Friday 8 March 2024

Toybox REVIEW: S.H. Figuarts Type 23 Special Tactical Armored Kaiju Earth Garon

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Release Date: December 2023
RRP: 9900 yen

Ultraman Blazar took something of a "back to basics" approach when it came to its titular hero, and one aspect of that was a heavy reduction in the number of alternate forms he has. While from a show perspective this was definitely a breath of fresh air, it does of course leave Bandai with a lot less options when it comes to toys. Luckily to balance this Blazar also featured a companion mecha - something that has become a staple in the past few years of Ultraman. So this means instead of multiple Blazar we instead have a much quicker release for S.H. Figuarts Earth Garon, the second Figuarts release from the series and the first support mecha to be a retail release.

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As expected for a kaiju figure Earth Garon comes in packaging that's much bigger than your average S.H. Figuarts release - slightly wider but considerably deeper. The design of the packaging is the same as the rest of the modern era Ultraman range, with Earthy's box adopting a nice dark blue too with all that black bordering. It's a retail release so the front features a reasonably sized window section to get a good look at the figure inside, placed alongside an image of Earth Garon from the series and the Ultraman Blazar logo. One side of the box just features the figure name in the top corner, while the other has a nice big front-view done in the usual bookend style. Open it up and the figure and accessories are neatly laid out on a moulded plastic tray, with all the smaller accessories also locked into their own separate tray for extra security. As tends to be the norm these days, the instructions for the accessories and how to swap the parts are printed on the inside flap of the box rather than a separate leaflet.

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While Ultraman designs tend to all follow the same design template, the various kaiju and alien designs the franchise has are an opportunity for the designers to really show off their imagination. Earth Garon is a robotic dinosaur-like kaiju not too far removed from the realms of MechaGodzilla (particularly Kiryu), and while the suit itself was impressive onscreen the S.H. Figuarts version really gives you the opportunity to appreciate these details close up. The internal mechanics of the robot are surrounded by a padded material, which serves as an under suit of sorts. This is then built up on by various bits of mechanical armour, loaded with panelling and detailing. From the various pistons strewn across the body to the hatches, vents and rivets every single bit of this figure is loaded with detailing. The colours are absolutely stunning too, with that dark blue and bright orange armour sitting comfortably on that light grey padding (complete with moulding to make it look like material). The head sculpt is the icing on the cake, with abundance of white making it stand out along with those translucent blue eyes. But as if looking impressive wasn't enough for this figure, it's also loaded with clever little gimmicks that make it all the more special. The jaw opens to reveal a big cannon, each segment of the tail has an opening hatch that reveals moulded missile pods. Even moving the feet makes the pistons connecting the legs to the feet move just as they would in real life. It really is an incredible little figure that Bandai have put their all into, not missing a single detail and not a single paint app out of place.

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As seen with previous releases, Figuarts kaiju figures tend to use a lot of covered ball joint pieces to give them an excellent range of movement that's also somewhat in-keeping with how much they'd be able to move on the show itself. Despite being a big robot dinosaur, Earth Garon is surprisingly mobile and this is definitely conveyed in the figure too. Altogether it features,
- Ball jointed head, neck, torso, waist, wrists, feet and tail (x4 segments)
- Swivel hinge shoulders
- Drop down swivel hinge hips
- Double hinged elbows and knees
- Single hinged ankles and jaw
In addition to that the shoulder pads are connected by the usual floating ball joints to give them independent movement from the arms, and both ends of the pistons on the feet are also connected with ball joints. Usually even when an Ultraman kaiju figure looks amazing it's often let down somewhere when it comes to poseability (though usually by the nature of the design itself), but that definitely can't be said for Earth Garon. This is arguably the most poseable non-humanoid figure Bandai have released in the range, with an absolutely astounding array of movement that can convey both the ferocity of the design and the goofiness of the character. The hips are a really clever design - similar to previous drop down Figuarts hips but sees the pieces move up and down a shaft for their desired position. The combination of hinged ankles and ball jointed feet also does wonders for balancing, and while the pistons may pop out of position whilst doing so they can be easily adjusted after the fact.

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Earth Garon's accessories include three additional pairs of hands, four additional sets of eyes, a barrel piece for the Charged Particle Cannon "Earth Fire" and a replacement chest piece with an exposed cockpit. The hand selection on offer here is fairly basic (consisting of closed fists and three different varieties of open/clawed hands) but covers all the main bases for posing nicely. Moreover there's also a tonne of personality captured in the various eye options, which in addition to the standard ones include angry, smiling and damaged expressions as well as even the orange auto-pilot/brainwashed eyes. Swapping the eyes involves removing the top of Earth Garon's head and switching the eyes out accordingly, but due to their small size (and even smaller tabs) this is an incredibly fiddly process. One that definitely gets easier the more you do it, but incredibly fiddly nonetheless. Much like it did with S.H. Figuarts Sevenger, swapping the eyes adds an extra dimension to posing and display to an already impressive release. The alternate exposed cockpit piece is a nice little touch - unpainted but another good feature to a gimmick-laden figure. Finally that leaves the Earth Fire cannon part, which is less of an accessory in that it just clips on to the cannon in the mouth for a screen-accurate look. Since Earth Garon's mouth can close quite comfortably with the part attached anyway, really it didn't need to be a separate part.

Overall it's a small set of accessories, but exactly the kind you want for adding the same level of personality to the figure that Earth Garon had onscreen. Of course this leaves out the Mod 2, 3 and 4 add-ons Earth Garon gained over the course of Ultraman Blazar, which have been bundled together into a forthcoming Tamashii web exclusive Option Parts set. While perhaps one of these could have been put in here to bulk up the accessories, it makes far more sense to keep them altogether. The main body lacking them is also what probably helped it be a retail release rather than a web exclusive, which is another plus for this figure. Bandai's business decisions can sometimes be a bit questionable, but the definitely made all the right choices here.

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The robot figures have been the star attraction of the Ultraman range for some years now, and with S.H. Figuarts Earth Garon Bandai might have put out the best one yet. Every inch of this figure is oozing with detail, beautifully coloured and loaded with gimmicks and articulation to give it tonnes of personality. Despite the accessory count only being made up of small parts each one manages to add something, which makes all of the Mod parts being bundled off into their own accessory set an even more acceptable sacrifice. Had this been released a little earlier (its official release date was 29th December), this would have easily made my top 10 figures of the year. There have been a lot of incredible Figuarts releases lately, but it's when a non-humanoid one like this comes along and stands out so much that you feel like you have something really special on your hands.

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