Monday 17 April 2023

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer Black

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Release Date: November 2022
RRP: 7150 yen

When it was announced that Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts would be returning in 2022 with the release of S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer, it didn't take a genius to work out who was a likely candidate for the Tamashii Nation 2022 event exclusive list. The annual Bandai Tamashii Nations showcase loves its black repaints, and with Avataro Sentai Donbrothers showing off its own version of Kaito Goshikida it was a match made in heaven. S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer Black is notable for being the first Tamashii event exclusive for the franchise, while the character himself acts as the mysterious administrator to the Donbrothers - maintaining their points whilst also owner of Cafe Donbura. 

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Like previous Tamashii event exclusives, S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer Black's packaging includes a special slip-on sleeve in addition to the usual Tamashii web exclusive style packaging. The 2022 exclusives all featured neon-lit imagery of the figures against an array of scale buildings, which doesn't really work as well for a human-sized character but still gives the packaging a nice "exclusive" feel. Underneath the sleeve is the first bit of windowless Super Sentai S.H. Figuarts packaging we've had in a while - a plain white box with black and grey lettering to match the Zenkaizer Black suit. The only real bits of colour on the front come from the visor and crest of the helmet, as well as that vibrant Avataro Sentai Donbrothers logo. The back of the box features a variety of images showing the figure off in different poses, while inside the figure and its accessories are stored on a moulded plastic tray. Like many other recent S.H. Figuarts releases, the instructions for the hands/weapons are printed on the inside flaps of the box rather than on a separate paper sheet.

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Zenkaizer Black is a straight repaint of the Kikai Sentai Zenkaiger-flavoured Zenkaizer, removing all of the rainbow colouring from the suit and replacing it with lines of black and grey. The gold shoulder pads, arm cuffs and boots are now also silver to gel better with the overall palette. Though it now has a much less Super Sentai-orientated colour scheme the layout of the colours remains just as effective - with the muted colours bringing even more attention to the metallic blue visor, gold V-crest and belt buckle, all of which are unchanged from the original suit. The cape is again pre-fixed to the body and made from a very thin sheet of vinyl plastic, giving it some durability but not poseable in the same way many Figuarts soft goods pieces are these days. Releasing only a few months after the original Zenkaizer figure the mould itself is still a very impressive sight - light years ahead of previous Super Sentai Figuarts in terms of sculpting and proportions. The Kaito of Donbrothers has a very different attitude and mannerisms to the Kaito of Zenkaiger and although these can be portrayed through the posing of the figure, its amazing how much of it is conveyed through a simple colour change as well. 

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Given that it's the same mould Zenkaizer Black also shares the same quality articulation that his Zenkaiger counterpart does, which shows off just how far the line has come since Super Sentai Figuarts were last in their heyday. Altogether the figure 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 
The improvements Bandai have made to these figures really are impressive. 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, it's a perfect example of how good things are in the line 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.

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That all said, Zenkaizer Black is just a tiny bit underwhelming when it comes to accessories. Admittedly Zenkaizer didn't come with a great deal to begin with, but it's a pity to see this figure come with a completely identical accessory count. Altogether this includes four additional pairs of hands (two posed pairs, one accessory holding pair and one knife-strike pair) and the Geartlinger weapon/transformation device. The Geartlinger looks just as good here as it did in the previous release, complete with good detailing for its size and its (separately) moving crank and barrel. Still no loose Sentai Gears (or Avataro Gears for that matter), but personally I think what would have been a more interesting accessory is an effect part to recreate the pistol whip/melee use the weapon has. While it wasn't used all that often, it was something Zenkaizer Black was seen doing during his appearances in Donbrothers. Given the simplicity of this repaint it isn't all that surprising that there's nothing new to the figure, but compared to the Kamen Rider and Ultraman exclusives for 2022 Zenkaizer Black does come across as a little more lacking in when it comes to uniqueness.

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S.H. Figuarts Zenkaizer Black was an obvious choice for a Tamashii Nations 2022 exclusive figure and it's fantastic to see Bandai embracing both the character and franchise in this way. Zenkaizer was already a superb figure so of course this repaint has just as much to offer, and it's impressive how the figure is able to convey the wildly different personalities the two Kaitos have. That said, it would have been nice to see some sort of unique accessory to make this figure stand out a little more (no matter how small) – especially since Super Sentai Figuarts aren't quite at the strength yet where we should be expecting full teams again. It's uncertain whether we'll start getting Super Sentai exclusives every year the same way we do with Kamen Rider and Ultraman, but if we were to only ever get one Zenkaizer Black is pretty much the perfect choice.

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