Saturday 20 June 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Mashin Chaser

While Kamen Rider is probably the luckiest franchise when it comes to getting its villain characters as part of the S.H. Figuarts line, the amount that have received mass release is quite minimal. Thankfully if you're a Rider or Rider-esque character it means you probably have a good chance of getting that treatment, and given his prominence in the show it should be no surprise to anyone to find that Mashin Chaser is the next character/form from Kamen Rider Drive to join the line. The Roidmude Shinigami/Grim Reaper, Mashin Chaser serves as a rival to Drive until his true origins are revealed - leading on to what is perhaps one of the most engaging elements of the series so far. But for now let's just enjoy Chase in this monstrous form, ready to wheel up at a moment's notice and cause a rather elaborate road block for our hero.

Kamen Rider Drive Type Speed was the first Kamen Rider Figuart to use this new type of thinner, taller box and it's no surprise to see that it's something that will continue for all the forthcoming Kamen Rider Drive figures - and probably beyond that too (providing the figure inside doesn't have too many large accessories, but then there's always the chance of a second tray underneath instead). I have to say I'm a really big fan of this new style of packaging - as well as being a lot less cumbersome and taking up less space there is just something sleeker and more professional looking about the whole thing. Mashin Chaser comes in a rather appropriate black matte box with purple trim, complete with his accompanying skull logo in the top corner. The back features a fair few shots of the figure, as well as how he looks with the S.H. Figuarts version of his bike - the Ride Chaser, which was released separately at the same time.

Keeping up with what was previously established with the Drive Type Speed Figuart, Mashin Chaser also comes with a first release bonus tire! And given all that metallic purple on Chaser, the equally purple Midnight Shadow tire seems like the perfect choice to go with him. As the second of the Drive bonus tires, Midnight Shadow's individual box is appropriately labelled "Vol 2" in lettering bigger and bolder than the text that tells you what the thing even is. However sadly the contents to this box are a little different to how things were laid out with Max Flare, but that's something I'll go into detail more about further down in the review.

If there was any Kamen Rider character that would be close to the description of "heavy metal", it is without a doubt Mashin Chaser. Although to be honest, "twisted metal" might be a bit more appropriate come to think of it. While Kamen Rider Drive Type Speed is a sleek sports car turned into a costumed superhero, Mashin Chaser is a veritable orgy of motors and machinery. There's hardly a lick of symmetry about him, which somehow adds all the more to the appeal of this obviously villainous persona. Save for the biker-chic logo adorning his right shoulder plate Mashin Chaser is fairly light on the paint applications, but this is only because all the intricacies of the suit are brought out in the moulding instead. Just looking at that wonderful head sculpt is enough to tell you that, but even as you move down the body the black body suit is covered in all sorts of grooves and markings. As a rather nice foil to this, the purple parts are smooth and shiny - exactly like a motorcycle chassis. It's a wild design of technical detail and marvel, but somehow the gaze is always drawn back to that one orange compound eye glaring from the head. Like most other Kamen Rider figures, those eyes just complete things.

The biggest question when the figure was first revealed was how exactly those pipes jutting to and from the body were going to affect the torso articulation, and thankfully the answer is "not very much at all". The pipes are made from a nice flexible plastic that are quite easily able to take the sort of movement you're likely to pull off - Mashin Chaser is hardly the most articulate of characters to begin with, but this figure is capable of everything (if not more) he's done on the show. There's a little bit of hindrance from the huge shoulder pads on either side of the figure, but it's nothing deal-breaking by any means.

A couple of other interesting things to note about Mashin Chaser is just how tiny his wrist joints look. Comparing them to Drive's they don't seem to be all that different, but looking at them you have to wonder how they can take the force of hands being pull on and off them several times (if this was a Figuart from a couple of years ago, they probably wouldn't). But as I first mentioned in my Kamen Rider Gaim review, Tamashii Nations have really upped the strength of their wrist joints lately - so much that even when they're this tiny they don't feel like they're about to snap when switching hands.

Secondly the purple circular panel in the centre of the figure's back is removable, revealing just how the forthcoming Tamashii web exclusive Viral Core accessory set will attach it. Sadly it isn't a way which makes Mashin Chaser compatible with Drive's tires either, which is pretty disappointing considering it is an ability he has on the show (the Tire Koukan gimmick figure can pull it off too). However there is a makeshift mod that can be done to make the tires work with Mashin Chaser, which my good friend Den-O has gone has illustrated in his review/gallery for Tokunation.

Like his rival Mashin Chaser is a little light on the accessories, but however unlike Drive what is missing is a little more excusable. Altogether Chaser comes with four pairs of hands (which is already one more than Type Speed did) and his personal weapon/transformation device - the Break Gunner. Though a small and fairly unelaborate weapon the Break Gunner is both nicely detailed and painted, and even has a tab at the top for tiny viral cores to attach just like the Shift Cars for Drive's Shift Brace (which in turn are also compatible with the device).

Realistically that's everything Mashin Chaser was ever going to come with, because as I previously mentioned all of the Viral Core weapons are going to be going as a Tamashii web exclusive set in October. Credit where it's due the set does look really nice (all the weapons, plus effect parts and a stand), but I'm personally never a huge fan of figures where to get the most out of them I have to buy something else. It would have been nice if Bandai had offered one of the viral core weapons as a bonus instead of Midnight Shadow, but then that would both destroy the pattern they've got going on and spoil the way they've produced the larger set (which by the sounds of it is a core unit with replaceable parts for each version) so I can understand perfectly well why that probably wasn't a viable alternative.

But to round off Mashin Chaser's accessories there's also the matter of the first run bonus part, which in this case is the Midnight Shadow tire! In-show this tire gives Drive the ability to duplicate himself as well as project energy shuriken to throw at enemies. In toy form it's a hard plastic tire painted in a beautiful metallic purple, with four blade-like points sticking out of it (giving it the basic shape of a shuriken). While these points on the tire may look like they're on hinges allowing them to move upwards and downwards, but they're actually in a fixed position and the hinges are just there to make them more accurate to the in-show version (which in turn would have probably been based off the gimmick toy). There are also a number of raised star patterns running all the way around the rim of the tire. Visually it's a fairly appealing tire, but up close the paint isn't quite as sharp as what was previously seen on Max Flare.

The set also comes with a rather bland looking translucent purple folded-up Shift Car, as well as the accompanying Drive Driver screen for this particular tire.

And unfortunately unlike the Max Flare bonus set, the tire and accompanying effect parts have been split between two releases - with the latter instead being bundled with the Ride Chaser. After such a great first bonus with Drive is feels pretty stingy of Bandai to start splitting the tires up like this (the same is the case for the forthcoming Funky Spike bonus, which is split between Kamen Rider Mach and his Ride Macher), and if they'd kept them all to one per box they could have also done more tires as well. So unfortunately unless you were planning on picking up the Ride Chaser as well there isn't a whole lot to say about Midnight Shadow other than it being a purple tire with some shuriken bits sticking out of it. With the accompanying effect parts (which are some rather lovely looking translucent purple shurikens) I'm sure this is considerably more exciting, but I'm not going to go out and buy a bike I don't have room for just for some extra parts. Not when I already I got Max Flare complete in one box.

It's always going to be Bandai's goal to get collectors to buy them all, I guess this just makes it a little bit more blatant than usual.

Like Drive Type Speed before Mashin Chaser is a beautiful figure, and a further example of Bandai's ever improving quality as each year/series goes by. None of the detail has been sacrificed or lost in scaling the suit down to figure size, marking it as perhaps one of the most unique and eye-catching Rider/quasi-Rider designs in recent history. That said having an element of the figure made available as an add-pack always harms the individual enjoyment of the figure in some way, and Mashin Chaser is no exception to that rule. Coupled with the fact that the Midnight Shadow bonus has also fallen victim to this, and it's hard to shake off the feeling that the figure has slightly suffered from Bandai's overly commercial attitude to the whole thing. Mashin Chaser is more than deserving of a place in anyone's collection, just be prepared to own a figure that's either not quite living up to it's full potential or spending a fair bit more money to make it do just that.

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