Saturday, 26 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Den-O Sword Form & Gun Form

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Release Date: May 2020
RRP: 8800 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations immediately set the bar pretty high when it came to the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou range, but their recent releases have been pushing the envelope and showing off just why these are a cut above normal Figuarts. It's always the most exciting when it's announced they're going to be moving onto a new Kamen Rider series to see what new tricks they'll throw in, but I don't think anyone quite expected what they had in store for Kamen Rider Den-O. S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Den-O Sword Form & Gun Form is a two-in-one deal that features two of the Rider's main form changes in one figure, thanks to a number of swappable parts. Bandai had previously toyed with the idea of a larger transforming Den-O figure at the Tamashii Nations event in 2017, but since that never came to pass you could consider this its spiritual successor. Sure it may not transform properly, but adding form changes to S.H. Figuarts even in this capacity is something that hasn't been dared since its predecessor line Souchaku Henshin. 

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Size consistency has gone out of the window with a lot of the recent Shinkocchou Seihou boxes but in terms of design it seems that Bandai aren't budging any time soon, because other than being wider and having a picture of two forms on the lid this just looks like all the other Seihou Rider boxes have. That said there is one other major difference though - as the boring profile shot that's usually printed on the lid has been replaced with closeup shots of both forms in their main poses. It's definitely more eye-catching and I wish Bandai would do the same with the standard ones too. The matte black sides of the lid feature the character name in silver foil lettering, and each form name written in its respective colour. The bottom of the box features a few images of the figure in both forms - not everything is shown off here like it usually is but to be fair there is quite a lot going on here. Inside you'll find all the pieces spread across two moulded plastic trays. The first tray is a full sized one that includes the figure, alternate armour and main accessories, and then underneath there is a smaller tray completely dedicated to the multitude of alternate hands this figure comes with.

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In Den-O's Sword Form, Ryotaro Nogami is possessed by the hot-headed Momotaros - the first Imagin he encounters on his adventures. Due to its prominence, Sword Form is largely considered to be Den-O's default form. In addition to the obvious train motif that makes up the bulk of Den-O's suit, each Imagin brings their own personal flourishes as well. In Momotaros' case, it's of course the red colouring and the peach shaped eyes - Momotaros having been born from a peach in Japanese folklore. Bandai are meeting their usual high standards with this release, improving on the original S.H. Figuarts figure in every single way. It's even more noticeable here since the old figure was reissued not too long ago for the "20 Rider Kicks" campaign, but the Seihou is beefier, more defined and just all-round better proportioned. The glossy metallic red goes beautifully with the shiny silver armour, both of which in turn contrast with that matte black bodysuit. The detailing itself is immaculate, particularly the railway line stripe going up the body and leading toward that gorgeously sculpted head with its own amazing detailing. Around the waist is the Den-O belt - both accurate and bursting with different colours to represent all of Den-O's four core forms. Topping off the look of course is those uniquely shaped but unmistakably Kamen Rider compound eyes, glimmering with the same colour as the armour whilst showing off all that reflective detailing underneath.

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Den-O's personal sidearm, the Dengasher, is comprised of four separate pieces that combine together in different ways depending on the form that's using it. Whilst the versions included here can't do any of the combining, the four individual components are included and able to slot on to the Den-O belt's holsters. Each one has a tiny circular tab on it, which slots into the holster and keeps it firmly in place. Since the parts are so small it can feel a little tough to do at first, but the parts are sturdy enough that they're unlikely to break. When connected each individual component can be angled as you please, and the holsters themselves can also swing back and forth to get out of the way of the hips when posing.

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You can expect the same high standard when it comes to articulation as well, which was especially important here as this is a base body that needs to be able to convincingly pull off a variety of different poses and personalities. At the top you've got that incredibly flexible ball jointed head and neck section, moving down in ball jointed torso and waist sections as well. The shoulders are combination of swivel hinge and butterfly joints, with the shoulder pads just above them able to rotate to move along with the arms. The arms sport bicep swivels, and ball jointed wrists, as well as those new rotating double hinged elbow joints previously introduced with the Kamen Rider OOO range. The hips have the swivel hinge joints built almost completely into the legs - giving an exceptionally good range of poseabilty but also keeping the sculpt near seamless at the same time. Finally the legs benefit from thigh swivels, double hinged knees and swivel hinge ankles. Interestingly the knees are designed in a similar fashion to the elbows, giving them some degree of rotation in addition to the great bend the hinges provide. You could make little nitpicks like how the torso joints are a bit stiff and difficult to work with due to how low the armour hangs down, but it's hard not to be impressed by just how much this figure has to offer.

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The amazing thing is even if this figure didn't have the form swapping gimmick it still comes with a ton of accessories, enough to rival even of the biggest S.H. Figuarts accessory counts there's been in recent years.  Ignoring the aforementioned Dengasher components and all the Gun Form pieces for a moment, also included here are a whopping seven extra pairs of hands, the Dengasher in sword mode and two different Den-Liner passes - one of with the ticket accurately printed under a transparent window and then another with it simply painted on for better visibility. Though there's no denying that the figure only comes with so many hands because it's two characters with wildly different personalities, it's not like you can't get full use out of all of them in both forms either. There are just so many options here that Den-O definitely comes in as one of the most expressive Shinkocchou Seihou releases thus far. Both the sword and Liner passes all fit in their intended hands nice and firmly too, so there's no worry of loosely-held weapons or tiny accessories getting lost easily. The sword itself looks fantastic but most importantly feels proportional, both in terms of the handle and the blade itself. All in all a really solid set of accessories, and one that only gets bigger as you continue to read on. 

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After Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider OOO changed the game by introducing three-part form swapping between the various releases, Kamen Rider Den-O takes it even further by providing two different forms in one box! Thanks to the intuitive way Den-O's armour transforms between each mode, it's possible to swap between forms without having to completely overhaul the body like it is with many other Riders. Just as Sword and Gun Form share enough parts for this to be possible, the Rod and Axe Forms do as well so it's likely they'll be released in a similar fashion once they're actually announced. Included in the box are all the alternate pieces needed to transform Sword Form into Gun Form, which consists of a head/neck, front torso armour, leg plates and Set Touch emblem. The leg plates are the most self-explanatory part of the transformation, since they'll have likely popped off at some point whilst posing the figure anyway - simply pop off and replace accordingly. The armour takes a little more force to pop off the body but is still fairly easy to do, and once that's off you'll very easily be able to slide the Sword Form head/neck out of its slot and replace it. The biggest challenge here is undoubtedly the Set Touch Piece, which is fixed to the belt pretty securely and there isn't much purchase around it to easily pull it out. It's a very tight fit and the pegs could easily break if forced the wrong way, so I recommend plenty of heat before trying it. The belt is made of very soft plastic, so it'll loosen up nicely. Once all that's done, it's like you've got a whole new figure to play with!

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In Gun Form Den-O's distinct red colour scheme is swapped out for a metallic purple, with the helmet also adopting a dragon motif that symbolises that Ryutaros is now the one in control. The sculpting on these new pieces is just as amazing as it was on the Sword Form ones, and if you didn't know any better you could genuinely thing that those hinges on the armour actually work and those front panels have lifted up. The combination of the translucent purple and the lined panelling underneath really make those giant eyes pop, and despite the golden whiskers on either side being relatively thin nothing about this head sculpt feels especially fragile. It all goes to show just how versatile Kamen Rider Den-O is - this is fundamentally the same figure, but change a few of the pieces and its personality can change drastically. Yes most of it was conveyed onscreen through the body language of each form, but even just looking at them they feel like different characters. Ryutaros' is the cool, childish one who just wants to dance and have fun, and you can definitely see that in Gun Form's design and colour scheme.

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Since it's the same base body at work here the overall articulation remains mostly the same, but the changes in armour do lead to a little more restriction in the upper body. Since the torso now has extra armoured panels that lift up over the shoulders the actual shoulder pad parts can't tilt quite as much as they could before, and at the same time the head now has these two extra pieces either side of it that can get in the way depending on how much you're turning it. The restrictions on these two parts really are minor though, and Gun Form can still pull off some pretty wild poses. The most important thing is that the arms and legs remain flexible, because there's no way you won't want to try some of those wild breakdancing poses Ryutaros is known for. I'm a coward so I did all of mine here with the aid of a Tamashii Stage, but I've seen plenty of pictures online of the figure being able to hold some equally crazy poses without any aid whatsoever. Just play about with the figure and see what you come up with - after all given all the gimmickry Den-O has playability is very much at the forefront of this release.

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Den-O Gun Form can enjoy all of the accessories previously mentioned in the review, but on top of that it also has one other piece intended solely for this form - the Dengasher in gun mode. While combining parts would have been an incredible feat of engineering at this scale, realistically it probably wouldn't have looked very good so producing solid pieces for each of the weapons was definitely the right call to make. The gun mode may look very different to the sword but you can immediately tell that they're made of the same pieces (and at the same time, that those pieces are the ones that can be individually holstered), and really gives Gun Form that extra bit of identity. After all, these forms are specifically named after their weapons so they're a big part of who they are!

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It was a ballsy move by Bandai to make a figure with such an extensive form changing/parts-swapping gimmick, not just due to the fragility of these things but also because truthfully anyone who really cares about owning multiple forms would just by both anyway. But S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Den-O Sword Form & Gun Form was proof of exactly what Bandai Tamashii Nations could do with these figures if they wanted, and it's hard to call it anything but a resounding success. An incredible figure that not only encompasses all the brilliance of the Shinkocchou Seihou line so far, but takes it to brand new heights in terms of gimmicks and playability. My only regret is not immediately buying two, because with how fun both forms turned out to be I can see this quickly turning into a rather extensive Kamen Rider Den-O collection.

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