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Vault Review: S.H. Figuarts
Kamen Rider Skull Crystal

Well, I did it again.  I’ve purchased another figure that I know nothing about.  So my review today is going to be another one of those odd ones where I showcase just how little I know about the character of my newest toy.  But who needs back-story when you’ve got a figure that looks as awesome as Kamen Rider Skull!

I haven’t really caught on to the Kamen Rider craze yet.  I’m more of a Power Rangers man.  But what has been tempting me is the S.H. Figuarts toy line.  I’ve been admiring the articulation and detail of the line from afar, knowing that one day I’d be taking the plunge into buying my first.  After all, they’ll be releasing figures of Kaizoku Sentai Goukaiger soon.  (Pirate Power Rangers from space that can use the powers all the previous Sentai groups.  It doesn’t get more awesome than that!)  But what I didn’t expect was to find a Kamen Rider so awesome that I had to own him just based on his looks.

The man behind the mask is Sokichi Narumi, a hardboiled detective in the fictional city of Futo.  Using the powers of the Skeleton Memory combined with the Lost Driver, he is able to transform into Kamen Rider Skull to defend the city.  Not only is he one of the more powerful Riders, but he also has the unique distinction of incorporating the white scarf and fedora he wears in his civilian identity into his Rider costume.

The original Figuarts Skull figure was released as an exclusive to coincide with his debut on the show.  Due to his unique look he became highly sought after by Kamen Rider fans and non-fans alike.  This pushed the original figure’s prices up quite high on the secondary market.  Recently Tamashii has released a second Skull figure, Skull Crystal.  This figure was also an exclusive, but it allowed many who missed out on the first figure to finally purchase one.

I was really happy when I saw the news of this second release.  As one of those non-fans who loved the characters design, I wasn’t willing to pay those crazy high secondary market prices.  Plus, I actually consider this figure to be superior.  Not only did they make a few tweaks to the toy’s design, but he also includes a second head of his Skull Crystal look.

The first thing I usually talk about in my reviews is the look of a toy.  But you’ve probably guess by now that I think Skull’s look is fantastically awesome.  Like many Riders, he wears armor that covers his entire body.  What really sells this design for me is the skeleton theme though.  His helmet is clearly a skull, but they were also able to blend that look seamlessly with the insect motif that the Riders are generally designed on. Continue to Page 2…

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25 comments to Vault Review: S.H. Figuarts
Kamen Rider Skull Crystal

  • He-Mullet

    I was half expecting a Moonwalking pic… He has a Michael Jackson/Sentai vibe going to him…

  • Battle Catman

    Funny you should mention Power Rangers. A lot of fans wonder why Bandai doesn’t import Figuarts and Figma figures since they’re “so much better” than the 4″ domestic figures. The next to last sentence in your final paragraph answers that question.

    The problem with those fans is they mainly keep an eye on Japanese toys and compare those to how “poorly” their corresponding American counterparts are. They don’t really keep tabs on how other lines do. For $35, you can get two full-sized DCUC and MOTUC figures…and those are choking the shelves. You expect customers to pay $50 for a single smaller figure? Yes, it’s a very well done figure, but American kids and parents don’t care about articulation and multiple accessories. All they’ll see is, “I’m not paying THAT MUCH for THAT LITTLE.”

    And like I’ve said before when it comes to the big Deluxe Japanese Megazords, the kind of people who really care about complex paint apps and dozens of accessories are the kind of fans who have the resources and willingness to import, so why should they care if Toys R Us carries Revoltech?

    “We don’t want to pay import prices!” they say. Yes, but you are paying for better product–you’re really going to take a 6″ Iron Man figure and a Figuarts figure and say they’re in the same category? If you want better quality, you gotta pay for it.

    • AdventureVault

      These figures aren’t really geared towards kids in the first place. When Bandai sell to Toys R Us I don’t really expect them to make anything but kids toys. On the other hand, if Bandai would just recognize their is an adult collector fanbase in other parts of the world besides Japan then they could possibly sell to them directly over the internet. Sure, the figure won’t ever be cheap compared to their TRU counterparts, but they probably wouldn’t be as expensive as they are now. The reason why this Skull figure is so expensive isn’t just because he was an exclusive, but also because I had to go through a middleman service to get him. Most of my imports are bought from online stores, so they aren’t quite this expensive.

      What’s really getting to me lately is just how clueless American companies are when it comes to what an adult collector line truly is. Mattel’s MOTU Classics line is probably the closest, and I love that line, but it doesn’t even hold a candle to most of these import lines. For $20 you get a figure with decent articulation, usually two accessories, and sometimes an extra head. Then compare that to what Figma or Revoltech does. For about ten more dollars you get a figure with extensive articulation, often times different heads or faces for human characters, alternate hands, accessories, and sometimes even a base. Not to mention the detail to sculpting and paint job is usually higher.

      Kids don’t buy as many toys as they used to, and American companies need to realize there’s a base of adult collectors out there who will actually pay a bit more for products that have real quality. Just slapping “Adult Collector” on a box isn’t going to work forever.

      • Globulus

        Um, some of us actually don’t want to pay more. A bare bones DC Classic or Marvel Legend figure is clocking in at $18 at Toys R Us. That’s crap. Adding in extra hands and accessories and charging $30? That would still be crap. You’re getting just as much ripped off paying $50 for this dude as you did paying $18 for that War Machine a few weeks back.

        And battle catman has got you dead to rights. American companies and japanese companies aren’t on a level playing field for you to make the comparisons you’re making. Safety regulations, material costs, distribution, cost of licenses, economic conditions, collector interest, willingness to spend, etc, etc. I could go on all day.

        • AdventureVault

          I think we’re saying the same thing in different ways. For me, paying $18 for a DCUC figure is already too much. The articulation is decent, but they usually come with no accessories, plus the materials used and quality control are spotty at best. But Matty gets away with it by claiming they are for adult collectors, and then pointing at lines like Infinite Heroes or the 4 inch GL movie line and saying those are for the kids.

          US companies aren’t even on a level playing field with each other. I’m not really talking about the playing field, but the quality of product being produced. The Star Wars Vintage Collection and 30th Anniversary GI Joe lines are not only inexpensive, but are of such a good quality that they could easily be considered adult collectibles. Meanwhile Matty uses the label of adult collectible to seemingly justify a higher price rather than a better quality.

          I don’t want to pay more money for my toys. But I’ll gladly pay a couple more dollars if it guarantees me a figure with better quality control, paint jobs, articulation, multiple hands or heads, and accessories. It’s like ordering the combo. Sure it’s a bit more than the burger alone, but it also gets me fries and a drink.

          • Battle Catman

            I agree with you there. Do I want to spend $18.99 on a DCUC figure with gummy joints, sloppy paint apps, few or no additional accessories or alternate pieces, and a BAF piece I’m never going to use–or $15.99 on a NECA Street Fighter IV figure with alternate hands, is made of solid plastic, and dozens of articulation points?

    • orionpax636

      I think Vault hits on the important points right here, and another important point that should be made is that Bandai and Bandai America are almost two totally different entities that seemingly have very different ideas.

      Another collector pointed out to me on the FANEx board that Bandai America has a totally different focus than Bandai – as you two both said, mainly to offer a kids-focused line to continental America, while Bandai caters to a decades-long established adult community in Japan.

      I tend to think that if Hasbro can cooperate with its friends at TakaraTomy to get in most cases the same quality Transformers made in US and Japan (for the most part anyway), that Bandai can do the same thing. Granted, though, that it took years for Hasbro to get that arrangement right.

      BC raises a good point in that adult collectors in Japan usually ARE willing to spend more for better quality. I think that since the adult market over there is so strong and established, that companies have no problem building insane detail and design into figures since they know it will turn a profit. Other factors like safety affect it as well. Going back to the Transformers example, Japanese versions commonly have slightly better paint quality and sharper sculpts since the market is different and there are different safety standards to meet.

      It will just take Bandai America some time to recognize that fanbase exists here – by indications of the Thundercats line, it looks like they’re starting to. But I still have to wonder where the mentality changed from when Power Rangers first hit America…I look at some of the old 8″ figures, and those have articulation that would be considered “super” today.

      • AdventureVault

        It would be nice if Bandai America would at least recognize the adult fanbase for the Power Rangers lines. I thought they were starting too with the Legends line, but that didn’t seem to pan out.

        • Battle Catman

          I’m still trying to figure out why the Super Legends didn’t take off. The figures were solid and the selection was good (you can’t pin it on availability because even though they were billed as “chase figures” I saw more than a handful wind up in Walmart’s clearance aisle).

          Some fans would say “they should have made more characters!” Well, maybe, but if a company sees that Product X isn’t selling, their solution isn’t going to be “make more of X.”

          I think it was a lot of overestimation–Bandai overestimated the buying power of older fans, and the older fans overestimated the overall percentage of Power Rangers merchandise sales they actually represented. Power Rangers isn’t like Star Wars or Transformers, whose original audience is in their mid-30′s. Add to that the fact that–for better or worse–Power Rangers has never really “gone away,” and allowed people to “miss it.”

          (I know it may sound like I’m unfairly crapping on Power Rangers fans, but I’m not. I’m a Ranger fan myself, but a vast majority of older fans are bitter, irrational, and blinded by nostalgia, who see 90% of what Bandai of America does as a personal slap in the face.

          You know how there are fans of DCUC, MOTUC, GI Joe, and Transformers who don’t like repaints and extensive parts reuse but know the companies are out to make money so cost-saving methods are bound to be used and see it as a necessary evil so we can get better stuff down the line; and then there are the other fans who SWEAR the companies are just holding out on us and we could have incredible toys but the companies just personally hate us for keeping them in business for years? Yeah, they’re like those other fans.

          • AdventureVault

            Yeah, I never can understand those conspiracy theory fans. It’s like they don’t understand it’s a business. Of course it doesn’t help when the company makes dumb little mistakes that only gives those crazy fans more “proof”.

            I would have really loved to see the Legends line take off. Especially when they decided to revisit the Mighty Morphin series. Oh well.

            Hey Catman, have you seen any of the new Gokaiger series yet? It’s just so incredibly fun. Definitely my favorite series now.

            • Battle Catman

              I’ve watched a little. I like the premise–it’s an anniversary year, so bring back past Sentai heroes as “tools” for the current team to use–but I just wish the key gimmick had been done in a way that wasn’t so blatantly a merchandising ploy.

              If they wanted to go all-out for this (or any) anniversary season, they could have reissued or completely overhauled past DX mecha. I’m not saying they have to cover every past mecha every season–two or three reissues every five years would be nice.

              But no, they made a simple, genderless key mold that can be repainted infinity number of times. You know those compulsive completists won’t rest until they’ve bought ‘em all!(TM) And of course, let’s make some special keys hard to get, because Comic-Con exclusives ain’t got shit on Lucky Draw!

    • Dorkey

      Just a note about the Japanese versions of Sentai figures.

      Bandai holds the exclusive rights to Sentai toys in Japan. Bandai leases these rights from Toei, the production company responsible for the series. Sentai toys manufactured by Bandai must be approved by Toei before they are made available for market. At the same time, Toei must approve overseas sales for these figures to be sold outside of Japan. Next, Bandai America (a different entity than Bandai) would be required to acquire distribution rights from Bandai, which in turn, must get approval from Toei for overseas distribution. Next, Saban has to approve the products for sale in North America because they own the the rights for the Power Rangers/Sentai series in North America (as well as several other regions).

      Then, what are the chances of Saban approving products which represent a similar but different set of characters. What are the chances that Toei would approve their characters to be sold as similar but different characters overseas?

      Finally, for Bandai’s Sentai products to be sold outside of Japan, too many entities would require a share of the profits, driving prices much higher than what the grey market exporters/importers charge.

      So, until Toei re-acquires the non-Japanese rights to the Sentai series or Saban (or whoever they decide to eventually sell the rights to) eventually takes over Toei, the chances of Japanese Sentai toys hitting the shelves in North America are practically non-existent.

      Also, considering the fact that this article was about a Kamen Rider figure, I thought I’d point out that Kamen Rider toys are bound by the same rules as the Sentai toys.

  • dayraven

    didn’t marvel legends showcase that kind of articulation in ’96? save the die cast feet, gambit’s that articulated, and savage dragon trumps that.

    • AdventureVault

      I don’t know about Dragon but Gambit had good articulation, it just isn’t as extensive as Skull here. Skull’s shoulders aren’t just ball joints, they’re swivel hinges attached to a ball joint. This actually allows his shoulders to roll around in the socket like a person’s. This same joint on the hips also gives them greater movement than the ML ball jointed hips. The neck/head area on Skull can also move more realistically because the neck is attached to the body with a ball joint, and the head is attached to the neck with a swivel hinge on a ball joint. So like a person, he can tilt his head while leaning his neck.

      • dayraven

        dragon did pretty damned good, and of course, clocked jointed fingers, so the overall count was ridiculous on him, and the hands made him really expressive to pose. i get where you’re at w/ the shoulders, the material force micromen had a similar joint. it’s cool, and it does help some poses, but it doesn’t make or break the fig for me. just saying, you take your skull dude, i’ll take the house of m hulk, and i bet we can muster most of the same poses.

        that said, i agree w/ you on the “few bucks more” theory, as it’s the same thing i said in favor of scarabus… “for a few bucks more than a motuc, you get a ton more TOY!” but it does lead to the slippery slope, cuz once they know you’ll pay 30, they drop the quality on the 30 dollar figs and make the 40 dollar figs loaded in goodies… even though the 40 dollars figs are only as good as last year’s 20 dollar figs. hell, look at gi joe… i just bought two, and they’re awesome, loaded in shiz, for 8 bucks… that’s not bad, and in today’s market, it’s great… but compared to my vintage shadow or an alley viper, the accessories are prettier but flimsier, the figure has more joints, but they’re thinner, and the mark up is what, 300%? is it really 300% more toy? no friggin way. or more recently, i’m paying now what in ’97 i paid for a marvel legend, which included a BAF part, a stand, a comic, and relevant accessories.

        so in the end, is scarabus cool? damned skippy. is he 30 bucks cool? now, yes… but even two years ago, we’d have been saying “at 20, he’s a bargain, but at 30, he’s only an average value at best.” same goes for imports. and honestly, my track record on the stability of the import figs i’ve bought is awful. only recently w/ the SAS buffaloman do i feel like i found something that feels as sturdy as my “american” toys.

  • orionpax636

    I finally bit on one of this line at Wondercon…I don’t watch the tokusatsu shows, and I sadly have little knowledge of the Kamen Rider mythos, but a lot of the characters look DAMN AWESOME.

    As for Figuarts itself, it’s a nicely built line with a focus on articulation. If any of you owned a Dhalsim from the last, sad lines of SOTA’s Street Fighter run, you probably experienced the sadness of his shoulder internal ball joints. A nice idea, but horribly executed with substandard materials, resulting in shoulders that fractured at touch.

    These Figuarts figures correctly use that concept here – albeit with better and more expensive materials. Kamen Rider seems to be the Figuarts sweet spot, though. I had bought the DBZ Goku Figuarts, and was surprised to see how much better the Kamen Rider builds are.

    • AdventureVault

      I’m really excited to get the Figuarts Gokai Red later this year. The Sentai line looks to be as great as the Kamen Rider line, so that will be awesome.

  • Mirrored

    Wow, I think its incredibly weird and funny that you posted this review today.

    I was messing around with my SHF Kamen Rider Double CycloneJoker and I see this on the front page.

    I hope you don’t fall down the rabbit hole that is SH Figuarts like I did. Although they are highly detailed and articulated and have all these nifty doodads, I learned the hard way this crap adds up.

    But I’m so jelly you got the most hardboiled man to ever grace the toku verse.

    • AdventureVault

      Yeah, I can see how tempting it is to buy a ton of these figures. I’m not so worried about the Kamen Rider ones, but the Sentai ones are already calling to me. :P

  • Heh, I never expected to see this here.

    The first release Skull was actually my first Figuart which I brought purely based on his looks. He is fucking awesome.

    Just wanted to let you know that it’s not the memory of Skeletons that he uses. It’s the memory of Skull which is in reference to the Legend of the Crystal Skull like in the latest indiana jones flick, but that’s is perhaps the most minor detail about Skull you can know so it makes sense you didn’t know.

    Also, what middleman did you use? Yokatta? Riderproxy? Otacute? None of the above?

    Oh and this review itself was awesome.

    • AdventureVault

      Thanks for the correction Ridley. I can usually use all the help I can get when it comes to these characters I know nearly nothing about.

      I used Yokatta this time. It was my first time using them and I didn’t have any problems. I’m thinking about ordering from Riderproxy next just to see how it compares. Who do you usually use to middleman?

      • Heh, Yokatta is what I used mainly. Their shipping time is a bit….odd, but they are generally the cheapest next to Riderproxy. The only thing about Riderproxy is that make sure you send her a message on facebook (just search Riderproxy) that you send her a email or she won’t respond to you any sort of quickly.

        Also, the one thing Riderproxy has over Yokatta is that you can put down a 1000 yen deposit and pay it off in segments, but I don’t know if that really matters for you and if it doesn’t you should just stick with Yokatta.

        Hope that helps.

  • Mainman

    No height comparisons?

  • StrangePlanet

    SH Figuarts grabbed my attention when they did some Dragon all guys, who I know nothing about, but looked cool. I still wanna get Piccollo.

    They make a ton of Riders, and the designs that appeal to me are the first couple, where he wears a tie, because how wacky is that? and this guy here. The Skull. Again, no idea who these people are, but those guys look cool.

    Thanks for the great review. SH Figuarts seem great and you highlight all the things I’d wanna know, almost. Thanks for the rundown on articulation. Are these solid, smooth-moving joints like Figmas? What’s the size like? I know it’s kinda like ML scale but that can leave a lot of wiggle room. Is this Rider really that much better done than the Dragonball one you have? Better articulated or does the design just allow a greater range of motion?

    Thanks for covering this stuff. Imports like Figmas, D-Arts and possibly SH Figuarts is really where my money is going these days. I will gladly pay the extra dough to get really great toys.