Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ultraman Week 2012 Special Dual Review: Ultra-Act Red King and Ultraman Max by Justin

Introduction:  Red King is one of Ultraman's most iconic foes, having appeared many times throughout the history of the franchise.  Sure, he may look like a cross between a lizard and a corncob...  But his look and personality have resonated in the fandom in a way that would make most of his monstrous colleagues green (and scaly) with envy.

When Red King was announced for the highly detailed, highly articulated Ultra-Act collector's line, it was significant for a few reasons.  First...  It's Red King!  Few creatures' images are so simultaneous with the phrase "Ultra Monster".  Second, the last proper kaiju released (not as an exclusive, like Golza) was Eleking in 2010!  Needless to say, fans of the line were excited.  So the question remains...  Was he worth the hype?

Max, Max, Max!  Max, Max, Max!  Urutoramaaaaaan Max!

Thus began the 2005 Ultra series, Ultraman Max.  This show was significant in that it brought many classic Ultra Monsters into the modern era of tokusatsu.  It resurrected icons like Zetton, Red King, King Joe, and Eleking, with significant upgrades to their suits.  As my personal favorite Ultra Series, I was reasonably excited when Ultraman Max was announced for simultaneous release with Red King.  So how did the figure turn out?

Read on and find out!

Package (Red King:  3.5/5  Ultraman Max:  4/5):  My disdain for the new style packaging has been made apparent in the past, and only increases with each release.  In Red King's case, there's something odd about his sideways position vs. the center window of the package.  It just doesn't mesh.  Nor does the bright red/silver scheme match up with the monster's earthen coloration.  It's fine for the Ultras, but here it's significantly less appropriate.

   Max's package is the new standard for Ultramen.  It's a bit dull, but serviceable.  Both packages have promotional photos on the back.   

Sculpt (Red King:  4.5/5  Ultraman Max:  4.5/5):  Red King's sculpt is nothing short of phenomenal!  Everything... from the spot-on proportions to the diamond sharp details, are among the best in the hobby!  The odd, bar like scutes that make up the majority of Red King's hide are perfectly rendered.  His head is clearly reminiscent of the Showa design, and the jaws are full of beautifully sculpted teeth.  Of particular note are the prominent canines, which actually seem sharp!  Tiny scales adorn Red King where appropriate (mostly on the head and hands), and the scutes on the tail are asymmetrical in a very organic way.

The one thing that mars an otherwise perfect score is the design of certain joints.  The knees hang over the lower legs in an unnatural way.  The shoulders are separate pieces, and stick out like a sore thumb.  And the belly hangs in a similar manner to the knees.  If these joints were slightly less obvious, Ultra-Act Red King would be an easy 5/5.  They don't hurt the look of the figure in any significant way, though.

Ultraman Max is one of the bulkier Ultramen, and the Ultra-Act figure reflects this.  This body sculpt is definitely bulkier than average, with a greater thickness in the arms, thighs, and torso.  It's definitely somewhat imposing.  Max also has a lot of excellent details, especially on his torso/shoulder armor and head.

If there's one flaw in Ultra-Act Max's sculpt, it's the way that the head connects to the neck.  There's an obvious discrepancy, and it doesn't look good in any position.  Overall, however, Max will pop on any shelf with his distinctive (and frankly, awesome) armor as well as his bulkier body type.

Paint (Red King:  5/5  Ultraman Max:  4/5):  Ultra-Act Red King has a perfect paint job, with no apparent slop.  His scales are yellow where raised, with a shade of turquoise in between each one.  The effect is very nice, as well as very similar to the source material.  One very nice touch are the almost imperceptible pink lips over the red gums.  It looks very natural. 

May doesn't fare quite as well as his monstrous counterpart.  There are quite a few bits of slop on the gold and silver torso armor.  Fortunately, what slop there is is hardly noticeable except under the closest scrutiny. 

Articulation (Red King: 4/5  Ultraman Max: 5/5):  Shortly before Ultra-Act Red King was released, Tamashii's official site wrote an article which demonstrated the new joint technology that this figure boasts.  Their efforts clearly paid off, as Red King is by far the most flexible kaiju figure that the company has released to date!  His body is divided into segments that offer an incredible range of motion:  Red King can lean forward and touch the ground as well as lean backward and reach straight up!  Tamashii also seems to have learned from its past mistakes:  this figure's tail accommodates any poses by being highly poseable itself.  Instead of popping out when Red King leans back (like Gomora), the tail shifts a great deal to accommodate the new position!  The tail joints are tight as well fairly light, which prevents sagging.

Red King's limbs have excellent range as well.  His arms allow him to do everything from grappling with opponents to slapping himself.  The legs are a bit trickier.  Although their range of motion is good, the strange knee joints make them unnecessarily obvious.  From certain angles and poses, it seems like Red is wearing some odd type of half shorts.  This was unnecessary, as the other Ultra-Act kaiju have similar knee range with much more attractive joints.  The feet look and function fine.

The final point that should be touched upon is that Ultra-Act Red King (unlike his predecessors Golza and Gomora) has very limited jaw articulation.  While you clearly can see when his jaws are open and closed, the difference is hardly impressive. 

Ultra-Act Ultraman Max has great articulation all around.  He has what amounts to standard Ultraman articulation with one minor difference:  He has swivel jointed shoulder armor.  It works well, and doesn't hamper the shoulder movement in any way.  If there's one thing that does hamper Max's movement, it's his bulk.  But that nit is so minor that it doesn't affect the score in the slightest.

Accessories (Red King:  4.5/5  Ultraman Max:  5/5):  Red King comes with a decent amount of accessories for a beam less,  purely physical monster.  He has a set of alternate hands... one of which has a peg to plug into a large boulder!  It's a finely detailed rock, too, with just the right amount of cracks and scars to be realistic.  He looks great holding it two-handed, and hefting it one-handed (as if to toss it at an unfortunate Ultra Hero!).
  The other cool accessory Red King comes with is an awesome exploding hill.  This articulated (!!!) piece is actually adjustable, and adds a ton of fun display options.  You can have him kicking it (to simulate one of the monster's favorite methods of attack), or smashing an enemy into it.  It really is a very unique and well done accessory. 

One thing keeps Red King from achieving a perfect score in this category:  The omission of his Rock Blast and Fire Fists (from Ultramnan Max and Ultra Galaxy Neo respectively).  It is a relatively minor nit, but some fans may be disappointed that these attacks were not represented.

Ultraman Max comes with loads of awesome accessories!  First up is his Max (or Maxium) Cannon.  A metallic gold piece on his left forearm can be swapped with an identical piece, that has a translucent green and blue beam.  It looks great, but is very heavy.  Unfortunately Max's arm tends to sag after a while under the weight.  

Next, Max comes with his Maxium Sword.  An eyeslugger type blade, it fits into a special open right hand.  He looks really cool holding it, and can be posed ready to throw or using it as a close quarters weapon. 

Third, Ultraman Max comes with his most powerful weapon...  the Max Galaxy!  It is attached to a swappable right hand piece, and has a separate energy blade piece that plugs into is.  While the fit of this piece is pretty snug it can be frustrating to keep in place.  One has to wonder if perhaps it should've been two different Max Galaxies:  One without the energy part and one with.  That point aside, it looks great on him.  The translucent orange blade looks pretty good when back lit, too.

Finally, aside from his two regular fists, Ultraman Max comes with several alternate hands, an alternate color timer, and a plug for a Tamashii stand.  Besides the aforementioned Max Sword holding hand and Max Galaxy attachment hand there are two sets:  Grasping hands (for grappling poses) and chopping hands.  Standard fare for Ultra-Act Ultramen, really.  However, combined with the cool and flashy weapons, it adds up to a perfect score! 

 WATCH OUT!  For nothing, really.  I suppose Max's shoulder pads could be fragile if you're not careful. 

Overall (Red King: 4.5/5  Ultraman Max: 4.5/5):  Ultra-Act Red King is nothing short of incredible!  Giving a large, bulky monster this amount of range in motion without sacrificing too much in the way of accuracy should be considered an achievement!  A few minor nits (such as ugly joints) mar this figure's perfection.  They are, however, fairly minor points, and aren't nearly enough to dissuade me from recommending this figure wholeheartedly!

Ultra-Act Max is an excellent figure as well.  Fans of the series should not hesitate to pick this beautiful and distinctive figure up at the first opportunity.  Aside from a few minor quality control issues it's perfect!

Thus ends Import Monster's Ultraman Week 2012!  Hope you all enjoyed the reviews and articles!  Here's hoping that by Ultraman Week 2013 we'll have twice as many monsters in the Ultra-Act line.  Hey, a man can dream.... 

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