Astro Toy Special: S.H. Figuarts Dragon Ball 2019 Event Exclusivesby Rob Bricken,
S.H. Figuarts Dragon Ball 2019 Event Exclusives
Maker: Bandai/Tamashii Nations
The convention season is long over, but it wasn't a bad year for Dragon Ball fans. Tamashii Nations' long-running S.H. Figuarts line had not one but five exclusives at this year's anime conventions from classic, original Dragon Ball series to the ongoing Dragon Ball Super anime. If you missed them and are considering hunting them down online (some of 'em are still available on Bluefin's site right here), here's what you need to know about the limited edition Golden Frieza, Ultimate Son Gohan, Kid Goku, and Super Saiyan Rosé Goku Black figures (the fifth release was Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Gogeta). Regardless of how they're named on the package, I'm going to use the traditional English spellings for clarity's sake, and also because I've been spelling them this way for 20 or so years.
Out of all of Bandai's 2019 Dragon Ball convention exclusives, the Golden Frieza is easily the simplest of the group. A straight-up repaint of the first Golden Frieza figure originally released in 2015, the same year the incarnation of the character debuted in the Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' movie, this figure contains the exact same accessories: four heads (stern, smirking, laughing, yelling) and five hands (left and right fists, left and right fingers spread, and a right hand with its index finger raised for Frieza's various death beams).
The change is in its colors, which are much improved. His golden skin is a bit more muted, which makes it look more like actual gold than the original figure's obvious—but understandable—golden plastic. The purple of the new Frieza's skin is closer to lavender than the red-purple of the original, which is much more accurate to the anime. And while I can't swear to it, the deep purple of his helmet, chest, and shin accents feel a little richer to me, too.
Again, Frieza's simple design—that is to say, his nudity—really lets the full range of the Figuarts articulation shine, especially the excellent elbows, knees, and shoulders articulation. Frieza's tail is articulated at the base, but that's it—which is fine, but I wouldn't have minded a second tail in another pose. Still, not bad. (Original price: $55)
Ultimate Son Gohan
Grown-up, classic DBZ's Son Gohan isn't a repaint of the first Ultimate Son Gohan figure from 2015, but is instead a straight-up re-release… almost. What makes this Ultimate Gohan a little Ultimate-r than the original is that this time he comes with a Super Saiyan head, so you can add this basic version of the character to your collection as well.
It's hard not to be a bit underwhelmed by Gohan here, but it's hard to tell what the issue with the toy is when the character himself is so… bleh. Grown-up, Majin Buu-era Gohan was easily the most boring version of Goku's first son (except when he was in his preposterous Great Saiyaman get-up). As such, he's just Goku with a less interesting head—literally in this case, as the figure reuses Figuarts' old, adult Goku body for everything from the neck down, which means Gohan has the same insanely obvious, awful-looking knee joints when they're bent.
He also has the same loose “sleeves” that hang off the figure's shoulders, which are meant to be moved to cover up what is otherwise a giant gap between the torso and arms. It's honestly very effectively once they're moved into place… but it's hard to be super-impressed by their usefulness when you keep seeing those big ol' shoulder chasms every time you pose him. The figure comes with 10 hands total and two heads—Super Saiyan and original recipe, each with a mouth-closed and yelling faces. There's also a blue energy blast accessory that needs a stand for Gohan to “hold.” It works fine, which pretty much sums up this figure. It's fine. ($65)
Kid Goku is my jam, though. I've always been a big fan of the original Dragon Ball series, back when it had a lot more comedy than fights that went on for months, so in full disclosure I may be biased here. Please grab whatever grains of salt you feel you might need.
Li'l Goku here is, of course, another repaint (although in this case the original figure was released last year). This time, instead of his traditional orange gi, he's in his blue one with the white belt, as he appears in the anime's earliest episodes. He still has a truly absurd 14 swappable hands; his Nyoibo “power pole” staff, both sheathed and unsheathed; three faces including smiling, smirking, and so happy his eyes are U's; two monkey tails, one straight and hooked like a cane, the second more wavy; and, of course, the four-star Dragon Ball. What he doesn't have is the Flying Nimbus cloud stand included with the original figure, which is a big bummer for everybody who didn't buy the first one, but probably nice for completionists who did purchase it and don't need a second Nimbus.
Regardless of my affection for the original series, Goku is my favorite of the Dragon Ball Figuarts 2019 event exclusives because the articulation works on this cartoon-ier figure much better than it does the Gohan figure. His shoulders have the sleeves sculpted onto the upper arms, so there are no gaps, and the knee joints look less egregious, but it still has all the rest of the traditional Figuarts articulation packed into a tiny package. It's sort of a marvel, but here's the real miracle: Despite Goku's giant noggin, he is easy to keep standing up—or, rather, he's no more difficult to stand up that the full-size characters, which is saying the same thing. Of all the figures, I wish this Goku had some sort of base to do some more dynamic poising. I also wish his tails would stay in his backside a bit easier, but I'm not going to hold either of these things against him. ($55)
We end with the event exclusive Super Saiyan Rosé Goku Black, which is a great figure and shows the improvements Figuarts has made since 2015. The knee joints are now “clothed,” making them a bit less noticeable, (although the darkness of Black's outfit likely helps as well), and the lower half of his tunic is flexible enough to still allow for total leg movement, which is very cool. Both figures include nine hands, which are an odd assortment: left and right fist, left and right four-finger grasp, left and right two-finger grasp, then a right flat palm, a right finger gun, and a right two-barreled finger gun. They also have a Rosé energy blade accessory.
All of this is great, but the 2018 Goku Black figure came with a normal, black-haired Goku head with two faces, and a purple kamehameha energy ball accessory. You're only going to get the Rosé head with the event exclusive version—the big change here is the hair is now sort of a semi-clear, semi-pearlescent plastic, as is the energy blade. This looks better than the painted pinks of the original figure for sure (Black's outfit has a bit more purple in it as well, which actually goes with the new hair color very nicely) but also there are other additions. Now there are four unique faces for Black: stern, smirking, gritted teeth, and yelling.
However, the real answer to the missing heads and kamehameha a clear-pearlescent rosé-colored Energy Aura accessory, used to surround Black to replicate the effect of him powering up. Figuarts has been using these for a while now, but they're new to me, and man, are they great. They're simple, but look outstanding. I just don't know whether the Energy Aura outweighs the versatility of having the option to have a regular, non-Rosé Goku Black on your toy shelf. That's a question everyone must look deep inside their souls and answer for themselves. ($75)
All in all, it's a solid group of figures. Repaints are generally the name of the exclusive toy variant game, and Golden Frieza and Goku Black have subtle but definite improvements over their predecessors, while Kid Goku in his other iconic outfit and grown-up Super Saiyan Gohan are as valid as any re-colored action figure is going to get. Still, they are just repaints, so if you already own these guys, you're only getting some minor changes for your money. But if you've been holding off buying them for some reason, these figures are mostly the ones to get. (Oh, if kid Goku only had his Nimbus…)
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