Sunday 16 August 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Hulk

When Bandai Tamashii Nations announced that they would be doing Avengers: Age of Ultron figures as part of the S.H. Figuarts line it was pretty exciting, but I think it's fair to say that the most exciting element of all (at least until the reveal of a Hulkbuster figure anyway) was the Hulk. The Avengers had previously had a brief foray into poseable Japanese figures as part of the Figma line in 2014, but the fact their Hulk seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth after the other three core members were released was rather disappointing to say the least. However Bandai here plan to make no such mistake, winning fans over by guaranteeing Hulk as one of the earliest releases from their Age of Ultron range. Now that the Figuart is out, it seems Figma are gearing up to finally release their version of the character based on the first Avengers film. Nice try Max Factory but you're a little too late to the party - this is Figuarts town now.

Hulk comes packaged in a usual Figuarts style box, only both taller and thicker than usual to cover the increased bulk of the figure. The style perfectly matches that of Captain America's box, only with the colours changed to a much more fitting "gamma rays" green and the corner logo that of a fist. Similarly the back of the packaging also features the same buzzwords to go with various pictures of the figure in different poses - "back style", "molding" and "movable". No "option parts" though sadly, for reasons that will become a bit clearer later in the review if you can't already tell from the insert tray picture above.

The Hulk is actually the S.H. Figuarts line second attempt at a larger humanoid figure, the first being the legendary Super Saiyan Broly from Dragonball Z released at the end of 2014. A standard Figuart (in this particular case, I'm using Captain America as a comparison) comes up to about Hulk's waist, and has about half of the bulk he does. That should give you a pretty good idea at just how "hulking" this figure is. Despite the lack of clothing the figure is also beautifully sculpted. Sure there isn't any fabric detailing or textures to speak off, but all the muscle detailing and risen veins look fantastic and really stand out with the added shading. The head sculpt is equally great, quite likely due to the fact that as a mostly CGI based character there's less margin for error when it comes to toys. It has all the right traces of Mark Ruffalo in it, but could quite easily double for just a very good comic Hulk too.

My only real complaint is the shorts, and there's more of a knock against his appearance in Age of Ultron rather than the figure itself. The 3/4 length shorts just feel way too clean for a Hulk figure. Look at any art for the film and you'll see the Figuart is pretty accurate, and most other toys have done the same thing for their AoU Hulks too. But when I think of Hulk I instinctively think of ripped shorts, and this one just feels lacking without them. I guess stretchy pants are more practical than constantly ripping pairs when you're a regular Avenger. 

But as visually imposing as the Hulk might look, his larger stature has brought all sorts of new problems to the seamlessness of the sculpt. Not exactly being an expert on toy sculpting and engineering, I initially assumed that Hulk would just use oversized versions of the usual joints to cover the larger size. This isn't the case at all, and the result (especially in the shoulder areas as you can see above) is some really obvious-looking joint cuts which very easily expose the tiny joints the figure is built upon. Admittedly there is the usual moveable piece around the joint to try and cover it up, but it doesn't work nearly as well as it does on the normal sized figures. A similar thing can be said about the waist cut, which when not posed meticulously shows off a lot of the gaps underneath. With Figuarts not attempting larger figures on a regular basis I assume some leeway has to be given, but regardless the look just isn't quite up to what one would usually expect from this line. 

The articulation itself is mostly unhindered by the change in size however, with Hulk being able to pull off all the obligatory raging smash poses you'd require from him. Sadly the figure has no form of bicep swivel, which is probably because of just how badly one would compromise the sculpt - and the last thing this figure needs is more joint cuts. The hips aren't exactly great either - they offer a fair bit of outward motion but not a lot forwards or backwards. Getting the Hulk into a good kneeling pose is near impossible for example. Getting to see the elbows and knees joints scaled up is actually pretty interesting though if you have a particular interest in toy engineering. They work just like they would on any other Figuart, but at this larger size you get a much better look at what the pieces look and how they work/fit together.

Unfortunately the size is what takes up most of this figure's price point, with the only accessories to Hulk's name being an additional pair of open hands and an alternate "screaming/shouting" face. The face isn't quite as laughable as the one included with Captain America, but has the same sort of look that could quite easily be taken out of context. The real problem with the alternate head (at least on my figure anyway) is that it doesn't fit on the body anywhere nearly as firmly as the standard one does. When pushed onto the neck joint I haven't heard any sort of pop/click to confirm its locked on properly, and then when I try to move the head the slightest push out of place knocks it straight off again. The underside doesn't seem to be designed any differently to the neutral head, so I can't quite understand why this happens.

The sad truth is though there isn't a whole lot else that Hulk could have realistically come with. He doesn't really need holding hands or anything like that so any other pairs would have felt a bit redundant. Some effect parts might have been nice, but there you have the risk of driving the price up even more. Plus there's the fact that Bandai probably aren't too keen on including such things when they not so long ago released individual impact effect parts.

S.H. Figuarts Hulk is a big, dumb, fun action figure. And that's perfectly alright by me - but at the same I don't feel wowed like I do with most releases from this line. The sculpt is leagues ahead of Hasbro's offering in the Marvel Legends line, but is definitely compromised by those horrible exposed armpits and off-putting joint cuts. The lack of any notable accessories means that everything is riding on the figure itself, and in this case I'm not entirely convinced that the size instantly justifies all the other flaws. That said it is nice to finally have a higher-end Hulk figure in this scale, and the higher price isn't actually too bitter pill to swallow providing you're buying it at retail price from a  reputable Japanese online retailer (if your country has customs fees however, that's another issue entirely). Though I feel Figma's offering will be coming a far too late to make any sort of impact, it will be interesting to see how they handle larger figures. Tamashii Nations are getting there, but they haven't quite perfected it just yet.

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