Monday 16 January 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha

Even since the original Kamen Rider series way back in 1971, all of the most memorable Rider dynamics are done in pairs. Whether it’s through teamwork, rivalries or even a two-in-one hero like Kamen Rider Double, these dynamics are where the show truly shines. The Amazon Prime-exclusive Kamen Rider Amazons introduced a new pair into the mix, as Kamen Rider Amazon Omega met his match in the form of Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha – a former researcher at Nozama Pharmacy named Jin Takayama who has vowed to exterminate every single Amazon they've created. Since you can’t have one without the other, it didn’t take long for Bandai Tamashii Nations to follow up their Omega figure with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha – the final mass release Kamen Rider Figuart of 2016.

The immediately noticeable thing about Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha’s packaging (along with other bits of Kamen Rider Amazons merchandise) is that Bandai have bizarrely decided to go the phoentic/European spelling of alpha rather than the actual spelling, leading this figure to be designated “Kamen Rider Amazon Alfa”. While technically not wrong it does make the box look like it's been hit with a bad case of Engrish. But than that it’s some pretty nice packaging – matching the misty blue effect of Kamen Rider Amazon Omega’s box with a more appropriate red colouring. In terms of image placement the box is identical to that of Omega’s, right down to the “Open Your Amazons” tagline across the window. Inside the figure and its accessories are safely housed on a single clear plastic tray. 

Additionally just like Omega Figuart, a special variant of Alpha was released through Amazon Japan – sporting additional accessories and plain cardboard packaging to mirror that of Amazon’s own standard shipping boxes.

While Kamen Rider Amazon Omega was a more “Rider-like” interpretation of the original Kamen Rider Amazon design, Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha bears a far more familiar look. Alpha truly feels like a modern update of the original, sporting the same beaked helmet whilst replacing the cloth bodysuit with a sturdier padded look. The key difference is the vibrant red colour scheme, which doubles as a homage to the "Pre-Amazon" version of Amazon that was featured in the SIC Hero Saga story. Like Alpha that form of Amazon lacked his signature Armlet, however in that case it's only a third as strong and Daisuke would die in three days if he did not recover the armlet. 

It isn’t just the colours that really stand out on this figure – Tamashii Nations have worked their magic on the sculpt and created a figure that really stands out from the crowd. Though it might not be very deep all of the scars and gold detailing is moulded into the figure rather than just painted, adding an extra bit of depth to the figure that makes a whole load of difference. The metallic colours really shine, with the finish contrasting nicely with the glossy black gloves and boots. Even the Driver feels a step up from that of Omega’s, with Alpha’s adding a much needed silver wash to bring out all the belt detailing that was otherwise completely lost. 

As you can probably guess in terms of articulation placement Alpha is an exact match of Omega, sporting the same “swing down” style of Figuarts’ hips as if they haven’t gone out of fashion. Thankfully they work just as well here as they did on Omega, with the raised upper sections of the legs preventing them from looking too detached from the main body when brought down for more movement. Alpha’s torso also doesn’t feel quite as restricted as Omega’s either, though again he might have benefitted from the original Amazon’s crazy pectoral articulation for some of the more crazy poses. Ultimately though it’s everything you could want in a Figuart, and with Alpha fighting style considerably less feral than Omega’s you shouldn’t have any trouble getting this figure in great, natural looking poses.

With Alpha fighting solely through hand to hand combat, his accessory count is unfortunately considerably weaker than that of Omega’s. Included here are four additional pairs of hands (including two sets of open hands and two accessory holding pairs) and a slash effect part identical to that of Omega’s. What’s perhaps more significant than the lack of weapons is that Alpha doesn’t include the same removable arm blades as Omega, which means the slash part doesn’t fit on quite as firmly and can be prone to slipping off while posing. On the whole it’s a good selection of pieces, but it would have been nice if Alpha could have come with something unique (even if it was just a slightly different effect part) rather than a lesser-version of Omega’s range. 

Of course buyers of the Amazon-exclusive variant will also receive the additional transformation effect parts, which are the previously released Tamashii Effects flame parts done up in a deep translucent red colourscheme. Getting a hold of these means paying a bit more for the figure than you would at Amiami, HLJ or the like but if you’re a big fan of the Tamashii Effects these are a pretty nice addition for something as simple as a mere recolour.

As a final note, Amazon Alpha’s Drive features the same removable Battle Grip as seen on Omega’s Driver despite the character never using weapons in the series itself. With both belts being the same mould it makes sense that this would be the case, and it does make a nice little bonus for those who bought both figures but don’t want Alpha feeling left out in the weapons department. Now not only can you give Alpha some of Omega’s accessories, but you can also have your figure looking accurate at the same time.

Kamen Rider Amazon Alpha is another great offering from the S.H. Figuarts line, complimenting Kamen Rider Amazon Omega just as perfectly here as he does in the show. Though Alpha’s accessory count seems much smaller than his counterpart’s, his sharper more-detailed design and sculpting puts them pretty much on level-pegging in terms of quality. Alpha also carries with him a nostalgia factor that Omega lacks, thanks to his design being that much closer to an updated form of the original Amazon. But whatever your opinions on that may be, this is another great Figuart that could have very easily been glossed over as a retail release. While Amazon Sigma isn’t likely to be as lucky, fingers crossed the wait for him isn’t too long.

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