Wednesday 27 May 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Drive Type Speed

Sengoku-era fruit armour is so last year, now it's all about the cars. Although Kamen Rider Drive has turned heads by having its lead character drive a car instead of riding of motorcycle, the addition of two extra wheels hasn't diverged it too far from the heart and spirit of any other Kamen Rider show. The show itself may have started way back in October, only now are Bandai Tamashii Nations kicking things off in their S.H. Figuarts toy line. And what better place to start than at the beginning, with the base form of the titular Rider - Kamen Rider Drive Type Speed. Much like Kamen Rider Gaim before it the next few releases in the line will be of some of the other Riders/Rider-esque characters that appear in the show before things move onto the Drive's various forms, but for now let's check out what is likely to be most people's priority figure from this year's addition to the Kamen Rider family.

The last year or so has seen quite a few changes to Figuarts packaging. To begin with Tamashii web exclusives dropped the usual window boxes in favour of fully cardboard ones, and then more recently certain franchises (most notably Android Kikaider and Kinnikuman) shrunk them down to about two thirds of their original width. And with the release of Drive Type Speed it seems this smaller box style might be here to stay. Type Speed comes in this thinner style of packaging previously seen with the aforementioned figures (the Kinnikuman featured windows while the Kikaider ones are windowless), adding a little bit of extra height in place of the lost width. Even though a lot of the space has gone the Drive packaging looks like it'll be just as dynamic as some of the previous Figuarts entries, combining a classy black matte background with some predominantly red Type Speed images. The back even features a shot of the S.H. Figuarts Trideron car for that little extra cross-promotion!

April 2015 releases proved to be a pretty good month for first run bonus, as much like Figuarts Darth Vader Drive also comes bundled with some extra goodies. In this case it's the Max Flare tire set, kicking off a whole selection of first run bonuses that will run into the releases of Mashin Chaser, Kamen Rider Mach and their respective bikes. However while later releases split each tire into two sets (the figures get the tire, Shift Car and belt logo, while the vehicles get the accompanying effect part), "Vol 1" gives buyers both the tire AND the effect parts. So if you weren't planning to buy the bikes and are a little bitter over not getting the effect parts (as I was when it was first announced), at least if you're picking up Type Speed you'll have ONE complete tire set.

But the bonuses don't stop there! Inside Drive's packaging is also a nicely glossy booklet showing off the forthcoming S.H. Figuarts Tridoron! Coming as a web exclusive in September with a hefty price tag of 24, 840 yen (plus any shipping and any middleman fees), it's not surprising Bandai are promoting the vehicle as much as they can. But looking at the sheer size of it, all that beautiful detailing and of course those LED headlights, I get the feeling that anyone planning to pick the car up is going to get their money's worth. And for those who aren't, this booklet makes a nice little way to enjoy it second hand. 

True to the character's car motif, Kamen Rider Drive Type Speed is one hell of a pimped up Figuart. Upon first glance the level of detail Drive has may look like a big step down from the ornamental Kamen Rider Gaim armours of last year, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Type Speed is covered head to toe in all sorts of interesting detail, most notably his back which is designed to look like the mechanical detail present on the underside of a car. Dotted all over the body are also textured areas designed to look like specific car parts such as reflectors and indicator lights, with special mention going to those wonderful headlamp style eyes adorning the helmet. The paint applications are flawless, and the red body armour has this wonderful glossy finish just like a car chassis that's just received a fresh coat of wax. 

And then on top of the overall look of the figure, there's just so many other little details to appreciate. From the rubber tire to the easily swappable Driver face (the whole silver piece pops off to reveal an easy-to-use system to change the screen with the ones included with other Drive releases), every little aspect of this figure has been well thought and made to be as user-friendly as possible. Fans of tiny, easy to lose accessories will also be pleased to know that the Shift Cars are also removable! Not just the flipped up ones from the Shift Brace either, the ones holstered to the side of the belt can also be taken on and off at your leisure. Just make sure to put them in a safe place and be sure to sneeze nowhere near them if you do so...

With the likes of the Shinkocchou Seihou figures to compete with the newer mainline Figuarts have had to kick it up a notch to not immediately feel completely outdone, and if you shoved Type Speed in a different box it could easily pass for a premium Figuart release. It isn't just the sculpting and level of detail that's perfect, the articulation is of an equally high standard. You might think that having a bulky rubber tire sticking out of the torso might affect the articulation somehow or get in the way of posing the arms in front of the body, but there really aren't any real problems worth mentioning. All the usual ball-joints and double hinge sections are present to give Drive the most human-like movement possible, topped off with the new style of Figuart hips that don't break up the look of the figure (which is just as well since Drive doesn't have any sort of skirt section to hide the gaps left by swing-down hips). Got a (semi-realistic) pose in mind? There's a good chance this figure can handle it.

Next we come to the accessories, which has already proven to be a rather divisive subject among collectors. In terms of accessories packed inside the figures actual box, Type Speed comes with a grand total of three pairs of hands (closed fists and two pairs of posed open hands) and nothing else. No Handle-Ken (Handle Sword), no Door-Ju (Door Gun), not even a pair of gripping hands for Drive to hold these weapons he doesn't even come with. Of course, it isn't like these weapons aren't getting made at all, as the sword will be packaged with the Type Wild Figuart and the gun with Type Technic (with appropriate holding hands presumably coming with those figures as well). On one hand this does come as kind of expected - after all the weapons roughly debuted with those forms on the show even if Type Speed uses them semi-regularly. On the other hand this is a rather sneaky move by Tamashii Nations and just another example how much they're pushing the "collect them all" element of the Kamen Rider Drive figures.

But whatever your opinion on the lack of weapons may be, it should no way be assumed that hands are the only thing Type Speed comes with. As displayed earlier in the review there's also the matter of the Max Flare tire set first release bonus. And just to clarify, in the case of S.H. Figuarts a first run bonus means every figure produced thus far - the first wave is currently the only wave. The tire being packaged separately does complicate things a bit when getting the figure on the aftermarket (which is something Bandai would rather you not do so why would they care), but if you're buying Drive from a reputable source you should in theory definitely be getting the Max Flare set along with it. So an accessory-less Type Speed isn't going to be an issue until the figure receives a reissue, and that most likely won't be at least a year or so. And who knows what Bandai could cook up by then.

Of course, including an extra tire can only mean one thing - that the show's tire changing gimmick has been successfully brought over to the S.H. Figuarts line! After Kamen Rider Gaim dropped the transforming fruit armour gimmick in favour of that extra level of accuracy, getting both the tire changeability and fantastic accuracy comes as a very welcome surprise (that said, the tire gimmick is far easier to do than Gaim's armours so I can hardly begrudge them for dropping that). The tires break into two separate pieces, which then plug into the figure itself before joining back together. However the interesting thing is whereas the Tire Koukan Drive figure has no body whatsoever under that tire, the Figuart retains the indented body armour that the actual suit has. Fancied setting up your Drive figure during a midair tire change? Well now you can without it looking ridiculously awful!

The Max Flare tire also comes with a silver wheel rim to keep to the tire pieces on when not in use, handy! 

Max Flare, ready for action! Sadly the Max Flare doesn't feature the "pop-out flame" function if its Tire Koukan or suit counterparts, but it is beautifully painted with an almost rust-looking fiery orange. Accompanying the tire are two translucent flame effect parts, which clip onto Drive's wrists nice and firmly for fire-powered punches and the like. Although Bandai have been upping their game when it comes effect parts lately thanks to the various effect sets they've been releasing, these flames are a cut above the ones that came in the flame set. The translucent orange fading out into a lighter yellow gives them some much needed variety as well as adding that extra level of realism.

Thanks to Tamashii Nation's "gotta buy 'em all" tactics with the Kamen Rider Drive figures Type Speed is always going to have his neigh sayers, but if you ask anyone who actually owns the figure they'll tell you that this is one hell of a release. Holding this figure in hand doesn't just wow you with the level of detail Tamashii Nations can cram into a 5-6" figure, it also gives you added appreciation for all the finer details of the suit you don't really get to see in the show itself. I won't lie and say the lack of sword and/or gun isn't somewhat disappointing, but arguably a full functioning tire gimmick with accompanying effect parts certainly makes up for it. In terms of looks, quality and functionality you couldn't ask for a better Type Speed figure at this price or scale.

"All we needs is Drive"? Debatable, but if you collect S.H. Figuarts Drive is definitely something that you need.

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