Tuesday 25 July 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts King Joe

Release Date: June 2017 
RRP: 7560 yen 

Ever since the Ultra Series found its new home with S.H. Figuarts the line has gone from strength to strength, limited not only to the Ultramen themselves but also aliens, kaiju and even an alternate version of the original Ultraman suit. This year marked the line’s jump to Ultraseven, with Bandai Tamashii Nations’ third release from the show adding another staple opponent to the ever-growing line-up of Ultraman creatures. To Ultra fans King Joe needs no introduction, originally making its debut in episodes 14 and 15 of Ultraseven before going on to reappear (albeit sometimes in different colours) in Ultraman Max, Ultra Galaxy Mega Monster Battle, Ultra Galaxy Legend, Ultraman Ginga S, Ultraman X and more.

King Joe comes in the usual style packaging reserved for the Ultra Series Figuarts, done up in a beige colourscheme that nicely compliments the robot’s silver body. As usual the front also features an image of the suit (as it appeared in Ultraseven) rather than one of the figure, which is a trait that’s otherwise been lost from most modern Figuarts packaging. On the back is the usual array of stock images, with a few also featuring the previously released S.H. Figuarts Ultraseven figure.

Created by the Alien Pedan as part of their plan to invade and conquer Earth, King Joe is a giant robot comprised of four spaceships with the ability to combine together into one. While S.H. Figuarts King Joe unfortunately lacks this feature, Tamashii Nations have certainly made up for this when it comes to sculpt quality. Anyone with a fondness for 60s-70s robots will adore King Joe’s wonderful design, which has been perfectly shrunk down into an articulated figure by Bandai. What’s made the Ultra Figuarts particularly great is how they’ve faithfully captured all the little details that make the designs work as practical suits too, such as the fabric piping used to give King Joe working knees. The colours are also top notch, with the dull gold areas perfectly complimenting that silver body to almost pass off as metal (specifically Pendium, or the wonderfully named “Pedantic Armour).

Unfortunately as I’ve previously mentioned articulation has always been a bit of a problem when it comes to these figures, simply because as suits most of them were never really designed to be highly poseable. As such the S.H. Figuarts magic can only go so far, and while the articulation is certainly better than that of a vinyl toy it’s nowhere near the level one usually expects from the line. Altogether King Joe features ball-jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, ball-jointed wrists, a ball-jointed waist, ball-jointed “swing down” hips, hinged knees and rotating feet. That may sound like a lot, but in many cases those joints also have to do battle with the robots thick body - resulting in more limited movement (particularly the elbows and knees). King Joe can lumber around, rampage cities, and wrestle with Ultras, but anything more than that might be a little too much. That said the old-style swing down hips work really well to give the figure decent leg movement, and the ability to easily balance on one foot is something every collector should look for in a rampaging monster toy.

One thing the Ultra Series releases have been particularly good with is their accessories counts, and even though the various aliens and kaiju usually lack the usual array of alternate hands Tamashii Nations make up for it with various beam effects. Unfortunately though, King Joe doesn’t come with a single accessory – no “Eldritch Shot” effect parts, no individual ship pieces, not even any additional pieces for Ultraseven to make up for it. This is pretty disappointing when every release so far sans Baltan has come with at least something, especially when you take these figures’ slightly higher price point into account too. 

So instead, please enjoy these pictures of King Joe facing off against Ultraseven because these two figures really do look great together.

S.H. Figuarts King Joe is a fantastic looking accessory, but between the passable articulation, non-existent accessory count and higher price tag (the most expensive released so far, and second only to the forthcoming Gomora figure) it definitely feels like a major step down from some of the more recent Ultraman releases. While Tamashii Nations may have correctly assumed that the robot’s status as a major Ultra Series creature was enough to sell the figure, it definitely feels like something more could have been done to make this release stand out. For kaiju collectors this is sure to be a necessity, but for everyone else there are better releases to spend your cash on.

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