Thursday 22 November 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Antlar Review

Release Date: September 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

When Bandai Tamashii Nations first revealed that the Ultra-Act line would be drawing to a close and Ultraman was joining the flagship S.H. Figuarts line, who would have thought we'd still be getting monsters from the original series two years later? Despite moving forwards into Ultraseven and Return of Ultraman as well as the newer era Ultra Series, the line just keeps coming back to that first series. S.H. Figuarts Antlar is the seventh foe the original Ultraman faced to be graced a figure in the line, coincidentally appearing in the seventh episode of the series - The Blue Stone of Baraji. This episode is also notable for featuring a civilisation that worshipped another Ultraman from their past, later retconned to be Ultraman Noa. Since then Antlar has made several appearances in the franchise, most recently appearing as one of Zaigorg's henchmen in the Ultraman X movie. Like all of the original series releases since Gomora, S.H. Figuarts Antlar is a Tamashii web exclusive release.

S.H. Figuarts Antlar comes in predictably bulky packaging, larger than the average Figuarts box to fit that giant beetle head in. The packaging's rather dull brown colour isn't much to exclaim about, but the design matches all the previous Ultraman releases and seeing an image of the actual suit on the front is always a welcome feature. The box also features a holographic authenticity sticker, a relatively new addition that confirms that this is a genuine Bandai Tamashii Nations product. The back has the usual array of stock images displaying the figure in a variety of poses, and inside you'll find Antlar housed on a single clamshell tray. Due to its size, the figure is stored sidewards like S.H. MonsterArts releases, rather than forward facing as is the case with most Figuarts.

When you think of Ultraman kaiju Antlar might not be the first one that immediately leaps to mind, but even so it's still undoubtedly one of the coolest designs the original series has to offer. A heavily armoured beetle man with gigantic pincers protruding from its domed head, it's the kind of monster design that immediately catches your attention even if you aren't all that familiar with the source material. The wonder about these figures is that you can also get a closer look at some of the detail that's often obscured in the episode itself, and Antlar definitely benefits from that. As if the design itself wasn't interesting enough to immediately benefit from that high quality Tamashii Nations sculpting, the figure is also covered in all sorts of different texturing and colour gradients. The body is scaly and course, but the head is perfectly smooth. On the subject of the head, that's definitely the main draw of this figure - wonderfully insectoid with the most impressive pincers you'll ever find on a Figuart. 

Articulation has generally been hit or miss with the Ultraman kaiju, but there's definitely been improvement in the last few releases that's seen the moulds go a bit beyond what the actual suits would be feasibly capable of. Antlar is quite a strange case in that while the body is rather subpar as far as posing goes, the head itself surprisingly has a lot going for it. The ball jointed head and neck are obligatory functions, but on top of that Antlar also has ball jointed pincers, moveable upper and lower antennae as well as an opening mouth section. Most of it is purely cosmetic articulation of course, but moving parts also means less chance of some of the more fragile parts simply breaking. The pincers being removable also means they can be ripped off in classic Ultraman fashion, just as they were in the episode itself. However curiously one thing I noticed was an oily residue on the ball joints when I pulled them out, which is something I can't say I've ever seen on a Figuart before.

It's when you get onto the body that a few problems begin to show. Antlar sports ball joints in his shoulders,  wrists, torso, waist, hips and feet along with hinge joints for the elbows and knees, and all of them give a reasonable enough range of motion. Nothing especially impressive, but the use of proper ball joints rather than ball-cut joints does mean you can push the movement a little more without worrying about the figure breaking. The much bigger issue is the waist, which (due to the fact that the figure is supposed to come apart in order to use the accessory) has a bad habit of popping off with the littlest of movement - complete with the loose skirt bits flying off with it. It isn't quite as bad as something like Kamen Rider Wizard's waist issues, but it is more than a little frustrating when the figure's constantly splitting in two just from being posed.

Antlar's sole accessory is a scale plastic mound, which the top half of the figure can be connected to at the waist ball joint to simulate the monster emerging from underground. It's a rather imaginative accessory and can lead to some great poses and dioramas, but is pretty basic and of course leaves you with the bottom half of a figure to shove back in the box. The mound itself is a hollow piece, but painted and textured to look like sand effectively for the size that it is. The joy of it connecting to the figure by a ball joint all means that Antlar retains all of his upper body articulation when posed like this, as well as being able to be rotated around at the base. Compared to some of the more recent Ultra releases it's a pretty lacklustre accessory count, but honestly there isn't a whole lot else Antlar could have come with.

S.H. Figuarts Antlar is another solid release for the line's ever-growing range of monsters and aliens, but compared to some of the others it’s a fairly middle-tier figure. It's got a fantastic sculpt for sure and a giant beetle monster is never unappealing, but subpar articulation and a woeful accessory count means it doesn't quite justify the higher price tag these web exclusive kaiju run for. Also though Antlar comes from one of the most memorable episodes of the original series, it doesn't quite have that iconic "must own" status that most of the previous releases did. Now that Bandai have finally gotten a very healthy roster out from the original Ultraman, it would be nice to see them move on to later series and fill in some of the obvious blanks there. We're still waiting for an S.H. Figuarts Eleking after all…


Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

I completely agree about the cost of this figure. For the accessory you get, the price is ridiculous! Sure, the sculpt is very nice, but they could've done more. I'm surprised they released Antlar from the original series and not Red King, Neuronga, or even Pigmon. I still am holding out for a Keronia (I love that guy). But I also agree it's time to move on to other shows' kaiju (yes, Eleking), and some more from Jack.

Alex said...

I do wonder if the reason we haven’t had some of the larger kaiju like Eleking and Red King is because Gomora supposedly didn’t sell very well. Though if that’s the case then the answer would be to do one of them as a web exclusive rather than a retail release and see how that turns out rather than just completely ignore them.

Completely agree on a Pigmon figure though! Alien Zetton is the one I’m really hoping for, I’d go as far to say it’s probably one of my most wanted Figuarts right now. I dont care if it’s original series or manga based, just get it out Bandai!

Looking forward to Gudon this month to finally give Twin-Tail some company. Though how Bandai have gone this long without at least announcing an Alien Nackle I don’t know.

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

Hey Alex, Figuarts did an alien Zetton some time ago. It's been out for a while now.

Alex said...

Ah that’s the kaiju, not the alien.