Thursday, 19 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: 66 Action Ultraman Wave 1

66action Ultraman Wave 1

Now that it's quite comfortably into the Kamen Rider franchise, it's time for Bandai's fantastic 66 Action candy toy range to dive into another beloved tokusatsu franchise. This time it's the turn of Tsuburaya Production's legendary Ultra Series - featuring Ultraman, one of Japan's most prominent superheroes. This first wave of 66 Action Ultraman figures features a range of characters from across the franchise's 50 year history, including the popular daikaiju (giant monster) as well as the titular heroes. Here we have the original Ultraman, Ultraseven, Ultraman Ginga Strium and Alien Baltan.

Boxes Front

Boxes backBox contents

While the design for the packaging is largely similar to the 66 Action Kamen Rider figures, the Ultra series figures have been gifted with considerably flashier backdrops. Rather than a simple white backdrop with appropriate coloured lines, these figures have a planet Earth backdrop with different coloured sky. Likewise the back of the boxes have had a similar upgrade, swapping out a dull white background for some nice forest scenery. Inside the contents are all arranged into their individual plastic bag sections, as well as the shocking revelation that these don't include the usual piece of soda flavoured candy! Instead they all contain one piece of soda flavoured bubblegum, which serves the same purpose I guess by doesn't quite have the same additive-laden wonder of the tablet-like candy.

For those buying a case of these figures, the assortment is 3x Ultraman, 3x Ultraseven, 2x Ultramam Ginga Strium and 2x Alien Baltan. And with no chase figure in the wave, that's a nice even split between two people as well as two extras perfect for dark repaints. Might even have a go of making an Ultraman Dark myself.

Wave 1 assembled

Figures frontFigures back

With Ultramen sporting simpler, sleeker designs than the armoured Kamen Riders, these figures look a lot cleaner when shrunk down to 66 Action proportions. Though by nature of the suits they sport less paint apps and moulded detail, the tradeoff is that they look a lot more accurate with nothing having to be sacrificed in making them at a smaller size. The only thing that would have made them even better is if they were silver rather than a dull grey plastic colour. but that would require a fully body of paint which most likely isn't cost-effective for figures of this size/price. Like all 66 Action figures they have a stand port sticking out of their backs, which are compatible with the larger Tamashii Stages as well as the more basic ones included with each figure.

The Ultra figures also have more articulation than their earlier Kamen Rider cousins - adding bicep swivels (previously implemented in Kamen Rider wave 4) to the already impressive combination of ball joints in the neck/shoulders/waist/hips/feet, hinged elbows/knees and wrist swivel. With nothing in the designs hindering this articulation either, they're about as poseable as something this size and price point can be. This looks like a good sign that the bicep swivel is now here to stay, which is brilliant news because these figures have proved that there's room for the 66 Action line to keep getting even better.

Included standsStands with hands

And just like wave 4 of the Kamen Rider releases each of these figures also comes with a two piece stand, moulded in a variety of colours. Ultraman's is great, Ultraseven and Ginga Strium's are red and finally Baltan's is blue. Of course if you wanted to make them a bit more unique, you could always connect two different coloured pieces together instead since they're all interchangeable. However in being exactly the same as the Kamen Rider stands, that also means they aren't very good for anything other than just helping them balance on one leg or pose a little way off the ground. There's simply not enough articulation for decent flying poses or anything fancy like that.

Since my Kamen Rider wave 4 review I've also discovered why these stands have multiple holes on them (which is actually printed on the inside of the box, but as I never fully opened them I never thought to look) - they double as hand storage! The additional hands with each figure can be plugged into the holes to form some nightmarish looking tree that makes them look even more bizarre when connected to a figure. Baltan's stand is a little different to the other's in this regard as it's hand pegs are on the body rather than the claws, so the blue stand has raised plastic sections for storage rather than basic plug ports.

Ultraman takes a pose

Ready actionSpecium Ray!

With 66action Kamen Rider 1Ultraman takes flightUltraman vs Gigan

As you probably already anticipated, the wave kicks off with the original Ultraman who starred in the 1966 series of the same (which was actually the second instalment of the Ultra franchise, following Ultra Q). Even if you're unfamiliar with Ultraman it's likely you'll have encountered this iconic design somewhere through the various parodies and homages its amounted over the years. As I mentioned earlier in the review the lack of any armoured or raised sections on the body means these figures can fully utilise their fantastic range of articulation as well as looking like near-representations of their full-sized selves. The paintwork is great, and those translucent plastic eyes still manage to stand out even if they aren't all that bright. Ultraman comes with three pairs of swappable hands - closed fists, flying/beam pose hands and a pair of open ones for all sorts of monster grappling fun.

Ultraseven's Emerium Beam

The Eye Slugger weaponThrowing the Eye Slugger

Teaming up with UltramanSome classic Ultra posingUltraseven vs Gigan

Next up is Ultraseven, the second Ultraman and star of the third Ultra instalment - 1967's Ultra Seven. While clearly having the same look and feel as the original Ultraman, Ultraseven takes the design in a bit of a different direction with a predominantly red body and dented detailing on the chest and head. Of the three Ultras included in this wave, he is the only one to come with red hands rather than grey. His selection includes closed fists, open hands and a pair to recreate his signature "Emerium Beam" attack.

Ultraseven is also the only one of this wave to come with a weapon...of sorts. Like his show counterpart, the head crest can be removed and used as a throwing weapon - the Eye Slugger. The back of the box suggests the Slugger can be held in the open hands, which while true is a lot more fiddly than it looks. The box image has the figure holding it by the thin end, which is impossibly without twisting the piece around and having it held to a completely different angle than pictured. Of course if you want to pose Ultraseven throwing it, you're also going to need a considerably better stand than the one provided.

Ultraman Ginga Strium

Battle posingUsing a Ultra ray attack

Teaming up with 66action GaimWith Ultra-Act GingaGinga vs. Gigan

The third and final Ultraman in this wave is Ultraman Ginga Strium, the powered up form of Ultraman Ginga that appears in the most recent Ultra series - Ultraman Ginga S. Strium is largely similar to the original Ginga, but now sports slightly different silver markings across his body along with shoulder pads and rivet-like protrusions across his head. In terms of the 66 Action figures, Ginga Strium is definitely the most colourful of the Ultras released so far - adding some nice neon blue paint into the red and grey mix. His hand selection is identical to that which came with the original Ultraman - closed fists, open "grappling" hands and flying/beam hands. It's a shame he doesn't come with any unique hands, but as you're only limited to three pairs per figure these are definitely the ones that make the most sense.

Interestingly, the pegs on Ginga Strium's hands are thinner than those on Ultraman's (at least on my figures anyway), so there is actually a way to tell them apart if like me you keep them all in one container.

Alien Baltan

Baltan attacksBaltan strikes a pose

Vs UltramanVictory is Baltan's!Teaming up with Gigan

Rounding off this wave is one of the Ultra franchises most popular antagonists - the Alien Baltan. With the Kamen Rider waves having been made up entirely of Riders so far (Mashin Chaser and Shadow Moon are coming, but even they are Rider-like), it's nice for the Ultraman waves to jump straight in with villains to add a little bit extra to the mix in both variety and aesthetics. There's been a number of different Baltans over the years, however this figure most closely resembles the one that appeared in the original Ultraman series (albeit somewhat simplified in moulding and colour).

Unlike the Ultramen Baltan only comes with two pairs of claws, with one having them open wider than the other. As I mentioned earlier in the review these plug into the figure differently the others - the holes being in the claws rather than in the wrists. As a result of this, the claws are connected to the plastic runners at the sides rather than the non-existent plug, which is a little bit annoying as taking them off results in leaving sprue marks on them.  

Wave 1 together again

The 66 Action line had already set a high standard for itself with last year's Kamen Rider, Dragonball Z and No-More piracy figures, and the first wave of Ultraman figures don't just live up to this expectation - they manage to excel it. Whether its the more seamless look of the figures or the newly added articulation, these little guys have set a new standard for just how great this toy line can be. Not bad considering none of these come with any weapons! With a second wave already confirmed for release in May, hopefully the Ultraman characters will prove just as popular as the Kamen Riders and we'll see many more of them throughout 2015.