Saturday 18 October 2014

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kikaider

S.H. Figuarts Kikaider

The S.H. Figuarts line is in a pretty interesting state right now. We're a handful away from having every main Kamen Rider released, Super Sentai characters are becoming few and far between and Bandai seem to be showing an increasing interest in various anime properties. This doesn't mean that's it for tokusatsu characters though, as Tamashii Nations have finally turned their attention towards some of the other popular franchises Toei have spawned over the years. And what better place to start at than the beginning, with one of legend Shotaro Ishinomori's earliest henshin heroes - Kikaider of the 1972 series Android Kikaider. This figure was released as a Tamashii web exclusive at the end of September 2014.

Kikaider box front

Kikaider box backKikaider insert tray

The first thing buyers will notice about Kikaider is that the box is a little bit different to what you usually see for Figuarts, even the ones of the web exclusive variety. For a start the box is noticeably smaller than your standard Figuarts packaging, the same height about only about two thirds of the length. Second is the overall design of the box, which is simple, arty and brilliant all at once. The front is predominantly black with a simple drawing of Kikaider adorning the top right hand corner. Meanwhile the back only features one image of the whole figure, with a red and blue coloured closeup on either side. The size make it seem a little bit awkward next to the standard boxes if you're using them for display, but in terms just general aesthetics its hands down one of the nicest Figuarts boxes I've seen. Almost makes the shift to windowless boxes for exclusives worth it.

Kikaider ready for action

Figure front viewFigure back view though

Kikaider's right sideKikaider's left side

Forget Kamen Rider W and his rainbow of forms, this is the first and foremost two-toned hero. Coming from a time when tokusatsu costumes were still relatively simple, there isn't a whole lot of sculpting detail to Figuarts Kikaider. However sometimes simplicity can be just as good as crazy detailed, and Tamashii Nations have done a great job producing a smooth great-looking figure. The half-blue/half-red look is just as striking as it was in 1972, and the raised yellow and silver stripes (the latter of which also have some sculpted detail) dashed around the figure really complete it. The plastic also has this weird shine to it which may not be quite as polished as a matte finish, but certainly gives off the same vibe as the vinyl like material used for one of the Kikaider suits (it fluctuates between that and a fabric one throughout the show).

The red side of the head also features the exposed 'brain' of Kikaider, cased in a clear plastic skull. Fiction-wise this seems like a pretty obvious target that no one ever really exploited, but design-wise it's a pretty striking focal point of the design. There isn't a whole lot of detail to be made out under the clear plastic but it's good to see that Bandai did put some effort into getting it to look reasonably like a robot brain - if you look at it long and hard enough you can make out circuitry and and other bits of mechanical bits. Kudos for giving it a blackwash too to make the details stand out, rather than just looking at a hunk of silver plastic.

A look inside Kikaider's head

The articulation is of the usual high S.H. Figuarts standard, and as a figure with no big shoulder pads or armour pieces to speak of there's nothing hindering all the joints Kikaider has on offer. A particular highlight is the shoulder area, which in addition to the usual balljoints have swing-out areas to achieve even more movement out of them. On top of that we have a ball jointed head, neck and hips, ab crunch, double-hinge elbows and knees, ball-jointed wrists and ankles and even a hinged toe joint.

One little word of warning though - while swapping hands isn't problem in itself the fists that are initially attached to the figure are a pain to take off, especially the red one. Mine was stuck on so tightly that I was terrified I was going to break the joint almost immediately upon opening the figure. However luckily I did manage to get it off and then taking the other hands on and off didn't prove as difficult.

Posing Kikaider

More posing funMore posing fun

Throwing a punchKikaider strikes a pose

Finally we come to accessories, which is undoubtedly the area that Kikaider falls the shortest in. While reviewing the show itself I commented on how the fight scenes started to get a bit stale in later episodes due to Kikaider's moveset being entirely made up of punches, kicks and throws. So obviously the figure doesn't really have a lot to work with either, with the entire accessory count only made up of five pairs of hands. These include closed fists, two sets of splayed palms, "karate chop" hands and a pair of gripping hands. The latter of these is pretty pointless for now since there's nothing included FOR Kikaider to hold, so I assume they're mainly to go with the release of his bike in a few months' time.

So while there isn't really anything that could have come with Kikaider in terms of weaponry, there are still a few possibilities that would have made this a much more substantial release. In a world where Kamen Rider Beast can come with a bottle of mayonnaise and Bravo can come with a glass of wine, I see no reason why Kikaider couldn't have come with a red acoustic guitar. Yes he never had it transformed, but it's a pretty iconic part of Kikaider and since we're unlikely to be getting a Jiro figure anytime would have been absolutely perfect here.

Denji End pose

Yet another weaponless poseMore posing

Kikaider takes flight

Kikaider is pretty much everything one should expect from the S.H. Figuarts line, but unless you have a real love for the character there isn't a whole lot here to make it something truly special. A pretty basic design gets you a pretty basic figure, and for buyers who are used to their Kamen Rider and Super Sentai figures coming with a bunch of accessories only getting a bunch of hands to play around with might come as a bit of a blow. He is certainly a good figure, but in a line that's filled with exceptionally good figures it's a pity that figures like this often feel lacking in comparison. So rather than lament how someone as awesome as Kikaider simply yields an "alright" figure, let's look at the positives - we're finally getting some more obscure tokusatsu heroes of the past, and hopefully this release will prove popular enough to open the floodgates for a few more familiar faces from Toei's back catalogue.

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