Welcome back to Plastic Love! Today I’m breaking the streak of looking at Good Smile stuff to look at Japan’s even bigger toy giant, Bandai. The SH Figuarts line—it stands for “Simple style and Heroic action”—is Bandai’s standard action figure line for adults. Though it specializes in and excels at superheroes, the line has no particular genre focus: anime idols, Marvel movie heroes, and real-life superheroes like Bruce Lee have all been produced. And of course, there is an army of Figuarts of the characters from the immortal Dragon Ball series.
Rather than choosing between multiple flavors of Goku, I thought I’d mix it up with someone who has unjustly—as far as I know—never received an action figure up until this point: the legendary engineer, tech tycoon, and Vegeta-tamer Bulma.
Bulma herself needs little introduction, but this figure’s particular outfit might. It’s from one five-second scene in the ending credits early in the original Dragon Ball series, which took place back when Goku was a little boy and Bulma was a teen.
This sequence features the young Bulma adventuring in a couple of fun outfits we won’t see in the series, and this desert combat look is perhaps the most memorable. That’s a pretty deep cut, making this figure a niche item. It’s especially odd that this less recognizable Bulma design was the one chosen for an action figure when more familiar looks like “Bulma on Namek” or “Bulma in Super” haven’t been. Even in Japan, this was sold as a limited item over Bandai’s Premium Web service, the bane of so many collectors outside of the country. We in the States have US distributor Bluefin to thank for presumably saying “of course they’ll buy Bulma” and bringing the figure over.
Unlike previous reviews I’ve done, the Figuarts is the standard action figure type through and through. The difference between this and a G.I Joe you’d see on a store shelf for ten bucks is quality. The features are crisp and clean, and there’s a level of finer attention to detail—the wrinkles in her clothes, the movable fanny pack and shoulder guard, the “BULMA” badge—that you’d never see on a cheap kids’ figure. That’s the “simple style” part: basic, but detailed enough to satisfy the adult fan or collector.
When I was a kid, we scrambled for Dragon Ball Z “Super Battle Collection” figures. They blew our minds compared to US toys, but it’s clear from looking at them that they’ve got nothing on their descendants like this one.
The other priority of the Figuarts line is posability, or as Bandai would call it, “Heroic action.” Thanks to an ingenious array of highly mobile joints, this figure can take just about any pose a human being can, and many that a human being would not want to. Even spots like the mid-section have semi-hidden joints for subtler movement than you would think of from the phrase “action figure”. Given Bulma’s small frame and light outfit, the figure is extremely flexible: even her shorts are made of a flexible rubbery material to give her hips greater freedom of movement. Today I’m testing Bulma’s posability with a Jojo pose.
Like most Figuarts, no stand is included and Bulma stands up pretty well on her own. But if you want to display her long-term without the figure inevitably diving from your shelf, a stand really is a necessity—and Bandai expects you to buy multi-packs of their “Tamashii Stand” for every action figure of theirs you own. I always keep a few on hand, but I rarely actually use them, as I’m not too fond of the way the plastic claw blocks the figure from the front while holding it in place. Either way, you’ll have to get a Tamashii Stand, figure out your own solution, or risk your figure taking a damaging fall one sad night.
It’s really impressive exactly how faithful the designers were to Bulma’s big pose from the ending credits. It’s clear they wanted absolutely everything to be right. The arm bends just so, and the fist sinks perfectly into her hip. Meanwhile the goggles fit only at the exact correct angle—she can’t wear them—and the designers even made sure that Bulma could irresponsibly lift her machine gun like a tote bag, the way she does in that scene. In front of a child, no less!
And of course, every Dragon Ball fan remembers that wacky Bulma going on rampages with her favorite machine gun! The gun is pretty nicely detailed as these things go—the “gun” hand grip is not so great. As you can see from this angle, the sculptors cared passionately about getting Bulma’s butt right—definitely not at all creepy considering she’s sixteen years old at the beginning of Dragon Ball.
It’s a little more recognizably in character that Bulma comes with the 5-star Dragon Ball and her Dragon Radar with a hand specifically made to clutch it. This is part of a “collect ‘em all” scheme with the Dragon Ball Figuarts; other figures come with the rest of the Dragon Balls, and the box suggests that you display them with the Figuarts Shenlong. I mean, that’s your $500 to spend. If that’s your dream, then live it.
So there you have it—a perfectly standard example of the Figuarts line. Bandai makes hundreds of figures in this line, and from a quality perspective they generally hold down this high level of quality. I have seen bad Figuarts, but they’re quite rare. If you see a Figuarts of your favorite character, you can pretty much rest easy buying it. I paid about $65 shipped for Bulma, but the other, less rare Dragon Ball Figuarts tend to go for about $50 on average.