Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Ultraman Tiga Multi Type

S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Ultraman Tiga Multi Type 01

Release Date: July 2021
RRP: 6600 yen

The Shinkocchou Seihou range has been the crowning glory of the S.H. Figuarts line for some time now, but when it comes to the various franchises it covers its scope is severely limited. Whereas Bandai Tamashii Nations have extended into the likes of tokusatsu, anime, movie and video game properties with the mainline, Shinkocchou Seihou has remained strictly Kamen Rider for the most part with a couple of GARO releases also thrown in for good measure. That all changes in 2021 though, with the 25th anniversary of Ultraman Tiga providing just the excuse Bandai needed to expand the line into the Ultra Series. S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Ultraman Tiga Multi Type is the first of what will hopefully be many more Ultraman Seihous, and their first version of this phenomenally popular Ultraman since the renewal version Ultra-Act way back in 2014. Although a standard S.H. Figuarts Tiga was teased at events as far back as 2017, obviously those plans have changed as Shinkocchou Seihou's "true bone carving" method ushers in a new age of Ultraman figures.

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The Kamen Rider Shinkocchou Seihou figures haven't deviated from their packaging design at all since the line's first release all the way back in 2014, and even when it moved into GARO characters there was only a slight change in colour and finish. So there's no surprise really that S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Tiga Multi Type keeps things pretty standard as well - albeit with a few changes to mark the jump into a new franchise. The top half of the two-piece box retains the matte black design of the Kamen Rider releases, complete with silver foil lettering on the signs and a textured headshot of the figure itself. Bandai have done a really good job on all of the figure images on this packaging, to the point you'd genuinely believe it had light up eyes. The bottom half of the box is what's been slightly done up, now a silver foil colour to match the top half's lettering. The design itself isn't any different however, still showing off the figure in various poses. Open it up and you'll find the figure immaculately wrapped inside a moulded black plastic tray, with a smaller tray underneath holding all of the accessories.

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To celebrate the beginning of Ultraman Shinkocchou Seihous (as well as the 25th anniversary of Ultraman Tiga I suppose), the release also includes a small booklet documenting the production of the figure. This is much like the ones included with the early Kamen Rider Shinkocchou Seihou releases (most notably Kabuto and Hibiki) but were eventually phased out. The back of the booklet even includes a printed signature from Shunsuke Gondo, the suit actor who played Ultraman Tiga as well as Dyna and Gaia. Though many buyers will likely overlook this it's great to see these booklets packed in with a release again, especially one this significant (both as the first Ultraman Seihou and one that does new things with soft parts).

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With a Shinkocchou Seihou release you expect a certain level to the sculpting that elevates it beyond your average S.H. Figuarts release. The Kamen Rider releases have that more screen accurate look with minutely detailed gimmicks, whilst the GARO figures take it even further with vac-metal finishes and equally exquisite detail. Most significantly, that "true bone carving method" gives the figures more-realistic proportions to the point that they could easily be mistaken for an actual suit (if not for the scale and joint cuts). This is especially true of Ultraman Tiga. Whereas Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Black was the first figure in line to experiment with rubber shoulder sections, Tiga takes it a whole lot further. The upper torso, midsection and crotch piece are all covered in a rubbery material probably not too far from what the actual suits are made of, not only giving the figure heightened articulation but also improved screen accuracy. Even with the joint cuts, this figure looks so life-like in certain poses. The paint is nice and vibrant, with the silver being the shinier variety Bandai have previously used on the New Generation Hero releases rather than the murkier metallic shade the Showa Ultras have. But it's that purple that really makes Tiga stand out from the crowd colour-wise, a seldom seen colour for Ultras and one that still makes Tiga particularly dynamic even now.

But as beautiful as this figure looks, it's certainly not without its issues. Arguably not quite as bad as the ones to befall Shinkocchou Seihou Black, but they could have come damn close. When Ultraman Tiga first released in Japan there were numerous horror stories and images of figures with smudged paint across the soft parts, disastrous QC and even the odd breakage. While I can't speak for the some of the issues, the smudging of the paint is one that definitely every buyer needs to be aware of. The leading theory is that Tamashii Nations rushed production of the figure, leading to figures being packaged before the paint had fully cured. The paint was then unable to cure whilst sealed in the box, leading to immediate smudging when opened and posed. It was advised that upon getting the figure, what you should do is carefully take it out of the box and leave it out in the open for a few days which allows the paint to fully cure. That's exactly what I did (in fact I left mine alone for around a week and half just to be extra cautious) and the paint seems absolutely fine on mine now. I posed it plenty whilst shooting this gallery and didn't have any issues whatsoever. Admittedly the overall paint QC isn't quite as sharp as I've come to expect from the Shinkocchou Seihou line, but there's nothing notably horrific about my Tiga. The other question is of course just how long are all these rubbery soft parts going to last. Bandai wheeling out a slightly battered production sample to preview at events didn't really help matters, but who knows how they were treating that figure. The long term is definitely something to think about, but for now Tiga seems pretty good. Even after length bouts of movement and posing there doesn't seem to be any damage to the rubber, unlike with Kamen Rider Black where lifting the arms slightly too high could result in instant cracking. While not the perfect start to Ultraman Shinkocchou Seihous we could have hoped for, knowing all this is key to appreciating this figure.

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While there's a huge difference in the materials used on Tiga to achieve that quality sculpting, under the covers he actually isn't all that different to previous Ultraman Figuarts. If you've picked up any of those released so far, then you'll know they're pretty good on the articulation front as well. Altogether Tiga features; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist, wrists and hips 
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles 
- Butterfly joint shoulders
- Double hinge elbows and knees 
- Single hinge toe sections 
- Bicep, thigh, elbow and knee swivels 
The big Shinkocchou Seihou additions here are the extra swivels on the elbows and knees, identical to those seen on the Kamen Rider releases since OOO. Overall it's an excellent range of articulation, but what's really significant here isn't the joints themselves but rather how they work together with those softer parts. The upper torso allows you to bring the shoulders in much further forwards, while the crotch expands the hip area somewhat as well. Bandai were very keen to show off just what this figure is capable off in their promotional pictures, and while I'm sure it can do a lot more than I'm showing off in the pictures there's also an underlying fear of pushing those soft parts a bit too much. They may not have broken or stretched yet, but how much do I want to chance it. On top of that, I do wonder just how much force Bandai do put on the figures in those promo pics (also might explain why that display figure was so battered), because there's still a fair bit of elasticity in the upper torso which causes the shoulders to spring back. Take the Zeperion Beam pose for example – the promo pictures clearly show off that the left hand can get comfortably under the right elbow, but any attempt I've made at doing it either requires an uncomfortable amount of force or results in the arm springing back just to the side of it (which is why the pose isn't quite perfect in these pictures). Truth be told I'm not all that surprised since I've found A LOT of the Ultraman Figuarts struggle to get their beam poses perfect, but this is the one you'd expect to pull it off without any issues. But even with my hesitance to really push the limits of the soft parts, this figure is still really satisfying to pose. Those rubbery parts really do add a more natural feel to the articulation, and at the very least it can pull off some of the harder poses for standard Ultras a lot more seamlessly. Even when not using it to full potential, you feel like you're getting Shinkocchou Seihou quality articulation out of it.

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As far as accessories go though Ultraman Tiga isn't too far detached what we've seen with the rest of the Ultraman Figuarts range – in fact range-wise it's exactly the same. Altogether Tiga comes with a swappable forearm piece with an attached Zeperion Beam effect part, swappable red Colour Timer and 11 alternate hands (consisting of ten matching pairs and then an additional left hand for the Zeperion Beam pose). The key difference here compared to previous Ultras is that the beam part is attached to a whole forearm instead of just an alternate hand. On the one hand this means the effect part much sturdier and easier to balance, but on the other swapping whole arm parts is never fun on figures as expensive as these. Thankfully though it isn't nearly as terrifying to do as you might think – the elbow peg is quite long to give you quite a bit of wiggle room to remove it without snapping anything, and with a little heat applied beforehand the arm should just slide right off. Similarly it's also really nice to get another (considerably small) Colour Timer piece that's both easy to switch over and stays in the body firmly. If only it wasn't this difficult on a lot of the Showa era Ultraman figures. Finally you've got that impressive selection of hands, which covers all the necessities when it comes to basic Ultraman poses. Closed fists, open hands, grappling hands and a variety of knife-strike style hands for beam poses – everything is covered nicely. It's a pretty basic selection overall, but since it covers all the important things it's certainly nothing to get too disappointed about. Especially since there's also a GUTS Wing set coming out at the beginning of next year to further enhance your Ultraman Tiga displays.

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Based on those early thoughts and images S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Ultraman Tiga Multi Type seemed like it was going to be a disaster, and another one so soon after Kamen Rider Black was not a good sign for what is otherwise one of Tamashii Nations' best toy lines. But while the smudging paint is a serious issue that shouldn't be taken lightly, there is a fix - and once you follow that Tiga is actually a pretty great figure. There are a few other minor flaws here and there and the longevity of the soft parts is something that can be called into question, but for "now" this is exactly what a Shinkocchou Seihou Ultraman promises to be - a more advanced figure that looks more like a suit than its mainline predecessors. Put simply this is definitely a foundation that Bandai could build on to make even better Ultraman Seihous, rather than the same kind of questionable experiment Kamen Rider Black was. A solid start that will hopefully lead to even better figures in the future.

1 comment:

Oar said...

A beautiful figure of my favourite Ultraman! I can only hope it is able to stay beautiful for the forseeable future ^_^;