Thursday 6 December 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X & Gomora Armour Set

Release Date: October 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

Ultraman Ginga may have been the last "current" Ultraman figure in the Ultra-Act line before it slowly faded away, but it would be another three years before the S.H. Figuarts line picked up the slack and continued covering the more recent shows with Ultraman Orb. And though Bandai Tamashii Nations have continued this through Ultraman Geed and Ultraman R/B, there's been one titular Ultra hero missing for some time now. However the wait is finally over, as Ultraman X finally makes its high-end figure debut with the S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X & Gomora Armour set. Nicely timed just before the impending release of Ultraman Rosso and Blu, fans can finally own a full New Generations Ultra line up in some shape or form and come one step to it closer solely in Figuarts form.

A new series means a brand new packaging layout, and while this could easily be the only Ultraman X release we ever get in the line (though I expect Exceed X at the very least will turn up eventually) you have to appreciate how Tamashii Nations try to give each show its own style. Ultraman X's is relatively simple but makes excellent use of colour and layout, immediately feeling reminiscent of the different graphics and posters that were originally made to promote the show itself. The front features a nice big bust shot of the figure (again in a pose very similar to the one used in the show's promo material) as well as a small one of it wearing the Gomora Armour parts. On the back there's a few more shots of the figure in various poses, as well as a simplified yet handy pictorial guide of how the armour pieces fit onto the figure. Inside X, the Gomora Armour parts and the few other accessories are all housed neatly on a clear plastic clamshell tray. There's also a promotional flyer for the forthcoming Ultraman R/B figures, just in case you haven't ordered them yet and need some last-minute persuading.

The thing with Ultraman, perhaps more so than any of the other tent pole tokusatsu franchises, is that you pretty much always know what you're going to get in terms of design. For better or for worse there's a far more rigid design template when it comes to its heroes, which is perhaps why when it does venture out of the norm – whether it be through shape or colour, these designs perhaps get a little more recognition. Ultraman X isn't one that wildly breaks the mould, but the changes it does have in the design definitely make it interesting. Whereas most Ultras sport a seamless bodysuit, X's body sports multiple different grooves and panels that give off the desired "Cyberspace" suit aesthetic. Despite the suit not really featuring any more colours than usual the placement also works well in this respect, with the red mainly relegated to a tertiary colour outside the arms. This added level of detail also extends to the head sculpt, which features additional colours and an "armour" styling. It's a really striking design that doesn't stray from what's inherently Ultraman, but different enough to immediately make it stand out from the others. One thing to note about Tamashii's release is the use of a more muted silver paint akin to the one on the Showa era Ultra figures, rather than the shinier finish the newer ones have. It's an interesting divergence and I'm not quite sure why they opted for it (maybe the paint holds up better to having things clipped onto it?), but it definitely works in the figure's favour – contrasting far better with the matte grey sections than a glossier alternative would.

Despite a few sculpt changes here and there all of the Ultraman figures generally have the same base body, with Ultraman X also featuring the minor design changes that were added with Ultraman Geed Primitive. This means the two figures pretty much share exactly the same level of articulation. This range includes a peg joint head, ball-jointed neck, ball-hinge shoulders, ball-jointed torso and waist sections, double-hinge elbows, ball-jointed wrists, ball-jointed hips, upper level swivels, double-hinge knees, ball-hinge feet and the usual hinged toe cap. X's shoulder pads are fixed to the arms so have no independent articulation of their own, but don't impede the shoulders in any noticeable way. The only real restriction comes from the legs, with those raised sections around the outer hips hampering the outwards motion somewhat. Their ability to swivel does help alleviate it and arguably it does make the legs look far better, but it's there nonetheless. Even so it's very hard to be disappointed at just what this figure can pull off, and should cover all your Ultraman posing and grappling needs nicely.

As far as accessories for X's base "form" goes the figure simply comes with two additional pairs of hands, as well as an alternate red colour timer piece. Changing the colour timer pieces on Ultraman Figuarts has always been a nightmare – for the most part they're tiny pieces that are almost impossible to get out without damaging the paintwork, and then the rare times they are easy to remove they end up being extremely loose and simply fall out at even the slightest provocation (looking at you Orb Origin). However Ultraman X seems to have finally cracked the system – not only is the colour timer itself removable, but also the entire breastplate. Once you take this off, it's just a simple task of poking the colour timer out from the peg holes behind and replacing it accordingly. The breastplate is both easy to remove and fits fairly tightly on the figure even after repeated removals, so it's a win-win situation all round. Despite only a few alternate hand choices there's even a few surprises there as well – of course it comes with an obligatory beam-firing pair, but the others are another pair of flat hands (with the thumb pointed inwards to the palms) rather than the usual splayed-open wrestling hands. One could definitely argue that a Xanadium Beam effect part might have been nice extra, but as I've argued in previous reviews Ultraman releases get a little boring when it's the same accessories over and over again. After all, Ultraman X has a far more exciting set of accessories to discuss…

Rather than deal in multiple form changes as his successors would, X's main gimmick was "MonsArmor" derived from the powers of artificial "Cyber" versions of kaiju created using Spark Dolls and stored within Cyber Cards (Ultraman X was pretty great at juggling multiple gimmicks). The series featured a variety of different armours, but the most obvious choice for this release was of course the Gomora Armour - derived from Cyber Gomora whose consciousness in turn comes from Daichi's Gomora Spark Doll. The armour pieces are comprised of six different pieces, all of which clip onto the figure extremely easily. To begin you'll need to remove the Colour Timer piece, the "spine" fin on the figure's back, the two shoulder pads and the hands. Once you've done that you'll be able to start clipping the pieces on to your heart's content. The front and back torso pieces peg into the holes you'll have revealed by removing those pieces earlier, with the back piece also featuring two straps that come down under the arms and peg into the front piece for extra security. The shoulder pads comfortably slot into the two indents provided, while the clawed gauntlets fit straight into the wrist pegs. To make things even easier, the inner sections swing open so you can clearly see just where you're putting the wrist joints into. Once you're done, the sections close back up to fit comfortably around the arms. 

The figure looking pretty fantastic before, but with the Gomora Armour equipped Ultraman X almost feels like a whole new figure. The dark and metallic blues add a huge splash of colour to the overall design, and the gold X across the chest takes the eye-catching effect of the colour timer and amplifies it ten-fold. With so many Ultraman more associated with beam weapons and the few melee fighters there are using more basic weapons, to get a heavily armoured one with huge berserker claws feels like a really nice change of pace.

Adding the Gomora Armour pieces to the figure surprisingly doesn't affect the base figure's articulation in any real way, as all the core sports points of movement the figure needs remain completely untouched. The larger shoulder pads means a little less in the shoulder area of course, but as the shoulder pads each have their own independent pin joint hidden inside they can be raised up to give the arms a little more clearance when required. The base Ultraman X figure is a great toy in itself, but it's the armour that really makes this release extra special. A beautifully sculpted, easy to use and unobtrusive gimmick that feels completely different to anything previous Ultraman Figuarts have tried before.

Though I've enjoyed and appreciated every single Ultraman release S.H. Figuarts have put out so far, as far as heroes are concerned none of them had been truly special up until this point. Most of them have been fairly fantastic, but little flaws here and there or the general similarities between sculpts and/or accessories have held them back from being among the line's "best of the best". The S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X & Gomora Armour set is the one that finally fits that bill. A sculpt that benefits from the more intricate design, great articulation and a unique set of accessories that's pulled off flawlessly. Accessory packs may only happen for a few select releases these days but it would great if Bandai had more armour add-ons planned, because this figure absolutely deserves all the gimmickry it can get.


Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

This is a great figure, I love mine. The only issue I have with it (and it's really minor), is that it doesn't come with a more variety of assorted hands. However, I own a Dasin One Punch man and his hands fit on Ultraman X, so now I can put X with grasping hands. But this is a great release from Figuarts. One of their best!

Unknown said...

Ultraman geed primitive