Monday, January 9, 2017

2016: The Best and The Worst

   I know I’m a little late to the party, but 2016 is over with, and it’s a nice time to reflect on what went down for me with figures. All in all, it was somewhat of an uneventful year for me. I was really only wowed once or twice. So, here it is: Top 10 Best and Worst Figures Received in 2016.
*Disclaimer: this list is just the figures added to my collection in 2016. They don’t have to be released in 2106 necessarily, just what I purchased and opened for the first time.*
First up, The Worst:

-          S.H. Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta (Premium Color)
o   Actually, there isn’t much wrong with this guy. Indeed, I got him so I could sell him. I just decided to keep him. I guess I’m just mad that I paid so much for something I practically already have(and reviewed).

-          S.H. Figuarts Namikaze Minato
o   That damn jacket, dude. I know it’s a staple part of his costume, but is takes away from the leg articulation I expect a ninja to have. He makes up with some cool effect parts, but also no “wind” hair piece that I think would be perfect for the “Yellow Flash”.

-          S.H. Figuarts Super Saiyain God Super Saiyan Vegeta
o   Ok. Its boring. Plain and Simple. The design is new, but not great. He looks better the way he did, and his release we just a bone to throw at fans so they didn’t just have a blue Goku by itself. Didn’t even come with any real special pieces, either.

-          Xovergen TF-02 God Armor Add on Kit
o   Difficult. That is the word of the day, here. It’s difficult to use. Transforming it from vehicle to robot, armor for MP-10, or final armor for TF-01, it takes maybe 20 min to do a piece if you know exactly what you’re doing. As for using the instructions: there are none, really. You’re better off finding it on YouTube like I did. Thanks, Bens Collectibles. However, the end result is pretty freaking awesome, and huge…just don’t touch it much.

-          S.H. Figuarts Whis
o   Another bone thrown. The costume allows for virtually nothing worth a damn for articulation outside his upper torso. Like Beerus, he comes with no effect pieces. Of course, he comes with his special staff, but…he better. With all the things the figure can’t do, he had best be equipped with his full costume.

-          Figma Cryska Barchenowa
o   Bought this figma on impulse. It was in a store that I sometimes go to, and I saw that they finally had the nerve to put figma on the shelf. I bought it for quantity’s sake. It does…nothing. I don’t know much about MuvLuv other than their mech is a base design with a bunch of variations. The figure comes with a simple pistol. Add the normal figma joints, and really nothing damn special about it. In hindsight, I don’t even think it looks that cool anymore.

-          S.H. Figuarts Uzumaki Naruto (Sage Mode) Exclusive
o   Oh, ho ho ho hooo!! This little wallet rapist! Naruto is a crappy mold. It just is. I specifically remember seeing an interview with Bluefin staff saying that the Sage Mode Naruto was getting and entirely different mold, like what happened to SSJ Vegeta and Trunks. Did we get that? Of course not. What we did get is the exact same mold with…get this…worse coloring. I was a bigger fan of the darker orange. Gave him more character. Oh sure, you get the sage justu face paint, a Rasenshuriken effect part, and his own stand, but you don’t get the other part that made him a sage…the damn jacket. With Minato’s mold well past its release, it was a great place to start to give Naruto the look he needed to stay true to the character.

-          KFC CT-02 Tempest
o   MaaaaaaAAAAAAAAANNNN, was I disappointed in this one. The proportions, plastic quality, and transformation scheme is just all f’ed up. What’s worse, is that Cyclonus is one of my favorite Transformers ever, so when I see it jacked up, I take offense. The hands can only hold the weapons it comes with because of a straight-up erroneous transformation scheme that permits zero extra movement of the fists. Even the colors, now that I see them up close, aren’t indicative of what I think Cyclonus should be. He’s clearly a prime example of a toy company in its infancy.

-          Master Grade Victory Two (V2) Gundam Ver. Ka
o   This piece of shiiii- alright. Master Grades are amazing. We all know this. V2 was always a design I liked as a kid. Well, come to figure, I don’t like the design as an adult. V2 has a transformation gimmick that normally I would love. It’s just so damn complex to do, that it isn’t worth converting more than once, honestly. As for the weapons: you have a cool interchangeable rifle, about the skinniest beam sabers ever, and a beam shield that doesn’t securely stay put. Most of all the problems, is the articulation. Honestly, I can’t get much more out of this than I would if it was a Robot Spirits figure. At least then I know it would be sturdy. Some panels also don’t want to stay, prompting me to whip out the glue, and despite my best efforts, the legs will not spread well enough for dynamic poses. This again, is due to the complex transformation gimmick. I am underwhelmed.

-          Dragon Ball Z Figure-rise Standard Super Saiyan Goku
o   Bandai. Bandai, Bandai, Bandai. I don’t know who was in charge of the production team behind Figure-rise Standard, but give them an “F” for this mold. This is not Goku’s first time having a model kit treatment. In fact, last time was pretty good, I’d say. Just in a plain Jane stance, I find it ugly. The legs and arm connections look the worst. The feet don’t have good enough strength in the ankles to support the poses that Goku surely deserves to be in. the arm articulation connecting to the torso is a nice try. It reminds me a lot of Minato with having the hinge in the front area to allow a further widening range of arm movement…specifically being able to bring the hands together. One thing I can say, is that the head can finally raise high enough to look like he’s flying…somewhat. Mostly, the thin arms in contrast to the very big and misshapen legs, and borderline pathetic looking effect parts were just too much for me to handle. It’s in the box now…in the closet…away from common view.

On a lighter note, The Best:

-          Figma Kanu Unchou
o   Along with Cryska, I bought this out of impulse. I was feeling like crap, so I turned to plastic crack to feed my fix…plain and simple. This time, however, I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t, and still don’t know a thing about Ikki Tousen, but I know I like this simple yet dynamic design, and the figma helps deliver her essence. Let me put this out there: I don’t give a crap about the “fanservice” ripped clothes. I think it cheapens the feng shui of my collection. Now, she kind of lacks in the finer details of articulation, being one of the earlier end of figma releases, like good ankle pivot. Nonetheless, I like her hair, her socks, and her Seiryuto (Holy Dragon Blade). She really does give off the “Kickass high school girl” look, and is a most welcomed addition to the collection.

-          Vulcanlog 012 Yu-Gi-Oh Revo Seto Kaiba
o   The best damn dude in the series, is none other than Seto Kaiba. For that reason alone, I had to get him. Revoltech is also a pretty good line of figures, so why not? Not to mention, this guy released with his very own Blue Eyes White Dragon. You see, I wanted a good Kaiba figure since I watched Yu-Gi-Oh back when I was 13. He was the only guy that could hold up to everyone else, and not believe in that magical mumbo jumbo they had going on. He believed in himself, more than anyone else in the universe, to be frank. He was a great frienemy to Yugi & Co, with a voice that commanded arrogance. Now, I get to capture a piece of that essence, with all the Revo articulation sprinkled on top!

-          Real Grade Wing Gundam Zero Custom
o   It’s been released a good while ago, and while I don’t think it stacks up completely to the majesty of the MG version, this is still a great frickin’ kit. The only thing I really have to complain about is the fact that since it has MG level of articulation and parts count, it still retains the 1/144 scale that makes the pieces all the smaller. I dropped a lot, and had trouble with others since my hands are so big. Other than that, the plastic quality even among the transparent pieces were great. The decals are without end, and the articulation may even beat out the MG version. It doesn’t come with white hands, which I prefer my Zero to have…but small price to pay.

-          S.H. Figuarts Super Saiyan Trunks
o   The Figuarts team is really stepping their game up. The most noticeable change is the hip articulation. No longer the ball joints of yesteryear, they allow for maximum movement on all axis. The mold is also a thicker frame, so bring on the bulk! Trunks’ head mold is outstanding. He has the fierceness that he should’ve had all along, and the ponytail works out for him so elegantly. Lastly, he comes with the crossed arms feature, that is usually reserved for villains. It works like a charm for him, especially when paired next to the new Vegeta.

-          Figma Yami Yugi
o   Max Factory…I love you guys. Bringing back the baddest hairstyle in the land, is Yami Yugi. I thought it perfect that figma took the reigns on him. My collection is of fighters. Yami Yugi is not. He does, however, do battle just as much (if not more) than the figures of the rest of my collection. The “King of Games” is a summoner, if anything, bringing forth monsters through his magical deck of cards. Of course, with figma, you’re going to get superb painting on the faces, and Yami is no exception, especially when it comes to his complex eye configuration. Not to worry, you get 3 kinds of eyes, all looking in different directions. His jacket is optional, which is nice, but I didn’t think necessary. Best of all, is the Millennium Puzzle. That is a real nice feature. One they didn’t add in the Revo of Yugi Mutou. The dude is as slick as ever, and I’m super satisfied I got him.

-          Master Grade Gundam Astray Blue Frame D
o   This particular kit has evaded me for some time. I don’t know what took me so long to get it. I’ll tell you what, it easily marks top 15 model kits I ever built. It’s DRAGOON system is one of the coolest so far, and the strike pack is awesome, too. Its colors are pretty impressive, and it came with a high enough stand to make that bad boy the nicest Astray design yet. I hope we get more like him in the future. Now, if I can just get my hands on that pesky DRAGOON stand.

-          Vulcanlog 010 Yu-Gi-Oh Revo Black Magician
o   If there wasn’t Kaiba, then the Dark Magaician is something that belongs in my hands. That designs has been coveted by my gritty little mits for over a decade. Revoltech has always been the king of dynamic posing in my book, and the Dark Magician joins the ranks. Now, he didn’t come with any effect pieces which, though unfortunate, is hardly a deal-breaker for me here...this time. He’s still one of the most notable monsters in the franchise. When he shows up…something is about to go down. Unfortunately, the true glory of the Dark Magician comes in his many forms he can take to turn the tide of battle. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a Dark Paladin…

-          Dragon Ball Z Figure-rise Standard Final Form Frieza
o   Ok, so Goku was a failure, right? Not Frieza. I repeat…not Frieza. I think because Bandai is less bound to making things like clothing and human likeness a part of the figure mechanics that they could concentrate on making a monster…and it turned out great. It can achieve just about everything(if not more) than the Figuarts Freiza can achieve, and since it is inherently larger than that figure, it works as a pretty good 100% power final form. Like any model kit, it looks better if you panel line it, so don’t skimp on that. The effect pieces, and even facial expressions leave something to be desired, but the tail length, torso/waist articulation, and muscly chest give him the look of a powerful galactic lord that all should very well fear. I look forward to picking up Cell and Kid Buu.

-          Mastermind Creations Reformatted Seraphicus Prominon + Power Cradle
o   Gawd Doggit…this thing is what miracles are made of. Mastermind Creations really, really lived up to the name with this piece here. I have transformed this thing maybe 10 times in a row right after opening it. It hits all the criteria for me: 1- is a Transformer, and I love those. 2- has a super armor system, which I have been a fan of since the old Ronin Warrior and Ironman toys. They securely fit onto the core figure from the power cradle. I was a massive fan of the Saint Cloth Myth and Armor Plus, and 3- Wings. Yeah, baby. Anyone can appreciate a good set of wings on something. They’re large, articulated, and can be stowed with ease. 4- the weaponry is simple and storable. One pistol, 2 transparent swords that fit right into his backpack, and one mega-sized blade that lends credence to the testimony of the Transformer god he is a play on. He’s about as articulated as it can be, with or without armor. He’s got a powerful name: Seraphicus Prominon, and his hands have grooves in it, allowing him a really nice grip over a wide range of weaponry…including Dr Wu’s Prime Sword. I think having two similar but distinctly different Star Sabers looks pretty awesome.

-          TruForce Designer Series Megaman X
o   Hot…Diggity…Dawg. I just can’t get enough of this guy. Hats off to TruForce. It’s just amazing. It’s the type of figure that makes you excited about rearranging, just so you have another reason to put your hands on it. The sleek new design is nothing short of incredible. X is a personal favorite of mine from WAY back in the day, and to see him with a futuristic/modern look is like a dream come true. The design of the box art is great too, with homages back to his roots with giving you a basic schematic of his parts. He’s got what you need. A good host of special parts that emphasize what makes X X…thrusting. Vents on his back, and opening shin gimmick help lend X the look of the dash that ended up being a staple in the rest of the X series. Of course he comes with several different hands, but the real prizes come in his above-average stand; designed to showcase just about any pose you can think of, and his X Buster shot pieces, whose look is only augmented by the led inside his X Buster. The gimmick is easy to operate; just twist the top of the buster. The shot pieces can join together to make a very nice charged shot effect. The overall articulation, painting, plastic quality, and use of die-cast metal is a real treat for anyone who can appreciate its intricacies. If you can get your hands on him, GET YOUR HANDS ON HIM. Well, well worth the purchase.

   All in all, 2016 was an ok year for collecting, at best. I’m a head of a household, so I can’t buy everything I wanted this year. I even sold about 80 figures or so just to make back some of the money I spent. I don’t know what 2017 has in store just yet…besides some preorders, of course, but I do plan on making it a year to remember. I hope you all do the same. As always…

Happy Hobbying, everyone!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Review 15: S. H. Figuarts Uchiha Itachi

  (I own none of the art displayed)
 Ah...Itachi Uchiha. What to say about this guy? Well, he ranks pretty high on the popularity polls of the most popular anime currently. It’s safe to say that he isn’t a nobody.

   Taking some relatively obvious cues from Illumi Zoldyck from Hunter X Hunter, being the more powerful older brother of the “cool guy” from the main story, belonging to a famous family of powerful members. Itachi plays the cliché trope of being the bad guy in the beginning to being one of the greatest heroes of the entire story. A child genius turned adult genius whose entire life is shrouded in the “do the wrong thing for the right reason” theme. He’s a ninja held responsible for annihilating his entire clan…yeah.

   Here’s the thing: Itachi is the man, wherever he is. He almost always knows what to do well before he gets on the scene. He’s deadly with a kunai(or probably any weapon he has), extremely gifted in ninjutsu, but most of all is his incredible mastery over his bloodline-limit, the Sharingan. Simply put, the Sharingan is a crazy powerful eye that can do all sorts of stuff, including giving the wielder access to black flames, a giant chakra samurai monster, a host of illusions, dimensional transportation, alter reality, and if you’re good enough, it becomes an even better eye with even better powers…like summoning meteors and stuff. Itachi can’t do it all, but he hardly needs it. He’s too smart in a “I subconsciously know everything” kind of way.

   If you want to know it all about the man, myth, and legend of Itachi, I implore you…read about it:

   So, right off the bat when this guy was first teased through the Bandai pages, I knew I was going to have him. The Naruto figures of the figuarts line isn’t the very best the line has to offer, so I wasn’t expecting something to write home to. I will say that Bandai did pull their resources together to make the best figure they could for their budget.

   Starting with the box art: it only gives images of the figure. That is satisfactory if you’re familiar enough with the character and the story in general. Personally, I would’ve liked some art of the character, though I understand that figuarts box packaging doesn’t normally do that. There is a red and black theme about the box, keeping in line with the Sharingan motif.

Paint: I didn’t think that there would be a lot to talk about here, judging from the initial production pictures. The main body itself(not including the faces) has a grand total of roughly 6 colors. Itachi’s inner jumpsuit is all one flat greyish-blue, with light grey “socks” over his ninja sandals that match the net and belt of the jumpsuit. The Konoha headband has its metallic sheen as always and his hair tie is red.. I’m glad that they did justice to the character by painting all his toenails, getting his necklace right and painting his ring (shu) on each ring finger of the right hands. One thing I have to point out: the Akatsuki robe. While it has a simple design and requires only 3 colors of paint, when the cloak is closed, the clod does not line up. It isn’t the worst thing in the world, but it sticks out like a sore thumb, especially since its Bandai that painted it. Something so small could’ve been done correctly.

When they make an ordinary looking guy one of the most powerful

Articulation: Understand that even though the robe is rubbery, it still restricts much movement…most of it, actually. Without it, you get the basics. Ball jointed head and neck. The torso is divided into 3 parts, with the top and bottom being ball jointed together via the belly area. The arms…well, they are designed to come off with adequate effort. Ball joints at the shoulders and a peg at the biceps. You then slide the arm pieces over the onto the peg, and that will give the figure new “shoulders”. Bicep swivels, double hinged elbows and ball jointed wrists as you would expect. The hips are the last of the ball joints that are kept right inside a swivel. Double jointed knees, strong ankle tilt, foot swivel and toe bend. Your basic criteria for figuarts. The arms are a bit finnicky at first. You have o get the feel down for inserting the shoulders correctly to get the arms in open poses. The torso articulation doesn’t exactly allow for a wide range of ab crunch and arching back, but I could understand that Itachi isn’t the one for dynamic posing. He’s just too damn cool for that.

This is actually very Un-Itachi...

Special Parts: Meh…here we go with possibly the most disappointing part. Let’s start with the pros: the cloak is an outside piece, and has nothing to do with the figure’s base articulation. Good call. In order to use the cloak, however, you have to remove the arms and the ponytail to ensure it fits properly. Next, the cloak has a hole coming from the left side that acts as a holder for a left hand. This way, you can have Itachi in his iconic “lazy hand” pose. You get 4 faces in total: normal stoic Sharingan, yelling Mangekyo, crazy bulging eye Mangekyo, and the warm, “Yuruse, Sasuke” face. For hands: fists, half-clenched hands, 2 fingered ninjutsu hands, left lazy hand, right pointing(casting Genjustu) finger and right “Yuruse, Sasuke” hand. Here’s another thing: Itachi is known for a bunch of sh*t he can do. They go far beyond just a damn cloak. Now, I am aware of things like overall budget, paint, parts count, etc, but there were no kunais, no flame parts, orange or black. Sure, Sasuke didn’t get any flame parts either, but he did at least get something iconic with his chidori parts.

The Brothers Uchiha


Overall Score: 7/10. And that’s pushing it. I like Itachi as much as the next guy. He’s a great character, and I had to consider it when giving him a score. I also had to consider the fact that for the most part, I had a plain figure with almost the best articulation in the series(second only to Kakashi). Is the cloak cool? Hell yeah! But the coolness really ends there for me. I really would’ve paid the extra 5-10 bucks and call it an exclusive if it came with at least 2 more effect pieces. Anything from flame effects, hands with kunais, crows…anything.

   Does Itachi stack up? Is he worth the buy? Well, one has to take into account that the Naruto line of figuarts is probably one of the lowest on the totem pole as far as molds. You’re not really working with a whole lot here. This is mainly in part due to keeping the clothing in line with the character, which makes the figure suffer. In most cases, the figures suffer the hardest in the shoulder connections(looking at you, Naruto molds, first Sasuke and Minato). So, having what Itachi has as a mold is pretty rewarding. However, considering a figure like Itachi a reward is a hard reflection of what you’re dealing with in the first place.

It works...a little bit.

   Itachi is only, and I mean only worth the buy if you really like the character and want to buy him before he’s scarce and the prices jack up, and/or you want to get as much of this line as you can. Look, I’ll say it again: I like the guy. I was all about this release as soon as I saw the prototype. It was just… an underwhelming experience. As good as the call was to make the cloak work in that fashion, I think it would’ve been a great idea to give him a few more effect pieces to complete him. I just don’t want to be caught in another repaint/retool scam for another Itachi with better pieces, like the example of the first SSJ Vegeta and Premium Color SSJ Vegeta with the “Final Flash” hands.

Taking his place among the Naruto roster

   Nevertheless, Itachi is a most welcomed addition to the line for me, and my collection in general. As much as I may have dogged him, he’s probably the #2 figure as a whole for the series. There are some creative things you can do with the one ­real effect piece he has which can add value to him altogether. He’s the best character in the show to be released so far.

Full Naruto cast so far

    Now, this here is more like it for me:

There's a wind coming...a hot one.

Happy Hobbying, everyone!