Probably the highlight and genesis of Ultraman Week is today’s review. It’s also one of the most photo intensive reviews I’ve done in recent memory, with close to 40 different photos making the cut out of a total of over 200 pictures taken. I’m one of the first American websites covering this figure so I definitely wanted to do it justice. I hope you enjoy reading the review and looking at the pictures, as much as I enjoyed writing and taking them.
6 Inch Scale
Ultraman made his television debut on July 17, 1966, 44 years ago nearly to the date. Ultraman was actually a follow up to Ultra Q, which had debuted previously that same year. Ultra Q had essentially been X-Files meets Twilight Zone, while Ultraman changed the formula by adding a superhero element to the show. Ultraman, although not the first real tokusatsu show, can arguably be called the forefather of the genre. At least within the usage of tokusatsu as a catch-all for Japanese superhero/scifi.
Within months of Ultraman’s TV debut, toys began to appear. First made by a company in Japan called, MARUSAN. The sculpts weren’t particularly good, but the vinyl versions of the characters were surprisingly articulated and detailed for their time period.
Since those humble beginnings, Ultraman has went on to spawn a Guinness World Record setting number of spinoff shows, with over 25 television series and incredibly, around 25 films as well. The original Ultraman hasn’t always appeared in these programs, but remarkably the character and actor portraying his human host counterpart appeared as recently as last year in feature film.
Along the way have come a litany of figures, each of varying qualities. Ultraman has aired in dozens of countries, including the United States and is in many ways the forefather to so many American phenomenon like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Yet, despite all that, there has never been a particularly definitive Ultraman figure… Until now!
In the future, sinister aliens and giant monsters constantly threaten civilization. The only Earth organization equipped to handle these disasters is the Science Special Search Party, a special police force with branches all over the world, and equipped with high-tech weapons and vehicles, as well as extensive scientific and engineering facilities. The Science Patrol is always ready to protect the Earth from rampaging monsters, but sometimes finds itself outclassed. When the situation becomes desperate, Hayata, the Patrol’s most capable member, holds the key to salvation in the form of a power-object called a “beta capsule,” which, when activated, allows him to transform secretly into the amazing, super-humanoid-powered giant from space, who soon becomes known to the people of Earth by the name of Ultraman.
While active as Ultraman, Hayata’s human body goes into a type of deep coma, reviving only after the threat has been neutralized and Ultraman willingly departs. Victory is never assured, however, as Ultraman’s powers–his very life force–comes from rapidly depleted, stored solar energy. At the beginning of each transformation from Hayata-to-Ultraman, the warning light on the giant’s chest begins as a steady blue color. Yet as Ultraman exerts himself, the Color Timer changes to red, then blinks-—slowly at first, then with increasing rapidity—-as his energy reserves get closer to exhaustion. As the voice-over narration reminds the viewer—beginning with episode 2 and for each episode thereafter—-if Ultraman ever reaches the point of total energy depletion, he “will never rise again.”
For over 30 years Bandai has been making Ultraman figures. Mostly of the limited articulation, vinyl variety. This year they have created a new line, to compliment their popular S.H. Figurarts lines and to compete with other lines like Revoltech, called Ultra-Act. Ultraman, as he appeared in the most recent film is, fittingly, the first figure in this line.
Japan has a different market than America, as toys are regularly marketed for adults. Unlike most toy companies here in the states, “adult collector” isn’t a hush-hush word in the land of the rising sun. As such, these toys are packaged and marketed more towards that demographic. Of course, these are likely popular with children as well.
The box for Ultraman is beautiful, with a nice almost vintage looking design for the Ultraman face “scribbled” on the front. Beyond that, it’s a pretty standard window box with some nice posing pictures on the back. Surprisingly pretty much all the text on the front is in English.
Inside Ultraman is encased in a double plastic tray. Simple tape holds the tray down with the figure safely protected inside. Remove the top tray, to reveal an additional tray underneath with a couple more accessories, like Ultraman’s cape.
“I’m free! I’m free! Wait… Who’s that? Quick put me back in the package!”
Despite largely keeping the same design for 40 years, Ultraman has underwent a few cosmetic changes. Most of those happened during his original run and there are three distinct Ultraman costumes, known as Type A, B and C by fans of the series. Type A was more paper mache-esque, with almost an acne appearance on the face mask. Type B was known for it’s bigger eyes, defined lower and up lip and pointy elf shoes. Type C, is the most iconic version of the character, ditching the elf shoes and refining the features on the face. Bandai’s Ultra-Act Ultraman, thankfully replicates the Type C version of the character.
Upon first glance, Ultraman may appear a bit spindly to some American fans. That’s true to form though. Ultraman has never been a pumped up, steroid bodied superhero like we traditionally see in the West. He has moderate muscle tone, but is mostly thin.
Although an import toy in America, this is a mass market toy in Japan. As such, there may be some bleed on lines in the paint job. However, I found mine to be painted very well. Parts of the figure are molded in red plastic and silver painted on, and other parts in reverse. The eyes are a particularly nice touch, with clear plastic over a jagged paint design.
Even the suit’s eye holes are replicated. This might seem odd to fans unfamiliar with the character, but even though technology in special effects has improved, this has remained a consistent part of the character’s design.
Scale wise he fits in pretty good with the classic Bandai vinyls, as he’s intended, but he’s considerably taller than S.H. Figurarts Kamen Rider toys. This is a separate line, make no mistake about it. There should be no confusion between the two lines.
Ultraman’s trademark suit fin is also present, running down the head, neck and back, despite being five separate pieces. There are a fair amount of cuts breaking up the sculpt, which could take away some of the aesthetic, but they are needed for the articulation. Ultraman figures for decades have been limited to 2-5 points of articulation, so the cuts are hardly a nuisance.
The sculpt works seamlessly with the articulation and accessories to replicate every one of Ultraman’s trademark poses. Something that despite valiant attempts, has never been realized before to this level in plastic.
Articulation is a big selling point for this figure. Although a few Chogokins have come out through the years with decent articulation for Ultraman, few have been cost efficient and none have reached this level. Ultraman has tons of cuts, joints, pivots, hinges and the like. Many of the points of articulation are completely different than the range typically seen on American toys and are almost hard to describe.
The shoulder and thigh/leg joints are similar, but constructed slightly different. The shoulders have two separate hinge joints. One allows the figure to move it’s arms inward, similar to the recent Jakks UFC figures. The other acts more like a traditional ball joint. That secondary shoulder hinge is also where the figure’s shoulder swivel is cut and I’ve labeled them as one joint, but they could be considered separate.
One of the most impressive joints comes at the wrists. When you pop the hands off you’ll see a ball hinge with complete range of motion. This allows the wrists to not only swivel, but pivot back and fourth as well as move in nearly 360 degrees, while at a 90 degree angle.
The head and neck are broke into two different joints. The neck is a ball joint, but that’s at the lower portion of the neck where it connects to the torso. This gives the neck a realistic movement. The head however, is on a simpler hinge joint. This means that Ultraman can’t quite tilt his head to the side the same way a DCUC would, but he can look nearly straight up, at angles that a traditional ball joint won’t allow.
The amount of posing opportunities with this figure are nearly limitless.
In addition to hitting complex poses, the simple things also come smoothly and gracefully to this figure. I often find that a figure with tons of articulation points, can’t do simple things like stand up straight or sit down completely. Ultraman can! He can even sit down Indian style.
UP, UP AND AW-SHUWATCH!
Recreating classic battle scenes, or devising new ones are available at a level never before reached in the 40+ years of Ultraman toys. There really isn’t a pose you can’t put Ultraman reasonably in. His articulation is likely unmatched not only by all previous efforts, but by 99% of the other toys on the market entirely.
On the surface it might seem as though Ultraman wouldn’t need much in the way of accessories. He doesn’t use guns or swords. Yet Bandai has found a wealth of accessories to include that are not only logical, but now almost seem necessary and make every figure before this terribly lacking as a result.
Chaiyo’s terrible SRC Ultraman came with three pairs of hands, which seemed quite innovative at the time, but Bandai blows that out of the water. Ultra-Act Ultraman comes with four pairs of hands. A pair of chop hands, a pair of fist hands, a pair of wide open hands and a pair of medium open hands.
He also comes with an “Ultra Slash” hand, which depicts his saw-like Spacium-energy halo. The ring is cast in translucent smoky plastic, with addition white paint applications.
Ultraman also includes a hand that’s projecting his full Spacium energy ray. This is how Ultraman typically dispatches of his foes and it’s considered his most powerful weapon. It’s created the same way the Ultra Slash is, but is particularly impressive do to it’s size.
His regal cape is also included and is made out of a pretty hard vinyl.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never seen Ultraman in this particular mantle, it’s because it’s a newer concept introduced in the most recent Ultraman films. These were created to help make the more classic Ultra characters look like royalty on their home planet.
There is also a strange little plastic stand included. Don’t throw that away. This stand is designed to be a counter balance to the heavy cape. The cape plugs into that ridged area along the top and keeps the figure standing proud when he’s wearing his mantle.
Finally, the absolute coolest and simplest accessory: Ultraman’s color timer. Both cast in their appropriate color of translucent plastic. They can be simply plugged into his chest to replicate Ultraman’s stage of battle. Just don’t let him stay in the red for more than 3 minutes, or he may never “rise again”.
Must… Rise… Again…
Ultraman fans have waited decades to have a figure like this. I personally have waited almost 30 years and this figure is a considerable upgrade from my first Ultraman Vinyl Toy. It improves upon it in every conceivable notion.
This toy offers so much playability that there is little doubt in my mind that I will be continuing to collect this toyline. I have spent the last several days posing and reposing this guy, far more than I normally do with my toys.
Some fans have reported some issues with the figures, but I find that most of those are folks who expected this to be exactly like the S.H. Figurarts toys. The Ultra-Act line uses a different plastic, has no metal parts and it’s joints are somewhat looser in construction. You should know that, going in.
My only flaw with this figure is that one shoulder is starting to get a bit loose. However, the overall toy is of pretty great quality in my experience. Tighter joints would definitely make it better, but it’s like saying Double D cups would be better if they were F’s. Ya know?
SHOP AROUND! One of the bigger US online toy retailers is selling this guy for $40. You might be less impressed with him at that price. I paid around $25. I listed him at $30 because with shipping, that’s about what you’ll pay even if you find him cheap. I still think he’s an incredible value at that price. So what if a couple of the joints get a little loose? A lot of that comes from swapping hands and constantly posing this guy in every pose that’s imaginable to mankind!
Packaging – 8
Sculpting – 10
Articulation – 10
Accessories – 11 Hands, 2 Color Timers, Cape, Stand
Value – 9
Overall – 10 out of 10
One of the rare, coveted 10 out of 10 figures here at Infinite Hollywood. While in general, I may score some toys higher than most, I only give out the 10 out of 10 when I feel a toy is so good, it deserves epic praise. This is that toy.
Could it be better? Sure. Everything could be better. This is the best Ultraman toy in nearly 45 years, though. Think about that for a minute! There have been hundreds of Ultraman figures made and this one is the best. Maybe in a few years something better will come along and I can retroactively downgrade this, but for now, sorry, it’s as close to plastic perfection as we’ve ever gotten of this Japanese superhero.
This is one of those rare toys that makes me wish I could be a kid again to play with it. Posing with him is fun, as is taking pictures, but this is the kind of plastic crack that makes me want to get on the floor and PLAY with him. Disappearing into a world of monsters and judo throws. Any toy that can make you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach, is a great product.
Slick, clean and evocative of the Ultraman mythos, overall it’s an incredible toy. Or, as Google so helpfully translated for me from a Japanese review: “I fly at Mach giant sky, I would furious romance.” Indeed, I would furious romance.
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