Tuesday 4 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial

Release Date: April 2019
RRP: 5940 yen

As had been the case with Ultraman Zero, S.H. Figuarts didn't immediately spring for the obvious when they release Ultraman Belial as part of their Ultraman Geed range in 2018. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial Atrocious was a great figure in its own right, but arguably not quite the version of the evil Ultra Warrior fans were clamouring to add to their collection. Now just a few months after Zero a new S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial has arrived – based on his standard appearance first seen back in 2009's Mega Monster Battle: Ultra Galaxy Legends the Movie. After being banished from the Land of Light for attempting to steal the Plasma Spark, Belial was corrupted by the Alien Rayblood into an Ultra Reionics and sought revenge against the Ultras. He was eventually defeated by Zero, but has returned numerous times to face off against his rival – most recently "fathering" Ultraman Geed with his genetic material.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial comes in packaging with the same design layout as Ultraman Zero's, which is Tamashii Nations' way of saying that these figures come from the same series (or in this case movie) within the Ultra franchise. The front of the box is dominated by a nice big image of the Belial suit, which completely overshadows the figure itself let alone all the logos surrounding it. The more Belial-esque colour scheme of red and black also makes it an excellent foil to Zero's blue. On the back of the box you'll find the usual selection of stock figure images, showing off Belial in various poses as well as his accessories and the general features you'll find on an S.H. Figuarts release. Inside the figure and his accessories are stored on a single moulded clamshell tray.

The thing with Ultraman figures is that if you've bought one Ultraman, you kind of know what to expect with the next one. Of course there's differences between them (some a lot more subtle than others), but ultimately they all follow a similar pattern which helps sell them as one big intergalactic family. Every so often however you get one that both adheres to those definitive design traits while at the same time throwing in something that makes them completely unique. S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial uses a unique, more muscular sculpt that was previously seen on the Ultraman Orb Thunder Breaster release (a form which by no coincidence involves Belial's powers). At first glance it seems a lot shorter than previous releases, but it's more to do with the fact that the body is so top heavy rather than actual size. The red and black colour scheme is absolutely gorgeous, perfectly applied and running between the glossy red and matte black sections on those nicely sculpted abs. Belial's giant claws look fantastic, and although the fingers aren't individually articulated like on the old Ultra-Act figure still really add an extra level of weight and menace to the overall design. Finally you have that head sculpt, taking the classic Ultraman design and twisting into something truly evil. Your eyes are immediately drawn to those vibrant orange eyes, far brighter and piercing than any other Ultraman figure in the line thus far. The head even has a moveable jaw, which on top of allowing Belial to cackle manically also conceals rows of fully moulded teeth. There really isn't a single complaint I have when it comes to this sculpt or design in general. It just takes the descriptor of "evil Ultraman" and rolls with it perfectly.

Being a bigger boy hasn't got in the way of Belial's articulation either, and where other Ultraman figures have been strangely limited in certain places Belial offers exactly the kind of movement you'd expect from an S.H. Figuarts figure. Altogether he sports a peg hinge neck, ball jointed neck, a hinged jaw, butterfly joint shoulders, ball jointed torso and waist sections, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed hips, upper leg swivels, double hinge knees, ball jointed ankle tilts and finally the hinge joint toe-cap. At a push you could possibly argue that the wrist joints are more restricted than normal just because of the sheer size of the hands, but their size also makes them far easier to pose effectively. Even areas that prove a common hindrance on Ultraman figures, such as the raised leg sections around the hips or the ankle tilts, seem surprisingly unscathed. But after the frustration with Belial Atrocious, it's honestly just nice to have a figure that doesn't have shoulder pads that pop off every time you move the arms. Belial is just a bundle of evil joy that's as functional as he is beautiful.

Whereas his rival's accessories were plenty, Belial's are relatively few and straight to the point. Included are two pairs of additional hands (an extra open pair and a pair of weapon gripping fists), and his signature Giga Battle Nizer weapon. The Battle Nizer is identical to the one previously released with Belial Atrocious, right down to the shortened rod section which will inevitably get barely any use because (accurate as it is) it looks pretty dumb. While the smaller accessory count is a little more understandable given the size of Belial's hands, it's still disappointing that once again effect parts are completely omitted. The perfect set of hands is included for Belial's Deathcium Ray attack, so why not the ray effect itself? Or even maybe a "Belial Deathscythe" effect part to make the Battle Nizer a little different from Atrocious' version? Ultras are never short on attack variety, so it's just genuinely confusing how some releases get loaded with more accessories than you need while others are left with the lowest passable amount.

Despite the obvious frustrations when it comes to accessories, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Belial is still one of the best Ultraman Figuarts you'll find on the market right now. That bulkier body offers a unique and imposing sculpt suitable for a villain of Belial's calibre, all without sacrificing any of that all-important articulation that keeps the line going. The colours and detailing on the figure are nothing short of magnificent, and even with the low accessory count you'll still find some sort pose that just oozes the kind of evil only Belial can. Best of all is that it's also a mass release figure, so should hopefully be available at a reasonable price for a little while longer than many of the other figures in the line. If all of that hasn't convinced you, then the fact that he's THE evil Ultraman should be an award-winning argument in itself.

1 comment:

Newt said...

Do you prefer it to the Ultra-Act version?