Friday 7 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: Power Rangers Lightning Collection SPD Shadow Ranger

Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: £20/$20 

Collector-orientated Power Rangers figures have been something of a sore point for some time now. Over in Japan Tamashii Nations' S.H. Figuarts range died a much-talked about death, and even when Bandai of America stepped up to the plate it was the same kind of disproportioned, minimally painted figures they offered in their standard ranges. But with Hasbro's surprised purchase of the franchise from Saban came hope, and now that hope has materialised in the form of the Power Rangers Lightning Collection! This 6" collectors' line is cut from the same stock as Hasbro's Marvel Legends and Star Wars Black Series figures, and will offer a range of characters from across the franchise's long and illustrious history. Among this first wave of figures are the Mighty Morphin White Ranger, Dino Charge Red Ranger, Lord Zedd and the subject of this review – the SPD Shadow Ranger. As a long demanded figure, especially in the wake of Tamashii Nations completing the core Power Rangers SPD (Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger) team in the S.H. Figuarts line, the inclusion of Shadow Ranger was a sign that Hasbro planned to kick this line off with a bang.

If you want any immediate indication that Hasbro mean business with this line then look no further than the packaging. The Power Rangers Lightning Collection figures have been released in premium-looking rectangular boxes similar to that of the Black Series, however these are done with primarily white colour scheme. What truly makes them stand is the gorgeous art by Tom Whalen (@strongstufftom on Twitter), whose distinct style is just perfect for a collectors series like this. The line almost seems worth collecting just for this packaging alone, and I can't wait to see how future boxes turn out when it tackles some of my other favourite characters. This artwork is featured on both the front and spines of the packaging, joining the Power Rangers Lightning Collection logo on the front. The little title card on the bottom is careful to specifically note the figure as the "SPD Shadow Ranger" rather than just the Shadow Ranger, and the series specific Power Rangers SPD logo is featured on the right spine of the box to give the show a bit of proper recognition. The back of the box features only a single image of the figure inside, however it’s a nice big action pose shot that perfectly captures what this line is capable of. Inside the figure and accessories are stored on a moulded plastic tray, and behind said tray is a rather nice backing card featuring the iconic Power Rangers thunderbolt emblem. Of all of Hasbro's collector series packaging, this is by far my favourite.

Finally gone are the dark days of Bandai of America's overly muscular, out of proportion sculpts. The Lightning Collection figure is an excellent representation of the onscreen suit, perfectly proportioned like a proper Power Rangers figure should be. The shoulders sit a little lower than they perhaps should against the torso, but it's a pretty minor complaint overall. For those interested in the height of these figures, they pretty much match Marvel Legends when it comes to scale so are noticeably (but not so much that they look completely out of place) taller than most Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts. With Doggie having a bigger build on the show, it kind of works alongside the Dekarangers though. Sculpting-wise the detail the little SPD badges and such are all there, even if they don't have the necessary paint to make them properly stand out. Bigger detailed areas, such as the red "100" emblem on the chest look fantastic. The figure even has various fabric folds sculpted into it to give it that extra feel of an actual suit and not just a toy. Curiously the hands attached to the figure in-package aren't symmetrical (nor are any of the hands included for that matter) – the right hand is a standard gripping hand intended for the sword, while the left hand is a strange trigger-ready one presumably to be used with the Patrol Morpher accessory. As far as sculpt is concerned it's a fantastic looking figure, and Hasbro have really come out swinging… 

…at least they would have, if it was for some pretty notable QC issues with the figure. Obviously paint apps are going to vary wildly figure to figure, but those who live in countries unlikely to see these widely on shelves don't have the luxury of being able to handpick the perfect one to avoid this. Much more significant however is the lack of paint on certain areas though. I'm not stupid or entitled enough to expect a lavishly detailed and fully painted figure at a £20 price point, and I'm fully aware that Hasbro have a tendency to release initial images with far more paint than the final figure will have. But the problem here is that this is the image that's on the box, so they are arguably ADVERTISING that the figure looks like that. The image on the box has a painted SPD badges on the helmet and shoulders as well as silver and red sections on the arm gauntlets. It isn't 100% accurate to the suit (it's still missing the black lines running down the leg armour) but it's a lot closer than the figure inside. When I saw all these additional paint apps on the box image, I genuinely thought that my figure was defective until I realised this is just a flat out misleading and dishonest practice on Hasbro's part. The plastic quality on the figure isn't especially great either. It's not awful, but certainly has a cheapness to it that doesn't feel present on both the Black Series and Marvel Legends figures I've handled. At the very least it would have been nice to see the helmet visor done up in glossy plastic (akin to the kind used on the various Black Series troopers) to give it some visual variation, and if you really wanted to push it that would have looked great for the lights on the side as well. But mass production inevitably means cuts have to be made somewhere, so while I could live without those I would settle for something that just felt a little less flat.

With that little rant over with, thankfully things pick up it comes to articulation. I was never someone who found the articulation on Bandai's figures to be awful (for the most part anyway), but Hasbro undoubtedly have them beat here regardless. Moving down the body Shadow Ranger sports a ball jointed head attached to a swivel hinge neck, swivel hinge shoulders, bicep swivels, double hinged elbows, swivel hinge wrists, ball jointed upper torso, a hinged lower torso, swivel hinge hips, thigh swivel, doubled hinge knees, boot swivels, and finally swivel hinge ankles. The joints provide more of a solid, ratchet-like motion rather than the buttery smoothness of Figuarts joints but can hold a pose pretty strongly. The only areas that suffer from a little hindrance from the armour are the upper torso and ankles, and even that is minimal at best. It's a structure that Hasbro use across both Marvel Legends and the Black Series, and since it works well there was obviously no point in changing it up here. There hasn't been a Shadow Ranger action figure in some time so it's the best on that merit alone, but even if there was competition it would be pretty hard-pressed to beat this when it comes to poseability.

Despite some of the issues when it comes to the figure itself, Hasbro really claw back some respect when it comes to accessories. Also included are two additional hands (a closed left fist and a right hand in his signature pose), his Shadow Saber (specifically in its activated mode with the jaw open), Patrol Morpher and a translucent blue effect part replicating the way the sword "powers up" when unsheathed. The Shadow Saber is made of the same dull grey plastic as parts of the figure rather than a more spiffy silver, but it matches the "not silver" grey plastic on the figure and the actual mould is on point. Meanwhile the Patrol Morpher is a solid piece of black plastic with the SPD details on the front printed on in gold (most of which are obscured due to the size). It certainly doesn't compare with Figuarts' take on the SP License and there's no way to store it on the actual figure when not in use, but as an accessory on a £20 figure it really isn't bad. The alternate left hand included does an adequate job of holding it in the correct position, but it isn't perfect by any means. Finally there's the effect part, which Hasbro seem dedicated to including with every Lightning Collection release. It might only be a soft piece of blue plastic that coils around the sword, but the effect it brings to the sword is delightful. With Bandai seemingly abandoning effect parts on almost every Figuarts release they can these days, it's nice to see Hasbro immediately picking up the slack to provide fans with accessories they can get plenty of mileage out of.

However what's really setting these Lightning Collection figures apart in terms of accessories is the inclusion of alternate civilian heads, so what you also have here is a swappable head sculpt for Anubis "Doggie" Kruger himself. Dekaranger fans should bear in mind that as this is a Power Rangers figure it is of course the scaled mask created specifically for SPD, rather than the furry version used in the source material. While this might not be my Doggie of preference, I can't deny how good of a job Hasbro have done here – this alternate head is by far and away the best part of the set. The sculpting on this head is absolutely flawless. From the blue scaly skin to the webbed ears and dreadlocks, it's the perfect likeness to how Doggie looked on the show itself. Hasbro have even managed to pull off a great neutral facial expression, which is impressive in itself since the suit often suffered from an unsettling googly eye look. What's perhaps even more impressive is that a soft plastic neck piece has also been included to slip over the black ball joint, making the scales flow down into the suit and thus properly completing the de-helmeted look. It's such a tiny inclusion but really makes a world of difference. Hasbro seem to be looking towards unmasked heads as a big selling point for these figures, so to knock what should be the hardest part out of the park right off the bat is very promising indeed.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Lightning Collection SPD Shadow Ranger. There's absolutely no denying that this figure eclipses anything Bandai of America ever put out and in the absence of S.H. Figuarts making a VERY surprise comeback, this by far and away the best line for Power Rangers figures. However I still find myself underwhelmed. The finish looks and feels cheaper than Hasbro's other main collector lines, and using better-painted images of the figure on the packaging is just flat out wrong. The accessories definitely raise it higher in my estimations, but overall the product isn't quite the home run many are proclaiming it to be. Hopefully these are just early teething problems with the line, and I already know for a fact this thankfully isn't representative of the line as a whole. It's just a shame that it had to be one of the ones I was looking forward to the most.

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