Stronger and Tackle (Vol. 55)
Well, I’m not dead. So there’s that.
Bandai sort of has the market cornered on awesome toys. Kiwami Tamashii, Armor Plus, S.H. Figuarts and now MonsterArts, SoC, SRC—there’s truly something there for everyone, regardless of whether your interest is in anime, kaiju, or tokusatsu.
A line of theirs I’ve recently become aware of is called Super Imaginative Chogokin, which is basically a line of tokusatsu figures (primarily Kamen Rider) centered on re-designs of classic and modern characters. Do these figures capture the essence of great tokusatsu, or do the re-designs fall flat on their collective faces? Let’s find out!
Let’s get this out of the way first. I’ve only just begun watching Kamen Rider Kuuga, so my knowledge of any Kamen Rider character is extremely limited and any poses for the figures are purely from either Kuuga or my own imagination. On to the box!
I dig the box. The large window on the front provides an excellent view of both figures and their accessories, and the back features the usual “check out this pose” extravaganza as well as the tons and tons of stuff at the bottom that I can’t read. Standard Japanese fare.
Inside you’ll find two trays. The first holds the figures and most of their accessories and the other has some additional armor pieces and scarf trails. Be prepared for an ordeal here. You will be dealing with no less than nine twist-ties PER FIGURE. Bandai was definitely making sure these guys weren’t going anywhere but to the cash register.
You also get a small set of instructions that show you how to switch out the option parts like hands and armor. Like any good Japanese toy, you’ll need the box to store all the extras that come with it, so it’s good that the box doesn’t suck.
Let’s see dem toys.
Daaaaaaaaaamn. These figures look fantastic. The re-designs are absolutely phenomenal, bringing a much more modern and alien look to both characters. For some reason I’m reminded of a cross between the Casshern and Guyver movie costumes for Stronger. Cool stuff. You can get a better look at their original costumes by checking out this overview of the series. Some SICs just get some bumps in detail, but this guy got a full costume update.
The previous design for the helmet featured huge eyes and was so large it almost evoked more of a housefly image if not for the rhino beetle horns. The new version has a much more toned-down, streamlined look, more akin to the modern riders’ helmets. The eyes are still large and fully detailed, but they don’t jump out at you so much. The large shoulderpads are cast in clear red plastic and painted over with metallic silver, meaning in certain poses the exposed clear plastic will allow red light to show through. They also serve to maintain the bulk of the original costume without having to be represented by a solid mantle. The chest is also cast in clear red plastic and allows Stronger’s signature S emblem to be seen behind.
The belt buckle seems to be cast in a mix of bright yellow and bright red clear plastics, which adds a lot of depth to the sunburst effect. You can see a similar technique done on the side of the belt, where the color fades from blue to green. It’s a really beautiful effect that pictures don’t do justice. His hands feature a very bright silver on the fingers, which breaks up the solid white of the gloves and, panel-lined, adds a great deal of depth and detail even in fisted poses. The metallic red featured on his shoulders runs down the length of his arms and legs and onto the gloves and boots. This is true for each set of hands, and really makes the design stand out.
The same high level of sculpted detail and paint are present on the back. A neat feature was the incorporation of the screws for the battery hatch into the design. Just above the screws on either side are sculpted screw-like details that make it seem like the hatch screws are just part of the costume. Nifty! Sure it doesn’t fool anybody, but it they sure get the good try award. The boots are just as lovely as the gloves and at least in part give us the Chogokin out of this Super Imaginative Chogokin. Chogokin on a Bandai toy simply means part of the toy should be die-cast metal. I haven’t given this toy the ol’ in-out, in-out dirty molesty hands search, but I can tell that at least his feet are die-cast.
All in all, Stronger is an incredibly good-looking figure. Now onto the second half of the set, his Electro-Magnetic Wave Human sidekick, Tackle!
I’ll be honest. Stronger is one gorgeous toy, but Tackle is the reason I bought the set. I don’t buy many female figures because for some reason it makes me feel weird (which you can take to any Freudian psychiatrist you’d like), but as soon as I saw her design, I fell in love. Tackle’s costume has seemingly made a smaller jump from classic to re-imagined, but it’s still a significant one. Her cloth costume has been replaced with a more leathery look, her ladybug armor and helmet have been better incorporated into the suit, and even her body has changed into a slightly more militant, new age Bucky type of demeanor. The details are fantastic, and they managed to play down her costume to the point that she doesn’t appear like a helpless damsel as she appears in the old one. She looks like she can kick some ass. Some have said they could see gears down in the clear bits of the helmet, but they’re pretty difficult to make out on mine.
Her belt and skirt also look fantastic, with little rivets and a huge “T” dead center, the last thing that’ll catch the light as her foot crashes down on your skull and knocks you into sweet oblivion. I love this figure because you can instantly imagine what her original design would have looked like even if you hadn’t seen the show. She’d look like a Mouseketeer or Girl Scout or cadet of some sort, but upon re-design she retains all of those elements, but with a much harder edge. With the grimace on her face and her wide shoulders, she looks almost like a WWII soldier, all nerves and balls and full of unwavering conviction. Well done, Bandai.
I’ll admit straight away that while there are a couple issues with the articulation, these things are some of the most poseable toys I’ve messed with in quite a while.
The figures have nearly identical articulation, but I’ll count off Tackle’s. We’ve got a ball and socket head, ball and socket neck, swivel-hinge-swivel scarf, ball and socket interior shoulders, swivel-hinged shoulders, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel glove tops, swivel-hinged hands, ball torso, ball and socket hips, swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel calf, swivel-hinged ankles, rocker ankles, and toe hinges. She had some very minor waist movement I think, but it’s very tight and difficult to use with her skirt. The ankle rockers allow for very deep stances, perfect for really imposing or fatigued posing. Love it.
Stronger has very similar articulation save for hinges in the shoulder pads and a useless neck, which is nearly immobile because of the light-up gimmick. He has some very slight left to right movement, but it says clearly in the instructions not to try and move his head in any direction. Kenjitron posted a very simple mod on how to fix this and I will be performing this following the review. With NECA’s Isaac Clarke from the first Dead Space game sporting a very dynamic ball and socket neck several years ago, it is a bit of a letdown to see newer, more advanced figures lacking this feature.
It’s easy to get them into the Kuuga henshin pose. I don’t know if it’s always the same, but they both included that hand so I figured I’d imitate it.
Honestly they can achieve an incredibly dynamic range of poses. Out of everything I wanted to do there wasn’t a single thing that restricted me aside from the aforementioned head problem on Stronger.
The extra hands combined with the range of motion does allow for some nice emotion to be brought through in posing. After finally getting to watch Marwencol with Katastrophik at the gentle prodding of Mr. Gimmick, I can easily see how important a certain hand or joint can be when trying to emote. Luckily, these figures can be posed quite naturally and are very fun to fiddle with. The only other issue I ran into was that the hinges in the hands can be hindered by the depth of the wrist socket, but if you don’t clock the hands all the way in you can retain maximum poseability. Tackle also has a stuck upper left knee joint, which accounts for her leaning a bit during the review, but this seems to be a one-off error as I’ve seen no other reviews where this issue has been duplicated.
I can say that for those who are willing to try the neck mod, it really improves the personality of Stronger. I didn’t want to take any pictures because you’re not supposed to have to fix your own toys, but Kenjitron’s tutorial has some nice “after” shots if you’re interested.
I picked these figures up for 49 bucks from BBTS, which is the cheapest place I could find ‘round these parts. For about 25 bucks apiece you get two really great figures with excellent poseability and a ton of accessories. Crap, did I not mention the accessories? This review needs more power!
Apparently Stronger was the first Kamen Rider to feature a unique look for his charged up mode. In addition to the ten extra hands, you also get new shoulder armor, chest piece, and faceplate which all feature new silver accents and really differentiate the two looks of the character. Both versions look really impressive, and while it would have been cool to see some slight sculpt difference between the pieces, I do think they look great. Also included is something that was never featured on the show—a facemask to turn Tackle’s Rainbow Kids bike helmet into a fully-fledged badass Kamen Rider-lookin’ deal. Sweet!
All the pieces have pretty straightforward removal and the sculpts underneath are fully detailed, from the cyborg internals of Stronger to Tackle’s stern visage. Just swap the parts and you’ve got some pretty awesome new looks for your toys!
Stronger also has the light up gimmick mentioned all throughout the review:
Of course, it’s very difficult to see under the harsh lights of the studio (which is really just a curved piece of poster board, two floodlights, and the occasional post-shoot cropping), but on the right you can see that in natural daylight the glow is still pretty bright. I’m not terribly fond of the removal of neck articulation–most people aren’t going to want to cut their brand new toy up to add in an articulation point that should have been designed around in the first place—but at least the light-up feature works well.
Scale is kind of difficult to work out here. You could say that Stronger is a pretty big guy, which I think is pretty accurate to the character, and then he fits in scale-wise with your 7” Crysis or Riddick figures. However, that leaves Tackle being almost as tall as Riddick even if her helmet were removable. I’m thinking the scale is closer to 7.25 or 7.5”, somewhere in the range of the older PlayArts figures.
If you know anything about Japanese toys, then you know a standard 5 or 6” figure can easily cost you 50 bucks. For 49 you get two 7+” figures with plenty of poseability, gimmicks, and accessories. These figures both are incredible durable. I never felt like I was going to break a post on a hand or pull off a hinge by being too rough. I’ll give them a slight hit for the QC on Tackle’s knee and the Stronger neck design, but on the whole these figures at the BBTS price are a really great deal.
Kamen Rider Stronger and Tackle may not have been on your radar if you weren’t already a Kamen Rider or tokusatsu fan, but the Super Imaginative Chogokin line is a nice branch-out for Bandai into the world of highly-detailed, extremely poseable toys that don’t have to mimic exactly what you see on the screen. If you’re into tokusatsu, alien or armored designs, or just unique-looking and fun toys, you can’t go wrong with Stronger and Tackle.
Thanks for reading and as always, it’s just a toy. Open the darned thing.