Monday 29 April 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O

Release Date: February 2019 
RRP: 3240 yen

It's not just a 20th anniversary celebration for the Kamen Rider franchise, it's the end of an era. With this series we say goodbye to the Heisei era that began with Kamen Rider Kuuga back in 2001, and usher in a new era as the Reiwa period begins in Japan on May 1st. It's only fitting that Kamen Rider go out on a high, and between the time travelling antics and Rider alumni returning for Kamen Rider Zi-O it's fair to say it's doing just that. Bandai Tamashii Nations are also getting in on the celebration, most notably of all finally release Kamen Rider Kiva to complete the Heisei line up but also a number of other S.H. Figuarts releases in and around the final Heisei series. Kicking off with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O himself.

An overlord of the future deserves some fancy packaging, and Bandai Tamashii Nations have done a great job of giving S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O a box worthy of the 20th anniversary Heisei Rider. The colourscheme is simple yet elegant, getting all of Zi-O's key colours in nicely along with some beautiful foil clock hands to match Zi-O's "antennae". In addition to the character name and all the usual Bandai logos the box also prominently displays the "20 Kamen Rider Kicks" insignia, which is being printed on all the Kamen Rider merchandising that celebrates the anniversary. The back of the box features the usual array of Bandai stock images looking at the figure in closer detail, and then inside you'll find Zi-O himself stored on the usual plastic clamshell tray.

Behold the future overlord in all his glory! Bandai have done their usually great job at capturing the likeness and details of the onscreen Kamen Rider Zi-O suit, and shrinking it down into figure form. There's a nice vibrancy to the metallic purple and pink highlights that compliment Zi-O's armoured black body, but your eyes are immediately drawn to that instantly recognisable metal watch strap running down the middle of the body. The head sculpt is equally pleasing, capturing all those really neat clock face details (the clock hands antennae read 10:10, cleverly signalling him as the 20th Heisei Rider) as well as those glistening magenta compound eyes that read "Rider" in katakana. It's a very bold eye design, but works wonderfully for an anniversary Rider. On closer inspection there are a few frustrating issues with the detailing/accuracy, but on faraway glance Kamen Rider Zi-O looks every bit as striking as he needs to be.

The Ride Watches attached to Zi-O's arm gauntlets are detachable and can clip on to the free slot in the Ziku Driver, which in turn can rotate a full 360 degrees like the real thing. Similarly the one attached to the other side of the Driver can be removed. Each of the three Ride Watches are moulded in a different colour to denote which one they are – the white one on the Driver is the Zi-O Ride Watch, the red and blue one on his right gauntlet is the Build Ride Watch, and the silver on his left gauntlet is simply a blank one. It's just as well that you can tell them apart by colour, because once again Bandai have skimped on giving the transformation items detailed stickers. It's amazing how they've gone from giving tiny Lockseeds all the details they needed to not caring whatsoever here. It wasn't so bad with Ex-Aid's Gashats since the detailed part wasn't on show when plugged into the Driver, but here the lack of detail immediately stares you in the face. If the Figure-Rise Standard model kit can do this, there's absolutely no reason why a collectors' figure shouldn't be able to as well.

Other than the small blip that was the Kamen Rider Ghost range, S.H. Figuarts have been putting out great figures for the current-series Riders for a fair few years now. They aren't quite Shinkocchou Seihou quality, but you're still getting something that won't need updating for some time. Kamen Rider Zi-O sports all the usual Figuarts luxuries, including a ball jointed head and neck section, ball jointed torso and waist segments, ball-cut shoulders, raised ball jointed shoulder pads, double hinged elbows, ball jointed wrists, pull-down ball jointed hips, upper thigh swivels, double hinged knees, hinged ankle rockers and then a hinged toe-cap at the end of each foot. Despite the bulky chest you can still get a fair bit of rotation out of the torso. The bigger issues are the head and neck, which are pretty limited by the suit's raised collar. And while I'll never fully understand the way Bandai jump between different styles of hip articulation on their releases, the old style swing-down hips get the job done adequately here. If you've bought any standard range Kamen Rider figure from the last couple of years, you'll have a fairly good idea of what you're in for.

If you were hoping that Zi-O, as an anniversary Rider and thus a somewhat special release, would come packed with a whole bunch of accessories you're unfortunately going to find yourself disappointed. S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O comes packaged with a grand total of seven additional hands – and that's it. Much like the tactic they took with Kamen Rider Build RabbitTank, Bandai have opted to omit all accessories from Zi-O and release him at a lower price point. If you want his Zikan Girade weapon, then you'll have to fork out for a Tamashii web exclusive bike and accessory pack. On the one hand I can kind of see Bandai's logic in trying to lower the price to get as many people to buy the figure as possible, but on the other hand these are collectors' figures – people already pay the higher price for them on a regular basis so just give them the damn weapons. The Zi-O figure is of a good enough quality that their omission doesn't hugely take away from the purchase, but if this is a tactic Bandai are going to pull for new Riders from here on out then it's going to get old extremely fast.

S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Zi-O is a conflicting release. I feel like I should like it a lot less given the lack of accessories and un-detailed Ride Watches, but there's just something about the figure itself that really works. Whether it’s the spot-on colours, the great articulation or just the way those ingenious "Rider" compound eyes sparkle, it's still a great figure despite its problems. At the very least the lower price point alleviates some of the woes, though that might not be so much of a saving grace depending on how much it goes for on the aftermarket. Either way, Figuarts Zi-O feels like a pretty good way to round off the Heisei era of Kamen Rider – both onscreen and as part of your collection.


Anonymous said...

Impressions on the show itself ?

Oar said...

Is it just my imagination or is that shade of purple on him not exactly like on the show? Either way, it's a nice figure of a really interesting design. Lack of any weapons ticks me off, but I'm unfortunately getting used to it.