Review by netkid
If you know one thing about me it's that I love hunting toys down. New toys, Old toys, Domestic toys, International toys, but most importantly, toys I didn't know existed or cancelled toys that never came to be (and learning the doomed stories behind them). Call it an obsession, call it a rekindling of the primordial hunter-gatherer urges still emitting from my evolved reptillian brain stem, but when you get down to it, everyone likes a good pursuit, a great mystery, and a satisfying journey. If there's one Toy company out there that CONSTANTLY serves up heaping dishes of cancelled or VERY poorly distributed toy mysteries, it's our good ol' friend Bandai of America.
Bandai of America, the same company that released Battle-Scarred Red Astray and Duel Gundam figures...only in France. Bandai of America, the same company that released the second half of the Power Rangers RPM toyline everywhere BUT the United States. Bandai of America, the same company that released the 2003 Astro Boy cartoon show's deluxe-class toys "Triple Change Pluto" and the "Transforming Akita Squad Car"...in Australia. Sometimes Bandai of America forgets it has AMERICA in it's name. I can't tell you how many times they've displayed something at Toyfair, or in a press release, or on the back of their packaging, or in one of their little pack-in brochures, of an item or several items that either never saw release, or only got released in a very specific part of the world that was NOT America. Sooo many toys have died at that company before reaching production.
Heck, there's even an entire news article press-release here on CDX for a Bandai of America toyline called Team Galaxy that got completely cancelled (https://www.collectiondx.com/article/nytf07_bandai_team_galaxy). The WHOLE toyline. Revealed, Hyped, Photographed, and just...GONE. Completely Thanos-Snapped out of existence. Sucks too 'cause it looked cool and very fun. Wanna see a real horror show? Go look up the toy massacre that was their cancelled Thundercats 2011 toyline (https://www.tfw2005.com/boards/threads/never-before-have-i-felt-physical...). MASSIVE amounts of product axed! Geeze, now that I think of it, I don't even recall seeing their Doraemon line appear at US stores...(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xYDYAQYkRc) And don't even get me started on the second season of cancelled Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog toys!(https://www.grnrngr.com/toys/mystic-knights) Oh God, was that PAINFUL to learn about. ACK! Sooo many awesome toys never happening. Anyways, we're here today for a journey into one of these very scenarios from Bandai of America, so let's begin...
Back in 2014, the US Toyfair was in full swing and CDX was covering all of it. Mixed into all the different toy lines was the resurrection of Digimon for American toy markets ( https://www.collectiondx.com/article/nytf_2014_bandai_america_digimon ) as a new TV series imported over from Japan. The Japanese Digmon Xros Wars show was being brought to the rest of the world under the name Digimon:Fusion. Now this wasn't really a surprise to Digimon fans as the show had been announced and toys already started appearing at American Target stores in late 2013, so collectors knew what was coming out. What was a surprise though, were a couple of new Digimon:Fusion toy reveals at the US Toyfair. Toy reveals that were not present at the London or Nuremberg Toyfairs.
One of those new reveals was a combining Sparrowmon:
And along with him were 3 new articulated mini-figures of AxeKnightmon, Shoutmon X5, and Beelzemon:
And then nothing became of them...The above 4 toys never appeared in stores. The ones that did appear in stores eventually made their way to Target clearance racks and later, Burlington Coat Factory discount Christmas toy sections. Mmh...methinks this line didn't sell very well. Another cancelled group of Toyfair toys to add to the pile of corpses left in Bandai America's wake. Oh well.
Enter the year 2019.
Unbeknownst to us all, the Pandemic of 2020 is on the horizon...
I am browsing Collection DX and stumble upon the Digimon category. I see the toy reviews for the Japanese Xros Wars figures. I see all the characters Japan got in toy form that we didn't here in America. And a memory pops into my head. That old memory of the 2014 US Toyfair coverage... That old unreleased Sparrowmon toy... And I wonder.....hmmmmm...
Let's give it the old college try.
Off to Google Images I go!
Eventually it happens.
I find something.
Sparrowmon. With the other 3 figures that were released in stores.
Is this an unreleased case assortment? EntertainmentEarth used to put those up all the time, and then save them in their Archive.
Here we go. Buckle up.
I search some more.
I find this:
Dear God, what is happening.
That can't be a case assortment? Not done up like that. No way...
That...that's a Boxed Set.
I delve deeper, pulling back the layers of word searches and "show similar images" options in Google Images.
I get this:
We have text! WE HAVE TEXT! Spanish text.
I use Google Translate on the text.
AN EXCLUSIVE SPARROWMON?!?!?
Oh My God.
Could it be?
It IS a Boxed-Set!
I search the Spanish text in Google Images.....
Be me right now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfWMBxuA_Jw
We have visual confirmation of toy.
I repeat, we have visual confirmation of toy.
Packaging. Price. Sparrowmon. EVERYTHING.
Proceed to translate text and deepen search.
I stumble upon a listing on Amazon Spain (apparently that's a thing).
Seller has 4 available. All New/MISB.
He wants the equivalent of $50 for it, before shipping.
After all is said and done via the help of a middleman service.....
And some waiting and delays due to the Pandemic...
A large package arrives on my doorstep.
WE HAVE TOY.
Here it is.
The Digimon:Fusion Shoutmon X5 boxed set, complete with Sparrowmon and in exclusive metallic paints and plastics.
Look at it.
It's...G L O R I O U S.
The once-thought "unreleased" figure, fully released in Spain (and probably other parts of Europe too).
Ahh...typical Bandai of America. Heh.
Here's the backside advertising the fully combined form. A rare sight indeed for us Americans.
And here's what the toy looks like when you open it, revealing the multiple Shoutmon heads (YES!!!) that were covered up by the box art. F A N T A S T I C. Also there's a cardboard backer and instructions.
Here's the backer:
And here we have the toys in their sealed tray:
And here's the tray opened up:
Included is a set of instructions and 1 trading card of Shoutmon X5 that can be used in the electronic Digi-Fusion Loader toy (sold seperately). The instructions neatly show you how to build all the figures and make the combined modes of Shoutmon X4 and Shoutmon X5.
The included trading card has very nicely done artwork of Shoutmon X5. Placed over this artwork are very faint numbers 1-4 on it. These numbers will be used for activiating sounds from the Digi-Fusion Loader toy.
The idea is you would place this card on the Digi-Fusion Loader and press the numbers in a certain order to unlock sounds from the device specifically for Shoutmon X5. Here I've highlighted the numbers:
And here's the boring backside of the card:
THE TOY ITSELF:
So with that out of the way, let's look at the toy itself! For this review I am going to be comparing the metallic boxed set edition to the regular (Sparrowmon-less) retail versions and all their modes. I'm not going to type out every single difference. It really just is metallic paint & plastic vs non-metallic paint & plastic. I don't notice any addtitonal paint apps between the toys (we're not comparing Hasbro to TakaraTomy here), so that'll make this review easier and I will let the pictures mainly speak for themselves.
Here's a rundown of the figures:
-Shoutmon with Starmon & the Pickmons (in sword mode).
-Shoutmon X4 (made from combining Shoutmon, Starmon & the Pickmons, Ballistamon, & Dorulumon).
-Shoutmon X5 (made from combining Shoutmon, Starmon & the Pickmons, Ballistamon, Dorulumon, & Sparrowmon).
And here's the main reason I wanted this set.
The one, the only...
He includes the necessary parts to make Shoutmon X5:
Shoutmon, Starmon, & Pickmons:
I have NO IDEA where the socket on his sword attaches to:
And now it's time to compare the Metallic editions (left) with thier Mass-Market regular releases (right):
Shoutmon, Starmon, & Pickmons comparison:
Okay, now it's time we delve into both Shoutmon X4 and Shoutmon X5.
Here's what you are left with when you make Shoutmon X4:
Here's Shoutmon X4:
Shoutmon X4 comparison:
And here's what you are left with when you make Shoutmon X5:
And here's Shoutmon X5:
Shoutmon X5 & Shoutmon X4 comparison:
ACTION SHOTS! (let's see you try to do this with your Xros Wars toys!)
Overall I'd say the sculpting on every figure is fine. I like the sculpts of the American figures moreso than their Japanese counterparts (which are completely different toys by the way). I feel the American sculpts get closer to how the characters appear in the cartoon and are able to look more dynamic and lively when posed. The only things we can complain about here are those big ball joints sticking off Ballistamon and the hollowness of Dorulumon, but it's a necessary evil for the combining gimmick and runs throughout all these figures.
The paint on either version is sufficient. It covers what it needs to. The metallic edition is definitely more striking though. This being Bandai of America, they can at most times, get skimpy on paint apps, so seeing these characters at like 90% fully colored when compare to their cartoon models is a pleasant surprise and a strong point that carries through all the combined modes. They're not fully painted, but they're painted more than enough that it doesn't feel cheap or unfinished like other Bandai of America toys where they completely omit painting the backsides of their figures (looking at you, Power Rangers). I guess my only real complaint is that I wish Starmon was painted yellow and his sunglasses were painted black. Keeping him as bare white plastic seems REALLY cheap and doesn't allow the sword weapon to visually "pop" along with the rest of the colorful toy.
This is where things get VERY interesting. My original trio of Shoutmon, Ballistamon, and Dorulumon that I bought on Chirstmas toy clearance at Burlington Coat Factory has some issues with the ball & socket connections being loose during the combination into Shoutmon X4. When combined into Shoutmon X4, Ballistamon's and Dorulumon's heads are very loose when put on the Ballistamon shoulder balls, and the Shoutmon red chest "V" is also super floppy and likes to fall off. The Dorulumon hind feet is a whole 'nother mess of ZERO grip and they are super loose and floppy. Like, you could pick the thing up and they'd swing around in circles from the centrifical force floppy. They're THAT bad. They CANNOT hold their "up" position on the legs for Shoutmon X4 mode AT ALL.
Compared to the boxed set, it's night and day. The boxed set has FAR superior ball & socket tolerances and the only looseness I found on it was Ballistamon's head socket when put on his shoulder ball for the Shoutmon X4/X5 combinations. Even the Shoutmon red chest "V" and the Dorulumon hind feet can hold their up position on the boxed set version very tightly. It really fixes any issues I had with the original mass-release version of the toy.
Getting back to discussing the overall articulation, the range of motion on this thing is quite sufficient for X4 and X5 forms. You can get some pretty dynamic poses from those modes. Sparrowmon is the least poseable, followed by Shoutmon. Not much going on there. Though a bit restricted, Dorulumon makes up for it with his very poseable tail. Ballistamon has a decent number of joints that lend themselves to making good poses. Overall it's not bad when considering all 4 figures as a group or a "building-system" set.
Here's the number of poseable Ball-&-Socket joints found on each figure:
5-Shoutmon with Starmon & the Pickmons (in sword mode).
20-Shoutmon X4 (made from combining Shoutmon, Starmon & the Pickmons, Ballistamon, & Dorulumon).
24-Shoutmon X5 (made from combining Shoutmon, Starmon & the Pickmons, Ballistamon, Dorulumon, & Sparrowmon).
I'm not going to call every part of this toy an accessory. The characters themselves don't really have any, save for Shoutmon's "sword" which is really just Starmon & the Pickmons stacked together in a sword formation.
My only complaint is that I wish Shoutmon had his microphone as an accessory. Instead, it's basically baked into the Starmon/Pickmons sword combo and forgotten. They didn't even give the sword it's bottom microphone tripod-stand pommel. Ugh.
What else is there to say? The toys are decently poseable because of their ball & socket joints and they can combine into Shoutmon X4 or X5 modes. That's about it. They dont' have any electronics, color-change, glow-in-the-dark, or other features like attack actions or firing missiles. They're just poseable toys that disassemble and recombine into a bigger toy. At least they can get into way more dynamic poses than their Japanese counterparts could ever dream of. Hmm...what else? The metallic coloration is nice and really takes the toy up a notch into something truly special.
Now I know metallic swirly plastic can be the God Damn Devil, especially from Japanese companies the further you go back in time (looking at you, Albegas), but these toys seem very durable and it's likely that they will hold up just fine over time with care and sensible usage. At no point in using them did I feel they were going to break on me. As long as you follow the directions and don't force anything apart in a way or position it shouldn't, you should be fine repeatedly disassembling and reassembling these toys into their various modes.
The 3 individual original mass-market figures cost me $6 each at Burlington Coat Factory. So almost $20? Keep in mind that was at a discounted price from whatever Target was originally charging for the MSRP. Nowadays they're going to cost you $30-$40 New/MISB a figure. Yikes! I honestly don't feel the mass-market version is worth $90-$120. No way! Not with it's loose ball & socket tolerances in the combined mode and the lack of the Sparrowmon figure.
The boxed set however, with it's fixes to most of the ball & socket tolerances, it's metallic finish, and the Sparrowmon figure, allowing you to make Shoutmon X5, is totally worth it. Buy that sucker if you can find it. What should you pay for it? I dunno, but if people are paying $90-$120 for the original trio, then expect to pay more for the exclusive Sparrowmon and metallic finish. It's up to you what you want spend, just rememeber, you're setting the market price for the rest of us with what you decide to pay for it...so please be considerate of others also in search of this rare piece.
I think either version of this toy is fine to own IF you don't care about some floppy joint connections in combined mode, but if you buy the mass-makert version, expect to encounter those loose ball & socket joint combinations when you make Shoutmon X4. You're probably gonna want to apply some nail polish or superglue inside the sockets to beef up their tightness where necessary so they aren't floppy. Just make sure you're careful and don't overdo it.
As for the Boxed set version, it IS the superior release. The ball & socket tolerances are MUCH better, especially with Dorulumon's hind legs. If you had a choice, and cost wasn't an issue, I'd say try to go with this improved and refined release of the toys.
OVERALL FINAL THOUGHTS:
I have to thank CollectionDX itself and whoever took those photos that day at Toyfair back in 2014. If not for them, I wouldn't have even known about the Sparrowmon toy and gone down this rewarding rabbit hole. We wouldn't be here today. So whoever you are, if you're reading this, Thank You.
From the Digimon:Fusion line's debut in late 2013, to the 2014 USA Toyfair reveals, to years of going on without knowing that Sparrowmon toy was actually made and released, it's been quite a long journey. But that's why I do this. That's why I love this. That's why I'm here. For the neverending thrill of the hunt, the new discoveries, the learning, the knowledge, the history, and most importantly, the sense of achievement when that elusive piece you've been chasing is finally in your hands.
This has been a fun ride, but it's time to move on to the next white whale, the next sasquatch, whatever that may be. What else could be lurking out there in the still undiscovered wilderness of the toy world? Only one way to find out! Until next time...
|Posted 18 May, 2021 - 07:05 by netkid|