Tuesday 27 February 2024

Toybox REVIEW: ACT MODE Kirika Akatsuki

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Release Date: June 2023
RRP: 9500 yen

Between all the various toy lines and anime franchises Good Smile Company cover they don't go all-in on a specific property all that often, but whenever they do they certainly like to make it count. Years after the Figma range died before it really began, Symphogear finally got the love it deserved in the ACT MODE line. And not just content with releasing the original three girls of the franchise, Good Smile quickly followed up with the announcement of the rest of the cast to complete the lineup. ACT MODE Kirika Akatsuki is the fifth and penultimate character to be released in the line - bringing fans one step closer to completing the collection.

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Kirika Akatsuki comes in square windowless packaging that matches the rest of the ACT MODE Symphogear releases, with the green and white colour scheme of the box joining up with the black bordering for the perfect match to her Gear's colour palette. Each side of the box shows off the figure in a variety of poses, highlighting both the poseability and accessories (as well as a guest appearance from ACT MODE Shirabe Tsukuyomi). The front also features a great upper body shot of Kirika directly lifted from the anime, alongside the Good Smile Company, ACT MODE and Symphogear GX logos. Open the box up and the layout is much the same as it was with Maria - one moulded plastic tray housing the figure and accessories, while the display stand parts are bagged and taped to the back of it.

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Sculpting is one area where the ACT MODE Symphogear range hasn't gone wrong yet, and as the first articulated figure of Kirika to ever be release it's fair to say expectations were reasonably high. As per the rest of the line this version of Kirika's Igalima Gear is based on how it looked in Symphogear GX - the third entry in the franchise and the first where she fully appeared as a protagonist. Looking like she jumped straight out of the anime, the first thing you notice about this release is just how marvellous a job Good Smile have done on the colours here - the various tones of green go beautifully with the black and white. Of course those striped knee socks are a focal point of Kirika's design, but the glossy and metallic painted pieces like the hat, shoulder pads and heels are just as eye-catching. The shoulder pads are a little fiddly at first, but for the most part it's a design that doesn't have too many pieces likely to pop off either.

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Kirika's articulation is much the same as the rest of the ACT-MODE Symphogear releases, with most differences stemming from the Gear's design. Altogether she features;
- Ball jointed head, torso and hips
- Swivel hinge shoulders and wrists
- Hinged elbows, knees and ankles
- Bicep and thigh swivels
Note that the shoulder pad articulation wasn't included in that list, because that's a whole other thing that warrants its own discussion. The large, arrow-like pieces are attached via a black strip that curves around the body, with two diamond pieces set in-between those arrow ones. These diamonds each sport a swivel joint which allows the whole ensemble to be stretched out, while the two arrow pieces can raise and lower on the opposing axis. This means that, despite looking like a rather messy design that completely hampers arm articulation, there's an incredible amount of movement packed in which takes them completely out of the way of the arms. However it isn't all praise, as Kirika has fairly significant limitations in other key areas instead. The most frustrating of these are the hips, whose forward and backward motion is almost completely cut off by that plastic skirt. The other Symphogear girls were lucky in that none of their Gear designs have skirts, so it's a new problem that Good Smile really could have done with thinking about a little more. The skirt's plastic may be a little bit softer than the rest of the figure, but it's not enough to bend with the movement of the leg. No waist joint also adds to the problem, although the addition of thigh swivels at the tops of the socks in addition to the bicep swivels is a nice touch. While you can still get some great poses out of Kirika, these just feel like issues the figure could have easily overcome given GSC's experience with designs like this.

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Kirika's accessories include two additional pairs of hands (giving her closed fists, open hands and weapon-holding hands in total), two additional faceplates (giving closed and open smiling faces as well as a mid-combat shouting face) and her Armed Gear in both its inactive sickle and giant scythe forms. An ACT MODE articulated display base is also include as per the other releases, and must be assembled for display. The clear plastic base features three display arms - one that can plug directly into the figure and then a further two optional ones should that giant scythe need any additional support. Given its size it might look like it would, but surprisingly Kirika's joints prove tolerant enough to hold it in a variety of action poses. A notable step up from previous releases too is that there's no need to clumsily force the weapons into tightly moulded hands - parts of both the sickle and scythe pop off so that they can be pushed into their designated hands with ease. The sickle is great for more space-conservative poses but as seems to be the case with the line the bigger accessories are what make the figures pop, so it's that scythe that really sells the release.

However if the scythe alone still isn't enough, a Maria, Kirika and Shirabe Armed Gear Set was also released around the same time - giving Kirika green-flame effect pieces that can be connected to the scythe, additional blades for her "Kill Juliet" attack as well as an alternate leg piece that can connect with the scythe for her "Wicked Leg: Gulliver" attack. That's a really good range of pieces that expands Kirika's display potential significantly, but really only the additional blades is sizeable enough that it probably couldn't be justified just being included here instead. 

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As my absolute favourite of the Symphogear girls needless to say I was looking forward to ACT MODE Kirika Akatsuki the most, and for the most part I'm certainly not disappointed. Articulated Symphogear figures have been a long time coming, and Good Smile have done a brilliant job on capturing both the design and colouring of Kirika's Gear. Accessories like a giant scythe that's considerably taller than the figure itself also sweeten the deal, but those articulation gripes (particularly the skirt) do result in the figure falling just short of perfection. But then again - when you see the figure wielding that massive metallic green scythe it's easy to forget all about that.

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