Thursday 30 October 2014

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Akaranger

S.H. Figuarts Akaranger

Bandai Tamashii Nations has been doing some pretty neat things with the S.H. Figuarts line in 2014 by releasing a fair few figures that fans either assumed were never coming or ones that have been in the prototype stage for years. On the other hand, other fans have lamented the obvious decline in Super Sentai figuarts as the line seems to turn its attention elsewhere with so many teams left unfinished. So here's a release that's both been a long time coming and proves that the Super Sentai side of things isn't quite dead yet! While September/October is usually the time we'd be seeing the most recent Red (so in this case, ToQ #1), this year that slot has instead been taken by the original red ranger - Akaranger of Himitsu Sentai Goranger!

Box front

Box backInsert Tray

Looking at the box the first thing you've probably noticed is how it labels the character "Akarenger" rather than Akaranger. Well to put it simply, "Akarenger" and "Gorenger" are the words that have been adopted by Toei for the official romanisation of the series, and so subsequently appear on all English writing packaging relating to it. However since Goranger aired the series has become more widely known to use "-ranger" rather than "-renger", much like how ranger is adopted into most Super Sentai titles. It isn't quite as conflicting as Gaim's Jimber/Jinba/Jimber Arms or Gokaiger's Basco/Vasco packaging, but still worthy of note.

As for the box itself, there isn't really a whole lot to say to be honest. The front is predominately red with a nice little yellow stripe to emulate Akaranger's simple yet effective costume. Meanwhile the back images are rather neatly arranged with one larger one aside a number of smaller close ups. It certainly isn't the most elaborate Figuarts box ever, but it fits the character pretty nicely I think.

Akaranger assumes the pose

Figure frontFigure back

Back shot minus the capeAkaranger ready for action

While you might think that most/all Super Sentai Figuarts share the same body, in actual fact Akaranger utilises a completely unique sculpt! Of course that doesn't change the fact that the way the articulation works is pretty much the same across the board, but its nice to see there is effort going into the production of these guys. The cape is a solid plastic piece that slots quite firmly into the hole in the back pictured above, so there's little chance of it getting loose and repeatedly coming off. Overall the suit is pretty simplistic, but it has details in the areas that matter. Coming from a time before these suits were made of spandex, the arms and torso have a nice bit of sculpting to evoke loose fitting fabric. The belt and head details are exquisitely done (particularly the S logo buckle) and the visor even has small indents in it to replicate the holes the suit actors used to see out of. It's some really nice stuff and despite the suit's age the Figuart makes it stand out even against some its more elaborate successors.

It all looks fantastic on his own, but when you put him next to another Figuart it should become clear that there is something a little off about Akaranger's body - he's pretty huge! Like the rather strange case of the Shocker Combatmen, Akaranger is considerably taller than your average Figuart, and with  it also comes a rather noticeable bulk. He feels like a giant next to to the likes of Gokai Red! It's something that will probably drive scale nuts crazy, but given the nature of the original Goranger suits I think a little bit of extra bulk seems rather fitting. And as for the height - well, it's only really noticeable if you have all your Figuarts standing up straight and who's doing that?

Akaranger's Spear Bute weapon

More Spear ButeGetting creative with the spear bute

The Red ButeThe Silver Shot

Accessories seem to have become less and less of a talking point with each Super Sentai release (partially thanks to all the web exclusives Zyurangers coming with as little as possible compared to Tyranno Ranger), but Akaranger really seems like a return to form for the line as he comes with a ton of different things to mess around with. So much that I'm even going to break it up into two sections! First off we have the usual selection of swappable hands, which in this case is a grand total of 11 (five pairs and then an additional right hand for his signature pose). As for weapons he has the Red Bute whip, which is a rather disappointing piece of soft plastic that isn't very suitable for many poses at all - maybe some actual rope would have been better?

It's all uphill from here though, as the "Spear Bute" version is considerably better (it's not really a spear though, more like a pole). Sure its just a long plastic stick with some coloured ends, but the 70s was a simpler time and you'd be surprised how many cool poses you can get out him wielding. Next up is the Silver Shot, which looks like a cool retro blaster but is actually just a fancy flare gun. Doesn't stop it looking good though! Bizarrely, rather than simply have the gun fit in the belt holster Bandai have included a completely separated "holstered" piece that can be switched around. Given that every other Super Sentai figure so far has had a functioning holster, you have to wonder what inspired Bandai to make such a seemingly pointless change.

Using the silver shot

The Goranger storm ballMore Goranger storm ball

Next we move away from Akaranger's signature weapons to look at some of the more unexpected inclusions in this release. First up is the Birdie - an alternate belt with side rockets for flight. This really neat extra requires completely separating the torso and switching the belts around, as well as taking the S logo off of the standard belt and clipping it into the other. Finally we have the team's first finishing attack in plastic form - the Goranger Storm Ball. This is the fully charged version of the ball, ready to kick at the monster for the finishing blow. It doesn't actually connect to Akaranger anywhere so you'll need to either do some precarious balancing or have an extra stand handy to get a good looking pose with it.

I've lumped these two accessories together because they both illustrate the biggest flaw in Akaranger's design - that cape and Tamashii stands just don't get along. Thanks to it covering up pretty much all of his back and being completely rigid, there's hardly any room for a Tamashii Stage claw to get a good amount of purchase around him. It's okay when playing with the Birdie since (as illustrated above) you can have the claw wrapped under him but Storm Ball kick poses prove far more difficult than they should. This is the perfect example of why S.H. Figuarts should really adopt the Ultra-Act method of figures coming with an alternate adaptor stand piece, but in the case of this figure at the very least an alternate flowing cape could have been a good idea.

The Figuarts Red Senshi united

Akaranger meets Gokai RedAkiba Red meets the icon

Akaranger and Kikaider

Despite the very minor issues of his height and the plastic cape (well, more the issues BECAUSE of the plastic cape), Akaranger is an absolutely fantastic release. Not only is it a new Super Sentai release of an incredibly important character, but the sculpt itself it near perfect and the release has been crammed with as many accessories as possible - something that seems like more and more of a rarity for some figures these days. Best of all, it's the one release where it won't feel like such a huge deal if the rest of the team don't follow (funnily enough they were revealed the day I wrote this, but if and when they'll be released is anyone's guess) - Akaranger isn't just the leader of the Gorangers, he's essentially a leader for the whole of Super Sentai! Who doesn't want that as part of their collection?

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