Saturday, 17 October 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Hakaider Squad (Red Hakaider/Blue Hakaider/Silver Hakaider)

It’s been a pretty good couple of years for Android Kikaider fans. Last year saw the character revitalised in the form of the Kikaider REBOOT movie, while Bandai Tamashii Nations turned to the original 1972 series and produced S.H. Figuarts figures of both Kikaider and Hakaider (as well as their bikes). This year (as far as the figures go anyway) it’s been the turn of Kikaider 01, but this time Bandai have gone a little bit further than just the title character and his arch nemesis. Released as a limited edition exclusive three-pack, the Hakaider Squad have arrived! Comprised of Blue Hakaider, Red Hakaider and Silver Hakaider, these three were former DARK scientists reborn into cyborg bodies to serve Gill Hakaider. Together the four Hakaiders are able to combine and form the mighty Gattaider (who looks much more impressive in the anime than the live-action show), and were 01’s main enemies before their eventual defeat and the arrival of SHADOW.

With this set comprising of three separate figures, you can bet that the box is considerably larger than your average Figuarts packaging. Clocking it at roughly the same size length-wise as the Kikaider bikes, the Hakaider Squad isn’t the biggest Figuarts box around but it certainly looks impressive. The box art continues the great style seen with the previous Kikaider figures, featuring colourful pop-art style close ups of the three Hakaiders on the front of the packaging. Meanwhile the back features a single large image of them posed with their great leader, as well as coloured singular images in the background. 

Inside the contents are spread across two plastic trays – the larger one holds the figures themselves, while underneath is one holding all the hands and accessories. It’s also worth noting that the packaging (as well as Bandai themselves) simply refers to the set as Red Hakaider/Blue Hakaider/Silver Hakaider, but I’m sticking with the Hakaider Squad for this review as its considerably less of a mouthful.

Sculpt-wise all three members of the Hakaider Squad are practically identical to the previous two Hakaider figures, albeit with their own unique paint jobs and one very minor mould alteration (which I will go into more detail about in the following section). It goes without saying that these figures are all done up in their designated colours, with them replacing the usually-yellow areas on the standard Hakaider body. So on the main body this applies to the finger tips, crotch, chest and lightning bolt marks under the eyes. The breastplate section is also done up completely in that colour, along with R, B and S written in a suitably evil-looking (and retro-tastic) font. For those particularly interesting the smaller details, each figure also has very slightly different lightning patterns on the helmet - though all three are more akin to the thick lines on the original Saburo Hakaider rather than the thinner ones seen on Gill's helmet. 

Other than that though, there's nothing any different to the other releases here. The folds and creases in the sculpt still do a great job of replicating the slick black vinyl the suits were actually made from, and the articulation is still typical of your average Figuart - great but nothing mind-blowing. The swing-down hips still feel a little stiff in this mould, but shouldn't stop you from being able to pose all three in a good range of dynamic poses. The only area that really suffers in the articulation department is the shoulders, thanks to that giant breastplate jutting outwards and upwards.

And just like the previous releases, each member of the Hakaider Squad features a removable brain and clear plastic cover/helmet! But the most interesting thing about this release is they’ve actually somewhat modified the way that the brain and cover connect. The Hakaider and Gill Hakaider figures’ covers have the rather annoying habit of popping off constantly, so what Bandai have done is added an additional elongated tab in the middle of the covers’ connector piece, which then plugs into a deeper groove in the brain. It’s still far from perfect, but I’m surprised (and a little bit impressed) Bandai tried to fix it on an exclusive release which could well be the final release of this mould.

However there's more uniqueness to these Hakaiders than just their special colours. While both the Saburo Gill Hakaiders shared the same main weapon (the Hakaider Shot), the Hakaider Squad are more notable for each having their own unique weapon! Along with five additional hands, Red Hakaider also commands the Missile Bowgun! This weapon is a rather basic looking crossbow, but rather uniquely has a number of nail-like arrows stacked just above it. While the weapon itself is non-functional, I'd argue that it's both the best looking and most interesting in the squad's arsenal. It's just a shame that he doesn't come with a pair of trigger-finger hands so that he can hold it in either hand.

Blue Hakaider on the other hand bumps the hand count up to an additional six (aside from the specific weapon holding hands, these are largely in the same expressive poses across the board), along with a soft plastic whip named the Magnetic Whip. If you're looking for really clever and inspired weapon names, this isn't the place. The bottom section of the whip is extended and somewhat pliable, while the other end is permanently coiled into a lasso-like position. With the way that Bandai have previously handled weapons such as Gokai Yellow's Sabers and Black Beet's Stinger Byoot, I honestly expected the whip to both be sturdier and more bendable. What we've got here isn't bad per se, but the the coiled end piece does limit things somewhat. Makes for some neat lasso posing and trying to choke 01, but that's about it.

Finally we have Silver, who again comes with six additional hands but interestingly two versions of his signature weapon - the Electron Staff. This is because unlike whip and gun, in the show the staff had the ability to extend its length on command. While the fully extended version of the staff looks the part, the shortened version serves more as a nice little extra rather than anything collectors are likely to pose the figure with. Although, the fact it looks EXACTLY like a stereotypical magic wand probably means it can serve other hilarious posing/photo purposes.

Make no mistake the Hakaider Squad is really only for the most dedicated of Kikaider fans. As a three-pack release it certainly doesn’t come cheap (the original price was 16,200 yen discounting middleman fees), and those three figures are all repaints of a figure you may have bought twice already. On the other hand, it’s three repaints of a pretty great figure that all come with their own unique accessories. As for any Kikaider 01 fan, there’s little more satisfying than being able to pose Gill Hakaider along with his posse. Casual buyers would be better off picking up one of the Tamashii web exclusive versions instead, but the more dedicated among us will unlikely be disappointed with this very special set. Now if we can just get Bijinder and Waruder (and Kikaider 00 for the manga/anime fans out there I suppose) out of Bandai too, the whole family will be here.

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