Sunday 22 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Black King

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: 7560 yen

While 2019 has seen the Ultra Series branch of S.H. Figuarts dive into more different points in the franchise than ever before, it hasn't been quite as generous on the kaiju front than it has in the past. This is especially true when it comes to The Return of Ultraman, which so far had only seen two giant monsters released for Ultraman Jack to face off against. Until now that is, with undoubtedly one of the show's most famous creatures arriving in the form of the Tamashii Web exclusive S.H. Figuarts Black King. Appearing in episodes 37 and 38 of the series (Ultraman Dies at Sunset and When the Ultra Star Shines), the bodyguard of Alien Nackle proved a formidable opponent to Ultraman Jack - defeating the hero in their first encounter. It was only after the original Ultraman and Ultraseven saved Jack from execution on Planet Nackle was he able to defeat the pair once and for all. Since then, Black King has also reappeared in Ultraman X, Ultraman Orb, Ultraman R/B and Ultraman Taiga.

S.H. Figuarts Black King comes packaging designed identically to the other Showa Ultra Series releases, and true to the monster’s name it’s been done in predominantly blueish-black with golden yellow highlights. As well as including a picture of the figure itself on the windowless front there’s also the usual image of the actual suit, which illustrates perfectly just how accurate Bandai have been getting with these releases. The back features a few more images of the figure in various poses, though sadly none of the brilliant diorama shots Bandai produced of it facing off against Ultraman Jack. Inside the appropriately thick box you’ll find the complete figure stored neatly on its own moulded plastic tray.

I’ve often commented about how much effort Bandai put in to getting these figures to look as close to the original suits as possible, but some of the details on Black King take it to a whole new level. The neck section even has little indents on it like the suit had for the actor to see out of/breathe! That’s a hell of a dedication to suit accuracy right there, and not the only area the moulding on this figure really excels at. At a glance the figure might look a bit drab with its minimal colours, but each of those folds and ridges running down the suit has its own individual creases and detailing. On top of that the tail has deep cracks moulded into it, which in addition to the rough texture finish gives Black King a proper rock-like feel. The splashes of gold on the claws, horns and teeth are the perfect compliment to that black body, while the face sculpt strikes that perfect balance between ferocious and retro Showa goodness. An additional note of caution - those horns are all sharp!

Black King's body features a ball jointed in its head, torso, shoulders, wrists, hips and feet along with hinge joints in the elbows, knees and jaw. The tail is made up of four different sections, each held together by ball joints. While there are some obvious limitations brought about by Black King's general design (following the general Ultra Figuarts mantra that they're about as articulated as the suits are), the figure also suffers from having some painfully stiff joints in certain areas. The separate sections of the tail are near unmoveable, and any attempt to do so is met with that ominous creaking sound often followed by the joint breaking. Hopefully a little bit of Shock Oil or similar lubricant can sort that out, but it's still worth being wary of. Thankfully there's still enough movement in the arms and legs to get some good stomping poses out of the figure, while the neck and jaw articulation add to that piercing head sculpt for some good roaring action.

Sadly Black King doesn’t come with accessories whatsoever, which isn’t the first time for an Ultra release but is still disappointing nonetheless. With both fire and smoke breath attacks there was most certainly scope for effect pieces to be included here, but obviously Bandai thought the quality of the figure itself was enough. That’s not to say they’re necessarily wrong, but when nearly every release has come with something it tends to make those than don’t stand out all the more. Maybe the only accessory Black King truly needs is an Ultraman to face off against.

Compared to the original Ultraman or Ultraseven, The Return of Ultraman has definitely had the shaft when it comes to the quantity of releases. But it any kaiju from that series needed to be made, it was this one. S.H. Figuarts Black King is another solid entry into the line’s growing range of mid-sized kaiju - bigger than your average Figuart but not taking up the same kind of shelf space Gamora does. The sculpting and accuracy to the original suit is as fantastic as always, but it’s a shame the set couldn’t have come with at least one effect part. As one of the most formidable kaiju in Showa era Ultraman Black King is well worth the purchase, but fingers crossed Bandai at least of the goodwill to make an Alien Nackle too. It just feels incomplete without it.

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