Saturday 23 May 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader

S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader

Ever since Disney bought the rights to Star Wars and started giving the merchandising rights out like  no tomorrow, everyone's wanted to get in on that surefire money printer. In the last year alone we've seen Revoltech, Good Smile Company and Bandai Tamashii Nations get in on the action - the latter even giving the iconic characters a brand new twist with their Movie Realisation line. But as soon as it was discovered Bandai would be hitting up the franchise S.H. Figuarts were what everyone was waiting for...and now the wait is over! Kicking things at the end of April was the release of the standard Stormtroopers and the Sith Lord himself - Darth Vader. Based on the character's appearance in Return of the Jedi, many expected this to put Hasbro's own 5" Black Series figure to shame. Did it live up to the hype? Read on to find out!

Vader box front

Vader box backVader insert tray

The S.H. Figuarts packaging has been going through a bit of an overhaul lately (more on this in my next toy review), but as far as Darth Vader's concerned it's the usual stuff buyers have been used to in the last few years - with a little Star Wars twist of course. In terms of general aesthetics the box is rather regal, featuring both a glossy black background and silver foil sections akin to the very first Figuarts packaging. The front naturally features a huge Star Wars logo, plastered across the clear window which practically takes up the entirety of the front side. The back has a few pictures of Vader in a few poses, along with him standing alongside two Stormtroopers - just in case you hadn't bought them and needed even more reason to.

Bonus diorama box front

Bonus diorama box backBonus diorama insert tray

As the (joint) first Star Wars Figuart, Darth Vader's release could be considered as something of a special occasion. As such Tamashii Nations have also included a first release bonus with the figure in the form of a Death Star "window" interior diorama (also from Return of the Jedi). And here's where some people were taken somewhat by surprise by Vader - myself included. The box for this thing is HUGE - easily about four times the size Vader's box. In fact it was so big it also meant shipping from Japan was driven up considerably. Experiences are obviously going to vary (especially if EMS is your usual thing anyway), but spending over £100 to get this package (which also included Kamen Rider Drive, but still) wasn't the best way to start things off. No SAL small package shipping option so I opted for EMS, which resulted in customs fees as well as a lot of other delivery hassle. It isn't something I want to air as a complaint against the figure itself, but if you're buying Vader you should definitely be prepared not to pay the usual Figuarts shipping fees.

Death Star Diorama

Death Star windowDeath Star stairs

But credit where it's due, the Death Star diorama is a pretty sweet bonus. The stage is just as big as the box is packaged in - easily big enough to display a considerable number of figures on it. The stairs part also has eight holes punched into it which can all fit a Tamashii stand arm in, so balance-defying posing is also still an option. Personally I think the window sections would have looked a bit better which clear plastic pieces inserted into them (they're just holes) but since it's a freebie it's a very easy thing to overlook. My Darth Vader looks pretty damn badass ruling my bookcase on his own custom stage, and it's only going to get better as he's joined by other Star Wars Figuarts. With these you don't even need to think of the perfect display - Bandai have already got you covered!

The Sith Lord arrives

Figure frontFigure back (with cape)Figure back (without cape)

Chest detailingDetail up closeUnder the helmet

Tamashii Nations have gone all out on getting the figure to look as high quality as possible, with all the details nice and crisp and a smooth, glossy finish that's a dead ringer for how the actual suit looked in the films. Thankfully it isn't quite the same as that cheaper glossy look some of the older Figuarts have either, so it's still instantly recognisable as a new entry into the line. The actual accuracy of the figure though is where fans are going to be divided. As stated earlier this based on the Return of the Jedi version of the suit, but more keen-eyed fans who've compared the two have said the figure has taken some minor liberties with the design. The belt and buttons are a little bit off, and in reality the figure is more of an amalgamation of the different Vader suits that appeared over the course of the Star Wars trilogy. Meanwhile I'm completely ignorant to all these minor suit details and didn't even know there were different versions until this came up, so to me it just looks like a Darth Vader figure. But with S.H. Figuarts being all about accuracy I can see why this might be an issue to some, especially when there are plenty of other alternatives on the market.

If pinpoint accuracy isn't a big deal to you though, there is a lot to like about this figure. The cape especially has been handled surprisingly well - made of a soft plastic that's considerably firmer than any cloth alternative and malleable enough to be moved out of the way for specific action poses. While it has tabs to slot into the back for stability these can be lifted out so that cape can be moved around, and the whole thing can also be removed simply by popping off the head and lifting it off. Lower down the skirt pieces are a bit more limiting (and rule out sitting poses without some forcible bending) but the figure can still achieve a great deal of movement in the leg area. There may be some fans out there that want to consider Figuarts as "collectibles" rather than "action figures", but when it comes to action these things always manage to deliver it in spades.

Vader ready for battle

"No, I am your father!"*Dramatic point*Time to duel!

Hack n slashLightsaber closeup

Those who are familiar with S.H. Figuarts brilliant range of articulation in their figures will know exactly what to expect here, with newcomers brought in by the prospect of a Star Wars range hopefully impressed with what's on offer. This includes a ball-jointed head, neck, shoulders and ankles, with double-hinges for the elbows and knees and a hinge at the end of each foot. The hips are covered by Figuarts' distinct "swing down" hip mechanism, which utilises ball-joints which can swing downwards out of the way of the hip area. In terms of Figuarts engineering this is a little old school, with a lot of newer figures (including the Stormtroopers) dropping it altogether in favour of something more seamless - but it still gets the job done here. Rounding things off are moveable shoulder pads - a standard for Figuarts but something that couldn't be much more welcome here. Rather than have the shoulder pads look completely out of place as you move the arms, here they can be moveable back into a natural position in any pose.

Vader's hands

Meanwhile the hands are quite possibly a first for the Figuarts line, as they utilise two slightly different joint systems. While the left hands connect via the usual balljoint fixed to the figure's wrist, the left hands have the joints fixed into the hands themselves. Presumably this is to better accommodate the alternate right wrist section included, but doing both sides differently still strikes me as a little bit odd. But the biggest question is that if they can fix the joints to Vader's hands, why can't they do it for every Figuart release? It may drive the price up a bit, but that seems like a small price to pay to avoid all the possible breakages when swapping hands around - especially on those difficult to replace Tamashii web exclusive figures.

Disarming Vader

Prepping the lightsaberGive him a hand?Vader figures out his weapon

Vader says bring itNooooo!

Finally we come onto accessories, and Vader is certainly no slouch in that department either. Altogether the Sith Lord comes with six changeable hands (including a reaching out "using the power of the Force" left hand), alternate right wrist stump to replicate where Luke cuts his hand off at the end of Return the Jedi, and finally two versions of his lightsaber - an activated version with translucent red "blade" and the just the hilt itself. The red saber is perhaps a little longer than it would look in the film itself (and definitely longer than most other toys have portrayed it), but it certainly makes it more dynamic. The wrist stump can be switched onto the figure by removing the hand along with the wrist cuff behind it, and then slotting the stump piece over in its place.

So there you have - pretty much everything you could want from a Darth Vader figure. Well, other than an exposed Anakin Skywalker head that is. However it has already been confirmed that this will be coming as an accessory with the forthcoming Luke Skywalker figure (due out in August), so if you were planning on picking up both you don't have that long to wait for it. It's a pretty sneaky move by Bandai to include it with a different character, but with toy companies on both sides on the pond employing this kind of tactic no one should be at all surprised by now.

Vader vs Black RX

Vader and HakaiderDisarming Roborider

Star Wars will always hold a special place in my heart, but its merchandise is so vast that properly collecting it is one rabbit hole I'll probably never fully dive down. But an opportunity to own a good quality Vader figure (along with the handful of other characters I'd just have to own) was something I just couldn't pass up. With the question of accuracy in mind and the fact that the market is flooded with different Vader figures, it's hard to say whether the S.H. Figuarts offering is truly the best choice at this scale.  But it is most definitely a great start to what will likely be a lengthy venture for Bandai Tamashii Nations. A high quality figure which looks fantastic standalone, alongside Figuarts from other properties and (presumably) entries from Hasbro's Black Series line. Perfect for both the hardcore Star Wars fan who wants to see their favourite franchise get the Japanese toy treatment, and those who might want to add a little more variety to their Figuarts collection. While a rerelease is always a possibility down the line, if you're looking to pick him up with the diorama be sure to jump on it soon before it's too late!

1 comment:

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