Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler

Release Date: January 2018 
RRP: 7020 yen 

Not content with simply exploring the early years of Tsuburaya Productions' legendary franchise, Bandai Tamashii Nations kicked off their range of modern-era Ultraman S.H. Figuarts last year with a number of releases from Ultraman Orb. Of course no Orb display would be complete without Gai's friend turned enemy turned usually-begrudging ally (it's a fairly complicated relationship to say the least), which is why they've kicked off what will hopefully be another great year of Ultra releases with S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler. Based upon his monster form which made its debut in episode 10 of the series, the figure is a Tamashii web exclusive item as well as the first Ultraman Orb Figuart to not simply be a remould of the titular character.

Juggler's packaging is done up in the same style as the Orb Origin, Origin the First and Specium Zeperion releases, minus the transparent front window which were taken away from most Tamashii web releases some time ago. In usual Ultraman Figuarts fashion the front of the box features a big image of the actual show suit, with the toy itself appearing behind in a more obscured image as part of the box's purple colourscheme. The back however uses the usual standard grey backdrop, combined with the usual array of stock imagery. Also note the box labels him as "Juggrus Juggler"- so close Bandai, so close.

Inside the figure and accessories are housed on a single tray, but upon opening the box you'll find an even bigger surprise in store! Turns out the card flaps have scaled versions of Juggler's Kaiju cards printed on them, which presumably and be cut out and then used as an additional accessory. It’s a neat little feature, but as someone who doesn't like to mangle their boxes I'd have much preferred them printed on a separate sheet. Alternatively I could just scan and print them, but less effort is always appreciated.

S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler is the first modern alien/monster/creature suit to appear in the line and boy does it show. Not to put down the previous released figures in any way because they were all so painstakingly accurate, but in terms of sculpting and finish Juggler puts them all to shame. There's barely a plain surface on his body, with each part of the suit's three-piece colourscheme bringing along a different texture. First you have the wrinkled black undersuit, followed by the smooth silver armoured sections and finally the uneven, clay-like orange areas. This is one of those figures that really gives an extra level of appreciation for the suit itself as it gives you a better sense of what it must look and feel like close up in addition to how it looks onscreen. It doesn't quite have the colourful simplicity as some of the early Ultra creatures, but it more than makes up for it when it comes to detail.

Articulation is something that's been getting better and better with each passing Ultra figure, partly thanks to the fact some of the more recent releases (such as Dada) have largely humanoid bodies. Juggler is the most humanoid of them yet, so it's no surprise to see the figure fall much closer in line with what one would usually expect from a typical S.H. Figuarts figure. In total he sports the usual ball-jointed head, neck, shoulders, torso, waist and hips along with double-hinge elbows and knees, ankle rockers and a single-hinge toe cap. Additionally the shoulder pads are also attached by a ball joint attached to these strange double-hinge connector pieces, which give a lot less movement than they sound but more enough to give them clearance around the arms. Other nice little features include the neat covered extending knee joint system Tamashii have been using on a lot of their newer figures, which does a great job of hiding the actual mechanics of the toy. Even areas I expected the figure to be stiff and/or quite weak in (such as the torso or ankle tilts) are extremely flexible and don't seem to suffer from the bulkier portions of the sculpt. At a push you could argue that the head doesn't have quite as much movement as it perhaps should, but the flexibility of the neck joint makes up for that for the most part.

Juggler's accessories include four additional pairs of hands, a swappable chest plate which lacks the scar, the Serpent-Hearted Blade and his precious Dark Ring – the evil counterpart to the Orb Ring, Ultraman Orb's transformation device. The selection of hands on offer is pretty good, allowing Juggler to hold both accessories in either hand (and in the case of the Dark Ring, there's also the corresponding summoning hand to go with it). There's not a whole lot to say about the chest plate either – it's a decent little extra and switches out easily enough, but doesn't feel like an essential part by any stretch of the imagination (I'd gladly have swapped it out for an separate sheet of Kaiju cards personally). The weapons however are much more exciting. The Serpent-Hearted Blade is long, imposing and accurately (if simplistically) detailed, featuring a removable pommel (ala the various Link Figma and Nendoroids) so that it can fit into the hands without any unnecessary forcing or fear of breakage. Finally the Dark Ring looks absolutely magnificent with its metallic blue paint job and transparent orange ring. Even though it was something associated with Gai than Orb, it's a real shame that none of the announced Orb figures come with the Orb Ring as a companion piece. All in all a good selection of accessories – a proper inclusion of the Kaiju cards would have made it extra special, but there's certainly enough here to not make you feel cheated out of anything.

Anyone who has been collecting Ultraman S.H. Figuarts will tell you that it isn’t the heroes that are making the range so interesting, it's the monsters. Each releases and built upon the last, and as we finally get to a recurring villain Tamashii Nations have brought their best offering yet. S.H. Figuarts Jugglus Juggler follows his predecessors in being a beautifully sculpted figure with far more intricacies and personality that his heroic equivalent, but he also sports the kind of articulation the line has built itself on as well as and a great bunch of accessories to boot. It's pretty disappointing to see such a key character relegated to being a somewhat expensive web exclusive, but perhaps Bandai just aren't convinced Juggler has the staying power of a classic Ultra monster just yet. However given the impact he had on Orb, the Ultraman fandom as well as Takaya Aoyagi's incredible charisma, I for one would disagree. Orb fans - you definitely don't want to miss out on this.

1 comment:

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

I ended up getting this figure and I LOVE it! It's my 2nd Figuarts and I had no issues, I found it to be very nice. Great detail, decent accessories, a lot of extra hands and really good articulation for some cool poses. I'm very pleased with this guy.