Thursday 8 March 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX Perfect Knock Out Gamer Level 99

Release Date: January 2018
RRP: 6480 yen 

As anyone who has collected S.H. Figuarts for a while will tell you, Bandai Tamashii Nations will make some truly strange decisions sometimes. Just as the Kamen Rider Ex-Aid range was getting into full swing, Kamen Rider Para-DX in both his Perfect Puzzle and Knock Out Fighter Level 50 forms at various events and the Tamashii showroom in Akihabara. Getting no concrete release information with these displays is pretty common, but as time went on the figures disappeared and were never heard from again. Then all of a sudden S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX Perfect Knock Out Gamer Level 99 was announced as a Tamashii web exclusive release, completely skipping over the Bugster Rider's previous two forms. Even as the line continues into the later Ex-Aid forms there's still no sign of them on the horizon, suggesting that the pair may have indeed been sentenced to Tamashii purgatory. But for those who need their Parado fix at least there's this version, which not only encompasses both games he fights using but is arguably his definitive version going forwards into the epilogue movies and V-cinema releases.

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX comes packaged in standard windowless Tamashii web exclusive packaging, done up in the same style that matches the other Ex-Aid Figuarts. Though the front of the box has been done up predominately in black, Para-DX's red and blue dual colourscheme is referenced on the spines. The back has the usual handful of stock images, and inside you'll find the figure and accessories housed on a single transparent clamshell tray. However in a rather neat little bit of space management, the Gashacon Parabragun weapon is actually stored underneath the figure rather than to the side.

Unfortunately the second you take this figure out of the box you will immediately see there's a problem, and sadly it's the kind of problem that's rather difficult to overlook. Kamen Rider Para-DX's headsculpt is….not good. You can see the proportional issues in this tweet comparison, but basically the main problem are the eyes. Not only are the pupils large and mishapen, but they’re also spread too far apart – giving the figure this cheap off-balance look that throws the entire headsculpt. On a cheaper toy issues like this would be a little easier to ignore, but on an expensive web exclusive figure from a line that usually prides itself on accuracy it's sloppy to say the least. When it comes to Kamen Rider (or any tokusatsu hero really) it's often the helmet design that immediately stands out, with the rest of the suit then building upon that initial impression. When the toy struggles with that, it's difficult for the rest of the sculpt to cover for it.

And it's a massive shame, because the rest of the sculpt is sublime. The body moulding is near-flawless, with particularly mention going to carved puzzle pieces/flames on the red and blue sections respectively as well as the detailed health bar section sealed under the chest section. But what really makes this figure pop are the colours. Other than the black undersuit and Gamer Driver the whole figure is covered head to toe in metallic paint and/or finish, which really makes it stand out even amongst the other Ex-Aid characters. The red, blue, gold and silver all work beautifully together, and there isn't a single instance of a sloppy paint app in sight. If it wasn't for the headsculpt I'd be confident in saying that this would be one of, if not the best Ex-Aid Figuarts released so far, but that those eyes are just so far off the mark that it they bring your attention straight to them and not all the other aesthetically pleasing things going on.

Moving on the figure's overall articulation is pretty good, making good use of the modern S.H. Figuarts body. The burning question here of course is just how well the leg movement fares thanks to those extended coattails, which have been separated off into three separately hinged sections (left, back and right). The pieces can move upwards enough to give the legs decent clearance for action poses, while the front piece is made from a soft plastic malleable enough to slightly bend if required. Though it might not be the most elegant solution – those solid plastic coattails are designed to lay flat so don't have a billowing effect when raised, it's certainly enough to at least get the job done. The rest of the articulation consists of ball joints in the head, neck, shoulders, torso, waist, wrists and hips along with double-hinged elbows and knees, ankle rockers and a single-hinge toe cap. Additionally those boxy shoulder pads are connected by Tamashii's usual levered ball-joints, so can move freely of the arms when being repositioned for posing. Not quite as freely as smaller ones like Ex-Aid's, but again enough to get the job done. If you've handled any of the mainline Kamen Rider series Figuarts from Gaim onwards (with the exception of Ghost) you'll have a good idea what to expect as very little has changed in those four years.

For accessories Para-DX simply comes packaged with three additional pairs of alternate hands and his signature weapon, the "Consecutive Chain-Attack Gashacon Parabragun". Just like the show version/DX toy the Parabragun can alternate between axe and gun modes, simply by turning the axe head/gun barrel into the desired position. Like the figure itself the weapon's paint apps are absolutely superb, using all those metallic colours to striking effect. The range of hands is also fairly decent – nothing unique but a good spread that includes a few relaxed hands alongside the obligatory weapon holding pair. All in all it's pretty much what you'd expect from an Ex-Aid figure at this point in the line. Some effect parts or energy items would have been amazing, but it makes sense those wouldn't be included when the roleplay toy versions work just as perfectly.

As a final note, like the other Ex-Aid figures Para-DX's Gear Dual Gashat can be removed from the Gamer Driver and plugged into the Parabragun to replicate his Critical Finish attacks. Thanks to its larger size the Gashat is also a bit more detailed than the ones seen on the previous Riders, with the front section even featuring a simplified version of the Perfect Puzzle/Knock Out Fighter sticker. It's a really nice touch that adds that little bit more accuracy to the figure, which makes it all the more painful that Tamashii Nations did such a botch job on the head. This figure really could have been perfect.

The Kamen Rider Ex-Aid S.H. Figuarts line has fallen victim to the odd inaccuracy or QC error since the very beginning (Brave's collar, Snipe's Level 1 head and more recently Genm Level 2's shoulders spring to mind), but S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Para-DX is the first time it's been severe enough to lead to disappointing. There's a whole lot to love about this figure – the design is fantastic and the colours are utterly superb, but that headsculpt just throws the entire package. On its own it looks completely off, but side by side with any of the other Ex-Aid figures and it looks ten times worse. If the Level 99 version is your favourite version of Para-DX then this will probably be the best you get, but if not then it might be worth skipping out on to see if the Level 50 figures ever see the light of day.


Unknown said...

What happened with genm shoulder? I have him and i don't see anything out of ordinary.

Alex said...

The area between the shoulderpads and collar is purple on the suit, but the toy left them grey to match the rest of the chest plate