Monday 19 September 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Whis

Despite boasting a lot of unreleased prototypes and a bit of a spotty period with few releases, it’s fair to say that Dragon Ball has remained one of the more consistent ranges S.H. Figuarts has on offer. With the arrival of Dragon Ball Super creating renewed interest in the franchise, the line has also experienced something of a renaissance – with new characters, “renewal” figures and premium colour editions all on offer. Earlier this year saw the release of popular new character and God of Destruction Beerus, and no long behind him comes his faithful attendant Whis. Unfortunately unlike his master Whis is a Tamashii web exclusive figure in Japan, but will undoubtedly see more widespread release in the US via Bluefin.

Unlike most Tamashii web exclusive figures, Whis comes packaged in a standard style Figuarts box with a transparent front window revealing the figure inside. Why exactly this has been the case for Dragon Ball exclusives has never been officially stated, though its most likely due to the fact that these figures are quite prominent retail releases in the US. Anyway Whis’ box is done up in the same style as the “new era” Dragon Ball Figuarts, which includes Awakening Goku, Beerus, Saiyan Armour Trunks and the forthcoming new Vegeta figure. Each one has their own unique colour on the box to go alongside the white, and in Whis’ case it’s a nice bright magenta to match his robes. The packaging features some great stock images of the figure that help give it a really dynamic manga-styled edge to it.

While Whis is hardly the most complex of character designs out there, Bandai have done an incredible job of getting that likeness to the animation just right. From the brilliant sculpting to those bright lively colours, Whis is a figure that just oozes personality. The floating ring around his neck pegs into the torso area in two places, and can be removed should you so wish (primarily to make head-swapping easier without the fear of breakage).

Articulation is where things begin to get a bit more divisive. From the waist up Whis sports some fantastic articulation. Ball joints for the head/neck/shoulders/torso/waist/wrists, double hinge elbows – the usual high quality Figuarts selection. Meanwhile the waist down also sports the usual range of joints, but thanks to those hard plastic robes leg articulation is cut off almost completely. Hip and knee movement is minimal, and the only places that come out unhindered are the ankles and hinged toe-caps. On any other character this may seem like a huge deal breaker, but Whis may be one of the few exceptions to the rule. The character has never shown himself to be a especially dynamic fighter, able to take out both Goku and Vegeta with his formal stance and a few swift hand movements. Outside of battle he’s almost always standing formally as any good attendant should. The hard plastic benefits the overall sculpt far more than any cut soft plastic would, so the only real loss here is the inability to put the figure in a sitting down pose – something I can’t imagine will be too common among displays.

Also making up for the restricted lower articulation is a pretty good range of accessories. Along with his trademark staff Whis comes packaged with two alternate heads (one sported a sly expression and the other an over the top surprised/excited look) and five additional hands – one of which is holding a spoon. It might not seem like much, but the quality of which is here is outstanding. The head sculpts are amazing, and while simple Bandai have done a really good job with the floating orb placed at the top of the staff. Naturally it’s held in place by clear plastic, but it’s only really noticeable when held up close. The lack of any holdable items is a bit of a surprise though – not so much because of this figure but because it means there’s still no explanation as to why Beerus came with accessory holding hands. 

All in all it’s a great selection for a character who ultimately didn’t need all that much to begin with. Another head with a more serious expression might have been nice, but four alternate heads almost definitely seems like too much to ask for.

On the surface Whis might not seem like all that much – especially due to the articulation limitations and how much less “dynamic” he is than all of the other Dragon Ball figures. But despite these flaws Whis still comes out as a pretty fantastic figure, managing to be expressive in so many other ways that suit the character perfectly. Bandai have also really outdone themselves on the sculpt, with the heads among some of the best Tamashii Nations have produced for the line. The web exclusive status might be a bit of a blow for anyone living outside of the US, but Whis has outdone himself to not only be the perfect companion piece to Beerus but also a great figure in his own right.

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