Wednesday 30 September 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Iron Man Mark 45

Unlike the rest of Marvel's Avengers, Bandai Tamashii Nations are no strangers to Iron Man figures. In fact the character has been a pretty integral part of the S.H. Figuarts line since his first figure back in May 2013, prompting a number of different releases from both Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3 - as well as a special black and gold release of the Mark 6 armour for the Tamashii Nations exhibition in the same year. Despite skipping over the first Avengers film Bandai have the character back in full force for Age of Ultron, joined by his main team mates for the very first time. While technically the Mark 43 armour was the first release from the film, as a repaint of Iron Man 3's Mark 42 it perhaps wasn't quite as notable as what followed. The Mark 45 on the other hand is a different story - a brand new mould and the latest addition in Tony Stark's ever growing hall of armours.

The Mark 45 armour comes in packaging very similar to that previously seen with Captain America, however the patriotic blue and white of the lettering has been swapped out for a much more fitting red and gold and the bottom right corner sports an arc reactor logo (although technically since he doesn't use an Arc reactor anymore, would calling it a Repulsor Transmitter/RT be more appropriate?). The front also features the figure in the now iconic "ground pound" pose, because what kind of Iron Man figure would it be if it didn't have an image of it doing that somewhere? The back features the usual array of figure images, complete with the fancy buzzwords Bandai have decided to add to these Avengers figures.

While arguably any Iron Man figure would have been a great entry point to sample what Bandai have to offer with the character, making the Mark 45 my first has proven extremely beneficial. Not just because it's the latest release (and therefore hopefully the best in terms of quality), but also because of the sightly different aesthetic this model has to offer. With each mark the armours have slowly gotten more and more organic in their appearance, and the Mark 45 feels like a culmination of that. Despite being a robotic suit the figure sports all kinds of muscle definition that really shines in specific lights. Of course there's still all kinds of "robotic" detailing on there too, with lots of grooves and cuts where the various armour plates mesh together. It was also a surprise to see this figure sporting die cast feet, considering it's a practice that's largely been dropped from other Figuarts releases.

Red, gold and a splash of silver are always a winning colour combination for an Iron Man armour, and this one seems to get the distribution perfectly. I wasn't a fun of the overabundance of gold on the Mark 43, so I was happy to see the suits return to being predominantly red in Age of Ultron. If anything the minimal uses of gold and silver benefit the suit even more here, because where they've been used bring out some of the more "muscly" aspects of the suit. It feels much more unique than your average Iron Man armour, which makes it much more of a pleasure to have had it as my first Iron Man Figuart.

Moving onto articulation, and the figure is certainly no slouch in this area either. The rather notable gap between the neck and the torso becomes more forgivable when you see how much movement there is in the neck area, with the figure being able to properly look forwards in both mid-flight and the aforementioned "ground pound" poses. It doesn't stop there though, with the figure also sporting extendable ball-jointed shoulders, an ab crunch, swing down ball-jointed hips, double-joined elbows and knees, ball-jointed wrists, ankle tilts and a hinged toe section. If you're an experience Figuart buyer its the usual stuff, but if you're only just venturing into this line now because of it's Marvel offerings then you're in for a very pleasant surprise. 

The accessories bundled with the figure include an additional three pairs of hands (making four in total) and three different pairs of "blast" effect parts - two for the hands and one which plugs into the feet. The great thing about the hands this time around is that each one has their own hand guard rather than it being a separate piece that you have to attach manually - a complaint that many had about the previous releases. The blast pieces are very nice translucent pieces, albeit somewhat unremarkable. The repulsor ones for the hands come in the long and short variety, and plug into their corresponding hands nice and tightly. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the feet ones, which are incredibly loose and fall out at only the slightest touch. While it doesn't sound like a lot when written down, it's a pretty good selection and the typical things one expects from an Iron Man figure. Other armours have perhaps had missile pods and such (the Figma Mark VII Full Spec version for example) but they don't really fit on this more organic aesthetic. There's the matter of an open helmet head too I guess, but with the way those things tend to drive the price up I can't say I really mind that they didn't bother here.

Although I don't have any other Iron Man Figuarts to compare the Mark 45 with, since I did the same with Captain America (and will be doing the same with Thor) I thought it might be fun to see how it stacks up against Figma's Mark VII release. Straight off the bat you can see just how organic the Mark 45 looks, the Mark VII looking almost comically blocky by comparison. Articulation-wise the Figuart probably just edges out the Figma, but not in a way that makes it instantly better in that regard. What DOES make the Figuart better is how much better it incorporates the joints into the sculpt, whereas the Figma has it's standardised joints in the knees and elbows which stick out like a sore thumb. The Figma's soft plastic hand guards are also a big knock against it, especially since over time I can now see how much they bend out of shape. In terms of aesthetics both armours offer very different things, but in terms of quality and execution Bandai are the clear winner here.

However the one thing I will praise the Figma for is the fact that it has a port for the stand to plug directly into the figure. Posing the Mark 45 on a Tamashii Stage is an absolutely nightmare. Thanks to the diecast inclusion the figure is pretty weighty as it is, and the stage claws are rather useless at holding it in place. I guess this is less a complaint about the figure and more one about the stands, but Bandai REALLY need to work out a better system for some of these Figuarts. If the Ultra-Acts can get swappable pieces that allow them to plug directly into the stands, it baffles me that they can't do the same system with such a similar toy line.

For years I've seen fans scream the praises of the Iron Man Figuarts, and with the Mark 45 I can finally see why. There are plenty of high-end Iron Man figures on the market now that all have their merits, but S.H. Figuarts are possibly the best in terms of quality, scale and most importantly price. The sculpt and paintwork is immaculate, with this armour model being the perfect opportunity for Bandai just to show how far they've come producing these figures over a few short years. While I'm sure any Iron Man Figuart comes highly recommended, the Mark 45 is especially one that's well worth your money. 

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