Monday 21 September 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts The Mandalorian

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Release Date: May 2020
RRP: 6600 yen

Compared to the more mixed reaction to the sequel trilogy The Mandalorian has become the first Star Wars franchise’s new golden goose, so it’s no surprise to see toy companies making the most out of the lucrative Disney+ series. Bandai Tamashii Nations have solidified their Star Wars range as a key part of the S.H. Figuarts brand, and now that only continues to expand with the release of S.H. Figuarts The Mandalorian. The first of what will likely be many releases from the series, this figure features the bounty hunter Din Djarin is his initial armour.

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Although over the pond Hasbro’s Black Series has recently switched its packaging up to be a bit more exciting, the Star Wars Figuarts range remains rather nondescript and boring. The Mandalorian comes in a glossy black box, with the front mainly consisting of a large transparent window featuring both the Star Wars and The Mandalorian logos printed in gold across it. One spine features an image of the figure, while the other features those same two logos again along with some a tech-like border in bronze foil. The back features a wider selection of promo images, and then inside both the figure and accessories can be found on the usual moulded plastic tray. The Mandalorian also features a special backing card depicting a desert landscape, similar to that of the various promo images the series has had. It’s a little small for fancy diorama images, but can be used for some nice closeup pictures as seen below.

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Confession time: this is actually my preferred look for the Mandalorian. Whilst it didn’t last very long in the series at all (in fact it was inaccurate halfway through episode one thanks the addition of the Beskar shoulder pauldron), I feel like the battle-scarred and mismatched parts give him much more of a distinct identity than the matching silver of the Beskar armour. However this was the costume that Disney used in all the promotion for their series as well, so of course companies were going to start of by making merchandise based on that look. Tamashii Nations have done an incredible job on both the look and colours of this figure, but there is something slightly off about it - the helmet is a tad too small. It’s not so small that it looks completely wrong, but it isn’t large enough that you can realistically imagine there’s a head underneath it either. It’s not a huge knock against the figure, but it is a little strange considering Bandai did a great job on both Jango and Boba Fett’s helmets. Anyway as previously stated the sculpting on the figure is nevertheless fantastic, and the mismatching browns along with the various bits of blue doing a great job of giving Mando this cobbled together identity. Continuing Tamashii’s current trend with Star Wars Figuarts the cape is made of soft goods - sadly not wired but a textured cloth that’s a good approximation of the real thing.

Since it’s such a big part of the overall look I’ll take the opportunity to talk about how the rifle fixes to the back of the figure now, because unfortunately it isn’t pretty. While the top of the rifle plugs nicely into a strap that hangs just over the shoulder, to fix it on properly the middle of the gun also plugs into a socket on the belt - accessed through a slit in the middle of the cape. For a stand this isn’t technically screen accurate as the cape should sit over the rifle, but the bigger issue here is just how fiddly and unintuitive the whole process is. The rifle doesn’t plug into the belt very tightly, and there’s always the worry that the cape could just rip at the slit if you aren’t really careful whilst attaching it. Thankfully the strap alone does manage to hold the rifle in position fairly well (especially if you balance the belt port in the cape slit as well rather than outright plugging it in), which gives far more freedom for posing as well. After all, it’s on the back of the figure so even if it isn’t connected properly most people aren’t going to be able to see it most of the time.

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The Star Wars Figuarts have generally enjoyed a comfortable range of articulation and the same can certainly be said for the Mandalorian, who unsurprisingly is a lot like their Boba Fett figure in terms of execution. The Mandalorian features the following:
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders, hips and ankles
- Butterfly motion shoulders
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Bicep and thigh swivels 
Then on top of all that the shoulder pads are both attached via raised ball joints that can lever up and down the arm to allow for additional shoulder movement, and both the hip guards and holster are also attached via a hinge. Since the cape is cloth it doesn’t affect the articulation in any noticeable way, although the sash over the chest will give the torso a bit of resistance. The hips on this figure are particularly well done as they provide a wide range of movement without ever visibly breaking the sculpt. It’s a shame that you can’t get a little more rocker movement out of the ankles, but it has enough to get the job done when used in tandem with everything else Mando has to offer. 

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The Mandalorian comes with a rather big range of accessories, although when you take a closer look at them some are definitely more necessary than others. Altogether there are seven additional hands (an open pair, a pair for holding the pistol, a pair for holding the rifle and then an additional open right hand), blaster pistol, Amban phase-pulse blaster rifle, an alternate centre piece for the rifle so that it can plug into the Mandalorian's back, an alternate empty holster piece and finally a tiny plug piece that can go on the sash in place of the strap that holds the rifle in place. Now there is a lot of good in these pieces - especially the quality of the weapons themselves. Both are absolutely immaculate in their paint application and detailing, with all the colours in exactly the right places and overall an incredible representation of the onscreen props. On top of that there's a great selection of hands too - the rifle holding pair are particularly good as the right hand has the wrist at an angle, not just helping it grip the weapon properly but also to bring the arms up into the correct pose (something I personally struggled a lot with on the Black Series figure). That all said, the good usually comes with the bad and calling the Mandalorian's accessories fiddly would be putting it lightly. Not only does the middle of the rifle need to be switched out to peg into the back, but there's also another tiny piece at the top next to the stock that needs to be removed so that it can plug into the strap at the top. Not only is it so small that it would be incredibly easy to lose, but it's just as easy to completely forget that the piece needs to be reattached when you're displaying the rifle in Mando's hands (as evidenced by the fact that I completely forgot in every single picture in this gallery bar one). While the three pieces of the rifle do hold together fairly well, they do sometimes have a tendency to fall apart when the it's being stored on the back. Meanwhile having the empty pistol holster be an entirely different piece to the stored one seems a bit excessive - they're fiddly to swap around, and in the end the empty one doesn't look that much accurate than a working one would. Finally there's the plug piece for the sash, which might cover up the half a strap that's hanging over the shoulder but how many buyers are genuinely going to care about it? It's a really great bunch of accessories, but ones that Tamashii Nations might have thought a little bit too hard on here.

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Given the imminent release of the full Beskar armour version it's hard to imagine anyone other than diehard Star Wars collectors are going to care about an S.H. Figuarts Mandalorian that's only truly screen accurate to the first half of the first episode, but if like me you happen to be one of the few people that actually prefer this look then it's a figure well worth your consideration. While issues like the undersized helmet and fiddliness of accessories mean it isn't quite perfect, it terms of accuracy and quality you get exactly what you pay for. I was underwhelmed by the Black Series figure (or more specifically, the Carbonized Collection version) for a number of reasons, and while the Figuarts certainly cost more I don't feel anywhere near as disappointed. Put simply, you could definitely say I'm a Fandolorian. 

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