Thursday, 16 July 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Mach

Kamen Rider Drive may have broken the mould by being the first on-screen Rider to forgo a bike in favour of a car, but that doesn’t mean all the Riders in the series have followed suite. After Mashin Chaser’s twisted-metal biker appearance proved the perfect foil to Drive Type Speed’s sleek sports car finish, the show’s secondary Rider has gone a bit Evel Knieval – which shouldn’t be surprise given the powers were created over in America. Go Shijima aka Kamen Rider Mach (or MA-HA if you’d prefer) joins the S.H. Figuarts line as the third mass release figure from the series, neatly completing the main trinity of characters before Tamashii Nations push forward with the various alternate forms still to come.

It’s only been a few months since Tamashii Nations starting implementing thinner boxes on a more permanent basis, but already this much more conservative packaging feels like it’s been around forever. Aesthetically it isn’t all that different from the style seen with both Type Speed and Mashin Chaser (other than swapping out the text, figure pictures and logo in the front top corner that is), but together they have a nice professional uniform look to them that still feels more varied than the bland designs Figma are coming up with for their boxes these days. Inside you’ll find the figure on the usual clear plastic tray, but thanks to a much more generous amount of accessories this time around said tray has a rather appealing lack of free space.

Mach is also the final Kamen Rider Drive mass release figure to also include a Tire Koukan as a first release bonus, and this time it’s the turn of Funky Spike! Numbered as Vol. 4 in the S.H. Figuarts tire selection (Max Flare being one, and then Midnight Shadow and its effect parts taking up slots two and three), Funky Spike comes packaged in a vibrant green box that has little else to really say about it. Rather than be bold and flashy, it just does the job it’s intended to. Like the Midnight Shadow before it this box only includes the tire itself, with the accompanying effect parts being separately packaged as a first release bonus with the Mach’s bike – the Ride Macher

Going full-on Evel Knievel for Mach’s look might seem like a pretty odd idea in theory, but it’s hard to deny that the end result was anything but a success. On first glance, Mach’s suit may look lacking in colour and visible moulded detail - but it's the careful placement of these things that make the suit work so well. Thanks to the predominantly white suit every bit of colour stands out all the more, bring your attention towards those areas and then all the little bits of detail the suit has. Touches like the zip running down the front of the body really help bring the design together and emphasise the motif. The Figuart really has all the suit flourishes on point, reaching the same level of quality the previous figures have excelled at. The figures may not be Shinkocchou Seihou releases in name, but they could most definitely pass for them otherwise. 

Admittedly it feels a little weird to be holding a Kamen Rider figure with a painted visor and not those distinct compound eyes, but arguably the gimmick surrounding Mach’s head sculpt is far more interesting than continuing precedent. True to the show (or at least the earlier episodes where Go still did this), the front "Shutter Face Guard" section of Mach’s V-Helm helmet can swing up to reveal a black, vented but otherwise featureless faceplate with a painted metallic blue visor. While certainly not as striking as the compound eyes adorning almost every other Kamen Rider figure, it does offer a nice divergence from the norm along with a pretty awesome feature.

Articulation is of the usual Figuarts high standard, with Mach featuring a wide array of ball and hinge joints for the maximum range of fluid human motion. However being made almost entirely of white plastic there is a question of whether materials-wise he’s of exactly the same quality – and this is something I’ve called into question myself after a rather unfortunate breakage to the left arm. The peg that connects the shoulder to the top of the arm broke clean in half, leaving the arm still able to plug into the shoulder properly but lacking that extra bit of length to make it a really secure connection. With the break being internal and barely noticeable (the figure still holds a pose fine, the arm just has a habit of popping out a lot more when moving it) I’m chalking it up to me being unlucky. It isn’t like my broken Gavan or Basco wrists where the joint was quite clearly flawed, sometimes these things just happen. In no way has this soured my purchasing of Mach nor do I write this wanting to put off anything thinking of buying him – it was just something I wanted to share just incase a little extra care is needed around such bright white plastic weaker.

Another fun feature to the figure is the Mach Driver Honoo, which works in exactly the same way the full size version does. Rather than requiring any sort of disassembling, the Driver features a section that swings up to reveal the Shift Bike (which pegs into the Driver for additional security). The bike can then be taken out and replaced with a different one, or the Driver can simply be left empty and the bike plugged into the Zenrin Shooter instead. With the weapon it’s just a simple case of pegging the bike to the side of it, but it’s still neat nonetheless. Admittedly this level of playability and accuracy is nothing new for the Figuarts line (the Gaim figures were capable of exactly the same), but the added fun factor it gives the figure is certainly appreciated. As always though, be careful not to lose those ridiculously tiny Shift Bikes!

Whereas the previous two Kamen Rider Drive Figuarts were somewhat lacking in the accessories department, Mach on the other hand is more what collectors have probably come to expect from the Figuarts line. Altogether Mach comes packaged with five pairs of hands (a huge step up from the two or three that came with Drive and Chaser), two muffler/scarf pieces (one standard and one windswept), Zenrin Shooter and alternate “Magarl” (Turn) Signal Koukan piece with accompanying Shift Bike. Despite all these goodies included in the box, I think it’s the impressive range of hands that win me over the most. (Early series) Kamen Rider Mach is nothing but showmanship and if the figure couldn’t copy this, it was inevitably going to be a bit of a dud. But a number of specific pose hands, including a pair of thumbs up? Perfect. 

Switching out the Signal Koukan piece requires disassembling the right shoulder pad and, despite being a little bit fiddly at first, is pretty easy once you get the hang on it. Taking the shoulder pad apart is straightforward enough, but the trick is using a cocktail stick (or something similar) to push out the blank signal piece from behind. After that it’s just a case of assembling the thing back together with the new signal (there are plenty of grooves and cuts in the surrounding black piece to show you the way) and sticking it back on the arm). There it will sit solidly until you feel the need to change it back again. Mach himself only comes with the one signal, but the "Tomari" (Stop) and "Kaksarn" (All Directions?) also comes packed with the Ride Macher should you feel the need for more. Truthfully it’s another step in Bandai’s master plan to get fans to buy all the Drive figures, but this doesn’t feel quite as painstaking as the tire/viral core situation. The fact Mach comes with one is proof of the gimmick, and with it being packaged in the box itself it isn’t something that will potentially be lost with future re-releases either.

Rounding this review off we return to the Funky Spike first release bonus tire, which in terms of layout is identical to the Midnight Shadow tire that came with Mashin Chaser – i.e. the box contains the tire, hub, Drive Driver screen and folded up Shift Car. The tire itself feels like Drive is evoking the powers of Kamen Rider Bravo – not just because of the identical shade of metallic green paint used but also the painful memory of all those surprisingly pointy spikes. While the ones on this tire definitely have the same effect, thankfully they’re smaller and there are considerably less of them – making it a lot easier to handle the piece without fear of drawing blood.

Sadly this tire in particular just emphasises how boring these things are without the effect parts to go with them. Funky Spike is quite unique in that the effect parts don’t clip onto the Drive’s arms, but are in fact an entirely new tire sash – moulded in translucent plastic with much more prominent spikes. Getting the relevant Driver plate and the shift car does make things feel a little more complete, but it doesn’t change how unexciting this thing is when the gimmick is taken away from it. The desire for a nifty effect still isn’t enough to make me buy a vehicle on top of the figure itself, so I guess I’ll just have to go without then. Greed is the only reason all of these tire bonuses couldn’t have been treated the same way as Max Flare was – had they bundled the effect parts together with the tires it also would have made room for more tires in the line. S.H. Figuarts Dream Vegas anyone?

Kamen Rider Drive has spawned some absolutely fantastic figures so far, but unlike Type Speed and Mashin Chaser Mach isn’t just a great looking figure – he also feels like a complete one. Whereas the other two rely somewhat on external gimmicks to make the most out of them (Drive with the tires and Chaser the Viral Cores), Mach comes with everything he needs packaged within the box itself (save for the bike if you’re that way inclined). Sure there’s only one Signal Koukan bundled in, but that’s offset by a great selection of hands, interactive parts and most importantly – a gorgeous looking figure. Even with my unlucky experience, I highly recommend adding Mach to your collection – he’ll definitely add a level of showmanship to your display that you probably didn’t even realise it lacked.

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