Sunday 19 February 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider J

Release Date: January 2017
RRP: 5940 yen

Congratulations S.H. Figuarts, a milestone has been achieved. Kamen Rider Kiva may be nowhere in sight to fully complete the lineup, but with the release of S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider J fans can at the very least complete their Showa era lineup. Much like his fellow 90s movie rider Kamen Rider ShinJ was a Tamashii web exclusive figure that needed to be ordered directly from Bandai's webstore or via a middleman - making Kamen Rider ZO the only one of the three to be lucky enough to make mass release status. The 1994 film was Kamen Rider J's only appearance as the titular Rider, though he also teamed up with ZO in the eight-minute Kamen Rider World film as well as returning for future multi-Rider crossovers.

Kamen Rider J comes in fairly standard windowless Tamashii web exclusive packaging, which sports a glossy green finish and a monochrome image of the figure on the front of the box. As a pre-W Rider, the packaging is labelled as "Masked Rider" rather than "Kamen Rider:". On the back of the box is a further two colour images of the figure, however rather curiously it doesn't show off any of the additional accessories that are included with this release.  Inside the figure is packaged on a basic clear plastic tray, along with all of its accessories to the side of it.

Despite many Kamen Rider fans commenting that there's barely any difference between Kamen Riders ZO and J, when you put them side by side there's actually a fair bit different about them. The colours and general headsculpt may be near-identical, but the additional colours and design flairs really set them apart from each other - and in-hand the figures feel very different as well. Kamen Rider J sports a much smoother finish than his gold-trimmed counterpart, with the light-green areas less raised and sitting far more naturally on the body. The paintwork on the headsculpt also looks much sharper, resulting in a figure that fits much better with the newer releases in the S.H. Figuarts range. The line's usual high commitment to accuracy hasn't been compromised whatsoever, as this iteration of Kamen Rider J looks like he's jumped straight out of the film. The antennae come with their usual word of caution however, as while they may seem sturdy it'll only take the smallest fall or shelf tumble for them to break.

However while Kamen Rider J could certainly pass as a modern Kamen Rider release sculpt-wise, his level of articulation is another matter entirely. Much like ZO Kamen Rider J uses the old "swing-down" variety of hips, offering a pretty wide range of movement but not quite capturing the same seamless sculpt look of the newer figures. What's more problematic however though are the ankle joints, which offer very little rotation side to side articulation due to how closely they sit to both the bottom of the leg and the feet. Everything else however is of the usual high Figuarts quality, with the shoulder pads attached to hinged ball-joints to allow extra movement and coverage when posing the arms.

The figure's accessories consist of five alternate hands and a scaled version of Berry, J's talking grasshopper companion and Earth Spirit Guide. There are some interesting hand choices packed in here, including J's signature "J" pose (complete with a red letter outline), a pair of action pose hands and rather curiously a pair of "bike" hands - which suggests that J's bike might be coming out somewhere down the line too. Meanwhile Berry comes with two switchable back panels so that he can be displayed either resting or in mid-flight. Changing between the two pieces is a little fiddly since neither really clips in properly, but the bigger issue is that Berry doesn't have any sort of stand connector port so posing him in mid-air requires a precarious amount of balancing that could have easily been avoided.

It's interesting that this selection of accessories completely overlooks J's ability to grow giant-sized, especially since it seems like the only thing the character is remembered for in modern Kamen Rider crossovers. A couple of tiny diorama accessories certainly wouldn't have gone amiss just to get that point across, but the ACT Building sets are the perfect compliment to the figure and definitely worth picking up if you get the chance.

Kamen Rider J is a fairly basic looking Rider even for Showa era standards, but what he lacks in design flair he makes up for in being a solid figure that perfectly captures the look of the suit with only a few minor articulation quibbles. The accessory count isn't particularly large, but it is a nice little selection which reminds fans that once upon a time there was more to the character than just "the Kamen Rider that can grow giant sized". As my favourite of the three 90s movie Riders, I personally feel like this release has done the character justice. But most importantly of all it's fantastic to see the entire Showa main Rider line finally realised in S.H. Figuarts, and one can only hope that Kiva isn't too far away to not only complete the Heisei line up - but the primary Kamen Rider roster as a whole.

No comments: