Sunday 25 October 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tregear

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tregear 01

Release Date: June 2020
RRP: 7150 yen

With Ultraman Belial seemingly gone for good at the end of Ultraman Geed it was high time for a new dark Ultra to join Tsuburaya Productions' ever-growing Ultraman multiverse. Fans didn't have to wait too long either, as the twisted Ultraman Tregear was introduced in the subsequent series' finale movie - Ultraman R/B the Movie: Select! The Crystal of Bond. A former friend of Ultraman Taro who fell to the darkness after his sense of justice was shattered, Tregear is a remorseless trickster who deceives people by offering to fulfil their dreams. After his defeat at the hands of Ultraman Groob, Tregear would then go on to become the main antagonist of Ultraman Taiga - clashing with the New Generation Heroes and later the Tri-Squad upon their arrival on Earth. As such, it's no surprise that an S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tregear was in order as soon as Bandai Tamashii Nations began covering Taiga in the line. Tregear was the second release from the series and the first to be a Tamashii web exclusive, with only Taiga himself being released as a general retail item.

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The standard design template Bandai have adopted for the Ultraman New Generation Heroes releases since Ultraman Victory continues with S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tregear, however as this is a web exclusive release it naturally doesn't have the transparent window that many of the others have enjoyed. Along with it's fitting dark blue/purple colour scheme the front of the box features a big waist-up image of the Ultraman Tregear suit from the show itself, with a picture of the actual figure just behind it. Whereas one of the box's spines is fairly plain and only features the character name/S.H. Figuarts logo, the other is far more eye-catching with a body image of the figure (manipulated to look a bit like a sketch). The back of the packaging features the usual array of images showing off the figure in various poses, as well as an appearance from Ultraman Taiga as this set also includes a specific accessory for him. Inside the figure and accessories are all laid out neatly on a moulded plastic tray, with that Taiga accessory hidden away under Tregear's own effect parts.

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Evil Ultramen are nothing new to the franchise, but previous offerings have tended to follow the same basic design traits for the most part - demonic red eyes, primarily a red and black colour scheme etc. Ultraman Tregear may be instantly recognisable as some sort of evil Ultraman but he certainly stands out from the crowd, and not just because of his striking blue and black colouration either. Having cast aside his people, Tregear's body is bound by a number of restraints - the most prominent being the gold torso armour which runs across his chest and spine, completely covering his Colour Timer. His piercing red eyes are hidden behind a dark blue mask, which covers the top half of his face. Though the head underneath is still the traditional silver, his centre crest has turned an icy blue. His feet are now pointed and curled while his shoulders now also sport armoured pauldrons with gold spikes protruding from them (and yes - they are particularly pointy even on the toy). It's a really striking design that immediately sets Tregear apart from the franchise's other big evil Ultra (Belial), with Bandai doing an amazing job bringing all the detailing of that suit to the S.H. Figuarts version. There's so much raised sculpted detailing on the body suit alone, as well as intricate paint apps that truly bring the figure to life. For example underneath that mask there's also black sections underneath Tregear's eyes. The various shades of blue used on the figure go together brilliantly - from the matte navy blue of the body suit to the glittery metallic blue of shoulder pauldrons, as well as the deeper metallic blue for the mask and the almost translucent effect on that central crest. Ultraman designs often work their best when they're kept simple yet striking, but Tregear flies in the face of that mantra and it really makes him stand out.

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Tregear is another nicely articulated release from Bandai, although it is strange how they've never really settled on a consistent number of joints for these Ultra figures. There's already a very different feel between the Showa and New Generation Hero releases, and then furthermore some of the latter figures have bicep swivels while others don't. Since Taiga fell into that latter category, it isn't really a surprise that Tregear does as well. Altogether the figure has;
- Peg joint head
- Ball jointed lower neck, torso, waist, wrists and hips
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Butterfly shoulders/pecs
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Thigh swivels
- Single hinge toe sections
I've never quite understood why the Ultraman figures have peg hinge head joints when ball joints are used almost universally across the rest of the S.H. Figuarts line, but I assume it has something to do with the fact using the joint also makes the fin piece on the neck move along with it. You don't lose very much articulation from this construction, but on a particularly expressive character like Tregear it is noticeable how any tilt movement can only come from the neck. The shoulder pads are also presumably on ball joints since they do show a little bit of movement, but they hug the arm way too closely for it to be of any use - and this is undoubtedly the biggest issue with the figure as a whole. Those shoulder pads just completely cut into the shoulder articulation, giving the arms very little outward movement without having to swing the whole thing around first to make it work. Those longer feet surprisingly don't give Tregear much additional support when balancing either, but while the ankle rocker movement is limited by the leg cut it's still better than it is on a lot of other Ultraman Figuarts. Tregear's a fun character because it's expressive in ways that a lot of Ultramen tend not to be, and though the figure can recreate a lot of that fluidly those shoulders really don't make it easy in some cases.

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Tregear comes packaged with four additional pairs of hands, as well as a fifth pair with translucent blue lightning shooting out of them to represent his various special attacks (notably the Trera Ultigeyser, Trera Cheir Phos, Trera Ardiga and his standard Energy Bolts). As far as quantity goes that's a nice little selection of hands but on inspection the variation between them is actually rather disappointing. The pair of pointing hands are perfect, but the rest are all extremely similar to each other. There's one pair of open hands with the fingers splayed, one with the fingers together and then another the same but the tips of the fingers are slightly curled. Whilst they've all been properly painted with the gold fingertips, it would have been nice to get a few pairs of better posed hands as well - the claw-like pose Tregear's doing on the box for example is completely absent. On the plus side, the effect parts included here are really good and above all quite different to what's usually included with an Ultra character. The lightning is built as solid pieces between the fingers before jutting off into a number of individual bolts that get more blue towards the tips. The wrist joints do an excellent job of holding the hands in fixed poses too, despite the obvious length and weight they add to them.

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Also included in the box is the effect piece for Ultraman Taiga's Strium Blaster attack, which was omitted from his own figure presumably to keep it at that low-level entry price most titular Kamen Rider and Ultraman are set at now (Taiga retailed for 3520 yen). This is a translucent rainbow coloured blast piece similar in design to his father's own Strium Ray attack, with the beam attached to a fixed Taiga Spark piece on an alternate right fist. Thankfully this means there's no hassle with connecting the beam to the Taiga Spark that came with the actual figure and is swappable between the various right hands. Some might find it a little disappointing that a signature attack piece is coming with a web exclusive figure, and for most cases I'd be inclined to agree. However I'm a lot more forgiving toward the practice when it's done to those entry level figures and said piece isn't bundled in with something more superfluous like a vehicle. Since Tregear is a web exclusive it isn't quite as appealing as Kamen Rider Zero-One's weapon coming packaged with Kamen Rider Vulcan. Presumably Ultraman Taiga fans are more likely to pick up Tregear though as he's a prominent character, so better the piece come with him than one of Taiga's alternate forms.

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The Ultraman S.H. Figuarts range has had a consistent run of strong figures in both its Showa era and New Generation Hero guises, and whilst S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tregear isn't a perfect figure he certainly isn't breaking that streak either. Other than the argument that such a prominent villain shouldn't have been a web exclusive (especially when the flow of kaiju figures seems to have pretty much stopped now), the fiddly shoulders and lack of variance in the hands are small complaints that add up when you have the figure in hand. However Tregear still makes a stunning display piece, striking in design and colour in a way that completely makes him stand out among even a sizeable Ultraman collection. With villain Ultras still few and far between in the line, this agent of chaos definitely deserves a spot on the shelf.

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