Thursday 30 November 2023

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Mebius

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Release Date: July 2023
RRP: 7480 yen

In less than a decade Bandai Tamashii Nations have turned Ultraman into one of the heavy hitters of the S.H. Figuarts line, with a wide variety of series from across the franchise's 57-year history represented and more being added each year. With them now having caught up on the New Generation era and exploring the early Heisei era over in the Shinkocchou Seihou range, Bandai have now travelled back to 2006 with the release of S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Mebius. As a show that celebrated the early history of the franchise (from Ultra Q all the way to Ultraman 80), this retail release figure is a perfect companion piece to the extensive range of Showa Ultras the line also has to offer.

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Not ones to stray away from an established pattern, S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Mebius comes in packaging that perfectly matches the design given to all non-Showa era Ultras - combining a unique dominant colour (in this case red) with heavy black bordering. Following the figure's initial reveals some pre-order solicitations suggested this would be sold as another Ultra Galaxy Fight figure, but it's pleasing to see the Ultraman Mebius series logo on the box itself. Mebius is the titular Ultra of his own series, and selling him under any other banner would be doing him a huge injustice. The front of the box also features a nice big image of Mebius alongside the display window, with images of the figure in various poses featured on the back. Open it up and Mebius is neatly stored alongside his accessories on a moulded plastic tray, with instructions about the alternate parts printed on one of the inside flaps.

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While Mebius doesn't stray too far away from the standard Ultraman colour template he does go to show that placement can make a huge amount of difference, because the striped look definitely makes him stand out from the other Ultra Brothers. The more angular elements of his design (particularly the chest area) give him a slightly more armoured look than your standard Ultra as well, which is a common trait across most of the Ultras from the early 2000s. On top of the red and silver there are also some touches of gold on the torso and legs which add a bit more colour, blending in with the red nicely rather than standing out against it. On his left arm sits the Mebius Brace - a wrist-mounted transformation device beautifully moulded and detailed with red, gold and black paint. Mebius' Colour Timer is quite unique in that although it's small, it sits indented in the torso rather than protruding from it. When the light hits that translucent plastic just right, it really brings the design together.

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But though the design flourishes may be unique there's very little different under the hood so to speak, with Mebius having much of the same articulation as his fellow ("modern era") Ultras. Altogether this includes;
- Peg joint head
- Ball jointed neck, torso, waist and wrists
- Swivel hinge shoulders, hips and ankles
- Double hinge elbows and knees
- Single hinge toe sections
- Thigh swivels
Bicep swivels curiously continue to be a bit of a rarity on Ultraman releases, but to make up for it there is some degree of swivel just above the elbow where the joint plugs into the arm piece. It isn't quite enough to make pulling off a flawless Mebium Shoot pose easy (though given the difficulty is getting the arms to cross far enough the problem is more in the shoulders), but you'd still be able to get a near-perfect approximation without too much hassle. Other than that the articulation here is pretty great - despite the above complaint the shoulders still have good range and smooth, flexible motion. One thing to take caution on though is that the silver paint scuffs very easily on this figure. This is particularly true of the legs, where those raised parts of the thighs come into contact with the crotch section when bending them. I didn't really pose Mebius that much more extravagantly than I do any other Ultraman, but it didn't take long to notice a few scratches where the parts had clashed. Truth be told it's been something to look out for on Ultraman releases for some time now, but it might be worth taking that little bit of extra care with Mebius.

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Accessories are also fairly similar to the standard Ultraman selection, but Mebius has a couple of special pieces to set him apart from his peers. The set includes five additional pairs of hands, alternate red Colour Timer, a Mebium Beam effect part and Mebium Blade effect part. The Colour Timer is a (somewhat unwelcome) return to the tiny pieces that can get easily lost, and while removing the sternum piece on the figure to get at it is simple enough, lifting out the Timer itself can be a little fiddly if you don't have long nails or a pair of tweezers handy. Moving on the hand selection is the usual array of relaxed, grappling and beam-firing pairs, but the simple inclusion of Mebius' iconic thumbs-up hands give the figure so much more personality. The Mebium Beam is a nicely done piece but other than shape and colour really isn't all that different from any other Ultraman beam attack - that isn't necessarily a bad thing as all Ultras should come with their signature beam, it just means there isn't much to say about it. So the winner here is the Mebium Blade - a translucent orange sword blade attached to an alternate Mebium Brace piece. Simply swap out the braces, and your figure has a rather nifty arm-mounted sword. Not only is it far more interest to pose and display than the beam attack, but the fact it's mounted on the left arm is a nice little change as well.

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Ultraman is so established in the line now that collectors know what to expect as soon as a figure is announced, and while S.H. Figuarts Ultraman Mebius doesn't really raise the bar it does have a few little touches that help make this fan-favourite Ultraman feel that little bit more special. The more unique colour placement makes the design instantly eye-catching, with the great articulation and excellent selection of accessories (that cover all the basics whilst giving Mebius some unique flare) make it a pretty comfortable S.H. Figuarts release. That silver paint really does scuff easily though, so be sure to watch out for that. With the Ultraman line having caught up on both Showa era and current heroes, it's great to see Bandai dive into the noughties Ultras - and Mebius was the perfect place to start.

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