Friday 22 February 2013

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 01

February is usually the time that introduces the latest Kamen Rider to Bandai’s S.H. Figuarts line, and 2013 is no exception. Kamen Rider Wizard is a series that’s going to bring in a huge range of new figures(at the time of writing there are eight Wizard forms announced, Kamen Rider Beast and two Phantoms), but for now we start things off with the character’s base form – Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style. Here is the review:

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style Box Front

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style Box BackSH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Insert Tray

While Figuarts packaging often looks great, it’s a pretty standard affair. However Kamen Rider Wizard’s box really puts others to shame and suits the character perfectly. The box has a smooth black finish, with the usual square window replaced by a circular one surrounded by one of the magic circles seen in the show itself. The spine features a similar aesthetic to the images and text on the front, while the back is the usual “figure in multiple poses” image. Open him up and you’ll find the pieces separated onto two trays – the first housing the figure and most of the accessories while the bottom holds the Tamashii stage and alternate robe parts.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 02

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 03SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 04

Kamen Rider Wizard himself is one of the more unorthodox Rider designs, featuring a flowing tailcoat and a helmet devoid of the obvious compound eyes Kamen Rider’s usually have (a first time for a main Rider since Kamen Rider Hibiki). Bandai have done a decent job translating this to a figure, but the execution is far from perfect. Wizard's neck is almost non-existent which makes the head feel oddly proportioned, while the feet are also noticeably large and throw the shape of the figure off. On top of all that the waist section is tiny, which leads to the Driver feeling sucked into the body as the torso section hangs out so far in front of it. The finish on the other is pretty great - the smooth black plastic of the coat contrasts excellently with the shiny red parts of the figure, which were also used for that striking helmet design.  The silver shoulder pads also feature the dragon/magic circle markings that they should.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 05

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 06SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 07

Articulation should be to the usual Figuarts standard, but this is where the figure really begins to show off some very serious flaws. The shortness of the neck becomes a little more noticeable since the coat collar gets in the way of him looking sidewards. The tailcoat piece is made from soft PVC so can be slightly moved to suit the leg poses, but nothing substantial enough to get a particularly impressive range of motion out off. The biggest problem however is the waist and Driver. The Driver is constantly prone to having the front panel pop off, and because of the tiny tabs used to fix it to the belt piece the connection is anything BUT secure. In turn forcing the piece back onto the belt will often result in the whole top half of the figure just popping off its ball joint, which is presumably a little less secure than a typical Figuart so that changing out the tailcoat pieces is a little easier. Over time the pieces just get less and less secure, so much so that it's almost impossible to pose this figure without one or the other popping off in the process. Proportion flaws be damned Wizard is still a pretty good looking figure in certain poses, but the process of getting him into said poses quickly becomes frustrating to the point where you don't even want to keep trying.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 08

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 09SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 10

So how do Bandai try to make up for these flaws? With one of the most impressive accessory counts you'll find on an S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider release. Included are 12 hands, the WizarSword gun in both sword and gun forms, an alternate Wizard driver plate in the opposite hand position and accompanying belt piece, flowing tail coat pieces and most significantly of all – a personalised Tamashii stage. It’s a rarity for them to come regularly packaged with a figure, and is extremely welcome with Wizard given how flashy his attacks are(it is show time after all!). Each hand has the “flame style” and “driver on” rings accurately moulded on, and the weapons feature a nifty hinged hand to recreate Wizard’s finishing attacks. The Tamashii stage is a translucent red colour, featuring a magic gate image and the name of the figure.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 11

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 12SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 13

While Wizard does have at least one separate accessory pack coming out in the near future, unlike Kamen Rider Fourze (who had numerous accessory sets and a designated stand set) there is more than enough here to keep a buyer satisfied with the figure alone. As an added incentive, the initial run of Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style comes with “Strike” robe parts as a bonus (packaged separately from the figure as you can see). Both this robe piece and the flowing one included in the main box are solid plastic as opposed to PVC, but are unlikely to get in the way of posing the legs. Changing the robe involves removing the torso (along with the Wizard driver), lifting the robe piece off the legs and then pegging the alternate one down. The downside to this switch is that by prying the waist joint away once, it makes the whole thing feel loose from there on out. What once felt like a tight figure from the package now breaks (not literally) in half with very little provocation. Like the belt issue its a rather irritating frustration, especially for someone who likes to regularly switch around their figure's poses.

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style 14

Much like the show itself, S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style seems to be a pretty big exercise in style over substance. The finish of the figure is one that lives up to the suit's overly flashy design, and the accessory count is more than enough to lure you in even if you aren't a huge fan of the series. But at the end of the day these are action figures meant to be posed, and this is where Wizard really struggles to make the cut. Even if you can overlook the obvious proportion issues, the problems with the waist and Driver are frustrating to the point where once you finally get the figure into a pose you're happy with you never want to touch it again for fear of it coming apart in your hands. Straight out of the box the toy seems wonderful, but it only takes an hour or so for these things to become all too apparent. Kamen Rider Wizard perhaps doesn't quite deserve the bad rap he gets, but functionally there are definitely some things Bandai could have addressed before release.

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