Sunday 21 February 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Garren Broken Head Ver.

In the last few years Bandai have cleverly begun to offer many of the Showa-era Kamen Rider S.H. Figuarts as part of special two-packs with their bikes, giving collectors a second chance to pick up figures they might have missed while at the same time picking up both motorcycle and Rider in one fell swoop. However this marketing tactic didn’t begin with the Showa Riders, with the first Figuarts two pack instead being Kamen Rider Garren and Red Rhombus (and at mass release no less). Given that the other three Kamen Rider Blade Riders each received individual releases, this came across as a pretty odd decision met with woe by those who simply don’t have room for bikes to accompany to their figures. Now two years those people finally get their wish with the Kamen Rider Garren Broken Head Ver. – an individual release in a similar vain to last year’s Tamashii exclusive Kamen Rider Blade Broken Head variant.

One thing I’ve always really liked about Kamen Rider Blade as a series is the very distinctive branding the show has with its ornate decoration and lettering. The Broken Head Garren box makes full use of this, with an eye-catching shot of the figure front and centre against a dark backdrop (complete with a proper head shot lurking in the top corner). The back of the box takes that branding even further with the two figure shots inside a Rouze card border.

When it comes to talking about the sculpt of the figure, the most obvious place to start is obviously with the head given that it is of course the main draw of this release. As you can see the left side of the helmet is torn open, revealing a slightly-anime inspired version of Sakuya Tachibana's face peering through. While the face isn't exactly a perfect likeness to actor Hironari Amano, it's certainly good enough to get the job done nicely without turning out as off as some of the Avengers/Star Wars faces have. If you peer into the gap between the helmet and face you can also see that there is in fact a whole face sculpted into there, but only the visible details on the right (the eye and eyebrow) have been painted in. Around the hole are some nice little bits of mechanical detailing, which leads into the remaining section of the Garren helmet which looks just as great as ever. Even with only one compound eye the green seems to pop just as much as ever.

Like the Broken Head Blade release this figure also features a noticeably darker colourscheme than the original, not only changing the undersuit to a much darker shade of brown but also swapping some of the small silver buckling details on the arms and legs to a metallic black instead. However Broken Head Garren takes things a little further than the Blade figure did, making this feel like a much more unique release in the wake of both the 2-pack standard Garren and the web exclusive Jack form. The silver chest armour has three huge marks carved into it, with the inside nicely painted black and the sides of the marks raised just like torn metal. Even more impressive is something I completely missed when first opening the figure, which is the inclusion of the Rouze Absorber on the left wrist - a feature completely absent from the original. The details are also slightly different to the Absorber on the Jack Form figure, depicted in a "blank" state and lacking the green and gold card markings of the activated version. For a figure that could have easily just tried to get away with darkening the colours and adding a new head, Tamashii Nations have gone the extra mile to make this feel like something special.

Before the Shinkocchou Seihou sub-line came along and became the new pinnacle of the S.H. Figuarts brand, the Kamen Rider Blade figures (along with the Ryuki cast) were considered a new highpoint. And although its been a few years since Blade himself was first released, Garren is still just as good as ever. The only noticeable limitations are in the head, which isn't quite raised enough to do much in the way of looking up or down (though the joint at the bottom of the neck does its best to alleviate that a bit). Even the relatively large shoulderpads don't restrict the movement in the torso all that much, and the rest of the body is free to take full advantage of all that wonderful range of movement Figuarts have to offer.

While the accessory count is in fact pretty much the same as the original Garren release (sans the bike and any parts related to it of course), it does omit one piece would have made a whole lot of difference. Included are five exchangeable pairs of hands (closed fists, open hands, card holding, weapon and motorcycle grasping), the Garren Rouzer weapon and a sheet of in-scale Rouze cards. The accessory missing is the alternate “open” section of Garren Rouzer, which sadly limits the piece to just basic gun poses. To those who have followed the Figuarts Blade releases this shouldn’t come as much as a surprise as the Broken Head Blade also omitted the open Rouzer parts (in addition to the standard Blade’s two effect parts), but why exactly such a small piece wasn’t included is a bit perplexing when a more redundant accessory like the pair of bike holding hands could have been omitted instead.

Unlike the previous Garren releases where the cards were pre-cut and sealed in their own tiny bag, here they're all still attached to a larger white sheet of card that takes up a fair part of the tray. The cards are pre-punched though, so they only need to be popped out of the plastic film covering the front rather than carefully cut. Sadly unlike previous releases which featured specific Rouze cards these are all generic cards repeated in three different colours.

To me, figures like the Kamen Rider Garren Broken Head Ver. are what exclusives should be all about – interesting remoulds/repaints that wouldn’t get a shot at release any other way. Many will probably complain that this was a exclusive rather than a straight Tamashii web one, but those truly desperate to get a Garren without the bike should be more than happy with this. The lack of a key accessory is a little bit of a blow, but otherwise this is a solid figure that will likely remain one of the more unique additions to the Kamen Rider Figuarts range for years to come. Unmasked/broken mask Riders aren’t exactly a common thing, so what better way to acknowledge it than with one of most fondly remembered ones?

And if the added price or broken-headedness doesn’t do anything for you, the original 2-pack release seems to be going for quite the reasonable rate at the moment if you look hard enough. Everybody wins.

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