Monday, December 24, 2012

Ultra-Act Ultraman review!

After... however long it has been since I done anything with this blog: a review of an action figure! Why not? Anyway, Ultra-Act Ultraman (Renewal Version).

The figure is a representation of the original Ultraman (who can also be referred to as "Ultraman Hayata" to distinguish him further) and as the "Renewal Version" phrase implies, this is not the first figure of Ultraman to be released in Ultra-Act, but actually the second. I don't have the previous version to compare with, but this one is supposed to be a major improvement.

Just getting the packaging out of the way first. While the packaging style is unimportant, this particular packaging is alright for me. The early Ultra-Acts had black packaging with a "starburst-esque" illustration of a character, but this one is packaged in a box with vibrant colors, and a touched-up image of the actual toy. I say the colors work, at least for Ultraman here.

Sculpt-wise, the figure is designed to look like somebody fit, but not overly muscular. Appropriate, considering that Ultraman is represented on-screen by a stuntman in a costume. Although I don't think the figure's physique is based on any particular stuntman. The biceps and abdomen are sculpted to show a bit of muscle detail. Ultraman's face seems to be based on that of the "C type" iteration of the character's costume, which is also how Ultraman usually looks during appearances after his series. The paint is pretty good, but Ultraman's design is just too simple for Bandai to screw up anyway. The lines between Ultraman's red and silver areas are sculpted in, which is a nice (but really simple) detail. In a show of slightly more impressive detail, there are tiny black dots at the bottom of Ultraman's eyes, as that's a detail one tends to see on the costume.

Articulation is where figure truly shines in, which is standard for most any Ultra-Act of an Ultra hero. The "Iron Man floor punch" pose is a good standard test of articulation, and this figure can assume an approximation of that pose. The shoulders are similar to S.H. Figuarts since there's a stem protruding from each of them, and on the end of that stem, is a balljoint that's "stuffed" into the torso. This allows for some subtle shoulder-adjusting, for more natural movement. Other than that, Ultraman's head is articulated, and so is the base of his neck, while each arm possesses a "universal" shoulder (this is a separate joint from the aforementioned "balljoints stuffed into the torso"), upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows, and a sort of multi-joint combo for the wrist. Ultraman's torso is designed to hunch over to a good extent, as that is important for Ultraman's default battle stance. The figure has good tilt and rotation at the waist and mid-torso as well. The legs are attached to the body via balljoint, and said balljoint is attached to a hinged stem. The rest of the legs are articulated similarly to the arms, with the addition of a hinge for the toe portion of each foot/shoe. Making the figure balance on its own can get tricky for certain poses, so a support stand (such as a Tamashii Stage) helps a lot. A small portion on the upper part of Ultraman's back is removable to attach Bandai's Ultra Brothers Mantle, sold separately, which I don't have.

Just with all that articulation, Ultraman is already looking pretty good. But it doesn't end there, of course. This figure is packaged with loads of acessories.

Alternate hands are a prerequisite for Tamashii Nations product such as this, and Ultraman has a plethora of them. Aside from the default closed fists, Ultraman includes slapping/karate chopping hands, splayed open hands, "calm" open hands (they look like he's gesturing for a handshake), and even a peace sign right hand, for some reason. The alternate hands can really be used for whatever purpose your imagination deems fit.
Peace sign, or a poke in the eyes

Ultraman also comes with effect parts representing the Specium Ray and Ultra Slash, along with two "running explosion" pieces, which, while intended to make Ultraman look more dramatic in a running pose, can be used for whatever other purpose you might imagine for them. The Specium Ray and Ultra Slash can be equipped like any alternate right hand, while the running explosion pieces just sit there, not actually attached to anything. The Specium Ray is colored a somewhat odd shade of blue, considering that general media depictions give it a more whitish color, at least in my experience. Maybe that might not look as good in plastic form, but I'd prefer at least a lighter shade of blue. Also included are an alternate red Color Timer, and an "adaptor" piece to attach Ultraman to a Tamashii Stage, without needing to use the Stage's claw hands. I find it a rather tricky piece to use, and it has a couple of sharp points. The effect parts also have some sharp points, and the Color Timers can be tricky to properly install and remove. Plus they're really small, so be careful with them.

The alternate hands and effect parts are compatible with pretty much any Ultra-Act with silver hands, and I like using them for Dyna (Flash Type), which I felt was rather lacking in accessories. The "handshake"-looking hands work better for Dyna's hunched fighting stance than the more splayed hands Dyna actually came with, while the peace sign is a gesture that works for the character, and the Ultra Slash works as Dyna had a similar attack (which was not represented among Dyna's own acessories).

Overall, Ultra-Act Ultraman is not merely a good toy. It's an amazing toy. Being a Tamashii Nations product, this figure is not designed for child safety, so you have small parts and sharp points to worry about. Still, it's a very well-articulated, nicely accessorized figure of an iconic character, and looks pretty good to boot. If any Ultra-Act can be described as "must have", it's this one. However, it's been a while since this figure was released, so finding one can be tricky nowadays. CS Toys seems to still have it in stock as of this writing, but I am yet to have any experience purchasing from that store, so I can't exactly vouch for it or whatever.

edit: Forgot to mention that the figure stands at around 6-and-a-half inches or 16.5 centimeters. Maybe not exactly at those numbers, but they're a good approximate.
Ultraman, along with related characters and concepts are © Tsuburaya Productions. 

So far, the only antagonists from the 1966-67 Ultraman series that have been released in Ultra-Act are Gomora, Baltan II and Red King (edit: and Fake Ultraman, which used the original Ultra-Act Ultraman body). A prototype of Zetton, Ultraman's opponent in the final episode has been seen at a Tamashii Nations event. At least in my opinion, Zetton will be a more important enemy to have as an Ultra-Act than the rest of the monsters and aliens from Ultraman's (the show's) 39 episodes.

Update, March 13th: Ultraman is scheduled for another reissue sometime during June 2013. See Tamashii Nations's list of scheduled releases for that month, and scroll down. Although I imagine anybody reading this by now would already know.

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