Toybox REVIEW: ACT MODE Hibiki Tachibana
Release Date: April 2022
RRP: 8500 yen
After years of complaining, campaigning and crying out after every Wonderfest, Good Smile Company have finally heard the Symphogear fandom. Years after the Figma range abruptly stopped with only two releases to its name, the popular franchise returns as part of GSC's ACT MODE line. This relatively new line combines both action figure and model kit elements, presenting buyers with a fully painted action figure and model kit-style accessories. It's a place where the armoured magical girl style designs of Symphogear can feel right at home, and after months of delays it's finally to see it truly arrive with the release of ACT MODE Hibiki Tachibana!
ACT MODE Hibiki Tachibana comes in a windowless box, loosely adopting Hibiki's black/white/yellow colour scheme with numerous images of the figure on each side of the packaging. The front of the box also features a nice headshot of Hibiki from the show itself, alongside all the expected Good Smile Company, ACT MODE and Symphogear GX logos. Inside the figure and accessories are neatly laid out on a moulded clear plastic tray, and then underneath that is a second tray housing the scarves and stand parts. Though the ACT MODE line is billed as being part action figure and part model kit, curiously it's only the stand parts which have any real semblance to model kit - laid out on plastic runners and requiring construction. It's a bit of a surprise but certainly a welcome one, as I was expecting only the base figure to be pre-assembled and all of the Gear parts to require constructing and attaching.
While Hibki's armoured design was consistently changing over the course of Symphogear, the ACT MODE adopting the Symphogear GX design definitely feels like more familiar territory compared to the original series look of the Figma. I say this purely because of the addition of more white into the costume, as well as those iconic scarf pieces. It's exactly those design changes that led me to holding off on ever buying the Figma in the hopes that one of her later costumes would be released one day. The ACT MODE figure is slightly taller and chunkier than the Figma, but would still scale well enough with other action figures of that size. The detailing and paintwork are all excellent, using both more muted shades of orange and yellow as well as glossy vibrant shades as well. The one little annoyance is the bow-like piece on the back, which isn't permanently fixed to the figure to avoid unnecessary breakage but also has the habit of popping out easily because it's so cumbersome. It's not a huge deal since it pegs back in really easily, but it does get frustrating since the figure relies so much on the stand (more on that later) so requires a fair bit of messing around with the back area.
As a Good Smile product it's easy to make comparisons between this and the Figma line (though it's important to remember that GSC mainly distribute those), especially when it comes to the articulation. Altogether this Hibiki features;
- Ball jointed head, neck, scarves, upper torso, shoulders and hips
- Hinged elbows, wrists, knees and ankles
- Bicep swivels
Each of these joints are the kind with long pegs to connect the pieces together, giving each of the joints additional swivel movement at those connecting points. Construction-wise it is very similar to the Figma release, and like its predecessor sadly lacks a waist joint that could have really made some difference to action poses. But even without that the poseability on this figure is still very good, and able to convey Hibiki's fist-fighting really well. The problem here though is that nearly all of the joints are considerably looser than you'd expect from an action figure, which is perhaps a side effect of the line having model kit elements incorporated into it. Put simply, if the whole thing was a model kit and I had to construct the joints myself I'd expect them to be loose like this. It means Hibiki really struggles to hold action poses without the aid of her stand - and even more so if you want to pose those weighty scarves along with it. While you can fix loose joints on figures with a bit of nail polish (or something similar), having to do it to this extent is definitely a knock against it.
Hibiki's accessories include two alternate faceplates (singing and shouting expressions to compliment the smiling face), two pairs of alternate pairs of open hands, Hammer Arms and deployed Power Jack leg pieces. The Hammer Arms are completely alternate forearm pieces which require switching at the elbow joint, whilst the Power Jacks are alternate panels for each side of the legs (switching them is done by removing the yellow shin pieces first). Both are really nice accessory sets that show off Gungnir's abilities without divulging into a huge range of accessory pieces. However much like the issues with the joints, these pieces can be a little bit fiddly - particularly the Power Jack pieces which fall apart really easily. The upside to the joints being a bit loose though is that switching parts is really simply, so there shouldn't be any worry of breaking anything when pulling the forearms off of the elbows. It's a nice little array of accessories, and if not for the big scarf parts there would probably be more. But it's certainly enough to channel the essence of Hibiki and make for a good action figure.
The clear plastic display stand consists of a circular display base and then three articulated arms. Naturally the middle arm is used to plug directly into the figure, whilst the other two arms (with the help of two small claw-like attachments) are used to hold the scarf pieces up in more action-oriented displays. Similarly, the middle arm also has its own additional attachments which fit between the stand arm and the figure - giving the joints on each of the scarves additional support so that poses hold in place. Given how we've previously established how floppy some of the joints are on this figure (and the scarf joints are the smallest of them all), these pieces are perhaps the most vital support piece out of the whole lot. Even when posing the figure without the aid of the stand it's handy to keep this piece plugged onto the back for the extra support. After all, it's clear plastic and isn't even noticeable if you've got the figure facing forwards.
New Symphogear action figures have been a LONG time coming and fans prayers have finally been answered with ACT MODE Hibiki Tachibana, whose Symphogear GX look feels more in line with how the character has looked across the franchise as opposed to the original look of the Figma. Despite the towline have a tagline of "Action Figure x Model Kit" Hibiki feels more like the former than the latter, though the fiddly nature of the parts and loose joints are definitely flaws that come from being a hybrid as such. The joint issues might be fixable to an extent, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating that it's an issue present straight out of the box. Nevertheless this is a great start to a line many (including myself) have been waiting a long time for, and makes me even more excited to have her posed alongside Chris and Tsubasa by the time this year is out.