries again in the process so I had to go through all of this a second time! Thankfully they stayed in place the second time at least long enough for me to do this review. If they ever come loose again I doubt I'll go through the trouble of putting them back a third time.  Oh, and there's an L-shaped bar on the inside of the right foot that loves to fall off when I move it. Yay... So with all that against it what do I think of it? Well, just to recap, the figure itself is beautiful, the paint is really great, the articulation good, and the lights are phenomenal! If this figure had absolutely perfect quality control then it would come highly recommended even at the price. However, with the major flaws (which I think will be fixed before release) I can't imagine what type of emotions I would feel if I spent US$380 of my own money on this and had this many problems. Honestly if you really want one I would wait until after it is released and check out reviews from people who got it at retail to be positive the issues have been corrected. Think of this review as a possible worst case scenario and a cautionary tale of what might turn up in mid-2014.  [Huge thanks to 3A for sending us the advance review sample!]
3A Real Steel Noisy Boy photo
For US$380 the figure breaks more than just the bank
Real Steel was one of those big Hollywood movies that a lot people seem to pretend not to like for some reason, but when a movie takes home more than double its budget at the box office that kinda speaks for itself. Another s...

Tomopop Review: Dragon in Dream 1/6 Winston Churchill

Nov 19 // Andres Cerrato
Figure Name: 1/6 British Prime Minister Winston ChurchillFigure Maker: Dragon in DreamPrice: ¥13,543Available at: HobbyLink Japan First look is at the box, featuring the man himself. The Union Jack features prominently in the background as Churchill gives as serious an expression as ever. The side panels feature him in his alternate outfit: the winter long coat, hat and cigar.  The Union Jack also features prominently on the backside of the front of the box. The front of the box is held in place by magnets, so you can easily remove it and use it as a backdrop. It's a nice feature, but you'll need a good amount of space to make use of it. With the front cover removed, you get the window treatment of the goods. Among the extras packed in are the aforementioned extra outfit, cane, two hats, cigars, pocket watch, radio microphone, victory right hand, and alternate smoking head. The first thing that needs to be examined is the likeness. Before I can even talk about the rest of the figure, is it Churchill? It's an unequivocal yes. There's no mistaking the scowl of Churchill, and it shines here. DiD's sculpting has grown by leaps and bounds in the 5 years since the 2008 Obama release. We're treated to a pretty good sculpt of Churchill, though his eyes are posed in a way that you'll always want to be looking at him from his left. As an actual figure, DiD has made a pretty stable figure. Articulation is what you'd expect with other 1/6 companies like Hot Toys and Medicom. Churchill is a better release than your usual Medicom, but still just a tad under Hot Toys. Posing here with the trusty cane and hat, Winston stands tall. From a distance, it doesn't really stand out, but you need to view the details up close in order to really appreciate this release. Can't ever say that Churchill doesn't have some nice kicks. The shoes are fully detailed, including the laces. But as you can see, Winston apparently doesn't like socks. As the pants cover, and the ankle joints being ratchet, no socks though they could have easily put some there. I will say at least that the figure has great balance and no real need for a stand. You can make out a couple of details from this shot. The body that DiD uses is their standard. In order to fill out the body size, there's a body suit underneath the clothes. As they did use their standard 1/6 body, they had to change the flesh color to make Winston accurate. While the wrist joint could be a bit better hidden, it's not too disconcerting to most 1/6 collectors. Also, check out the snazzy pocket watch. The watch actually fits in the functioning pocket and is connected via an actual metal chain. For such a small piece, I'm glad the details are put into them. As for the clothing, the buttons are not just sewn on, but do actually function with the jacket. While it can be unbuttoned and placed back, it'll take you some extra effort to close them back up. Easily my favorite accessory is the BBC Radio microphone. The only way that it's not an actual mic is that it doesn't record. It's made of heavy metal, can adjust its height via a knob on the side, and the mic can tilt up and down. It's easily the best accessory in the set and it's pretty much how it needs to be displayed. This image right here is pretty much placed here for nightmare fuel. It's the alternate head for the cigar, which is obviously meant to go in the open space. As for how to switch between heads, this is where it's a bit below other 1/6 figures. You'll need a hair dryer to warm up the neck, loosen it up,and swap in your new head. I wish it would be more of a simple process, but it works. Other accessories aren't as great as the mic or the head though. The second top hat is flocked and sits perfectly on the head. As good as the two hats are, the glasses are junk. No plastic for anything for that matter for the lenses and I could not get them to sit perfectly on his face in any way. Even with the hat holding it down, it's still not the really there. Thankfully, Churchill's glasses aren't anywhere as iconic as either of the Roosevelts, so you can feel comfortable just leaving them in the box. No, this picture isn't meant to be cheeky towards Frenchmen capturing archers (okay it is), but to feature a peek at the ring. The gold is done in an antique finish with a red stone. There is some great sculpting in that tiny ring. Here's all the accessories that you can play around with. It's the little things that make this release. The cane is made of metal, which gives it a decent weight and stability. The cigar pouch is made of leather, and the two cigars contained within can be removed. You could use those to show a pre-lit cigar or just have him actually smoking something. Churchill here is ready for action alongside Hot Toys "African-American #2" aka Obama. As his hands are open, don't expect him to be able to take arms, unless it's his cane. In closing, the figure is a victory. While the figure has its shortcomings, the ultimate goal of this figure is meant for display rather than playability. If you would consider Winston Churchill a personal hero, or you're just a history buff like myself, Dragon in Dream is a company you can turn to for historical figures. If this the first time you've thought of Winston Churchill since your 11th grade history class, this may not be the release for you. [Thank you to HobbyLink Japan for providing this sample for review!]
Review - 1/6 Churchill photo
There is no compromise with Winston Churchill
Action figures tend to be of super heroes and men of myth and legend. Some lives are greater than legends and that can certainly apply to one Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain from 1940-45 and again in 19...

Tomopop Review: Revoltech Takeya Ashura Wood Grain Ver.

Oct 23 // Scarecroodle
Figure Name: Revoltech Takeya Ashura Wood Grain Ver.Figure Maker: KaiyodoRetail: ¥2,534Available at: HobbyLink Japan (Other figures in the series also available)   The packaging for Ashura is nothing special, just a window on the front and then some product photos on the front and back (including other items in the series). While I'm not sure whether they were deliberately going for a subdued look, the end result is packaging that has no real display value, nor does it do a great job in cross-promoting the line's other offerings. The inner blister consists of the usual two trays associated with Revoltech releases (you can get an idea of what it looks like from the packaging's front window). Inside we have Ashura, two alternate orb-holding hands, an arrow holding right hand, a bow-holding left hand, a stand, and that orange box that comes with most Revoltech releases. The pegs on the stand seemed a little too thick for the pegholes on Ashura's feet. I managed to get one foot half on (and I tried standing him in both directions) before deciding to just skip the aggravation. Personally, I've never been much of a fan of stands although this one arguably augments the figure's display value since he's supposed to be a statue. The orbs are secured on his hands via pegs and can be removed, providing an additional display option. You'll probably notice that I went and swapped in an alternate set of hands immediately (the flat hands minus the orbs). As you'd expect, all the hand-sets are interchangeable with all the arms so despite only having two alternate sets in box you still have the appearance of having variety. The actual statues seem to commonly favor a pose where his two upper arms are displayed in a similar fashion and the middle hands are clasped together. For those unfamiliar with Ashura, an Ashura (also called an Asura; no relation to the Assyrian god Ashur) is type of deity that appears in both Buddhist and Hindu texts. Given their abnormal appearance (and often chaotic alignment within their corresponding religious mythos), they're frequently used as a monster archetype in roleplaying games. My first encounter with one was in Final Fantasy Legend II where a goblin used the power of MAGI to become a three-headed, six armed demon. Like most people, I've always thought it would be really useful to have an extra arm or two, but I imagine that there's probably a point of diminishing returns. Worse, you may literally have more arms than you know what to do with. Then you'll just start trying to find extra stuff to do just to make use of them and, well, that gets confusing. You might notice that Ashura's upper torso looks large in profile, which I think is more just an issue of having extra shoulders and loose-fitting robes. Some of the photos may also make Ashura look huge, but he's really only about 5.5-inches tall (to the top of his head). Depictions of the Ashura vary and Kaiyodo definitely went for more of a demonic look here. Ashura's faces feature a frightening amount of detail, each one contorted into a fierce expression. The right and left faces both grit their teeth and appear to be sculpted identically while the front has a more open mouth. You'll notice bulging veins across the figure (such as the one pictured on his forearm), a nice detail that emphasizes the character's raw physical power (albeit a detail that doesn't appear too often on statues). The wood grain deco has a more metallic look due to the glossy paint. Under darker lighting, the appearance is a bit more wood-like although it could also still pass for bronze or another dark metal. The white powder-like texture in places does little to dispel this ambiguity, since it resembles either sawdust or rust. The disk on Ashura's back is on a peg that's attached to the rest of his body by a ball-joint. As such, you can flip it upside down or easily remove it to get a better look at the back of Ashura's heads or if you prefer to not see it for whatever reason. The disk's detailing is pretty neat, though, with little flame-like designs on it. While you'd imagine the detail make the six-armed, three-headed deity look even more cluttered (more arms than I know what to do with!), it complements the design nicely. The upper body is pretty fun to mess around with, especially since those orbs have a rasengan feel to them. Two of the hands were also designed in a way that they can hold weapons (despite no additional weapons being included) which lets you improvise with whatever you have on hand. I just wish we had more of them so the character could hold six swords. The top arms' movement is a little restricted by the middle shoulder when trying to bring them around to the front, but the lower ones can slide under somewhat effortlessly. The lower body's movement, however, is somewhat more problematic. I've never been a huge fan of Kaiyodo's "Revolver Joints" and here they present any number of challenges because the joints on the knees, and more so the hips, are hidden behind Ashura's tunic.The tunic itself is split on the side, so it doesn't impede movement too greatly in that regard, but not being able to see the hip joint while you're trying to move it can be very inconvenient given the way that these things have to line up at times. The sculpted rings above Ashura's ankles limit the ankle joint's movement since the joint will pop off the leg (those familiar with Revoltech joints will be aware that it pops back in easily). This presents some balance issues. Time for a quick run-through of articulation: Ashura features a double-jointed neck (movement at heads and base/sternum). The shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and ankles all use Revolver Joints. The waist also features a much larger Revolver Joint (and works considerably better than the ones at the hips given the expected range of motion). The wrist joints are pegs with an additional pin in them for inward/outward movement. Overall impressions? Kaiyodo's Revoltech Takeya Ashura Wood Grain Ver. is pretty awesome. Most of it comes down to his six arms which provide an array of display options. The sculpted detail is pretty cool, and the wood grain deco gives him more of an artistic (or cultural?) feel. The figure's major drawback is might be that the leg joints which are obscured (or partly obscured) by the lower tunic although the character hardly needs dynamic leg poses in the first place. [Thanks to HobbyLink Japan for providing this review sample]
Review Revoltech Ashura photo
Handy around the house
Kaiyodo has long distinguished its Revoltech line from the competition by covering darn near everything. Even if you combined all of Bandai's -arts lines you wouldn't come close to the level of variety found within Kaiyodo's ...

Tomopop Review: Construct-Bots Optimus Prime Vs. Megatron

Oct 12 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Construct-Bots Optimus Prime Vs. MegatronFigure Maker: Hasbro Price: US$34.99 Available at: Hasbro Toy Shop | Amazon | Toys R Us | Walmart | Kmart | Big Bad Toy Store | Entertainment Earth Let's start by taking a look at how these are packaged. Each set, be it a two-pack like this or one of the small US$10 Scouts, comes with its own plastic storage container. The Autobots get red and the Decepticons get purple with the respective faction symbol molded into it. They don't close very tightly so they're purely for storing the pieces away and are terrible for travel. Anyone prone to droping stuff will be picking up parts everywhere if they drop it.  Inside the box It's just one big open space with a little spot in the corner used to show off the pieces on the store shelf. Problem is the containers are so dark it's really hard to see what you're looking at.  Parts are split among three baggies. There's really no rhyme or reason to the way they're split up. I could understand if one had just the frame piece, one had just the armor parts, and one had the extras and weapons, but that's not the case. Doesn't really matter, you're just going to rip them all open and make a pile anyway.  Yeah, kinda like this pile. Once you tear through everything this is what you've got. That's just Optimus, but the Megatron parts look much the same way. Optimus comes with 67 pieces while Megatron comes with 68. Before we take a look at the completed figures let's look at the secret to what makes them work. Yep, identical. Aside from the heads and feet (and colors) the frames are the same in every way. This is why most of the Construct-Bots have the same transformations. It's the armor parts that decide their bot and vehicle mode shapes, but the transformation process is basically the same on every figure. The piles at their feet are just the armor parts and none of the additional pieces.  And here they are with their armor on. I actually like their look, though I'm well aware it's not for everyone. I'm glad Hasbro tried to make something that can actually be played with like an action figure. Things like Kre-O are really just blocks in the shape of robots and vehicles, but they're not really true Transformers in that they can't actually transform. The piles at their feet this time is all of the extras; it's quite a bit. More on that later. Since both figures are essentially the same I'm going to use Optimus to point out a couple things. The proportions aren't bad, and with the armor they gain good bulk and heft. The chest is all one solid piece that unfolds from the bottom and plugs into place with pegs. It's sturdy and can be flipped open to hide the head in vehicle mode. I do wish there was something to hide the shoulders rather than the visible bars. Both figures have missile firing weapons that use friction to launch. They're fairly light on kibble parts, but the huge pieces hanging off the arms are unfortunate. You can always just remove them like I did for the header image, it really makes a huge difference. Articulation isn't too bad really. They have ball joints in the neck, shoulders, wrists, hips, and ankles. The ball joints are kinda neat because they're rubber coated to help keep them from wearing out, though they still tend to become loose quickly. They could really use balls in the elbows because there's no bicep rotation. Some of the joints and spinning parts are notched so they make a slight click when you turn them and hold in place fairly well. These hands are really unusual. In order to save on parts they made only one fist for left and right. That means there's a thumb on both sides. Depending on how you look at it it'll look OK, but otherwise it's really strange.  I just want to give another look at Megatron before moving on. He's got similar arm kibble as Optimus, but it's much more compact and simple so it's a little easier to deal with. You could probably just pass it off as a weapon mount or something.  Quick look at the pair from the back. The arms and legs are bear, but I'm fine with it. The parts on their backs sit pretty close to the bodies which is nice. You also get another look at the junk hanging off their arms. Again, I don't mind Megatron's arms all that much, but that's a lot on Optimus'. This was something I found particularly interesting from the instruction books: Prototype heads! Seems the original plans were to use heads that were much closer to the streamlined heads from the original G1 cartoon. At first I thought they borrowed the heads from other figures, but they appear to have been made for the line and weren't used. Too bad, I really like these over the heads that were actually used. The final Optimus head is very busy and a little too detailed while the Megatron head has a really odd face and open-mouthed grin. Other oddities include Optimus' arm frame being entirely silver instead of gray and blue; his right hand is actually broken with a large chunk visibly missing from it. Megatron's frame/joints had their colors reversed (dark joints, light frame, rather than the other way around on the final piece). The actual instructions show a couple minor changes made to some other parts as well.  Last thing to look at before transforming is the faction symbols. I opened Optimus first and right away I noticed the sloppy paint on the Autobot symbol. That's in sharp contrast to the flawless paint on the Decepticon symbol, so I guess it's just a case of bad quality control. What I find odd is how the Autobot symbol piece is shaped to the design while the Decepticon piece is shaped like a shield with the symbol on it. Really can't explain why they put so much care into the Autobot side; surely it wasn't a safety thing. OK, time to transform! Just had to throw this in here. It's an actual stop in the instructions, and it cracks me up thanks to the grinning face sticking out between his legs. If you're wondering it's just telling you where to connect the legs. In the book the arms are turned in an impossible direction. Oops.  Here we have the pair in their intended vehicle modes. Optimus does a pretty decent job of blending in most of his bot parts, though his hands are pretty visible in the back. Megatron on the other hand takes a lot more imagination. His chest is still clearly visible as well as his fists, but the front wheels are just sitting on those little orange swing-arm pieces. So how did two similar transformations create such different looking vehicles? Simple, they're just facing different directions. Optimus has his feet sticking out to make his front bumper while Megatron keeps his hands out in front of him. You can easily just turn Optimus around and call it his tank mode, it's essentially the same thing. Megatron actually looks a little better facing the wrong way.  OK, time to talk about the other stuff in the box. Starting with Optimus he's kinda got the short end of the stick when it comes to bonus parts; all of his are weapons. He's got some guns, swords, an ax, and few other minor pieces and that's it.  About all you can do with it is throw all the parts on and make some sort of ridiculous rocket powered battle wagon. Or you can do something equally ridiculous in bot mode. Really, there's only so much you can do with a bunch of weapons. Megatron on the other hand got it better because he comes with... ...wings! Wings, rockets, missiles, and a bunch of guns all told. You can rip off the wheels and stick wings on wherever and turn him from driver to flier pretty easily. And the best part is he can still Transform completely, though admittedly the wings do get in the way a bit.  Of course you can just swap parts as you see fit as well. Here I just swapped the armor and feet to make a point.  Optimus' chest doesn't really lend itself to other modes as well as Megatron's. On the other hand Megatron's chest is too thick and the truck covering can't connect with the legs. Just goes to shows that not all parts are universally interchangeable. I'm sure people are wondering how they stack up in size. Both are considered Elite class which is the second size class, directly above Scout. In comparison to the regular figure line they're closest to Voyager scale and much taller than their original counterparts.  So while I was playing around with parts swapping I suddenly remembered an obscure Japanese character that has never been made into a figure. Guiltor was created by the Quintessons using parts from both Optimus Prime and Megatron and brought to life through Starscreams ghost. He was so powerful that Galvatron and Rodimus Prime were driven to joining forces to finally defeat him. I did my best to reconstruct him, but the hardest part was the revolver on his left arm, but I came up with a convincing enough solution. And yes, he does completely transform, though that one wheel does stick out slightly further to the side than the rest. Still, I like the way he turned out.  And overall I like the way these figures turned out. Sure they have some problems like the big parts hanging off the arms, but I feel like this is a major step in the right direction. Later figures show a lot more promise with some added variety in the transformations. For a first effort I'm willing to let some things slide. If the line can last I think we'll see some amazing things in the future. Few adult collectors will likely go out of their way to collect the entire line, and just pick up some prized characters, but I'm sure this will be a hit with kids. 
Construct-Bots Review photo
Has Hasbro finally perfected the Transformers construction set?
Here we go again. Hasbro is on another mission to make the perfect Transformers construction set. Throughout the franchise's history there have been multiple attempts based around building blocks such as the 2003 Built to Rul...

Tomopop Review: Transformers GT-01 GT-R Prime

Jul 13 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: GT-R Prime Figure Maker: Takara TomyPrice: ¥10,000Available at: HobbyLink Japan Let's kick things off with a look at the box. First thing that should stand out is the beautiful Prime box art. Note that this isn't Optimus Prime or Convoy, just Prime, or GT-R Prime if you want to be super accurate. The art extends over the top and really looks great in person. On the left you'll also notice a sort of blueprint of Prime. Something else that should stand out is the number of logos gracing the box front. A lot of companies are credited for the making of this figure, which probably has a lot to do with the ridiculous price tag (no, that's not a typo up there). The Super GT logo alone appears three times on the front. The paragraph of text (in English!) on the bottom right corner encourages you to pair him up with Masterpiece Convoy and stick him in the trailer. Does that hurt anyone else's brain? The rest of the box is pretty much the same, check the gallery to see the back and sides. Let's jump right into the car mode. If you haven't figured it out yet Prime is based on a real world GT car, and features all of the authentic sponsor logos of the original. The car mode is done in the same scale as GT Association official car models, so Takara Tomy was looking for some major crossover appeal when making this figure. It's made to be displayed with scale models so you can bet they put some serious effort into making this car as realistic as possible.  Check out the tire details. They're made of real rubber and even have logos on the rims. Look inside and you can see all of the brake details. All in all it's pretty impressive, because this is actually fairly small figure, but more on that later.  As with most scale modes the hood and doors can be opened with completely detailed interiors.  Engine details can be seen easily on the inside. Due to being involved in the transformation process there details aren't all there, but it's enough that you know it's an engine.  Interior details can be seen here. It's a bit of a minimalist approach, there isn't a whole lot of detail, but it's all there. Since this is a Japanese/European style racer the driver is on the right.  Time for bot mode! Let me just make this clear: This is not a toy. It looks like a toy, but this isn't something you're going to want to play with, and definitely not something you're going to want to give a child. Of course, when you're paying around US$100 for something this small you'd have to be crazy to give it to a kid, so maybe that goes without saying. No, this is actually a display piece. You transform it; you pose it; you put on the shelf, or maybe you just leave it the box and just admire it that way, the box is certainly good enough for that. Why would I say that? Because this thing has one of the most convoluted leg transformations known to the franchise.  Just look at that! I've transformed him from car to bot, bot to car, and car to bot again and I still couldn't tell you exactly what you're looking at. This is a rear view and somewhere in there is the entire back end of the car including the tires and rear window. Plastic origami is what that is, and when you finally get it all folded up you end up with such a strange looking foot you need those big stabilizers on the side to keep him from falling over. I really don't get the point of making it so complex if the end result isn't going to be something amazing. And the legs aren't the worst of it, check out the arms: They barely qualify as arms. They're so short and stubby they don't even reach beyond his chest. Yes, that's his arms straight forward. Sure, the shoulders have some range to them, but the only time the arms look good is either out to the sides or bent to give the illusion that they're short for a reason. Like I said before, this is a figure made for display, the arms don't have much play value to them. One other point is that his hands don't really hold the weapon well, it just slides in loosely. For the price, I don't think articulated hands is asking much.  And yet, with all that effort put into the body and legs this is the view from the back. Roof, windshield, and hood all just sitting against his back with no attempt to hide it at all. Surely with the rest of the figure being so complex they could have figure out a way to fold this better. Why would they stop engineering here? OK, time to address the elephant in the room. This here is Misaki. She's here to add value to the figure and make you think you're actually getting something extra to warrant the high price. Does she? Not really, for reasons that will soon be apparent. But let's start with some positives. She actually has an amazing amout of articulation for her size. She only stands about 3.5 inches, or around 9cm, and is articulated like a Play Arts Kai figure with lots of double joints, a bunch of swivels, two torso joints, inward/outward pivoting shoulder joints, and feet that can swivel, bend, and pivot with ease. She even has interchangeable hands, including some that can bend at the wrist and some that are fix posed. Also, the paint lines are pretty spectacular and her skirt is flexible. So where's the problem?  Well for starters, despite being so small, she's not to the same scale as Prime. She's actually quite a bit bigger and looks like a giant next to him in car mode. What's the point of including a race queen that can't be posed next to a car? Another problem is that as nice as the articulation is, it's a little ungainly and just looks like a mess of joints. Plus, she can't stand on her own and there isn't a stand included with her so the articulation is rather moot. There's also a problem with that metallic paint chipping off the joints, especially at the feet. The whole figure feels like it was just shoehorned into the set which makes me wonder if they have other plans for the body style as a line of its own similar to figma.  Let's take one last look at Prime and talk about scale. I've mentioned that he's actually pretty small for his price so I'm going to point out a few things about his size. He's actually smaller than the original Optimus Prime figure (this one is the original Hasbro reissue). I will say that I like how well they matched GT-R Prime's colors to G1 Prime's. Red, blue and silver all hearken back to the original shades, and aside from the addition of black it's a good match. Also, something that I've neglected to mention up until now is that there's two pretty sizable chunks of diecast underneath GT-R Prime in car mode, or buried inside his body in bot mode, which gives the figure some rather pleasing heft.  Compared to Alternator Optimus Prime it's no contest. Granted, Op was pretty big for an Alternator, but the entire line really towers over GT-R Prime. The same can be said for Classics Voyager class Optimus (see the gallery).  No, if the figure is close to anything it's the Deluxe scale of the standard lines. He's just a little bit bigger than your average deluxe, which isn't so great. It does make his complexity something of a marvel, but at the same time you still have to wonder why he's so complex in the first place.  Probably the biggest argument against him is the very same Masterpiece line they're advertising right on the front of the box. Both lines feature cars at the same scale (like Sideswipe here) and a similar (though slightly lesser for MP) level of complexity. Sure, the MP line doesn't have fancy opening doors and hoods, or rubber wheels, and the diecast is used sparingly if at all, but...'re going to get a bigger bot mode with a much more appealing appearance for around half the price. It's very hard to recommend the GT line when right next to it is the Masterpiece line that looks just as good, if not better, is more playable, displays well, and costs less. If you're a gearhead that collects cars and Transformers then this line should be like a dream and you'd be willing to pay extra for it. For the rest of us, you might just want to grab Prime for the shelf and forget the rest of the line. There's really not a lot going for it if you aren't into racing.  [ Big thanks to HobbyLink Japan for providing the review sample! ]
GT-01 GT-R Prime photo
Complex transformation doesn't always mean great figure
Best thing about Transformers is that they can be, and do, pretty much anything. The only real limiter is the imagination. We've seen big things like entire planets and cities, medium things like space shuttles and jets, smal...

Tomopop Review: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (Sakurajima)

Jul 12 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (Sakurajima ver.) Figure Maker: Bandai Price: ¥2,800 / US$35.99 (Bluefin) Available at: HobbyLink Japan | Plamoya | Big Bad Toy Store | Amazon Starting right off we'll take a look at the box. Notice that much of the text on the front is in English, and it actually names him as 'Masked Rider 1'. I wonder if they're aware that the name has a bit of a stigma associated with it thanks to the cheesy '90s version. The window takes up most of the box front making all of the contents visible. The black and white art is nice and doesn't overshadow the contents at all. The red background of the box is also very effective in showcasing the dominantly green figure.  Inside the box you get a pretty good mix of parts including eight additional hands for a total of 10, a sword, both a relaxed and dynamic version of his scarf end, and an effect part for some explosive punching action. What you don't get, which is not entirely unusual for S.H. Figuarts, is a stand for posting. Not really sure why Bandai does this when other figure lines, including some of their own, do include them. Because of that you'll be seeing me using a Max Factory di:stage for some of the posing further in.  Here he is, Kamen Rider 1! This is really a great looking figure of the character. Despite the pretty bland pallet, he has a lot of subtle details that work together to make the figure really pop.  Taking a look at the head you'll notice his mask has eyes made from a metallic, textured red base covered by a clear dome. This gives them some amazing depth compared to other Kamen Rider figures that have simply textured and colored the outside of the eye. They also colored the little green dot between his eyes, certainly an application other lines might have skipped.  The details of his antennae are pretty impressive as well. They're very tiny, but have some great details. You really only notice the seam on them up-close like this. Mine does have a little bit of un-removed  flashing on one side, but it's not terribly noticeable. With all the neat details in the head I really wish they would have done something more interesting with the scarf. I mean, they did give it option parts, but it's still just a blob of bright red plastic. Could have used a paint wash or something to bring out some details in it.  Another great spot for detail is his belt. It's hard to tell in pictures because it's so well made, but the red part in the middle is actually behind a clear plastic window. It's another great detail that tells you this is a something designed for collectors, and not just another toy.  Let's shift gears and talk about articulation. Here's Kamen Rider 1 doing something most figma can't do. Sure they've got great articulation, but they struggle at basic poses like this thanks to some of their mold restrictions. There's nothing blocking his shoulders so you get full range of motion in them. There is one flaw in the arm articulation: No upper arm swivel. Sure there's a joint at the very top of the arm, but it's restricted by the part of the upper arm covering the joint causing some restrictions. Also, since the elbow is just a bending joint there's no rotation there either. So, while he can happily signal touchdowns all day, he can't rub his own belly.  The shoulders are also socketed into the body which allows the shoulders to slump or rock forward and back. Good stuff. The hips, on the other hand, are double jointed allowing you to pop them out of the hip socket a bit. Seems pointless at first, but then you wouldn't be able to do poses like this: That's about as high of a kick as you're going to get out of any action figure and still look natural. It also helps that he has three joints in his body which allows him to bend forward more naturally than the two joints that other figures have.  Of course, if you can bend forward he can also... ...bend backwards! Check it out, pretty natural looking right? It's hard to do something like this with other figures because they don't have the combination of shoulder, body, and hip articulation. But did you notice something else going on with the feet? Articulated toes are another place where this figures excels allowing for more dynamic posing. All in all this is about as articulated of a figure you're going to find, if only he had a better swivel to his arms. Still, his slim build and simple form with lots of solid joints makes for one of the most fun action figures I've handled.  Let's talk about accessories next.  Unlike figma that include the joint in the hand, these figures place the joint in the wrist, similar to Revoltech. It makes for a nicer looking hand, but it's a rather frightful process. See, that little stem between the two balls? It looks solid, but it's actually got a gap at the bottom so it's only as half as thick as it looks. Further more the hands are really snug on there so it takes quite a bit of pressure to get the hands on and off. Every time you take a hand off and on you wonder if this is going to be the time when the joint breaks and you're out a figure.  The sword is, well, a sword. Not a whole lot to say about it. It looks great, and has a lot of detail and an eagle head on the pommel. Otherwise, it's a sword.  The effect part is is great, though it only has one real use, a punching pose. It serves its purpose, but doesn't have as much use as an impact effect you could stick to his fist, or foot, would.  All in all it's a great figure that's a lot of fun to play around with. The articulation is great, the detail is great, and the accessories are just enough to get by. There's very little room for improvement aside from the scary wrist joint. A figure this articulated without a stand is a bit disappointing, but it's still a figure that I can highly recommend. I mean, who wouldn't want a figure that can pose like this? Be sure to check the gallery, there's a lot more pics in there.  [ Special thanks to Bluefin for providing the review sample! ]
Review Kamen Rider 1 photo
An iconic hero gets a super-fun figure
Kamen Rider sure has a confused history in the west. Its first venture started in 1995 as an incredibly goofy Power Rangers spin off simply called Masked Rider. That series took Kamen Rider Black RX all sorts of places it pro...

Tomopop Review: Transformers Prime Darkness Megatron

Nov 12 // Jeremy Emerje Crocker
Figure Name: Transformers Prime - Arms Microns Darkness MegatronFigure Maker: Takara TomyRetail Price: US$62.75/¥5,000Available At: HobbyLink Japan Let's start by taking a look at the box. While the size and shape is the same as other Transformers Prime Arms Micron Voyager-scale figures from the line this one features a unique dark deco with lots of extra pictures and a lightning background. Having it stand out this much just goes to show how much Takara Tomy wants to let people know this is something special. The box contents are a bit surprising to say the least. You aren't just getting Megatron and two Arms Microns; you're getting Megatron and two mini-model kits plus a sticker sheet. It's pretty rare these days to buy a new Transformer that requires stickers, let alone one that requires some assembly! We'll get into the assembly a little later. Right, so let's look at Megatron as he appears right out of the box. Eh, kinda bland. The only paint is in the purple on his lower legs and a bit on his abdomen, that's it. There isn't even a single faction symbol to be found! I mentioned before that I don't like vac-metalized chrome when done wrong. This is on the verge of being done wrong. While there's a lot of it, he's very top-heavy in it. Chest armor, shoulder armor, and head are all totally chromed with nothing below the waist. Out of the box, he's looking more like a bootleg than an official release. But wait, there's that sticker sheet! Now this is how chrome looks when it's done right! The sticker sheet is metal foil so it has the same shiny metallic look as the vac-metalized chrome and help spread the same aesthetic throughout the rest of his body. Both the front and back of his lower arms and the front, inside, and outside of his lower legs now have a nice reflective accent to them with little purple designs inside them, making for a much more visually interesting figure. He finally gets his Decepticon faction symbols, too. At this point I want to also point out that the plastic throughout the figure is textured like brushed steel so even the dull parts have a metal look to them. Great touch! Articulation is pretty good, too, but not without problems. He could really use a bicep swivel to give him an outward range of motions in the arm. He does have a swivel in the forearm just below the elbow, but it's extremely tight and feels like it could break easily. The actual shoulder joints are offset at an odd angle keeping them from swinging out to the side. The shoulder armor also gets in the way a lot. Don't get me wrong, they can still be posed, but it takes a lot of fines to do it right. The legs, on the other hand, are very nicely articulated with a ball and swivel joint in the hips, a single joint in the knees that can fold into the lower legs a bit, and ankle joints in the feet. All the articulation in the world doesn't help the fact that his hips are very loose. Can't exactly pose him easily when he keeps wanting to do splits. That's a result of a mold being used too much. Even though the molds used to make these are made of metal they're still prone to some wear and over time they lose their shape slightly causing joints to warp and loosen. There are methods that can be used to fix the legs, but I'll save that for another time. It's actually amazing he's holding the pose above.  So let's talk about what Transformers do: transform! Darkness Megatron's transformation is complex, but not incredibly difficult. There's an added challenge in having an alt mode that isn't based on anything from our world. Thankfully, his transformation is surprisingly straightforward with lots of places to lock pieces together. His body is mostly made of three major pieces that fold on two hinges. His torso splits down the side separating his back from the front, opening completely like a book. The arms are connected to the back half and fold underneath. The chromed chest armor is on little jointed arms that allows each side to swing down to the pelvis making the front end of Megatron's alt mode. The legs swing underneath the entire alt mode and split forming both the sides and underside of the alt mode and the wings. There's a few other small steps along the way, but that's basically the gist of it. The parts all snap together well and makes for a surprisingly sturdy alt mode. It's not a completely show accurate, it's a bit thick, but it does a decent enough job, considering how accurate the bot mode is, Darkness deco not withstanding. Just hate the fact that his bot mode head is right there uncovered. That's something that started with the first live action Transformers movie line, and I hate it! I mentioned before that I don't really like translucent plastic and it stands out a little more here. One reason is that it's often brittle and very prone to breaking. Plus, I think it looks kinda stupid for robots to be 'clear' without any wires or mechanisms visible on the inside. However, it actually works fairly well on this figure. For starters, some of it is a fairly cloudy translucent thanks to the textured plastic mentioned earlier, it isn't easy to see through so it isn't like he has glass parts. Some of the other parts actually do have some sculpting on the opposite side so that helps a lot. The other reason it works is because the Transformers Prime characters, particularly Megatron, have a tendency to "glow" at times and the translucent plastic achieves that well. Plus he has a lot of non-translucent purple parts that complement the translucent plastic and allows it to blend well. That covers Megatron, so let's move on to his Arms Microns. In Japan, Microns are the equivalent to Mini-Cons for the rest of us: little robots that turn into vehicles, animals, and weapons. They're normally quite small, but Takara decided to let their sizes vary among Arms Microns. Megatron comes with two, and one is the biggest yet! These are entirely unique to Takara Tomy's version of the Transformers Prime toys and don't appear in the show, while Hasbro chose to use special weapons, some of which have mechanical actions or even electronics. The first, Gora II, a purple gorilla that turns into a canon that can be attached to Megatron's arm or any other 5mm peg hole or post. The original Gora was released with the Deluxe Megatron from the line and also featured swing-out blades on the front of the canon. While the blades have been removed for Gora II they made up for it by enlarging him for the larger version of Megatron. Assembly isn't all that hard, I think he only has 13 pieces and eight stickers so he goes together pretty quickly. The Gorilla mode takes a little imagination, but the cannon mode makes for a fitting weapon for Megatron. The second Arms Micron is Hades, a big translucent purple bat bat! And I do mean big; it's hard to believe this guy qualifies as a Micron! He's bigger than a Cyberverse Commander and has a wing span of over 10 inches! That's pretty incredible for any Transformer (it's wider than the Megatron he comes with), let alone something that's supposed to be a Micron. Assembly is a lot more involved as well, as he's made up of over 20 pieces and 10 stickers. Pretty good for what's supposed to be a little figure. He has two alt modes. His primary is a large scythe made by folding out a handle, folding down his head and folding his wings together. It's an impressive weapon indeed. The second form is a pair of wings that can be snapped to Megatron's back. This is the real reason why Hades was made so large, so his wings could become Megatron's. The end results truly makes this Megatron worthy of the moniker "Darkness". The wings can also be used in Megatron's alt mode, but to me they look a little awkward elevated as high as they are. Part of the fun of Hades is that you can also rearrange him into a number of unofficial formations. Check out the gallery to see my claw, gun, sword, and battle ax transformations.  You might have already guessed, but I really like this figure a lot! The vac-metalized chrome and translucent plastic are incorporated very well into the figure, never looking out of place. His bot mode looks great and is well articulated even though he could really use a bicep swivel for extra range. The floopy hip joints are a real shame, especially with the added weight of having Hades on his back, but they might be fixable. Alt mode looks good and does an even better job of diversifying his colors pallet. Both Arms Microns are useful, especially Hades, which is a pretty impressive figure in its own right. Even with the bum legs and awkward shoulders, I can't help but recommend Transformers Prime Arms Micron Darkness Megatron! [Special thanks to HobbyLink Japan for providing the review sample!]
This might just be the figure that gives me new respect for chrome and translucent parts
Transformers Prime has been a monster hit for both Hasbro and Takara Tomy. Figures are flying off the shelves, the cartoon has been renewed for more seasons, and there's no shortage on related merchandise. It's hard to have a...

Tomopop Review: NECA's Lightning Gremlin

Jul 25 // Scarecroodle
Toy Name: Lightning Gremlin (Gremlins line)Toy Maker: NECARetail/List Price: US$11.99Available at: Toys "R" Us The Lightning Gremlin features the same sort of packaging seen with other figures in the Gremlins line(s). The face on the insert is curious in that it features a darker portion for eyes and mouth as well as additional lines in the head. The image reflects neither the film nor the figure, instead appearing to be an illustration. It does, however, remind me that the film version was depicted as just having an empty space for his eyes and mouth, something they chose to not do with this figure. I imagine that may tie into stability issues or ease of production. The back of the card features selections from the normal line. The figures to the left have already been released while the ones on the right will be coming out in the near future. It's worth pointing out that the packaging differs from the rest of the line in one significant aspect as the clamshell packaging is incredibly thin. This is quite possibly the thinnest toy packaging I've ever seen and resembles the girth afforded to comics (when packaged in a clamshell). There's a certain amount of novelty to the figure just for its container. The Lightning Gremlin can be removed from his stand, which would allow you to tape him on a window or something similar as an alternate display method. You could possibly also display him sticking out of an electric socket (something I myself wasn't daring enough to risk) although his arm position would require him to be at a fairly sharp angle. The stand itself seems designed to split apart into two pieces. I have yet to ascertain any possible reason for this function, although I suspect it has something to do with the shallow pegholes on the Lightning Gremlin. The stand is held together by pegs/pegholes. The stand by itself looks lousy because you can make out the patterning on the other side due to the transparent plastic. This effect is less noticeable at overhead angles and when the figure is in place. I had originally assumed that the figure was made by layering sheets of thin plastic. However, it seems that the plastic is just contoured instead. The upraised portions vary in depth, with the outermost layer generally being a bit more shallow which gives the figure a more uneven feel that keeps in theme with the figure's jagged, uneven look (he is lightning, after all). The difference in depth for the upraised portion seem to give color to the figure, as the thickness makes those areas a darker blue. If you look closely at the hands you'll notice some of those mysterious pegholes. The hole itself is on the opposite side of the figure but remains visible courtesy of the transparent plastic. Speaking of, you can choose to just flip the figure around should you prefer the reversed orientation. While the contours display differently (sinking in rather than going out), the effect isn't noticeable from a distance although it may look weird close up (almost giving it a radically different appearance which I personally dislike). The look and quality of the plastic is reminiscent of cheap protractors that I owned and used while in school. Between this and a lack of paint I would imagine that the costs associated with this figure must be relatively low as a result, which makes his price point a little baffling. Something like US$8.99 seems more reasonable. Despite the Lightning Gremlin's general appearance, he actually does scale reasonably well with NECA's other Gremlins figures (unfortunately I couldn't find my George Gremlin, but the Mohawk from the previous line is roughly the same height). Of course, you probably wouldn't leave him with your other figures anyway. They would need shade to protect them from melting and/or paint fade while the Lightning Gremlin looks his best with a light source like a window behind him. From the side, the Lightning Gremlin can look like something of a leaner. However, even if he were to lean slightly, the effect wouldn't really be visible from the front. The side-view is a little disappointing since something juvenile in myself (and others) would really love to turn the figure sideways and just have him be nearly invisible. I mean, how fun would that be? Of course, the other display option that really ramps up the fun factor is to just shine a bright light through the figure and check out his shadow on the wall. The figure's limited opaqueness gives a nice, textured (often color) shadow. My light source was inches away from my figure which, in turn, was no more than a foot from the wall for these photos. This effect will vary depending on the power of your light source and the distances concerned. Interesting, the the shadow almost has a sort of skin texture some of the time. I'm not sure if this was due to minute imperfections within the plastic, some kind or smudging, or an intentional design choice. You can experiment for all sorts of cool effects. This example makes use of a (ultra-violet?) light-up ring from one of that came with a 3.75-inch Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides figure. All things considered, it's more than fair to call the Lightning Gremlin something of a rip-off. The figure (well, statue really) uses very little material, it's composed of a cheap-feeling plastic, and there's no paint meaning that figures (statues) must have relatively low production costs. At the same time, I guess it is a fringe item (meaning a smaller production run) and there would be additional development costs given that it uses a completely new, non-reusable sculpt. Plus US$11.99 really is a trifling sum and, as a one-of-a-kind, the value certainly is there. For Gremlins fans, this should be an automatic must-own. The Lightning Gremlin (still not sure why it isn't just called the Electric Gremlin) is a fan-favorite and was one of the few Gremlins to be featured as a boss in the original games (along with Mohawk and the Bat Gremlin). While the figure is limited in terms of posing options, you get an array of neat display options depending on the lighting. The Lightning Gremlin may be without a doubt one of the coolest figures in NECA's new Gremlins line; a line that I hope will continue for quite some time or at least long enough to actually release the Spider-Mohawk.

While probably the most implausible Gremlin design in Gremlins 2, the Lightning Gremlin (or Electric Gremlin) is easily among the most memorable. Basically he's a normal Gremlin turned into living electricity through the powe...

Tomopop Review: Diamond Select's 'The Avengers' Hulk

Jul 03 // Scarecroodle
Toy Name: Hulk (Marvel Select, based on The Avengers appearance)Toy Maker: Diamond Select ToysRetail/List Price: US$21.99Available at:  Entertainment Earth | Big Bad Toy Store The Marvel Select line generally has some cool packaging. The Avengers Hulk opts for a slightly different aesthetic as the box just looks a bit busier. I blame a lot of that on the prominently featured The Avengers logo (and roster) where you would otherwise just have the character name. I love the Hulk fist sticker on the front which has a "Rise Up" vibe to it. The back of the card features a lot of sharp angles which plays into the general style. On the side we have artwork depicting this incarnation of the Hulk although his pants color is a bit different. The big thing to remember about Marvel Select figures is that, well, they can be big. Really big. They operate on a 7-inch scale rather than the 6-inch one used by the Marvel Legends line so their over-sized characters can be pretty darn over-sized. For instance, that's not a Marvel Universe Captain America there, that's the Hasbro Marvel Legends version. He's a standard six or so inches but this Hulk is around a whopping ten. After you get past the size of this figure, the next thing you notice might be his face. While I haven't seen the film, the face has a passable likeness to the box art. I do almost wish they had gone with a more neutral expression as seen in the artwork. The figure's lips are contorted into this extreme grimace which doesn't look great head-on. The hair detailing, however, is flat-out awesome. My figure has a minor issue where it looks like he has dandruff, although apparently it didn't capture on camera (and is likely a one-off error anyway). The second nicest part of the head sculpt is his incredibly furrowed brow which looks great from many angles. The general sculpt is decent enough. Sure, the pants are plain and the body isn't as buff as other Hulk figures (which could be true to the movie). Overlooking that, you have the usual bulging veins and decent amount of muscular detail. I will say that something about his midsection and the top of his pants look a little funky, though. The paint features a pleasant green mix, an effect that I believe was probably achieved by casting the figure in a purple plastic then applying the green paint over it (something done more visibly with other figures in the line). This gives it both a darker green hue in places as well as a shadowing effect. Unfortunately, the paint has a tendency to suffer visible production errors probably resulting from either an incomplete application or scrapes that expose the plastic underneath. This error is present in multiple places on my copy. Diamond Select opted for plain black hair and I love them for it especially since Hasbro, by contrast, gave their The Avengers Hulk awful green highlights. It's also worth mentioning that the Marvel Select Hulk has painted toe-nails (and thumbnails) although my copy has minor paint app errors in that area. My copy has quite a few errors, including an inexplicable green line in the middle of his pant on the left side (which thankfully didn't photograph). I'm not sure whether this is a one-off error or affects the production run, but it seems like my copy has a different paint texture underneath the thigh cuts. The plastic looks more glossy, although there are duller patches of color as well with strange circular scrapes. Perhaps it references that movie I haven't seen in some way... It's impossible to discuss a Marvel Select Hulk without bringing in the more iconic, much praised Marvel Select Hulk mold (used for both the pictured Red Hulk and normal Hulk) for a comparison. And while this movie Hulk trumps the old one in terms of articulation, the general sculpting is nowhere near as cool. The most significant aspect is the pants. Not only does the lower pants-leg tearing lack passion and energy, but the movie version has it merely sculpted on while the older version used a soft, rubbery plastic on top of the sculpt (which greatly adds to the fun factor). In general, the older mold is just a far more dynamic sculpt. I can't help but feel that the movie Hulk's sculpt somehow lacks energy and excitement. While you could potentially blame the movie Hulk's design on that of the film's, I'm not necessarily sure that's the case. Otherwise there's a fairly clear height variance between the two. It's oddly more visible from some directions given the difference in their shoulder sculpts. Also, the lower articulation visibly provided greater sculpting freedom with the older Hulk mode, which gives him more rounded thighs and a shapelier behind (yeah, I said it). Hulk has a good number of articulation points yet the actual range for many of those joints is relatively low and subsequently limits his poseability. The head seems to be on a physical ball but, given the sculpt, has barely any up/down motion.  The rest of the body is fairly standard: ball-socketed shoulders, cut biceps, single-pinned elbows, cut wrists, and a torso joint (mild forward/back, can't fully rotate). The legs are where Hulk starts to get interesting. The hips are hinged with a t-joint, something really not seen in the Marvel Select line. Both parts have a ratchet for additional joint strength and that always cool clicking noise. However, the forward/back motion on the hips is really weak; the furthest is can move forward is like a 45-degree angle. Thanks to the t-joint, there is excellent outward motion. Hulk also has a cut midway along his thighs to provide rotation, presumably to compensate for the articulation lost by not using a ball-socket at the hips. The knees are single-pinned. However, I'd like to call attention to the cool knee sculpting. Not only do they look great when posed out but remain rather distinct when the figure is standing perfectly straight. The ankles are also notable for featuring angled ball-sockets, probably best known as ankle rockers. These things are really popping up everywhere these days. As always, they offer a deep ankle pivot and this figure, much like the recently reviewed Ultra-Poseable Spider-Man, could really use a cut (or other form of rotation) somewhere on the calf to balance out the ankle rockers' lack of rotation. The joint is durable enough to allow Hulk to balance with one leg, although I imagine it would likely wear over time. Clearly this Marvel Select Hulk isn't a bad figure by any stretch of the imagine. Sure, there are quality control issues and the articulation is impeded in places, but it still offers a good number of display options and the general sculpting is at least adequate. If you want a Hulk figure based on his look in The Avengers, right now your choices are pretty much limited to this, the 6-inch scaled Wal-Mart exclusive Hasbro one (if you can find it), a larger low-articulation one, and the 3.75-inch movie line. I'm not sure if the Marvel Select version is better than the Wal-Mart exclusive Hasbro one, but it should be a lot easier to get your hands on. However, if you just want a Hulk figure, there's a lot of other merchandise available that you might find more appealing.

Confession: I still have not seen The Avengers (2012). I probably won't catch it in theaters at this point either. However, I've never let something as trivial as not following the source material stop me from buying the asso...

Tomopop Review: Hasbro's Ultra-Poseable Spider-Man

Jun 26 // Scarecroodle
Toy Name: Ultra-Poseable Spider-Man (The Amazing Spider-Man figure line)Toy Maker: HasbroRetail/List Price: US$7.49-9.99Available at: Amazon and major retailers The front packaging elements are excellent. The card uses a glossy stock, which gives the appearance of the Spidey character burst almost being a photo. The insert features a custom figure element with molded plastic for the lower portion (meaning they aren't doing molded character bursts). The insert elements consist of the new movie Spider-Man logo, the character name, the character burst, and finally the feature/gimmick burst (in this instance, it's the articulation). My only criticism is the huge, glaring blank space behind the figure. It's doubly evident because this figure lacks accessories which would have otherwise hidden it. The card back features various poses in which UP Spidey can be placed. Note that none are particularly creative. Toward the bottom of the card are three random figures also available from this line. I personally detest this practice. Growing up I loved seeing EVERYTHING else available in the line on the card. I found it somewhat exciting, especially since in the absence of the Internet you never really knew what else was out there. Getting beyond that, please note how little text is on the card. Once more, we just have a lot of blank, empty space. Had things been adjusted they no doubt could fit in more action poses and more character selections. Like with previous movie lines, The Amazing Spider-Man figure line seems to be broken up into several smaller series. The first is the comic series, comprised of various comic-looks for the characters and is currently the bulk of the line. The second, as seen here, is the movie series which is composed of designs taken from the film. Presumably there is or will also be a concept series, but I haven't seen any examples of it yet. The concept series is generally a catch-all which features designs not really appearing in the film or comics. The series name will be displayed near the top of the packaging. On his own merits, UP Spidey is fairly nice. The sculpt is passable and features a matted surface throughout much of the costume. A web-like pattern is etched into the red portions seen on his upper torso piece, shoulders, head, calves, and feet. A spider emblem is molded onto both his front and back. There are additional carves and upraised portions on the figure, but they're less significant. The paint generally has a glossy, metallic finish. The two exceptions to this are the eyes (which look more white in person; I think they're supposed to be gold in the film) and the red portions of the forearm where paint was globbed on, obscuring sculpting elements. The other major flaw is that the paint just seems too dark in places, which is an issue in the red portions of the costume, specially on the lower torso. Obviously the most important element is the articulation. After all, this isn't just Spidey, it's ULTRA-Poseable Spidey (and if you're wondering why it's "ultra" as opposed to "super", I'd wager it's because they did a "Super-Poseable" Spiderman in the previous line. We'll get to him in a bit). As previously discussed, the packaging mentions over 20 points of articulation. I've honestly always wondered how they calculated these things (especially since not all points are created equal) and, rather likely, I doubt Hasbro knows much better which leads them to go the safe route of advertising over x points rather than giving us a number. Here's a quick breakdown: ball-socketed head, shoulders, and wrists; the hips use a restricted ball-socket; double-pinned elbows and knees; torso joint; and ankle rockers with forward motion. [Spidey vs. the Marvel Universe Namor the Sub-Mariner] Articulation afficionados will probably see an issue right away. However, for everybody else, I need to point out the lack of any kind of joint at the calf. Something like that is rather crucial considering that ankle rockers lack rotation. This drastically reduces poseability. It's a strange omission on an "ultra-poseable" figure. UP Spidey also curiously lacks foot peg-holes, which have been a standard on most of Hasbro's articulated Marvel toy lines. [Spidey vs. Marvel Universe Absorbing Man] The ball-socketed wrists are useful for grappling poses. They'll help with balance when UP Spidey is suspended on another character, as seen with his right arm on Absorbing Man's shoulder in the first shot. It's less useful when holding a character since most of the strength needs to come from the limbs and general pose. UP Spidey has these really weird open hands. Either a fist or a web-shooting finger pose would have made more sense. The ball-sockets somewhat solve this problem since you can just position his wrists down for web-shooting. In addition, you can always stick something in his hand for web-swinging. While there are numerous materials you could use for webbing in a display, I think the most convenient are those little coated wires that are used in packaging to hold figures in place. They're malleable, hold their form fairly well, and have a fair amount of strength to them. You could possibly mold them into specific poses then apply an epoxy or spackle to give them a more web-like texture, although they'd likely lose their flexibility. [Spidey vs. 3.75-inch Spider-Man Classics/"Fiercest Foes" Hobgoblin] Ankle rockers are always cool for giving a deep foot/ankle pivot that keeps the soles of the figure's feet firmly on the ground. They can also be tactically positioned strictly for balance rather than appearance. Either way they're becoming more of a mainstay on Hasbro's Marvel Universe line even as foot articulation vanishes from the movie lines (and don't get me started on what little articulation found on the rest of The Amazing Spider-Man toy line, they make The Avengers 3.75-inch stuff look good). Overall I'd have to say that UP Spidey has a strong sculpt, okay paint-work, and decent articulation, but how does he stack up against previous 3.75-inch Spider-Man figures? First up is UP Spidey's predecessor, the Super-Poseable (SP) Spider-Man from Hasbro's 3.75-inch Spider-Man Classics/"Fiercest Foes" line (the packaging on those is just labeled Spider-Man). Despite being billed as Super-Poseable, even at the time of his release SP Spidey offered little over his Marvel Universe counterparts and was really only "super articulated" when compared to his under-articulated line (which generally lacked things like ankle articulation and sometimes even knee articulation). As mentioned earlier, SP/Super Spidey's existence is the likely cause for UP Spidey being called "Ultra" rather than "Super". However, there is relatively little actually "super" about SP Spidey. His elbows and knees are ball-socketed rather than pinned (a practice also common in the movie lines). He has a forearm cut rather than a wrist cut (there is no reason for this), his head is on a physical ball, and his ankles are ball-socketed. You'll notice he lacks bicep rotation. SP/Super Spidey's hips are similar to UP Spidey's (but SP has a larger groin plate which impedes motion) and, while both have torso joints, SP Spidey has a wider range of motion on the forward/back. UP Spidey's articulation blows SP Spidey out of the water. I will say that SP/Super Spidey's paint really works a lot better than UP/Ultra Spidey's. The brighter, clean colors just photograph better. However, UP/Ultra Spidey is still the superior figure. His sculpt is far more functional and the articulation is stronger. Within the fandom, ToyBiz is widely acknowledged as Hasbro's better. While ToyBiz is acclaimed for their 6-inch scale lines, less known is their 3.75-inch Showdown line (first called Marvel Superhero Showdown then later Marvel Legends Showdown). The Marvel Legends Showdown (MLS) Spider-Man, like many ToyBiz collectibles, has a greater emphasis on paintwork. There are a greater use of color and variation in his costume. However, the sculpt itself is fairly ugly. MLS Spidey's articulation puts UP Spidey to shame. The two figures have similar jointing at their elbows, knees, and biceps (as well as hip rotation). However, MLS Spidey has additional points in the form of a waist cut (in addition to a somewhat impeded torso joint) and rotation at the calves (something that UP Spidey really needs). ToyBiz made the regrettable choice of using actual ball-joints for the hips and shoulders (and presumably also the head) which can occasionally pop off. While MLS Spidey both ankle rockers and ankle pivot, he does have a deeper forward/back movement. Rather than ball-socketed wrists like UP Spidey, MLS Spidey has a forward cut and a pinned wrist which offers the same basic movement. Both figures have excellent movement despite being very different. MLS Spidey is easier to move and pose but he lacks stability between abnormally weak joints and a lack of stability in his sculpt. It's worth mentioning that he has a peghole which works with a flight-stand (meaning more posing options), something that would be wonderful to see Hasbro do as well. At the same time, UP/Ultra Spidey's stronger joints and better stability just make him easier to work with. Plus MLS Spidey's sculpt always struck me as being ugly. UP/Ultra Spidey seems the better figure. UP/Ultra Spidey's articulation really isn't amazing by the standards of newer Marvel Universe sculpts. He has some points they might necessarily not have, but they'll also have points he doesn't (like calf cuts, waist cuts, etc). That said, he remains greatly better than most Spider-Man figures still coming out as they tend to recycle older, outdated molds or opt for less articulation. At this moment, he's the one real must-buy from The Amazing Spider-Man 3.75-inch line, and is currently the best movie-based Spider-Man figure (including that junky-looking SDCC exclusive that used the Raimi films design).

Since the dawn of civilization certain unanswerable questions have plagued mankind, such as, "How many Spider-Man figures is too many?" Hasbro, in its hubris, has once again tried to answer that question by producing another ...

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