Friday, 10 January 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Garo (Saejima Raiga)

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Release Date: October 2019
RRP: 9082 yen

Despite first being unveiled at the Tamashii Nations event all the way back in 2014, it would take S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo a further four years to finally see release. The end result though was certainly one of the figures tokusatsu figures Bandai Tamashii Nations have ever produced – one so good that they certainly weren't going to be content with only releasing it just once. First we got the Saejima Kouga version, and now his son carries on the legacy of the Golden Knight with the Tamashii web exclusive S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo (Saeijima Raiga) version! First appearing the Makai No Hana ("Makai Flower") series, Raiga's story recently continued in the 2019 film Gekkou No Tabibito ("Moonbow Traveller") – finally reuniting him with his father as well as yielding a few other surprises for long time GARO fans. One surprise which this particular figure also shares…

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The GARO range of Shinkocchou Seihou Figuarts continue to distance themselves from their Kamen Rider cousins with their sleek glossy black boxes, featuring much more unique images of the figure inside on the top lid rather than the same angle profile shot over and over again. The lack of green flames doesn't make this one quite as dynamic as Kouga's was, but Bandai definitely managed to get across how shiny this figure is and the blue eyes that make it distinctly Raiga Saejima. The sides of the lid continue to feature the name of the character/figure in gorgeous gold foil lettering, while the underside of the packaging features the usual stock shots of the figure and all its accessories. Inside the box the actual figure is housed on a moulded white plastic tray, with its accessories stored in their own tray underneath. Under that tray again you should find the fabric cape included in this set, separated into its own plastic bag.

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You have to admire the balls on Bandai to release a brand new figure where the only difference to the previous one is the eye colour, but when that’s how it goes in the show itself what else can they do? That’s right, the Raiga Saejima version of Shinkocchou Seihou Garo is exactly the same as the Kouga version, only now the eyes are a piercing blue colour rather than green. GARO fans looking for a “complete” collection will probably have no qualms snapping this despite the minimal difference, but if you’re on the fence about it rest assured that having this figure in hand is just as incredible the second time around. Not only is the detailing on it astounding (just look at all the Makai symbols etched into the body), but every bit of gold and silver armour has been realised with a vac metal/chrome finish. The amount of panelling and moulded detail also makes it much less of a fingerprint magnet than you might expect, although naturally it’s still a bit more difficult to photograph than your average Figuart without accidentally getting a reflection in. The chrome pieces give it a more lightweight feel than typical Figuarts, but it really is premium in every sense of the word. Bandai really did get everything right here, to the point where you can see how they get away with that higher than usual price tag on these new GARO figures.

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There's always going to be some element of panic to posing a figure this shiny, but despite its presumed fragility Shinkocchou Seihou Garo is still able to pull off a fair amount of poses within the realms of the suit itself. Altogether the body features a ball jointed head and neck section, swivel hinge shoulders, bicep and upper elbow swivels, double hinged elbows, ball jointed wrists, ball jointed torso and waist sections, ball jointed hips, thigh swivels, double hinged knees, swivel hinge ankle rockers and single hinge toe caps. As with the previous version of Garo one of the more interesting bits of engineering are the shoulder pads and collar, whose segmented design allow the pieces to push upwards to give the shoulders more room to work with. Of course you still aren't going to get the arms up much higher than 45-50° from sitting parallel with the body, but with a fixed shoulder section like that it's the best it's going to get. The point is that any limitations this figure have come from Garo's actual design, and not from Bandai themselves. What makes it even better is that the figure's lightweight construction means that balancing is barely an issue – if this toy can make a pose, it can almost certainly hold it as well.

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This release carries over all the accessories from the previous version, which consisted of four pairs of swappable hands (closed fists, posed hands and two pairs for accessory holding) and two versions of the Garo Ken sword - a standard unsheathed version and an alternate sheathed version with a removable hilt. Like the original, the scabbard on the sheathed version also has a small metal chain attached to it for additional accuracy. While changing the hands on this figure is a bit of a nightmare because of the wrist “blades” (it isn’t any harder to do than a standard Figuart, there’s just that lingering nightmare of accidentally snapping them if your hands slip), the detailing on these accessories is just as good as it was before. The paint apps are all perfectly applied, and so much clearer than they are on any of the standard S.H. Figuarts GARO figures. Just as importantly they fit into the included hands well, and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of the paint rubbing from repeated removal.

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But Bandai have also decided to include a little bit extra - enough to certainly want to make some GARO fans double-dip on this release, or even triple-dip given what the pieces are. Also included are a pliable fabric cape and the alternate brown-eyed head sculpt of Taiga Saejima - Kouga’s father and Raiga’s grandfather. Taiga has made a number of cameo appearances across the franchise, but most recently returned in Moonbow Traveller - which this figure was rather conveniently timed with the release of. While the cape has briefly appeared with other versions of Garo as well, it’s always something I’ve closely associated with Taiga. Attaching the cape first involves removing the back panel from the figure, unpegging the central section and two rosette-like pieces at either side. Following that the cape presses against the removed piece, with the top folding over it to be threaded through the peg and the three removed pieces being reinserted to hold it down. From there the entire section then just pegs straight back into the figure. Taking the pieces apart to do this isn’t especially hard (and the instructions do explain it clearly enough), but because of the materials used the connection is not only extremely tight but likely prone to scratches and/or damage, so personally I wouldn’t recommend constantly taking it on and off (the head swap in comparison is really easy though). The figure may look incredible without it, but the cape really does add that extra bit of gravitas to the whole thing. It’s designed in a similar way to Eternal’s cloak or Wizard’s coattails so has a more authentic fabric look, but can be bent into shape for more dynamic poses and action shots. It can be a little difficult at times since the bendable wire only runs along the two edges, but the folds that have already been implemented into it help for a more natural look.

Considering the figure is being sold as a Raiga version to get all these Taiga parts included in an incredible bonus. While it might have been nice to also get the Garo Zanbaken that the old Taiga Garo figure came with, given how big it is it would have definitely driven up the price.

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It’s very easy to forget that S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou Garo is an action figure. The quality and detailing is far beyond what you usually see from the already typically brilliant Shinkocchou Seihou range, and with its vac metal finish almost feels like something you’d be afraid to pick up and pose. Not only does the Saejima Raiga version manage to improve on the original with additional accessories, but it also does it whilst somehow being slightly cheaper as well. Admittedly it’s still a higher price tag that casual GARO fans might find difficult to swallow, but even so there really aren’t figures in the line quite like these ones. For years the GARO range laid dormant, but it just goes to show that some things are well worth the wait. The S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou line is where it’s always belonged.

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