Thursday 22 December 2016

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Charizard

Whether it was simply due to the popularity of the character, the Pokémon franchise's 20th anniversary or it's appearance in the Super Smash Bros. series, it's fair to say that Charizard quickly became one of the most sought after D-Arts releases and previously fetched an extremely high price on the aftermarket. However patience eventually pays off, and Bandai Tamashii Nations recently reissued the figure under their flagship S.H. Figuarts banner now that the D-Arts line has ceased to exist. While the same core figure, S.H. Figuarts Charizard was a Tamashii web exclusive, featured a new range of accessories and was marketed as being from the Pokémon XY&Z anime series rather than just the general game series. 

Just before I received Figuarts Charizard my middleman of choice emailed me to say that they'd miscalculated the shipping price when preordering and I'd have to pay a little bit more to get the figure. Questionable business practices aside, it immediately made me curious just how big this box was going to be. It's fair to say that Charizard's packaging is indeed pretty huge - around twice the length of an average new style Figuarts box and three/four times as thick. As a Tamashii web exclusive (a first for the Pokémon range) it is a windowless box, with the front featuring a nice big imahe of the figure spewing flames from its mouth. The sides and back feature a variety of stock images of the figure, showing off its articulation as well as its array of accessories. Inside the (lengthy) figure is stored alone on a clear plastic tray, with the flame accessories in their own tray and the stand/additional pieces taped behind it.

As stated earlier the S.H. Figuarts Charizard is a straight re-release of the D-Arts version, so absolutely nothing has been changed between the two releases. Though to be honest there wasn't really anything that needed changing in the first place, as Bandai have a pretty fantastic representation of the iconic Pokémon on their hands here. The colours are nice and vibrant, showing off some effective airbrushing on both the wings and the body. The eyes look great too, which is always a bonus when Bandai's cartoony eyes can be a bit hit or miss sometimes. The pièce de résistance though has to be the tail flame, which is beautifully moulded in two colours of translucent plastic and stands out just like it should. Despite being held on the thinnest part of the figure there's also no worry of it breaking or coming off, as it feels tightly glued onto the tail.

The downside however is of course that the sculpt is completely broken up by all manner of segmented areas and hinges. Arguably this looks much worse photographed than it does in-hand (the toy is genuinely good, so in-hand its easier to overlook the cuts in favour of what they bring), but even then you can't deny that sections like the neck and tail can come off looking a bit unattractive. Unfortunately this is just the nature of animal/monster figures in these lines, and since the Pokémon don't have textured skin like the MonsterArts it ends up being a lot more noticeable.

Articulation is where all those joint cuts begin to make sense, as without them Charizard would be in a pretty sorry state when it comes to poseability. Altogether Charizard features a fully poseable head, hinged jaw, hinged wings (in two different places), hinged elbows, swivelling hands, ball-jointed legs, feet and segmented neck and tail sections which allows for plenty of flexibility. The wings are also via their own tiny balljoints, which give them a decent range of outward swivel motion but not a whole lot in terms of upwards and downwards movement. The cuts may break up the sculpt, but the level of movement they give the figure is pretty spectacular - even the tail can be posed in a nice, natural way.

The D-Arts Charizard originally came packaged with a flamethrower effect part and a Pokéball Tamashii Stage (which has been included with all the Pokémon D-Arts/Figuarts releases thus far). The Figuarts version drops the flamethrower in favour of a number of other effects parts, representing the various moves available to Charizard. This means that while Charizard is no longer capable of doing the iconic pose that adorns the Japanese Pokémon Red packaging, there are a few more options available when it comes to posing with parts strictly included with figure itself.

First up are five small translucent plastic flame effects with clip onto Charizard in different places (two on each wing and one in the mouth), presumably to recreate Charizard's Flare Blitz attack - which is something Ash's has never actually used in the anime to my knowledge but is one of Charizard's staple attacks in the newest Super Smash Bros game. When hooked on the flames furthest outwards do make the wings heavy enough to fold in on themselves, but the next ones in hook over the hinges to give them additional support. While the Flare Blitz effect in itself certainly looks impressive (although unsurprisingly Bandai didn't include enough stand arms to hold the figure in a flight pose), the best piece is definitely the mouth one which looks just as great on it's own as it does with the other four. The flames spewing out of the mouth add a nice ferocity to Charizard that the figure otherwise lacks.

The five pieces can also (according to the box and instructions) be put together to form a flame effect for the ground, but they don't actually connect together in any way and the whole ensemble doesn't look impressive enough to be particularly noteworthy.

The second effect piece included in this set is for Charizard's Seismic Toss attack, which has been a signature move of Ash's Charizard since it fought Blaine's Magmar all the way back in season one. This is comprised of a cardboard planet Earth backdrop (which appears on the show when Charizard performs the attack) which plugs directly into the Pokéball stand via an additional clear plastic arm. Charizard is held up by the standard articulated arm, which has a fixed claw piece on the end rather than the usual adjustable one. Just slot the claw behind Charizard's wings and the arm is able to comfortably hold the figure up in an upright position.

In theory this was an excellent effect piece to include with the set and pretty much a must-have for any figure specifically based on Ash's Charizard, but in execution it does fall slightly short of greatness in a number of ways. First of all there isn't really enough space between where the background locks into the stand and where the figure should go, which leads to Charizard's wing getting in the way when putting the pose together. But more importantly when all is said and done it just doesn't look that good - the original solicitation picture (which can be found on the figure's packaging) made it look like Charizard and Blastoise were slow-dancing in space and the same can be said for any figure you try to do it with. With tiny arms and hands, getting Charizard into a semi-decent pose holding an opponent is a rather cumbersome process.

Buyers of the original D-Arts Charizard should see absolutely no reason to upgrade to this new version but for anyone who missed out on the original release, this is the perfect opportunity to finally get Tamashii Nations' articulated Charizard figure for a more justifiable price. It's still definitely on the pricier side of things considering it costs almost DOUBLE the D-Arts version did (arguably the only real knock against this figure), but the accessory count does help make up for that fact a little bit.  Most importantly, although the figure is now over three years old it's still a very good toy and the best articulated Charizard figure on the market. If you're on the fence about getting it, be sure to make up your mind before this version of the figure goes for a premium as well.

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