Review: Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

Originally published on Fanmode on 29 September 2008

Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

That a country that has undergone two major society-wide changes should favour transformation as a central theme for its superheroes isn’t surprising. Super sentai and Ultraman are arguably the most famous of Japanese transforming heroes internationally but there’s another long-running Japanese superhero franchise that features henshin (change) as a core element. The Kamen Rider/Masked Rider franchise may be less familiar internationally compared to tokusatsu titans like Ultraman and Godzilla but it’s big in Japan.

The original Kamen Rider, a creation of famed manga-ka Ishinomori Shotaro, made his television debut in 1971. The first Kamen Rider series told the story of Hongo Takeshi, a young man surgically altered against his will by the terrorist organisation Shocker to become a powerful cyborg. Escaping Shocker’s clutches, Hongo would turn against the organisation and as Kamen Rider, battle its bizarre minions and stymy its equally bizarre plans.

There have been numerous series, specials and movies in the franchise since then, and while the names may change and the costumes differ, each and every Kamen Rider story has featured a transforming superhero, with a heart burning for justice and a penchant for stylish poses, battling evil in all its rubber-suited forms.

The franchise, too, has had to change.

In 2005, it was decided to revisit the original Kamen Rider and update it. The post-millennial iteration was meant to be edgier and darker, and geared towards an older, more sophisticated audience. Unfortunately, the resulting movies, Kamen Rider the First, and its 2007 sequel, Kamen Rider the Next, aren’t good with a few short scenes of stylish action hardly making up for awkward storytelling and stilted acting.

Kamen Rider the Next, the movie, may have been terrible but Kamen Rider the Next, the merchandise, was much better executed. Bandai saturated the market with something for every market demographic at every possible price point. There were unposable soft vinyl figures, cheap candy toys, edgy action figures and high-end sixth-scale figures; you only had to pick a style and a price tag you were comfortable with.

Previously, Kamen Rider fans wanting an action figure representation mainly had to look at the Souchaku Henshin and S.I.C. lines. Both lines have their devotees but neither might satisfy a purist wanting a gimmick-free action figure faithful to the source design.

Enter the S.H.Figuarts line.

Debuting in February 2008, Bandai’s latest collector-oriented line emphasises sculpting and articulation — two key areas the older toy fan would be particular about. The 14cm-tall action figures in the S.H.Figuarts series retail for between 2200yen to 2500yen. Though the first few figures released may have given the impression this would be a Kamen Rider line exclusively, the release of G Gundam’s Domon Kasshhu suggests this might be an eclectic line with some decidedly odd character choices.

Bandai played very safe with the first figure released in the line, however, opting for a classic Japanese hero.


Bandai has always impressed with its action figure packaging so it comes as no surprise the S.H.Figuarts packaging is thoughtfully done.

Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version) package

The figure is clearly seen within the package and the rear of the box has glamour photos selling the posability of the figure.

Unusually, the packaging also has English text providing an overview of the line’s concept. Whether this is meant to impress the Japanese collector who finds English exotic-cool or meant to inform the non-Japanese collector, only Bandai knows for sure. What’s certain is Bandai didn’t do a very good job. The text is not bad enough to qualify as Engrish but it does read like the output of a web page translator.

What is S.H.Figuarts?
Aiming at coexistence of movability and ideal figure, the movable body technology is improved furthermore, which results to adopt 35 movable points for the whole body. It is a high quality action figure of about 14 centimeters that successfully reproduces “Form,” “Movability” and “Style” in high dimensions!!

So, there you have it. A 14cm-tall well-sculpted and well-articulated action figure. In high dimensions.

What goes unexplained — at least in English — is the meaning of S.H. in S.H.Figuarts. Bandai itself seems uncertain and the company vacillates between “Souchaku Henshin Figure Arts” and “Simple style and Heroic action Figure Arts” on its own web site.

The figure is easily removed from the package — nary a twist-tie is to be found — and is just as easily repacked and stored away.

Documentation-wise, there’s a single-sided paper insert that illustrates how the detachable parts on the figure can be removed and replaced.

The look and feel

Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

This is a very sharp action figure and a very classy update to the Kamen Rider 1 costume from the Seventies. The original design looks like an amateurish cosplay outfit when seen through modern day lens so this new version does extremely well in translating it for current tastes. In broad strokes, the new design evokes a stylised biker’s outfit. A bit outrageous, perhaps, but by no means comical.

The proportions are excellent. Neither Kikawada Masaya, the actor portraying Hongo Takeshi, nor the stuntman actually donning the Kamen Rider 1 costume were rippling with muscles, and this slim action figure reflects that.

Closer scrutiny reveals Bandai has been zealous about getting the less prominent details right as well. The signature lenticular bug-eyes have been reproduced to perfection with Bandai even managing to simulate the grasshopper-inspired compound eyes.

Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

The nicks and dents sculpted on the helmet make it clear this reimagined Kamen Rider 1 has seen plenty of action since his debut in Kamen Rider The First. The colours are a little altered as well. The blue on the suit has faded to green mirroring the mid-series changes in the original Kamen Rider series.

The Typhoon Belt, the device that enables Hongo Takeshi to transform into Kamen Rider 1, is accurately reproduced to satisfy all but the most fussiest of nitpickers.

Construction-wise, the figure is primarily plastic with most of it being tough durable material capable of surviving a few drops. The scarves and antennae are made of softer, more flexible PVC. Curiously, the outer edges of each boot are partially made of die-cast metal. This seems a gratuitous use of the material even considering S.H.Figuarts’ indirect links to Bandai’s historied Chogokin line (via Souchaku Henshin).

Strike a pose

Bandai was serious about S.H.Figuarts’ posability because the company has been extremely generous with joints. The low-down:

  • Neck: peg and hinge joints at the top, and ball-jointed at the bottom.
  • Shoulders: two ball joints and a hinge joint each.
  • Biceps: swivel joint each.
  • Elbows: double hinge joints each.
  • Wrists: swivel/hinge combo joints each.
  • Chest: ball joint.
  • Waist: ball joint.
  • Hips: ball joint each.
  • Thighs: swivel joint each.
  • Knees: double hinge joints.
  • Shins: swivel joint.
  • Ankles: ball joint and two hinge joints.
  • Feet: hinge joint each.

There are loads of joints — some obscured, some obvious, some critical, some overkill — with a good range of motion possible so the overall posability is quite good.

To further improve the posability of the triple-jointed shoulders, the shoulder pads hinge up allowing a few extra degrees of motion.

The Typhoon Belt is sculpted on a separate piece which moves freely above the abdomen and pelvis. This belt piece doesn’t really impede the articulation so it’s likely it was designed thusly in order to make it easier to reuse torso and pelvis parts for Kamen Rider 2, Kamen Rider V3, and the Shocker Riders.


Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

The figure is somewhat lacking in the accessories department. There are three pairs of extra hands in various poses — including hands to recreate Kamen Rider’s signature henshin pose seen above — and another scarf sculpted to suggest motion.

A figure stand would have been a welcome bonus and Bandai must have belatedly realised that because more recent S.H.Figuarts releases include one. Consider picking up Bandai’s Tamashii Stage Act 1 or Act 2 figure stands if you’re keen on displaying Kamen Rider 1 in his classic Rider Kick pose.

The main accessory that’s lacking, however, is the Cyclone 1, Kamen Rider 1’s motorcycle. Although adding such a substantial in-scale accessory would have at least doubled the asking price, it would have been nice if fans could at least have had the option of getting it through a separate DX set. After all, what’s a Rider without something to ride?


Bandai’s generally good about quality control and you know you’re getting a solid product when you open the package. S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (ver. The Next) is no exception.

There are two areas to watch out for, however. The left shoulder pad and left knee pad on the figure reviewed seem a little too prone to popping off. Popping them back on is a simple enough matter but locating these tiny pieces after they’ve popped off might require a bit of effort and involve some heartfelt swearing.


Bandai S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (The Next version)

S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 (ver. The Next) is a figure that achieves Bandai’s goals for the new line. Action figure aficionados could perhaps fault it for lacking ingenuity — this is, after all, a 2008 design from Japan’s number one toy company — but there’s no denying the figure excels at the basic level. The figure is accurately sculpted, the posability excellent and the price tag very agreeable.

It’s just hard to believe that Kamen Rider fans have had to wait till 2008 to get a simple no-frills yet no-compromises action figure representation of this classic character. Change, it would seem, sometimes comes slowly, but in this case, it has been well worth the wait.


S.H.Figuarts Kamen Rider 1 pictorial reviews: Goe, Taoo, G.S.R..

Kamen Rider 1 history: Paul Sullivan’s overview of the first Kamen Rider series.

Kamen Rider the First reviews: Paul Sullivan has spoiler-free and spoiler-filled reviews of the 2005 movie.

Kamen Rider the Next reviews: Paul Sullivan has spoiler-free and spoiler-filled reviews of the 2007 sequel.