Monday 19 December 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Black Panther

With the release of both Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange in 2016, it's been a pretty good year for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's hasn't been too bad for Bandai Tamashii Nation's  of range MCU S.H. Figuarts either, with the line delving into Civil War as well as going back to revisit the original Iron Man film. While most of the figures have been costume variants, we have had a couple of new heroes too - Civil War Ant-Man joined the line as a mass release figure in July, and was joined by the Age of Ultron Black Widow shortly afterward as a Tamashii web exclusive. Finally November saw the arrival of T'Challa, king of Wakanda join the line, as S.H. Figuarts Black Panther was also released as a web exclusive. 

Black Panther comes boxed in standard windowless Tamashii web exclusive packaging, coloured just how you'd expect it to be with a name like Black Panther. But despite the black-on-black colouring of the front, the image of the figure still manages to look pretty striking thanks to the pose and silver highlights. The back features a bit more colour variation, opting instead for a slightly off-white background to make the figure stand out a bit more. One spine also has the words "Team Iron Man" printed on it, just in case you happen to forget which side Black Panther was on for the majority of Civil War.

When it comes to the original comics there isn't a whole lot to say about Black Panther's costume. It's an all-back bodysuit with silver eyes, cat ears and a tribal necklack - that's about it. Thankfully when the suit was brought to the big screen the designers amped up the detail significantly, covering it head to toe with the fine texturing to further emphasise that it's made from a special vibranium weave. For costume standards it's a pretty impressive feat, so it's pretty incredibly to see it so faithfully replicated when it comes to the Figuart. There's barely any section on the figure that ISN'T covered in this intricate raised detailing, and those bits that aren't are specifically there to break up the colour and/or pattern. The figure doesn't just look good (when light shines on the figure it really brings out the texturing), it FEELS good as well - that might sound like an odd thing to say but by just running a finger along the body and feeling the texturing shows how much effort has gone into getting this figure to look absolutely perfect. The predominantly black body is nicely broken up by various bits of silver and gunmetal grey highlighting, most significantly in the mask and necklace.

Black Panther is a winner on the articulation side of things as well, with the figure versatile enough to pull off a wide variety of poses without any significant articulation hindrance or balance issues. Although the figure has the old "swing-down" variety of hips, the joints are nice and tight and the black body does an excellent job of hiding any gaps created by bringing the legs downward. The waist joint and ab-crunch also do wonders for the torso, since it allows it to be brought downward for Black Panther to adopt all sorts of feral feline-like action poses. Other than that there's nothing particularly out of the ordinary to report - the usual array of ball-joints, double-hinged elbows/knees and ankle rockers are all present and correct just like you'd find on most modern Figuarts.

Unfortunately the high quality of the figure itself does come with a pretty significant catch - the accessory count is near non-existant. Black Panther comes with an additional two pairs of open hands and that's it. Now it isn't like there was a whole lot that could come with Black Panther in the first place so a low accessory count was to be expected, but not even including a pair of hands with the claws extended is a pretty HUGE oversight. As far as more extensive accessories go, a Captain America shield with claw marks down it would be pretty cool but that seems like wishful thinking - especially since the figure was probably in production before Civil War was even released. Honestly the claws would have been enough to satisfy most buyers, so why Tamashii Nations chose to omit them is completely beyond me.

Of course, watch this be immediately fixed as soon as there's a solo Black Panther movie and there's a Figuart of that version. It'll be quite a while off, but you can be almost certain that it'll happen.

The web exclusive price and pathetic accessory count may immediately put some off the idea of owning Black Panther and while that is somewhat understandable, as far as aesthetics alone go he's arguably one of the nicest Figuarts Tamashii Nations have ever put out. The sculpt is absolutely incredible, covered top to bottom in the kind of finely textured detail that makes T'Challa almost completely worth the asking price. Minimal accessories be damned, if Black Panther had the claws he'd be a perfect release - which makes it all the more agonising that Bandai completely dropped the ball on such an obvious inclusion. Regardless, Black Panther is a great addition to the growing collection of Marvel Cinematic Universe Figuarts and looks wonderful standing alongside his fellow heroes - whether they're currently fighting each other or not.

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