Monday 26 September 2022

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer

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Release Date: May 2022
RRP: 6600 yen

It's been seven years since the release of the last Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts figure, and in that time fans and collectors alike refused to give up hope that they were gone forever. That hope was clearly not misplaced, because in celebration of the franchise's 45th anniversary Bandai Tamashii Nations surprised as all with the announcement that they weren't done yet. From 45th Super Sentai series Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger comes S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer – whose Himitsu Sentai Gorenger-inspired multi-colour design feels particularly appropriate for such a special release marking not only a landmark milestone for the franchise, but the grand return of Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts.

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Quite a bit has changed since we last saw Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts, starting with the size of the packaging. S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer has the honour of being the first Super Sentai character to come in the smaller boxes more common with modern releases, done out in a fitting white colour scheme with red accents. The character name is printed across the window section, while the bottom section of the front features a nice big Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger logo alongside an image of the figure itself. More stock images of the figure can be found on the back of the box, showing it off in various poses as well as the included accessories. Inside all of this can be found neatly stored on a moulded plastic tray. Much like the Kamen Rider Revi and Vice releases, the figure instructions are printed on the side flaps of the box as opposed to a loose leaflet.

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Seven years is a long time for Sentai Figuarts to be away, and in that time it's fair to say the line has gone through quite a few improvements. The first thing that's immediately noticeable about Zenkaizer in comparison to other Sentai Figuarts is just how well proportioned it is. Whereas a lot of the old ones are considerably thinner with much smaller heads, Zenkaizer enjoys the perfect proportions of modern Figuarts releases. The sculpting is also of particularly exceptional quality, capturing all the Gorenger-inspired elements of the costume but also its more modern stylings. This is particularly noticeable in the visor, which has the same multi-hole look as the Gorenger helmets but has been captured with a vibrant metallic blue. The rainbow stripes and gold sections shine beautifully on that predominantly white bodysuit, which in itself is a big departure from the typical Sentai team "leader". The cape is pre-affixed to the body and made from a very thin plastic, which isn't pliable like many soft goods capes but does have some bend to it to look a little more realistic in action poses. It's quite thin so I wouldn't recommend applying too much stress as it could easily lead to tearing, but it does the job nicely and is a considerable improvement over Akaranger's hard plastic cape piece.

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But it isn't just modern proportions that Zenkaizer gets to enjoy – in the time that Sentai Figuarts have been away the line has made some huge advancements when it comes articulation as well. Just put Zenkaizer next to any of the previously released figures and you'll see just how dated they are (sadly renewals for most of them seem extremely unlikely, so at least they look decent next to him). Altogether Zenkaizer features; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist and wrists 
- Swivel hinge shoulders, hips and ankles 
- Butterfly joint shoulders 
- Double hinge elbows and knees 
- Bicep and thigh swivels 
Back in the day bicep swivels on a Super Sentai Figuarts release was incredibly inconsistent, but as you can see from the list above Zenkaizer has the full works when it comes to what modern Figuarts have to offer. Gone are those static shoulder joints with those loose cover parts, replaced with chunky swivel hinge joints that fit perfectly to the proportions of the rest of the body. And with this modern engineering, joint tolerances are a whole lot better too – no more of those drop-down hips getting progressively looser over the years for example. While the neck and head movement does feel a little limited by popped collar, overall it's a perfect example of how good the line is right now. The shoulder pads are an interesting design, connected via ball joints which then move via a pin joint. From the underside they perhaps look a little ugly, but functionally they work brilliantly – not only giving the arms all the movement they need but also moving independently enough that they can be positioned to not look too broken up from the torso. You really couldn't ask for much more from the figure as far the body is concerned, which makes how special this release feels all the more impactful.

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Compared to the older releases Zenkaizer is definitely much more lacking when it comes to accessories, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the figure completely falls short. Altogether he comes with four additional pairs of hands, as well as the Zenkaigers' Geartlinger weapon/transformation device. The hands here include a range of knifestrike, weapon holding and posed ones – allowing Zenkaizer to hold the Geartlinger in both hands comfortably as well as enact all of his signature poses. The Geartlinger itself is beautifully sculpted and painted, complete with "GEARTLINGER" printed along the side as well as a moveable crank and barrel. The two parts move independently of each other rather than the crank moving the barrel, but given the size of the accessory that was never really an expectation. More significantly though it doesn't feature an opening hatch at the top for the Sentai Gears, which is likely because the release doesn't include any Sentai Gears. Figuarts certainly isn't adverse to tiny easily lost accessories so it is a little unfortunate, but not particularly a big knock against the figure. Personally I'd have preferred an effect piece to recreate the blade/pistol whip attack the Geartlinger has, but its omission isn't a huge loss either. Bandai probably didn't quite know exactly what they were getting into with the return of Super Sentai Figuarts, so it's easy to look at this release as "testing the waters" so to speak. As long as the essential accessories are there, it's doing the job nicely.

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While I fully admit there's probably an element of bias in reviewing S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer because I'm over the moon to have Super Sentai Figuarts back again, that doesn't change the fact that it's an incredible figure. Sure it doesn't have much in the way of accessories (compared to the older releases anyway), but the quality of the figure itself just does to show how much the line has evolved since 2015 - compared to the older Super Sentai Figuarts, this thing is Shinkocchou Seihou level of quality. The Kamen Rider and Ultraman releases we've gotten while they've been away have all been wonderful, but there's something just so joyous about having Super Sentai figures back where they belong. I don't want to get my hopes up that this is some sort of renaissance because they could go away just as quickly, but with both Don Momotaro and Twokaizer (as well as the Tamashii Nations 2022 exclusive Zenkaizer Black repaint) on the horizon Super Sentai Figuarts certainly aren't dead in the water just yet.


Oar said...

Zenkaiser looks so good! I can practically hear him yelling his catchphrase in these photos.

With Twokaiser on the way, I feel like Staceasar is inevitable at some point. As for Donbrothers, my biggest hopes for any additional figuarts would be OniSister, but realistically it'd probably be Sonoi (which I'd also be really happy with) or Don Murasame (They'd just have to do retooling on the existing Don Momotaro mold).

Alex said...

Thank you!

I'm REALLY hoping we can get back into full team releases soon, but I think with both the Zenkaigers and Donbrothers being so different from one another it's probably a pipedream for the time being. I read in a Bandai interview not so long ago that the focus is on characters that have enough personality that they can work on their own, which I guess is true for everything we know is coming so far. Sonoi and Staceasar would be really solid choices though - definitely happy to get those sort of characters in the place of full teams.