Thursday, 23 July 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Dark Knight Kiba

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Release Date: 
April 2020
RRP: 9990 yen

GARO has been a notable inclusion of the S.H. Figuarts line for some time now, but there’s no doubt that Bandai Tamashii Nations aren’t using the franchise to its full potential. Take a look at the releases so far and you’ll quickly see that nearly all of them have been versions of the titular golden knight, with the only exception being silver fanged knight Zero. For anything else, you'd have to look toward the different scaled (and now seemingly defunct) Makai Kado range. Now that the franchise seems to have effectively moved over to the S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- range, Bandai have finally branched out to their third Makai KnightS.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Dark Knight Kiba was the perfect choice for the next character in the line, given corrupted knight Barago’s place as arguably the franchise’s standout villain - appearing in the original series, his own spinoff special and most recently the Moonbow Traveler movie. Of course, like the rest of the GARO Shinkocchou Seihou figures Kiba was a Tamashii web exclusive, with a heftier price tag to match.

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Dark Knight Kiba (or “Ankoku Kishi Kiba” as it’s printed here) comes in the standard Shinkocchou Seihou packaging, which for the GARO range is two-piece box with a glossy black finish. The top half/lid features a nice big bust shot of the figure from face-on, which admittedly is an angle rarely seen on these boxes. The character name is printed along the sides in foil purple lettering, and then you’ll find the usual range of stock images on the bottom half. It’s also worth noting that due to Kiba’s size, the box is a little bigger than previous Shinkocchou Seihou figures. Kamen Rider Den-O has since also come in a similarly larger box, but Kiba was possibly the first! Open it up and you’ll find the figure stored on its own moulded tray, with a second smaller tray holding all the accessories underneath. On top of the usual bits of plastic you’ll find on a brand new figure, Kiba’s cape also sits in its own plastic bag for additional protection.

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If you own or have ever taken an interest in the GARO Shinkocchou Seihou figures before you’ll know that these are some of the best looking figures Tamashii Nations have put out in the line, but it does come at a bit of a price. These figures aren’t just expensive, but (with Garo especially) the finish is prone to fingerprints/scuffing and the designs are covered in numerous bits that could easily snap off if not handled carefully. On the outset however Kiba feels a little different to his predecessors. As well as being a little chunkier this figure has all that fantastic mould quality and sculpting that made the line so special, but the armour’s leathery, almost organic texture has been realised in softer plastics as opposed to Garo’s hard chrome. The result is an equally gorgeous figure, but one that’s far more pleasant to handle. Swapping hands is a particular joy in this regard, but it doesn’t feel like pressure in the wrong place could immediately result in breakage. While the body is mostly covered in textured black, what really make it stand out are all the metallic sections dotted around the figure. The gold pieces work really well with the black, but sections like the shoulder pads, torso and knees also have a burnt orange gradient that make them even more dynamic. At the top of it all you have that magnificent head sculpt, twisting that familiar Makai Knight look into something unmistakably evil. Those soulless silver eyes are just the icing on the cake.

All that good does come with a healthy dose of bad though, because the cape certainly leaves a lot to be desired. There’s definitely logic to Bandai using plastic rather than soft goods, especially since putting tears at the bottom of a fabric cape like Kiba’s has is just asking for further damage of time. But this option isn’t just cumbersome, it feels completely out of place in the Shinkocchou Seihou line. The cape pegs directly into two large holes on each shoulder blade, but the connection isn’t especially secure so any sort of posing you do quickly leads to it popping off again. Not that it’s difficult to reattach or anything, but it feels very basic for such an expensive figure. Plastic also means it has no posing options whatsoever either, which is a bit of a downer after the excellent cape recently include with the Raiga Garo figure.

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Articulation is another area where the figure has both good and bad aspects. As far as build goes Kiba is largely the same as any average Figuart, featuring the following joints;
- Ball jointed head, neck, shoulder pads, breast plates, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Pull-down ball joint hips
- Swivel biceps and thighs
- Double hinged elbows and knees
- Single hinged toe sections
The pull down hips might come as quite as surprise considering this is the Shinkocchou Seihou range, but really it was the only viable way of making this design work and it still having leg articulation. The legs only really drop down far enough to get decent clearance from the crotch section, and from there the thigh swivel is able to do most of the work. Naturally you're going to get far more out of this figure in terms of poseability sans cape, but even with that removed Kiba still has a fair bit of restriction in the upper torso. The large shoulder pads protruding from each arm may be attached to their own ball joints, but the forward/backward motion is severely limited by the extended sections on both the breast and shoulder blades. These also make it very difficult to pull the arms closer forward, and often leads to the breast plates popping off their ball joints. While it's better than a break, it makes any sort of dynamic posing rather fiddly and in the end you find yourself settling for more vanilla (but suitable imposing) poses instead. It's just as well that a ferocious design and large weapons can carry you pretty far in the looks department.

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Kiba comes packaged with three additional pairs of alternate hands (two pairs of open posed hands, and a pair of weapon holding hands to compliment the default fists), his Kokuenken (“Black Flame Sword”) and  his Ankokuzan (“Darkness Slash”) Halberd. As a dark equivalent of Garo’s own Garoken the Kokuenken is a similar designed sword, with a raised purple flame running down the blade. The moulding on this piece is immaculate, and of course black and gold always make for a winning colour combination. Then we have the Ankokuzan, which feels especially exciting as it’s the first GARO Figuart to come with a weapon that isn’t a sword. The halberd comes into two separate pieces, making it much easier to slip the staff part into the hand(s) and then connect the head to properly lock it in place. As well as similarly impressive moulding, the top of the weapon also has a piece hanging down from it on a short metal chain. It’s nowhere near as long as the chain used on the Garoken’s scabbard, but it’s good to see the same materials being used across the whole range. Top it off with a great hand selection, which again are complete stress-free when changing thanks to the softer plastic, and you’ve got a pretty impressive selection of accessories. Even with relatively low screen time Kiba still has everything he needs.

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The Shinkocchou Seihou range are the cream of the crop when it comes to S.H. Figuarts, and the GARO figures are some of the best of them all. Of course, that quality is also reflected in their price tag as well. S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Dark Knight Kiba certainly doesn’t skimp on any of that quality, but the overall execution of the design does leave a bit to be desired. The sculpt and finish of Kiba are extremely impressive, but the difficultly of managing the articulation, loose pieces and just generally poor cape make it a bit of a harder sell at nearly 10,000 yen (and almost certainly over that on the aftermarket). Diehard GARO fans will be ecstatic to see Bandai finally branch out in the S.H. Figuarts range and long may it continue, but this isn’t quite a must-have in the same way Garo or Zero were.

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