Thursday 24 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Gudon

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 7560 yen

If there's one thing you can't fault the S.H. Figuarts Ultraman range on, it's the variety of figures they've offered fans over the past few years. Whereas the likes of Kamen Rider has so many Riders and form changes to get through they rarely get to touch the monster designs from each series, the Ultra range has provided an excelled supply of both aliens and kaiju to face off against. Well, that was certainly true of both the original series and Ultraseven, but The Return of Ultraman doesn't seem to have been so lucky. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Jack was followed quickly by Twin Tail, but it wasn't for another six months that prehistoric kaiju's eternal rival Gudon joined them. The third release from The Return of Ultraman, S.H. Figuarts Gudon is also the first Tamashii web exclusive from the series - and no other announcements on the horizon, possibly the last as well.

Usually S.H. Figuarts boxes tend to change in layout between shows, but we're three series in now and the Showa era Ultra figures are still trucking along with the same uniform packaging scheme. Gudon's comes in a nice brown colour scheme that nicely matches with his rocky hide, and like all Tamashii web exclusive figures the box is the windowless style that doesn't show off the figure inside.  However this frees up more room for a nice big image of the Gudon suit lifted directly from The Return of Ultraman, as well as some nice silhouette images of both Gudon and Ultraman Jack. On the back are a few more pictures of the figure as well as a look at how it scales with S.H. Figuarts Twin Tail, and inside Gudon and his sole accessory are housed on single plastic clamshell tray.

One of the less talked about joys of S.H. Figuarts kaiju is the various textures you can get both between figures and on a single figure itself. Humanoid figures may have detailed sections and play around with shiny and matte finishes, but more often then not they deal predominately with smooth surfaces that don't quite have the range these monsters do. As well as being appropriately spiky (but not so much that handling the figure becomes an exercise in pain management), Gudon is covered in a rather satisfying rough texture that gives the appropriate feel of an underground-dwelling prehistoric kaiju. The toy perhaps sells it a little harder than the actual show suit does (both the original version and Gudon's subsequent appearances), but it doesn't really feel like a knock against it. In contrast, both the horns and whips have a smoother finish that's more typical to the Figuarts line.  Gudon is both a good-looking and great-feeling figure, which is enhanced by the great paint job Bandai have given the figure as well. It isn't explosion of colours like some kaiju, but the shading and black wash the sculpt has been given to bring out all the detail is top notch. 

Gudon also has a lot to offer when it comes to articulation, continuing on the improvements Bandai have been making to these kaiju figures in terms of movement over the past few years. Gudon's body is almost entirely held together by ball joints - with them even being used in areas usually reserved for hinges like the jaw, elbows and knees). Altogether there are joints in the head, neck, jaw, shoulders, torso, waist, elbows, "hand" whips (both at the wrist and halfway down the whip), hips, knees, feet and tail (segmented into six separate sections). Thanks to the use of ball joints throughout, it also means these areas can swivel freely to add even more movement (the tips of the whips can swivel and may be attached to a ball joint, but the joint is so small it can only really manage rotation and pulling it apart isn't really recommended). It isn't a perfect system as there are still some pretty restricted areas (most notably the torso, hips and feet), but it does allow some very surprising range in other areas - the waist joint is capable of full 360° degrees! The other problem with using ball joints throughout is that the sculpt can get a little gappy when viewed from certain angles - so watch out on the shoulders and hips when posing. Though the way the suits are originally designed means these kaiju figures probably aren't ever going to get the same level of articulation as a more humanoid design, Gudon feels like a real step in the right direction towards less restrictive figures.

Since Gudon is a kaiju whose main weapons are physically attached to his body, there isn't really much in the way of accessories that could have been on offer here. As such Gudon's single accessory isn't even something for him - it's an alternate damaged head part for Twin Tail. The head is modelled after the monster's appearance toward the end of its two-part debut, where MAT have rather viciously blown out its eyes - just before Gudon goes in for the kill. It's pretty gruesome, but once again you really can't fault Tamashii Nations when it comes to the accuracy of both the sculpt and paint job. Though Twin Tail's head is attached via a simple ball joint just like any other figure, getting it off can be a little tricky at first just because the connection is so stiff. However that should ease up after a few simple swaps. Given that Bandai have released kaiju Figuarts without any accessories in the past (looking at you King Joe), Gudon could have easily been a bare bones release. However Bandai really threw collectors a bone here - something that's even more appreciated since releases from this series have been so few.

Although The Return of Ultraman has undoubtedly been shafted in terms of releases compared to its predecessors, if S.H. Figuarts Gudon really is the last one (at least for now anyway) it's a pretty great one to go out on. There's still a few minor flaws here and there and given how few releases there's been this really shouldn't have been a web exclusive, but Gudon is definitely one of the most expressive kaiju the line has put out well - with the figure doing some interesting things both in terms of sculpt and articulation. If you've already picked up Twin Tail then that definitely shouldn't be without its rival, and even if you haven't Gudon is still a fantastic figure that shouldn't be overlooked in the same way The Return of Ultraman seemingly has. No Alien Nackle, no Bemstar, no Black King...not even a Zetton remould? What on earth are you doing Bandai?

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