Wednesday 4 October 2017

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Spider Man

Release Date: August 2017
RRP: 6264 yen (Japanese Edition), $99.99/£99.99 (Western Edition)

S.H. Figuarts may have released an impressive number of Marvel Cinematic Universe figures over the past few years but there’s always been one character collectors have been clamouring for. Rival lines Revoltech, Figma and Mafex have all done him in the past, but now with the release of Spider-Man: Homecoming it’s time for Bandai to finally take a crack at everyone’s friendly neighbourhood wall-crawler. S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man is the newest mass release figure from the MCU range, not only retailing in Japan but also arriving in the West as part of a special DX set akin to Bluefin Tamashii Nations' previous Iron Man Mk III and Doctor Strange releases.

While admittedly most modern Figuarts packaging turns out pretty good, Bandai have really nailed the Spider-Man: Homecoming aesthetic with this particularly release – far more so than any of the other Marvel Figuarts have for their respective films. The colours are design are absolutely on point with the style of the film’s promotional material, and the film’s logo in big lettering at the bottom of the box along with a nice big picture of the figure complete the look. The back and spines are the contain the usual array of promotional stock images, and inside you’ll find the figure housed in the usual plastic tray. The alternate eye pieces are also stored on their own smaller plastic tray (complete with lid) for additional security, perfect for making sure they all stay in one place.

As great as this figure may be once you’ve had some time to play around with him, on first glance S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man is inevitably going to raise some questions – the first of which is the colour. Unlike the film which uses bright, bold colours for the suit, Tamashii Nations have for some reason adopted a more washed out colourscheme that brings it better in line with the other Marvel Figuarts. Some online have argued that the figure is actually based more on Spidey’s Civil War appearance (which given the release timing is somewhat plausible), but honestly it doesn’t really match that either. As I say this definitely makes it fit in with the drearier colours of the other MCU figures, but doesn’t quite have that flash of comic brightness some might have hoped for. The other thing that seems a bit off are the proportions – particularly the neck. This however seems to be a byproduct of adding more articulation into the mix, so it does feel like a fair trade-off even though it will surely deter some of the more nitpicky of buyers. Those issues aside, there’s still a lot to love about this figure. The texturing and moulding across the suit is fantastic, with every bit of it covered in raised texturing that feels just as satisfying as it looks. All of the MCU suit’s black detailing has also been faithfully recreated, along with loose webshooters that fit over the top of the wrists rather than be directly fixed to the figure. This also means that they have a habit of rotating, so be sure to check they properly line up with the detailing on the hands when setting up specific web-shooting poses.

With Homecoming the first Spider-Man film to introduce expressive comic-style eyes, Tamashii Nations have cleverly included two alternate pairs of eyes to make the figure more expressive without resorting to extra heads. So in addition to the standard wide-eyes initially fitted to the figure there is also a pair of smaller, slightly more focused eyes in addition to thin squinting ones. Of course the three pairs can also be mixed together for a number of other expressions as well. Removing and replacing them is nice and simple – the head itself slips easily off its ball-joint piece, revealing exposed pegs inside the head that can be poked out using the small plastic poker provided. After that it’s simply a case of pulling the eyes out and popping a replacement pair in their place (all while trying not to lose them in the process). It’s a simple but effective method which adds a ton of expression to the figure, and it’d feel pretty novel if Kaiyodo hadn’t done exactly the same thing with their Amazing Yamaguchi (Revoltech) Spider-Man months beforehand.

When it comes to making the perfect Spider-Man figure even Figuarts’ usual range of articulation wasn’t going to cut it, so Tamashii Nations have brought their A-game to ensure that this figure can pull off the kind of acrobatic poses Spidey is famous for. While the general layout of ball and hinge joints remains the same as always, areas such as the shoulders, torso and hips have been souped-up to allow even more flexibility. The shoulders can flex further forwards, the torso can bend further and the hips able to rotate and bend much closer to the torso than ever before. Though the figure rather bizarrely doesn’t have bicep swivels, it does have very responsive upper leg swivels which make posing the legs far easier than it may seem. Basically while this figure is never going to be able to match the Amazing Yamaguchi version when it comes to crazy poses, it’s able to come pretty damn close without sacrificing the more human-like frame and joint systems.

In addition to the previously mentioned alternate eyes, Spider-Man also comes packaged with six additional pairs of hands (which of course include his signature web shooting hands) as well as two web shot effect parts of differing sizes and a longer web rope piece. The two web shot effects fit comfortably on top of the wrist joint between the hand and arm, while the rope is a completely loose piece to be held by Spidey in any way you see fit. All three pieces are made from a white, slightly translucent plastic that could very easily snap if you aren’t careful with them. The rope itself is somewhat malleable, but this doesn’t seem to be intentional as there’s no reference to it on the instruction leaflet. Unfortunately there’s no alternate Tom Holland head included, but with the varying quality of actor heads among the Marvel line your mileage may vary on how bad that is. A good compromise might have been a masked head with the mouth revealed based off the scene in the film where Spidey eats his sandwich (like the popular pizza-eating head on one of the Marvel Legends releases), but it is likely that Tamashii Nations didn’t have that much access to the movie when designing the figure. The same can probably be said for what feels like the biggest omission from this release – web wings. While they may not be a permanent fixture of the suit, their inclusion in the film was a big highlight for many fans and to see them forgotten about is a little disappointing. Since there’s almost bound to be some sort of Infinity War version released in the future, hopefully Tamashii Nations will throw buyers a bone and include some cross-compatible ones there.

Finally there are also a couple of accessories more unique to Homecoming, namely a phone and backpack which can be fixed to the figure via a port concealed in its back behind the spider emblem. Once removed the backpack plugs straight in, with the straps also able to unpeg for easier fitting around the arms. The phone itself is little more than a plastic slab that the figure can hold, but it does give the figure quite a bit of personality when combined with the swappable eyes. What’s perhaps more interesting than both of these pieces though is an additional adapter for that back port, which allows Spidey to be directly connected to a Tamashii Stage with the need for the articulated claw piece (identical to the adapters previously included with Ultra-Act figures). This is something many have wanted to see Tamashii Nations implement on Figuarts for a long time now and it couldn’t feel more at home on Spider-Man, who’s now even freer to do all the elaborate web-slinging poses that are pretty much a must with this figure. Using the claw piece still has its advantages in certain poses, but having the option to choose between the two is a wonderful (and long overdue) feature.

However if you’ve opted for the Western release of the figure you’ll also be treated to a cool looking wall diorama with the Spider-Man signal lit up on it. Unlike the recoloured effect parts included with Doctor Strange or the forthcoming Star-Lord this is a really nice and well thought-out accessory to go with it. Whether it’s worth the additional cost is another matter entirely however, but that’s an opinion that’ll vary person to person.

An S.H. Figuarts Spider-Man has been on many people’s wishlists for a long time and thankfully Tamashii Nations have delivered with this release. While the Homecoming suit might not be what everyone had in mind, the figure certainly makes up for it with the usual high standards in terms of a sculpt as well as the impressive articulation boost any good high-end Spider-Man figure needs to be a success. The Revoltech may have poseability and comic accuracy on its side, but this has a quality and realism to it Kaiyodo just can’t compete with. So while that’s comic and movie fans satisfied, what about the people left clamouring for a Toei Spider-Man figure? Homecoming Spidey might make a decent placeholder, but we can only hope this is also a precursor to finally getting one of the tokusatsu granddaddies.

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