Monday 2 August 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Hero Action Figure Iron King

Hero Action Figure Iron King 01

Release Date: November 2019
RRP: 8800 yen

Bandai Tamashii Nations' S.H. Figuarts line may rule the roost when it comes to collector-orientated tokusatsu action figures, but if you're looking for characters outside the Kamen Rider and Ultraman franchises then Evolution Toy are offering some serious competition with their Hero Action Figure line. For several years now HAF have been delivering some of the lesser known names in Showa era tokusatsu – from Tsuburaya properties like Fireman, Jumborg and Mirrorman to Toei names like Inazuman and Kaiketsu Zubat. However the range stretches even further than the big name companies too, with one such example being Hero Action Figure Iron King – the titular hero from the 1973 kyodai hero series by Nippon Gendai and Senkosha. Though he may resemble an Ultra hero, Iron King is an entirely separate hero – the hydro-powered alter ego of bumbling Goro Kirishima, sidekick to the suave National Security agent Gentaro Shizuka.

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HAF Iron King comes packaged in a box with some suitably dynamic artwork, definitely channelling colours and style of Showa era tokusatsu. Not only does it have the Iron King series logo up in the top corner, but the background the image the figure is set against in the opposite bottom corner is coloured just like the one during the character's transformation/rise sequence in the show. The spines of the box continue those colours into nice bookend style designs, while the back of the box features a selection of images of the figure in various poses. Open it up and you'll find the figure, along with the few accessories it has, neatly laid out on a moulded black plastic tray.

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You only have to take one look at Iron King to see where the "inspiration" for the character design came from, taking the familiar red and silver colours of the classic Ultraman heroes and modifying the design just enough to pass as original. The knight helmet-style head sculpt, complete with red sections running around it, is a nice touch even if the design as a whole feels completely derivative. But regardless of its origins Evolution Toy have at the very least done a fantastic job of translating the design into figure form, with some really vibrant colours that really make the figure pop. The shine on that silver alone looks fantastic, but throw in the vibrance of all those translucent parts (especially those piercing blue eyes) as well as the metallic blue for the studs on the torso and you've got yourself a really sharp looking figure. As far as sculpt goes Evolution Toy have kept it relatively simple, as the HAF lacks any of that fabric sculpting or detailing to make it give it that edge of realism. That said, the glossier finish used on the gloves and boots works to give the illusion of different fabrics.

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If you're familiar with S.H. Figuarts than the HAF line uses bodies that are very similar in terms of joint layout, with Iron King featuring; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist and wrists 
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles 
- Butterfly joint shoulders 
- Double hinged elbows and knees 
- "Drop down" ball jointed hips 
- Bicep and thigh swivels 
- Single hinge toe sections
The big difference between the two lines is just how smoothly they're able to pull off all that articulation though. On paper everything with Iron King sounds amazing but when it comes to execution there are more than a few problems. Turning the head is an odd experience, as despite being attached via a ball joint it shows resistance to being moved – so much so that it'll snap back to face the front unless turned with more force than you'd expect to give. The elbows and knees also require some serious breaking in, as straight out of the box any attempt to bend them genuinely feels like you're about to break the limb in two. These quickly eases up with repeated movement, but that first bend can be quite a tense thing. The worst thing of all on this figure however are the shoulders. The way the butterfly joint is built around the floating silver parts of the torso is clever, but they're packed in so closely to the main torso that you can barely move them around to make use of them anyway. And when you do manage to move those silver parts, the paint starts rubbing off almost immediately. Other minor QC issues include hips that quickly begin to sag, and (at least on my copy anyway) forearm sections that pop off. This admittedly does give the figure some glove articulation, however since the right arm on mine won't move at all whilst the left falls off at the slightest provocation I'm assuming that this wasn't an intended feature. On a more positive note, the ankle joints here are far better than I've experienced on any other HAF figure. Admittedly there's nothing really major wrong with the articulation on Iron King (other than the guaranteed paint rub that is), but there are just a lot of minor flaws that all add up quickly.

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Given that Iron King is another example of a character that mostly dealt in physical attacks, the accessory count included with the figure is unsurprisingly low. Only two additional pairs of hands are included – a knifehand strike pair and an open pair of grappling hands to compliment the closed fists already fixed to the figure. The hands can be switched simply by popping them off the ball jointed wrists, which in the case of Iron King don't feel quite as fragile as they have on other HAF releases (that I've handled). It might have been nice to get a few more pairs given the price of the figure (in comparison, Inazuman came with three pairs and Zubat came with four PLUS weapons), but the variety included is reasonable enough to give you decent pose variety. Though on the one had the release could have done with an alternate "colour timer" piece, given the varying levels of QC on the line I'm not sure how much I'd want to swap out such a small part.

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Buying Hero Action Figure Iron King is definitely making the best out of a bad situation, because it's extremely unlikely there's going to be any other modern toy releases of these more obscure tokusatsu heroes. At a lower price point a lot of this line's shortcomings would be easier to justify, but at 8000 yen a figure it's really hard to get the questionable QC. Thankfully Iron King was a figure I managed to pick up for a fraction of the asking price during an Amiami sale, so I don't feel anywhere near as short-changed as I would if I'd paid it in full. Both Evolution ToyMY and the HAF line should definitely be commended for the selection of characters they have on offer, but be aware of just exactly what you're getting.

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