Wednesday 26 July 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Mikumo Guynemer

Release Date: June 2017 
RRP: 5940 yen 

Bandai Tamashii Nations have given the Macross franchise a lot of love in the past few years, but in the usual fashion that love is usually reserved for the various Valkyries and other mecha that feature in the show rather than the characters themselves. However that's all about to change, as poseable Macross figures finally become a reality with the release of S.H. Figuarts Mikumo Guynemer. The first of the five Walküre girls to appear in the line, the "Mysterious Venus" of Macross Delta was a mass release figure - with Freyja Wion following suit in July. While there's still no word on the release of Kaname, Makina and Reina, prototypes at the very least have been produced so hopefully one day the group will be complete. But for now, it's time to see what the Kumo-Kumo has to offer.

If there's one thing Japan love it's a good 2D idol group, so it's no surprise to see Bandai pulling out all the stops when it comes to packaging. Mikumo comes in a flashy cosmic purple box, complete with images of both the figure and the character design from the show itself. The multi-screen style layout of the stock images on the back is a really nice touch, as is the multi-coloured S.H. Figuarts logo broken up into each Walküre member's respective colours. The box is also considerably thicker than your usual Figuarts packaging, not only to hold the two trays of pieces stored inside but just to get that huge skirt to fit.

Appearing in what could be considered as her "standard" concert outfit, Figuarts Mikumo is a pretty great representation of her onscreen model. Her giant hair is split into two separate pieces, each connected via a balljoint to give it a bit of movement to make balancing the figure easier. Not that balancing is particularly easy though, since those high heels don't offer much in the way of support. That said though the costume sculpting really is marvellous - all the colours are vibrant and eyecatching, making Mikumo a brilliant standalone piece even if the full group never gets released. 

That said, there are a few questionable choices that have been made here. First and foremost is the blue trail that juts out from the side of her dress, which is made from solid blue plastic and simply plugs straight into a hole on the body. While Tamashii Nations are only now coming to grips with cloth goods on Figuarts the fact this piece is solid plastic can be overlooked, but in which case connecting it via a ball-joint should have been mandatory. It's big, cumbersome and doesn't ever stay firmly plugged in.  Moving upwards, despite Tamashii Nations having come leaps and bounds with their Dragon Ball figures in the last few years there's just something off about Mikumo's face sculpt. It isn't inaccurate by any means, but doesn't convey any of that sass or attitude Mikumo has and just comes across as looking pretty blank. Sure it's a generic expression, but that doesn't mean it has a look so lifeless.

But while the sculpt may do the job for the most part, poseability and articulation is where this figure really begins to fall apart. Quite literally in fact, as it was almost impossible to pose Mikumo properly without something falling off. As well as the trail being a nightmare to keep firmly in place the hair, waist, legs and even the shoulders were prone to just popping off at the slightest provocation. Trying to get a Figuart into a decent pose should not result in this. To make matters worse, the hair and trail are also prone to scuffs so having them repeatedly brush against each other has led to blue marks being left on the hairpieces. Put simply, Mikumo is not a well put together Figuart - she's the anime equivalent of Kamen Rider Wizard, only here it affects the entire body rather than just the waist.

Ignoring the significant structural issues, Mikumo does have a fair bit of articulation to her. Altogether she features ball-joints in her head, shoulders, chest, waist and wrists, with hinged elbows and knees, swing-down style ball-jointed hips and the usual ankle rockers. While the swing-down hips are usually a point of scorn on newer Figuarts they're more than welcome here, as without them those hips would have a lot less to offer under that giant plastic skirt. Also worth noting is that thanks to her build Mikumo's wrist joints are tiny, but despite this are more more stable than most of the other body parts.

On the upside, at least Mikumo's accessory count is pretty good. She comes bundled with five additional pairs of hands, two additional faceplates sporting closed and opened mouth smiling expressions, microphone and a special circular Tamashii Stage featuring the Walkure logo along with Mikumo's name. There's a nice selection of hands here, including the all-important "Walkure finger" pair along with a number of pointing and outstretched poses. Of the alternate faces the open-mouthed smile is the clear winner, with the closed smiling sharing the same dead inside expression as the standard faceplate. The figure didn't really need to come with two smiling faces either, especially when that means it lacks better and more fitting expressions. How about Mikumo's cocky smile or a more solemn expression for those solo moments? The accessories are good in terms of quantity, but the minimal range of facial expressions don't quite capture the character in a way that they could have.

The stand is an excellent addition though, not just because the figure needs it thanks to those high heels but because it's always nice to get a Figuart that comes packaged with a Tamashii Stage. If Figma can manage it with all their releases then there's no real reason why Bandai can't come up with some sort of basic stages to throw in with their figures.

Ever since Sheryl and Ranka were revealed at a Tamashii Nations event I've longed for poseable Macross figures, and with the release of S.H. Figuarts Mikumo Guynemer that dream was finally becoming a reality. However if this is the best Bandai can manage, then it's no surprise that the Macross girls have never really been a priority. While Mikumo might look great from a distance, the second you have her in-hand she turns in a fiddly mess of loose parts and obtrusive plastic. Here's hoping Freyja has turned out better, because the release of the rest of the Walküre girls is already looking pretty unlikely as it is.

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