Ultra-Act Ultraman "New Edition" Review

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From the land of light, for our sakes he has come, our Ultraman!  I’m sure everyone can guess where this is headed....  While not directly related to Godzilla, Ultraman is undeniably the king of all Japanese heroes when it comes to Japanese Tokusatsu entertainment.  In Japan, Ultraman and all his various forms and his Ultra Monsters co-stars are more widely recognized than Gamera or even Godzilla.  The Ultraman character and franchise’s origins can be traced back to Eiji Tsuburaya, the man largely responsible for revolutionizing Japanese special effects in the 1950s and 1960s.  Since Ultraman’s first appearance in 1966, countless television shows and movies have seen release in Japan, making the Ultraman character and his various incarnations insanely popular.  To put it simply Ultraman has always had one huge advantage over Godzilla and his other monstrous co-stars.  Television broadcasting.  Television is a much cheaper alternative for children, families and fans to become exposed to Tokusatsu monsters and heroes. 

As a result of its significant impact on Tokusatsu popculture in Japan, this will be but the start of many figure reviews that will see a gradual shift in attention from Godzilla to other Tokusatsu heroes.  The first will be Ultraman.  Designed and manufactured by Bandai/Tamashi Nations, the Ultra-Act toyline can be considered the forefather of the SH MonsterArts toyline, pioneering much of the same figure design advancements and features seen in later Godzilla figures.  Beginning in 2010, the Ultra-Act toyline is devoted to releasing Ultraman in its various incarnations and monsters that have appeared in the franchise.  Today I bring you a review covering Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition”.  This figure represents Ultraman’s first appearance in the original 1966 tv show “Ultraman”.  Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition” is actually a re-designed and improved version of the original Ultra-Act Ultraman figure released in 2010.  “New Edition” has been advertised as having an overhauled sculpt and newly designed joints and articulated body.  As my first Ultraman figure I won’t be holding back any punches.  Is this figure worth your attention, time, and money?  You know the cue!  Hit the jump for more!

 

Packaging: 5/5

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 Once again Bandai/Tamashi Nations does a fantastic job with the packaging.  The box is much thinner and smaller than your average SH MonsterArts packaging.  Decked out in silver, black and red, this box is made to be classy.  Each side of the box is labelled with the words Ultraman.  The packaging’s front features nice bands of silver, red and black streaking away from the center’s plastic window.  The packaging’s reverse side shows the usual promotional pictures displaying the figure in a variety of action poses.  An extra profile picture of Ultraman is featured on one of the box’s sides.  Inside the box Bandai/Tamashi Nations pleases again with the inclusion of plastic trays that hold the figure and accessories in place without the use of twist tie wires.  

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All that’s been applied to secure the parts from moving around is plastic tape.  A cardboard sheet is included in the box as well, with one side being lined in chrome silver.  Overall it’s another product that showcases great packaging design from Bandai/Tamashi Nations. 

 

The Set:

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As it is the Ultraman “New Edition” set is very well rounded and has a lot to offer.  The set includes the figure along with its many accessories.  Energy attacks like the famous Specium Beam, Ultra Slash, extra hands, colour timer, stand attachment, and two ground effects parts.

 

Sculpt and Paint: 4.5/5

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 Like the SH MonsterArts series that has come after it, the Ultra-Act toy line offers the collector with excellent sculpt designs and well done paint applications.   With regards to the sculpt, Bandai/Tamashi Nations could have gotten lazy on collectors and re-released the old Ultra-Act Ultraman with a new paint job.  However, instead the company has taken great liberties to make sure we get 90% brand new Ultraman  sculpt for this release.  The new figure features a completely new head sculpt, a neck, torso and mid section.  

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Since I don’t have the original Ultra-Act Ultraman release in my hands and can only refer to comparison pictures on the internet,  I have to assume that the hands, arms, legs and feet are also entirely new sculpts and different from the initial release.  Otherwise everything else is brand new.  It’s quite amazing really.  

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The new head sculpt is sleeker and features a look thats more tv series accurate and just overall cool looking.  The mouth and ear-like features on the head look well sculpted and show accurate.  Ultraman’s main torso, arms and legs all have decently sculpted and muscle-toned details.  The fins on Ultraman’s head and backside are all well sculpted and defined.  Of particular note to details are the nicely sculpted compound bug-like eyes.  While oval shaped, the eyes also feature smaller dimple details on the surface, adding shadows on the yellow surface within, giving more life to the figure.  

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The rest of the body being the hands and feet are well sculpted as well and look no different than their appearance in the tv series.  The seams seen on the figure as lines that run along the length of the figure’s arms and legs are a bit of distraction at times.  This is more apparent here on Ultraman than on Godzilla figures from the SH MonsterArts line, probably due in large part to the sleek nature of Ultraman’s suite design.  There aren’t any scales or bumpy skin to hide any imperfections in the sculpt.  It’s not a large issue but is noticeable if you look at your figure more closely.  If anything the figure looks too sleek for its own good and seems to miss the finer details in the Ultraman suit like the folds in the skin and perhaps extra details in arm joints, legs and perhaps crotch area.  In this respect, the SH MonsterArts toy line seems to do a better job with replicating the details on the tokusatsu/monster suits.  I’ll be talking about the seams and other imperfections in the sculpt a little bit later.

With regards to paint, the paint applications on the figure are generally done well.  The silver paint complements the red molded and painted pieces very well.  The silver really shines when put under sunlight or even indoor lighting inside a room.  Both silver and red paint are applied accurately and with minimal slop or overlap.  There are still issues that appear on the figure upon closer inspection and I’ll touch on them a bit later in the review.

 

Articulation: 4.5/5

The Ultra-Act action figure line really shines in the articulation department. This entry into the Ultra-Act series, Ultraman “New Edition”, represents a new standard that Bandai/Tamashi Nations wants to establish in their action figure line.  In addition to having a completely overhauled body sculpt, Ultraman also has an overhauled body to facilitate articulation.  Ball joints are utilized throughout the figure including the neck, arms, and legs.

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To aid in more varied articulation options, the arms and legs are attached to ball joints that have been placed in redesigned plastic sockets that allow for unparalleled movement.  Extra plastic pieces between the arms and ball joints allow for more seamless articulation without having to spoil the aesthetic look and sculpt design on the figure.

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The elbow and knee joints are tight and fold inwards nearly 80 degrees, hindered only by the figure’s sculpt.  Hands and feet utilize ball joints to attach to the arms and legs.  The extra hands can be easily popped out and swapped with other hands included in the set.  Re-inserting the hands on the bare ball joints is super easy to do.  The toe articulation on Ultraman’s feet are sturdy and easy to a manipulate allowing for a variety of running poses.

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Furthermore, Ultraman’s torso and abdominal joints are more fluid and flexible than ever.  Older figures would show unsightly gaps if the figure would bend too far.  This issue has been eliminated with Ultraman “New Edition” as newly sculpted pieces have been added underneath the mid torso and abdominal areas on the figure to cover the gaps and joints.  As can be seen in the pictures below, these improvements have given Ultraman an amazing amount of posing possibilities!

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Accessories: 4/5

Ultraman comes with a generous selection of accessories.  Included in the set are extra hands, energy attacks like the famous Specium Beam, Ultra Slash, colour timer, stand attachment, and two ground effects parts.

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The Specium Beam and Ultra Slash utilize a clear blue pvc and are well sculpted giving the illusion of energy moving in molded plastic.  Whoever sculpted the pieces took some creative license in changing the look of these energy weapons from their original tv appearances.  The original Ultra-Act Ultraman figure reportedly had more faithful energy weapons.  Each energy weapon accessory is attached to an extra Ultraman hand that can be easily attached to the figure.

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Other accessories include the colour timer which you can swap with the blue colour timer already imbedded in the figure’s chest.  I have to say that this feature could have been better implemented and I’ll explain what I mean later in the next section.  Extra hands are of course included to aid in a variety of poses.  Closed fists.  Open hands.  Flying pose hands.  Running hands.  You name it they’re all here.  

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Another useful accessory included in the set is a special back attachment piece used to aid collectors with posing Ultraman with an official Bandai/Tamashi Nations plastic stand.  Swap out the triangular back piece on Ultraman and insert the new attachment.  Once done you have an Ultraman that can do a running pose no problem.  Despite the addition of this piece in the set I still prefer to have my Ultraman posed without the aid of this additional piece.  It comes down to personal preference.  Ultimately through its nice of Bandai/Tamashi Nations to give collectors this extra option.  

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The last accessory to be covered are the ground effect parts.  I would assume from the promotional pictures that these pieces were included in the set with the intention of giving collectors the ability to display Ultraman in a convincing running pose.  In the promotional pictures it shows Ultraman’s feet snugly fitting into the grooves of the ground effects parts allowing him to run.  Call me stupid but either I’m doing something wrong with my effects parts or Bandai/Tamashi Nations simply tricked us all into thinking that these can be used as make-shift stands for Ultraman.  It honestly doesn’t look all that great and or useful as accessories.  
Overall accessories get a decent rating from me.

 

Quality Control and Design Issues:

It’s a basic fact to expect mass produced figures to be unable to avoid all quality control or design issues.  Such is the case with Ultraman where we find flaws inherent in its design and resulting collectors item.  The most obvious flaw with Ultraman are the presence of paint application errors and smaller accessory pieces that are difficult to pull out and replace.  This can be seen in the red paint applications on Ultraman’s backside that are painted unevenly in select places on the body.  The smaller accessory parts like the triangular pvc piece used to conceal a slot to securely fit other accessory pieces like plastic stand adaptor are ones to consider as being problematic.  I certainly found it more than a little bit frustrating to pull out this little plastic piece pictured below when trying to swap it for the adaptor piece that lets you plug in the plastic stand’s arm into Ultraman’s backside.I actually accidentally scratched the red pvc piece as I was trying to pry it loose.  Take care when trying to exert force on this particular piece of plastic.

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Extra imperfections in the mold have resulted in patchy and inconsistent scratched silvery surfaces on the back of the head and certain places on the arms.  I suppose this had something to do with the molding process and imperfections with the technique used to settle the silver pvc plastic when cooling down.  I would have to say the worst flaw of them all is the colour timer.  On most Ultraman figures I see this as being a non-issue, especially where figures like Ultra-Act Ultraman Max and Ultraman Gaia are concerned.  However, this release for whatever reason designed the slot that holds the colour timer pieces in place to be extremely deep.  This can be problematic for some including myself because the colour timer isn’t a long piece of translucent plastic.  Instead it’s a shallow bead like piece of clear pvc.  You can probably guess where this is going....  I had the particular misfortune of getting my blue colour timer stuck in Ultraman’s chest.  Getting the blue colour timer out of the chest so I can swap it with the red colour timer was a terrible ordeal.  The result?  

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The damage....

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I ended up scratching up my blue colour timer piece to hell.  The paint has chipped off very badly.  This was definitely a sore note in an otherwise well received release.  I would suggest other collectors to use caution when fiddling around with their Ultraman’s colour timers as these small bead like pvc pieces can easily become lodged and stuck within the deep slot in Ultraman’s chest.  I’m contemplating inserting a piece of Styrofoam to ensure that this issue never happens to me again.

 

Fun with Ultraman

Ultraman is generally a very fun figure to play around with.  As you can see below I had a blast placing him in some very cool poses.


Ultraman vs Gomora

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Gomora’s too.....powerful.....

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My colour timer is red....not much time left for fighting....

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Ugh.....the tail....the pain.....

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Take this!

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And that!

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Beam battle!

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Victory pose!

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Conclusion

Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition” sets a new standard for future Ultra-Act Ultraman releases.  The figure features an overhauled sculpt and articulated body perfect for ushering in new fans to Ultraman and appeasing old collectors/fans alike.  The figure is a joy to play around with and comes with a variety of accessories to add further value to this well executed release.  What can I say that hasn’t already been said?  Aside from a few qualms about the colour timer and some smaller QC issues with paint applications and minute details on the silver molded areas, the figure is a stellar release.  This casual Ultraman fan is definitely more than satisfied with this release.  Highly Recommended!

Overall Score: 4.5/5 (Not an Average)

 

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