Friday 11 January 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style

Release Date: November 2018
RRP: 7884 yen

With figure construction and engineering having come leaps and bounds in the ten years the S.H. Figuarts line has been around, it's natural that some Kamen Rider figures are looking a little dated compared to newer releases. While arguably all the pre-Gaim figures could do with some sort of modern update (if they haven't received one already), there are few more sorry cases than that of Kamen Rider Wizard. The original toy was released in 2013 so wasn't even that old compared to some figures, but despite boasting an impressive accessory count was plagued by structural issues (i.e. it constantly fell apart) and off proportions. However five years later and Haruto Soma is finally getting the justice he deserves, with the release of S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style!

S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou packaging doesn't really change between releases so there isn't a whole lot to say that hasn't been said on the dozen or so other reviews for the line featured on this blog, however Wizard's flashy and slightly unorthodox design does lend itself well to the filtered profile-style image the lids of these two-piece boxes uses. As per all the newest Tamashii Nations releases, the box features a blue Bandai logo as well as the foil Tamashii Nations seal of authentication sticker. On the bottom of the box you'll find a selection of images showing off the figure in various poses, and inside the figure and its accessories are spread across two moulded plastic clamshell trays. Also included is fold out instruction pamphlet that shows off which hands go with which accessories and how the various pieces work and/or fit together.

Opinions on Kamen Rider Wizard as a series are far more divided, but when it comes to suit design alone there's no denying that it fully embraced the glamour and flashiness the series brought to both the character and fight choreography. It's been a long wait but this is the Figuart Wizard has needed all along to show off that flash, with Bandai Tamashii Nations bringing their A game to make this the best Shinkocchou Seihou release yet. The reflective red plastic used on both the helmet and torso may be the areas your eyes are immediately drawn to, but there's so much else going on here as well that's just as worthy of praise. Etched into both the silver helmet and shoulder pads is sharply sculpted and accurate detailing, which is then further brought out thanks to a quick wash of black paint. Moving further down the body however brings you to the best bit of all, as Wizard's lower robe/coat tail sections have been produced as posable fabric parts rather than solid plastic. This is something Tamashii Nations have been slowly experimenting with across various releases, perhaps most significantly with the Shinkocchou Seihou release of Kamen Rider Eternal. Fabric sections are just lighter and less cumbersome than a plastic equivalent, but it also means that the limbs they surround are free to use their full range of motion as well. Due to its size Eternal's cape was a little unwieldy, but these smaller coat tails are much easier to get used to and position accordingly. Running around the contour of each one is bendable wire, which is strong enough to comfortably hold the robes in any raised billowing motion you might have in mind. 

The difference between this and the original release was always going to be pretty monumental, but putting the two side by side just makes everything that was wrong with the first one seem that much worse. The headsculpt is and chest details are all misshapen, the waist is tiny, the overall proportions are all over the place and the plastic coat tails severely limit what the lower half of the figure is capable of. If the waist wasn't so prone to popping off its ball joint it would be an at least semi-passable figure, but sadly that isn't case. The Shinkocchou Seihou improves on it in just about every way, and that doesn't just relate to the figure itself either. Though there isn't a whole lot of difference in size, the sculpting and detailing of the WizarSwordGun is much sharper too. 

Also gone is swappable Wizard Driver plates, replaced with a fully functioning version that not only has a turning front panel but also moving switches at either side for full accuracy. Since this piece constantly falling off was perhaps the biggest functional problem of the original toy, this would be a significant improvement even if it didn't work like the real thing.

The new and improved sculpt also allows for far better articulation that the original release could ever hope for, and once again the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line shows off exactly what its made of. Kamen Rider Wizard sports a ball jointed head and neck, ball jointed shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels, double hinge knees, hinged ankle tilts and finally a hinged toe cap at the end of each foot. It's worth noting that despite there being a ball joint connecting the crotch and lower torso sections, it doesn't really offer much in the way of motion so any sort of torso swivel instead has to come from the upper section. It's a bit unfortunate, but the joint holds together firmly and (given the significant problems with the original release) that's far more important. The thighs only swivel a little in each direction too which seems a bit odd, but it's enough for them to get the job done and twist like a leg naturally would. But every other area has exactly the range that it should have, and the shoulder pads are even connected to the arms via separate ball joints to ensure they don't get in the way of the shoulders' range of motion. Combine that with those extremely malleable robes and you have a high expressive figure that effortless pulls off all the flashy poses Wizard does on the show.

Accessories was the one area that the original Wizard figure was able to claw back some respect, as Figuarts back them came with far more than they do now and in Wizard's case even had a dedicated Tamashii Stage thrown in as well. Now Shinkocchou Seihou Wizard might not have a display stand or alternate robe pieces, but he does come with something far more interesting. Upon taking the figure out of the box you'll noticed that none of the hands actually have the Wizard Rings moulded onto them, and instead there are tiny plug holes on each middle finger where they should be. This is because Shinkocchou Seihou Wizard actually has swappable rings, eight of them in fact. There's all four elemental rings (Fire, Water, Land and Hurricane) for the left hand, and then Driver On, Connect, Kick Strike and Dragonrise for the right. When not attached to a hand, the loose rings can either be pegged onto the ring holder attached to the belt or grey plate they come attached to in the box. Be warned it cannot be overstated just how small these ring pieces are – if you drop one you're going to have a hard time finding it, so be sure to swap them in a place where they can be easily spotted should the worst happen. But despite their tiny size, swapping the rings in and out isn't anywhere near as terrifying as you might think. Initially they'll take a bit of working to fit properly into both the hands and holder, but once they're in there the fit is actually incredibly secure. It's a gimmick I never thought Tamashii Nations would be crazy enough to even attempt, but the madmen did it and the end result is pretty unbelievable.

On top of those rings Kamen Rider Wizard also comes packaged with ten additional pairs of hands in various poses (but rather curiously only one closed fist hand) and parts for the WizarSwordGun in both sword and gun formations. Unlike the original which included both versions as separate accessories, the Shinkocchou Seihou has a single handle piece with interchangeable blade and gun barrel pieces that clip on. Additionally, the handle piece also has an opening hand section. It's true that on paper that doesn't seem like nearly as much as the original Wizard had, but when you consider that this release has discarded the need for alternate robe parts the only thing that's really missing is the stand, and most no Shinkocchou Seihou release has come with those anyway. Plus if you do still feel the need for more Wizard accessories, there's a perfectly acceptable accessory pack from 2013 you can track down – of which most of the pieces are still compatible with this new release.

Ever since Kamen Rider Kabuto was released back in 2014 the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou range has consistently put out some of the very best figures Bandai Tamashii Nations have to offer. S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Wizard Flame Style is a natural continuation of this fact, but it's also so much more. Improving on the original figure exponentially along with new feats such as cloth coat tails and mind-bogglingly detailed (if terrifyingly small) ring accessories, Kamen Rider Wizard represents a whole new standard in Kamen Rider figures. It is the absolute pinnacle in what Tamashii Nations have done with the franchise thus far, and an absolute must-have for any Rider fan even if they aren't as sold on the show itself. Just how Bandai will top this with future releases I don't know.

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