Tuesday 26 January 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kylo Ren

Ever since Bandai Tamashii Nations first announced that they would be adding the Star Wars franchise to their ever-expanding S.H. Figuarts toy line, it was both obvious and inevitable that this would lead to figures from The Force Awakens. The timing was just too perfect for it not to, and as soon as the merchandise juggernaut was beginning to hit the globe Bandai revealed the first two figures that would be joining the collection – Kylo Ren and the First Order Stormtrooper, both released alongside the film’s near-worldwide release mid-December. For good reason Kylo Ren’s identity was shrouded in mystery until the film’s release, and while you won’t find any big spoilers in this review I will say that I found him to be one of the most fascinating characters the films have produced so far. His Darth Vader-inspired look was enough to sell me on preordering, but the film really made me want it.

So far the packaging for the Star Wars Figuarts has proven to be best described as elegant but rather plain in execution. Kylo Ren proves to be no exception here, coming in a rather plain box featuring an oversized front window with the Star Wars and S.H. Figuarts logos emblazoned on it in bronze lettering. The only reference made to The Force Awakens is up in the top right corner, where it proudly points out the figure is from the new film in tiny lettering. The back is a little more glamourous with a foil silver backdrop and windowed-off pictures of the figure in various poses. Interestingly the packing repeatedly refers to the figure as “KyloRen” – intentionally done or did Tamashii Nations just have problems with the space bar that day?

Cloaks have always been an area Bandai have struggled with – Vader’s was flawed but manageable, while Thor’s cape on the other hand was just flat out bad. However with Kylo Ren they’ve managed to do a damn fine job. The texture work is magnificent, while the bottom section surrounding the legs is split into four separate sections and made of a flexible soft plastic. Better still is that if you don’t fancy keeping your Kylo fully cloaked the pieces can actually be removed without ruining the look of him! In addition to the hood being removable, the piece draped over the shoulders can be also removed. Lastly the bottom sections can be taken off by first removing the belt, however when reassembled it does leave the waist pretty exposed. He won’t be able to pull off any extensive posing lacking all of his gear, but for basic posing he still looks pretty damn impressive. 

However there is one minor inaccuracy worth raising – while in the film itself the helmet’s visor is a logical glossy black, here it bizarrely has the same cloth texturing as the cloak does. The reason for this error isn’t exactly clear, but given the timing of this figure’s announcement and release it seems fair to assume that Bandai were probably working off mostly artwork when putting this figure together. However that shouldn’t be taken as an attempt to justify it – just an attempt to rationalise it. Some may see it as a rather glaring error, however others might consider it a minor niggle in comparison to the rest of the figure’s high quality. Especially given how detailed the rest of helmet looks with all of its perfectly sculpted dents and creases.

And despite some pretty hefty cloak pieces Kylo Ren is still packed with all the great articulation one would expect from the S.H. Figuarts line. While the hips don't feel like they swing down quite as much as the usual Figuart might, they don’t seem to have any trouble getting the figure into any of his iconic poses and work surprisingly well alongside the usually bothersome skirt sections. Even with the hood attached the head retains a good level of movement from standard ball-jointed head/neck, while the shoulders and waist prove equally functional. Rounding things off are the usual array of double hinged elbows/knees, ball-jointed wrists, angles and hinged toe sections. One final point to raise here is that the wrists are very slightly different to that of a usual Figuart, leading to the hands feeling rather loose fitting without really forcing them in – as scary as that thought may be.

Ren comes with a seemingly small amount of accessories, but this is offset both by the fact that he comes with almost everything he should and the fact that playability is heightened by removable layers of clothing. Altogether he comes with four pairs of hands (including the basic fists/open hand/weapon holding varieties and an all important “force use” pair) and three versions of his much-talked about crossguard lightsaber – an activated version, an inactive hilt and then an additional hilt with a tab to peg into the figure’s belt. Due to its crude built Ren’s lightsaber is particularly unstable, which is reflected in the fact that the blade is far more jagged than the fine beams of light previously seen. It is also a far deeper red than both Vader’s and Maul’s, making it stand out all the more alongside them. 

The only thing Kylo Ren feels like he is truly missing is an alternate unmasked head, which could easily have been left out due to time constraints (if the visor gaff is truly down to Tamashii Nations having to work off the suit alone, it seems entirely feasible that they weren’t aware of how Adam Driver would look unmasked) or the fact that the likeness rights weren’t in place. With Jedi Luke having come with an alternate Anakin Skywalker head for Darth Vader I wouldn’t put it past Bandai to include an alternate head for a future release, or possibly save it for a proper Starkiller Base version of the character.

An overabundance of “faux-cloth” soft plastic and a cloak surrounding the entire leg section might sound like a recipe for disaster on most figures, but Kylo Ren is just another example of how the Star Wars sub-line of Figuarts is going from strength to strength. Despite a minor inaccuracy likely to only be picked up by the keenest of eyes, this is a great looking figure that is surprisingly articulate once you get your head around some of its more fiddly qualities. Some collectors have recently taken to removing this figure’s plastic cape and replacing it with the cloth one belonging to the Black Series figure for a “perfect” figure, and to their credit it does look amazing. However if you aren’t a fan of cloth capes or don’t like the idea of buying another figure to enhance this one, this Figuart is still likely to give you almost everything you’d want from a Kylo Ren figure.

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