Friday 20 September 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultimate Aegis/Ultraman Zero Armor Option Parts Set

Release Date: July 2019
RRP: 3240 yen

If there’s one thing that Bandai Tamashii Nations have excelled at with the Ultra Series above all of their other ranges, it’s accessories and effect parts. Even though the new S.H. Figuarts line isn’t quite as expansive as Ultra-Act once was, most releases still come packed with an impressive array of optional parts. But in some cases that still isn’t enough, and that’s where these additional accessory sets come into play. Though not uncommon to Figuarts as a whole the S.H. Figuarts Ultimate Aegis/Ultraman Zero Armor Option Parts Set is the first produced especially for Ultraman, based on the dimension-travelling armour Ultraman Zero receives in Ultraman Zero the Movie: Super Deciding Fight! The Belial Galactic Empire. Later on a replica of the Ultimate Aegis is bestowed upon Ultraman X through a new Cyber Card, granting him the Ultraman Zero Armor. As such, the parts included in this Tamashii Web exclusive set are compatible with both S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero and S.H. Figuarts Ultraman X.

Since it’s not a figure bundled up inside the Ultimate Aegis set can get away with being a little thinner than a typical S.H. Figuarts box, but the width is still pretty typical from what you’d expect from the line. Box uniformity has been completely thrown out the window with the Ultraman range though, so ultimately that doesn’t really matter. The art design for the set is rather strange as although this is primarily an Ultraman Zero release and the box is (sort of) done out in Zero colours, it’s actually Ultraman X who takes up the larger space on the front of the box and the Ultraman X series logo in the bottom corner. An odd choice, but Figuarts often tends to go with the “newer” branding and I suppose it makes sense to put it under the X banner with at least one other release from that series coming. On top of that Zero gets pictured with the Final Ultimate Zero parts because those are unique to him. Fret not though as the back is much more Zero-centric, showing him off with both armour formations alongside another image of X. There’s even a great picture of the two figures together in one of the dioramas Bandai have started building for their promotional images.

Inside you’ll find all the relevant parts spread across a single plastic tray. They’ve all been properly organised - with all the pieces relevant to Ultraman Zero in bottom one corner and all those for X in the other.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Zero doesn't look like a figure that's meant to come apart, but attaching the Ultimate Aegis actually requires a little bit of parts-swapping. As well as replacing the Colour Timer with an extended piece that has a tab slot cut through the middle, Zero's shoulder sections need to be completely removed and replaced with smaller, less detailed versions. These also have tabs at the back to keep the back section of the armour in place, which the front section then fits onto whilst also comfortably slotting over that slot in the Colour Timer piece. The finishing touches include pegging another piece onto the back of the armour, and replacing the right hand with a new variant with a raised tab. This is so that the hand can fit onto the Ultimate Zero Sword piece, which in turn fits around the wrist to provide extra support. With how fragile some of these pieces can be it's worth consulting the instruction leaflet first for guidance, but it's easily memorised after one attachment.

That combined red, blue and silver colour scheme makes Ultraman Zero a showy enough Ultra as it is, but the Ultimate Aegis really adds an extra touch of regality to the whole thing. Although it’s been broken down into individual parts the armour is superbly moulded and fits together seamlessly, but not so tight that taking it apart is difficult. The solid silver colouring is breaks up Zero’s predominantly red and blue body nicely, while the raised shoulder areas and back pylons break away from the typical Ultra silhouette.

As well as looking great, the Ultimate Aegis armour also has very little impact on Zero’s articulation as a whole. The tall shoulder sections mean that the arms can’t raise quite as high as they did before, but none of Zero’s joints are covered or hindered by this armour. So everything the figure could do before is still very much possible, though with the added weight on the top half there is the possibility of balancing being a little trickier in some of those more extravagant poses. 

As an accessory set in and of itself it would be wrong to say that this release comes with accessories, but the armour isn’t the only way the Ultimate Aegis can be displayed. Included as a completely separate piece is the Final Ultimate Zero – the form the Ultimate Aegis takes for Ultraman Zero’s final attack. This enormous bow is so large that it has an alternate left hand fixed onto it, but despite the size it isn’t especially heavy and Zero can hold the weapon straight out without the arm falling out of position. Sadly the Final Ultimate Zero only consists of the solid bow piece with no energy string to extend out and hold, which is a shame given the Ultra line’s usual penchant for effect parts. Though to be fair, packing anything else into this release would have likely required both a bigger box and a heftier price tag. Like the armour though it’s a nicely sculpted piece so well worth the inclusion, and the lack of shared parts also means that both versions of the Ultimate Aegis can be displayed on two different figures at the same time.

Connecting the parts to Ultraman X is a little different, utilising separate parts similar to the ones used to fit the Cyber Gomora armour. Firstly the silver spinal section on X’s back needs to be removed, replaced with an alternate version with the back of armour can slot on to. There are also two strap pieces which connect to the back of the armour, run underneath the arms and then connect on the chest to a new colour timer piece with raised tabs at the bottom. Following that it’s just a simple task of connecting the front piece of the Ultimate Aegis to the ensemble. Since X’s parts are designed to come off more freely because of the armour change gimmick, this is a little less fiddly than fitting the armour to Zero. Once fitted, Ultraman X has a brand new Cyber Armour!

Despite the slightly different connections the armour doesn’t look any different on Ultraman X than it does on Zero, though its overall presence isn’t quite as striking thanks to X’s more muted colour palette. The MonsArmors offset this with their combination of brightly coloured and metallic pieces, but the predominantly silver armour doesn’t gel with X’s matte grey body. It doesn’t look bad per se, but definitely feels like a case of a character wearing someone else’s gear.

Unfortunately as Ultraman X never used the Final Ultimate Zero attack in the episode, only the Aegis armour parts are compatible with the figure. It's not even a case of being able to use the bow and just casually hide the blue fist attached, since X's wrist joint seems to be a slightly different size to Zero's and thus the peg won't fit in securely. A pity, but at the very least you can't accuse Tamashii Nations of not being screen-accurate. That aside the Zero armour doesn't impede on any of X's articulation other than raising arms straight up, and with X being among the best realised Ultraman Figuarts currently on the market the result is wonderfully dynamic figure. The combined colour scheme may not be as striking as Zero's and the Armour is certainly no replacement for X's own MonsArmor pieces, but as something that could have very easily been left off this release the ability to securely fit it to another figure is a brilliant feature.

A truly great option parts set is one that enhances the figure it's meant to accompany, but doesn't include anything that should have been considered essential n the first place. Based on those criteria, the S.H. Figuarts Ultimate Aegis/Ultraman Zero Armor Option Parts Set is a definite winner. Ultraman Zero and Ultraman X are both extremely strong figures on their own, but this adds a whole new dynamic and play/display value to them. With Zero it's adding to his already sizeable accessory count, and the X compatibility is just a great bonus in itself. The combination of Tamashii Web exclusive status and rising prices in general means the price tag is a little high for what it is, but Ultraman fans should hopefully agree that it still falls on the slightly more reasonable side of things. It's great to see the world of Ultraman Figuarts diving into accessory sets, and this bodes well for the forthcoming Ultraman X MonsArmor set next year.

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