Thursday, 27 July 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange

Release date: June 2017
RRP: 6480 yen (Japanese Edition), $84.99/£99.99 (Western Edition)

Bandai Tamashii Nations' journey through the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with the release of S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange! Although coming quite a while after the release of the character's film debut last year, the figure does time nicely with the growing hype for Avengers: Infinity War next year when the character (as played by Benedict Cumberbatch) will interact with the rest of the MCU for the first time. As well as releasing as a Tamashii web exclusive in Japan, Doctor Strange was released officially in the West as part of an exclusive set which also includes a number of flame effect parts.

Just like previous Tamashii web exclusive Marvel releases (with the exception of Black Panther) Doctor Strange comes packaged in standard window-style packaging, despite most web exclusive releases coming in completely opaque boxes these days. The box also has a much more "movie" aesthetic to it than previous releases as well, featuring images of Cumberbatch himself as well as a design similar to that of the film's promotional artwork. Whether this has anything to do with the fact the figure saw a much wider release worldwide is unknown, but either way nicer packaging is always a bonus. The back features a few stock images of the figure and accessories, including a nice big one set up just like a scene from the film itself.

Naturally the Western release comes in a much larger box to store the additional accessories, but the style and images remain largely the same.

No matter what the company may be, headsculpts always seem to be hit or miss when it comes to 6" figures of unmasked movie characters. While Tamashii Nations' track record isn't awful, they're certainly no exception to this rule either. However it's pleasing to report that Doctor Strange is hands down the best likeness Bandai have put out so far, capturing Cumberbatch's likeness brilliantly. It seems they may have also learned a trick or two from their Black Panther release too, as Strange features some incredible texture detailing all over the body and cloak. Even the cape trim features the same decorative flair that it does in the movie. The paintwork and moulding is all incredibly sharp, so details such as the Eye of Agamotto aren't completely lost when shrunk down to this scale. In terms of sculpting, paintwork and overall quality, this definitely feels like it's raised the bar for Marvel Figuarts.

Articulation is up to the usual Figuarts standard, with only a few little quirks here and there. Some will probably lament at yet another three-piece plastic cape, but rest assured this one is nowhere near as bad as Thor's. The two side pieces pull out nicely, and the whole cloak can also swing backwards so that it doesn't get in the way of posing the arms. The separate parts does mean spreading it out fully leads to some unnatural looking gaps, but the textured finish and asymmetrical shape make it work a lot better. Body-wise it's the usual Figuarts joint layout, with the figure feature a ball-jointed head, shoulders, waist and wrists along with double-hinge elbows, knees and swing-down ball-jointed hips. The soft plastic tunic does unfortunately mean that leg articulation is somewhat limited, but the swing-down hips do the best they can at offsetting it - and thanks to the tunic any gaps left by the joints are complete covered. But the biggest head-scratcher on this figure is the complete lack of ankle joints - instead the feet just connect via a plug and have no articulation whatsoever. Tamashii Nations have never had any problems at giving boots ankle joints before, so what gives here?

Ever wondered why Figuarts have been coming with less and less alternate hands as time goes on? Judging by this release the answer seems to be because Doctor Strange took them all! The Sorcerer Supreme comes with a whopping five extra pairs of hands (giving him 12 to choose from in total) in addition to an alternate headsculpt and two pairs of magic effect part discs. While earlier in the review I defied any criticism figure's standard headsculpt, the same can't be said about the alternate one. The printing of this one is nowhere near as sharp as the default face, giving Strange a rather washed out look as well as an expression that seems closer to confusion than anger/concentration. The brilliant selection of hands is more than enough to make up for this though, as are the simple but oh so effective spell parts. Printed on thin transparent plastic, these four discs (two smaller ones with green markings and two larger orange ones) and either clip onto a specific pair of hands or alternatively fit between the hands and wrist joints. Either way the end result is a great looking effect that looks like a photoshopped picture come to life.

Of course if you've picked up the Western version of Doctor Strange you'll also be treated to an array of flame effect parts, which are a recoloured version of the ones previously released in Tamashii Effects line. Honestly it's a pretty steep markup for parts that have previously been released elsewhere, but it seems this is the only way Tamashii Nations can release this figures in the West so if you're one for buying your figures domestically it's a price unfortunately have to swallow.

Despite a few weird flaws S.H. Figuarts Doctor Strange is a great addition to the ever-growing Marvel Figuarts roster, and definitely among the better releases Tamashii Nations have put out so far. The headsculpt is far superior to the ones seen on the likes of Thor or Captain America, and the sculpting and texture is easily on par with that of Black Panther's. Throw in a great accessory count (so many hands!) and you've got a damn good figure on your hands. The only thing letting it down is the restricted lower body articulation, some of which could have very easily been avoided.  Doctor Strange might not be the first Marvel film that instantly comes to mind for many fans, but this is a great release that's well worth the purchase.

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