Tuesday 10 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle

S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle

If there's one thing that S.H. Figuarts fans will constantly argue about, it's the state of the line's Super Sentai figures. Despite not having any official statement from Bandai Tamashii Nations about it, the figures seem to have never caught on quite as much as their Kamen Rider brethren - with the mass release reds usually ending up on clearance and the rest of the team given web exclusive status (if they're even fully released at all). However one thing's for sure - the line isn't dead yet, and nothing proves that more than S.H. Figuarts Vul Eagle. While most of the Sentai Figuarts were revealed at events, this figure literally came out of nowhere when the Tamashii products for December 2014 were announced. The character hails from the 5th Super Sentai series Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan - a show notable for not only being the first to have three core members, but also the ONLY Sentai to be completely made up of male members. As one of the most popular Showa era Super Sentai Vul Eagle seems like an obvious choice for a figure, but he comes as a very pleasant surprise nonetheless.

Box BackInsert Tray

We begin with the packaging, and by kicking off a new Super Sentai series in the line it also means that Vul Eagle sports a unique packaging aesthetic. Like a lot of the promotional shots for the Sun Vulcan series it uses a lot of reds and oranges, casting shadows over the images of the figure on the front/spines at though it were standing against the sun itself. Overall it reminds me a lot of this image, and that's by no means a bad thing. The gold text really helps give it a retro/vintage feel to it too, appropriate for a show/character such as this. Interestingly, the box opens at the top or bottom rather than the sides like most other S.H. Figuarts do. I'm not really sure the reason behind this change, but I like it simply for mildly creasing a plainer looking flap as I open the box.

Roll call pose!

Helmet adjustingJumping in the airThumbs up!

Admittedly there's a lot to get wrong in the simpler Sentai costumes than there is with the Kamen Riders' armour, but even baring that in mind Vul Eagle really feels like something special. The colours all pop beautifully, and being based on such a basic design there's not really an area that could have go wrong in the sculpting or paintwork. The real highlights are the helmet's eagle crest and accompanying belt buckle. Not just because of the exquisite sculpting, but also the perfect brass paint used as well along with that black to fully bring out the detail. Sadly the pre-spandex suit fabric may be slightly lost in plastic form, but Bandai have made up for it with little details elsewhere. Even the hands have tiny fabric creases on them!

Vul Eagle shares the same base mould as Akaranger, which means he is a little taller than the rest of the Super Sentai Figuarts. It may drive scale enthusiasts crazy, but honestly it's barely noticeable unless you have them lined up straight in a row. With a little posing trickery, you'll completely forget there's a size difference altogether. As such he shares the same level of articulation (so the same as every Super Sentai figure that doesn't have bicep swivels) as Akaranger, with the added addition of a scarf piece held on by a ball and socket joint. The scarf is able to freely move from side to side for windswept poses, but can't really move outward due to the angle of the connection to the body. That's a very minor inconvenience for something as well articulated as Vul Eagle though - no joint is too loose or too tight providing the perfect grounds for a really expressive figure.

Vul Eagle in action

Posing with the Vul StickMore stick posing

And some more Stick posing

The other great thing about this figure is that Bandai certainly haven't skimped on the accessories! One area the Sentai Figuarts have almost always managed to impress is the array of hands included, and Vul Eagle is no exception coming with a grand total of 13! Amongst these are the usual fists and open/resting hands you'd expect, but also a selection of specifically posed ones, roll call hands and even a pair of thumbs-up hands (much like Red Hawk's quotation-finger hands I don't think this was the main intention, but I'm calling them that regardless). This is a really varied collection that will further ensure that Vul Eagle never looks dull in your collection.

As for weapons, we begin with the Vul Stick - the standard weapon of all three Sun Vulcan members. This small baton-like weapon comes in both its retracted form and with the extended blade - with both end pieces able to swap out from the handle. Of course when retracted the Stick can also be stored in the holster on Vul Eagle's belt. It's a pretty simple-looking weapon, but little touches like actually moulding the bits on the handle's emblem make all the difference. What's also interesting is that rather than having to bend back the fingers to force the weapon into the figure's hand(s), here the handle simply slides down into the hole at the top of the hand.

Vul Eagle II arrives

Katana actionSword slashingBadass posing

The second (and more unique) of Vul Eagle's weapons is a standard Japanese katana - the signature weapon of the second Vul Eagle Takayuki Hiba! When Hiba took over as the leader of Sun Vulcan following Ryusuke Ohwashi's departure for NASA, his Vul Stick gained the ability to transform into this sword. Rather appropriate for a master swordsman, and proof that not Super Sentai weapons need to look technical and/or elegant to be utterly awesome. By including this sword with the figure, Tamashii Nations have given hardcore collectors the perfect excuse to buy two Vul Eagle figures - one to represent Ohwashi, and then another for Hiba. For the more sensible among us it's simply nice to have the choice which one to display, even if the answer is obvious because Hiba is infinitely superior to his predecessor. Like the Vul Stick handle, this can also be slid down into the appropriate hand rather than having to pry the fingers open.  

Really the only things missing from this figure's arsenal are the Vulcan Balls - whether it be the original version or the second, stronger edition (especially since that broke down into colour-coded components). As we saw with Akaranger, Tamashii Nations aren't adverse to including pieces like this so why they left it out is a little baffling. Make no mistake the figure certainly comes with enough to overlook it, but its an oversight that would be nice to see rectified with the forthcoming Vul Shark/Vul Panther 2-pack.

The Figuarts Red Senshi

With AkarangerGokai Change! Sun Vulcan!Vul Eagle meets Akiba Red

I'm not a fan of Taiyo Sentai Sun Vulcan at all (in fact if you've read my series reviews you'll know its actually my least favourite of the Super Sentai series I've seen) so I didn't have any expectations whatsoever for Vul Eagle. I was happy that there was still life left in the Sentai Figuarts, but for me it was mostly just another red crossed off the list. Now I have this figure in hand I'm definitely singing a different tune. The Showa era definitely seems the way to go for the line, as Vul Eagle has somehow managed to come out as one of the best Sentai releases thus far. A fantastic mould, superb quality,  tons of accessories - this figure has almost everything you could ever ask for.

It's not quite enough to make me see the show in a different light or instantly preorder the remaining team members, but it certainly came close to the latter. While sadly it'll probably go the same way as every other mass release Sentai Figuart and end up on clearance, that should be even more of an incentive to pick one up and experience him for yourself.

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