Saturday 24 January 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Duke Lemon Energy Arms

SH Figuarts Kamen Rider Duke

2014 had a lot of great S.H. Figuarts releases, but it was undoubtedly the year of Kamen Rider Gaim. Not just because it was the current Rider show for most of the year, but also because Bandai Tamashii Nations were able to put out a whopping THIRTEEN different Gaim figures in the space of only eight months. There's still plenty more to go, but the flow of releases has thinned somewhat with only three currently confirmed for 2015. But rather than focus on that, let's take a look at the final Gaim figure released last year - Kamen Rider Duke, aka Professor Ryoma Sengoku - inventor of the series' Drivers and all round mad scientist. Kamen Rider Duke was a Tamashii web exclusive release in December, and the second of the four "main" New Generation Riders to join the Figurarts line.

Box Front

Box backInsert Tray

After the previous Lemon Energy Arms release carefully avoided repeating the standard Gaim packaging, here we see it's lemon form is full yellow glory. For those wondering, the lemon cross-section background is indeed identical to the one seen on Jimber Gaim's packaging, but the shade of yellow is a little bit lighter. Barely noticeable, but definitely different. The back of the box follows the usual pattern of the figure shots against the Rider's personal logo, but there's definitely something about Duke's that makes it a little more striking than usual. Maybe it's the choice of photos used (a nice big action shot with a moody back shot to the side of it) or maybe just that Duke photographs REALLY well. I certainly thought that while putting this review together that's for sure.

Kamen Rider Duke on stage

Figure frontFigure back

With the Sonic ArrowDuke up closePlaying with his toys

Kamen Rider Duke made his debut in Kamen Rider Gaim alongside the other New Generation (or Energy, whichever you prefer) Riders in episode 14 of the series, which aired on 19th January 2014. That's a whole year ago, which is why I'm especially ashamed to say that it took owning this figure for me to notice that DUKE'S HELMET HAS A BEARD! If that doesn't tell you that this figure is amazing, then I honestly don't know what will.

Joking aside, Kamen Rider Duke really is a fantastic look figure - certainly rivalling the likes of Kachidoki Arms for the best of the entire Gaim line. If it isn't that metallic blue undersuit impressing you, it's those bubbling Lemon Energy Arms plates. That bright blue/yellow combo is incredibly striking, and only accentuated by the silver gauntlet pieces with black markings. Bandai were at the top of their game when sculpting this figure, with no detail left unchecked no matter how minuscule (check out all the grooves in the pipework along the helmet and armour pieces). The other thing I love about the New Generation Riders is how they all have their personal emblems sculpted into their armour - and not only does Duke's look superb but it also sets him apart a little more from Baron Lemon Energy Arms. 

Sonic Arrow posing

Pulling back the bow

Rider slash!

Already owning Lemon Energy Baron I feared that Duke may not seem quite as special as the other Gaim releases, but thankfully those worries were quickly put to rest when I saw just how much better Duke wears the Arms. Don't get me wrong Lemon Baron is still a fantastic figure, but put it next to this one and the kit-bash nature of the suit becomes that little bit more clearer. Lemon Energy Arms is definitely one of the best fruit arms that has appeared in the line so far - not just sculpt/aesthetic-wise but also in terms of functionality. Despite it's bulk the right shoulder pad isn't at all cumbersome, and the engineering behind the cape tails is frankly superb. Often with Figuarts there's fear of a tight joint system that could easily be prone to breakage, but here everything moves really smoothly to create great looking "billowing" look.

Duke also has considerably better quality control than Lemon Baron, so if you were unfortunate to have received a lemon with him (pun totally intended) here you might get a better chance at seeing the armour in all of its glory.

New Generation Riders

BetrayalWith Lemon Baron

Vs Baron

As a New Generation/Energy Rider, Kamen Rider Duke comes with a selection of things Gaim buyers must surely be sick of seeing now - Sonic Arrows! Yes once again the weapons included in this release are two versions of the generic Energy Rider weapon (standard and drawn back), along with a slightly smaller offering than usual of only seven alternate. That said, the hands come in a good selection of positions so other than looking like a smaller number it doesn't really feel like there's much missing here. The big disappointment about Duke's accessories is that for once there WAS an unique piece he could have come with. In episode 39 of the series Duke displays the ability to extend his Sonic Arrow even further - with the red parts glowing yellow and a selection of energy "strings" appearing to connect to the drawn back section. See this picture here for reference.

This would have been absolutely PERFECT for Duke, especially since he already perhaps felt less unique to collectors that previously picked up Lemon Energy Baron when he was available. But obviously a one-off use didn't justify such a big accessory (because let's face it - it would have been so big it'd have probably needed its own separate tray), so once again we're stuck with the basic Sonic Arrow accessories. Across all the Gaim releases so far, that's a total of four each with another two of each to go.

Swapping Lockseeds on the DriverPowering up the Arrow

Finally there's the usual inclusion of the appropriate Lockseeds, in this case being open and closed versions of the Lemon Energy Lockseed (the open version is attached to the belt in the box). Gaim completists will already have multiples of this Lockseed from the Jimber Gaim and Lemon Baron releases, but Duke is definitely where they feel the most at home. As usual, both Seeds can either be attached to the (non-functional) Genesis Driver, or the slot on either version of the Sonic Arrow weapon.

The Lemon riders

Duke finds a robotExperimenting with brains

His accessories may not seem like much in comparison to some of the other Kamen Rider Gaim figures, but Kamen Rider Duke is one of those releases that can be completely carried by the figure alone. In perhaps a move quite fitting for the man who made all of Gaim possible (by creating the Drivers, not by infesting the planet with a sentient forest), Duke is one of the best figures in the entire bunch - bold, colourful, beautifully sculpted and wonderfully dynamic. The suit itself may not have appeared in the show all that much, but as a main character you'd be doing yourself an injustice by not picking this guy up. And not only is he the better of the two Lemon Energy Arms figures, he's also the cheapest. That's a win-win situation right there.

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