Tamashii’s S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader figure has me torn—no not between the light and dark side of the force–between how a figure could look so good in photos and be so underwhelming in person.
The Figuarts Vader is among Tamashii’s first figures in the Japanese toy-maker’s new 6-inch scale Star Wars line. The figure draws upon the design principle of the S.H. Figuarts line blending aesthetics with articulation to create a hyper-functional, model-accurate representation of the character. In most instances Tamashii excels at creating a work of art, in the form of a character definitive action figure, but occasionally the results are less than stellar. In this case, Vader is both a visual work of art and somewhat of a functional flop.
Out of the box, Vader comes with a variety of switch-out hands, a severed mechanical wrist, an ignited lightsaber, a lightsaber hilt and a plastic cape. Equipped, the figure looks pretty fantastic in photos or as a one-off figure standing alone. The combination of matte and gloss finish on the costume and armor pieces looks great and gives the figure visual depth. The sweeping cape and sculpted tunic, made from a soft plastic, further aid in giving the figure a powerful presence that a Lord of the Sith commands. Tamashii did well translating Vader’s most important characteristics and his character into plastic, but they missed a few details.
Going back to that one-off figure standing alone thing I noted, when flanked by a pair of Tamashii’s Figuarts Stormtroopers Vader seems a little short for a Sith Lord and the figure’s helmet and dome appear out of proportion and undersized. Again, displayed alone the figure looks great, but something isn’t being properly translated between Tamashii’s two Star Wars figures when they’re displayed side-by-side and in my mind it’s more of an issue with Vader than the Stormtrooper. Despite this, I still think that Tamashii captured the visual Vader, but the aesthetics fail to play nice with the figure’s functionally.
When you begin to pose Vader, you’ll notice a few nuances. First and foremost as good as the cape and lower tunic look, they an articulation obstacle. The cape and tunic interfere with a majority of the leg articulation on the figure. To make matters worse, the weight of the cape paired with the loose hips on my figure make standing Vader a chore. I was able to get Vader bowing on a single knee, as seen when he addresses the Emperor, but the clunky cape and tunic made the pose look ridiculous. I really wish Tamashii went with a soft goods option in this case and used a metal chain instead of the messy sculpted one that quite frankly cheapens a premium grade figure.
Unlike the legs, Vader’s arms don’t experience any interference from the cape, but the shoulder armor does get in the way when trying to rotate the arms. I do like the ball sockets the shoulder armor attaches to, but it should have been set on a piece between the arms and torso in order to resemble more natural movement so that the shoulder armor sits with the torso, not rotates with the arms. Vader’s arms are well accented by a selection of switch-out hands and again, the character comes to life through the figure’s expressive hands, which can be used to gesture anger, power, etc. For the record, Vader can hold his lightsaber with both hands, concurrently, with ease. Vader cannot, however, attach his unlit lightsaber hilt to his belt, which is one of those little details that helps made a good figure great and an oversight on Tamashii’s part.
I’m torn on Tamashii’s S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader because as good looking a figure as it is, it has a number of issues and flaws that hurt it. The figure looks fantastic in a photograph, but in person the frustration of hindered functionality and missing details disappoint me. I hope as the S.H. Figuarts Star Wars line expands these little details aren’t overlooked because if Hasbro could pull them off in a 4-inch, mass retail line, I expect more from a premium collector-focused line.
Despite my disappointment, I’d still suggest picking up the Tamashii Nation’s S.H. Figuarts Darth Vader figure for a two reasons. First, it’s one of the inaugural figures in the line and it’s better to jump on it now before it skyrockets in price (particularly because it’s not licensed to be sold in North America). Second, when the S.H. Figuarts Luke Jedi Knight is released later this year, a switch-out portrait with Anakin Skywalker’s head will be included for the Vader figure, which is a nice bonus. Now if Tamashii would release a bonus cape, with another figure, as a replacement the Vader’s horrid cape, I’d be happy.