Thursday, 22 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome Anniversary Special Color Ver.

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 6264 yen

When Mikumo Guynemer and Freyja Wion were released last year it seemed like the time of Macross S.H. Figuarts had finally arrived. Sadly that time came and went in a flash, with the remaining members of Walküre sentenced to Tamashii Nations limbo alongside the likes of Char Aznable and a whole host of Super Sentai and Metal Heroes characters. However even Bandai weren't going to let the 35th anniversary of the Macross franchise go uncelebrated, and in an act of equivalent exchange Macross Frontier's galactic fairy has escaped from said limbo to arrive as S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome Anniversary Special Colour Ver.!

S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome comes in a beautifully done up pink and white window box, featuring a nice big image of the figure as well as a thick name tag strip done up in suitably lavish gold font. The box notes that the figure is a "special anniversary colour" version, and even though there isn't really anything special per se about this release as far as S.H. Figuarts goes the overall presentation of the packaging makes it feel pretty celebratory. The back of the box is equally gorgeous, turning the usually dull stock images into something akin to a screen you might see at a concert which is just perfect for Sheryl. Inside the figure and accessories are housed on a single tray, with the Tamashii Stage base bagged and taped behind it.

First of all you might notice that Sheryl's anniversary outfit is actually a white, red and gold recolour of her iconic "blue bondage" (I'm not 100% sure if this is the official name, I'm just going by its name on the Uta Macross mobile game) costume, the figure of which was previously seen at the Tamashii Nations event in 2015 alongside Ranka in her "Seikan Hikou" outfit. The figure was then never to be seen again until it resurfaced as this version, albeit with a fair few sculpt improvements. Ranka on the other hand was never to be seen again. The costume and colourscheme is also somewhat reminiscent of this bit of artwork, but far from a perfect match. Overall it's pretty nice and a logical colour palette for a 35th anniversary figure, but not so good that it's better than the original colours.

The sculpt however is excellent, and you can see how far it's come in those years Tamashii Nations have spent tinkering away at it. The pearly white and cherry red parts have a glossy finish to them that almost comes across as a bit too plasticky, but it works in the sense that you can imagine the costume itself having that sort of finish anyway. Tamashii also did a fantastic job on the hair, which if you've seen the show will not only know changes colour depending on her outfit but also can slightly change depending on how the light is hitting it. But they've got the right mix of blonde and pink going on here, and the colours work wonderfully with those of the costume itself. As much as I'm disappointed that it isn't just the blue bondage costume, it’s a good look for Sheryl and translated brilliantly into a figure.

Unfortunately when you get to moving the figure about the problems start showing. The first is one that both Freyja and Mikumo suffered from as well, but is especially frustrating when it comes to Sheryl. Those tiny high-heeled boots? They might look good but they are an absolute nightmare to pose. The figure isn't completely incapable of balancing on its own, but it's just so damn fiddly (especially if you're aiming for a particularly striking pose) that it makes you just not want to even bother. The head also has some pretty significant limitations because of the way the hair drapes over the shoulders at either side. This means the head has extremely limited side to side motion, and even taking the head off and positioning it that way doesn't make any difference because of the long solid hairpiece at the back. So what you're left relying on are just the ball-jointed shoulders, waist, wrists and ankles along with swing-down ball-joint hips and double hinge elbows and knees. The old style swing down hips actually work pretty well on the figure too, as the coat tails completely hide the gaps they create. It’s a shame the issues Sheryl has are so significant as the poses she is capable of look pretty damn good – you're just doing them knowing that the figure could (and arguably should) be capable of more.

To make up the fact Sheryl is almost incapable of standing up on her own, Tamashii Nations have kindly included a personalised Tamashii Stage just like they did with Freyja and Mikumo (who also suffered with varying degrees of balance issues). Like those previous releases the base is a large circle rather than the standard rectangular shape, sporting a red "happy anniversary" tampograph with Sheryl's heart/butterfly wing logo. Though a figure struggling to stand up on its own is a pretty huge detriment, it's always nice to have a Figuart that actually comes with its own stand for once. If Figma can manage it there's no real reason why Bandai can't as well.

Sheryl's other accessories include two additional faceplates, nine extra hands (four matching pairs and then an additional "kira!" pose right hand), microphone, hat and then an alternative front hair piece with a tab moulded onto it to keep the hat in place. All in all pretty much everything you'd expect from a Sheryl Nome figure, along with a few extra bits relating to this specific costume. The spread of hands on offer here is really nice, but when it comes to the faceplates it’s the same complaint as it was with the Delta figures – the lack of variety. All three expressions are pretty similar, so don’t show off the range or confidence Sheryl has whatsoever. There's no solemn ballad singing voice, no powerful vocals voice – all just varying degrees of smile with a slightly more serious look on one of them. Freyja at the very least had one plate which showed off how expressive she was, Sheryl and Mikumo have no such luck.

S.H. Figuarts Sheryl Nome is a fairly serviceable figure – beautifully sculpted but unfortunately lacking in a number of key areas. The balancing issues and lack of definitive personality are one factor, but in a wider sense the decision to release this anniversary colourscheme is also pretty disappointing. Not just because it comes at the expense of the more iconic/desirable "blue bondage" costume, but also because it makes this feel like a standalone release. And a standalone release means that all of a sudden getting that Ranka to go with her doesn't seem all that likely. Bandai have already teased and ultimately forgotten about the rest of Walküre (which could have easily been justified as web exclusives, I don't think anyone was expecting them to be retail releases), so them dropping Ranka doesn’t seem that too far-fetched. Ultimately that's the most disappointing thing about these Macross Figuarts – Bandai just don't seem to want to commit to them. Mikumo and Freyja work well enough as a pair but Sheryl without Ranka just seems wrong. But enough musing on the future (or lack of) of Macross Figuarts – Figuarts Sheryl Nome is one for the fans. They'll definitely get a kick out of it, but in general this release feels like a random blip in the world of Figuarts rather than a moment of a beloved franchise finally getting the articulated figure love it deserves.

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