Tuesday 6 February 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo

Release Date: December 2017
RRP: 6264 yen

From the second it was first revealed at the 2016 Tamashii Nations event, S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo was a figure that was sure to get everyone talking. All of a sudden affordable articulated figures of Kamen Rider civilian forms didn't just seem like a pipe dream, igniting the hope that maybe one day other Riders would receive similar treatment. Of course the trouble with Tamashii Nations events is that not every figure seen at these events is going to definitely see release, but if one figure felt like it might eventually see the light of day it was this one. Jump forward to the end of 2017 and Bandai Tamashii Nations capped off the year with a trifecta of iconic tokusatsu heroes in their civialian guises - kicking off with Ultraseven's Dan Moroboshi before moving onto Space Sheriff Gavan's Retsu Ichimonji before finishing off with Hongo himself. Not just the perfect way to end another year of S.H. Figuarts, but the perfect partner piece to the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider 1 released in the same month.

S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo comes in a fairly basic black box, but the dynamic stock images and fonts used really give it this striking retro look that's just perfect for the character. The lettering has even been printed onto the front's transparent window rather than the box itself, which makes for a nice visual change as well as allowing for a bigger picture of the figure in the bottom corner. Inside the figure and its additional hands are stored on a single plastic tray, while the additional effect part accessories are kept in their own plastic bag underneath.

Based on the character's original 1971 appearance, S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo is yet another winner for Tamashii Nations when it comes to sculpt quality and accuracy. The head sculpt has gone through a few revisions since the first prototype seen back in 2016, but the end product is a far sharper to the legendary Hiroshi Fujioka. The expression used looks great too, giving Hongo a fixed yet determined expression that suggests he's ready for action. Tamashii Nations opted to produce the figure in his black suit jacket/white jumper combo, which is perhaps the closest thing Hongo has to an "iconic" outfit since his wardrobe wasn't quite as restricted as Dan or Retsu's. There isn't a whole lot to talk about when it comes to detailing, but the silver paint for the buttons and belt buckle is nicely applied and the moulded fabric folds give the clothing some really nice texture. Breaking up the colour is black is the red and silver Typhoon belt, which is a newly moulded version that's matches the one used on the Shinkocchou Seihou Rider 1 figure. Unfortunately the belt has been moulded straight onto the jacket, so there isn't the option of removing the belt and have him pose without it. It's a simple yet striking figure, not only perfectly capturing the essence of the character but also the time period the show was made. 

Surprisingly Hongo's articulation is also quite different to that of Dan Moroboshi's, both excelling in areas where Dan fell short and vice versa. The big talking point here are the hips, which aren't the dated and often-flawed "swing-down" ball-joint variety but instead a new system that I personally haven't seen on a Figuart before. It's a little hard to describe but the legs are attached to rotatable semicircle pieces which can move forwards and backwards, but then the legs themselves are able to rotate and pull outwards independently of them. This allows for a really good range of motion in the legs, without the unsightly gaps caused by the swing-down system or the fear of the joint they're attached to suddenly snapping. It's a really good system and I hope to see Tamashii Nations use it a lot more in future releases. The downside is that outward movement is then somewhat limited by the loose soft plastic jacket pieces coming down from under the belt, so that great joint system isn't being used to it's full potential. Other areas are similarly limited by the sculpt design - most notably the torso area which only features a single joint under the pectoral muscles rather than including an additional one at the waist. It doesn't take a whole lot away from the figure, but it's enough to notice that something is missing when also every Figuart has had a flexible waist joint. Similarly the elbows and knees are the single-hinge variety seen on some of the more recent "civilian clothed" figures rather than the usual double-jointed kind, which again don't take too much away but are a little less than what a Figuart is usually capable of. Finally, as great as those 70s style flares look they unfortunately make ankle articulation pretty much non-existent.

That aside, everything else is pretty much as you'd expect it to be from an S.H. Figuarts figure. It seems trivial to complain too much about the single-hinge elbow and knee joints since the figure can still pose very well regardless. Hongo pulls off a far better henshin pose than both the original and Shinkocchou Seihou Rider 1 figures, so it certainly isn't all bad that's for sure.

Hongo's accessory count is a fairly light one, simply consisting of seven additional hands and an effects part sheet to simulate his transformation into Kamen Rider 1. The sheet is made from flexible yet sturdy transparent plastic, which has yellow, red and green flashes printed on it to match the onscreen effect from the show itself. Sadly the print itself is pretty opaque, which means anything placed behind is is mostly obscured. As such the display works best if you have a Kamen Rider 1 figure to also place in front of the sheet as well, which judging by stock images is exactly how Tamashii Nations intended it to be used anyway. Meanwhile the hand count is light, but varied enough to give Hongo a decent amount of posing options. As far as extras go an extra head with alternate facial expression might have been nice, but nothing feels significantly missing here even if the overall count is rather low.

S.H. Figuarts Takeshi Hongo is a figure that many collectors have dreamed about owning for years, so a few articulation issues and a debatably low accessory count were never truly going to get in the way of dampening any excitement one may have to own one. In spite of its flaws S.H. Figuarts Hongo is still an excellent and long overdue figure - beautifully sculpted and the perfect representation of the legendary hero your toy shelf deserves. Even if the release of civilian form heroes turns out to be a brief love affair, getting three of the most iconic tokusatsu actors in figure form is a pretty great achievement.

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