Saturday 14 March 2020

Toybox REVIEW: Hero Action Figure Inazuman

Hero Action Figure Inazuman 01

Release Date: January 2020
RRP: 9680 yen

Once upon a time Bandai Tamashii Nations were releasing S.H. Figuarts from a wide variety of tokusatsu properties, including Kamen Rider, Ultraman, Super Sentai, Metal Heroes and even Kikaider. But as time went on and Bandai began chasing a wider range of properties, that variety has largely dwindled to just Rider and Ultra. Step in Evolution Toy, whose Hero Action Figure line specialises in some of the smaller names in classic tokusatsu. Since 2018 the HAF line has spawned the likes of Red Man, Mirror Man, Zone Fighter, Iron King, Jumborg and more. Now they're beginning to delve into some of Shotaro Ishinomori's legendary back catalogue, starting with Hero Action Figure Inazuman. A brand new figure of the 1973 henshin hero has been long overdue, particularly with the character having kept up appearances in recent years through both cameo appearances and a reimaging in a number of Kamen Rider movies.

Hero Action Figure Inazuman Box 01

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If their aim was to design colourful packaging that reminds collectors of the wild, colourful days of classic tokusatsu then Evolution Toy have definitely done that with Inazuman. Featuring a bold colourful background and the show's logo blocked off in the top corner HAF Inazuman's packaging feels like it's jumped right out of the show's commercial bumper, with a nice big image of the figure in the bottom corner completing the look. Though there are windows to get a look at the figure and accessories, it's only really the head and shoulders you're seeing with this box. These nice big images of the figure are continued onto the spines and back, where it's featured in a number of Inazuman's signature poses. Inside not only are the figure and accessories are stored on a black plastic moulded tray, but Inazuman's head crest has been removed to make packaging a little easier. It's just a simple case of plugging it into the hole on the forehead, which has been indented with the shape of the crest to ensure the placement is correct.

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It's worth mentioning to begin with that HAF figures aren't completely in scale with S.H. Figuarts, but the difference can be made fairly negligible with some careful posing. HAFs are about an inch or so taller than your average Figuart, and in Inazuman's case that added size also comes with a little extra bulk as well. The figure is based on Inazuman's show design rather than the more streamlined manga version, complete with the puffed out chest and shoulder pads. It's a really vibrant look that completely suits the show's often bizarre psychedelia, and the HAF line has remained pretty faithful in producing a great figure. Though they've gone for a smooth figure-esque look rather than moulding folds and creases into the body, the moulding is great with the colours popping exactly as they should. Light blue, yellow and red is such a loud colour scheme and couldn't suit a 70s hero any better. It's a shame they didn't go the extra mile and mould all the holes onto the eyes ala S.H. Figuarts Stronger, but the hypnotic red and green lines running across them look perfect. And though the scarf isn't poseable per se, it is loose fitting so can be rotated around to a different position. If you're a fan of how wild and colourful these heroes can be then Inazuman will surely already be on your radar, but seeing that design in figure form just makes me fall in love with it all over again.

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However it's when you begin to play with the figure that the issues start to become all too clear. On paper the HAF line could very easily be a real contender to Figuarts when it comes to tokusatsu figures – the articulation isn't completely on Bandai's level but it certainly isn't far off. Altogether Inazuman features ball joints for the head, neck, torso, waist, shoulder pads and wrists along with swivel hinge shoulders and ankles, bicep swivels, double hinge elbows and knees and "swing down" ball jointed hips. That's only one or two points less than a typical Figuart, and even though Bandai have mostly grown out of them now those swing down hips are still prevalent on figures from time to time. The big difference though is in how well these joints work, and in Inazuman's case the answer is not very well at all. Nearly every joint on this figure is stiff, to the point where many areas feel like they're going to outright break if even a small amount of pressure is applied. The biceps loosen up with a bit of working, but the knees are just flat out awful. The ankles also have no tilt to them whatsoever, so combined with the poor quality of the knees posing this figure from the waist down can often be frustrating. I've tried heating the joints and shock oil, but neither seem to have made them any better. HAF Inazuman might feasibly be able to pull off all the poses on the box and more, but just how well it can do them is another question entirely.

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Inazuman's only accessories are three pairs of alternate hands, varying from signature pose hands to a pair of pointing hands and "knifehand" karate chopping ones. Given that Inazuman didn't get a physical weapon of sorts until the end of the first season/Inazuman Flash this rather minimal accessory count isn't all that surprising or disappointing – at a stretch Evolution Toy could have perhaps looked at some of the weird and wonderful things his scarf turned into, but there's no definitive "thing" to include there and the more memorable ones (like the giant chain to anchor down falling buildings) might be a bit hard to realise. Instead the disappointing thing here is just how difficult it is to switch those hands. Although they work exactly the same as Figuarts ones do, the fitting feels so much tighter. It's hard to put them on to begin with, but taking them off really feels like you're about to rip the ball clean off the joint. During the shooting of this gallery there wasn't a single time I didn't have to use a hairdryer to soften the plastic first, which may be a relatively simple workaround but isn't especially reassuring for a figure that's meant to have the hands replaced repeatedly.

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If Evolution Toy had started up this line seven or eight years ago it would have been a real contender to S.H. Figuarts, but if Hero Action Figure Inazuman is anything to go by sadly that isn't the case in 2020. Maybe it's unfair to compare a much smaller company to the toy juggernaut that is Bandai, but the incredibly stiff joints and constant fear that something's about to break really shouldn't be present on a 9000+ yen action figure. That said, the figure looks fantastic and the feeling of simply having a poseable Inazuman figure in (roughly) the same scale is an amazing achievement in itself. Bandai Tamashii Nations might have the quality assurance, but for old school tokusatsu fans they don't compare with the breadth of characters Evolution Toy are putting out with the HAF line. If they can just step up the quality a little bit, then these could be some really special figures.


Manpig said...

NGL, this is the most positive review I've seen for an evolution toy product, and honestly it gives me hope for the line. Most reviewes of HAF I see tend to be extremely negative (and from what I've seen, for good reason), showcasing the figures' many flaws and stability issues. It's kind of amazing how Inazuman doesn't have some glaring construction or articulation issues despite the QC problems.

Ink'd Kaiju Dude said...

I agree, they need to step up their quality. I've purchased several, and already, three of them have had their wrist pegs snap. Of the ones I own, Spectreman and Iron King have been decent quality. Fireman was good as well, though his wrist peg snapped a year after owning it.