Monday 2 November 2020

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 01

Release Date: July 2020
RRP: 6050 yen

Although Bandai Tamashii Nations took things a little off course when they skipped ahead to Ultraman Taro last year, the immediate goal of the Showa era Ultraman S.H. Figuarts range has always been clear - complete the six Ultra Brothers. It's taken a while to get there, but that goal has finally been reached in 2020 with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace. Previously I'd expected this to be release to follow Ultraman Jack given that Bandai had been going in series order, but with the hype surrounding Ultraman Taiga last year it did make sense to jump ahead to Taro and then come back to round things off with Ace. It's been a pretty good year for Ultraman Ace in general given that the 1972 series was also released officially with English subtitles for the first time thanks to the continuing efforts of Tsuburaya Productions and Mill Creek Entertainment. While at the moment there doesn't seem to be any accompanying aliens or kaiju from the series in sight, it's still a big moment to have these key figures of the Ultraman multiverse finally assembled under the S.H. Figuarts banner.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Box 01

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Box 02S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Box 03S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Box 04S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Box 05

After Taro's box briefly stepped away from it with its silver/grey colouring, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace's packaging returns to that familiar shade of red that's adorned the majority of the Showa era Ultraman releases. In the middle of that transparent front window (which extends off the front and wraps around to the spine) is a picture of Ace taken from the series itself, continuing the tradition of the Ultraman boxes featuring the suit itself as its front image. The second spine features a bookend-style image of the figure (making it suitable for display), while the usual array of Bandai stock imagery can be found on the back of the box. These pictures do a good job of not only showing off the figure's range of movement, but also the accessories that are included. Open it up and you'll find all of these things inside, neatly stored on a moulded plastic clamshell tray. Note that Vertical Guillotine effect part is stored underneath the Metalium Ray, and that there is a small loose piece to keep Ace's arm in position over this area of the tray.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Flyer 01S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Flyer 02S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace Flyer 03

Also hidden away in the box behind the backing tray is a small fold-out flyer, primarily advertising the forthcoming Tamashii web exclusive Brothers' Mantle but also the six Ultra Brothers themselves (the remaining five of which were all reissued around Ace's release). It's nothing particularly fancy, but it is interesting how many of these Ultraman releases have come with packed-in flyers now. It's a far more common occurrence here than it is with Kamen Rider figures, which makes me wonder if there's a specific marketing reasoning for it. Maybe to persuade those who previously bought the Ultra-Act figures that the S.H. Figuarts versions are still worth purchasing?

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 02

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 03S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 04S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 05S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 06

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 07S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 08S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 09S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 10

Even with their shared design traits the space ranger Ultraman Ace feels particularly unique amongst his fellow Ultra Brothers, particularly owning to the suit's striking head sculpt. As well as the extremely vibrant yellow eyes, Ace's head sports defined ridges and sculpting that not only give the top of his head a helmeted look but also as though the "ears" have circular pieces hanging just underneath them. Compared to the more alien look of the other Showa Ultras Ace feels considerably more human in appearance, which is fitting given that in the series Ace initially took two human hosts to alter his personality. Ace's crest also sports an "Ultra Hole", used to absorb solar energy. Bandai have done a great job on this figure, as though it was presumably designed to look like the original Ace suit it could still work perfectly fine as the modern interpretation of the character as well. One thing I have noticed among the Ultra Brother Figuarts though is the inconsistent shade of red used across the six of them. As the first two releases Ultraman and Zoffy shared the same shade, followed by slightly more muted colouring with Ultraseven and Ultraman Jack. That got a little brighter with Taro, and now arguably Ace has the most vibrant shade of them all! It isn't a huge issue and probably reflects on the reference materials Bandai were using when they developed these figures, but when you stand the six side by side you can definitely see the difference. Ace's is definitely one of the better shades though - going wonderfully with that shiny silver body. The paintwork is sharp and nothing seems out of place, making little details like the translucent plastic colour timer and teal crest jewel stand out all the more. 

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 11

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 12S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 13S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 14S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 15

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 16S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 17S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 18S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 19

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 20S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 21S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 22

Ultraman Ace is built with the same standard body type as his fellow Ultra Brothers, so while there may be a bit of difference in size and build between them articulation is exactly the same across the board. Breaking it down Ace features;
- Peg hinge head
- Ball jointed neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders, hips and ankles
- Butterfly shoulders/pecs
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Single hinge toes
- Thigh swivels
A respectable array of articulation for sure but I still wish there was more consistency across these Ultraman figures. The lack of bicep swivel isn't a huge loss but would still definitely benefit those cross-armed beam firing poses, making it all the more baffling why they're omitted from the Showa Ultras entirely (and even then only on a handful of New Generation ones). As far as arm articulation goes though, the much bigger problem here is how tight and squeaky those shoulder joints are. This has been the case with a few of my Ultra Brother figures, but nothing quite as bad as it is with Ace. The joints didn't seem that bad straight out of the box, but it didn't take very long at all for them to completely seize up - squeaking with every little movement and feeling like they could very easily snap if pressured in the wrong place. Shock oil should be able to ease these up a bit, but even then it definitely makes some of the figure's essential poses that much more difficult. Thankfully the rest of the body is much more fluid, and the system Tamashii Nations designed for these figures works perfectly for the Showa Ultras' iconic fighting style. They even managed to give this figure some decent ankle tilt, which is something a lot of the Ultraman figures have been sorely lacking.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 23

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 24S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 25S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 26S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 27

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 28S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 29S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 30S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 31

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 32S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 33S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 34

Included along with Ace himself are five alternate pairs of hands to accompany the default closed fists (a variety of posed, grappling and special attack hands), an alternate red colour timer, a Metalium Beam effect part and a Vertical Guillotine effect part. One of the biggest problems with the Showa Ultra figures as a whole has been how difficult it is to swap out the colour timer pieces, with Taro being the only easy one in the bunch thanks to how his Protector piece can be removed. After multiple releases to get more familiar with the process though Ace's didn't seem quite as bad as his predecessors though, and since the colour timer isn't sunken into the chest too much it isn't hard to pull the piece out with a pair of tweezers without damaging the paintwork. Given that every other Showa Ultra has come with their special attack the inclusion of the Metalium Beam was a given, and it's another nicely coloured piece that looks unique among all the various Ultraman beams that have been released already. The translucent blue and purple colour scheme is similar to that of Taro's Storium Ray, but the beam itself is longer with much sharper colours. The more interesting effect part included however is the Vertical Guillotine - one of several variations on Ace's Ultra Guillotine attack. This white/blue slash has hands moulded at both ends of the piece, making it much easier to clip onto the figure (other than dealing with those squeaky shoulders that is) in the correct position. It looks great, and as a far more uniquely Ace effect part definitely stands out more than the beam does. Throw in a varied selection of hands, and you've got yourself a great array of accessories. Admittedly there are plenty of attacks that aren't represented here so it might not satisfy everyone, but Ace has a ridiculous number of beam attacks and there was no way they were all going to turn up in this release. The signature beam and a guillotine are pretty solid choices overall.

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 35

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 36S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 37S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 38

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 39S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 40S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 41S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 42

S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 43S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 44S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 45S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace 46

Bandai have set a pretty firm benchmark of quality over their various Showa era Ultraman releases, and while S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Ace doesn't really exceed that it certainly doesn't fall short of it either. Though the tightness of the shoulders is certainly cause for caution, this is another solid Ultraman release that'll at the very least appease those who never got in on the Ultra-Act line. The vibrant colours and great accessories make Ace stand out against his fellow Ultra Brothers, but even if it didn't seeing all six finally together in the line is definitely a sight to behold. Bandai are far from done with the Showa era, but the question is where will it go next? Straight onto the other shows? More kaiju? But more importantly, do I now need six mantles to go with these figures? It's never a dull moment collecting Ultraman figures, that's for sure.


Oar said...

Ace looking really good, and he has the only accessory he needs to bisect his enemies! What great timing that this review went up right after his recent appearance on Z.

I wonder if they'll ever make a figuart of 80 even though he's not only not an Ultra Brother but hardly celebrated in the same vein as the other showas. In my opinion, the other most natural selection for the next Ultra figure would be Mebius.

Alex said...

Mebius would be great next, though I’d really like Nexus as well. Either way Bandai definitely need to jump into that late 90s to mid-00s period of the franchise!

Artriven said...

Great review,I actually want bandai to make tiga and nexus. Tiga so that I can make a fusion pose for orb