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SODO Sundays – July 12th, 2020

Hello, tokusatsu community! It’s Joshua Perry here to talk about SODO figures on my fortnightly series, SODO Sundays. Today, Zero-One starts its final retail set and the next series for SODO Chronicle is revealed!

Kamen Rider Zero-One

AI-10 will start with the Dodo Magia in 3 boxes. The first box will have his original Magia design. The second and third boxes are for Dodo’s Custom Upgrade forms. Specifically, the SODO figures can make his Dodo Magia Custom 2 form. In the show, Custom 1 is the armour from Custom 2 and the head from his base form but due to the neck peg system not matching between the two figures you’ll be unable to make the Custom 1 figure. They showed how it should look while saying how it can be made.

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To go with the Dodo Magia you can get his chick footsoldiers that will be out AI-09.

SODO Chronicle…

GAIM!

Gaim will be the next Rider Series to join the SODO Chronicle line. Out in November, the first set will have Gaim- Orange Arms, Baron- Banana Arms, Ryugen- Budou Arms, and Zangestsu- Melon Arms. They have changed the body mould a little bit with this release, changing the waist articulation to be a ball joint and having the hands-on a ball joint instead of just a peg.

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To fit with Gaim’s Arm Change gimmick you’ll be able to change the armours but to get the full effect stickers will have to be selected for the visors.

You can watch the latest SODO Sundays video over on the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

That’s it for this edition of SODO Sundays Season 3! Stay tuned for the next edition on both Toku Toy Store and the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

 

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Toku Review Round-Up! (July 4th, 2020)

Hello, and welcome to the first ever ‘Toku Review Round-Up!’ on the Toku Toy Store! I’m Adam – you may remember me from some other things I’ve written recently for this site, such as my ‘What makes a great Kamen Rider villain?’ piece and my recaps of the currently airing Super Hero Time Shows Machine Sentai Kiramager and Kamen Rider Zero One. Although I had tremendous fun writing those, I didn’t get much space to express my personal thoughts, criticisms and appraisals on what’s happening right now in the current, exciting moment of Tokusatsu. That’s about to change, however, as right now I have the extraordinary pleasure of reviewing the latest episodes of major tokusatsu shows for the Toku Toy Store, including Mashin Sentai Kiramager, Kamen Rider Zero-One and Ultraman Z. Every two weeks, I’ll be bringing you my ‘sparkling’ takes on the last two episodes of each show!

When this regular column was originally pitched, we lived in a more hopeful world where Covid-19 hadn’t destroyed everything yet. At the time I was first given the opportunity to write regular episode reviews, Super Hero Time hadn’t yet been delayed, and GARO Versus Road was still airing, which I very much wanted to include as part of this, but at the time of writing it finished last week, and this column is all about the currently airing shows. Sorry GARO, but you didn’t make it in, but thankfully Ultraman Z began and Super Hero Time returned at an opportune moment to form the three pillars of this regular review column (I liked GARO VR a lot, for the record!).

I’ll be reviewing the individual episodes of each of these major toku shows in groups of two, until the shows end, or I die (whichever comes first!). I’ll be trying to consider each episode on its own merits, but of course factoring in how the series has handled things throughout its run. I think it will be particularly interesting to compare the three shows at three different points in their life cycle, with Ultraman Z having only just debuted, Kiramager still in its early game and Zero-One approaching its end. I think there’s a lot to say about each show so far, but to really condense these reviews down to the most basic assessment, I’ve pioneered a ‘revolutionary’ five-star system for each episode, which you’ll see in action below!

Kamen Rider Zero-One – Episodes 35.5 & 36

Episode 35.5 of Kamen Rider Zero One is a bit of a weird one to start with because it feels like a partial recap episode, yet it still seems somewhat important for the continuity of the story. This episode in particular mostly focuses on our villain team of Metsubouijinrai, who are introduced to ‘Azu’, the evil counterpart of ‘Izu’ who appears to have been created as an emissary of the Ark satellite, which is now awake and ready to enact its will on the world.

Although there was a lot of recycled footage in this episode, I did enjoy how it introduced Azu, with Izu’s actress showing a different dimension in the form of a more malicious Humagear assistant. I also enjoyed the minor hesitations each member of Metsuboujinrai had in telling the story of how they gained their ‘singularity’. In particular, I appreciated how the minor changes Jin’s character has gone through thus far enabled him to carefully obscure his true intentions to avoid being inflicted with the ‘Malice learning ability’. This comes to fruition in the next episode, and upon reflection, they did quite a good job of establishing it here.

Outside of these minor details, there wasn’t a lot of new stuff in 35.5 to enjoy, probably due to its nature as an intermediary episode. There wasn’t even much Aruto outside of a small cameo. It was nice to be caught up again on the current thoughts and feelings of the Metsuboujinrai, but it felt more like a reminder than anything else. With that being said, this is the episode that introduces us to the Ark’s physical presence, which seems like it will be an important thing going forwards – it puts this episode in a weird limbo between being important and being just another recap. It’s somewhere between skippable and not skippable. On the Zero-One scale, it gets 2.5 ‘Burning Falcons’ out of 5. The charming performances elevate it a bit for me, but overall it felt quite forgettable as an episode.

Episode 36, however, was a lot stronger, and contained quite a few aspects that I liked, including Jin and Yua’s team up as a pay off to the last few episodes. I quite enjoyed the choreography in all of the fights against Ark-Zero, and it was interesting to see some kind of gambit in play against the new villain. The plan doesn’t really work though, and a lot of this episode consists of the existing players getting owned by the new bad guy.

I do like where Zero-One is currently headed but I think it’s been caught up in some problems along the way that may have prevented it from being even better. The extended pacing of the previous Arc has made it felt like we’re now rushing towards a new enemy and the way in which the last few episodes have played out have been frustrating in the way that characters seem to keep switching alliances. Side-switching is a Kamen Rider staple of course, so it’s partly to be expected, but I’m never really certain at the moment what certain characters are motivated by and I’m confused why more time wasn’t dedicated to establishing the threat of Ark-Zero, rather than ZAIA, who have faded into the background a bit at this stage.

Overall, though, episode 36 at least felt like there were a lot of moving parts to it compared to the previous ‘half’ episode. The use of Fuwa (and to some extent, Naki) continues to be the best part of the show – and at this point I’m enjoying where his character is at the most after his ‘reset’, and the emotional moment that they give him this episode was one of the stronger elements of this episode overall; seeing Fuwa laugh so much was a strange sight, but at least his character is moving forwards.

As Zero-One barrels towards its conclusion, it remains to be seen if it can wrap things up in a truly satisfying way. Aspects of it give me hope for the final block of episodes, though, and I give Episode 36 a solid 3.5 ‘Ark Drivers’ out of 5. 

Ultraman Z – Episodes 1 and 2

Tsuburaya productions have been kind enough to simulcast all the episodes of their latest show Ultraman Z via YouTube, with full english subtitling, which makes this one a really convenient watch for fans and newcomers to the world of Ultraman alike. The tone and continuity of the first episodes of Ultraman Z are also indicative of a show designed to draw in new people whilst also paying a kind reverence to Ultraman’s history. The first episode is a great introduction, and a fun look at the new Ultraman hero and the supporting cast.

I’m a big fan of how Ultraman brings its kaiju and mecha to life with the use of scaled model shots and CGI in a fantastic harmony. It doesn’t always look perfect but the first episodes of Ultraman Z make it clear that the show is confident in its own style. We’re immediately introduced to the man-made mecha of the series, Sevenger, which is really charming in its clunky appearance. Throughout the episode, the rest of the earth’s defense force – STORAGE – are also imbued with a lot of personality. Charming is definitely the key word for this first episode because I kept seeing stuff that made me smile or laugh.

Even the new Ultra hero, Z, is full of good vibes. Once they make their way to Earth to combat the threat of a ‘ferocious space shark’ Genegarg, they find themselves having to fuse with the earthling Haruki, who was piloting Sevenger. Z and Haruki have difficulty communicating with each other, and there’s even some humour to be found in the way Z asks Haruki to ‘chant [his] name!’ with more spirit in order to complete their mutual transformation. It’s clear from the beginning that Ultraman Z is going to be a really fun series, with a lot of soul at the core of its character writing.

Overall, the first episode was just a great time, and I’m not sure how else to explain it beyond how I have already – it just works! I give it 4 and half Ultra Medals out of 5!

The second episode was filled with a similar quality and involves Haruki getting used to his new responsibilities as someone merged with Ultraman Z, as well as his troubles with a new invisible kaiju. Everything that was great about the first episode is great again here, there’s more kaiju crushing action that has a very tangible look to it, and once again the characters have a lot of dynamic personality. More is shown about the inner workings of the defense group STORAGE, highlighting the hierarchy between the core members that form the show’s supporting cast.

We’re also given a general insight into what motivates Haruki – he’s striving to be better – in life, in his practice of Karate, and as part of the global defense force, STORAGE. He feels very responsible for his own failures, wishing to build upon himself. In an intense sparring practice, Haruki is told to ‘not just rely on his eyes’. This comes back later on in the episode, as Haruki uses this as inspiration to defeat the invisible Kaiju by ‘sensing’ it after merging with Z once more. It’s a neat conclusion to another neat episode and also showcases the STORAGE team working together nicely throughout. Although it’s not quite as strong as the opener, it’s still a succinct and smart episode – I give it 4 Zestium Beams out of five, and I’m really excited to see where Ultraman Z goes from here.

Mashin Sentai Kiramager –  Episodes 11 + 12

If you read my recap of Kiramager thus far, you’ll know that I’ve enjoyed it quite a bit in its first 10 episodes. It’s playing it quite safe for a Sentai series show but that’s definitely not a bad thing by any means. Even when Kiramager feels formulaic, it’s still managing to look pretty stylish while doing it.

Episode 11 kicks off with intense gameplay of Tekken, with our e-sports hero Tametomo taking the lead. After the match his hair is stolen by his competitor, who says something weird about using it as fuel for his ‘curse’. It’s a weird series of events, and soon after encountering a menacing Marrskman with the rest of the Kiramager team, Tametomo is sent back in time to re-experience their day all over again, starting with the weird encounter they had after their Tekken match.

It’s a funny and interesting premise for an episode, and it uses its twenty minute runtime effectively to do quite a lot with the concept, despite utilising a lot of cliches from other ‘time loop’ media. Tametomo has been one of the most fleshed-out members of the team so far, and this episode does a pretty decent job at continuing to show why, who manages to keep a good humour and competence despite the continual resets, figuring out what’s going on pretty quickly, but succumbing to feelings of isolation when he realises that he’s the only one experiencing the full extent of the time reset. It’s nice that Tametomo is given a more existential struggle in this episode, rather than just a physical one.

Tametomo eventually figures out what he needs to do after being inspired by others, resolving to repeatedly defeat the ‘reset button’ Marrskman over and over again until he yields his ability to reset time. If I’m being honest, I think it would have been more thematically appropriate if the episode would wrap up around here, but we have to stick to Sentai formula and have at least one battle on a larger scale. Despite this minor gripe, though, this episode is a really interesting solo adventure for Tametomo. I give it 3.5 out of 5 ‘Reset Buttons’.

Episode 12 gives us what many Sentai fans have been looking forward to for a while now – the debut of Kiramai Silver. This episode serves as a pretty excellent introduction to Kiramai Silver, with Kiramai Pink, Sayo, used as the point-of-view character. The adventure that ensues is pretty interesting – Sayo gets trapped on a mountain, with no way of escape, until an unusual man in a silver jacket appears!

The episode shows us a lot of back and forth between Sayo and this mysterious new figure, who shows a lot of excitement about things that make very little sense and expresses a lot of skepticism about fully saving Sayo from her peril due to a prophecy that we also hear Mabusheena quote at the beginning of the episode. Regardless, the two work together to find a treasure, which actually ends up being a ‘monstone’. What I like about this portion of the episode is the new character’s innate heroism, which shows through in everything they do – they’re laser focused on their goal, and as soon as the ‘monstone’ appears, he resolves to defeat it. 

Eventually, all of the Kiramagers end up in the same spot, fighting the same enemy, and the new guy’s name is revealed to be… Crystalia Takamichi. We then get our first transformation of Kiramai silver, which features an incredibly cool transformation jingle. The next five minutes of the episode are essentially dedicated to showing that Takamichi is the coolest guy, at least until it’s revealed that he’s Mabusheena’s brother, and abandoned Crystalia when they needed him the most.

It’s important to establish this kind of thing early on, and it puts Takamichi in an interesting place from the outset. It’s a cool storytelling move to make him appear to be the coolest guy and then have him revealed to be the worst guy soon after – it definitely creates some intrigue on where his character will go next to redeem themselves. 

Overall, it was a pretty cool and flashy introduction for the new hero, which also manages to raise some questions. It’s unfortunate that most of the main team were sidelined in this episode as a means to introduce Silver, but that’s just how it has to go sometimes. It’s another enjoyable outing for Kiramager – I give it 4 out of 5 ‘Shiny Breakers’.

That’s all for this edition of Toku Review Round-up, and this year’s tokusatsu continues to be an enjoyable escape from the tough conditions of the world. I’m excited to see where Ultraman Z goes from its strong start, I’m looking forward to getting more of Takamichi and I’m holding out hope for a suitably explosive final arc for Zero-One! See you next time as we found out what each of these shows has in store!

Toku Review Round-up is a fortnighty column. Join Adam again for more in two weeks!

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SODO Sundays – June 28th, 2020

Hello, tokusatsu community! It’s Joshua Perry here to talk about SODO figures on my fortnightly series, SODO Sundays. Today actual Zero-One news once again! Zi-O is over!

Kamen Rider Zero-One

AI-09 has revealed the rest of its figures! First up is the final form for Zero-One: Kamen Rider Zero-Two! This figure will come with the Progrise Hopper Blade that Metal Cluster Hopper but will also come with a special version of the Attache Caliber with a peg at the bottom for the hand to hold both swords and recreate the combined version from the show.

Next up is the final figure to finish the Kamen Rider Zi-O figures with Kamen Rider Tsukuyomi! After a nearly year wait she is going to be released in AI-09. She comes with her Faiz Phone X that she used throughout the show but never in her Rider form except for in a stageshow as well as a swappable hand to recreate her Luminous Fractor weapon she used to backstab Another Decade in the finale of Zi-O.

AI-09 isn’t done yet as the new villain for Zero-One will be here as well: Kamen Rider Arc-Zero. This figure will have painted eyes as most recent figures have had but will include the option for stickers for the eyes to have more detail on them.

In a surprise reveal the final figure for AI-09 will be a Dodo Magia. More information on him will be in the next update.

Kamen Rider Ikazuchi from AI-08 has also finally been shown off after a long wait.

SODO’s commitment to making every on screen form has been something they have been keeping up since Ex-Aid and this has always included the forms seen in Hyper Battle DVDs. Zero-One had one earlier this year but the form from the special seemed to be overlooked, until now. In the September issue of the TV-Kun magazine, a SODO figure for the Hopping Kangaroo Zero-One form will be released.

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Kiramager YUDO

A Japanese retailer put up pre-orders for the second set of YUDO figures for Kiramager and with them a list of contents. No pictures yet as the figures haven’t been revealed yet but the set will include: Kiramei Silver, Garza, the grunts of the season: the Bechats, and an accessory set. This set will be out in October.

UDO

You can watch the latest SODO Sundays video over on the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

That’s it for this edition of SODO Sundays Season 3! Stay tuned for the next edition on both Toku Toy Store and the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

 

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Kamen Rider Zero-One: The Story So Far

Here on Toku Toy Store, I recently recapped all of Machine Sentai Kiramager in anticipation of its return as part of the Super Hero Time broadcasting slot, giving a ‘sparkling’ summary and brief thoughts on the show. In light of the recent ‘presidential’ recap specials and the imminent return of the show, it only makes sense to revisit the currently airing Kamen Rider show in a similar way! So here’s an arc-by-arc look at Kamen Rider Zero-One so far, which approaches its endgame when it returns this weekend!

The Metsuboujinrai.net Arc

The story in Zero-One begins with a lot of information right out of the gate. Zero-One takes place in a world where A.I. is a predominant technological force, where ‘Humagears’ – synthetic human androids –  produced by the A.I Company Hiden Intelligence, have integrated into a variety of working roles throughout society. We are introduced to our lead character, Aruto Hiden, who is struggling to entertain crowds as an amateur comedian. We see him fail to win the favour of a crowd against a Humagear comedian who gets a lot of laughs, much to his disappointment. The Humagear comedian replaces Aruto’s job, but Aruto isn’t down on his luck for very long, as he’s soon approached by Izu, Hiden Intelligence’s presidential secretary, who informs Aruto of his grandfather Korenosuke Hiden’s demise and invites him to attend his will reading at the Hiden Intelligence corporation. Much to the shock of everyone at Hiden Intelligence, the will states that Aruto is the new company president! Not only that, but the position of president also shoulders him with the responsibility of defending the world from rogue Humagears using the ‘Zero-One Driver’ – a belt that transforms him into a Kamen Rider using advanced satellite technology!

We’re also introduced to our secondary characters within this first episode – A.I.M.S agents Isamu Fuwa and Yua Yaiba. A.I.M.S are typically dispatched to deal with Humagear threats. Fuwa is hot-headed whilst Yua has a bit more of a calculating temperament. They make a pretty fun duo to begin with.

After learning that the Humagear comedian at Aruto’s former workplace has gone rogue after being hacked by a shadowy figure, Aruto returns to enact justice. Activating the Zero-One driver gives Aruto an advanced tutorial on the suit’s systems, and he is able to quickly stop the threat of the rogue humagear. He accepts his new role as both president of Hiden Intelligence and a Kamen Rider, and resolves to achieve his dream of ‘making the world laugh’ through this new vocation. What a nice dream to have.

Much of the Metsuboujinrai arc can be characterised by Aruto juggling the responsibilities of being president of Hiden Intelligence with his responsibilities as a ‘Kamen Rider’. A variety of episodes show Aruto taking a hands-on approach to the presidency, delivering new Humagear units to businesses that could use them. Aruto believes steadfastly in the ability of Humagears to express humanity despite not being human. This is shown pretty effectively in episode 3, which has Aruto bring a Humagear to an acclaimed sushi chef Uozomi, who dismisses the possibility of buying a Humagear assistant chef, citing the Humagear’s lack of a ‘heart’ as a reason they can’t make quality sushi to his standards. Whilst the Humagear chef eventually finds acceptance with the master chef Uozomi after he is rebuilt from scratch, Aruto would advocate for his ability to make sushi as well as a human from the beginning.

Aruto’s attitude towards humagears seems to be because of a pivotal event in his childhood, which we see glimpses of throughout the show. Aruto was raised by a Humagear made in the image of his father, Soreo Hiden. Aruto’s humagear father was destroyed during a tragic event known as the ‘daybreak incident’, a large scale explosion that wiped out the ‘Humagear test city’ known as Daybreak Town. The show itself doesn’t do the best job of pointing it out, but I think it’s pretty interesting that characters express different perspectives on Humagears as a result of the daybreak incident, despite experiencing the event in only slightly different ways – Aruto and Fuwa both experience a form of trauma as a result of the daybreak incident, but develop very opposite perspectives on Humagears as a result. 

The core of this first arc, however, involves a lot of encounters with our first antagonist group, Metsuboujinrai.net, an organisation that believes in the inherent evil of humanity and the desire to ‘liberate’ Humagears. Aruto’s initial confrontations with the group reveal two members: Horobi & Jin, who have a kind of familial relationship – Jin is childish and silly whilst Horobi is more stern and cryptic , and both make repeated reference to ‘the will of the ark’ which seems to guide their motivations. Throughout the first arc, we see Horobi & Jin attempt to ‘hijack’ Humagears on both a small and large scale, operating out of  daybreak town – ground zero for the aforementioned ‘daybreak incident’, where a rogue satellite known as Ark, lies dormant. In addition, several other members of Metsuoboujinrai.net are working covertly to upend Hiden Intelligence and Humagear society as a whole to carry out ‘the will of the Ark’. It’s eventually explained that the ‘Ark’ is the antithesis to Hiden intelligence’s own satellite Zea, which was taught the value of humanity, whilst the Ark learned about the evils of humanity.

At most points, Aruto, Fuwa and Yua are able to subvert the plans of Metsouboujinrai.net, but rarely as a cohesive unit, and often at the cost of Hiden Intelligence’s reputation, which takes plenty of knocks from the repeated hacking of Humagears (This will be important later on!).

The A.I.M.S operative Fuwa also goes through a number of changes throughout this arc, initially presented as our secondary rider. Whilst Aruto must learn to wield his new powers responsibly, Fuwa is on a journey of learning to reject responsibility and authority in favour of doing what (he believes) is right, routinely ignoring the constraints of his position to take aggressive action. This is externalised by his transformation sequence, which initially shows him breaking open the wolf Progrise Key with sheer aggression to activate his ‘Shotriser’ which he is not authorised to use. Fuwa’s aggression is frequently targeted against Humagears, whom he despises due to a personal trauma from the daybreak incident, something he blames solely on Humagears. Fuwa is forced to confront his internal bias against Humagears several time, but most critically when he is severely injured during a massive Humagear hacking inciden at a hospital, and the only doctor who can give him life-saving surgery is a Humagear. Having his life saved by a Humagear begins to change his perspective, chipping away just a bit at the intense hatred he holds.

After many skirmishes with Metsuboujinrai.net and their corrupted Humagears, including the decisive defeat of other members of Metsuboujinrai.net such as the astronaut engineer Izakuchi,  this arc draws to a close with a dramatic set of ‘final’ encounters against Horobi and Jin using the Shining Hopper upgrade to Zero-One’s basic form, and then soon after, Shining Assault Hopper, which is synthesised by combining Fuwa’s Assault Wolf key with Aruto’s Shining Hopper key, granting Zero one a new form that allows them to strike the decisive blows to Jin and metsuboujinrai.net. Jin is ‘destroyed’, and Horobi is taken into A.I.M.S custody, bringing an end to the threat of Metsuboujinrai.net… for now.

The Workplace Competition Arc

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly where Zero-One transitions into its second arc, but soon after the threat of Metsuboujinrai appears to be quelled, Gai Amatsu, CEO of ZAIA Japan, begins to appear to the audience as an emerging new villain. It’s revealed that Yua Yaiba has an allegiance to ZAIA Japan rather than A.I.M.S, and is an assistant to Gai, who appears to have been manipulating the events of the first arc to meet his own needs. Preying on the fact that Humagears are still being corrupted despite the supposed resolution to the threat of Mesuboujinrai.net in order to suggest that Hiden Intelligence has failed to protect civilisation from the natural threat of the Humagears. This is declared in a public press conference, followed up with the assertion that ZAIA Japan intends to acquire Hiden Intelligence in order to stop production of Humagears and invest into A.I. enhanced ‘ZAIA Spec’ glasses. Aruto attempts to defend his company, so Gai suggests in order to settle the issue, they have a multi-part competition to determine the fate of Hiden Intelligence.

The first challenge of the competition takes the form of a floristry contest, where the two competitors of each company’s choosing get judged on who can create the most pleasing arrangement by a panel of experts. Aruto chooses the Humagear florist Sakuyo Ichirin, whilst Gai chooses human florist Rentaro Tachibana (enhanced with ZAIA Spec). The competition appears to end in a swift defeat for Hiden when the judges prefer Rentaro’s arrangement, but it becomes clear pretty quickly that Sakuyo’s arrangement was tampered with, an act of cheating that Gai won’t stand for as a victory, which does a great job of highlighting his personal pride, and sets the tone for the rest of the competitions.

The introduction of Gai also sees the introduction of Thouser, who has a strange but eccentric suit which is activated by his ‘thousandriver’, which utilises advanced keys of 5 horned creatures to create an immensely powerful Kamen Rider suit, which both Aruto and Fuwa struggle to defeat. The workplace competition arc features many battles with Thouser, many of which end the same way (Aruto getting owned) until Aruto is forced into and eventually able to control an immensely powerful brand new form – Metal Cluster Hopper.

Several more challenges in the competition come to pass, including a real estate challenge to see if Humagars or humans are better at selling houses, a legal trial to see if a Humagear is capable of providing a sufficient legal defence, and a firefighting challenge to see if Humagears can save lives. By the end of the challenges, Aruto and Gai are on two points each, leaving the final round to decide a winner. 

The final challenge of the job competition involves allowing the public to decide on if a new ‘humagear’ city should be built atop the ruins of Daybreak Town – a memorial that can also act as a place where humans and Humagear can live in harmony. Aruto puts together an ‘impressive’ campaign with the help of M.C. Check-it-Out, who writes a song to attempt to garner support, whilst Gai runs a more deceptive campaign focused on discrediting Aruto, Hiden Intelligence and appealing to the masses by promising the public distribution of the ‘raidriser’ belt as means of defense against rogue Humagears. Gai really has become entwined with a bitter corporate greed.

The end of this arc also shows us the debut of Yua’s new ‘raidriser’ Jackal form, which looks highly intimidating with a scythe weapon and a harsh red visor. We’re also introduced to the idea that both Fuwa are Yua are being indirectly controlled by an A.I. Chip which Gai has been using to manipulate their actions to a substantial degree using the intermediary Humagear Naki, a member of Metsuboujinrai.net. Horobi is freed from A.I.M.S custody by Fuwa under the influence of Naki, which is a pretty big deal, given that he was the one meant to be keeping him in custody. Oops.

Fuwa isn’t bothered by this for too long, however, as he is such an emotionally charged figure that he can just kind of, ‘force-of-will’ his way out of his brainwashing/programming situation, impressively synthesising a new suit upgrade in the form of Rampage Vulcan using the Rampage Gatling Vulcan progrise key. 

Getting back to the point of this arc, though (and the ‘point’ of this arc certainly is quite ambiguous in the show itself at times) Gai wins the vote, and as a result the whole job competition, allowing him to acquire Hiden Intelligence. The company is made a subsidiary of ZAIA Japan, decomissions production of new Humagears and literally begins replacing existing ones with ZAIA Spec glasses. If Aruto and Gai are playing chess, then at this stage, Gai holds all of the pieces.

Hiden Manufacturing Arc 

That is until Aruto steals some of the pieces back. Firstly in the form of the data of all of the essential Humagear characters we’ve come to know and love from previous episodes, and secondly in the form of keeping the ability to transform into Zero-One, regardless of Gai’s misguided assumption that this power would now be transferred to him as the new president of Hiden Intelligence.

We’re only a few episodes into the Hiden Manufacturing Arc so far as this is pretty much where we left off before the hiatus – but it seems that Kamen Rider Zero-One is issuing all the threads that the show will be continuing to follow until the end. Jin is back in a new, more cynical form, Aruto has left Hiden Intelligence to start his own company, Hiden Manufacturing, and Horobi is up to his old tricks. While Gai has complete control over Hiden intelligence, Aruto sets out to continue to aid the Humagears by restoring Humagear characters from previous episodes using the backup data he was able to retrieve. Gai continues to attempt to thwart Aruto’s efforts.

A few pretty interesting things have happened so far in this arc, including the reveal of Fuwa’s tragic memories as a fabrication by Gai, which calls all of Fuwa’s previously established backstory into question, but also allows him to realise the truth behind the Humagear Naki that is controlling him and create further independence for both himself and Naki. Yua’s also had a big character moment in her active rebellion against Gai, (finally) choosing to leave ZAIA Japan and vowing to destroy it in a dramatic reconciliation. The remaining members of Metsuboujinrai.net are similarly aiming their sights against Gai, as a reformed Jin seems to be beginning to understand the way in which Aruto values the Humagears, mutually acknowledging the need for Humagears to have a dream.

That’s pretty much everything that’s happened in Zero-One so far! The stage is set for Gai to have a pretty bad time in the final stretch of episodes, but there are still things to uncover as the recap episodes have shown the first glimpses at another mysterious villain. I’ve mostly enjoyed the show so far, and whilst I do have some criticisms with how it’s been paced during the middle stretch and how some of the characters have been handled, the show appears to be course correcting for something that looks quite satisfying in the end. I’m looking forward to its return!

Have you been enjoying Kamen Rider Zero-One? Where do you think the story goes from here? Sound off on our social media pages or drop us a comment below!

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Machine Sentai Kiramager: The Story So Far!

It’s been a while, but it looks like Super Hero Time is finally returning to broadcast on June 21st, bringing Tokusatsu titans Kamen Rider Zero-One and Machine Sentai Kiramager back to our screens! Despite this necessary break in programming, I think it’s fair to say that Super Hero Time returning is pretty exciting, in part due to the continuation of Machine Sentai Kiramager, which had really only just begun before Super Hero Time went on hiatus. Kiramager has had a pretty excellent showing so far in its first 10 episodes, but if you haven’t watched the re-cap special or Kiramager itself during its time off, you may have forgotten a few details – don’t worry, because we’re here to give you a ‘sparkling’ refresher course on everything that’s happened in Machine Sentai Kiramager so far!

Things began in a fairly standard way for contemporary Super Sentai first episodes – we were sweepingly introduced to our core team of heroes: KiramaYellow, Sentai’s first ever e-sports champion, KiramaGreen, a running athlete, KiramaBlue, a popular actor, and KiramaPink, a young surgeon. This group is introduced to us in classic Sentai fashion as an incomplete unit, using the powers lended to them by the ‘crystalians’ to fight threats on earth as the Kiramagers. The Kiramagers are chosen for their ‘Kiramentality’ –  a clever portmanteau combining the Japanese onomatopoeia for sparkling/shiny (‘kira kira’) and ‘mentality’ to represent a ‘shining’ way of thinking. The Kiramagers draw their power from sentient gemstones which latch onto those with a high level of ‘kiramentality’ forming a symbiotic relationship with them. As a team they’re looking for their fifth member – KiramaRed.

Of course, KiramaRed is found almost immediately in the form of our point-of-view character, Juru Atsuta, who is spending their time drifting off into imagination during school. This changes pretty quickly once the Yodonheim army attacks earth, immediately drawing the attention of the Kiramagers to respond to the threat, whilst Juru is initially too busy drawing to notice, but eventually catches on.

If you’ve seen a Super Sentai series before, then this first episode unfolds in the way you’d expect. Juru meets the team and is chosen by the crystal to become KiramaRed, but is initially unsure of how they’ll be useful to the team, despite the fact they’ve already been elected as the leader. This leads Juru to think about how they can use their existing skills to be a Kiramager, culminating in the first use of Juru’s signature ‘kiramaking’ power to bring his inspired drawings to reality, using the power of crystals. Juru does this to create the vehicle ‘machines’ that will become a mainstay in this series, and the five crystals work together as a fire engine, jet, helicopter, digger and sports car to save Tokyo from this kaiju threat. A bond is formed, and our team is created.

After this introduction, we then get several episodes dedicated to showing us members of the team learning to work together. There’s an episode focused on KiramaGreen, Sena, and her struggle over having to dedicate time to her career as an athlete against her responsibilities as a Kiramager. Red goes through the typical struggles of a Sentai Red ranger, caught between asserting himself as a leader and understanding Sena’s struggle as a friend. This ultimately leads to them using their inspirational powers to create a crystal that allows the user to create a clone of themselves. Neat! That’s something that will definitely come in handy later on, both in this episode when they use it to foil the villain, and the series as a whole where it will no doubt continue to be used.

We’re then treated to an episode about KiramaBlue, Shiguru Oshikiri, who in the opening fight of this episode fall’s victim to the enemy’s vice grip, which plants a literal giant vice onto his head, causing immense difficulties in his daily life as TV actor, as well as putting him on the proverbial bench for the Kiramagers. Oshikiri’s usual stoicism and arrogance is turned up to maximum as he attempts to deflect any assumptions that this new vice on his head bothers him in any way. Shiguru continues to attempt to act in their TV shoot and fight alongside the Kiramagers, but quickly finds that it’s quite difficult to keep up such a facade with a vice on your head. Ultimately, Shiguru learns to be a bit more trusting and open up to his team, choosing to let them support him in the final confrontation against the Vice Marsskman.  Another important teamwork lesson! 

The next episodes focus on the group’s Crystalian leader Mabusheena. With Mabusheena’s episode, we get the first steps towards developing a villain and our series arc. Mabusheena’s uncle Garza arrives on earth (in a pretty cool looking phantom train of some sort), and we learn that it was Garza who assassinated Mabusheena’s father, King Oradin, after being turned by the evil forces of Yodonheim. Despite this, Garza claims that King Oradin is alive! Of course, this is merely a deception by Garza, but the arc of the episode involves the Kiramager team uncovering Garza’s sinister intentions whilst Mabusheena is manipulated by him through her belief in her father’s life – it’s a sad tale, but a compelling one for sure. Mabusheena soon realises the truth, thankfully, KiramaRed is around to protect them from Garza in a pretty cool solo fight.

We then get an interesting episode about KiramaYellow, Tametomo, in an episode which briefly explores the dynamic between the sentient crystals and the Kiramager team. The crystals appear to have plenty of banter behind the scenes – the yellow crystal Shovellow asserting that Tametomo should be the leader of the group rather than Juru, and sets out on a mission to prove it. This is all occurring whilst we see Tametomo themselves in their element as the leader of their e-sports team. After Tametomo’s e-sports match, Sena talks to Tametomo, revealing an intricate backstory where his grandfather tragically died after a heart attack, after a less-than-positive interaction with young Tametomo who yells at him for buying the wrong video game. Tametomo deeply regrets his spoiled behaviour towards his grandfather, and asserts that his crystal Shovellow reminds him of his grandfather in some strange way. Shovellow is intent to make Tametomo leader, so searches for the new crystals on earth in order to create the ‘Shovellow corp’ (despite warnings from the other crystals to not do this). Shovellow ultimately succeeds in finding the other crystal machines, and jokes about creating a new super Sentai show with Tametomo as the leader and the sole member. 

Ultimately, the final fight with this episode’s villain involves Juru becoming frozen, briefly entrusting Tametomo and gemini clone to lead the counterattack in an elaborate performance designed to convince Shovellow of Juru’s power. It’s a nice moment that shows a slight evolution in the dynamic, and after the fight is wrapped up, we see Tametomo resolve to continue working with the slightly difficult crystal Shovellow, stating ‘he knew what I really wanted, deep down, after all’ in what could be described as a touching moment.

The next episode is all about KiramaPink, Sayo. It kicks off with a camera type Marsskman that has the ability to capture people with its photography powers – Sena and Shiguru are quickly captured in a photograph, which in turn transports them to a strange prison which drains their energy. Sayo on the other hand receives a head trauma, which transforms her into an amnesiac with no memories beyond age five of her life. This obviously puts the team in a difficult position, so Juru and Tametomo set out to cure Sayo’s amnesia by taking her to visit her old Aikido teacher. They learn of a pivotal event in Sayo’s young life (rescuing the adorable dog, Kotetsu!)  that established a pattern of working hard to save lives under pressure. Reminding her of this doesn’t do much,  but once the other Kiramagers are captured by the camera, the pressure forces Sayo to change back into their Kiramager form and then rescue the others with Helico, the pink crystal machine, before combining with the rest of the machines for one more showdown. Sayo’s memories are soon after restored by another head trauma induced by a playful Mabusheena, and the status quo remains!

Episode 7 begins with the team deciding that Juru can be a better leader and inducting him into an intense training regime – he’s forced to run with Sena, do Kendo with Shiguru, Aikido with Sayo and a shootout test with Tametomo. Juru is pretty exhausted by these tests, but feels ultimately that they are in his best interests to continue with. Things escalate, however, as the group begins to argue about which method of training is the most effective for Juru. This is quickly cut short by the appearance of two new Marsskmen, a fridge type and an oven type, who argue between themselves, mirroring the arguments of the Kiramager team. After their initial battle, we cut to Juru’s next training regime, which is even more intense than before, showing juru starting to hallucinate. This episode culminates in a battle against Garza, with Juru nearly passing out at the wheel of the combined crystal machines, until he notices a new hallucination – a shining white mech which is protecting the Kiramagers!

Episode 8 begins where the previous episode left off, and the other members of the Kiramager team can’t see the ‘shining giant’ that Juru is apparently hallucinating.  When Juru faints, the shining mecha vanishes, allowing the Kiramagers to escape. Juru falls into a coma-like state from exhaustion, and the red crystal blames Juru’s team for pushing him too hard with the training regime. Mabusheena tells the Kiramagers that they neglected his artistic skills, which is what gives his ‘Kiramentality’ life and is an essential ability within the group. Whilst comatose, Juru dreams of the Crystalian King Oradin, Mabusheena’s deceased father, creating a sketch under his guidance. When he wakes up, he realises that his dream was at least partially real, as he has drawn the image of a secret warehouse, which houses the white crystal Mabushina came to Earth in. Garza discovers Juru looking for the crister and attempts to destroy it, only for Juru to transform the crystal into a new crystal machine – the Mashin Express, which he uses to outrun Garza. The rest of the group apologises for their excessive training methods, and Juru then puts the rest of the team through an art class, restoring balance in a satisfying and humorous way.

We are then treated to two episodes that feel slightly more filler-y that the preceding two-parter. In episode 9, Sena encounters a rival from her past, Makino, who treats her with disregard and  who we eventually learn used to beat Sena regularly in the traditional Japanese card game Karuta. After a Karuta-themed Marsskman appears, Sena is forced to confront her past in failing against Makino in Karuta, as Makino witnesses Sena’s weakness when duelling against the Karuta Marsskman. Ultimately, the two are able to resolve their differences after saving Makino from the villain of the weak, and the two gain a mutual respect for each other. Episode 10 on the other hand sees our heroes buying into an internet urban legend about an idol who rises from the grave every night to sing. After watching a performance online, some members of the group get put to sleep through the insidious end to the idol’s performance, which launches a ticket into their hearts. Shiguru recognises the idol as a fan of his, Iyo, leading Sayo to attempt to fix the problem by forcing Shiguru to confront Iyo. It’s revealed that Iyo is being manipulated by a Yodonheim Marsskman, and also that Shiguru previously led them on through ambiguous responses to her affections. As more and more people become brainwashed by the Iyo’s broadcasts, Sayo is able to intercept the signal and restore her friends to health, while Shiguru confronts the situation by saving Iyo and defeating the Marsskman in one precisely controlled cut.

That’s (almost) everything that’s happened in Machine Sentai Kiramager so far! Personally, I think it’s been a very solid series, even in these early stages. It’s got a long way to go still, but Kiramager has remained pretty consistently whimsical, funny, and willing to engage with its characters on a personal level. I can’t really issue many complaints about what I’ve seen so far, and I had a lot of fun returning to it for this recap. I’m excited for the upcoming appearance of the sixth silver Kiramager and much more once the show has returned this weekend!

Are you exited for the return of Kiramager? What have you enjoyed so far? Join the conversation on social media or drop us a comment below!

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SODO Sundays – June 14th, 2020

Hello, tokusatsu community! It’s Joshua Perry here to talk about SODO figures on my fortnightly series, SODO Sundays. Today actual Zero-One news once again!

Kamen Rider Zero-One

To start off AI-09 we have two new HumaGear versions joining the SODO line! First up is the first generation of the HumaGear seen in the Reiwa: The First Generation movie as well as flashbacks from the series. This figure uses the base figure from the Guardians from Build and Kamen Rider Kikai from Zi-O. The figure, like the regular HumaGear coming in AI-08 gives you the optional sticker to have the good or evil HumaGear Module on the head and eyes.

Like the Another Riders from last year SODO is once again diving into the villains from the series with the Magia! The basic Trilobyte Magia was released back in AI-06 but now in AI-09 the other Magia are beginning to be released. First up is the Berotha Magia from the first episode. He comes with a Zetsumeriser that can be placed onto the normal HumaGear to recreate the transformation sequence. There are alternate stickers as well to show the uncracked and cracked Zetsumerize Key in the belt.

You can watch the latest SODO Sundays video over on the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

That’s it for this edition of SODO Sundays Season 3! Stay tuned for the next edition on both Toku Toy Store and the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

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What makes a good Kamen Rider villain?

When tokusatsu fans talk about Kamen Rider, there is – and always has been – a certain need to categorise the characters into the strict roles they serve in the story. We hear the terms of ‘primary’ ‘secondary,’ and even ‘tertiary’ or ‘extra’ Riders to describe the formation of the heroes, the order in which they appear in the story and to some extent, an internal hierarchy of heroism. Discussions about what the heroes in Kamen Rider should be for a good Rider story often become a bit heated – after all, people develop very personal attachments to the Rider they fall in love with first, and this. However, there’s another character label that seems to have even more of a potential to set fan discussions alight, and that’s the ‘villain’ of any given Kamen Rider series.

These are sometimes a solitary figure, sometimes a more organised, systemic threat, but always very much opposed to our protagonist (at least at first). Fans of Kamen Rider always seem to have strong opinions about what makes villainous characters compelling or not compelling, because the battle of good versus evil is what propels the story of Kamen Rider forwards and makes a series fun and engaging. Without a good villain, there would be no obvious target for our heroes to kick from the sky, and nobody to stylishly explode our heroes in retaliation.

Discussion surrounding what makes a ‘good’ Kamen Rider villain mostly boils down to personal preference of course, but I do think a sort of profile of characteristics of an interesting Kamen Rider villain can be drawn up, just by looking at what appears most commonly in the show and thinking about what makes certain Kamen Rider villains seem appealing on a thematic level.

Firstly, I think there has to be some level of personal connection with – and intimate understanding of – the protagonist Rider. Even when there isn’t the most direct connection, the most compelling Rider villains seem to be the ones that are able to hold a mirror up to the main Rider’s morality, taking swift cuts to the values that the heroes claim to hold dear or present as part of their heroic nature. A good Rider villain is able to use this to get inside the head of the hero in this way, whether that’s through a detailed knowledge of the Rider’s past or just keen observation, excellent Rider villains have an incredible ability to spot weaknesses.

Good Rider villains in this way can often be seen as two sides of the same coin, and this is usually expanded upon in the finer details of the lore of each series, where we often find their powers to mirror each-other in a literal sense. This is one of the principles of the original showa era Kamen Rider, who exists as a product of the villainous organisation Shocker, returning to enact divine retribution on his former torturers, whilst still bearing the marks of the horrors he went through. This is an essential duality that signifies the wider conflict, and one that maintains some degree of resonance in how Rider positions its heroes and villains to this day.

This idea of duality is something that comes up a lot when Riders are pitted against their villainous counterparts. If you were to watch a random selection of Heisei era shows, you’ll often find Riders having to battle evil versions of themselves, or alternatively harness some sort of darkness within them.

There are many iterations of this in Rider, but to cite a few examples recent shows, Evolto from Build acts as a parallel to main Rider Sento in a lot of interesting ways, representing the destructive capabilities of scientific evolution that Sento wishes to turn away from in favour of ‘love and peace’. This is shown visually and thematically in the way that Evolto is able to assimilate the aesthetics of certain characters by possessing them, and at a crucial point, possessing our hero sento and morphing the iconic colours.  As another similar example, Ex-Aid’s Dan Kuroto, whose Rider form takes on a dark palette swap of the iconic Ex-Aid suit, contrasts with the protagonist Emu through an ego-centric philosophy that directly opposes Emu’s desire to heal others. In both of these cases however, Rider presents some crossover in the viewpoint of the heroes and villains, choosing to acknowledge some form of nuance in this area. 

The idea of the fine line between heroism and villainy was also utilised in an interesting way in Zi-O, which turned the idea of villainy on its head, at least to begin with. For all of Zi-O’s supposed flaws, I think the idea of our hero being destined to become a great evil is at least compelling for a little while, even if this was a more compelling idea than what the show was ultimately able to achieve.

Furthermore, Kamen Rider villains seem to be particularly engaging when they force the hero to continually improve upon themselves through challenge – in essence, Kamen Rider villains have to be better than the hero, at least to begin with. This is more to do with story structure and pacing than anything else, but Rider villains can’t be engaging if they’re too easy to defeat. This is essentially what differentiates Rider villains from the kaijin that we see easily defeated in single or multi episode arcs. This is done excellently in Kuuga, which gives us N-Daguva-Zeba, a bizarre but highly engaging villain who appears obsessed with Kuuga’s own growing strength as much as his own. This created such a wonderful dynamic in Kuuga, which I think ultimately proved to be key to that show’s success, re-establishing an easily replicable dynamic for the early Heisei era.

Another essential component to a good Rider villain which we see throughout the series is the idea of both mystery and omnipresence. Having our villain be at first unknowable can really escalate the tension in a satisfying way, and this is often made more obvious through the conspiratorial nature of villainous organisations that we see within Kamen Rider. A shadowy omnipresence feels crucial to the Kamen Rider villain – at least up to a certain point. After all, we need to know who they are eventually!

One final quintessential theme with Rider villains is the idea of making a turn towards heroism. This typically happens during a crucial dramatic moment, and the list of villainous characters that have changed their ways in Kamen Rider is a pretty long one. I’m personally split on the use of this idea, as I think it’s led to some amazing results and some that aren’t quite as satisfying in the history of the show. I tend to appreciate this most when the change is permanent and can build towards an emotional character moment of self-sacrifice, but only if that sacrifice feels like it was earned (this is a complicated issue in and of itself).

Discussions of the villains of the currently-airing Rider series Zero-One have been so unique because there’s been a wide array of new interpretations of these classic ideas of villainy in both positive and negative ways. Both Metsouboujinrai & Gai ‘Thouser’ Amatsu have shown us antagonists willing to challenge Aruto on a fundamental level, questioning his unfailing belief in both Humagear and the idea that humanity can be learned, whilst also challenging him to become stronger. Similarly, both Metsobojinrai and Gai have been part of wider conspiracies to define the fate of the humagear, and both have indicated that they might be willing to ‘change sides’ to help eradicate a greater threat. With some unfortunate repetition of certain villainous tropes and odd switches in power dynamics aside, the stage in Zero-One is currently set for some interesting final conflicts. I think it’s all because we’ve gotten villains that are well-suited to challenge our heroes, by giving us a kind of ‘greatest hits’ of what we’ve enjoyed and also found irritating about Rider villains before, and using this as a platform to elevate its dynamic conflict. Whether this is something you’re into, or even something you agree with conceptually is a different matter of course, but I think even when Zero-One‘s villain’s are at their worst, they’re at least moving the show forward in a way that’s suitable for the context of the show.

Of course, Rider villains won’t always adopt these traits identified here, and certainly many of these ideas can be used badly when placed in the wrong context. This profile of a ‘good’ Rider villain will undoubtedly be different for everyone, and if even in fan discussions where there is overlap on what works, people will assign different values to certain traits that could tip certain villains into being their favourites. There are some valuable criticisms of all of Kamen Rider’s most popular villains, and I think it would be silly in any case to assume that there is one way of doing that could be universally successful. However, the style & pattern of Rider villains that I’ve tried to identify here is one that is clearly working in a lot of ways; the show has produced quite a number of iconic and beloved villains, and the fact that we can even try and dissect it here is perhaps the biggest testament to their continued importance. They’re a bit more than just a target for Rider Kicks!

What are your thoughts on Kamen Rider villains? Do you agree or disagree with my summation of them? Join the conversation with me @aruphexille on Twitter, on Toku Toy Store’s social media pages or leave a comment below!

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SODO Sundays – May 31st, 2020

Hello, tokusatsu community! It’s Joshua Perry here to talk about SODO figures on my fortnightly series, SODO Sundays. Today actual Zero-One news once again!

Kamen Rider Zero-One

AI-08 has finally revealed some Zero-One characters to join all of the Over Quarterz Riders to finish off the set. First up is the HumaGear! This figure follows the Trilobyte Magia figures from AI-06 as well as shares some moulding from that figure. There will be a sticker option to display the HumaGears in their good, blue eyes versions or their taken over evil red eye version.

That’s almost it for AI-08 but the final figure will be the long teased Kamen Rider Ikazuchi who was teased all the way back in December. He’ll be officially revealed in time for the next SODO Sundays.

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Kamen Rider Kuuga

SODO Chronicle Kuuga Set 1 just released in Japan and the Bandai blog has been posting in depth showcases of the figures. Last week was for Titan Form and while nothing much new was shown off for the figure there was a hidden tease in the photos. One showing Titan Form among some Tamashii Flame Effects showed a prototype for Kuuga’s bike the TryChaser. There are no details on how the bike will be released at this point in time.

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SHODO-X 10

Now that the most recent SHODO Set is about to be released the next set has been revealed. Set 10 will feature Kamen Rider Kabuto in his Rider and Hyper Forms. These will include his weapons as well as pieces to make the Hyper Clock Up effect.

The Showa Rider joining Kabuto in this wave is Kamen Rider Super-1. He will be released with his different hand options as well as his bike the Blue Machine.

You can watch the latest SODO Sundays video over on the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

That’s it for this edition of SODO Sundays Season 3! Stay tuned for the next edition on both Toku Toy Store and the Toku Toy Store Facebook page.

 

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Kikaider

Android Kikaider (人造人間キカイダー), or simply Kikaider, is the 1972 series that was created by Ishinomori and is one of the quintessentially iconic tokusatsu shows, being one of the first to air in the West.

It sees the android Jiro fight for justice, and revenge for his creator, against the despicable DARK and their Dark Destruction Corps. It’s basically another Kamen Rider except this one looks really, really daft.

kikaider rhino

I know I’m supposed to give the show the benefit of the doubt because of it’s age but I’ve put up with a lot of Ishinomori’s nonsense over the course of these past two months and having to watch his best idea but worse isn’t exactly endearing to me.

kikaider entrance

I will say that Jiro, played by Daisuke “Battle Cossack” Ban, looks good in the role and I now have more of an appreciation for Rento Makina, the Rider homage to Kikaider in Kamen Rider Zi-O. They nailed that 70s denim and flairs aesthetic that looks really cool for some reason. I can’t really speak to the other cast members because they’re not given a lot of lines to work with.

The fight choreography is really stilted and that’s a massive drawback for me. I’ll forgive a lot of nonsense for cool action but Kikaider’s got nothing in a fight except a lacklustre chop. You’re a machine man, throw a punch! I did like the rhino monster and the stylised tease of the monsters we can expect as the show goes on but I wonder if Kikaider suffered from monster recycling like more modern toku does?

kikaider end

Kikaider is an iconic tokusatsu that you will no doubt recognise from look alone so while you’ve got access to a subbed version, I recommend checking it out so you can say you’ve watched it at least. You might as well, eh? Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Kikaider 01, which was due to be reviewed by me but since it has no English subs (not even auto-generated), I skipped it in favour of this show.

You can now find Kikaider, as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.

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Toei Tokusatsu World Reviews: Daitetsujin 17

Daitetsujin 17 (大鉄人17) is what you get when Shotaro Ishinomori decides to make his own version of Giant Robo and it is fantastic. The 1977 series ran for a total of 35 episodes and even made its way over to the US, albeit in a rather unique fashion. Several of its episodes were edited into a movie, which was then released under a number of different titles – including “Brain 17” and “The Defenders and the Giant Brain”. The titular robot has also had numerous toys over the years, many of which I’ve been heartbroken to discover are inordinately expensive now. If you haven’t already realised, I REALLY liked this show.

The show opens at the International Peace Corps Research facility, which houses Brain – a giant supercomputer designed to help protect the Earth from disaster. However all of a sudden Brain goes haywire and starts firing at its guards, causing mass destruction as it up and leaves the facility. Already the show feels like a massive flex when it comes to visual effects. Brain is this elaborate construction of gears and globes, lit up like a neon-coloured monstrosity. Its escape comes at the total destruction of the Research Facility, already setting a high bar for miniatures and pyrotechnics. And this is only the first three minutes.

Both Brain and the renowned scientist Professor Hastler have gone missing, and its up to the International Peace Corps (also known as the Red Scarves, because Ishinomori loves a red scarf) to find them. A year later and they still haven’t had any luck, but on a routine patrol they meet Saburo and his family. His sister is off to get married, but the family’s truck has gotten stuck. The Red Scarves help out and everything seems normal.

But on their journey of course leads to disaster, when a landslide throws their truck off a cliff – killing the family instantly. Saburo is left as the only survivor, noticing a robotic cylinder at the top of the cliff before passing out. When he wakes up at a Red Scarves camp Saburo immediately runs off, making his way back to the cliff. On the way he falls into a cave, where he finds both Brain and its Nazi-esque bodyguards.

While making his escape he inadvertently activates a giant robot also being stored into the cave, which comes to life and brings Saburo to the surface. Saburo thinks he’s about to die, but the robot just offers him a strange helmet. This is another instance of the show excelling at visual effects, not just from the robot itself (complete with transformation sequence and vibrant disco light eyes) but also the camera trickery used to illustrate the sheer size of the machine.

After leaving the robot he’s found by the Red Scarves, and the group begin to theorise that maybe Brain has chosen to turn evil of its own volition. They don’t have much time to think about it though as a giant steamroller robot begins destroying the city, in an EXTREMELY impressive display of miniature destruction.

The military’s efforts seem futile, but then the giant robot appears to save the day! As it celebrates victory and turns to our heroes, is the robot friend or foe? The episode ends on this fantastic cliffhanger, and immediately I wanted to click over to episode two rather than writing down my thoughts.

Daitetsujin 17 has it all. It has action, tragedy, strong protagonists and the kind of unbridled action we all love to see in tokusatsu. If you’ve ever watched a Super Sentai series and wanted a little more focus on the mecha action rather than the costumed heroes, this is the series for you. There may be a wealth of anime out there to get your mecha fix from, but it’s not quite the same as seeing the style and craftsmanship of it all in live-action. Usually I save the majority of my miniatures praise for Tsuburaya Productions, but Toei seriously brought their A game on this.

Daitetsujin 17 is the last series I’ll be writing a review of for this project, and rather unexpectedly it turned out to be far and away my favourite. I loved every second of this episode and definitely want to see more. If the Giant Robo tokusatsu can get a fully subbed DVD release, then I can’t see any reason why this can’t as well.

You can now find Daitetsujin 17 as well as many other tokusatsu shows, on the TOEI Tokusatsu World Official YouTube channel to watch for free with English subtitles.