Thursday 13 September 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Pandon "The Biggest Invasion in History" Set

Release Date: August 2018
RRP: 8100 yen

Although the latter half of 2018 will be going full force on modern Ultra Series releases with both the long awaited Ultraman X and Ultraman R/B figures, Bandai Tamashii Nations still have plenty of love to give to the classic era of Ultraman. This year may have seen the S.H. Figuarts line move ahead into The Return of Ultraman but there's still plenty of room for releases from both the original series and Ultraseven - with this particular one being extra special. The vanguard of the Alien Ghos and the final opponent of Ultraseven, the twin-headed monster has finally arrived! S.H. Figuarts Pandon "The Biggest Invasion in History" set celebrates the two-part finale of the 1967 series, arriving as a Tamashii web exclusive release.

S.H. Figuarts Pandon comes in a large (but still not as large as Gomora's was) windowless box, done up in a surprising blue colour scheme that isn't too far off the one that was used for Alien Metron. That isn't to say the colour scheme is in any way bad, but whereas the other releases usually matched the figures' base colours this one seems to have instead gone for one that goes completely against it. As usual for the Ultra Series Figuarts the front of the box features an image of the onscreen suit rather than the figure itself, with the back plastered with the usual array of Bandai stock images. It's when you open the box that things get interesting, as you'll find a decapitated Pandon sitting on that plastic tray along with all the accessories. Don't worry though – the head is sitting on the tray with the rest of the accessories, simply removed so the figure can fit in the box. Just as well it's a windowless box though, or that would have raised plenty of questions.

S.H. Figuarts Pandon continues the high standard the Ultraman range has set when it comes to alien/kaiju sculpts, with the figure looking like it jumped straight out of the episode. Not only do you have all the added texture from the spiky skin that covers Pandon's neck, breast and back, but below that you also have the sculpted detailed on the smooth scaled areas as well. Though the colours of the original Pandon can vary pretty greatly depending on the quality of the image you're looking at, Tamashii Nations have done a fantastic job on the fiery red colouring it should be, which nicely fades into the lighter areas you see on the chest, hands and feet. Even Pandon's pathetic beady little eyes look perfect - hilarious on a monster that was one of Ultraseven's biggest challenges, but perfect nonetheless. Though these Ultraman figures can vary pretty wildly when it comes to pricing, articulation and accessories, sculpting is the one area where they are never a letdown. 

But whereas these Ultra kaiju figures often excel when it comes to the sculpt, the articulation is often a little more cumbersome since the designs rarely allow for a great deal of movement. However despite facing those restrictions in some areas itself Pandon is surprisingly articulate figure, not only featuring impressive movement in certain areas but also featuring some surprise bits of articulation too. From the head down Pandon features movable lower beaks, a double ball-jointed neck (with the joints just under the head and at the base of the neck), ball-jointed shoulders, hinged elbows, ball-jointed wrists, a ball-jointed waist, ball-jointed hips, hinged knees, ball-jointed ankles and a three-segment ball-jointed tail. While areas like the elbows, knees and ankles have considerably less movement then you'd find on a typical S.H. Figuarts figure, but the shoulders and waist have a fantastic range of motion to serve all of your rampaging needs. The base of the neck however is pretty much a bust, since the ball-joint is more there to hold the thing together rather that supply any sort of movement. Ultimately you're never going to get the sort of poses you would out of a humanoid figure, but for a kaiju figure Pandon turned out pretty damn well.

Those who have watched Ultraseven will know that, despite a tough battle, Ultraseven is eventually able to subdue Pandon – chopping its left arm and right leg off in the process. However the Alien Ghos do not give up that easily, and refit the monster with mechanical limbs to transform it into "Reconstructed Pandon". These alternate limbs are also included as part of the accessory count, and the ability to switch between Pandon and Reconstructed Pandon at ease is probably why this release got the "Biggest Invasion in History set" subtitle. While the arm is a little less articulated than its organic counterpart, both limbs are nicely detailed and the gunmetal finish really pops against Pandon's red body. The good thing about these kaiju figures is that since the limbs are bigger it means the joints are also bigger, which makes switching between them nice and simple without fear of anything breaking.

The extras don't stop there though, as Pandon also comes with a number of other accessories relating to its final showdown with Ultraseven. The first of these is an alternate right hand holding Seven's Eye Slugger, representing the moment in the fight where Pandon catches Seven's signature weapon and then proceeds to taunt him with it. The Eye Slugger is fixed into the hand so doesn't really do a whole lot, but it's a nice little alternate part that shows off a pretty significant part in their fight. However it’s the final pieces in the accessory count that are the really cool ones – two alternate neck pieces (one for the torso and the other for the head) to create a properly decapitated Pandon, finally defeated after falling victim to the Eye Slugger one last time. These neck pieces each have a flat sculpted surface to represent a clean decapitation, giving the figure a seamless finish as opposed to the protruding joints you'd have if you simply popped the head off. Like the limbs the head and neck assembly pops off the ball joint with ease, with the reassembly to each part proving equally stress free. Given that the gruesome kaiju deaths are such a memorable part of the early Ultra shows, these are a brilliant inclusion to the set and I hope Tamashii Nations continue to include pieces like this in future releases. That said, I still don't quite know how these accessories turn the figure into a particularly special "set" – was the "Biggest Invasion in History set" moniker just a fancy way of justifying the price?

Although the S.H. Figuarts Pandon "The Biggest Invasion in History" set is a one of the pricier figures in the Ultraman range (and its web exclusive status means that price is only likely to go up on the aftermarket), it certainly does a lot to make it worth your while. Between the improved articulation and impressive accessory count, Pandon manages to overcome many of the issues that have kept these figures from meeting their full potential. With the likes of Alien Metron, Alien Guts and King Joe already on the market Pandon might not be everyone's first choice if they're looking to expand their Ultra or kaiju collection, but if this turns out to be the last Ultraseven release for a while (and let's hope not because this line is still sorely lacking Eleking) then Bandai have definitely closed out on the best.

1 comment:

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

Great review. Mine should arrive within the next week or so. Glad to read that it has some good articulation. I love that you can change him from regular Pandon to Reconstructed Pandon.