Tuesday 30 January 2018

Toybox REVIEW: Nendoroid Ash Ketchum (Satoshi) & Pikachu

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 4630 yen

Ever since Good Smile Company first released their original Red Nendoroid way back in 2014 it seems that there's finally a good selection of Pokémon trainer figures on the market. Nendoroid have continued to chip away at characters from all generations of the video games, Kotobukiya and Megahouse have the static figure side of things covered while S.H. Figuarts and Figma finally answered fans prayers for some articulated action figures. To celebrate their 800th Nendoroid release Good Smile finally made the leap from games to anime with a figure not only highly desired, but one that couldn't have been timed any better given the 20th anniversary franchise celebrations. To Japan it may be Satoshi, but to me (and certainly many others reading this review) it's none other than Ash Ketchum together with his partner and best friend Pikachu.

As the 800th Nendoroid Good Smile have given Ash and Pikachu some lavish packaging that sports a little more flare than your average Nendoroid box. As well as adopting a deep blue colourscheme that nicely matches Ash's jacket, the both also features gold foil lettering on the front and spines (where they are also accompanied by gold Poké Ball stencils). The circular window also features a Poké Ball outline over the top, and just above it are the Japanese Pokémon logos together with the Good Smile's own insignia. Curiously the Nendoroid is being marketed as a Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! release, however the figure itself is based on Ash as he appeared in the series rather than the movie (the key difference between the logo on his hat). Strange, but most fans would likely much prefer the TV version anyway so it was probably a sensible choice. The back of the box swaps the blue out for a bright Pikachu-yellow backdrop, with a number of promotional images set that show off the figure and some of the poses its capable of. 

While Nendoroids rarely come out looking terrible, it's fair to say that some characters and series lend themselves to the super deformed style far better than others. The Pokémon game characters for example always turned out excellently simply because the aesthetic was very reminiscent of the in-game sprites used from Red/Blue/Yellow all the way up until Black and White. As such even though this is an anime character it isn't surprising to see Ash turn out just as well, but arguably oozing even more character since this is someone fans have seen actually emote on screen. Side by side with the Red Nendoroid it's amazing to see how what is essentially the same character design evolved from game to anime, with Ash's costume sporting a lot more colour and flair than Red's basic (yet striking) colour palette.

Meanwhile thanks to Ash's newfound Nendoroid stature Pikachu isn't perfectly scaled to Ash in terms of game sizes, but matches the Nendoroid proportions perfectly whilst also looking great with Red's starter Pokémon figurines as well. How exactly they've managed it I don't know but GSC have also managed to capture the essence of anime Pikachu in the sculpt, like it's immediately recognisable as Ash's rather than just a generic wild one.

Like most Nendoroids Ash only features the bare minimum articulation, which is probably for the best since the more poseable Nendoroids tend to be a bit too fiddly thanks to their tiny limbs. Ash sports Nendoroid-style ball joints in his neck and upper legs, along with rotatable arms, hands and waist. So while that isn't much in comparison to a fully articulated figure, as you can see from the pictures here its more than enough to get a good variety of poses from the toy. As should be obligatory with any Ash figure the hat is reversible, and can be switched simply by unpegging it from the head, turning it and then repegging it into a different port. Doing so also requires a different fringe piece, which fits deeper into the sockets in the hand in order to differentiate them better. So while the Figuart may have the Nendoroid beat when it comes to joints and articulation, this figure absolutely trounces it when it comes to sculpt quality and personality in those crucial poses it can pull off.

And amazing, Pikachu also has minimal articulation! What could have easily been a static accessory features a moveable head and rotating arms - not really enough to truly call it poseable but it's amazing what that little bit of movement can do for getting the most out of the set.

In addition to the standard Nendoroid display stand Ash's accessories two alternate faceplates with serious and closed eyed smiling expressions, an alternate hairpiece for when the cap is reversed, an alternate bent left leg, alternate bent arm pieces, three additional hands and a small Poké Ball that can peg into two of the hands provided. A good selection of items, but nothing that wasn't previously seen with the original Red Nendoroid. A Pokédex would have been a nice little bonus, but by no means a dealbreaker. Meanwhile even though Pikachu could have easily been considered an accessory in itself, he also comes with a number of pieces to make things a little more exciting. As well as an alternate angry head, Good Smile have also included two translucent yellow lightning effect parts to surround Pikachu as if he were about to attack. They're not really big enough to get work with other figures, but for Pikachu himself they work wonders. 

The Nendoroid range is one of Japan's most diverse and popular figure lines, but because the figures' super-deformed statures rarely would I recommend them over a properly scaled articulated alternative. However Nendoroid Ash & Pikachu is an absolute triumph, oozing far more quality and personality than S.H. Figuarts surprisingly low-key release a few months prior. Despite the proportions the figure is just unmistakably Ash Ketchum in every single way, coming with a nice range of accessories on top of the semi-articulated Pikachu. Even if Good Smile never release any of the other cast members, the figure will look fantastic alongside the game-based Pokémon Nendoroids, the Bandai D-Arts figures or just as an individual piece. Pokémon fans will not want to miss out on this.

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