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S.H. Figuarts Piccolo Daimaoh (King Piccolo)

Before there was the noble Piccolo, trainer of Gohan and ally of Goku, there was the evil King Piccolo. Known as Piccolo Daimaoh outside of the US, King Piccolo was the evil purged from the namekian Kame, who would assume the role of guardian of Earth in the world of Dragon Ball. Piccolo was the usual villian bent on world domination who was imprisoned in a magic rice cooker long ago, but like all ancient evils, he escaped to make life miserable for Goku and his friends.

King Piccolo is one of the more recent releases in the line of Dragon Ball action figures released by Bandai and Tamashii Nations under the S.H. Figuarts banner and he’s a big boy. He’s the main villain of the penultimate arc of Dragon Ball as he escapes from his imprisonment and is able to assemble the dragon balls and wish for his youth to be restored. He is depicted here following that wish in his navy blue gi and cocky smirk. In many ways, he’s the ultimate villain from the original Dragon Ball and, once defeated, it’s his son/clone who would continue on to Dragon Ball Z and become the more popular Piccolo.

King Piccolo stands a tick under 8 inches, so he towers over his adversary, Kid Goku. I do not own a Piccolo from DBZ, but I’ve noticed from looking around online that he’s much taller than his successor. The only visual difference between the two is in the face with King Piccolo having higher cheek bones and an overall narrower face. The figure is colored after his anime appearance so he has patches of pink flesh on his arms and ankles as opposed to yellow. He’s a sturdy figure, with tight joints that aren’t too tight. He stands well and is surprisingly light given his size. The plastic is firm and the paint clean while the upper area of his gi is soft and pliable.

Since he’s from the Figuarts line, King Piccolo has plenty of articulation. His head is on a ball-joint and free to move around. He can look up a bit, and look down as far as any human needs to. His antennae are articulated and can be removed easily, if you wish. Careful though, they’re small and I spent over half an hour trying to find one I popped off by accident. He has a joint at the base of his neck which adds a bit to his range of motion. His shoulders are on ball-joints with a butterfly joint to back them up too so he can reach forward and across his chest. There’s a bicep swivel, single-hinge at the elbow, and wrist swivel with a hinge in the peg. When popping on a hand, you have to pay attention to which way that hinge is oriented to make sure you can get the desired motion you want. The elbow can bend 90 degrees, but the lack of a double-joint means it can’t go any further. There’s a mid-torso ball joint that’s nice and firm as well as a waist swivel. There’s ball joints at the hips, thigh swivel, double-jointed knees, and the feet are on ball joints. The feet can really move all over the place and there’s a toe hinge for good measure.

The articulation is quite expressive and does a good job of not interfering much with the overall look of the figure. There’s a lot going on in the crotch area in terms of trying to maintain the folds of Piccolo’s pants, but the dark color helps keep it a bit neat as opposed to Goku and his orange gi. I love the little sculpted details like the folds in the gi, the texture of the sash, and even the little piece of visible ankles above the shoes. The paint is very clean and also minimalist, as seems to be the case for Figuarts. There’s a hint of a wash on the face, especially the more expressive ones, and what is here looks terrific. It’s hard to imagine someone making a better looking version of King Piccolo.

Piccolo comes with an array of different hands and heads as well as a few other accessories. As is the tradition with the Dragon Ball figures, he comes with a dragon ball of his own. In this case, the one star ball. It looks so tiny in his giant hands. He comes packaged with a pair of fists and a smirk on his face. He has a pair of open, clawing, hands and a pair of fully open hands like he’s firing off his energy blast. He also has a right hand in a karate chop position and a pointing right hand. On the head front, he’s incredibly expressive as in addition to the smirk he has a teeth gritting expression, a yelling expression in which his veins are popping out and his eyes bloodshot, and a “puking” head from when he regurgitates the egg that contains Piccolo Jr. Speaking of which, he also has that egg which has some septum at the end of it to make it look like it’s being fired through the air. There’s also a piece of mucus that it can sit in like a football tee. Lastly, there’s the electronic rice cooker which once held him prisoner. It can open and close and is a cute little accessory.

As you can see, he rightly towers over Bulma and Goku.

The different heads and choice of hands makes Piccolo a truly fun toy to pose. I’m torn on what my favorite head is because they’re all so well done. I love the smugness of the default head, while the other two are great for action shots. The egg puking head is definitely more specific, but again, it’s so well-sculpted that there’s a desire to pose him with that head as well. It also doubles as a good reaction head for when Goku slugs him in the stomach. The egg even has a hole in the bottom of it so it can take advantage of the stands Bandai sells for fireballs and other effects. I do wish Piccolo had a hole in his back for stands as I don’t trust the grabbing stands Bandai uses to hold up with such a big figure. He is pretty light for his size, but I wouldn’t leave him on a shelf suspended in the air by one of those things. I know some people wish Bandai added shading to these figures, but I think natural light works well on the folds in the uniform, especially on darker colors like this one. The rear of the knees is the only part of the sculpt I’m not keen on because they’re so shiny, but they’re also on the back of the figure so it’s not something that will be displaying. Lastly, it’s the little things that bring this one together. The veins on the various heads or the way the antennae can be manipulating on all of the heads is a great touch. You can make them flailing back if he’s in a rushing pose, for instance, which is just great attention to detail.

King Piccolo is an awesome action figure from Bandai/Tamashii Nations. He’s a great and necessary addition to the Dragon Ball line as he has a terrific look and his action figure covers all of the bases. Maybe some have a desire to add an elder King Piccolo to their display, but I’m all set with this one. I’m curious if Bandai will do a proper Piccolo Jr. in the near future that’s distinct from the Dragon Ball Z figure. When he first showed up, Piccolo Jr. had a rather skinny appearance so it would make sense for Bandai to do a new sculpt. We’ll see. For now, I’m just pleased there’s a lot to collect for Dragon Ball fans and I hope Bandai keeps them coming!


Dragon Ball: Season 4

dragon_ball_season_4_600x600_itunes_artwork_by_eddie09-d58sdkjIt sure is taking me a long time to post about the “seasons” of Dragon Ball. I place the word seasons in quotations because these aren’t actual seasons of television, but just how FUNimation chose to label them when releasing the show on DVD. As a result, Season 4 starts during the World Martial Arts Tournament as opposed to before it or at its conclusion, which is a pretty poor way to start a season (though it’s a better start for Season 4 than an ending for Season 3 which was quite abrupt). Thankfully, Season 4 will end at a better spot setting up for the fifth and final volume of Dragon Ball episodes.

Season 4 has a different feel than its predecessor. While Goku has dealt with loss before and even experienced a desire for vengeance, he’ll be pushed towards a darker path even more so in this volume, but first the tournament. When we left off, Goku and his friends were participating in yet another World Martial Arts Tournament with the plot very clearly setting up a showdown between Goku and his latest rival:  Tien Shinhan. Tien is a student of Master Crane, who is also the older brother of Mercenary Tao, who Goku dispatched in Season 3. As a result, Crane wants to see his brother avenged and is relying on his pupil to do so. In order for the two to meet though, they need to win their respective matches to meet in the finals.

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Some unfinished business from Season 3.

The first 9 episodes deal with the tournament, and throughout it both Goku and Tien will be tested. By its conclusion, they’ll gain a new understanding of each other and Master Roshi will gain some new students, but he’ll also lose one. Setting up what is the main arc of the season is a murder and one that will have a lasting impact on Goku. If you want zero spoilers, then skip ahead, but the murder of Goku’s best friend and one-time rival Krillen is perhaps the darkest moment in Dragon Ball history. Perhaps the only comparable moment is the death of Dende in Dragon Ball Z at the hands of Freeza. Krillen is still basically a child when he’s murdered in Dragon Ball. It happens off-screen, but when Krillen is taking an especially long time in returning to their group’s celebratory dinner Goku runs back to the training ground to retrieve him only to find his lifeless body. It’s an affecting scene to behold as the image is held for an uncomfortably long time. This moment moves Goku to tears, naturally, but it also gives rise to an anger inside of him that is also uncomfortable to see. Up until now, Goku has been our happy-go-lucky protagonist. He’s dealt with loss mostly with sadness and to some degree a lack of comprehension. He’s learned empathy over time, he’s bore witness to how unjust the world can be, and he’s fully equipped now to experience a wide range of emotions at the sight of his best friend’s corpse.

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He doesn’t look THAT scary.

This sets the stage for the evil King Piccolo to enter our story. Piccolo is an ancient evil that not even Master Roshi could handle. He’s often referred to as a demon, and it took a technique from Roshi’s master Mutaito that cost him his life to seal him away previously:  The Evil Containment Wave. Roshi naturally preaches caution to his young pupil, but Goku is too headstrong and determined to avenge his fallen friend. He will pay for his impatience, as Piccolo isn’t alone. Since he’s rather old and feeble looking, Piccolo has surrounded himself with some powerful adversaries. They’re all named after musical instruments just like their master, and all have a sort of reptilian or demonic appearance:  Piano, Cymbal, Tambourine, and Drum. In order to defeat them, Goku will need to get stronger and he’ll be forced to seek out Master Korin once again.

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King Piccolo likes his minions scaly and green.

Meanwhile, Master Roshi together with Tien and Chiaotzu, decide they’ll need the help of the Dragon Balls in order to essentially wish away the demon king. While they’re doing that, and Goku is off training, Piccolo’s minions are seeking out the strongest fighters in the world with the goal of killing them to pave the way for King Piccolo to take control over the world (he’s a rather conventional villain, in that respect). Roshi’s plan to assemble the Dragon Balls ends up backfiring and he’s unable (or unwilling) to master the Evil Containment Wave. As a result, Piccolo seizes control of the legendary artifacts and is able to restore his youth, and power. In the process he also kills the Eternal Dragon. Suddenly, death has real consequences in this world with no dragon able to restore life to those who have fallen or will fall.

With King Piccolo fully powered-up, all eyes turn to Goku. His training with Korin puts him into confrontation with the bulbous Yajirobe. Yajirobe is essentially a punch-line in DBZ, like a lot of the main characters from Dragon Ball unfortunately, but here he is not such a push-over. Still, he’s no Goku. There’s some humor to be found in Goku’s training with Korin, but it’s largely a bit of a slog as we’re more eager than usual to see Goku face-off with the evils that stand before him. Once his training is complete, he’s forced into conflict with Piccolo’s minions and eventually the demon king himself.

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If you’re a fan of Pilaf and his crew, don’t worry, they’re still hanging around.

Some drama is created in the meantime. Tien has mastered the Evil Containment Wave, and with Goku still missing in action, he’s resolved to use it as Piccolo has begun destroying the earth city by city. Using the wave against Piccolo would mean Tien’s death, so it becomes pretty important for Goku to hurry up and get there. Goku and King Piccolo are naturally destined to meet in combat, and surprisingly, their confrontation is pretty short spanning just three episodes, but as I mentioned in the lead-in it’s at least all contained on this set without bleeding over into the next. It does mean a some-what abrupt end to the season as the immediate fall-out is left for Season 5.

Dragon Ball Season 4 marks both a new story-telling device for the show, vengeance, as well as a doubling-down on the previous format. That format is essentially Goku encountering a new foe, getting beaten down, training, and then returning to face the enemy in a rematch now powered-up. It’s a formula that Dragon Ball Z will beat into the ground, but at least here it’s not quite so worn out. Still, the training moments between Goku and Korin are slow, and they’re made even more so because the story did give us an effective motivation earlier for Goku to face Piccolo. It’s both refreshing and sad to see Goku motivated by vengeance. It would be nice if Goku could remain unaffected by the evils of the world, but it’s also unrealistic for a show with such an expansive amount of episodes. Sort of forgotten is how the season begins, with Goku turning an adversary in Tien into a new ally. It’s handled well enough, with Tien’s sense of honor ultimately being the aspect of him that is won over by Goku and his friends. Of course, if you’re like me and you experienced Dragon Ball Z before Dragon Ball then you knew Tien was destined to be an ally, but it was still entertaining to watch.

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A powered-up Goku is ready to take on the king.

At this point, the show has also improved visually. It’s success likely lead to some increased production budgets by TOEI Animation so the special effects and animation are better than they’ve ever been. The aged King Piccolo is well illustrated and he’s actually a lot more interesting to look at than the youthful version. There’s a moment where he forces an egg out of his mouth to create a new minion and it’s both gross and strangely satisfying to watch the scene play out. The original soundtrack is kept, and while it’s certainly dated, it has a whimsical quality that works really well with Dragon Ball. The benefit of FUNimation dubbing the series after DBZ means these actors have had plenty of time to get a feeling for the roles and everyone sounds mostly great. They’re all familiar if you’ve watched the other dubs, and the continuity is nice and appreciated. If you prefer Japanese audio it’s there as well. The original aspect ratio is also preserved.

Season 1 is still my favorite Dragon Ball season, mostly because it’s just a lot of fun and the ignorant Goku of Season 1 is really entertaining. Season 4 might be my second favorite though. It has some filler, but not as much as Season 3, and the stakes feel high which is also an improvement over both Seasons 2 and 3 and helps to give the confrontation more weight. It’s also satisfying when taken as a whole, and though I wouldn’t recommend it, you could conceivably just jump-in at Season 4 and enjoy it without seeing the previous material. I don’t know that I would call it peak Dragon Ball, but there is a downward slide following it with Season 5 basically feeling like an encore for the show as well as a setup for what’s to come. I promise to not take over four years to get to that one.


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