S.H.Figuarts Akibaranger Akibared
Bandai Tamashii Nations

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Yik Hai Chan is back with a look at a great Japanese import - take it away, Yik!

Thanks to Michael for this great opportunity and for providing a platform to have my random opinions heard!

1993 was a memorable year for me, not only being one of the first times actual violence was aired during Saturday morning TV, it was the first time a group of rainbow coloured superheroes morphed, fought and conquered screens across the nation.  Back then, I’m certain not many would have believed that 2013 would be the Power Rangers 20th anniversary.  However, over a decade and a half before Mighty Morphin’, kids over in the far east of the world were experiencing the first ever Super Sentai show, Himitsu Sentai Goranger, the original Japanese senpai that Saban’s (and for a while, Disney’s) Power Rangers series would eventually use footage from, since its 16th instalment, Kyoryu Sentai Zyuranger, as well as loosely based story retellings.

Last year was Super Sentai’s 35th anniversary, where the series of the year was full of worthy tributes and well deserved fan service.  However, this year, along with the accustomed team-of-the-year, a 13 episode parody side-series under the name of Hikounin Sentai Akibaranger (Hikounin meaning Unofficial) was aired during a late-night time slot.  The show was based in a real-world environment where Super Sentai was a kids’ television show and followed two twenty-something otaku and a high school student, as they fought against semi-real issues affecting Japan’s Electric Town, Akihabara, caused by an evil corporation, all of which was only happening in their imagination.  That’s right…the sexy boss character, the cannon-fodder drones, the monsters of the week supposedly corrupting Akihabara (Akiba for short) and even morphing into the Akibarangers were all delusions in our heroes minds, driven by geek-infused fantasies , all the while trying to become an “Official” Super Sentai team, recognized by Toei, the company that produces it.

The show was geared towards the young adult to middle-aged men who all grew up watching Super Sentai at some point in their childhood, just like the main character (it even had a tagline “Good kids shouldn’t watch this!”), and continued on with the tributes and fan service that were well received last year.  I describe the result as a live action version of a gag Super Sentai anime.  It subverted, averted and blatantly parodied Super Sentai troupes and idioms, had themes of breaking the fourth wall (sometimes without actually breaking it!) and even had an anime as a show-within-a-show!

I’ll be reviewing the first of the Akibaranger S.H.Figuarts, Akibared, produced by Bandai Japan’s collectors division, Tamashii Nations, who heavily sponsored the show.  Akibared is Nobuo Akagi, a 29 year old delivery boy, who not only loves all things Super Sentai, has delusions of talking anime girl standees, one of his cute female customers as well as becoming a real hero.

Packaging ****
A norm for S.H.Figuarts releases, what we get is a nice compact window box package.  This time around, being based upon a tribute show, the white background, rainbow strip and starry design is very much designed with the Goranger’s logo in mind, giving it a very retro feel.  The figure and accessories are clearly visible and there’s no mistaking the packaging is for the Akibared figure with a good amount of promo art and photos all over it.  While the text is in Japanese, there are short blurbs about Akibared, his weapons and even Inordinate Powers (more on that later).  What’s more, apart from the tape on the sides, its 100% collector friendly!  No tape on the inside trays mean that you can easily pop the figure and its accessories in and out to your heart’s content.

Sculpt: ***1/2
The actual live action suit for Akibaranger doesn’t use the age old custom of spandex but uses fibreglass and rubber, more in line with Super Sentai's sister show, Kamen Rider. 
Because of this, the suit is slightly bulkier, especially due to the extra shoulder armour.  S.H.Figuarts tends to use a common base-body which then has the details sculpted and added over it.  Due to this, Akibared comes off a little thin where his upper torso could have been a little bigger and his legs a little thicker.  However, I do understand that maybe the shoulder armour would have hindered the arm articulation even more had it been made bigger, so I'll take it as a catch-22.
That aside, it is a wonderful looking figure, measuring in at around 6 inches tall.  The helmet sculpt matches the show perfectly, even down to the raised air slits on the sides and the anime-style hair-like spikes at the top.  Since it's not based on a spandex suit, the design is more complicated to translate it into a smaller scale but its done well here.  I did say it was slightly small but the best feature is the shoulder armour and abdominal area which has a clear red piece covering a sculpted pattern.  Its effect is incredibly show accurate and I'm glad Bandai went the extra mile instead of just using glossy paint to replicate the effect.

Paint: ****
While only primarily featuring red and black, the paint application is nothing short of perfection.  I can't see any noticeable paint bleed while all the minor details such as the line patterns on the helmet and suit are carefully panel lined. 

All the red parts have a glossy finish, as well as the entire helmet, where the black visor gives off a realistic miniature reflection.  Finally, all the white logos on Akibared are printed on and are clear and crisp as well as being appropriately sized for this scale.
Articulation: ***
Advertised in promos as having “super mobility”, it certainly wasn’t lying.  With S.H.Figuarts being like a japanese equivalent to Marvel Legends and DC Universe, you’ll not only come to expect plenty of articulation but it’ll be as seamlessly integrated into the sculpt as possible.  One of the best examples is the waist joint.  The figure is actually split into two parts, between the abdomen and the hips, and then connected via a ball joint which is cleverly hidden by the belt.

There’s also the ball jointed shoulders and hips which also have articulation at the sockets, giving the arms and legs an even further range of motion.  While the thigh has a cut joint very high up, close to the hip, the biceps no longer have the same which were introduced via the Gokaiger Figuarts seen earlier in the year.  While it would have hurt the arm sculpt, since the shoulder armour is a solid piece, the arm articulation is a little hindered without it.  Due to this, it cannot cross its arms properly and, more specifically, hold or support its gun with both hands like in his henshin/morphing pose or finisher move. 

Apart from that, there’s ball jointed head, neck, torso, wrists, ankles, double pin elbows and knees as well as single pin feet, all of which all move easily but are very sturdy, to hold a large amount of show accurate poses.

Accessories: ***
Included inside the package are eight additional hands, as well as the closed-fists already attached to the figure, two scarf/cape pieces as well as the Moe Moe Z-Cune in gun mode.  All the hands are sculpted equally well with good proportions and can be popped on or off the peg of the wrists joints with a little force.  Some are more useful than others such as the ones for holding the gun or the flat hands for Akibared’s roll-call pose but I’m sure you’ll be happy to have some extra hands for when the occasion arises.

One of the two scarf/cape pieces are to be attached to the small peg on the right of Akibared’s back to complete his uniform, one is sculpted relaxed while the other is flapping in a small breeze.

The only piece of arsenal included is the Akibaranger’s common weapon, the Moe Moe Z-Cune.  It’s actually their henshin device, initially a PVC figure of anime character Aoi from the show-within-a-show, Nijiyome Academy Z-Cune Aoi, that changes into a gun when the members morph.  It’s wonderfully detailed even as this scale and can be held using the correct hands.

Even with all the extra hands, the accessory count seems a little low compared to the Shinkenger Figuarts.  A miniature opened form of the Moe Moe Z-Cune which they use to morph and communicate with would have been a welcome addition.

If you’re lucky enough to have preordered this figure or purchased one early, you’ll receive a first production run bonus which is an extra thin white box including three clear Tamashii Stage stands, each with an Akibaranger logo printed in either red, blue or yellow.  These are to be used with Akibared and the to-be-released Akibablue and Akibayellow S.H.Figuarts.  These stands require a little assembly but are an amazing support piece to stabilize your figures or for mid air poses.  The joints of the clip and the arm itself are strong enough hold Akibared firmly in place.

So what is the huge double cuff type weapon he is holding in one of the photos?  That is one of the Akibaranger’s Inordinate Power, where at various points in the series, Akibared becomes so delusional as a Super Sentai fanboy that he is able conjure up imaginary versions of three "Official" Super Sentai heroes to help in their fight, who will then change into a special piece of arsenal for the Unofficial team to use!
Tamashii Nations has used this opportunity to not only create upcoming releases of these three heroes but have included the Inordinate Power weapon as a Bonus Part in the respective Official hero so they can be used with your Akibaranger S.H.Figuarts!  What we have here is the Deka Wapper, being the Bonus Part included with the S.H.Figuarts Dekaranger Dekared.  While its good to see Bandai expanding their line with new S.H.Figuarts for more classic Super Sentai teams, I would have preferred at least one of the Inordinate Powers to be included in each of the Akibarangers since their arsenal on the show is a little on the low side already. 

I’ll be including my views of the Deka Wapper in a possible review of DekaRed in the near future.

Value: ***
The retail price in Japan is 3,200, the equivalent being approximately $40/25 depending where you are before any sort of import expenses are added on.  For a six inch scale figure, that is a little steep but since it’s made especially for the collectors market, the overall quality in terms of attention to detail, the design, the accessory count and the plastic used is much higher compared to mass market figures so it is justified in a way.  A few more accessories would have been appreciated, though.

If you’re lucky enough to get this via a Japan-based importer, you’ll generally get between 10-27% off the retail price and if you managed to get one from the first production run, you’ll get three free Tamashii Stage stands as well.

Fun Factor: ***1/2
As you can see from the photos, I had a lot of fun posing Akibared, with and without the Tamashii Stage stand.  The accurate sculpt, the amazing paint job and sturdy articulation really makes this a solid piece.  However, due to it being aimed towards collectors, having a number of small accessories and the price being higher than most 6 inch figures, you’d be reluctant to give this to a child, especially if the show isn’t aimed for them.
Things to Watch Out For - 
When using the leg articulation, be careful of the knee articulation.  The knee pads are connected via a peg and can be removed unintentionally.  Also be aware that the special Tamashii Stage stands are only available as a first production run bonus so check with your seller to see if these will be included if you buy Akibared from them.

Overall: ***1/2
Apart from a few minor issues in the structural design, S.H.Figuarts Akibared exceeds the expectations set by their previous releases.  I not only await the remaining members of the Akibarangers to be released with anticipation but also how future releases could be improved.  While the price point may be high in comparison to figures of this scale, it is justified by the quality in both material and design.

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Yik Hai Chan.

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