Wednesday 27 March 2024

Toybox REVIEW: Star Wars Black Series R5-D4

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Release Date: December 2023
RRP: $24.99/£24.99

Of all of the things to happen on The Mandalorian purely in the name of fan service, the droid that Luke Skywalker almost bought instead of R2-D2 becoming Din Djarin's personal astromech has to be one of the wildest. But that's exactly what happened in the show's third season, with R5-D4 finally leaving Tatooine after so many years (and several previous cameos on the show) to join the Mandalorian and Grogu on their adventures. His prominence on the show has naturally also resulted in a flurry of new figures, among them of course being a brand new Black Series R5-D4 release.

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"A battered astromech droid, R5-D4 has had a long operational span bouncing around various owners on Tatooine for decades. Now, he resides in Docking Bay 3-5 of Mos Eisley Spaceport in Peli Motto's employ."

While it's recently been revealed that we're on the cusp of yet another packaging overhaul for the Black Series, for the time being R5-D4 is a last hurrah for the "slanted side" variation of Black Series packaging - recently restored to its former windowed glory after Hasbro's foray into plastic-free packaging didn't prove too popular/successful. The 33rd release in the orange-bordered Mandalorian collection, the front of R5's packaging beautifully shows off the figure itself whilst new artwork of the little droid adorns the spine and back of the box. On the back it's also joined by a short character bio, which doesn't really allude to his origins in A New Hope but nicely sets out his appearances in The Mandalorian. Open it up and the figure and accessories are all neatly laid out on a plastic tray, with the accessories also taped in for extra security.

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This is the second R5-D4 figure to be released in the Black Series, the first having been released back in 2017 as part of the 40th anniversary A New Hope selection. This however is an all-new resized mould that scales much better with the rest of the line, and the second use of said mould following on from the 40th anniversary Return of the Jedi R2-D2. The figure uses the same body as R2-D2, albeit with new red panels. The head piece is all new and as such the first R5 variant for the mould, nicely capturing its mushroom-like shape and the three small optical sensors. One particularly nice bit of sculpting are the little grey struts on the sides and back of the head, which have been moulded separately in grey plastic and then inserted into the cavities. Beneath the main dome part is also a ring of reflective panels, previously done as holographic stickers on the old mould but painted silver here. Overall it's a fantastic looking figure, but perhaps a little too clean for R5 at this point in the timeline? Looking at images from the show he was definitely a bit more beat up when hanging around Mos Eisley spaceport, but did admittedly get cleaned up a bit before joining the Mandalorian full-time in season 3. However much is needed, a little weathering definitely would have added a bit more character to what's otherwise a fantastic looking mould.

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Naturally articulation works a little differently for droids, but as you'd expect R5-D4 is properly articulated in all the areas he should be. The head and ambulatory struts can all rotate the full 360 degrees, with the foot sections also able to tilt backwards and forwards. R5's middle leg is stored inside the body and can be pulled down manually, rather than lowering down as you turn the head like with the old astromech mould. In some ways this is a little better as it means the leg isn't linked to poseabilty, but at the same time getting purchase on the leg to pull it down isn't the easiest thing to do without long nails/tweezers to assist. While overall I'd call it an improvement, the spring-loaded version on Bandai's S.H. Figuarts R2-D2 still remains the best method. Finally Each of the feet also has two free rolling cylinders on the base too, allowing the droid to glide across smooth surfaces with ease.

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Although R5-D4's accessories are the usual fare you'd see on an astromech release, the fact he's now a fully-fledged character who actually gets to do things makes them a little more special. Not only that, but one also pays homage to his initial appearance in A New Hope. This accessory is of course his (bad) motivator, which caused him to malfunction during his sale to Owen Lars. This tiny little accessory can attach to the top of the figure by removing one of the red panels, after which it slots into place. While not offering a whole lot, it's a nice little extra that was R5's defining feature for decades. R5's other accessories include a variety of arm attachments, all of which can plug into the sockets hidden behind two vertical panels on his body. The two horizontal red panels can also open, although these do not have any sockets behind them. All four panels are also again a bit of a nightmare to prise open. The five arms included are different to the ones previously included with R2-D2, and consist of a standard arm, welding attachment, datalink attachment, utility tool attachment and spray gun attachment. While all are moulded in the same grey plastic, they all have some sort of bronze or black paint detailing to make them a little more exciting.

While the previous astromech mould had the arms built into the figure itself, the new one having them peg in means more variety can be provided to fully convey just how many features these little droids have. Hasbro have even gone the extra mile on this mould so that you don't have to store these accessories elsewhere, as pulling up on R5's head reveals a built-in storage space that the arms can all clip into (sadly the bad motivator doesn't have anywhere to go unless you're happy to have it rattle around inside). Though it does require a bit of force to get the arms to properly clip into place, it's an incredibly clever bit of tooling that really makes the most of the mould.

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As one of my favourite childhood figures from Kenner's Power of the Force line (hideously inaccurate as they may be, those twin guns and internal missile launcher were cool as hell), Black Series R5-D4 was a figure I was really looking forward to even without his expanded role in The Mandalorian. Hasbro really have done a fantastic job with this new astromech mould, and despite being a little fiddly in places it's definitely in good stead to be reused over and over for the next couple of years. R5 himself could also do with a little more wear and tear, but between the accessories provided and the clever tooling behind the mould itself R5-D4 is a great release that should please multiple corners of the Star Wars fandom.

1 comment:

John Hood said...

Growing up with the original Star Wars trilogy, collecting droid action figures was always a highlight! R5-D4 is one of my all-time favourites.