Thursday 10 March 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.I.C. Hakaider (CR Kikaider S.I.C. Version)

Pachinko is a game Japan seems to take very seriously, and judging by the vast number of high quality and innovative machines produced starring various anime and tokusatsu franchises it isn’t hard to see why. Just one example among them is 2015’s CR S.I.C. Kikaider machine, which featured new interpretations of the Android Kikaider cast based on Bandai’s Super Imaginative Chogokin line. With Tamashii Nations releasing a brand new Kikaider figure based on that design at the end of 2015, it was only a matter of time until his arch rival Hakaider joined him. Released as a Tamashii web exclusive in February 2016, this new Hakaider figure brings the character into the modern era of the S.I.C. line – continuing onwards from the minimally articulated Kikaider figures that helped build the line at the very beginning.

Like his more heroic brother (who also just happens to be his father), Hakaider’s packaging seems rather plain in comparison to the more unique Kikaider S.H. Figuarts boxes. The front of the black, windowless box features a rather generic image of the figure along with some very dimly-lit computer outlines, with a further two images of the figure printed on the back. Running along both spines is Hakaider’s name in English, written in a fittingly “edgy” font. Simple and straight to the point, but then again it’s the figure inside that’s the real prize.

While the furthest most S.I.C. re-imaginings will get other than the toy line is a possible appearance in the S.I.C. Hero Saga manga series, Hakaider is a slightly more interesting case. Though perhaps not a direct reference to it, most of the S.I.C. Hakaider figures bare a striking resemblance to the version of the character that appearing in the 1995 film Mechanical Violator Hakaider which featured an updated, more menacing interpretation. The same can certainly be said for this new design, with Hakaider sporting an angered grimace rather than the traditional grin. However elements the movie dropped (such as the exposed brain) have been retained for better authenticity with the original design. The CR S.I.C. Pachinko Machine design also brings along new unique elements to better differentiate the original Saburo Hakaider from his Kikaider 01 successors, such as translucent purple highlights that run across the chest and shoulder sections. Meanwhile in the game Gill Hakaider features yellow in those areas, and the Hakaider Squad are all kitted out in their respective colours. 

The sculpt itself is a superb modernisation of what many will likely shrug off as a dated design, replacing the vinyl-looking body suit with detailed armour panelling to give off a true robotic feel. The matte black finish on the plastic feels just as good as it looks, while the purple and golden highlighting running across the body breaks the predominantly black colour scheme up nicely. Adorning Hakaider’s skull is the exposed human break, encased in translucent clear plastic that keeps it nice and secure. There’s no removable brain feature like on the Figuart, but given how fiddly that skull cap turned out these actually feels more like a blessing than a curse.

Hakaider also sports an impressive array of articulation, far outclassing any S.I.C. version that preceded him. Altogether this includes a ball-jointed head and neck, ball-jointed shoulders with hinged shoulder pads, bicep swivels, double-hinge elbows, ball-jointed wrists, ball-joints above and below the abdomen section, ball-jointed hips, double-hinge knees, ankle rockers (severely limited in side-to-side motion thanks to the foot guards) and finally a hinged toe-cap to round things off. What S.I.C. figures lack compared to Figuarts in terms of hip articulation (as they lack the more mobile swing-down joint design) they definitely make up for in flexibility elsewhere - particularly in the abdomen, elbow and knee sections.

Among Hakaider’s accessories are an additional two pairs of hands, along with the character’s signature “Hakaider Shot” weapon - re-imagined from a long-barrel pistol into a shotgun as per most S.I.C. reinterpretations (and the Mechanical Violator version). To go with the Hakaider Shot is also an alternate left shin guard which can be used as a holster when not in use. The piece has extended tabs jutting out of it to look as though the shin has effectively split open to reveal the gun, and the removal of the guard itself also reveals extra mechanical detailing moulded onto the inside. 

The final piece in the accessory is also the most curious one – an alternate chest section with more prominent rib detailing and a central scar-like "X” symbol done in translucent purple plastic. Initially I assumed this piece was so that buyers could display their Hakaider as either the Saburo or Gill version of the character as Gill Hakaider features a similar chest symbol, but after seeing the distinct colour differences between them all in the Pachinko machine footage that doesn't seem to be the case. Though Bandai may just consider the differences negligible and it is actually the true intention, another thing that springs to mind is the climax Mechanical Violator, where a secret weapon sprouts from a similarly shaped scar on Hakaider’s chest. The nod could go either way really, but whatever the case may be it’s great to have the option.

With S.I.C. versions of Hakaider bearing so much similarity to the movie version of the character (my least favourite version of Hakaider, but I digress) my anticipation for this figure wasn’t quite as high as it was for Kikaider, however in-hand Hakaider proves equally as impressive. The overall design is significantly improved by the addition of armour panelling and mechanical detailing, while the purple highlighting offers a unique twist that doesn’t detract from that instantly recognisable design. The articulation, while slightly more limited than the Figuarts version, is still excellent and the perfect update to the more statue-like Kikaider SICs of old. While getting another four Hakaider variants in this line might seem like a pipedream, hopefully one day Bandai will find room to release the corresponding Kikaider 01, 00 and Bijinder designs to bring the whole Kikaider family into modern times.

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