Saturday, 25 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga

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Release Date: December 2019
RRP: 3520 yen

With S.H. Figuarts now fully caught up on the back catalogue of New Generation Hero Ultraman releases, it's time for Bandai Tamashii Nations to start looking forwards and they certainly aren't wasting any time on it. Only a few months after the release of Ultraman Ginga in October, Bandai sent off 2019 in style with the release of the latest Ultra Hero - the son of Taro, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga. Hailing from the seventh New Generation Hero (and potentially last if the movie title "New Generation Climax" is anything to go by) series, Ultraman Taiga is a particularly interesting release as it sees Tamashii try a few things they've done with the Kamen Rider range - possibly suggesting that, much like the show itself, the Ultra Series has risen to once again stand at equal footing with it's long-time rival. Makes no difference to Bandai either way, as they're reaping the benefits regardless.

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Previously the New Generation Ultraman figures seemed to be going for a slightly different packaging design with each series, but it looks like that might be out of the window with Ultraman Taiga. Surprisingly his box matches the design previously used with both Victory and Ginga, but swapping the primary colour out for a more fitting Ultraman shade of red. The front of the box features a nice big image of the Ultraman Taiga suit, while the figure itself makes an appearance on the spine. If that shadowy image isn't enough for you though there's also more pictures on the back of the box - showing off the figure in various poses as well as a cool recreation of Taiga's transformation/growth sequence from the show. Inside, both the figure and it's accessories are neatly stored across a moulded plastic tray.

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But underneath the usual reflective backing card isn't just the usual instruction leaflet you get with every S.H. Figuarts figure - there's also a beautifully printed "Ultraman Catalog" that documents every Ultra Series figure that's been announced in the line so far (even including the ULTRAMAN: The Animation releases). It's a really beautifully printed extra that makes this particularly release all the more special. Sure you could just go online to find all of these pictures, but there's just something great about having them all documented in a physical booklet. It's very reminiscent of the bonuses you'd get from toy lines in the 90s, and I'd love to see more S.H. Figuarts come with them. While you probably wouldn't be feature everything released so far in the same way, fingers crossed with something like this with the upcoming Kamen Rider Zero-One as well.

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It should really go without saying since he’s his son, but one of the best things about Ultraman Taiga’s design is how he genuinely looks like a younger, more energetic version of Ultraman Taro. All the important details like the horns and the central head crest are there, but much smaller and a bit more “built in” to the shape of the head. His predominantly silver body also looks gorgeous with Figuarts’ metallic sheen, with the lines of red running down to the gloves and boots really making the whole thing pop. Taiga’s own Ultra Armour also really stands out with its gorgeous metallic blue sections, adding a much needed third colour to his overall layout. Finally you have the eyes, which in New Generation tradition tend to be far more vibrant than their Shōwa predecessors. Taiga has those same piercing yellow eyes as his father, albeit much brighter than thus far more effective. Bandai really have got all the colours and detailing nailed on this figure, right down to the tiny but flawless Taiga Spark fitted to his right fist. This figure only has a single Spark which can be removed and pegged onto any of the alternate right hands included with this release, so extra special care has been made to ensure it looks perfect. It’s another winner in a consistent streak of great looking figures, and Taiga looks amazing alongside his New Generation brothers.

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X, Ginga and Victory have been some of the best Ultraman S.H. Figuarts releases so far when it comes to articulation, which should have spelled great things for Taiga. But while this figure far from disappoints in the grand scheme of things, it's rather strangely a step down from those aforementioned releases and more along the lines of earlier figures like Orb and Geed. Altogether Taiga features a ball jointed head and neck section, butterfly jointed swivel hinge shoulders, double hinge elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels, double jointed knees, swivel hinge ankle tilts and single hinge toe pieces. While that might sound identical, the big omission here are the bicep swivel - two often forgettable joints that can make a huge difference to overall arm poseability. The butterfly joints help in getting the arms to cross the torso, but it seems to be a running problem with the Ultra Figuarts that they can't quite stretch as much as they perhaps should - a problem that was previously fixed by those bicep swivels. Without them the articulation is still of a very high quality, it's just the knowledge that previous similar figures have been better that's a little frustrating. But hey, Taiga can manage his Storium Blaster pose without much difficulty and the ankle joints are pretty good - that put's him a step above the Shōwa Ultras at least. Additionally, true to its onscreen design the Taiga Spark has a hinge joint built into it that allows it to bend comfortably along with the wrist joint - completely avoiding any possibility of breakage.

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However when you get to Taiga's accessory count that low price tag begins to make sense. Included with this release are an alternate red Colour Timer and four additional pairs of swappable hands in a variety of poses to accompany the default fists. Lower price lead characters with fewer accessories is something Tamashii Nations have been toying with since Kamen Rider Build, and as easy on the wallet it may seem it does of course come with some drawbacks. Like any other Ultraman of course Taiga has a beam attack, but it isn't included here - instead you'll need to buy the upcoming Tamashii web exclusive Ultraman Tregear figure to get a hold of it. This is another tactic they've been taking with Kamen Rider Figuarts - omitting key accessories and then releasing them alongside their respective bikes to create more incentive to buy them. It's something that's bothered me about Kamen Rider Figuarts for some time and I dislike it even more with Ultraman ones. With the bikes it at least makes some sense - the bikes have less appeal than the Riders themselves so adding better accessories certainly makes them more enticing. But here a key accessory is being locked behind a whole different character, and a web exclusive one not being released for another five months at that. It's unlikely that included the beam part would have driven the price up that much, so omitting it really doesn't seem as generous as that 3000 yen price might suggest. The accessories that are included here aren't bad, but it's the kind of stuff that comes with every S.H. Figuarts release. The Colour Timer is another one on the smaller side, so it can be a little difficult to remove. Best thing to do is find something to wedge underneath the Timer and pop it out, which seems to work well with repeated swaps as well. At least Bandai seem to have nailed swappable Colour Timers at all shapes and sizes now. 

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While some questionable decisions certainly went into the development of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Taiga, thankfully the unfortunate flaws that come as a result of those decisions aren’t enough to stop him from being another great entry in the Ultraman range. No bicep swivel when it’s been a staple on the past few releases is odd, and it’s going to be a real shame if key accessories are going to start being locked away behind other releases. But the upside to this is that Taiga is indeed a particularly cheap Figuart to get a hold of, which shouldn’t be scoffed at in an age where the prices seem to constantly rising. Not only does that make him the perfect starting point for any Ultraman collection, but also means there’s no excuse to pick him up and see just what this great range has to offer.

1 comment:

M said...

Zi-O Over Quartzer Movie was subbed with good subs on Nyaa by IPHT