Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade

Bandai Tamashii Nations S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade

As we approach the end of 2013, it's time to have a look at what will most likely be my last S.H. Figuarts review of the year - and quite appropriately it's also probably one of the biggest releases this year. Not only was Kamen Rider Blade a big deal because it was one of the few lead Riders missing from the line, but it was also the first figure to be using the brand new body type Tamashii Nations had been showing off prior to its release. After instantly selling out when it was first release in August, Bandai obviously took note of the high demand and scheduled a speedy reissue for November. Here is the review:

Blade's box up close

The back of Blade's boxInside the box

Admittedly box art has been getting better and better with the Figuarts line, and I seem to regularly be singing the high praises of the pieces of cardboard I instantly rip upon and only ever use again to store accessories. However much like what happened with Kyoryu Red, Tamashii Nations have given Blade the perfect box with suits the aesthetic of both the Rider and series perfectly. The back is even nicely done up with the border from the cards Blade uses in the series! It's a really nice bit of packaging, and just shows how far Bandai have come since the dull plain silver of the early Figuarts releases.
Kamen Rider Blade draws some cards

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade front viewSH Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade back view

The Blade design is one that I personally feel is quite different from the other Heisei era Kamen Riders, and as such one that's taken a while for me to get used to. Ignoring the fact that the head bears a striking resemblance to the Pokémon Metapod (if you couldn't see it before, I hope you can't now unsee it), the card-motif resulting in quite an odd look that mixed regal armour with grungy colours. Its by no means a bad design, if anything I consider it one of the complex and intricate Kamen Rider designs - and credit where it's due it makes for a really nice looking figure. The dark blue base body, the silver armour, the red/gold highlights, the red all just comes together BEAUTIFULLY. Even the foot has print detailing and paint!

But is the new Figuarts body up to scratch? Well, the most noticeable difference is the loss of the drop-down hips (which was also on the previously released Ryuki figures and Cho Akiba Red), replaced with a far more seamless design. The really big deal though is the new ankle system, which combines a hidden universal joint under the armour combined with an ankle hinge. Even without the added heft of diecast, these are feet that feel stable in most action poses. The ab crunch is surprisingly versatile given the armoured torso, and the shoulder pads are able to be positioned properly when moving the arms into a pose.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Blade with Rouzer

Effect Parts!Kamen Rider Blade strikes a pose

While in terms of sculpt and articulation quality the renewal Kamen Rider Black figure is probably on par with Blade, that release was let down by the fact it only came with a few different hand options. Accessories is where Blade has him REALLY beat, sporting nine swappable hands, Blay Rouzer (with alternate folded/unfolded parts), concrete effect part, rider kick effect part (with 3 additional lightning pieces) and eight different cards - Slash, Change, Mach, Beat, Thunder, Tackle, Metal and Kick. The only thing really missing is a unique Tamashii stand, and we know Bandai doesn't like giving those away very often!

Swapping out the Blay Rouzer parts is as easy as unplugging the hilt face plate and changing the parts over. The blade sticks firmly into the concrete for the final attack pose, and the same goes for the kick effect part which slots nicely around Blade's foot. The additional lightning parts are a little more fiddly to keep in place (one of mine just didn't want to go in and I was paranoid it would snap), but once they're in place they can also be moved around a bit to get the perfect kick effect for the figure.

Rider Kick!

Rider Kick Again!Blade on the attack

One big item to note on this release (and one that was met with many groans) is that the unfolded Blay Rouzer part is completely blank, and comes with a number of stickers that need to be applied. It's easy to see why people would be annoyed by this as its not only a lot of stickers to apply (24 in total - 12 for the back and 12 for the front), but they're pretty damn small as well (bar a few exceptions they're all half a card cut diagonally). On top of this, while the sticker sheet includes 24 different cards in two sets of 12 (the second I assume he gets later on in the show...I've been kinda sidetracked lately and only seen up to episode 10), you can only apply ONE set of stickers to the Rouzer - so choose carefully which ones you want). It's not ALL bad news though, as the reality is the stickers aren't that hard to apply - you just need to take it slow and have a toothpick on hand to straighten out any mistakes you make along the way.

Also included below is a picture of the cards included for Blade to hold, which as you can see vary in terms of having straight print.

A look at the blank Rouzer stickersUp close look at the included cards

When I first preordered Kamen Rider Blade I hadn't watched any of the show, but after seeing how fast it sold out I was determined not to potentially miss out again. That has proved to be an excellent decision because in-hand I can see just why collectors were going crazy over this figure. Not only is it a wonderfully detailed, highly-articulation figure of a character that was woefully missing from the line, but it's also the perfect package and comes with a wonderful range of extra parts. The Kamen Rider Blade aesthetic still isn't my favourite, but I've come to appreciate it a lot more recently and cannot deny how wonderful these designs translate into toys. Barring the sticker issue (which is less of a issue and more of a minor hassle, if even that), Kamen Rider Blade is another utterly fantastic release in a year which has just gone from strength to strength.

Not a bad way to end 2013 at all.

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