Wednesday 27 March 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero

Release Date: February 2019
RRP: 5940 yen

Ever since the Ultra Series was integrated into the S.H. Figuarts line back in 2016, Bandai Tamashii Nations' pattern of releases has been fairly predictable. Each year has progressed coverage of the classic shows one by one, and then in the last few years it's also split off the cover the newer Ultraman series as they're released – with both Ultraman X and (soon) Ultraman Ginga coming later to round off the "New Generation" Ultra releases. While there's no indication of when all the things in between the two will be covered, there's one key hero that was just too important to wait for. Appearing throughout the New Generation Ultra Series as well as having a key supporting role in Ultraman Geed, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero has been released in his original form. This is actually the second release for the son of Ultraseven in the line, with Ultraman Zero Beyond having previously been released among the Geed range.

Following the pattern of the New Generation Ultraman S.H. Figuarts releases rather than the classic figures, Ultraman Zero comes in packaging that sports its own unique layout and colour scheme. They're all still connected through their use of the suits themselves rather than the figure on the front of the box though, with Zero's in particular taking up pretty much all the space and only leaving a small window for the figure to be seen. The red, blue and black colour scheme is sharp and eye-catching, perfectly matching the shades used on the suit itself. The back of the box features the usual array of promotional images showing off the figure's various features and accessories, and then inside you'll find the figure (as well as its plethora of accessories) packed across a single clamshell tray.

Even if you disregard his immediately likeable personality it's no surprise that Ultraman Zero has quickly gone on to become one of the faces of the Ultra Series as a whole. His design takes all the key elements that each Ultraman has passed on throughout the years and combines them with an incredibly striking colour scheme, making him feel like a strong transitionary figure between the classic and modern eras of the franchise. Bandai as usual have done a brilliant job of getting the sculpt and colours down perfectly, with the figure not only sporting a really sharp headsculpt but also an excellent bit of moulding on the reflector areas covering his torso and forearms. The red and blue are both nice and vibrant, but the silver paint is what really makes the whole design pop. The shade of silver used on these figures can vary wildly at times, but this one perfectly matches suit itself and the figure is all the better for it. As far as sheer shelf presence goes, this is one of the best looking Ultraman figures Figuarts has put out thus far.

As far as articulation goes Zero is pretty much on the same level as the other Ultraman Figuarts released thus far, but with so many under their belt now some of the limitations of the base body are beginning to become more apparently. Let's start with the good - Ultraman Zero has a hinged head, ball jointed neck, ball hinge shoulders attached, double hinged elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball hinge hips, upper leg swivels, double hinged knees, ball hinge ankles and a hinge toe cap. That's a pretty extensive array of articulation and certainly doesn't limit the figure when it comes to posing, but compared to some of the other Figuarts Bandai are putting out the moment you can't but help they could be doing more with the Ultraman range. I get that the Ultraman costumes are one piece suits and the figures are doing their best to replicate that, but there's no real reason these toys can't have bicep swivels - especially when the argument of it "breaking up the pattern' is rendered moot by the leg swivels doing exactly the same thing. The bigger problem however are the ankles, which just flat out aren't very good. Whereas other Figuarts feature flexible ankle rockers to keep the figure flat-footed even in the more extravagant poses, Zero's have no sideward motion whatsoever. This doesn't mean the figure looks awful in action poses by any means, but the inability to pose the feet properly does take away from it a bit. Maybe it's just that I've reviewed so many Figuarts now that I feel I need to be a little more critical with them, but Zero just stood out to me as having some problems that could have easily been avoided if the base body was just tweaked a little bit. 

For the most part the Ultraman Figuarts have been excellent at packing each release with an impressive amount of accessories, but as seems to currently be the trend some of the more recent releases (Rosso and Blu for example) have been a bit more bare bones. Ultraman Zero however undoubtedly returns the line to its former glory, with a fantastic amount of additional pieces to ensure this release is worth every penny. Just to start off with there's eleven alternate hands, a red Colour Timer piece and an alternate left forearm piece sporting the Ultimate Bracelet – an item that allows him to traverse through the different universes. Like with Ultraman Jack, Bandai could have easily just included one arm with or without the bracelet but to include both shows great attention to detail and choice. Removing and replacing the Colour Timer is a little trickier than it has been on more recent releases due to its small size and the fixed chest plate, but still considerably easier than the earliest Ultraman Figuarts where it felt almost impossible to do without scratching the paintwork.

When it comes to weapons Ultraman Zero is so overly powerful and varied that there's no way Bandai could have included everything here, but what they have managed to do is cover all the main bases and provide a nice variety of posing options. Included are two standard Zero Sluggers, their combined "Zero Twin Sword" form and an additional chest piece where the Sluggers are combined with the Colour Timer to replicate his "Zero Twin Shoot" attack. Since the Sluggers come from Zero's head, an alternate headsculpt with them removed has also been included. Not only is a second head far more convenient from a sculpt point of view (Ultraseven's removable ones fall out quite easily), but the peg connection the Ultraman figures use makes head swapping easy and stress-free. It is a bit of a shame that Zero Twin Shoot doesn't have any sort of beam effect to go with it, but that feels a little more forgivable here just because of the sheer amount they've packed in. An Emerium Slash might not have gone amiss either, but since Zero feels more of a physical brawler it makes sense that the weapons took priority.

On top of being a fairly average figure in general, Ultraman Zero Beyond was never going to be the figure collectors wanted when it came to arguably the main face of modern Ultraman. Clearly Bandai knew this as well, which is why they didn't wait long at all to announce and release this far more preferable figure. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero is another excellent entry into the now pretty expansive Ultraman Figuarts range, bursting with colour as well as sporting excellent sculpting and accessories. Bandai's insistence to not bring the range's base body onto the same level as some of their other ranges (Kamen Rider being the main example) holds it back as far as what this line is really capable of, but even that can't get in the way of just how good this toy is otherwise. Undoubtedly one of the best Ultramen released in the line so far, so definitely shouldn't be missed out on!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review! Can´t wait for R/B review !