Saturday 16 May 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kikaider 01

S.H. Figuarts Kikaider 01

There's a lot to look forward to in the S.H. Figuarts line in 2015. There's the new Kamen Rider Drive range which looks to uphold that made last year's Kamen Rider Gaim figures so great, the Juuko B-Fighter lineup will be completed later this month with the release of the G-Stag/Reddle 2-pack, and the Metal Heroes franchise as a whole is about to add another entry with the release of the Megabeast Inspector Juspion. Not to mention all the Star Wars line and the continuing success of the various anime properties Tamashii Nations have inducted into the line over the years. Me though? What I've been looking forward to most is more Kikaider figures. Getting sucked into the franchise late last year seemed like almost perfect timing, as Bandai have churned out the cast at an impressive rate. After covering the original Android Kikaider series last year, now it's the turn of its sequel - Kikaider 01. And what better way to start than with the titular hero himself, older brother of Kikaider/Jiro and defender against the forces of SHADOW.

Like the rest of the Kikaider figures, Kikaider 01 is a Tamashii web exclusive and was released at the end of April 2015.

Box Front

Box BackInsert Tray

As it turns out these thinner style S.H. Figuarts boxes look like they'll be the norm from here on out, but back in October 2014 when the first Kikaider was released they came as something of a surprise to collectors. Kikaider 01 continues the beautiful style of box art started with the three Android Kikaider releases, placing a solid colour segmented image of 01's face on a solid black background with only the character name and usual logos to fill up all that blank space. Meanwhile the back has a little more substance to it, featuring one full body image of the figure against a segmented background of various closeups of it. Two of those segments being done in blue and red of course, because missing that out would be a major faux pas for a Kikaider figure. I've stated time and time again this franchise has produced my absolute favourite S.H. Figuarts packaging and Kikaider 01 continues it beautifully. Really looking forward to seeing how Gill Hakaider and the Hakaider Squad's boxes turn out.

As much as I adore Jiro and the original Kikaider as a whole, it's hard to deny that his Figuart was a little bit disappointing. "Average" is probably a better way to put it since the figure wasn't exactly awful, but the glossy finish (semi-accurate as it may be) and lack of accessories made him feel immediately dated against the then-current Kamen Rider Gaim figures. Ichiro on the other hand is the total reverse - the character I'm far less attached to, but the figure is nothing short of magnificent. Seriously, Kikaider 01 is an absolute beauty. The colours are sharp, the mechanical detailing under the the clear plastic sections is fantastic and the matte finish of the suit really helps bring it altogether in a way Kikaider's figure most certainly lacked. The solid black lines separating all the colours also make everything pop all the more - particularly the eyes which in comparison feel so much more vibrant than Kikaider's. I don't enjoy the fact that I've already knocked Kikaider's Figuart so much in this review because it's still very special to me, but it just gets across how great 01 is. In terms of sheer looks I'd put it in my top ten Figuarts easily, maybe even top five.

Articulation is pretty par the course for the S.H. Figuarts, but anyone who is familiar with the line should know that even that is far from a bad thing. The first thing to address would be the "exposed machinery" chest section, which isn't nearly as cumbersome as it may look. The only thing attaching it the body itself is a tiny connection joint at between the at the front, which allows it to move upwards and out of the way of the shoulders when posing. Everything else is the usual Figuarts fare - double jointed elbows and knees, ball-jointed head/neck etc. The swing-down hip section can leave some rather unsightly gaps though, so careful posing of the legs and general trickery is essential for keeping the one-piece bodysuit look complete.

Much like his brother, Kikaider 01 is a hand-to-hand combat kind of character and so doesn't have a whole lot of accessory options to work with. So once again Tamashii Nations have gone with the basics and simply included a selection of hands - eight to be precise (two less than Kikaider). These range from closed fists, open hands, "karate chop" hands and weapon/motorcycle handlebar holding hands that will surely be of use when the S.H. Figuarts Double Machine hits in September. In the meantime though, they'll have to make do for hijacking other vehicles and borrowing the accessories of any of figure in the near vicinity. It's a passable accessory count, but even with the significantly improved figure including less than what came with the original Kikaider is a little disappointing. Would his signature trumpet have really been that difficult to throw in as well? Yes I know the trumpet only ever showed up when 01 was in his Ichiro guise, but the SIC came with one (along with a pretty badass exploding Buddha statue). I fully expect that the new SIC Kikaider coming soon will have a guitar as well, so why Bandai have flaked out on such little things here is a complete mystery to me.

Road trippin'

Generation Kikaida represent

While I was undoubtedly looking forward to owning Kikaider 01, I was fully expecting him to be along the largely similar to Kikaider and thus a passable figure whose sentimental value would outweigh any objective opinions. Those expectations were suitably thrown out the window upon opening the box. Kikaider 01 is an absolute beauty of a figure, proving that even when Tamashii Nations are doing the same old thing they've done for years they can still find a way to make it feel fresh and exciting again. It's just a shame that they seem so afraid to give these figures a little bit of extra oomph in terms of accessories, especially since they've done it so many times before with the SIC line. At first I wondered if it was a case of not wanting to give versions clearly based on the tokusatsu version things that appeared in the manga/anime (such as Kikaider's gun guitar or 01's arm gauntlets), but as we'll when I take a look at Gill Hakaider in a few weeks' time, that clearly isn't the case. That aside though this is a damn fine Figuart that otherwise achieves everything I want from a Kikaider 01 figure. In fact it does it so well that I'm already kind of clamouring for a Kikaider renewal just so he can get equally as good treatment.

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