Friday 14 April 2023

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Astra

S.H. Figuarts Astra 01

Release Date: October 2022
RRP: 7150 yen

Since the Ultraman S.H. Figuarts range launched in 2016 Bandai Tamashii Nations have been slowly working through the back-catalogue of Showa era Ultras while also catching up with the present, and after a good few years they're finally approaching completion. With Ultraman Leo having joined the line at the end of 2021, it was only a matter of time before his brother joined him. S.H. Figuarts Astra is the second release from the Ultraman Leo series, while the character is the younger brother of the titular hero and fellow prince of the fallen Planet L77.

S.H. Figuarts Astra Box 01

S.H. Figuarts Astra Box 02S.H. Figuarts Astra Box 03S.H. Figuarts Astra Box 04S.H. Figuarts Astra Box 05

S.H. Figuarts Astra's packaging is a very familiar site, sharing the same iconic red and silver colour scheme as the rest of the Showa Ultra Brothers. As a general retail release the box features a window section at the front to show off the figure inside, accompanied by the character name and an image of Astra as he appeared in Ultraman Leo. Whereas one side of the box is plain, the other features the usual bookend style image of the figure that has appeared on all of the Ultraman S.H. Figuarts released thus far. On the back of the box you'll find the usual selection of stock images showing off the figure in various poses (as well as a guest appearance from S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Leo), and then inside the figure and accessories are neatly stored on their moulded plastic tray.

S.H. Figuarts Astra 02

S.H. Figuarts Astra 03S.H. Figuarts Astra 04S.H. Figuarts Astra 05S.H. Figuarts Astra 06

S.H. Figuarts Astra 07S.H. Figuarts Astra 08S.H. Figuarts Astra 09S.H. Figuarts Astra 10

As his younger brother Astra shares a very similar design to Ultraman Leo, with the two sharing key design features such as the Protector armour on the chest as well as the Secret Sign on their stomachs denoting their royal status. Despite not taking the "Ultraman" title, Astra is still very much an Ultraman in terms of design and colour scheme. There are a few areas Astra differs from Leo though, with his head sporting a much smaller and less pronounced crown shape. The sculpting on the head is great as usual, with both the green forehead jewel and yellow eyes standing out really vibrantly. Astra also sports Protector armour around his biceps, as well as the remnants of a Magmatic chain around his left leg. This is leftover from the time Astra spent as a prisoner of Alien Magma, and the chain is so durable that even Ultraman King's ESP cannot break it. On the figure it is a moulded clasp around the leg, with a length of metal chain hanging from it. The use of a proper metal chain is a nice touch as if adds an extra level of realism to the figure, and flows far better than a plastic one ever would.

S.H. Figuarts Astra 11

S.H. Figuarts Astra 12S.H. Figuarts Astra 13S.H. Figuarts Astra 14S.H. Figuarts Astra 15

S.H. Figuarts Astra 16S.H. Figuarts Astra 17S.H. Figuarts Astra 18S.H. Figuarts Astra 19

S.H. Figuarts Astra 20S.H. Figuarts Astra 21S.H. Figuarts Astra 22

The articulation set up is also pretty much identical to Leo, which in turn is pretty much identical to the rest of the Showa era Ultraman line-up. Altogether Astra features;
- Peg jointed head
- Ball jointed neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders, hips and ankles
- Butterfly joint shoulders
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Single hinge toe sections
- Elbow and thigh swivels
As was the case with Leo it feels like the elbow swivel (which for the record has always been there) has become far more apparent on these releases. While it's less of a designed joint and more just how/where the elbow joint slots into the upper arm, it does provide an extra bit of movement that somewhat alleviates the lack of a designated bicep swivel. Other than a tiny bit of restriction in the wrists caused by his cuffs, there really isn't much to complain about on Asta - the overall poseability is excellent and the figure is more than capable of pulling off a good range of martial arts stances.

S.H. Figuarts Astra 23

S.H. Figuarts Astra 24S.H. Figuarts Astra 25S.H. Figuarts Astra 26S.H. Figuarts Astra 27

S.H. Figuarts Astra 28S.H. Figuarts Astra 29S.H. Figuarts Astra 30S.H. Figuarts Astra 31

S.H. Figuarts Astra 32S.H. Figuarts Astra 33S.H. Figuarts Astra 34S.H. Figuarts Astra 35

S.H. Figuarts Astra 36S.H. Figuarts Astra 37S.H. Figuarts Astra 38

Astra's accessories include ten additional hands, a replacement Protector with red colour timer and the Ultra Key. As a Space Martial Artist a good range of hands was essential for Astra, and this selection includes pretty much everything you could need - knife-strike hands, accessory holding ones and a good variety of specific pose ones. It's interesting that Bandai opted to include a whole replacement Protector here rather than just an alternate red colour timer but I'm certainly not complaining, as it makes switching them out far easier. The Protector is made from soft plastic and pegs into the back of the figure as well as slotting down where the colour timer is located at the front. The only problem I found on my copy was that the pegs on the back of the Protector were bent out of shape straight out of the box, which made both pegging them in and getting them to stay pegged down trickier than needed. Finally we have the Ultra Key, a sacred item responsible for maintaining the Land of Light's orbit in Nebula M78. The Key also has a powerful beam attack, and can be used as a blunt-force weapon. The accessory itself is relatively simple, painted entirely in gold and sporting some minimal moulded detailing. The size of it makes it a pretty impressive piece, but the hands included to hold it don't really grip it tight enough to make the most of it. Shooting poses for the beam attack are fine (although it's disappointing there isn't a beam part add-on to go with it), but holding it in any other way usually results in it eventually slipping out of the hands of not properly supported from the bottom.

S.H. Figuarts Astra 39

S.H. Figuarts Astra 40S.H. Figuarts Astra 41S.H. Figuarts Astra 42

Of course it wouldn't be a proper Ultraman release without some sort of beam effect, but for Astra Bandai have done things a little differently. Included here is the "Ultra Double Flasher" - a powerful technique where Astra and Leo combine their powers to create a beam of red energy. The effect part is comprised of a translucent red ball with a long thin beam shooting out of it, with the ball attached to an extra set of hands for Leo. Positioning the wrist joints correctly to get the hands to fit on properly can be a little tricky, but the completed effect is rather satisfying. The effect part itself doesn't actually attach to Leo in any way whatsoever, but the attack sees Leo stand behind his brother in order to channel their energy. So while Leo isn't technically required to use this effect part, using it accurately definitely also requires owning that figure.

S.H. Figuarts Astra 43

S.H. Figuarts Astra 44S.H. Figuarts Astra 45S.H. Figuarts Astra 46

S.H. Figuarts Astra 47S.H. Figuarts Astra 48S.H. Figuarts Astra 49

Granted there hasn't been a whole lot of change in the Showa era Ultraman Figuarts over the past few years, but the engineering Bandai have used on them has continually managed to hold up, as S.H. Figuarts Astra proves. Due the slightly higher cost and less interesting accessories Astra isn't quite as spellbinding as his brother was, but still another strong entry into the growing (and nearing completion) line-up of Showa Ultras. With new kid on the block Ultraman Regulos out next month, be sure to grab Astra and complete your trio of Space Martial Arts Ultras now.

No comments: