Wednesday 28 October 2015

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Thor

It's perhaps taken a lot longer than many collectors would have thought, but we finally have a complete line up of the core Avengers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Bandai's S.H. Figuarts line. Whether we'll ever get the likes of Hawkeye or Black Widow is anyone's guess, but for the time being it's great to finally have the main gang together. Following on from Captain America, Hulk and multiple versions of Iron Man is the god of thunder himself Thor, based on his appearance in Age of Ultron played by Chris Hemsworth. With Figma's version of the Hulk not due out until May 2016, Bandai haven't just got them out way before their rivals will - they managed to get them out in a matter of months while it'll take Figma nearly two years.

As expected the packaging for Thor retains the same design as the other Avengers figures, this time giving it a unique gold/yellow colour in addition to the dark blue. The bottom corner also features a small logo of Thor's hammer on the clear window, which also has a larger Avengers logo printed on it. The rest of it is the usual stuff - pictures of the figure plastered all over the front and back in various different poses, you know the drill by now. Its also worth noting that inside the box you'll actually find two plastic trays - one with the figure and the accessories on, while a thinner one hides underneath containing the cape.

As mentioned in the introduction this version of Thor is based off of his appearance in Age of Ultron. The main point of interest for me though was the fact that Bandai decided to sculpt this figure with the bare arms version of the costume, rather than the armoured sleeves you usually see. Admittedly looking back on the film it seems this variant showed up a lot more, but with a lot of other toy lines taking a similar approach to this film's version of Thor I'm going to take a guess that it was also primarily based on the concept art. The proportions of Figuarts' forthcoming Ultron figure seems to suggest the same thing.

The sculpting on the costume itself is excellent - there's lots of different textures and detailing all over the various pieces as well as a moveable front section so not to completely hinder forward leg articulation. However the proportions of the upper torso are pretty questionable - despite having similar builds Thor's is much bigger than Captain America's, sticking out almost twice as far! The head sculpt is also pretty disappointing for a number of reasons. While not an awful likeness of Chris Hemsworth is certainly the weakest of Bandai's offerings, being stuck in a rather gormless stare. The hair is also a massive issue, since it cuts off almost all the articulation from both the head and the neck. Unfortunately that isn't the only place that the otherwise great articulation is hindered either, with a big part of Thor's costume presenting a similar problem.

Bandai have decided to go the all plastic route for Thor’s cape, which is made from three solid plastic pieces. These are all unconnected in the box, but easily clip together and then plug directly into the figure’s shoulder blade area. The whole cape is on a hinge that can swing towards and away from the figure itself, while the two side pieces are on separate joints which allow them to swing outwards. The red colouring is really vibrant and the cape looks great in static poses, but that’s really where the praise ends. Due to being made of solid plastic it makes kneeling poses extremely limited, and its segmented design doesn’t allow for great billowing effects either. I know that Bandai aren’t a massive fan of fabric capes, but with how limited the figure suddenly becomes with it on it really would have been the better option. One can only hope that the forthcoming S.H. Figuarts Omegamon’s fabric cape will make them more comfortable to the idea in future.

Thor uses the same head sculpt engineering previously seen on Captain America, which consists of a selection of alternate eye “cartridges” that slot inside the head and provide the connecting joint to the neck. This release includes three different sets of eyes (staring to the left, to the right and straight on), but sadly no alternate faces. Whether this is a good or bad thing depends on how you felt about Cap and Hulk’s screaming faces, but it would have at least been nice to have some option there.

So we've covered the alternate eyes and the lack of a different facial expressions, but what else is there bundled with Thor? The answer is not a whole lot unfortunately. Whether it's because the character simply just doesn't have a whole lot he could come with or alternatively that Bandai expect buyers to pick up the lightning effect parts to go with this release, but Thor feels pretty light on the extras in comparison to his teammates. Other than the cape (which admittedly takes up a whole second tray) and the aforementioned bits there's also two additional pairs of hands and of course Mjölnir - the hammer of Thor. Even if there aren't any other viable accessories, some extra hands would have been nice. Although thinking about it - Cap came with five pairs, Iron Man had four pairs and Hulk two pairs. That's a pretty interesting (and almost certainly coincidental) pattern.

The final piece in the accessory count is an extra hand gripping Mjölnir’s handle outwards, primarily to replicate Thor’s flying pose where he holds out the hammer in front of him. It can however serve the double purpose of looking like when he’s about to throw it at someone instead. As this is only a handle, it requires removing the top of the standard weapon and then plugging it onto this version instead. It’s a nice addition, even if it feels a little lacklustre. Tamashii Stages aren’t particularly wonderful at holding these figures up and with Thor’s inability to look upwards the pose only really looks good from certain angles.

Comparison with last year’s Figma release of Thor (based on the first Avengers film rather than Age of Ultron) is particularly interesting, and definitely less clear cut than it is with the rest of the Avengers team. On face value the Figuart looks like the clear winner – the face sculpt is much better, and the body in general is more complex and feels of a higher quality. However when you get to the practical nature of the figures, Bandai’s offering really begins to show its flaws. The cape is plain awful, there’s next to no neck movement and all things considered, the face sculpt still isn’t perfect. Compare that to the Figma, which has a practical (if somewhat fiddly) cape and unhindered articulation. For superhero characters Figuarts is usually the brand that comes out on top, but here I’m not so sure. Figma Thor met all of my expectations, while Figuarts Thor has left me somewhat underwhelmed. So in many respects the Figuart may seem like the better option, but is it really the most satisfying one?

S.H. Figuarts Thor is a decent send-off to the core team of the Avengers, but is sadly easily the most lacking. Excuses can be made for the Hulk as larger figures isn’t something the line has a great deal of experience with, but Thor was a figure that should have come out spectacularly. But what we got instead was a decent figure marred by strange proportions, an awful cape system, a subpar face sculpt and accessories that feel somewhat lacking in comparison to the others. It’s sad because many of these things could have very easily been fixed. While still considerably better than most other Thor figures out there, this is pretty middle-tier stuff for a line that has managed to constantly impress elsewhere.

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