Thursday 20 December 2018

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero Beyond

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 5940 yen

When S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial Atrocious was released earlier this year as part of the line's Ultraman Geed range, it seemed a given that the Fusion Rise form of the evil Ultra's eternal rival wouldn't be too far behind. Fast forward a few months and Ultraman Zero has finally arrived in the S.H. Figuarts line, calling upon the powers of New Generation Ultras Ultraman Ginga, Ultraman Victory, Ultraman X and Ultraman Orb to become Ultraman Zero Beyond.  Like all of the Ultraman Geed figures outside of the initial Ultraman Geed Primative release, Ultraman Zero Beyond is a Tamashii web exclusive release.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero Beyond comes in the same dynamic packaging seen with the other releases from the Ultraman Geed series, now done up in a flashy silver and purple colour scheme to match his powered-up form. One really nice touch about the layout here is while these are windowless boxes like nearly all Tamashii web exclusives do, the second image of the figure on the front is laid out in the space that would be the window on a mass release figure. The back of the box features a selection of images featuring the figure in various poses (along with its accessories), while inside you'll find both the figure and accessories packed onto a single clamshell tray.

While Ultraman Zero's base form is obviously based on his father Ultraseven, his Zero Beyond form removes some of these elements and brings him more in line with the New Generation Ultras he derives his powers from. This results in a more streamline body, but perhaps more significantly (and unique to this form) is a predominantly silver body with purple markings running down his body. The head however is still very much Ultraman Zero though, so it isn't like that identity is completely lost. When it comes to replicating this at an action figure scale Bandai have done a fairly decent job, but other than the head, shoulder pads and crystal sections there isn't a whole lot to wow you really. The paint job is sharp, but the duller matte shade of silver Bandai have used on some of their Ultra figures seems all the more underwhelming when used to this extent. The shinier silver used on figures like Ultraman Orb and Ultraman Geed would have worked much better to make this a bit more eye-catching. But without a shadow of a doubt the worst thing about this sculpt is the Colour Timer, which is the loosest fitting I've ever seen on an Ultraman figure - and Orb Origin's really takes some beating. The Timer plugs onto the body via four tiny tabs, but the fit is flat out awful and the piece will just fall out at the slightest provocation. It was frustrating on Orb Origin, but at least that one is a fairly large piece so there's no real risk of losing it. Zero Beyond's is tiny by comparison, and it would be very easy to knock it out and not realise until the piece is long gone.

When it comes to articulation, Ultraman figures often have the edge over other Figuarts in that their bodies are mostly devoid of armoured pieces or even additional sculpting. This is also true of Zero Beyond, but there are a few key areas that the figure does fall a little short in. From top to bottom the figure features a peg hinge head, ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulder pads, ball-cut shoulders, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball jointed hips, upper leg swivels, double hinge knees, ball hinge ankles and the usual hinged toe cap to round it all off. That all sounds impressive on paper, and areas like the knees look especially good with the way the joint seemingly extends out to provide a fluid range of motion (especially since the paint apps are carried onto the joints) - but where does it fall short? For starters the elbow bend doesn't really offer much more than a 90 degree bend, and thanks to the cut of the crotch section the legs can barely swing behind the body at all. None of this completely ruins the figure, but it's just a selection of minor complaints that add up into something that seems to fall just below the usually high standard the line has set for itself.

However even though the figure itself may be somewhat underwhelming, accessories is where Zero Beyond really scores points. Altogether the figure comes packaged with five additional pairs of hands (ranging from a selection of posed hands to the open and weapon holding variety), an alternate red colour timer piece, two "Beyond Punch" effect parts and finally two energy projection "Beyond Twin Edge" weapon effect parts. Ultraman Zero Beyond has such a huge array of techniques that the Figuart was never realistically going to include everything, but Bandai definitely chose well. Both the punch and Twin Edge parts are moulded in translucent pale purple plastic, which not only goes well with the purple highlights on the figure but also makes a nice change from the other colours effects parts usually come moulded in. The Twin Edge parts being the energy projections rather than the solid versions is a very nice touch. The punch parts are relatively simple fireball style pieces, but the way they directly plug into the figure's wrists keeps things nice as simple (as well as making them compatible with most other Figuarts releases). Finally in a normal scenario the fact the colour timers can be easily switched out would be a big plus on an Ultraman figure, but because Zero Beyond's are just so loose fitting it isn't really all that impressive. They're so small and easy to lose that it would almost be more preferable if they were too tight.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero Beyond isn't a bad figure by any means, but it's definitely a somewhat underwhelming one and Bandai announcing a standard Ultraman Zero Figuart (due for release in February 2019) so close to its release certainly didn't do it any favours. The range of accessories might be impressive (feeling more along the lines of what the old Ultra-Act figures used to come with) unless you're especially attached to this form the figure doesn't offer anything that the standard Zero won't undoubtedly do better. Unlike Belial Atrocious, this doesn't have the impressive sculpting and/or paintwork to make it a stand out. Not disappointing, but probably something for Ultraman Zero fans or Ultraman Geed completists only.

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