Thursday 20 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku

Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 6696 yen 

When Bandai Tamashii Nations first announced that they would be producing Star Wars figures in the S.H. Figuarts line, few probably expected that they'd pay quite as much attention to the prequel trilogy as they have so far. As it stands they've currently produced more Obi-Wan figures than they have Luke Skywalkers, and something from all three prequel films while still no releases whatsoever from The Empire Strikes Back. This however has led to the production of S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyranus), a Tamashii web exclusive release of the Separatist leader and Sith Lord Darth Sidious' trusted apprentice throughout the Clone Wars. Curiously the figure is based on Dooku's appearance in Revenge of the Sith rather than Attack on the Clones (where he made a far more substantial appearance), but it's not the strangest choice the line's ever made. Alternatively, maybe Bandai were just eager to let fans recreate that iconic beheading scene…

As a web exclusive figure Dooku doesn't come in the usual basic black window packaging reserved for Star Wars Figuarts, instead coming in a black windowless box with a nice big picture of the figure on the front in place of the window. Behind that is a close-up image of it in black and white, only with the force lightning done in colour to make it pop a bit more. Other than that though it's a surprisingly plain looking box, which huge empty spaces and all the names and logos just stacked neatly on the left. The back of the box is business as usual however, featuring a wide selection of promo images including one of it posed alongside the Revenge of the Sith Obi-Wan and Anakin releases. Inside the figure and accessories can be found on the usual clamshell tray, with the force lightning hands rather cleverly stored on the loose section that fits between the body and cape.

Much like how he was rarely one to use his "Darth Tyranus" title, Count Dooku didn't abide by the usual Sith dress code so it's rather refreshing to have a Star Wars bad guy not completely clad in black. Instead the Count is dressed almost completely in burgundy, complimented only by his black boots and the light brown lining of his cape. As far as colours go it isn't the most exciting figure, but the soft plastic sections, moulded fabric ripples and shaded areas go a long way to make it feel a lot more three dimensional. The head sculpt is definitely among the line's best, capturing a fantastic likeness of Christopher Lee as he appeared in both Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Then for little flourishes you have the metal cape chain (which seems to be pinned directly into the figure), which has been very nicely done at such a small scale. Dooku sadly isn't without his problems though, and the first one you can immediately tell just by looking at the figure. The joint cuts in the torso are pretty poorly done, with the upper torso jutting out far too much compared to the waist and shoulders. It looks almost as though he's wearing a sports bra. The other, admittedly more minor, annoyance is the fabric cape. While a fabric cape is CONSIDERABLY more preferable to a plastic alternative and the sides being stitched at the top for accuracy is great, it's disheartening that Bandai haven't used a wired cape – especially since there's already precedent for it in the Star Wars line. Doing so would have added so much more dynamic display value to the figure without the need for a stand, because without one the cape just sits there awkwardly and cumbersome in action poses.

There is some method to Bandai's madness though, as those rather unsightly joint cuts do help in providing a nicely articulated figure. Whether it would be any less articulated without them is up for debate, but I'm willing to give Bandai the benefit of the doubt for now. Altogether Dooku has a ball jointed head and neck, ball swivel shoulders with additional butterfly joints, single hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, "pull down" ball jointed hips, single hinge knees, swivel hinge ankles and a single hinge toe cap at the end of each foot. It's become a habit of Figuarts to use single hinge elbow and knee joints on their live-action "human" (i.e. not costumed from head to toe) figures, and while they do provide a cleaner sculpt (particularly in the case of Dooku's knees) it's not really worth the trade-off for more limited articulation. Especially when they're already breaking the sculpt with that torso anyway. The hips are pretty well done though, since the tunic completely covers any gaps caused by the pull-down joint without grossly hindering the articulation. While you probably aren't going to get the full extent of Dooku's onscreen capabilities from this figure (but to be honest, neither did the film without CGI), you still have a toy which lives up to the Figuarts standard of both varied and fluid poseability.

Dooku comes packaged with an alternate head, two additional standard hands (including open and lightsaber-holding pairs), a pair of force lightning hands, his lightsaber and an additional lightsaber hilt which pegs onto the figure. Much like the default head the likeness to Christopher Lee is excellent, but the difference between the two is nearly non-existent. "Slightly looking to the side" seems to be Bandai's immediate choice for alternate head sculpts now, which is incredibly underwhelming given the possibilities they have at their disposal. Dooku's curved lightsaber has been beautifully reproduced, and it's a really nice touch that if you compare it with Vader and Maul's lightsabers the blades aren't an identical shade of red. However it's disappointing that removing the blade from the standard saber also removes the blade guard piece on the end, leaving the inert version inaccurate in its hands unless you use the peggable hilt (which as you'd expect, has a fairly prominent peg sticking out of the side). It still fits so it isn't a huge loss, but a strange choice nonetheless. More annoying is the fact that the wrist joints are so sunken into the sleeves that it makes it difficult to pose the lightsaber well without knocking either it or the entire hand out of place. The real winners here though are the force lightning hands, a first for the line as it continues to lack any sort of Palpatine figure. The blue translucent lightning is of Tamashii's usual effect part design, attached directly onto the hands to avoid any sort of fiddliness when attaching. When attached they look absolutely fantastic, and combined with the lightsaber really add a whole extra level to the figure.

Much like seemingly a lot of the Star Wars range, S.H. Figuarts Count Dooku is a great figure let down by some disappointing – though not ultimately deal-breaking, design choices. The actor likeness is absolutely spot on, while the accessory count is excellent considering Dooku's appearance in Revenge of the Sith was for all of five minutes. The odd cuts in the torso are a lot harder to swallow however given Bandai's usually great job with sculpt/articulation balance, and giving the figure a non-pliable cape immediately reduces the posing potential this figure has. But with Dooku still inexplicably absent from Hasbro's Black Series this isn't only the best version you'll find at this scale, it's also possibly the only one. A great addition to the Star Wars Figuarts range, and a recommended pickup for any prequel-era fan.

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