Friday, 11 June 2021

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon

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Release Date:  February 2021
RRP: 3520 yen

In what’s basically become standard practice for Bandai Tamashii Nations now, every time a new Kamen Rider or Ultraman series starts the titular character will be released in the S.H. Figuarts line at a significantly lower cost, acting as an entry point/gateway drug for any new collectors looking to dip their toes in the long-running toy line. It’s a pretty clever tactic, because even the most thrifty of fans are going to struggle to pass up something like S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon at the price of 3520 yen. The star of the second Reiwa era Kamen Rider series blazes into the S.H. Figuarts line with this reasonably priced release, quickly followed the month after by the more conventionally priced Kamen Rider Blades.

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The start of a new series means new packaging artwork, with S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon taking on a grey gradient colour scheme, accented by stripes of black, white and red that match Saber’s suit colouring. The figure can just about been seen through the transparent window on the front, although a lot of the body is covered by the large image taking up most of the side. The window also has the special Kamen Rider Saber font running down the side of it, which on first glance might seem unintelligible but is actually perfectly readable when rotated clockwise. Here it says “Kamen Rider Saber” and then the usual S.H. Figuarts tagline printed on every box. On the back you’ll find some more images of the figure against a vibrant red backdrop, showing just what the figure is capable of in terms of poseability. Open it up, and you’ll find the figure and accessories neatly laid out on a moulded plastic tray.

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Kamen Rider Saber follows the long tradition of split colour Kamen Riders, with his body divided into near-equal blocks of red, white/light grey and black. Bandai have done a really nice job in giving each of these sections slightly different finishes, with the matte black transferring into a glossy white. The red is a little more varied, comprised of unpainted red plastic, glossy paint and a rather gorgeous glossy metallic paint job on the arm itself. Running throughout the body is are also lines of glossy red, which then change into metallic orange for the right arm and hand. The suit (and in turn the figure itself) feel a little lighter on the sculpted detail then some of the other recent Riders, but certainly make up for it as far as colour is concerned. The head sculpt has been really nicely done too, with more metallic red paint around those yellow compound eyes and running up onto the blade protruding out of the forehead. The flames around the left eye are a little on the sharp side, but also could prove quite fragile if the figure were to fall or anything like that. The coat tail around Saber’s right leg is made from a very soft plastic, which can bend in as much as it’ll move out of the way of the leg but not so much that it can contort into a different shape or anything like that. Getting a malleable cloth piece was a bit of a pipe dream for a mainline figure (and a cheaper release one at that), but the piece is still softer than the line’s usual array of soft plastic parts.

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The Brave Dragon Wonder Ride Book is removable from the Seikan Sword Driver, and can be inserted into one of two slots on the Driver. As has been the case with most transformation items in the last few years, the Wonder Ride Book lacks a Brave Dragon sticker/tampo or any identifiable detailing, instead simply done in red and black plastic to denote just what it is. It isn’t surprising that the Wonder Ride Book has been done this way given both the price of the figure and the recent trend in releases, but it definitely makes the Driver look underwhelmingly plain. But perhaps the bigger disappointment is that now future Saber releases (i.e. the more expensive web exclusive ones) will be decorating the Wonder Ride Books more sufficiently. If you’re planning an extensive Saber collection, than poor old Brave Dragon (who should arguably be the centrepiece of the whole thing) is going to look rather plain. Sure Bandai might be generous enough to include a better one in a future release or you could turn to a third party like SHF Upgrade, but it would have been nice if Bandai themselves had covered this off first time around.

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When a new Rider series comes around it’s always interesting to see how Bandai overcome some of the more complicated design flourishes with their usual high standard of articulation, and Saber’s is a suit with some pretty interesting flourishes. The overall articulation isn’t all that different to what we’ve been seeing on Rider Figuarts for some years now, and pretty much identical to the most recent string of mainline titular Riders since Build. Altogether Saber features; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Drop down ball joint hips
- Double hinged elbows and knees
- Bicep and thigh swivels
Additionally, both shoulder pads are connected via levered ball joints, allowing them to (minimally) raise up from the arm and twist around it. The coat tail isn’t attached by a joint per se, but looped over the ball joint connecting the legs to the body so it can be pushed around to the back to give the right leg a little more movement. Overall it’s a pretty good body with very little to truly complain about, but as you can imagine having a big dragon head over it means the right shoulder isn’t quite as free as the left. That dragon head might be able to raise a little bit, but it’s not really to get much more than parallel level with the top of shoulders. The bicep swivel can alleviate it a bit, but you do run into contorting the arm a bit too much relying solely on that. It’s not just the arm it gets in the way of either, as turning the head in that direction also ends up a little awkward since it’s very easy for the two parts to clash. As a general QC note it also might be worth checking the joints for any tightness/squeakiness upon opening - my copy’s left shoulder was extremely tight and required a hefty dose of shock oil to avoid any breakages.

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The problem with cheaper S.H. Figuarts releases like these in the past has been omitting key accessories to meet the price point, usually including them later with either additional figures or worse, the bikes. Since Saber’s Kaenken Rekka (“Flame Sword Raging Fire”) is a core part of the design to the point where it’s part of his transformation, not including it here would be sacrilege. So of course Saber’s sword is part of the accessory count, along with three additional pairs of hands (two pairs of open hands and one pair of weapon holding hands). It’s great to see a reasonably complete set of accessories included here for a base Saber figure, but the pieces certainly aren’t without their flaws. Rather bizarrely, only one set of hand guards has been included with the figure - which means each time the hands are switched you also have to take off the guards and reattach them. Not only is it fiddly, but the guards are pretty small and would be very easy to lose. Admittedly Bandai have done this before with some of the older Iron Man releases, but even then they dropped it pretty soon. It’s likely that it was done to keep costs down on the release, but even then it’s a very odd practice for Bandai to have suddenly pulled out again. Meanwhile the Kaenken Rekka is very nicely moulded and detailed with all its translucent red plastic, but the deco certainly isn’t perfect. Rather than painted silver it’s all been done in an unpainted grey plastic, which isn’t quite what you’d expect from a premium collectors line like S.H. Figuarts. Again the piece doesn’t look all that bad on its own, but when further more expensive Saber figures are released with more paint and detail the sword could end up looking rather measly in comparison.

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S.H. Figuarts Kamen Rider Saber Brave Dragon isn’t without its flaws, but given the amazing price Bandai released this for some are a lot easier to overlook and just see the figure for what it is - which is a pretty great overall. Sure the lack of detail on the Wonder Ride Book or the missing paint on the sword are frustrating and will only be more so when compared alongside future releases, but slightly less detail on a cheaper release like this is far more preferable to a missing accessory. Other flaws like the soft plastic coattail, hand-guard switching and awkward shoulder articulation are more annoying, which does bring the figure down a bit even if some of that is just down to the suit design. Essentially Figuarts Saber does exactly want it set out to do - show off exactly what the line is capable of at a fraction of the price, hopefully encouraging newcomers to purchase it and then continuing collecting. Given the rising prices of Figuarts in general these days, I’d say it’s working.

2 comments:

Oar said...

Great set of shots, though that one of Saber posing alongside Zero-One has me wistfully still hoping they can come on screen together some day...

Alex said...

Me too! Even if the have moments together in Superhero Senki it probably won't be enough with everything else going on as well.