Friday 19 May 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraseven

Release Date: March 2017
RRP: 5940 yen

2015 marked the 50th anniversary of Ultra Q and 2016 that of Ultraman,   which means 2017 marks the same milestone for the third (and arguably more popular) instalment in the Ultra SeriesUltraseven. Although technically his birthday isn’t until October, Bandai Tamashii Nations have timed their release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraseven perfectly, moving forwards with their new range of Ultraman figures while the Ultra-Act line slowly becomes a distant memory. This line/scale change has already proven to be polarising among collectors, so can Ultraseven help prove that S.H. Figuarts is a good home for the franchise?

S.H. Figuarts Ultraseven may be the line’s first when it comes to this particular series but the packaging still closely matches that of the Ultraman range. The colourscheme and layout are identical, with only the names, logo and images having changed. While the spines and back use images of the figure itself, the front instead uses one of the suit – much like the classic one-colour Figuarts boxes from back when the line first started. Inside the figure and all its accessories are contained on a single plastic tray.

The biggest issue facing both Figuarts and Ultra-Act when it comes to Ultra sculpts is that neither can accurately recreate the one-piece suits as they lack the necessary joint coverage you see with higher end figures like Hot Toys or Medicom. Tamashii Nations are apparently working on it, but they aren’t quite there yet. That aside S.H. Figuarts Ultraseven is a great representation of the character, with the inspiration clearly coming from the original series rather than newer suits seen in more recent reappearances. This is most clear from the muted, almost dirty-looking matte silver paint used on the figure which gives it a more retro feel than the usually bright glossy shade would. It perhaps isn’t the most striking finish, but it certainly captures the look of the original suits the Ultraman Figuarts have been going for.

Overall the moulding and paint applications are great, but there is one inaccuracy to draw detail too. Unfortunately the black pupils don’t only just look sloppily applied to the eyes, but have been applied to the centre rather than closer toward the bridge of the nose. It’s by no means enough of a mishap to make or break the figure, but certainly one Bandai could have sorted given that Ultraseven has a relatively basic sculpt and colourscheme. In fact the pupils look fine on Bandai’s own stock images, so there isn’t much excuse for having them come out not quite right on the final figure.

As was the case with Ultraman, a skintight bodysuit means there’s no bulk or armour hanging off that frame to get in the way of that great range of articulation. Ultraseven’s head still uses the same odd hinged peg jointed neck seen on the Ultraman and Zoffy figures, but the rest of the body is standard S.H. Figuarts fare. Ball-joints in the shoulders, torso, wrists and hips complimented by double hinged elbows and knees along with ankle rockers and hinged toecaps. In some ways it’s like playing with a blank body Figuart, only it’s an actual character which makes you appreciate that articulation all the more. No sign of any looseness with this figure either, though not having experienced it with Ultraman or Zoffy it’s hard to an opinion on that particular issue.

In terms of accessories the Ultraman Figuarts continue to be some of the best modern releases, as like their Ultra-Act predecessors each figure comes with a good range of swappable parts that cover every important pose or ability you can think of. Ultraseven here comes with a total of 11 swappable hands, as well as a removable crest for his iconic “Eye Slugger” attack. Surprisingly not only is the crest attached to the head in-package removable, but Bandai have also been kind enough to include a spare one as well. There doesn’t appear to be any different between the two pieces, but one might have benefitted from having a better peg system to fit to the head more securely (it isn’t exactly loose, but can be prone to falling out easily).

But of course it wouldn’t be an Ultra release without some manner of effect part, as Ultraseven comes with both Emerium Ray and Wide Shot beam parts. The thin bolt-like Emerium Ray part plugs directly into a special hand piece in Ultraseven’s signature two-finger attack pose, which between the hands has a translucent orange sphere to simulate the Beam Lamp’s glow. Because the ray only works with this hand part it means Ultraseven can’t be posed in his alternate “left arm to the chest” firing pose, which seems like a bit of an oversight on Bandai’s part. The two pieces plug together fairly securely, however the ray piece does have some wiggle room in order to be aimed in different directions.

Finally there’s the Wide Shot effect, which is the more traditional Ultra Hero beam fired from crossing the arms into an L-shape (or some variation of that). As was the case with S.H. Figuarts Ultraman and the Ultra-Act line, the beam is connected to a hand-piece to make connecting it to the figure as simple as possible. The effect is made from the same translucent yellow plastic as the Emerium Ray, and is just about the right size to look good and not give the figure any significant balance issues. Both effect parts look great on the figure, and together with the Option-Act Building Sets really help make some great displays/dioramas.

The Ultraman Figuarts are trying to skirt the line between looking both like 50 year old suits and modern toys, and while I’m not sure the end result as quite as good as it could be that doesn’t mean Ultraseven isn’t a pretty good figure. Minor inaccuracies aside, Ultraseven is a fun toy with great articulation and an excellent selection of optional parts. The Ultraman 50th Anniversary Set slightly edges this figure out in terms of value for money, but as far as the base figure goes this is probably the best Ultra hero the line has put out so far. Hopefully the forthcoming Ultraman Orb figures will bring even more improvement, and that eventually Ultraman Figuarts will be able to thrive without the stigma of having sacrificed the Ultra-Act line to get them.

No comments: