Wednesday 30 April 2014

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kabuto Rider Form

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Kabuto Renewal

My opinions of Kamen Rider Kabuto as a series may be pretty low, but if there's one thing I couldn't fault it on it's how fantastic the suit designs were - taking the core insect design of the franchise and taking it to the next level. However its been nearly six years since the original Kabuto S.H. Figuarts figures were released, so naturally Tendou and co. are really beginning to show their age when stacked up next to some of the newer releases in the line. But of course, the man who walks the path of heaven isn't going to settle for sub-par figure, and so Bandai Tamashii Nations have created a brand new renewal version of the show's titular Rider under the banner of 'Shinkocchou Seihou'. This isn't just a simple upgrade like Kamen Rider Black got though - Bandai have incorporated all new sculpting techniques and joint systems to make this higher-priced-than-usual Figuart something REALLY special...

Not your average Figuart box

Though the back is quite similarFancy fancy

Before we even get to the figure itself, the box alone is enough to tell you that this is no ordinary S.H. Figuarts release. Not only is it neither a standard mass-release window box or web exclusive style windowless box, but here the cardboard flaps are gone altogether. Instead Kabuto comes in a smaller, thicker, rather sexy iPhone style box, with the top lid featuring a nice profile shot of the figure. The back features the usual images and Japanese text, while the sides of the lid feature the name "Masked Rider Kabuto Rider Form" indented in silver. Upon removing the lid you'll find Kabuto on a white plastic tray, with a separate tray featuring the hands/accessories underneath.

Walking the path of heaven

The man who will one day rule allSouji Tendou!

Working from the ground up, Bandai have sculpted a brand new, beefier looking Kabuto that gets as close to the real-life suit as is possible for a small plastic figure of this size. And boy does it show. The original Kabuto figure was good for its time but riddled with all kinds of problems - bow legs, simpler detail, a skinny inaccurate helmet. This new release gets rid of all the problems and shows off just how gorgeous the Kabuto suit is. Not to mention is has an incredible amount of articulation - as well as all the usual you'd find in a Figuart, Kabuto continues the much nicer hip-joints seen on the Ryuki/Blade figures, moveable shoulder guards like on Black 2.0 and finally adds three points of chest articulation! Each peck can swing to the side while the ab section is hinged and can lift up. Are you likely to use that level of articulation? Probably not. Is it exceptionally cool that it's there? Most definitely!

On top of that, Kabuto also features a semi-functional Kabuto Zecter on the belt. Rather than have it as a swappable piece, the handle can swing out at a 90 degree angle...perfect for recreating "Rider Kick" poses.


RIDER KICK!1..2..3..!

But amongst all these small additions and details, there's one big change that's been hotly debated since the figure was first announced - a brand new hand system. Moving away from the small ball-jointed wrists, Kabuto's hands take a leaf out of Figma's book and are hinged vertically onto a long peg which slots into the wrist hole. Some have pointed out how this new system actually offers less articulation to the hands, while others have welcomed a change after having the old-style wrist joints break on them even when using caution (my Basco and Gavan figures can attest to that). Others have also pointed out that (like Figmas) the joints could easily suffer breakage too, leaving the peg stuck in the figure's wrist. There's been a lot of back and forth about it, with concrete answers only really coming upon release.

Honestly, it's a move that's going to divide buyers but I couldn't be happier with the hand change. Yes the hinge is obvious when looking directly at the hand and yes and articulation is less than what you'd get with the old style joints, but swapping them out is so much easier. It isn't a case of just pulling, the pegs can slowly and gently be twisted out of place. The notched ends also made them fit much more securely than the smooth Figma pegs. While I'm sure Bandai can come up with a method that incorporates these pegs with the articulation of the ball-joint wrists, for now I'm happy to see that the forthcoming Gaim and Hibiki figures will also be using this system.

Avalanche Slash!

Avalanche Break!Defeating Worm

The higher price point seems to mostly be a byproduct of the sculpt and packaging, because Kabuto is a bit light on the accessories. In total all he comes with are nine alternate hands (including the obligatory "walking the path of heaven" pointing right hand) and two separate versions of the Kabuto Kunai Gun - one in its axe and gun modes, and the other in the dagger Kunai mode. The only thing missing is the ZECT Mizer (which is included with the recent Figure-rise 6 model kit), but considering Kabuto uses that once (maybe twice) in the entire show it's really hard to care. So while there may be few accessories, you aren't lacking much with this release either.

Avalanche Shoot!Victory for Kabuto

Also included as a side bonus is a plastic block/hand-tree to store the additional hands, again not unlike the ones Max Factory include with their Figma line. There are a few design differences though, as the hand pegs clip onto the sides of the tree and then the hands fold down into their own little squares. The tree can also be broken into two parts, as well as have more pieces added to it as time goes on. It's quite a clever idea in concept, but unfortunately the execution leaves much to be desired. The hands barely clip in at all, meaning so little as breathing on them can cause them to come tumbling off the tree and potentially taking the other hands with it/ There's nothing more frustrating than taking your time to get them all neatly on the tree only to have them instantly fall off one by one. Great idea Bandai, but definitely one that needs refining.

Hand trees!Broken-up hand trees!

And if you weren't convinced the Kabuto wasn't such an extra special release for the line, there's more! Also included is a small booklet documenting how Tamashii Nations sculpted this brand new Kabuto, featuring images and (what I presume are) production notes. Of course, the notes are in Japanese so you may not get a lot out of it - but still this is a really nice additional piece that really adds to the special feel of the release.

Nice looking booklet......sadly no clue what it actually says.

There are still a few little kinks to iron out in this brand new era of S.H. Figuarts, but that doesn't change the fact that this renewal Kamen Rider Kabuto is a massive step up from what's come before it. And considering it's part of a line made up of mostly fantastic figures, that's a really impressive achievement. While buyers may not be so inclined to see every figure released from here on out command the higher price tag, Kabuto at the very least justifies it. It hurts me a little inside to say that Kabuto is a must-own figure, but he really, really is. I eagerly await seeing how these new additions go on into the aforementioned Gaim and Hibiki figures, as well as the future of the line itself. 

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