REVIEW: KAMEN RIDER FINAL RIDE DIEND FIGURE
Have you ever bought an action figure just because you thought it looked really cool, even though you didn't really know much about whatever concept it might have come from? I know that I have.
Now then, having all the respect in the world for American-based action figures, and their background concepts. G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, DC Universe, Star Wars, etc. No problem with any of them, glad to have them around. But, as a discriminating toy collector, I do also have to admit that the world of Japanese action figures is a fascinating place to check out, with some very impressive merchandise of its own.
The unfortunate thing is that very few Japanese-based concepts with really interesting action figure tie-ins have ever fared all that well here in the States. Transformers and Power Rangers, that's about it. Don't get me started on Pokemon. And it certainly hasn't been for a lack of trying, especially on the part of one of the major players in the Japanese toy world, Bandai.
To us, they're the makers of Power Rangers, and Ben 10. In Japan, they also turn out Gundam, Kamen Rider, and a ton of other merchandise. Now, let's discuss those other two for a moment. Gundam is pretty popular in the United States, or at least it's tried to be. Cartoon Network ran several of its series for a number of years, even if they tended to put them on at the late hours of the night. Bandai marketed a wide range of merchandise for several years, including the various figural model kits, and my personal favorites, the action figures, which are best known in Japan as "Mobile Suit in Action", or were, until they came to an end a while back. Gundam managed about a four-year run in the States.
Then there's Kamen Rider, sometimes known as Masked Rider. There was a brief attempt to market this in the United States back in the 90's, after Power Rangers proved to be a hit. Some of the product was really pretty impressive, and I still have an 8" Masked Rider figure from that time that I'm very pleased to have.
More recently, one of the more current Kamen Rider series was brought to the United States, with a toy line from Bandai that lasted less than a year and which frankly, wasn't worth the plastic it was made out of. The figures were barely articulated, and hung on the pegs gathering dust until they could very deservedly be shuffled off to the clearance section.
Now, Masked Rider is a whole lot more popular in Japan than it's ever managed to be here (which is still no excuse for poor toys), but the toys that have been turned out by Bandai in Japan -- WOW! Most prominent, I would say, are those that are part of a line of 4" scale figures called "Motion Revive". I did a review on a set of these a while back. Imagine Microman without the fragility. Imagine a level of detail that gives you eyestrain. Imagine an articulation level that lets these figures assume almost any pose possible by any human being this side of a professional contortionist -- and probably a few of his, as well.
But, those are not the only Kamen Rider/Masked Rider figures around. The I discovered some new Kamen Rider figures that I'd never heard of. Two of them, the lead characters from a particular series (Kamen Rider, like Power Rangers, tends to reinvent itself fairly regularly), that looked really superb in the detail and articulation department. I didn't know that much about them. I could certainly find out...
The figures are from a Kamen Rider series called "Final Form Ride Series", and are named MASKED RIDER DECADE and MASKED RIDER DIEND. This review will take a look at MASKED RIDER DIEND.
I realized that if I was going to do a proper review of this figure, I not only needed to learn more about the character, but also about the series from which he came. Fortunately, some online research gave me answers to both.
"Kamen Rider Decade" is the series name -- or at least a fairly close English translation. It debuted in Japan in 2009. The name is derived from the fact that it is the tenth series in the "Heisei Rider" series, which began with "Kamen Rider Kuuga" in 2000. The series was tied in with an arcade game called "Kamen Rider Battle: Ganbaride", with Decade and Diend using cards resembling those used in the game to transform and access various weapons.
Cards seem to be increasingly popular in Japanese pop-culture concepts. Apart from a lot of the anime that's been brought over to the States that uses cards, the most recent Super Sentai (Power Rangers) concept in Japan, which has not (yet, anyway) been brought to the States, also has a card-based concept.
The synopsis for the series is as follows: The story revolves around the nine previous universes of the Heisei Kamen Riders merging into one, something that would destroy all the worlds. To prevent this, Tsukasa Kadoya transforms into Kamen Rider Decade and is told that to protect his own world he must travel to the other Kamen Riders' Worlds, and eliminate some "anomaly" in that world.
The series had 31 half-hour episodes, and several films, which apparently took place during the run of the series, one of which featured the cast of Kamen Rider Den-O, which I recognize since that's where some of those Motion Revive figures came from. Another movie featured over twenty-six Kamen Riders, including the successor to Decade, called Kamen Rider Double.
And I thought the annual reboot of Power Rangers was a mess. I'd offer more information, but too much of this is either in Japanese, or transliterated-into-English Japanese, and it'll just get more confusing.
As to the character of Kamen Rider Diend, or Masked Rider Diend if you prefer (which interestingly enough is what his box says...):
Diend's real name is Daiki Kaito, portrayed in the series by Kimito Totani. He is a mysterious young man who is portrayed as being cheerful to the extent of being annoying to those around him, but becomes serious in battle and sees material objects as more important than anything else. He also appears to know something about Tsukasa's (Decade's) past, referring to sea cucumbers as being something Tsukasa had always wanted to taste.
In keeping with his belief in the importance of material objects, he travels from one alternate World to another in the series, stealing what he refers to as "treasures". His surname in the series is similar to the Japanese word "kaito", which roughly translated means "phantom thief".
It is revealed that he comes from one of the alternate Worlds where he was an officer who served the evil Fourteen who has deemed Kamen Riders as threats to the public peace. Daiki hunted them down and turned them in until he captured the leader of the Kamen Riders, Kamen Rider Glaive. When Glaive is unmasked, he is revealed to be Daiki's older brother Junichi. By then, Daiki has learned that the Fourteen brainwashes people into obedience.
Losing his self-confidence and seeking to undo the mistakes he has made, Daik steals the Decadriver from Dai-Shocker, the main enemy group in the series, becoming Kamen Rider Diend. He leaves his World and travels to others, stealing their treasures along the way, until he encounters Kamen Rider Decade. After spending some time with him and his friends, he returns to his world alongside Decade, freeing it from the Fourteen, and later plays a pivotal role in the defeat of Dai-Shocker.
Like Decade, Diend possesses his own set of Rider Cards. Unlike Decade, who uses his cards to transform into other Kamen Riders, Diend uses his cards to summon them. He has proven able to summon three other Kamen Riders at once.
The online research I did revealed a massive list of cards, but I'm not going to get into that here. Among the figure's accessories is one full-sized card with a picture of Diend on it, a bar code at one end, assorted combat ranking (I assume), and other details -- most of them in Japanese.
So, how's the figure? Extremely cool. Really, I wish Bandai was turning out toys this well-made for the American market. Diend stands about 5-1/4" in height, and is very sturdy and well assembled.
His helmet is particularly complex in both design and paint detailing. There is a raised series of vertical lines, eleven of them, across the front of his helmet, most of which are black on the front, but dark blue -- a primary color of the character's uniform -- on the insides. Ten of these swoop upwards, and the center one goes down. I can't even imagine what the paint stencils for this must look like. There's a little touch of dark red on the top of the two ridges to either side of the center. The ridges cover the eye area. I can only guess what this must have been like for the "suit performer", as the costumed characters are called in the credits. The last time I say anything like this over someone's eyes, it was being worn by Geordi LaForge in "Star Trek The Next Generation", and his visor wasn't nearly this big. The top of the helmet is blue with a silver stripe, black along the sides with two gold stripes, silver in the back, and silver around the mouth area, surrounded by black.
The primary colors of Diend's uniform are the dark blue, black, and some gold and a little silver. The costume appears to be a tight-fitting outfit with some raised, armor-like details. Most prominent is the chestpiece and shoulders, which are raised and ridged much like the helmet. They are squared off over the top. The ridges are all black except for a set right where the chest and arms meet, that are two silver ridges with gold indentations. As impressive as this is on the action figure, I cannot help but wonder what it must've been like to create it on the live-action costume -- and wear it.
The front and back of Diend's uniform is black, with some armored padding corresponding to musculature. The sides of his uniform, down to the feet, are blue, as are the insides of the sleeves. The outsides of the arms and the insides of the legs are black, separated from the blue by a gold stripe, which is raised on the legs. The figure shares a number of his parts, especially the arms and legs, with the Decade figure, which has a somewhat different detail system.
The figure's hands and feet are black, and he has gold stripes around his wrists. Diend is wearing a silver belt, with a huge device in the center, which I assume to be a Decadriver. It is sort of oblong, with a black rectangle in the center, and an imprinting of Diend's logo, which looks like the ridges of his helmet, extended on either side by additional stripes that look like a bar code.
One thing I really want to give Bandai Japan credit for is fully painting the figure. In America, Bandai has an unfortunate habit of skimping on the paint, especially on the backs of some of their Power Rangers. No such situation exists here.
Diend is astoundingly well articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. The figure can assume an astounding variety of poses, and even has enough balance to take on a couple of sort-of martial arts stances and successfully balance on one foot. Just don't sneeze in his direction too hard.
Of particular interest is the finger articulation. The four fingers of each hand are articulated in groups of two. It's impressive articulation, but I've never seen it done quite like this before. I've seen first finger and other three as a group done, and infrequently seen all four fingers individually articulated, but never groups of two. Not sure what the reasoning behind that was.
Diend comes packaged in a very nice and colorful box, with an assortment of accessories. These include the aforementioned card which I'm sure is incorporated into the overall card game or arcade game that this concept utilizes; a couple of gun-like devices, one with a retracted barrel, and something that looks like it may be a display stand. If it has an additional purpose, I'm not sure what it might be.
So, what's my final word here? Okay, look, if you've been sitting there with question marks over your head regarding the story concept that I laid out as part of this review -- and trust me, you're not the only one, so was I -- don't worry about it. I don't think the latest attempt to bring Kamen Rider to the United States was particularly successful (certainly the toys), and the likelihood of this "Decade" series being translated into English, or being overhauled into something more agreeable to American audiences the way Power Rangers has been, is probably very minimal. Unless you actually speak and write Japanese, you're probably not going to encounter it. I just wanted to provide a reasonable amount of background.
The bottom line is -- this is a cool Japanese action figure. Full comprehension of where he came from is not required to enjoy him. The design, detail, articulation, and everything about this action figure should appeal to anyone who's into collecting action figures -- Japanese, American, or both. He's a very impressive piece of work, simple as that.
One other note -- the back of his package shows a photograph of quite a few other figures in this series. Not entirely sure who they are, and where I got this figure didn't have any others, but -- they've gotta be out there, if you think it's worth the quest. And it might well be...
The KAMEN RIDER FINAL RIDE DIEND figure definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!