Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Goku
Series: Dragon Ball Kai
Price: around $40
“The emptier your head is, the more room there is for dreams!”
Words I live by, certainly. Last week the schedule was pleasantly disrupted by the arrival of Neco-Arc (get it at Kidnemo, thank Hardgear at the forums for the tip). Today we're back on schedule: I'm reaching into the Astro Toy backlog (we're two more toys deep, if you were wondering) and pulling out something that I'd been saving.
No matter who you are or even who you look like, you've probably at least heard about Dragon Ball Z. This essential-but-kind-of-hard-to-watch shonen fight anime-- and Erin’slongtime torturer (hang in there, it'll end one day!)-- has captured millions of hearts around the world, including, for a time, my own.
I will now date myself: the first “imported” Japanese toy (putting aside things like my beloved childhood Matchbox Voltron) I ever bought was a $13 Bandai figure of Super Saiyan 3 Goku. It was an item that I'd saved up all month to buy at the tiny hole in the wall comic shop/arcade I used to run to after school. It was kind of lame-- couldn't pose, hair heavier than the entire body, had to be stood up against a wall or it'd fall over backwards-- but it was imported. From Japan. It absolutely glowed with the exotic. So glad I'm over that phase!
This is the regular Super Saiyan Goku, because in our old age we learn to dial things back a little bit. That's what we call class. (Where is the regular S.H. Figuarts Goku, by the way? I did a lot of digging and it doesn't look to be out yet!) We've done the SH Figuarts line before, but as a refresher: this is Bandai's answer to the Revoltech, featuring characters from its large stable of shonen anime and live-action superheroes like Ultraman and Kamen Rider.
As we expect from this line, the sculpt is particularly impressive and extremely accurate to Toriyama's art. Goku's trademark gi is a much lighter shade of orange than the prototype photos on the box show, but given that the anime itself was never entirely consistent with that color, I'm willing to give it a pass.
We talked about the issue of really loose-fitting clothes on characters like these with that Bleach toy from a while back, and we see baggy pants dealt with a little differently here. Like the Luffy Figuarts toy, the designers opted to leave a lot of gaps in the joints to get the desired space for movement. Along the same lines, the belt, an independent bit of soft plastic, is cleverly used to hide the joint at the waist. Posability is excellent: hinges here, click-clack ratchets there, the whole body has a great range of movement. You can easily do all your Super Saiyan fight poses from the show. The only rough spot is the way Goku's bulging neck muscles get in the way of the movement of his head (and frequently detach it, when you go too far). That little issue aside, the core figure is excellent.
As for extras, the figure boasts a truly-- okay, there's very little in the box aside from the core figure. The additional parts are all Dragon Ball appropriate (hands for Kamehameha and Instant Transmission, along with an “are you talking about Krillin?!” face), but they could have done with a couple more. The hands work fine, but the hair gets in the way of the Instant Transmission pose: an extra hair piece would have been good. The stand is sold separately (pet peeve, as you likely know), no gimmicks, no nothing. The message I take from this is that Bandai knows that this character is popular enough that they can cut corners on the figure.
This guy's pretty expensive (that is, the average non-trash Japanese action figure is pretty expensive) and I had kind of a sinking feeling when I emptied the box to see that there was nothing else in there but a tiny instruction sheet. Where are my effect parts, guys? Don't you know about all the damn lasers and explosion-balls that were in DBZ? What about battle damage parts? Why am I coming up with cooler ideas than you, Bandai? I'm just some nerd!
Something I'm always saying, particularly when I'm making selections for the column, is “why don't the big shonen fight series have really good toys?” They seem like natural fits for the otaku market-- especially in the Western fandom-- and yet (for one major example) all the Naruto toys out there are kind of crap. My theory is that it takes years for the kids who watched the shows on TV to grow up and be able to afford this kind of thing: a super-high-end Real Action Hero figure of Goku came out just a few years ago, after all. There's a reason I like to pick out toys from old properties, and it's not just because of personal tastes!
So after years of gashapon-level trinkets for some of the most popular Japanese characters in the world, Bandai finally does a deluxe Goku figure. Just by virtue of trying at all, it's miles from the earlier, crappier efforts. It's pretty damn good, even... but they didn't put their ankles into it. I'm pretty sure that everybody involved knew this, and prototypes of future Goku Figuarts toys look more interesting... but man, I'm just sayin’. Lasers.
Goku stuff just does not stay in stock: I had to wait a couple of months for HLJ to restock this one (and they're sold out again), and the item is either sold out or unlisted at every single shop I can personally vouch for. Happy Ebay or Google Shopping hunting: I'm sure this one will be back real soon.
In closing, AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH
When he isn't killing time on fighting games and mahjong, David Cabrera gets hype about anime, manga and gaming at Subatomic Brainfreeze.