Thursday, 12 July 2012

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Akiba Red

Akibaranger was a series that wasn't subtle about a lot of things, but one of the first ones that comes to mind is product placement and merchandising. In a series where the cast were frequently seen in a room filled to the brim with Super Sentai figures, mecha and roleplay items, its no surprise that Bandai also had plans to milk the show as far as merchandise was concerned. Not only that, but the show also included several commercial bumpers for the products, and even a gag in the last episode about promotion of two Tamashii web exclusive Figuarts for characters that didn't even appear in the show (Deka Blue and Black Condor). Well now that the show has finished, it's time for the figures to start rolling out. The first to be released is none other than Nobuo Akagi aka Akiba Red, with Blue to follow in July and then Yellow in August. Malshina and a Shatieek have also been seen, however their release details have yet to be announced.

The box is a bright display of rainbows on white (possibly a reference to Akibaranger's show-within-a-show Nijiyome Academy Z-Cune Aoi), with the Akibaranger logo and an "unoffical" stamp on the window section. The back displays Akiba Red in various poses, one with the Inordinate Deka Wapper Power (sold separately, which I will cover later). There is also an amusing bit of Engrish in the form of the Figuarts slogan, which boasts "simple style and HIROIC action".

Akiba Red is a radical departure in design from your official red Sentai heroes, which makes for a much more interesting figure. The chest and abdominal area features translucent red plastic over sculpted detail, and the feet have highly detailed boot markings and buckles. The excellent range of poseability the Gokaiger Figuarts had has made it over to this release, but the tricky-to-navigate shoulder area found on the other Sentai figures is missing on Akiba Red due to the obvious differences in costume design, resulting in much greater flexibility.

Accessories include two alternate scarves (a static one and a "blowing" one), the MMZ-01 in gun mode and 8 alternate hands (two open, two closed fists, two gripping hands and two specific pose ones). Any one expecting to see these figures bundled with the Akibaranger Inordinate Powers (the Deka Wapper, Bouken Scoop and Jet Winger) will be disappointed, as they are instead included with Figuarts Deka Red, Bouken Red and Red Hawk respectively in a sneaky bit of cross promotion on Bandai's part. Personally I don't feel too let down by this as I planned to get the three anyway and am grateful the figures are getting releases as part of the Akibaranger promotion (I don't think they wouldn't have gotten releases without it, but I imagine its speeded up the process), but can understand disappointment from anyone who may be a more casual Sentai fan planning to buy the figures. The one accessory I do think the figure is lacking is the MMZ-01 in figure mode, but with the amount of detail that would have had to gone into a small piece I can't imagine it would have turned out brilliantly.

As a first wave bonus, Akiba Red also comes with three specific Tamashii Stage Act 3 stands, one for each of the Akibarangers. Each stand base has the logo in the member's respective colour and their name, as well as the symbols for "A", "Ki" and "Ba". This is my first experience with the stands as I am yet to buy another figure that has them included or buy a separate set online, but they have left me with a very positive first impression. The base is a decent size, while the articulated arm and claw pieces are study and able to hold the figure very well.

It seems to be a tradition of me giving Figuarts high praise but even with the somewhat small amount of accessories Akiba Red really is something else. The sculpt is perfect with a far greater detailing than anything that can be seen on the other released Sentai Figuarts, the articulation is far less restrictive and three character-specific stands is an excellent and desirable first-wave bonus. Akiba Red is hands down the best Figuart I own and if this quality can carry over to the female figures (which may be trickier due to skirt restrictions in posing) then these will be something very special indeed. An oddity among Super Sentai, but much like the show itself it goes to show that sometimes unofficial things may actually be better that the official thing.

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