Tuesday 25 June 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form)

Release Date: April 2019 
RRP: 7560 yen 

In February 2008 Bandai Tamashii Nations first launched S.H. Figuarts, a toy line over the past 11 years has covered tokusatsu properties, anime, Hollywood movies and so much more. However its success and longevity is definitely mostly thanks to Kamen Rider, and in that time the line has released a substantial number of characters and forms from across the franchise's long history. But there's always been someone missing. 2008 was also the year Kamen Rider Kiva aired, and with the titular character's base form appearing in the Souchaku Henshin (something of a precursor to Figuarts) line he was initially omitted from release to make way for other characters. However as time went on and more and more Riders were released, Kiva remained absent. Fast forward to 2019, and S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Kamen Rider Kiva (Kiva Form) has finally arrived. The final Heisei era Rider as well as lead Rider overall to be released, Kiva's release coincides with the 20 Rider Kicks anniversary celebration of 20 Heisei era series. For Figuarts collectors this is a monumental moment in the line's history, and a day many were beginning to thing was never going to come.

The S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line has been going for a fair few years now with little no change to the packaging design, so if you've bought any of the previous releases you'll know exactly what to expect here. A stylish two-piece box with a stylised close-up shot of the figure on the lid, Kiva's packaging has the same premium look we're all used to by now. The only recent changes have been the transition to the blue Bandai logo in the bottom corner, as well as the addition of the Tamashii Nations holofoil sticker to indicate it as a genuine item. In fact Bandai are so dedicated to keeping the boxes near-identical that this doesn't even have the "20 Rider Kicks" logo that's been featured on most of this year's releases. The underside of the box sports a selection of images of the figure, and then inside you'll find Kiva and his accessories spread across two white plastic clamshell trays. Note that Kivat isn't attached to the figure in package, and once opened will need to be clipped to the belt in order to complete the look.

A special event like the long-awaited release of Kiva can't go by without proper celebration, so to mark the occasion Tamashii Nations have also thrown in a special first release bonus in the form of a designated Kamen Rider Kiva Ride Watch stage. With this all 20 stages have now been released, with the others coming through as first run bonus, reissue pack-ins or in their own stage sets. As Bandai have chosen not to deviate from the standard size for Shinkocchou Seihou packaging the Kiva stage comes in its own separate box, featuring lineart of the Ride Watch against a glossy black backdrop. Inside the stage neatly stored inside a segmented plastic bag.

Open that box and suddenly a decade of waiting swiftly dissolves away, because Bandai Tamashii Nations have more than made sure Kamen Rider Kiva lived up to expectations. Kiva looks bloody fantastic, and the pun is absolutely intended. As per the S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou mantra the figure is a near perfect likeness to the onscreen suit, with every detail painstakingly recreated through a combination of sculpt detailing, colouring and finishes. You've got the combination of the matte black undersuit, the metallic silver sections and then the glossy red of the chest, hands, belt and helmet. Piercing through all of that are Kiva's huge yellow eyes (apparently known as the Omnilens - got to love little bits of Rider lore that don't show up in the series itself), both vibrant in colour and almost hypnotic with their reflective compound texture. The chains attached to the shoulders and leg look to have been separately sculpted and glued onto the armour, but rest assured they're glued firmly into place and unlikely to break off even with extended play and posing. Finally it's also worth noting that the strips of detailing running along the torso and helmet have been given a wash of black to make them stand out all the more. Kamen Rider Kiva is a series that goes all in on its aesthetic so any figure needs to nail the look first and foremost to be a success, and the Shinkocchou Seihou definitely manages that. It's almost ideal that it took it this line for the figure to finally be released, because it means that (as far as we know) Figuarts got it right first time. It's hard to imagine Kiva getting much better than this. 

As mentioned earlier in the review Kivat is packaged as a separate piece in the box, and this is because it's an accessory piece in its own right! As well as having translucent red eyes and some incredible sculpt and paint detailing for a piece of its size, Kivat-bat the Third also has extendable wings and an opening mouth. As well as being able to comfortably clip onto the Kivat belt, an adapter piece for Tamashii Stage arms has also been included so that Kivat can be posed separately alongside Kiva himself. Touches like these are the kind of thing expected from the Shinkocchou Seihou line by now, but that doesn't make them any less impressive to see in action.

When it comes to articulation Kamen Rider Kiva has a ball jointed head and neck, butterfly joint shoulders connected to the arms via a ball hinge, bicep swivels, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball hinge hips, thigh swivels, double hinge knees, ball hinge ankle rockers and a single hinged section at the end of each foot. On top of that the shoulder pads are on ball joints attached to raised clips that can down and outwards from the arm to allow you to pose them more easily, and the collar section of the armour can be pulled back to sit a little bit away from the rest of the torso. What real use this little bit of articulation has is questionable, but if the instruction leaflet included with the figure thought it was worth mentioning then I guess it is in this review as well. Given the jacket-like look of Kiva's torso I was half expecting some restriction there, but Bandai seem to have gotten everything covered nicely. The only area that does have some restriction is the left leg, which given the added bulk should be expected (the leaflet also makes note of this). It's only really "limited" compared to the left leg though, and you can still get the necessary range of movement for proper posing out of it regardless. With how well the Shinkocchou Seihou range manages to balance sculpt and articulation it seems redundant to keep constantly praising Bandai like this, but if they keep getting it this right then it's hard not to.

As for accessories Kamen Rider Kiva not only comes with five additional hands and all six of base form Kiva's Fuestles. These include the Wake Up Fuestle (red), the Garulu (blue), Basshaa (green) and Dogga (purple) Arms Monster Fuestles and finally the Castle Doran (orange) and Buroon (yellow) summon Fuestles. Despite their diminutive size all six Fuestles are accurately (or at least as accurately as they can be at that size) detailed and can be stored either in the holders that clip onto either side of the belt, or plugged directly into Kivat's mouth as they would be to be activated. Once plugged into the top, Kivat's mouth can then be closed to "complete" the sequence. Now given the history of transformation trinkets shrunk down to this size one might think playing around with the Fuestles is more effort than its worth, but in fact this is probably the best job Bandai have ever done with them. Yes they are small and you will have to take care with them, but once they've been slotted into the holder those Fuestles will absolutely stay in place. The same goes for plugging them into Kivat, and again while I wouldn't recommend going crazy posing the figure when you have one in it would take a fair bit of movement to knock it out. If only all tiny Kamen Rider accessories could be this manageable.

But the crown jewel among the accessories is the alternate right leg, with the chains removed to open up Hell's Gate. It's said that one of the main reasons Bandai took so long to make a Kiva figure was because they weren't sure how to handle the chains on the leg without making them incredibly fragile (you could say they didn't want buyers to Break the Chain), but I'm not sure how true that is when all they did in the end was glue them straight into the leg and make the opened version an entirely different part. Sure you lose the functionality, but if it means less chance of breakage then I'd take alternate parts over working gimmicks any day. Like the rest of the figure the Hell's Gate leg looks absolutely fantastic, and the wings have been given a much needed black wash to bring out the moulded detail on the red. It isn't just the colours on the front that look good either, as if you look at the back you'll also see some nicely applied green and grey markings on the tips of the wings. The Darkness Moon Break rider kick is one of Kiva's coolest and most iconic features, and with this figure you can now recreate that same coolest as part of your display. 

The bonus Ride Watch stage is comprised of three parts – the baseplate, a paper graphic of the Kiva watch face cut to shape and a top piece which pins it down to the base. Like the two included with Geiz (and presumably the others as well) it doesn't do a fantastic job of staying together when moved about, but as a basic stand it does the job well enough. Unfortunately no articulated arm piece is included despite the base having a slot at the top to fit one, so if you want to put your Kiva in a more elaborate pose (or simply give him extra security from toppling over) you'll need to commandeer one from another Tamashii stage. While I was more critical of these bases in my Geiz review because of his omitted accessories, since Kiva already comes with a decent selection of parts I'm a little more forgiving of its shortcomings. It's more elaborate than the usual Tamashii Stages, and would look great as a display along the other Heisei Riders with their own stages.

So was S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Kiva truly worth the wait? The short answer – he absolutely was. The Shinkocchou Seihou line has been consistently delivering a range of near-perfect figures since its inception but Kiva really is something else, taking 11 years of Figuarts knowledge and progress and throwing it into a design that even the its suit actor had trouble pulling off. Flawlessly sculpted, beautifully painted, wonderfully articulated and with a great selection of accessories. The fact Bandai even managed to make those tiny fuestles completely hassle-free shows just how good Kiva is. Now that the base mould is out there's little doubt it won't be milked for alternate forms soon, but in the event that we do have to wait another decade for a new Kiva figure do not let this one pass you by.


Tiger said...

I'm glad that your Kiva figure features no QC issues; when I bought mine and opened it, I discovered bits of the chrome silver paint on the front of its left shoulder armour has been scrapped off. Fortunately, It is only visible from a very close distance.

Again, nice review Alex, and I am now wondering what other rider is going to get the Shinkocchou Seihou treatment next. If its a main rider, my money is on Faiz: I bought its 20th Rider Kick version, and it has a very noticeable butt, the red paint for the Photon Streams is not well applied, and it does even have a swappable part for the belt with the Faiz phone in an open mode to replicate the Exceed Charge.
However if they are still continuing with the Kiva line, Ixa or Saga.

Alex said...

Ah no, I’m sorry to hear about the QC on your figure! It always sucks when you spend so much on a toy and it has some little paint defect that you immediately notice. I’m glad it’s only visible from close up though, at least that’s something.

As far as the next Shinkocchou Seihou figure goes I think you’re right saying it’ll probably be Faiz. Other than a few exceptions they seem to working back from the beginning of the line and redoing the oldest ones, so I believe that makes Faiz next in line. I never bought the older version but I’ve seen how it’s not perfect (did the 20 Rider Kicks version have the painted finger tips? I know only some versions of it did), so it seems like the most logical choice for the next release.

That said, I do think they’ll carry on Kiva releases as web exclusives. Ixa will probably come first, but I’d expect Emperor and Dark Kiva soon too. However Saga is long overdue!