Monday 16 May 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Bowser

Bandai Tamashii Nations’ journey into the colourful world of Nintendo’s flagship franchise continues with the arrival of S.H. Figuarts Bowser! Primary antagonist and star of the Super Mario series since the very beginning, the King of the Koopas is perhaps one of the more radical entries in the Figuarts line thanks to his inhuman design and proportions. While some collectors out there may think Bowser is more suited to the S.H. MonsterArts line, his cartoonish design would have been a major clash there and so really he fits perfectly under the Figuarts banner. Like the Fire Flower Mario and recent diorama sets, Bowser is a Tamashii web exclusive figure.

The Super Mario boxes are among the smallest in the Figuarts line, but in Bowser’s case what it lacks in height it certainly makes up for in width and depth. Bowser comes packaged in a thick cube-shaped box, adorned with a similar design and layout as the previous Mario figures. One key difference here however is the darker colourscheme, which while perhaps not completely intentional is certainly fitting of his villain status. The box also features images of other figures in the line along with the pieces available in the various diorama sets, in yet another attempt to encourage collectors to expand beyond simply the key characters they’ve so far put out.

Now comes the time to be blunt – S.H. Figuarts Bowser is not a great figure. Well that isn’t technically true – it’s a perfectly acceptable toy in its own right but a far cry from what any collector would and should expect from this line. But before moving onto all the negatives, there are a few positives worth mentioning about this figure. First and foremost is the detailing, which is far more in-depth than most were probably expecting from a smooth-textured video game character. Significant areas of Bowser’s body features some sort of texturing, particularly his hard patterned shell and green/yellow skin sections. Bandai also can’t be faulted when it comes to sculpting – once again they’ve done an excellent job capturing the likeness as well as giving the figure some real weight to it. They can however be faulted when it comes to height, or more specifically scale. 

While I don’t think anyone was expecting a size difference like the one displayed in games like Mario 64, it’s an undeniable fact that Bowser is taller than the Mario brothers. That can’t be said for this figure, which stands at about the same height as Mario, thus making both Luigi and Yoshi slightly taller. Of course in terms of width and weight Bowser still certainly has the edge, but in a display the disregard of scale is rather distracting. Not only because of Bowser’s rather hefty price in comparison to the other Mario figures (6480 yen plus shipping and middleman fees), but also because the Mario line in particular is one that encourages elaborate displays and dioramas.

Despite their more compact size and proportions Bandai have managed to get some pretty impressive articulation out of the Super Mario Figuarts, however Bowser has clearly not been blessed with the same level of thought when it comes to engineering. It can’t be denied that his monstrous design would inevitably lead to some poseabilty shortcomings, but it’s almost as if the designers weren’t even trying here. Altogether Bowser has a ball-jointed neck, shoulders, hips and feet, along with rotatable hands – that’s it. No jaw movement, no elbows, no knees, and no tail articulation. What you do get as a trade-off is of course a cleaner sculpt, but if that’s the biggest draw then perhaps a Figuarts ZERO would have been more preferably. This is articulation at its most basic, something that isn’t at all befitting for a line that usually prides itself on articulation and poseability.

The lack of articulation could be slightly more forgivable with a decent selection of accessories, but sadly this is yet another area that Bowser falls short in. Included with the figure are an additional pair of slightly more open hands, two additional open mouth pieces (one open and the other spitting a fireball) and a short-armed Tamashii stage with a grey base. As Bowser has no moving jaw function the alternate mouths just plug in and out as you’d expect them too, and though the fireball is nicely made of translucent orange plastic it isn’t appealing enough to redeem this rather meagre count. The inclusion of a Tamashii stage is always welcome and allows Bowser to perform some rather basic “jump and spit fireball” poses from the games, but the arm does unsurprisingly struggle with the weight of this hefty figure.

There’s little else to say other than that Bowser is the first real disappointment of the S.H. Figuarts Super Mario sub-line. As eye-catching as the detail may be it isn’t enough to overlook the figure’s small size/lack of scale, minimal articulation and low accessory count. With these factors in mind Bowser’s high web-exclusive price is a pretty bitter pill to swallow, especially when Jakks Pacific are offering a cheaper but perfectly viable alternative as part of their World of Nintendo line. Line consistency will likely be a factor in some people’s decision to pick this figure up, but with any luck that decision will also come with a much needed price drop on the aftermarket. If not, this is a figure where you should really consider your options before pulling the trigger.

No comments: