Monday 5 September 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Alien Baltan

Ultraman has finally made his move to the S.H. Figuarts line, but he isn't alone! The Ultra Series in general has always held its monsters and aliens in high regard, with many becoming almost as iconic as Ultraman himself. This also means that they get a good selection of toys (far more than you'll ever find with the likes of Kamen Rider or Super Sentai), from vinyl toys and articulated figures all the way up to bizarre moe girl gijinka statues. With Ultraman's Figuarts debut perfectly timed with the show's 50th anniversary, it makes sense that more would follow quickly afterward. The second Ultra Series Figuarts release and first Ultra foe to join the line is Alien Baltan, who made his debut in the second episode of the original Ultraman series and has gone on to become one of the franchise's most iconic villains.

In a very fitting move for an alien that made his debut in 1966, Baltan comes packaged in rather retro-looking packaging done up in a fetching blue and silver colourscheme. An extremely nice touch is that the front of the box actually uses an image of the actual suit for its main image, rather than the figure itself. The arrangement of the image also nicely breaks up what would otherwise be a rather huge window. The back features a mere two images of the figure against a huge silver backdrop. There's actually a reason behind this more minimal approach to the back and the insert tray, but that's something we'll get into a little further down in the review.

The Alien Baltan have appeared repeatedly during the Ultra Series 50-year long history, and although their appearance has changed slightly from time to time they've never strayed too far from being the clawed, bug-eyed space ninja that everyone knows and loves. This particular figure is based on the original and most iconic Baltan design, which sports the distinct blue and brown colouring. Previously in my Figuarts Ultraman review I commented how it seems the Ultraman Figuarts are aiming to look more like the suits than they are "dynamic" action figures, and Baltan only makes that all the more apparent. As well as the simply INCREDIBLE painted details, there's so much in the sculpt itself to appreciate. The head isn't symmetrical, the globules at the bottom of the head look just like the foam that would have been used for them on the really does look absolutely fantastic. Ultraman himself was pretty standard for what Tamashii Nations are capable of, but Baltan really pushes that high quality that the line has been achieving over the last few years.

As far as joint implementation goes Baltan gets off to a pretty strong start when it comes to articulation. The giant head and lack of a neck might make you think otherwise, but there is a double ball-joint under there that gives the head a very minimal level of movement (as well as making it compatible with other Figuarts bodies!). In addition to that Baltan sports a ball-jointed torso, waist, shoulders and hips, along with a bicep and wrist swivels, double hinge elbows/knees and ankle tilts. Most importantly is that the claws are hinged, providing Baltan with ample pincer action!

But while the joints might all be there, they don't all fare so well when it comes to execution. In addition to the aforementioned head issues Baltan also struggles with some extremely limited hip movement due to soft plastic skirt surrounding them. The ankle tilt movement is also very minimal due to the plastic piece surrounding them, and the feet are far too big to be lacking a toe-joint. It's funny because while the upper half of this figure is extremely expressive, the bottom could be capable of so much more. With all that said, Baltan's core figure is still extremely fun. Maybe it's just because toku villains is still a bit of a novelty for Figuarts, but even the ones we do have don't seem to be quite as fun as this. And it's just as well the figure itself is good because...

When it comes to accessories I hope you all either bought the 50th Anniversary Ultraman set or have a wealth of effect parts at your disposal, because Baltan comes with...absolutely nothing. In what is undoubtedly a rarity for S.H. Figuarts, Baltan doesn't have a single accessory to call his own - which is a bit of a bummer when you consider that the Ultra-Act Baltan II figure came with a nice little selection of effect parts. Monsters getting the short end of the stick is hardly new though, especially given how the S.H. MonsterArts line is treating kaiju (or more specifically, Godzilla) these days.

But hey - if you did get that Ultraman set then you have some sweet buildings to display Baltan with, as well as a Baltan spacecraft to hover alongside him. Even with only the road/buildings provided in the Ultraman set you can get some really great dioramas out of these figures, which totally ups Baltan's playability when he's put alongside other figures.

S.H. Figuarts Alien Baltan has actually proven to be one of the most difficult figures to write closing thoughts for, because I'm well aware of the fact that I like him a whole lot more than other people might. The figure is an incredible amount of fun and that sculpt/paintwork near flawless, but its shortcomings are a bit much to just ignore in spite of that. The lower body articulation could do some work and with a price of 5940 yen, some sort of accessories doesn't seem like much to ask. It's likely that most will be buying Baltan as a companion piece to Ultraman so some of these complaints might be alleviated somewhat, but on his own I can imagine he might leave quite a bit to be desired. Another release which will certainly satisfy those only know dipping into the realm of Ultraman figures, but will leave longtime Ultra-Act buyers looking at their collection in fond memory.


Sant01's Review Archive said...

that's it, i'm allredy missing ultra act

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

Haha I love the last picture you posted with the little 66mm Baltan sitting on his shoulder. I also own that little 66mm Baltan. This figure is cool, but I prefer the Ultra Act Baltan II that was released, though that one has gone up a lot in price. I also own 2 of the Bandai Shodo candy toy Baltans (they're like mini version of the Ultra Act/Figuarts line).

Alex said...

Ahh I'm jealous you have the Ultra-Act! I didn't find out about that figure until it was long out of stock but I really like the look of it. The darker colours are really nice and I LOVE the Spellgen reflector pieces in the chest. The effect parts are a really nice touch too, something the Ultra-Act will always have over the Figuarts is just how many figures they gave effect parts.

Maybe one day I'll luck out and find one cheap on the aftermarket!