Thursday 21 February 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame

Release Date: December 2018
RRP: 5400 yen

One of the biggest woes of being an S.H. Figuarts collector is seeing a cool design on a brand new show and knowing that you probably won't see a figure of it for months - and in many cases long after the series has come and gone. But in recent years Bandai Tamashii Nations have gotten better and better at releasing figures closer to the times the shows are airing, and as far as the Ultra Series goes they've got the closest they've been yet with Ultraman R/B. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame arrived a mere week before the series finale aired in Japan, with his brother Ultraman Blu Aqua also releasing on the same date. 

While the Showa Ultraman Figuarts releases have stuck to the same box design throughout multiple series, the newer characters have been mixing up the style with each new show. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame introduces a new style for the Ultraman R/B, which quite nicely mixes the style of the R/B promotional art with some classic Figuarts packaging colours. Though it's probably coincidental the gold corner and spine feel very reminiscent of the all-gold boxes of some of the earliest Figuarts releases, and looks great with the dark red background and nice big image of the Ultraman Rosso suit. On the back of the box features a selection of images of the figure (along with his brother Ultraman Blu) in various poses, and inside you'll find the figure and its accessories spread across a single moulded clamshell tray.

If you also check behind the backing card you'll also find something else in addition to the usual instructions flyer. Both Rosso and Blu include special S.H. Figuarts Ultraman flyers that not only show off a selection of releases from Ultraman R/B but also the forthcoming Ultraman Zero and Ultraman Belial figures. At this stage most Ultra fans will have probably preordered these figures by now, but if you haven't then here's a few more images to tempt you even further.

Despite the franchise having run for over 50 years now, arguably Ultraman has been fairly limited in how much it's changed the design of its iconic heroes over time. Sure there are noticeable differences between the various Ultras, but usually within both the same basic framework and relatively small colour palette. Though Rosso doesn't stray too far away from that distinctly Ultraman look, the changes definitely feel more radical compared to some of his more recent contemporaries. The undersuit is predominately silver and black, with the primary colour only coming appearing on the gauntlets, raised chest armour and head. It's a pretty striking look on the show itself, but just how well that's translated to a toy is another matter entirely. The segmented build of the Ultraman Figuarts really doesn't lend itself to the patterned bodysuit, since any twist or turn from the ball joint immediately noticeably breaks the lines running all the way down the body. But a bigger issue on Rosso is the paintwork, which really doesn't feel up to the line's usual high standards. The red is just so dull and lifeless, completely lacking the shine the actual suit has. Quality control is something that varies a lot more figure to figure, but as far as my copy goes that isn't much better either. The joints shoulder joints were extremely stiff out of the box, and the right shoulder pad is so bad that it doesn't even push up as far as it should. When I initially took Rosso out the box I REALLY didn't like him. After playing around with him a bit more I've warmed up to him a bit more, but Tamashii definitely didn't bring their A game to this release.

On the articulation front things are less disappointing, since the base body hasn't really been changed that much since the last few releases. Altogether Ultraman Rosso features a peg hinge head, ball jointed neck, ball jointed shoulders, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, hips, upper leg swivels, double hinged knees, hinged ankle rockers and a hinged toe cap on each foot. The hips are particularly interesting as they're the same kind used on civilian figures like Takeshi Hongo - internal hinged pieces that provide outward motion which can also rotate to provide the forward/backwards motion (I genuinely don't know if these joints have a specific name, so if they do please let me know!) The shoulder pads are also on their own raised ball joints, so can be moved freely of the arm to remove any restrictions when poses. The hips provide an excellent range of outwards and forwards motion, but backward movement is nearly non-existent - limiting just much much you can do with something like a running pose. 

For accessories Ultraman Rosso includes an alternate red colour timer, eight additional hands in various poses (including closed fists, grappling and weapon holding hands) and the brothers' signature R/B Slugger weapon. In package the Slugger is split into its separated "R/B Slugger Rosso" dagger formation (complete with the red glow on the larger blade), but can be combined together into the sword version used by Ultraman Blu. It's a nicely moulded weapon with details and colours that match the onscreen version and roleplay toy, but as an accessory it's pretty small and ultimately feels lacking compared to some of the things that have come with previous Ultraman figures. What's far more impressive however is the alternate colour timer, as it seems Tamashii Nations have FINALLY learned from their mistakes and come up with an effective way to switch these tiny pieces around. Like with Ultraman X the front chest place can be completely removed, making it much easier to poke out the cylindrical colour timer and pop the other one in its place. It's so simple to do that it makes it even more annoying that the older releases are just so impossibly fiddly by comparison.

But on top of all that, Ultraman Rosso also comes with two initial run bonuses in the form of designated display bases for the brothers's flame and wind forms. As the bases don't specifically refer to either brother, that makes them technically suitable for use with either one of them (though at the time of writing Tamashii don't seem to have any plans for an Ultraman Blu Flame form). Instead they both simply have stylised kanji for "flame" and "wind", along with the English text and Ultraman R/B written underneath. On the surface they seem like nice bonus, but like the figures themselves feel pretty underwhelming when you think about them a little more. The bases themselves are incomplete as neither of them come with an articulated display arm, and unless you're planning to go completist on the line you may find yourself with a Wind stage that you're not going to use for its intended purpose. It's even more irksome when you consider that the forthcoming Ultraman Ruebe Figuart comes with beam effects for both Rosso Flame and Blu Aqua - parts that could have easily been included with their original releases. A complete flame stand or a flame beam part - either of these would have been far preferable alternatives to two incomplete display bases.

I will freely admit that I'm not as big of a fan of the Ultraman R/B suit design as I am with previous Ultraman series, but I appreciated the fact Tsuburaya were prepared to mix it up a bit and eager to see how Tamashii Nations would continue to improve their base Ultraman mould. But after the near perfection that was Ultraman X, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Rosso Flame is a pretty big disappointment. There's a good figure hiding under there, but the drab looking plastic, irritating QC problems and underwhelming accessory count (especially in the light of better parts coming with a separate, Tamashii web exclusive figure) make it hard to find. In most cases a disappointing Figuart still turns out to be a better than average action figure though, and as a general release item you're unlikely to be breaking the bank to grab one. 

1 comment:

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

This is a good, accurate review. I own the Wind and Ground versions of Rosso & Blu. While they are nice, I agree with you that Ultraman X really spoiled us with it's excellent articulation and accessory count. X has now become the standard for which I judge all future Ultra releases. I also agree that it's lame they did NOT release their beam effect parts with the figures. The Wind and Ground versions have the same R/B weapon as these releases, they should've tried to be more diverse with their accessories, so that each figure would come with standouts that really make it stand out.