Wednesday 17 June 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts G-Stag & Reddle

If you asked me about a year ago if I'd have a complete collection of Juuko B-Fighter S.H. Figuarts by summer 2015, I'd have probably laughed in your face. But Bandai Tamashii Nations have really delivered when it comes to the 1995 instalment of the Metal Heroes franchise, with releases coming hot on the heels of each other to get the whole team out in a relatively short space of time. Blue Beet came in January, Black Beet followed in March and then finally in May G-Stag and Reddle have joined them as a Tamashii web exclusive 2-pack release. For those more familiar with the American adaptation Big Bad Beetleborgs, you're probably more likely to know these two as the Green Hunter and Red Striker Beetleborgs.

Of course, the most obsessive of collectors will probably argue that to truly get a complete B-Fighter lineup we need the Extradimensional Supplier Kabuto/White Blaster Beetleborg. But let's not get too ahead of ourselves, we have a pretty good thing going on here right?

Now as has been covered in numerous other reviews on this blog, Figuarts boxes are getting smaller. It's a gradual process though, with there still being a fair few franchises sticking to the standard box size and others continuing with what was started before the process started (for example, I doubt they'll change the size for any forthcoming Kamen Rider Gaim releases). For a two pack however, smaller boxes aren't really an option so G-Stag and Reddle come in slightly-thicker-than-usual standard sized windowless web exclusive Figuarts packaging. Why thicker you ask? Because a second tray is included to house the masses of hands/accessories, with the figures themselves taking up all the space on the first tray. 

The graphic design on the box takes cues from that of Blue Beet's, albeit with less space for that extra bit of background flare. The red and green go well together on both the white background of the front and the black of the back, but it's naturally the pictures of the figures themselves that take centre stage so even before opening them up you can admire just how beautiful they look.

Ever since fans/collectors first laid eyes on S.H. Figuarts Blue Beet (the first to be revealed/announced as well as released), it was immediately clear that the main draw of the Juuko B-Fighter Figuarts was going to be the immaculate sculpting. These figures are covered head to toe in all sorts of mechanical/circuitry detailing, and there isn't a paint application on them that looks sloppy or out of place. The wonderful thing about the B-Fighters (and the Metal Heroes teams in general) is that unlike Super Sentai teams who largely have same costume save for the colour and minor details, these guys all have much more unique designs that just happen to share the same themes and aesthetic. So completing a team feels like that much of an accomplishment, because it doesn't feel as much like you've bought the same figure four times in a row. G-Stag and Reddle are quite clearly members of the same team, but their helmets and placement of the intricate details are wildly different.

Reddle is also particularly notable since, as the only female B-Fighter, she features a slightly altered female sculpt rather than the generic male body that's been modified for the other three figures. With such bulky suits it's not quite as noticeable difference as perhaps a Super Sentai female, but the shorter body/limbs definitely give it a feminine charm of sorts.

But even though the B-Fighter Figuarts have been widely accepting as works of art (by toy standards of course), that isn't to say that they aren't without their shortcomings. The two biggest drawbacks are the limited hip articulation (which sadly is near non-existant when it comes to raising the legs up) because of the bulked-out armour, and the balancing issues because of the small rectangular feet. With all four of the B-Fighter figures largely sharing the same mould, naturally these two issues are still very much present in this 2-pack. While there isn't much anyone can do about the hips, the balancing issues are more something that varies person to person (I didn't really have any problems with Blue Beet, but Black Beet was an altogether different story). With hip articulation low there aren't a whole lot of outlandish poses these figures are capable of, but what they can do I personally didn't have any real problems in terms of balancing. It's simply a case of trial and error, as well as getting use to the fairly flexible ankle tilts these figures have.

Other than that there isn't really much to complain about the range of articulation offered with these two figures, with ball joints present in pretty much all the places you'd expect a good range articulation and double hinge-joints covering the elbows and knees. The hands are also nice and easy to swap out, which is always a relief when it comes to the more expensive Figuarts. The wrist joints themselves seem nice and sturdy despite not being any different to the usual ones the line uses, and the hands themselves are soft enough to pop on and off without any real hassle.

Onto the accessories now, which are perhaps a more important factor than usual here. Not just because it's usually assumed that a premium 2-pack release will come with a lot of extra goodies, but because both Blue and Black Beet were incredibly well stocked when it came to accessories. And thankfully that's something that has been carried over to this release too! Tackling the two figures' respective accessories separately, G-Stag comes with nine alternate hands, Input Magnum sidearm and Stinger Claw weapon complete with alternate "slid down" cover. Those who bought Blue Beet will already know how beautifully detailed the core module of the Stinger Weapon is, and the addition of the Claw piece just makes it even better. As well as being considerably long, the claw segments are also hinged so can be opened and closed to a position of your choice. The way the claw piece pegs into the module also means that it can spin around in side, so can be rotated to a position of your choice as well. While the Stinger Drill might be the most visually impressive of the four Stinger Weapons, the Claw has always been my personal favourite and the Tamashii Nations have done a great job of reinforcing that opinion for me.

Similarly Reddle comes with nine alternate hands (which are all identical in pose to the G-Stag's, and both are in turn identical to Blue Beet's), Input Magnum and Stinger Plasmar weapon (with alternate "slid down" cover). The Stinger Plasmar is probably the least visually striking of the Stinger Weapons, not only because it's the smallest of them but also it does kinda just look like a row of lipsticks ready for testing. But hey, that's what it looks like in the show and you can't fault Bandai for following the design to the letter. The red beam emitters are nice and vibrant, especially against the silver body of the Stinger Weapon module.

Rounding off this highly impressive assortment of accessories are the three colour-specific Pulsabers, which means as well as covering all bases in terms of weaponry this set also fills the only noticeable gap in Blue Beet's arsenal. Compared to the Stinger Weapons the Pulsabers don't really seem like that much, but a quick glance of the instructions reveals that they can also combine with the Input Magnums to form the Pulse Magnums! This can be done by removing the rectangular middle section as pictured, re-clipping it on the underside to make the space for the Magnum to slot comfortably inside. Usually with pieces like this the combined weapon is a completely separate piece, so to see the combining functionality intact is actually pretty impressive. While I sadly doubt there are many people out there than are going to display their B-Fighters with these when the Stinger Weapons are just so damn cool, including the Pulsabers as well as making them able to combine just shows how dedicated Bandai were in making these figures truly stand out from the crowd.

This set also comes with an additional right hand for Blue Beet, specifically for holding the Pulsaber.

At 10,800 yen (plus shipping and middleman fees), the G-Stag/Reddle 2-pack probably sounds like a a lot of money to drop on two figures. However Blue and Black Beet were both 5,184 yen each so in there isn't actually that much of a markup on them - it's just a case of having to pay for them both at once rather than potentially spacing them out. In terms of the secondary market that isn't a price I see going down either, judging by their exclusive status and the aftermarket prices of other Metal Heroes offerings. But this is a 2-pack truly worth every penny, offering two spectacular figures whose exquisite sculpting manages to even make up for their rather glaring design flaw. The set is also loaded with accessories, going as far to even enhance the Blue Beet figure. It feels absolutely fantastic to a complete Metal Heroes team in S.H. Figuarts form, and Tamashii Nations couldn't have picked a much better team to do it with given the B-Fighters status in both Japan and the West. These aren't just figures you don't want to miss out on, but ones you'll want to strike while the iron is hot as well.

Now can we have the same for B-Fighter Kabuto please Bandai? Pretty please?

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