Wednesday, 2 February 2022

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Shadow Moon

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Release Date: October 2021
RRP: 8250 yen

When a brand new Shinkocchou Seihou rendition of Kamen Rider Black was announced for release in 2021, no one should have been surprised to see that his brother Noboyuki wasn't far behind. S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Shadow Moon is the third release of the character from Bandai Tamashii Nations (none of which have been web exclusive), further cementing his place as one of the most iconic Kamen Rider villains of all time. But with Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Black proving to be quite the controversial talking point amongst collectors, is Shadow Moon plagued with the same problems or another winner for S.H. Figuarts' premium sub-line?

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This latest rendition of the iconic Kamen Rider character comes boxed in the standard two-piece Shinkocchou Seihou packaging, the lid featuring a close-up image of Shadow Moon's unforgettable design. Interestingly the sides of the box write the name as a single word ("Shadowmoon"), which is different to how the previous two S.H. Figuarts releases presented the name. Maybe it's a trademark thing, or a gearing up to how the name will be presented in the forthcoming Kamen Rider Black Sun (where he will be known as "Kamen Rider Shadowmoon") but ultimately it doesn't really matter. On the underside part of the box you'll find a number of images showing the figure off in various poses (as well as battling against Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Black), and inside the contents of the release are spread across two moulded plastic trays. The top tray holds the figure itself, while all the accessories are in a shallow tray stored underneath.

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These days there's an evil Kamen Rider practically every series, but back in 1987 the arrival of a character like Shadow Moon was a big deal. Not just because Kotaro Minami had spent the whole of the series so far trying to find his brother only to be too late to stop his transformation, but because a villainous Kamen Rider (or at least Kamen Rider-esque) was a particularly rare sight. Whereas Kamen Rider Black sports a more organic aesthetic, Shadow Moon adopts a more cybernetic look – cast in cold hard metal with a more cybernetic belt (known as the Shadow Riser) surrounding the Moon of the Kingstone. This timeless design has been recreated to the usual S.H. Figuarts Shinkocchou Seihou standard, easily making it the best looking version of the character at this scale. Like Shinkocchou Seihou Black this figure features a number of different materials, most notably rubbery shoulder covers and soft plastic around the mid torso and crotch. But whereas these areas were a huge flaw on Black, they've been much better implemented on Shadow Moon. Admittedly this is partly due to design though, as Shadow Moon's shoulder area doesn't have the same fleshy detailing as Black's – instead having a smoother finish that's largely hidden by the thick silver shoulder pads anyway.

One additional gimmick the figure has that's particularly cool is that the piston-like pieces on the sides of the feet can be removed and re-attached upside down, recreating the movement they have on the actual suit. It's a touch that could have easily been forgotten, but once again serves to make the figure that little bit more screen accurate.

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While unfortunately I don't own the 2015 edition of S.H. Figuarts of Shadow Moon to do a full comparison between the three releases, a side by side look with the 2011 figure shows just how far the S.H. Figuarts line has come in the last decade. Admittedly the original Shadow Moon was actually one of the BETTER older Figuarts (hence my decision to not buy the renewal version) but the improved sculpt and proportions of the Shinkocchou Seihou REALLY make the old one feel dated. Similarly the weapons have also received improved sculpts, sporting more refined features as well as better silver printing on the blades of the Shadow Sabers.

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The Shinkocchou Seihou range has introduced a lot of new gimmicks and/or articulation changes in the more recent releases to improve the overall accuracy of the figures, but Shadow Moon's might just be the weirdest of them all. Since the design of Shadow Moon's crotch/thigh piece doesn't allow for the usual range of articulation the line strives for, Bandai have kindly included an alternate crotch piece which sports a more exposed joint at the top of the leg. The visual difference between the two pieces is fairly minimal, but the amount of additional movement the alternate one provides is pretty significant. Of course with Shinkocchou Seihou Black having those tearing issues when it comes to the rubbery parts and Shadow Moon's crotch itself also having rubbery sections, you might be thinking that swapping between the two pieces is more trouble than it's worth. But shockingly, swapping between the two is actually extremely easy. The force you need to apply to pull the legs off of the ball joints can be a little scary, but the upper torso pulls off really easily. Arguably the hardest part is making sure the rubbery parts of the torso are tucked neatly into the crotch piece, but once that's done the pieces will click together nicely.

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With this alternate piece in place, Shadow Moon is free to enjoy all of the incredible articulation that line is known for. Altogether the figure features; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist, wrists
- Butterfly joint shoulders 
- Swivel hinge shoulders and ankles
- Double hinge elbows and knees 
- Single hinge toe section
- Two-way rotating hips
- Bicep and thigh swivels
Additionally the shoulder pads are connected by raised ball joints and the grasshopper legs on the feet can be raised and lowered for additional screen accuracy and (in some cases anyway) assisting with balancing. While the longevity of the rubbery parts on the figure are a question for the future, for now they don't get in the way of the articulation at all – in fact the bicep swivels are far easier to utilise when they're rotating on a softer, smoother surface. Thankfully there isn't any issues of stiff or seizing joints like there was on Black either, with each one working exactly as it should. Shadow Moon is a character that arguably works much better in stiff, more reserved poses to enhance that cybernetic element of the design, but having him perfectly capable of more extravagant poses means this figure really is the best of both worlds.

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Shadow Moon's accessories are largely the same as the previous versions of the figure (save for the alternate crotch and another surprise discussed further down) – consisting of four additional pairs of hands, the Satan Saber and the twin Shadow Sabers used in his Kamen Rider Black RX appearance. So once again, this is an all-purpose Shadow Moon figure that comfortably represents his appearances in both shows (as well as all the various return appearances he's made since). The hands include a range of open/posed hands as well as accessory-holding hands and the default closed fists, giving Shadow Moon plenty of pose variety even if he isn't brandishing his weapons. As previously mentioned the improved sculpts for the three swords look fantastic, but take note that the translucent blades feel much thinner and could snap very easily if not treated with care.

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What does set this Shadow Moon apart though is that he also comes with an additional pair of hands for Shinkocchou Seihou Kamen Rider Black, allowing him to wield the Satan Saber (or any other weapon you might have to hand) as well. Not only is this a great little addition because Black himself lacked a pair of accessory-holding hands, but also because of the fact they're coming with a different figure rather than a bike release instead (not that a Shinkocchou Seihou-scaled Battle Hopper has been confirmed, but it seems pretty inevitable). Bandai have gotten a lot better at spreading these additional accessories out lately, and while I still might be too scared to go wild posing Black wielding the sword because of those rubber shoulder covers the fact I CAN do it if I want to is commendable nonetheless.

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The Shinkocchou Seihou line had a bit of a bumpy year in 2021, but S.H. Figuarts -Shinkocchou Seihou- Shadow Moon is a reminder of just why these figures are so beloved and sought after by Kamen Rider fans worldwide. Despite the competition he has in the modern era Shadow Moon is still the best evil Kamen Rider ever (and he doesn't even need the name 'Kamen Rider' to prove it) and this figure is just about the perfect representation. The previous renditions were great, but all the improvements made to this one make them feel rather dated all of a sudden. The rubbery parts and flawlessness of the crotch-swapping feature also hopefully suggest that both Black and Ultraman Tiga were blips in what are otherwise extremely high quality figures. Even if you were on the fence about whether to upgrade your Kamen Rider Black figure, this is not one you should miss out on.

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