Thursday 7 November 2019

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Nebula

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Release Date: September 2019
RRP: 6480 yen

The S.H. Figuarts line may have been tackling the Marvel Cinematic Universe for a good few years now, but when it comes to character diversity there’s still a lot of untrodden ground. On the one hand who can blame them when Iron Man continues to be Bandai Tamashii Nations’ golden goose, but on the other it would be nice to see a bit more variety among the releases. But every so often a new character finally manages to slip through, with S.H. Figuarts Nebula finally joining the line this year as a Tamashii web exclusive release. The second daughter of Thanos is the fourth Guardians of the Galaxy character to be released but definitely one of most overdue, and although the figure is based on her Infinity War appearance with her significantly expanded role in Endgame this figure couldn’t have come at a better time.
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Unlike the current string of Endgame Figuarts which have kept things plain with solid white boxes, the Infinity War range has a bit more colour to it. Nebula comes packaged in a primarily blue box which isn’t too far off her skin colour, highlighted by a number of golden flourishes that match the colours used on the Infinity War marketing. The gold foil lettering and Guardians logo on the window is a particularly nice touch. Despite being a web exclusive the box is still of the typical transparent window design, as the MCU figures are among the lucky Figuarts that enjoy wider distribution in the rest of the world. The back of the box features the usual array of stock figure images showing Nebula off in various poses, and then inside you’ll find both her and her accessories laid across a single clear plastic tray.

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The Marvel Figuarts range has been somewhat hit and miss when it comes to head sculpts and capturing actors likenesses, but it seems no matter what toy line it is said sculpts are always improved when said character doesn't have a realistic skin colour. Thanos looked great (though admittedly that face is more CGI than actor), and likeness Nebula has come out with one of the better head sculpts in the range. The blue skin and cold black eyes don't require quite as precise detail that's so easy to get wrong, so the end result is a satisfying head that's not just clearly Nebula, but more importantly Nebula as portrayed by Karen Gillan. Details such as the tech detailing on the facial implants or the mechanical left arm have had to be simplified for the design to work at this scale, but there's still more than enough there to make it work. That isn't to say that Nebula is short on detail though, as Bandai really have done an incredible job with her outfit. Much like how Civil War Black Panther's body was covered head to toe in all manner of detailing, Nebula's costume is completely covered in alternating texturing and fully moulded details such as straps, buckles and kneepads. The colours are similarly impressive with the two shades of brown, but that pales in comparison to the various three shades of blue used on the head sculpt. Nebula is my favourite character in the MCU so I'll admit there may be a little bit of bias here, but Bandai really have done an excellent job with her.

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Nebula's spindly, disjointing body calls for great articulation and while S.H. Figuarts deliver that for the most part it could perhaps be a little better. The figure features the usual hallmarks for the line including a ball jointed head and neck, butterfly/swivel hinge shoulders, ball jointed torso, waist and wrists, double hinged knees and swivel hinge ankle rockers. There are a few divergences from the usual Figuarts array however - though not all of them are a good thing. Disappointingly the elbows are only single hinge joints, which is pretty common amongst the line's non-armoured humanoid figures but still feels like a missed opportunity. With the way Nebula's limbs contort when damaged a double hinge would have really added something here - especially on the metallic left arm. But far more interesting is the hip joint system, which consists of a swing-down ball joint connecting to a separate piece of upper leg which is then in turn connected to the rest of the leg via its own ball joint. This creates a system that's similar to simply having a thigh swivel, but adds a whole extra layer of movement to the legs to make them far easier to bend and pose. While it can result in a few unsightly gaps if not carefully positioned, it's absolutely worth it for the added versatility.

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S.H. Figuarts Nebula includes an additional head sculpt, however in typical fashion for the Marvel Cinematic Universe range it isn’t much to write home about. Given how expressive Nebula can be in the films a screaming face or gritted teeth expression would have been perfect, but nope - it’s the same “blank expression with eyes looking slightly to the side” fans have come to expect from every release. But as pointless as it may seem, weirdly it does manage to capture Karen Gillan’s likeness far better than the default head does. What’s more interesting though is the way the heads attach to the body, which is completely different to how Bandai usually handle things. Rather than each head having their own built-in socket for the neck joint to pop onto, instead they slide onto a dummy piece which fits inside of the head and provides the ball socket. This means barely any force is required to change the heads since you’re never actually pulling the ball out of the socket, which is a godsend for anyone fearful they might break it whilst doing so. It’s not something I expect Bandai to implement across the board so it is a little perplexing why they decided to experiment here, but the system works flawlessly so it’s definitely fair to call said experiment a success.

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The rest of Nebula’s accessories include eight swappable hands (closed fists, a pair of pistol holding hands, a pair of baton holding hands and two differing open hands), a blaster pistol and an Electroshock baton weapon. Despite the fact Nebula actually wields two of these in the movies and they’re extremely basic in design, Bandai have for whatever reason only decided to include one here. Sure you can have her dual wield the blaster (which is similarly basic) and baton, but it doesn’t quite have the same effect. When not in use the blaster can be stored in the holster on the figure’s right hand side, slotting in nice and tightly. Despite sounding like a lot it’s a rather basic array of accessories, which is pretty par for the course when it comes to both MCU Figuarts and Tamashii web exclusives these days. Two different arms means the hands are completely different on each side though, so at the very least it’s nice to see Bandai had to put a little extra effort in there.

(Unfortunately though my copy of the figure turned out to be a bit of a dud, as a second closed left fist was included instead of one that could properly hold the baton. Annoying, but as someone based in the UK buying a Japanese website exclusive figure through a middleman there’s very little I can do about it so I’m not as angry as I expected to be. In nearly ten years of buying these figures this is the first time I’ve had a QC issue that significant, which is a pretty impressive run all things considered. So while I could consider it a knock against the figure, it isn’t something that’s going to affect everyone so didn’t want to draw too much attention to it in the review itself.)

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Personal QC gripes aside, S.H. Figuarts Nebula is a pretty great figure overall. Perhaps not one of Tamashii Nations’ best by any means, but certainly hits that bar of quality when it comes to sculpt, articulation and accessories. Releasing an Infinity War so long after Endgame might seem like an odd decision (especially as Nebula’s a far bigger player there), but who knows if Bandai have plans for any other versions. Either way it’s just great to see more Guardians characters get represented in the line, especially one as important to the Infinity Gauntlet saga as Nebula.

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