Friday 5 January 2024

Toybox REVIEW: BUZZmod Kamina

BUZZmod Kamina 01

Release Date: July 2023
RRP: 11000 yen

2022 marked the 15th anniversary of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and as one of the most popular mecha series to have been released in the past few decades there was no way figure companies weren't going to mark the occasion. But while there was the predictable onslaught of high-end versions of the titular mecha, Aniplex's still relatively new BUZZmod line went in a different direction and did something fans have been waiting years for. Articulated figures of the mecha are commonplace, but the cast themselves? That's much rarer. After 15 years, one of the show's most unforgettable characters has finally received an articulated action figure in the form of BUZZmod Kamina. As an Aniplex exclusive release, the figure could only be ordered through their official webstore (in both Japan and the US) – and of course any middleman service supplying it through them.

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BUZZmod Kamina comes packaged in a big square box that's rather minimal on detailing but manages to be pretty bold nonetheless. The front of the box is largely taken up by the window showing off the figure inside, but said window is surrounded by plenty of logos and boxed off areas telling you exactly what this figure is and who it's by, with a posed image of the figure also tucked away in the bottom corner. Both sides of the box are even more reserved, simply sporting the Gurren Lagann and BUZZmod logos. The back of the box features a selection of images showing off the figure in various poses, and then inside the figure (and accessories) are neatly spread across two moulded plastic trays.

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Having waited so long for a poseable Kamina figure it's easy to think that the real thing couldn't ever live up to the expectation, but to their credit Aniplex have done a pretty damn good job in doing so here. Thankfully Gurren Lagann isn't a show that went overly detailed in its character design so granted there isn't a huge deal to get wrong here, but nevertheless Kamina looks like he jumped straight out of the screen. From the screen-accuracy of his (fairly minimal) clothing to the tattoos that adorn his arms and back, every detail is in the right place without a paint app misplaced. That bright blue hair really stands out against the wash of darker colours and skin tone, while the accuracy of the face printing (particularly the eyes) is marvellous.

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Despite the line's high price point the articulation isn’t really anything revolutionary – a little less than an S.H. Figuarts figure and more along the lines of the Figma line. That said it's more than enough to do the job here though, with the body sporting; 
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist, hips and shins
- Double swivel hinge shoulders
- Swivel hinge wrists and ankles
- Ball hinge elbows and knees
- Single hinge toe sections
- Thigh swivels
 Though it might not offer much more than other collector-orientated lines there are some interesting choices when it comes to engineering here, starting with those double swivel hinge shoulders. While they act largely the same as a butterfly joint would, they offer a fantastic range of motion with the trade-off that they can look rather ugly if not posed properly/the joint is left exposed. Another oddity are the ball jointed shins, added to give the legs motion underneath those baggy trousers. It's an interesting choice, but definitely doesn't go unnoticed when it comes to balancing the figure in action poses. Other than that this is very similar to Figma line, right down to the buttery smooth motion that comes from those ball hinge joints.

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Aniplex have definitely delivered when it comes to accessories too, with plenty to enjoy when it comes to posing possibilities. The figure comes with four additional faceplates (grinning, grinning with eyes to the side, screaming and a bloodied screaming face), six additional pairs of hands, sunglasses, his sword as well as a sheathed version of it. The initial (currently only) run of the figure also came with two bonus accessories – an accessory version of his sunglasses and an additional right hand to hold them in. The sheathed version also has a removable hilt, so can be displayed alongside the full sword. When not in use, it can also be hung on Kamina's back via the string fastened onto it. The hand selection is largely what you'd expect from any articulated figure of this style – including a lot of generic fist, weapon holding and open hands as well as ones to recreate key signature poses. In this case it is of course a pair of point hands so that Kamina can point to the heavens, as well as some arms-crossed hands to recreate the iconic Gainax pose. Despite the tiny wrist pegs they clip onto swapping the hands is nice and easy with no feeling as though anything is about to break, and once connected they stay on nice and tight. The face-swapping however is a little fiddlier, with the sockets to fit them into the back of the head placed at some rather awkward angles. To make things more frustrating, the glasses plug into the hairpiece that goes on top of the faceplate, in a socket which doesn't really hold them in very well. You don't want to force them in because a tiny clear plastic piece like that could very easily break, but having them slip out of the piece so easily is equally annoying – particularly since you can't really plug them back in without taking the hairpiece off again. It's something that takes a bit of practice to get right, but definitely worth playing about with because it just makes Kamina look so much better.

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But of course, what Kamina figure would be complete without his iconic cape, emblazoned with the Team Gurren insignia on the back. The cape is made out of a rigid yet pliable material, with bendable wire sewn into the ends and centre to make it fully poseable. It has been beautifully cut to give it its jagged, flame-like shape, with the red and orange colouring equally show accurate. The gold clasps on the front are from a soft, somewhat-bendable plastic and can unpeg on the left-hand side. Overall the quality is excellent and definitely lives up to the high-standard of soft goods parts BUZZmod show off in their promo photos, but as tends to be the case with parts like these posing it does come with something of a difficulty level. While the cape sits on Kamina rather nicely in neutral poses, anything slightly more dynamic often leads to it rising up – with the chains/clasps riding up to his neck rather than sitting comfortably on his torso like they should. The material itself does take some getting used to, but it's largely due to the chains sitting quite flat. Had they been made from something a little more flexible, it wouldn't be a problem. Nothing ever feels like its going to break, but again getting the best poses out of the figure definitely requires practice.

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There's certainly no denying that BUZZmod Kamina is far too expensive for what it is. Clearly Aniplex price figures the same way they price DVDs/Blu-Rays, and (outside of its regular use of soft goods parts) the BUZZmod line is still some ways behind the likes of S.H. Figuarts or Figma (not that they're particularly cheap these days either). But ultimately BUZZmod win for the sole reason that they made this damn figure in the first place. It's hard to believe Gurren Lagann has been around for 15 years and this is the first proper poseable Kamina we've ever gotten. That alone is enough reason to overlook some of the figure's minor shortcomings. It's a little bit fiddly, but it oozes all the pomp and personality you could ever want from a Kamina figure. Despite their price the BUZZmod line is certainly making a name for itself and if it can keep this up with more Gurren Lagann releases, then it'll have more than earned my respect. The real test is going to be how their forthcoming Yoko figure turns out, because that one actually as something to be compared against. Like the character himself, BUZZmod Kamina is one of a kind.

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