Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Tomica Earth Granner: Kizuna Gattai DX set

January 2020 I saw a pre-order for the first wave of Tomica Earth Granner toys, including this Kizuna Gattai DX set. I had loosely been following some of the previous Tomica series of toys, but while those focused on a rescue and emergency themes, I could tell Earth Granner was going to be different. I've never cared for Power Rangers, but that did cross my mind when I first saw these toys. After seeing a clip from the upcoming animated show I was intrigued enough to seek out a pre-order. 

This set contains toys of Gao Granner Leo, Gao Granner Cheetah and Gao Granner Eagle, along with a special edition Core Granner vehicle (dubbed the Earth Wheel version). All of these toys (sans the special Core Granner) were made available individually, but at the time I coud pick up the DX set for less than purchasing the 3 toys separately.

When the giftset finally arrived in the mail I was floored by the size of the packaging. In typical Takara Tomy fashion, the packaging is top notch and well laid out. The back of the box gives you an idea of what the 3 toys are capable of. On the left side of the box you can see how all three toys interact. The right side of the box previews the next figure to be released in the series, Gao Granner Shark.

Inside the large giftset are all 3 vehicles, from left to right:

Gao Granner Leo, Gao Granner Eagle and Gao Granner Cheetah

The story of Gao Granner: Earth Energy is a force generated naturally by the Earth's rotation. A mysterious alien enemy from space know as "Dark Spinner" has invaded Earth in order to steal the Earth Energy and transform it into Dark Energy. The only ones who can stand up to stop them are twin brothers named Raiga and Kuga, who are fighting together with the Earth Defense Team, Earth Granner.

In typical Japanese fashion, the two brothers are young kids who just happen the be the key to the Earth's survival. Raiga pilots Geo Granner Leo while Kuga pilots Gao Granner Eagle. The Core Granner vehicle can merge with either of Leo or Eagle to combine with Cheetah (or Shark) to form a large robot. The premises is quite simple and very cool at the same time.

The Core Granner vehicle is your average size Tomica vehicle (or think Hot Wheels or Matchbox), yet there are electronic lights and sounds built into the figure that activate when the Core Granner interacts with one of the larger toys. I'm not sure if the sounds in this version of the Core Granner vehicle are different from the regular version that was sold separately, but you can see the wheels are cast in a bright green versus black. 

When the top of the car is depressed it activates the electronic lights and sound. Leo's logo is displayed on the windshield of the vehicle and depending on how many times the button is pressed it will play a different phrase or sound.

I have to say that Gao Granner Leo is pretty awesome. I wasn't sure what to expect when I started to unpack the vehicles, but once I removed Leo from the box I could tell the toy felt a lot like the previous Tomica toys I owned in the past. I love the red/white color scheme with the gold accents. In the center of the vehicle you'll see a translucent blue canopy, this is where the Core Granner vehicle can be inserted.

The large gold daggers on each side on the front of the vehicle can pivot forward for attack mode. Conversely, the large claws that normally cover the rear wheels can be attached to the sides of the front.

Gao Granner Leo transforms to form the top half of Earth Granner Lio Cheetah. Here you can really see the lion motif of Leo. As I started to form the combiner robot I knew that I was going to like this series. Next up is Gao Granner Cheetah.

Gao Granner Cheetah is not nearly as impressive as Gao Granner Leo. The Cheetah motif is a little more obvious, but if you look at the vehicle close enough you can see it's basically just a set of legs with wheels. Cheetah does hold the combiner's large sword and sheath however on what is essentially the engine block.

Cheetah's conversion to a pair of robot pants is rather simple and straight forward. As a stand alone vehicle the toy is rather unimpressive, but you wouldn't buy Cheetah if you didn't have Gao Granner Leo or Eagle.

OK, now we're talking! Once you get Gao Granner Leo and Cheetah combined together you can see just how these two are mean to be one. The sword's sheath can be wield in hand or attached to either side of the legs. The level of articulation in combined mode is quite impressive with a wide range of motion in the shoulders, elbows, hips, needs and feet...all courtesy of satisfying ratcheting joints.

I found Gao Granner Eagle to be really impressive, perhaps the best vehicle of the trio in the giftset. The eagle themed sculpting is nicely done, yet the wheels that are integrated into the wings prove no real use...unless they they are meant to double as turbines as part of a VTOL system. In the rear of the vehicle you have two small jet engines. I the center is a translucent pink canopy for the area that houses the Core Granner vehicle. Just in front of the canopy is the eagle head that is painted to look a lot like the canopy of a jet.

The eagle claws that are normally underneath the vehicle can be removed and attached underside of each wing. Whether these are used as claws or a type of weapon (missile pods?) I'm unsure as I've only watched a few episodes of the anime.

Once combined with Gao Granner Cheetah you've got another impressive combined robot. Being that Eagle already as yellow accents he looks pretty good with Cheetah attached. I didn't think I would care for this combination after I had Leo and Cheetah combined, but as nice as these two look together Eagle's combination partner was meant to be Gao Granner Shark. Originally he wouldn't be released until about 2 months later. Shark would go on to sell out pretty quickly (at least the individual release) and it would be quote some time before I was able to get my hands on him. Check back for a review on Shark and how he integrates with Eagle.

I had a lot of fun with these 3 toys. Since I picked up the gift set there have been a few other releases in the series and they look just as good, if not a little better. This is one of those series that if I had more money and display space I'd probably pick up more in the series, but if you only can pick up one set either one of these pairings are recommended.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Matchbox Monday: 2019 #050/100 '17 Ford Skyjacker Superduty F-350

From the 2019 series, '17 Ford Skyjacker Superduty F-350 is part of the MBX Rescue subseries.

I'm more of a Chevy guy...always have and always will be, but this is a nice truck. The fact that is part of the Police theme is just icing on the cake. For a basic model this one has a lot of paint apps and they look great...from the starts across the side to the police emblem on the hood of the truck. While the rear lights received paint, the front grill sadly did not. Expectedly, the tires used are big and chunky. The blue chrome stripe around the wheels looks fantastic against the metallic silver used on the body. 

Matchbox Monday: 2020 #027/100 International Armored Truck

From the 2020 series, International Armored Truck is part of the MBX City subseries.

I've always found armored trucks to be fascinating so when I saw this truck hanging on the pegs I knew I had to pick it up. While I would have preferred a different deco from the Mattel Federal Credit Union, this is still a very solid release. While the body of the truck is plastic, the undercarriage is die-cast metal. There is a great deal of detail molded in, but with the paint apps on the side it means that the front and rear of the vehicle have to do without paint. It's a shame as the grill would look great with some paint apps. The tires and wheels look fantastic, probably one of my favorite combinations.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

American Gladiators: Zap


American Gladiators was a game show on ABC that debuted and 1989 and lasted for 7 seasons. While I loved watching the show as a kid, never did I wish for toys of the Gladiators. However Mattel did make a series of toys including playsets. I have no idea how I ended up with this figure, but I thought before it went into the donate pile, I'd snap a few quick pictures and create a here we are!

The red blister card has an image of the Gladiator, Zap in this instance, along with a large American Gladiators logo. The figure and the jousting accessories are clearly shown behind the detached bubble. You can see the bubble has yellowed due to it's age (and probably the way it was stored all these years).

The back of the card features a cross sell of the other figures and playsets produced. The only set that looks remotely interesting to me is the Gladiator Assault...that was always my favorite "game" from the show.

I can't imagine this line sold very well...just look at this figure. I never thought Zap was all that attractive Gladiator, but this toy does not help her case. The face sculpt is horrible and with almost zero articulation the figure is stuck in this awkward squat position and to top it off the plastic used leaves a lot to be desired.

One you gear up the figure it's not much better. Granted the figure holds the jousting stick OK, how much fun you really have with this figure? I don't know, maybe back in 1991 when this figure was released it was more relevant and kids had fun with these, but I just don't see the appeal.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Transformers Kingdom: Huffer


My beloved whiny orange and blue semi truck minibot from Generation 1 is finally back and sporting a brand new look. Huffer has not had a decent new mold in quite some time so I was thrilled to hear that he would be getting the deluxe treatment as part of the Transformers War for Cybertron: Kingdom series.

Huffer comes packaged in the now standard WFC type blister box similar to the Siege and Earthrise. There is a small window on the front that allows you to see the figure inside while the rest of the box is covered in some absolutely gorgeous artwork. The back of the box has two images of the figure, one for robot mode and one for vehicle mode. It lets the consumer know that in just 14 steps you can transform the figure between either mode.

Inside the package Huffer is packaged with his easy to follow instructions, a gun and claw type weapon.

I'm an thrilled with the overall look of Huffer. The designers did a great job at capturing his likeness from the old animated Sunbow television series, while still giving him a modern updated look. The colors and sculpting are spot on, even the head sculpt is fantastic. I should note that you can pull out the cab on his back a little to give his head and shoulders a little more clearance if you will. Most of the photos I took were of Huffer straight out of his packaging.

In the old show Huffer was always whining and didn't seem like much of a warrior, but this version if Huffer means business! Back in G1 the majority of the minibot characters weren't packaged with weapons so its nice to see that Huffer is finally well armed. This gun is rather big for a hand gun, so I'm imagining it as a more of a shotgun. He also comes packaged with a claw/shield that attaches to the side of his arm via a 5mm peg. Personally, I don't care for this piece so I'm glad you are able to stow it on the back of the truck's cab in robot mode if you'd like.

At first glance I loved the way his vehicle mode looked, however after messing around with the figure for a bit there are some aspects of the design that I'm not wild about. Certainly though it's an upgrade from past molds/versions of the character.

Taking a look at the front of the truck, the designers nailed the look of the grill, headlights and bumper. The translucent blue windows looks fantastic against the light orange of the body and silver accents. When we get to the rear of the truck is when my excitement starts to wane a little. The smokestacks/robot arms has always been tough to pull off and while these look OK, I'm just not crazy about the fists being exposed. So much of the robot kibble has been successfully tucked away, but the fists are just there. It's not a deal breaker, but I wish the fists could have folded into the smokestacks and been better concealed.

I also found the clearance in the front to be an issue as the wheels were really close to a gray piece that forms part of the shoulders in robot mode. I was able to work this loose a little to where the front wheels had a better range of movement. The back tail end of the truck was great with the "metal" plate for the trailer connection to the molded tail lights that are painted red. The silver wheels also look good, though the tires are pretty slim.

Huffer's gun separates into two halves and can be attached to the rear sides of his truck mode. Snap on the claw/shield to the trailer connector to complete the look. I for one can appreciate all of the accessories being self contained, but with these pieces attached Huffer looks more like a dump truck (even a certain Autobot Throttlebot).

It's comparison time! What good would it be if we didn't look at "new" Huffer alongside "old" Huffer? As you can see there is a quite a size difference between the two, but I always envisioned Huffer as being bigger than some of the other minibots like Bumblebee, Cliffjumper or Beachcomber. The head is obviously modeled after his animation model and not his G1 toy (thank you!) and the colors on Kingdom Huffer a little more muted than on his G1 self. Again, I think this is to match the animation model.

Studio Series Jazz is a fantastic toy, but I'm so backlogged that I doubt I'll get around to giving him his own review. If we're judging the height of each robot by the top of their head, they Jazz is slightly taller...and should be. Scale is always just a controversial subject with Transformers toys - some fans will be OK with this comparison while others will probably say that Huffer is oversized.

I pulled out Earthrise Optimus and WFC Netflix Bumblebee next and I'm loving this scale. Huffer should rightfully be bigger than Bumblebee. He pulled Optimus' trailer at time or two so I think he's the perfect size when compared to Optimus.

Overall I'm thrilled with Huffer. It's hard to choose a favorite as many of the figures in the current War for Cybertron trilogy have been fantastic. Huffer has always been one of my favorite characters so I may be a little biased here, but this is a must buy. He looks great in both modes and has a fun and easy transformation. If you can find him at retail, buy won't be disappointed.