Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 Review

DSC07786Ultraman Gaia was Tsuburaya Production’s 13th entry in the Ultra Series.  Released between 1998-1999, the story takes place in an alternate universe, totally separate from the world of the Showa series (Ultraman, 80s Ultraman), Ultraman Tiga and Ultraman Dyna.  The Ultraman Gaia tv series sets itself apart from previous Ultra series productions by introducing the concept of a tag team of Ultra characters in the form of Ultraman Gaia and Ultraman Agul. Initially the two Ultramen are at odds with each other because of different ideologies.  Ultraman Gaia believes in saving earth and humanity from the evil cosmic entity. Conversely Ultraman Agul believes in saving the planet and the natural life that inhabits it, going so far as to sacrifice humanity for the greater good.  As Ultraman Agul often brings collateral damage on urban areas, a point of contention is realized between the two Ultras.  Ultraman Gaia simply can’t agree with Ultraman Agul that saving the planet involves human sacrifices.  Eventually the two Ultras reconcile their differences and join forces to fight the evil cosmic entity that threatens humanity and earth itself with a constant onslaught of monsters. Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 initially released in October 2011, is an earlier entry in Bandai and Tamashi Nation’s Ultra Act toy line.  The V2 stands for Version 2 as Ultraman Gaia receives a powered upgrade that changes his body for the better half-way into the series.  Since this figure was released earlier, it was not designed with the same standards as Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition” released later in July 2012.  Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 is the second articulated Ultraman figure to join my collection.  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 and Tamashi Nations does a fantastic job with the packaging.  The box is much thinner and smaller than your average SH MonsterArts packaging.  Each side of the box is labelled with the words Ultraman Gaia V2.  The packaging’s front features nice bands of silver, red, burgundy, and pink 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 Gaia is featured on one of the box’s sides.  Inside the box, Bandai and 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.  

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 and Tamashi Nations.   

 

The Set:

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Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 comes with a decent amount of accessories.  The set includes the figure, alternate head with light piping eyes, alternate hands, plastic stand attachment, alternate head with Photon Edge, and Quantum Stream beam.  

 

Sculpt and Paint:  3/5

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Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 features a sculpted and painted body that remains faithful to the design of the Ultraman Gaia suit used in the tv show.  For starters the head is wonderfully sculpted and features a smooth raked back fin on top.  Ultraman Gaia’s head design, with its streamlined grooves on top, kind of reminds me of those speed bike helmets.  

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From the bug-like eyes which are very nicely shaped, to the fish-like mouth, the sculpted head is accurate to its on-screen counterpart.  Similarly, the rest of the body is faithfully rendered from the odd downward pointing chest sash, to the sleek torso, arms, and legs, the figure here is clearly Ultraman Gaia V2.  The paint is applied fairly well throughout the figure.  Gold paint is used sparingly to accent details on the head and chest.  

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Silver dominates the figure along with red accenting key places on the head, neck, torso, arms and legs.  It’s unfortunate then to point out that the sculpt and paint scores have been severely affected by a few inconsistencies with design and quality control issues present on my copy of the figure.  The joints are also generally not hidden very well when the figure is placed in more extreme positions.

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More details will be covered in the Quality Control and Design Issues section of this review.  

 


Articulation: 3/5

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The Ultra-Act action figure line usually shines when it comes to articulation.  However, as an earlier release in the toy line it’s clear that Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 possesses articulation that doesn’t reach the same design standards set by Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition”.  To make matters worse quality control and design issues once again lower the score in the articulation category.  The ball jointed neck comes across as being too stiff.  This is especially apparent when moving the neck side to side or front to back.  The ball joints on the arm sockets while effective are hindered by the sculpted shoulder and sash piece on the figure.  

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The hinge joints at the elbows along with the ball jointed wrists help to remedy this disadvantage however, this shortcoming will ultimately prevent the figure from recreating the signature Quantum Stream beam with its arms.  The sculpted shoulder and sash piece will also prevent the collector from recreating the Ultraman Gaia V2’s flying pose.   Leg sockets on the figure are also noticeably looser after a few rounds of gentle articulated play with the figure.  While not necessarily an uncommon problem with most action figures, it does hinder the collector’s ability to easily pose and display Ultraman Gaia V2.  Any attempts to place the figure in a normal standing or crouching position can often lead to the figure toppling over or losing balance in a relatively short time period.  

 

Accessories:  4/5

Ultraman Gaia V2 comes with an above average selection of accessories.  The set includes: alternate head with light piping eyes, alternate hands, plastic stand attachment, pink colour timer, alternate head with Photon Edge, and Quantum Stream beam.  As my figure is a 1st issue release, the set came with a nice bonus Explosion Effects part accessory.  
We’ll take a quick look now at the extra head and alternate hand accessories included with Ultraman Gaia V2.  The alternate head can be swapped out with the normal head by popping the heads off and onto the ball joint socket at the base of the figure’s neck.  Bandai and Tamashi Nations apparently felt that it would be cool to include an alternate head with plastic pvc lightpiping to provide the illusion of glowing eyes.  Does the gimmick work?  The pictures below speak for themselves.   

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The usual standard set of alternate hands are also included to allow for more action poses ripped right out of the show.  

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One particular hand accessory is decidedly odd looking and a fairly unconventional addition to an Ultra-Act action figure set.  The modified hand is intended to allow for the attachment of the other accessory included in the set, Ultraman Gaia V2’’s Quantum Stream beam.  The hand is designed to fit snugly into the molded slot present on the orange pvc accessory.  While this works, I’m not a big fan of having to swap out a hand on the right arm, only to insert a misshapen/deformed hand so that I can plug in a beam accessory on the figure.  

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Future Tamashi Nations action figure releases like Ultra-Act Ultraman “New Edition” will have phased out this unnecessary eyesore of an accessory, to include beam effect parts that have a hand/body part already glued on, eliminating the need to have a specially modified hand attachment to display a beam effects part.  

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While we’re on the subject of beam effect parts, we might as well take a closer look at the effect part accessories included with the figure.  The aforementioned Quantum Stream beam effects part is molded in orange pvc and sprayed with yellow highlights.  It’s a fairly dynamic and spiky looking piece that looks like a dynamic explosion effect rather than Ultraman Gaia V2’s Quantum Stream beam.  I was under the impression that the Ultra-Act toy line would have provided a screen-accurate sculpt for the accessories.  It would seem that Bandai and Tamashi Nations has dropped the ball with Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 and given us a dynamic yet totally inaccurate beam accessory to depict of the character’s finishing move, a disappointing development indeed.  

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The next accessory, an alternate head featuring Ultraman Gaia V2’s Photon Edge fairs much better.  Fitting snugly via the ball joint at the base of the figure’s neck, the clear pink pvc sprayed with white paint, presents a very striking image.  When all else fails, Ultraman Gaia V2’s Photon Edge is usually the last ace in the hole that the character employs to vanquish enemies with a brilliant one hit KO with this brilliant beam move that originates from Gaia’s head crest.  Unlike Gaia’s Quantum Stream beam, the Photon Edge effects part appears to be recreated faithfully and looks great, its sculpt suggesting a whip-like energy beam attack that is both powerful and barely under Gaia’s control.  

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The less notable accessories in the set appear to be the plastic stand attachment and the colour timer.  The plastic stand attachment is designed as an add-on to allow the figure to be posed in more dynamic action positions.  Bandai’s own plastic action figure stands (sold separately) feature a translucent pvc arm that can be plugged into the plastic stand attachment on Gaia’s back.  Unfortunately, in order to use this plastic stand attachment effectively, one must remove the back cover on Gaia before insertion of the plastic accessory can be done.  While it sounds simple enough, the plastic piece on my figure really didn’t want to budge.  I really have to say that Bandai and Tamashi Nations has made it unnecessarily difficult for collectors and fans to use this feature.  Here’s hoping that they’ll solve this issue for future Ultra-Act releases.  

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The other small accessory included in the set is the pink colour timer.  As we all know most Ultraman beings have a colour timer on their chest that signify their operational time.  Most Ultramen only have an operational time limit of up to 5 minutes.  When the time limit is about to end or when serious damage has been sustained the colour timer on their chest changes from blue to red.  The pink piece included in the set is a nice little nod to that little character detail and can be swapped with the blue colour timer already affixed to Ultraman Gaia’s chest.  Unfortunately, just as it was with the plastic stand attachment, the colour timers are fairly stubborn when it comes time to remove themselves from Gaia’s chest.  The smooth edge on the colour timer along with the relatively small size of the accessory makes it relatively difficult to swap in and swap out unless you have fairly dexterous fingers or sharp nails to pry the sculpted piece loose.  It happens to be another one of those little issues that Bandai and Tamashi Nations needs to stamp out if they ever want to achieve perfection when it comes to their Ultra-Act releases.

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The last accessory to be covered are the explosion effect parts that were only given out with the 1st issue copies of Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia.  I was lucky enough to buy one off an Ebay seller that happened to have plenty of the 1st issue Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2s and the bonus effect parts that came with it.  These ground explosion effect parts were included with Gaia to allow the collector to recreate the extreme landing that Ultraman Gaia would make in the show.  Whenever he would drop down from the sky, he would do so with incredible force, enough to bring plumes of rock, soil, and sparks rushing upwards into the air once he made contact with solid ground.  

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Of all the accessories included with Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia, my favorite without a doubt, has to be these ground explosion effect parts.  Not only do they do a convincing job of aiding in the recreation of Gaia’s violent landings, it also allows for numerous display applications with other figures, allowing the collector assemble many other dynamic action scenes.  A case in point is made in the pictures below featuring SH MonsterArts Godzilla walking amongst the ground explosion effect parts.

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Looking at the pictures above, I can easily imagine Godzilla coming under attack from the military or perhaps from projectiles or energy weapons originating from an enemy monster.  Overall accessories get a decent rating from me.

 

Quality Control and Design issues:

Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 is a figure that features many of the hallmarks of good action figure design with a generally well articulated, sculpted and painted body.  It’s unfortunate then that I would have to remark that this figure is probably one of the worst Bandai and Tamashi Nations products to join my private collection.  How can I contradict myself this badly?  What follows is a rundown of the quality control and design issues that have plagued my copy of the figure.  To begin I will comment on the sculpted and painted details on the figure.  While the figure is generally well executed, on closer inspection there are imperfections present in the sculpted and painted details that are simply just unforgivable.  For instance, the sculpted sash on the chest of the figure is misshapen and deformed on Gaia’s backside.  

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The pointed tips on Gaia’s backside should be perfectly parallel to one another.  Instead it appears as if the left side has melted or shifted moving 5 degrees to the right, resting closer to Gaia’s spine.  Another quality control issue present on the figure is the paint.  

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Little plastic particulates, possibly a result of residue left over after being ejected from the mold, appears to have been painted over with silver paint on the figure’s head and legs.  Parts of the main torso also feature deep dent marks left over from the assembly plant.  The resulting effect speaks of sloppiness of a great degree.  The gold and black sash on Ultraman Gaia’s chest provides further evidence of the quality control issues present on this figure.  Black areas on the figure have been painted sloppily and appear to be most noticeable near the sash’s pointed tip just below Gaia’s chest.  Articulation as mentioned earlier, takes a hit as well, due to the loose leg joints that conspire against allowing the figure to stand up straight or hold solid positions when posed.  The sculpt also interferes with articulation as well, limiting the number of “iconic” stances that one can recreate.  

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Joints between the figure’s moving parts show prominently especially near the neck and mid torso of the figure.  Subsequent figures released under the Ultra-Act toy line have done a much better job at concealing these visible gaps.  As mentioned before, some of the smaller accessories like the plastic stand attachment and the pink colour timer were additions wrought with frustration.  I found it very difficult to swap out the back piece and colour timer since these pvc pieces refused to budge even after much scrutiny from my incessant clawing from my own fingers and finger nails.  Bandai and Tamashi Nations can definitely do better than this!  
It could be that I just got insanely unlucky but due to a defect in one of the alternate hands that came with the set and a sculpted forearm piece on the figure, Ultra-Act Gaia V2 became the first and hopefully the last Ultra-Act figure in my collection to draw blood.  Yes that’s right, this little sucker actually injured me and made me bleed!   It all started when I was finishing my review for Ultra-Act Gaia V2 by taking the last few pictures for the day.  The last few shots I wanted to take with Gaia involved swapping out the fists for the open palm “flying hands”.  Swapping out and swapping in the right hand went smoothly.  However, when it came to swapping in the left hand things quickly made a turn for the worse.  

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The left hand as it turns out had been molded improperly with a defect socket that was much wider than the ball joint on Gaia’s wrist.  I tried inserting the hand the first time to no avail.  I figured I could use brute force to insert the hand anyways.  That decision was a “big” mistake!  Instead of inserting the pvc hand into the balljoint, the balljoint moved sideways and the sharp gauntlet at the end of Ultraman Gaia’s forearm dug right into the skin just above my finger nail on my right hand’s fourth finger.  

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I doubled over in pain as the alternate left hand dropped from my grasp and bounced off the table landing on the carpet beneath.   At first I thought it was just a small harmless knick but blood began to pool and the cut grew larger.  Shame...  It took a few days for it heal up afterwards.  It’s an ordeal that I would hope not to repeat again anytime soon.  Examining Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2’s forearms, I am not surprised that I sustained a minor cut as the edge is definitely very sharp.  It was certainly a big lapse in logic to have sculpted a sharp edge so close to a ball joint that collectors and fans would be fiddling with often.  Moving forward Bandai and Tamashi Nations should really consider ensuring that future figure releases minimize the occurrence of sharp edges or corners in areas where articulated body parts and joints are present.  

 


Fun with Ultraman Gaia V2

Despite the issues inherent in the figure I did manage to have some fun with Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2.  Below are some fun pictures I took. Enjoy!

 

Godzilla vs. Ultraman Gaia V2

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A knee in the face...ouch!

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A titanic fall to the ground!

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Take another kick!

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Breath time!

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Photon Edge!!!

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Oh no...not the tail!

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Ugh!!!

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Please have mercy!!!

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Conclusion

Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2 is a figure that had a lot of potential to become another stellar entry in the Ultra-Act toy line.  Unfortunately a combination of poor sculpting choices, sacrifices in articulation options and poor quality control have prevented this figure from reaching the same standards of excellence obtained by other Ultra-Act entries past and present.  Would I recommend Ultra-Act Ultraman Gaia V2?  I would have to say no.  The only thing that saves this figure from being a complete waste of money and time are the accessories.  I love the accessories that come with Gaia, especially the 1st release bonus item, the explosion ground effect parts.  I would only recommend this figure to diehard fans of the 1999 Ultraman Gaia tv show and or collectors that would want to get their hands on the accessories that come with the figure.  To all other casual collectors and Ultraman fans, please stay far away from this figure.  It isn’t worth it.


Overall Score: 2.5/5

 

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