Wednesday 23 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Black Widow (Black Widow Ver.)

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Release Date: June 2020
RRP: 6600 yen

Among all the key characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the one who’s had the most unfortunate time of things is undoubtedly Black Widow. First came her troubled subplot in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then came her rather unceremonious death in Avengers: Endgame and now after years of being denied one, her upcoming solo movie has been delayed indefinitely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But while the wheels of Hollywood may have stopped turning the merchandising game certainly hasn’t, with both Hasbro and Bandai Tamashii Nations having both put out their Black Widow movie offerings at the time of film’s originally proposed May 2020 release date. S.H. Figuarts Black Widow may come only a short time after the release of the Endgame version, but given her absence from the film’s final battle this general release figure fits in pretty well with Tamashii’s current slew of re-released characters. Whilst Hasbro have been fairly thorough with their Marvel Legends wave, this version of Widow and Taskmaster are currently the only characters released on the Bandai side of things.

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After how unbelievably bland the Avengers: Endgame Figuarts boxes were, Black Widow’s comes as a real breath of fresh air. The gravelly pattern black box is pretty basic, but what really makes it work are the simple touches like having the front window be the Black Widow logo - outlined in red for extra effect. As well as the movie logo the front of the packaging also features both an image of the figure and one of Scarlett Johansson herself - notably with a completely different hairstyle to what the actual figure has. The spines of the box are fairly basic - both featuring a corner of the window as well as the Figuarts branding, although one does have an image of the figure too. There’s more shots of the figure and accessories on the back, along with a guest appearance from S.H. Figuarts Taskmaster just to entice you into buying him as well (I want to, but I’m struggling to justify buying a character from a film I haven’t seen yet). Inside you’ll find everything neatly laid out on the usual moulded plastic tray.

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Having never owned a Figuarts Black Widow prior to this one I can't 100% say this with confidence, but other reviews of the figure have led me to believe that as far as the body goes this is a reworking of the Endgame version released in 2019. However although the body type may be the same there is some huge differences between the two, starting with the brand new outfit. Black Widow's solo movie outfit takes much heavier inspiration from her comic appearances - retaining all the texture and lining of the movie suits but adding the gold of the belt and wrist gauntlets. While it might make the outfit a little less covert, the gold adds some much needed colour to the ensemble and immediately makes it stand out from past versions. The belt being moulded (on the crotch plate, so it isn't a loose piece like most Figuarts belts) on a slight angle is also a very nice touch. Another big difference here is that they've finally given Widow flat shoes, ditching the frankly impractical heels she's had throughout the MCU. Of course, this also makes this Widow a little shorter than previous versions. The figure also has a brand new head sculpt to match her likeness in the new movie, which certainly resembles Scarlett Johansson even if the expression looks a little dead inside. The more puzzling aspect to the head is actually the glossy hair, which looks really off against the matte finish of the skin. It's also a little strange that the figure has a completely different hairstyle to the (actor) image on the box, but as we can see from the trailer/promo images she does at least sport this style in the film so it's not exactly wrong. How long she has this hairstyle in the film is another matter entirely, but since none of us are seeing the film any time soon there's not really any point in questioning it. I'd argue it's the best-looking Widow figure simply because I feel the comic touches really make the suit pop, but naturally your mileage may vary. Either way Bandai have done their usual high quality job on this release.

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To say Black Widow is quite a nimble character would be putting it lightly, so a figure like this really needs to show off everything the S.H. Figuarts line has to offer. In this respect this one does a pretty decent job at it, featuring the following;
- Ball jointed head, neck, hair, torso, waist, wrists and hips
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Butterfly shoulders
- Single hinge elbows
- Double hinge knees
The hips are a little bit of an oddity here because presumably you'd think that they'd be of the drop down variety used across the majority of the MCU Figuarts, but while the construction itself feels the same there's pretty much no drop down motion whatsoever. Maybe it's just that Bandai felt she didn't need it, because regardless those ball joints give the legs some fantastic range. Combined with the flawless bend those double hinge knees provide and the minor tilt of the ankles this figure can pull off all those outstretched crouching poses Widow quickly became known for onscreen rather well. The main restrictions seem to be in the shoulders and torso, as neither joints seem to add a lot to the overall package. The torso has barely any movement whatsoever, and the while the added butterfly joint in the shoulders isn't unappreciated they don't really bring the arms inwards all that much either. On the other hand, a ball jointed hair was an excellent addition - especially since it would clash with those baton pieces on the back otherwise. Despite those few nitpicks, overall she's a very expressive figure that's unlikely to disappoint when it comes to posing.

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Black Widow might have a fairly basic arsenal compared to her fellow Avengers, but she certainly trumps them when it comes to variety. This makes a sizeable accessory count a must, and that's another area where this figure doesn't disappoint. Altogether the release includes four standard pairs of additional hands, a fifth pair of hands with wrist gauntlet effect parts, twin pistols, twin batons, hook type baton and finally alternate empty holster parts for the legs. I previously criticised the S.H. Figuarts Mandalorian for having alternate parts instead of working holsters, but whereas that figure did it in an overly fiddly and cumbersome way Black Widow does it in a far more satisfying fashion - simply unplug the pieces from the legs and switch accordingly. Similarly when the batons are in use the handles on the back of the figure can be removed, as both are attached via ball joints. Both the guns and batons are fairly nondescript but nicely moulded, with the baton handles removing in order to fit into the designated hands. As someone who sometimes gets a bit anxious when forcing weapons into hands (but as we all know by now, heat helps), I can appreciate little features like that. But the big new addition to this particular Black Widow figure are the wrist gauntlet effects - something that's been inexplicably missing from all the rest. It's only a small translucent blue piece, but has a lot of character and looks really good on the figure itself. Given how good the figure's arsenal is it might have been nice to see Bandai go the extra mile and include an extra head or faceplate, especially since the default one is so basic. If Captain America or Nebula can get two heads that barely look any different from each other, then why can't Widow? I suppose Bandai have to keep something back for the inevitable while suit version. Still, it's a fairly solid selection that's on the better side of Figuarts accessory counts these days.

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Much like with her solo movie, the path to a good S.H. Figuarts Black Widow has been a turbulent one. The Age of Ultron version didn’t get things off to a very good start, but over time they’ve been improved significantly. Anyone who purchased the Endgame version might not see much need to upgrade to this new one, but those who waited it out until now will be rewarded with a great figure out that ticks several boxes the others didn’t. While there are still a few minor nitpicks this is an incredibly fun figure, and most importantly one that feels like it’s giving you everything you need right off the bat rather than being a bare-bones pre-movie version. Even though I initially bought it simply to fill out my Avengers team, it’s turned out to me one of my favourite MCU Figuarts I own. Just a shame we probably aren’t seeing the movie any time soon eh?

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