Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Ultra-Act Baltan II By Justin

Introduction:  In Ultraman's extensive list of enemies, few are as recognizable or popular as the Baltan Seijin.  These insectile invaders are often considered by fans to be Ultraman's arch enemy.  In fact, they appeared twice in the original Ultraman television series (thrice if you count Mephilas's hologram of Baltan).  Despite their plans being thwarted by our hero, they have reappeared time and again over the years.

  When Bandai/Tamashii released their Baltan II figure, many fans were confused.  Why the Baltan II?  The first Baltan design is widely considered the most iconic.  Therefore, the choice was an odd one.  Nonetheless, many were still excited. 

  So...  How is the figure?  Read on and find out!

Package (5/5):  Baltan II was one of the earlier releases.  As a result, he has the older (an in my opinion, more attractive) Star Burst packaging.  The picture on the front is very cool, depicting Baltan II's face in extreme close up.  On the left is a window which displays the figure inside clearly.  On the back are the standard promo shots depicting the character in action.  All in all a very nice package design.  It's too bad Tamashii uses the more garish red foil scheme.  Wouldn't mind a return to this box style one bit.

Sculpt (4.75/5):  This figure's sculpt is truly top notch, with a number of amazing details.  Everything from the chitinous, insectile armor to the wrinkles on his head are expertly rendered and very organic.  There are surprises here, too:  Inside Baltan II's claws are three blue spots (which flash on the show).  His pectoral beam reflector is beautifully rendered as well, with a kind of criss crossing diamond pattern.

  The best thing about this figure's sculpt is the face.  It's just perfect, with eerie compound eyes, ridges, and indents, and an almost sagging, bag like appearance on the lower part.

  If I have one complaint about the sculpt, it's that it's a bit too slim.  Baltan wasn't that skinny on the show.  Overall, this is an amazing sculpt.


 Paint (4.5/5):  Baltan II's paint job is perfect, with very little apparent slop.  Most of the figure is molded in brown.  All over the body, however, there are accents and patterns of lighter brown an green.  The claws are a metallic silver that fades into brown at the arm.  The pectoral panels are also painted silver on the inside (along with the reflective surface they cover).  The best work is done on the head, though.  The eyes are eerily painted a bright yellow, with a plastic dome covering them.  Around the eyes are tan accents.  The crests on top of his head are colored tan with red impressions.  Here was my only QC issue:  Some red slop near the (our) right side of his head crest.  Up close it's very noticeable.  That rather minor issue aside, the paint job is great....  Even if the brown scheme 
won't exactly make it "pop" on your shelf.

Articulation (3.5/5): The articulation on this figure is good. However there are issues here and there that hurt its overall score. First- Despite its slim design, the Baltan's hips can't move outward very far at all. The tail/skirt is in the way, and will most likely break if pressed too hard. Second- The ankle joints are rather weak, preventing the Baltan from holding any one legged and stepping poses. Lastly- His waist and torso joints are so tight, they may as well be immobile. Not very flexible for a "Space Ninja"! That's not to say he's all bad: The arms have an excellent range of motion, and the front to back motion of the legs is great. Due to the trademark Tamashii hips he can kick straight up in front of him (see below). Too bad he can't stay like that without stand support.

This figure is highly articulated: It has a ball jointed neck; a ball jointed torso; two hinged pectoral panels; shifting double ball jointed shoulders (each joint covered by a sheath); double swivel/hinged elbows; double swivel hinged claws (that open and shut); a barely mobile swivel waist; ball jointed hips (with an internal mechanism for swiveling the hips outward); double hinged knees; a swivel above each ankle; double rocker ankles (which have a good range of motion front to back...  but a terrible range of motion from side to side); and finally, some completely useless toe swivel/hinges.
Note:  I've actually been informed that the rocker ankles do allow a great deal of side to side motion.  I tested them and they move so much they're parallel with Baltan's leg!  Thanks goes to Baltan II of Tokunation for pointing this out! 
  All in all, the articulation on this figure is a bit disappointing.  Especially given Baltan II's slim physique.

Accessories (3/5):  Baltan II is not exactly loaded down with accessories.  He comes with two beam effects that snap nicely into his open claws.  They look cool enough....  The only problem with them is the fact that they're the wrong color.  In the television show, Baltan II emitted whitish/blue flashes from his claws.  Here they're molded in a transparent yellow/orange.  Aside from the beam effects, the only other accessory he comes with are six mini Baltans on a plastic tree.  They cannot be displayed in any way, and are so small they would most likely be lost if great care isn't taken. It's a fairly useless addition.  Hate to say it, but these are some fairly underwhelming accessories.

WATCH OUT!  There's really just one thing to watch out for with Ultra=Act Baltan II (besides the ridiculously small mini Baltans).  The tail/skirt seems brittle, and would most likely break if too much pressure was applied. 

 Overall (4/5):  Though the accessories are a bit scanty (and in some cases utterly useless), and the articulation is somewhat limited, Ultra-Act Baltan II is still an excellent figure of the iconic and popular Ultra foe!  The sculpted details are phenomenal, there's very little paint slop, and the articulation is good.  I recommend this to Ultra Fans and Baltan fanatics.    If you can find him at a decent price, that is.

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