Sunday 8 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider ZO

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider ZO

As we draw ever closer to having the full roster of main Kamen Riders in the S.H. Figuarts line, Bandai Tamashii Nations seems to have padded releases out with reissues and bike two-packs in order to keep their golden goose running for a little bit longer. That said, they still managed to see out 2014 with a new Rider release, which means we're only two (Kamen Rider J and Kamen Rider Kiva) away from having the whole lineup of veteran Riders. Rather surprisingly Kamen Rider ZO somehow managed to come out as a retail release despite starring in a single 48-minute movie. Sure he's still a main Rider, but Kamen Rider Shin wasn't so lucky in that regard was he? Poor Shin. 

Box Front

Box backInsert Tray

Much like his fellow Showa era Riders*, Kamen Rider ZO comes in some rather plain packaging. There's no fancy textures or backgrounds - it's just a solid dark green colour with gold text and the standard greyscale image of the Rider adorning the bottom corner. It may be quite dull, but the green/gold colour scheme matches ZO's suit perfectly so it's pretty effective in that regard. The back as usual also features a few images of the figure along with its accessories. Interestingly it doesn't quite give everything away on the back, but with everything completely on show through the window anyway it actually doesn't make any difference. 

* - I know Kamen Rider ZO actually came out in the Heisei era, but Bandai/Toei seem to officially consider the start of the Heisei era with Kamen Rider Kuuga so I shall continue to do the same myself.

ZO arrives!

Figure frontFigure back

ZO in actionReady for action*Dramatic pose*

As I previously mentioned in my review of the Kamen Rider ZO movie, ZO was originally intended to be the dawn of a new age of Kamen Riders - a brand new Rider-1 if you will. As a result the suit is meant to evoke the more simplistic look of the early Showa Riders, but with a more organic twist thrown in to the cyborg-origin mix. Like his fellow 90s movie Riders Shin and J, ZO lacks the usual Rider belt/driver - turning what usually looks like a costume into a full insect body. While Shin took it to the extreme, ZO is strikes a better balance between insectoid and what one usually expects from a Kamen Rider.

See those gold vein-like lines running all over ZO's body? Those are actually moulded on the figure rather than just being painted! This gives the suit a much-needed extra level of detail, with the bright gold the perfect compliment to that matte green finish. The predominantly green body means the minimal use of other colours stand out even more - particularly the gleaming red compound eyes and "jewel" piece in the abdomen. The articulation is of the usual Figuarts quality, however the hip system is the older swing-down balljoints seen on the older Rider/Super Sentai figures rather than the newer system implemented on figures such as Gaim, Blade or Ryuki. While it might feel like a bit of a step down, these hips actually probably work better to keep the full-bodysuit look of the costume intact. The shoulder pads are hinged to move with the arms as necessary, but when the arms in any raised position don't look quite right - they continue to look raised even though they're sitting comfortably on the arms.

Break Tooth head side on

Jump punch!Break tooth headKneeling

Rider Kick!

With Kamen Rider ZO being inspired by the usually weapon-less Showa era Kamen Riders and the film itself being less than an hour long, it's not surprising that there aren't a whole lot of potential accessories for an S.H. Figuarts release. ZO comes with a total of eight changeable hands - the closed fists already attached to the figure in packaging, along with open hands, "karate chop" hands and a pair for dramatic Rider posing. The main thing I noticed about the open hands is the finger tips are surprisingly pointy - ZO doesn't have fingers, he practically has claws! This can be mildly irritating when swapping the hands around to display the open ones, but after the pain that came with Kamen Rider Baron this doesn't really feel like much at all.

Moving on to the "main" accessories, and first we have an alternate "Break Toother" head! When Masaru Aso finally gets to properly transform/henshin into Kamen Rider ZO at the end of the movie, these silver mandible-like plates pop out as steam is released from the sides of the helmet. It's a completely aesthetic thing that has less than ten seconds screen time, but with so little else for ZO to come with it's not too much of a surprise that Tamashii Nations included it here. It makes for a nice little display alternative though, especially if you feel ZO's helmet it a little close to V3's for your liking (or the inevitable Kamen Rider J Figuart). Obvious caution when swapping the heads around though - not just because of those fragile antennae but because the neck joint on mine had the annoying habit of coming out of the entire body along with the head. 

Grasshopper friend!

The alternate wing partsTelepathic messaging

The second (and last) of ZO's accessories is of course his giant grasshopper friend! Well, no so much friend - this giant grasshopper is used in the film by Doctor Mochizuki to communicate with ZO telepathically in order to give him his mission to protect Hiroshi. It actually only appears in the film twice, but that's still considerably more screen time than the Break Toother. This solid plastic grasshopper may be small, but it's nicely detailed and like ZO himself closely resembles the prop from the film itself. Two pairs of translucent wings are also included, so that the grasshopper can be displayed in either a resting or flying position.

With Ryu Ranger

Hanging with ShinWith Rider-1

Kamen Rider ZO certainly isn't a bad Figuart by any means, he just isn't an overly exciting one. Much like the film he hails from, there isn't a whole lot to him as far as sculpt/detailing or accessories go - hence why Tamashii Nations have had to draw upon things that had about 30 seconds screen time so that he actually has something to come with other than hands. Simple as it may be though, the colours and sculpting are perfect so fans of Kamen Rider and the 90s films in particular definitely won't feel too disappointed by this release. But for the more casual fan poor ZO is probably unlikely to be considered a priority for anything other than coming ever closer to completing that full main Rider line-up.  

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