A closer look a the best figures from the Star Wars Universe…
When you’re a Star Wars collector you know there are two major sizes of figures opposing each other — the 3.75 inch and the 6 inch. They’re both great in their own ways but in recent years, it’s the 6 inch figures that have risen as the “most wanted” by collectors. They’re bigger, often more articulated, of better quality and have a great choice of characters; what more to ask?
There are three main brands doing 6 inch figures — The Black Series (made by Hasbro), S.H. Figuarts (by Bandai and Tamashi Nations) and MAFEX (by Medicom). Hasbro is the biggest one in terms of release. You can find their figures worldwide in any toy shop, which is not the case for Figuarts and MAFEX. Those two are Japanese brands and if you live in Europe (like most of the FotF team), you have to import them from Japanese online stores, meaning you can sometimes get additional fees to pay because of customs. Among these three lines though, which one is the best in terms of price, quality, character selection … ? That’s a tough question that I’ll try to answer in the best possible way.
The packaging at Hasbro for the Black Series is quite beautiful. The black is the predominant color, which makes sense considering the name of the line! For the first two years, there was an additional background color — orange for the first year and then blue. Since The Force Awakens, the background color is red and it hasn’t changed for now. The red background is better than the two previous colors and it gives it a better top of the range feel. With each figure, there is a little uncolored drawing of the character they represent. It is really nice. And for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, Hasbro has done even more beautiful packaging by using the vintage cardback, which was, in my view, the best packaging there ever was. The image of the character is at the center and it’s truly magnificent. For collectors who don’t open the figures, Hasbro packaging will definitely be for them, but even for collectors like me, who open the figures, they’re great — a real pleasure for the eyes.
S.H. Figuarts packaging is black as well but very different. On the front, there is no picture or drawing of the character, just the Star Wars logo and the name of the character written. The back features photos of the figure, which for me is a bit weird, you have the figure in front of you, you don’t really need to look at pictures of it on the back.The packaging is very simple and quite small, there is no superfluous plastic. It’s really made to be opened. You would be missing something if you kept it in packaging — there’s so many poses you can put the figures in with the interchangeable hands feature.
MAFEX has the biggest packaging; in fact it’s way too large. It’s not an economic packaging like S.H. Figuarts but they take as much space as they can. They too (as with S.H. Figuarts) like to put photos of the figure on the packaging. On the bottom, you have the name of the character and the number of the figure in their line plus the picture of the item. It feels a bit like a packaging for a kids toy rather than a collector’s model. Very much like S.H. Figuarts, it’s a packaging meant to be opened, for the same reasons. It’s definitely not my favorite packaging.
Winner: Hasbro wins this round, you can’t beat the Vintage cardback.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much to say about accessories for Hasbro. Most of their figures have one or two accessories with them like a weapon or a lightsaber, but not much, and these weapons can sometimes have problems of paint application, which shouldn’t happen. There are some cases where there is an extra head with a different facial expression (like Darth Maul) or an extra set of hands (like Poe Dameron) who also has his removable helmet. However beyond these few exceptions, Hasbro is not good with accessories.
S.H. Figuarts is a big improvement compared to Hasbro. Every single figure has different sets of interchangeable hands — closed hands, open hands, hands to hold a lightsaber or blaster, hands with a finger pointing towards somewhere. There is always a great choice of hands positions with S.H. Figuarts.
Along with the hands, there is often an interchangeable head featuring different facial expression of the character. For the Jedi, there is always one lightsaber with the blade and another one with just the hilt to attach it on the belt of the figure.
For figures who have an holster like Han Solo, there is one holster with his blaster in and another one interchangeable without his blaster in it. For the blasters, generally, there isn’t much — for example the First Order Stormtrooper only has the basic blaster and not the rifle or the blaster pistol with him, plus that blaster can’t be attached on the leg. The Riot Control First Order Stormtrooper only has the riot gear but no blaster (not even a blaster pistol). and the Heavy Gunner First Order Stormtrooper has the Heavy Gunner gear, a cannon and a blaster pistol (in the movie you can spot some with a blaster unfortunately, there isn’t a blaster with the figure).
If you really want all the accessories for the troopers, you have to buy all the figures. However, with what they do for their other figures in terms of accessories, it’s already more than we could ask for.
MAFEX like Figuarts gives their figures different sets of interchangeable hands and interchangeable head, for example Kylo Ren has his head with the helmet and his head without it. In terms of weapons, MAFEX raises the bar higher. The First Order Stormtrooper has both the riot control gear plus a blaster pistol and a rifle. For the riot gear, there is one stick in battle mode and the other in non-battle mode to attach on the leg. The blasters too can be attached on the leg. Kylo Ren in terms of accessories also has the burned helmet of his grandfather and three lightsabers — one with the blade, and two hilts, the first one to attach on his belt and the other to hold in his hands. Let’s not forget that every figure also get a stand, which is more than welcome because a stand is always useful when you want to pose your figures in different positions.
Winner: MAFEX wins this round, they have the best accessories without any doubt, they give the collector everything they can!
Hasbro has great articulations on their figures, you can pose them in many positions. There is even extra points of articulation on the knees to allow a more realistic movement of the legs. However, the articulations are rather “big” and visible on the figure. The extra articulation on the knees is not visually pleasant, as there are holes on the side with plastic screws in them. Plus, on figures like Rey, Chewbacca or even the Jedi, the articulation is much more limited. Rey and the Jedi because of their plastic “skirt” and Chewbacca because of his plastic fur. So yes, there is great articulation on these figures, there are an average of 20 points of articulation on each one but it is not handle well, which is disappointing.
S.H. Figuarts uses small ball joints for their articulations, which doesn’t take much place on the figure like on Hasbro figures. You don’t see much these ball joints, it doesn’t bring some weirdness in the figure, they blend in, which is the best you can expect from points of articulation. It’s simply the best for the figure. The figures have an average of 21–22 points of articulation, it’s generally the Jedi who have only 21 and other characters 22. Speaking of the Jedi, their “skirt” is in plastic but it’s a rather soft plastic and it’s opened at the front and the back in a way that you don’t notice it but when you move the legs of the figures they’re not limited in the articulation, you can pose them the way you want. With Figuarts, the pose of the figures is simply the best, it’s a bit exaggerated to say this but there’s almost no limit on how you can position the figures, the possibilities are endless.
MAFEX has articulation like Figuarts, in a way that they’re not too big which doesn’t aesthetically and they pretty much blend in. The figures have an average of 19 points of articulation. They can be put in many positions. However, on the arms, it’s a bit limited comparing to S.H. Figuarts. For the First Order Stormtrooper or even the Stormtrooper, it’s a bit difficult to make them hold their weapon with their two hands, the shoulders and elbows don’t turn enough to make it really possible at least on the troopers, because it’s very much possible easily on the MAFEX Batman from Batman v Superman.
Winner: S.H. Figuarts is the king of articulations. Their figures can be put in any position to recreate scenes from the movies. And these points of articulations are put into the figures in such a way that they don’t take away the beauty of the figure.
The Quality Of The Figure
Quality finish and Hasbro are words that can be a bit difficulty to associate with each other at times. Their biggest problem is the paint application. You find so many figures in stores with bad or awful paint application with eyes being painted out of their orbits or looking extremely weird like one eye is looking on the left and the other on the right or something like that. This is a huge let down. When you have a line aimed at collectors, you should receive the best quality and in terms of paint application, the quality isn’t there.
Let’s take Han Solo from The Force Awakens, he is supposed to have gray hair but Hasbro made their figure with brown hair and some shades of gray; not movie accurate at all. Chewbacca from The Force Awakens too is almost orange while the character has a brown fur of different shades. The sculpt of faces are not really well done for humans. For example the figures of Rey, Anakin and Han don’t “look” like Rey, Anakin and Han, there is a little something that is off with their representation.
The first A New Hope Leia was a disaster; now in the Vintage re-issue, the problem has been fixed and she actually looks like Leia. Hasbro is much better at doing face sculpts for aliens or troopers. The sculpts for other body parts of the figures are rather good but like mentioned before, the massive problem is the paint application – as the years go by it doesn’t get better on the contrary, it seems to get worse.
There is a lot of good things to say about S.H. Figuarts concerning the quality of their figures. You can see there is a very strict control on quality. To date I have never see someone complaining about the paint application on their Figuarts. Their figures are not hand painted but they use digital painting, which I think gives the best results. The paint application is first-class. For the face sculpts, Figuarts has absolutely no problems. Whether you look at Obi-Wan (Attack of the Clones version and The Phantom Menace version), Han Solo, Mace Windu, Luke Skywalker or even the recently released Anakin Skywalker (Attack of the Clones), the likeness of the character is to quote Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back — “impressive, most impressive.”
The quality is the same when it comes to the other species like Chewbacca and Darth Maul, it’s amazing. For the troopers, it’s a bit different in the way that there are a few issues. For example, the Death Trooper is the same size as the other troopers. While he should be a lot taller, you find the same problem with Darth Vader who isn’t tall enough. And for the stormtrooper, the helmet is not exactly accurate. Other than these little issues, the quality is top notch and movie accurate.
MAFEX is halfway between Hasbro and Figuarts for the quality. Though, they are way better than Hasbro for the face sculpts and paint application. Their Kylo Ren and Rey bear some really good likeness of the characters even though it’s not totally it. However, Kylo’s helmet is excellent. The paint application isn’t digital (they’re only starting with this new way of painting figures and in their Star Wars line, there is only Rey and Finn so far who have received this treatment) but is really good though. The problem with MAFEX is their figures tend to have some loose joints that break. It never happened to me so far but I know a good number of people to whom it happened so I think it was necessary to mention it. Unlike, Figuarts, MAFEX used soft goods for Kylo Ren, it was of good quality unlike what you can find on Hasbro figures sometimes.
Winner: S.H. Figuarts wins without any doubt. This brand is the Hot Toys of the six inch lines!
The Selection of Characters
Hasbro has the licence for all Star Wars content including comics and TV series so they have a big advantage comparing to S.H. Figuarts and MAFEX for the characters they can make. However, do they really use all the potential they have in their selection of characters being released? That’s the problem, they don’t.
Padmé Amidala who is part of the Prequels trio doesn’t have her own figure in the Black Series line and that’s a key omission. The Prequels don’t get a lot of attention from Hasbro in this line, apart from the clones who are easy repaints. The Original Trilogy gets a lot of attention, plenty of named characters have been released from these movies, athough we had to wait this year for a decent figure of Leia with a decent outfit as well. The Hasbro decisions are questionable, the first Leia figure they released was in her Jabba’s prisoner outfit. She still doesn’t have her figure from The Force Awakens while every main characters of the movie have. There has been some reluctance from Hasbro to do female characters into figures, we have seen how they handled their 3.75 inch lines and it has been the same for the 6 inch Black Series. However, you can notice a change with the arrival of figures like Jyn Erso, Rey, Captain Phasma, Ahsoka, Sabine and soon Hera.
When it comes to the new movies, Hasbro cover very well the characters and release as much as possible but there again there are some problems. Bodhi Rook, one of the main characters of Rogue One doesn’t have his own figure but Constable Zuvio who is seen in the background in The Force Awakens for 2 seconds has a figure. That’s problematic to say the least.
Their selection of characters has a lack of balance and they can make some odd choices at times that are hard to understand. However, we cannot deny the fact that they have characters from Star Wars Rebels and it seems we will be seeing more soon like Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Now, S.H. Figuarts may not have the licence to do figures from Star Wars Rebels but they have a perfectly balanced line. They have about as many characters from the Prequels than the Originals. They do have a Padmé Amidala figure (that will be released in June), Anakin, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca and the troopers. And compared to Hasbro in their troopers, they have the battle droids, which is impressive. There is no Leia figure yet but we can forgive them for now as their line is quite recent (and they have Padmé). For the new movies, they have the troopers from Rogue One and The Force Awakens but concerning the named characters, they’re not there yet. K-2SO, Phasma and Kylo Ren have been released. Rey, Finn and TFA Han are next on the list (no release date yet) but that’s about it for now.
So for now, Figuarts are not very well up to date with the new movies but they do an incredible job on the selection of characters from the 6 first movies and have a balanced line.
MAFEX has the poorest choice of characters. They don’t have much characters and it is mostly troopers. Having different versions of the same characters doesn’t help either — Darth Vader, Boba Fett and C-3PO both have two different figures (Vader even has 3). It definitely takes time to make and deprive some other characters to get their figures.
Winner: For the selection of characters, it would be a tie between Hasbro and S.H. Figuarts. Figuarts has the most balanced line but Hasbro does a great job with the characters from the new movies and Star Wars Rebels.
In terms of prices for Hasbro, they vary pretty much all the time and depending on the story there can be some significant differences. Let’s start with how it is in the UK. At Asda, they started at £22.99 then dropped to £16.99 and are now at £21.99. During clearance they were at £10.99. Smyth Toys had them for £22.99 and now (at time of writing) they are down at £16.99. Sainsbury and Argos have them for £26.99 and during clearance sales for around £19.99. So Asda is most likely the store you want to go to.
In France, the situation is really different as they are much higher. In Toys”R”Us, they started at 24,99€ with the first Black Series and quickly went up to 29,99€ and that is the lowest price you will find in France. At La Grande Récré, the prices vary from 34,99€ to 39,99€. King Jouet has them for 33,99€ but it can vary sometimes as well. Just looking at the prices in two different countries, we can see some striking differences that can be quite shocking. Considering what they offer in accessories and quality of the figure, the price is reasonable in the UK but in France, it’s exaggerated for sure.
Now for S.H. Figuarts, you can find some of the troopers like Battle Droids, Clones or Stormtroopers between £27.42 and £32.91 (31,92€ — 38.32€), while named characters like Han Solo, Obi-Wan, etc. can go from £23.98 to £50.09 (27,92€ — 58,32€). The prices are taken (at the time of writing) from MyKombini but they are about the same on AmiAmi and HLJ Japan. They are online Japanese stores. If you look at the prices for the Black Series in France, for about the same price you can get some of the S.H. Figuarts. For the UK, you generally have to spend a little bit more money to get one of these than for a Black Series. If you look at what they have to offer in terms of accessories that go with the figures, the attention to detail and the quality, the price is more than justified.
Finally for MAFEX, for the troopers the prices can go from £23.29 to £35.66 (27,12€ — 41,52€) and named characters from £28.79 to £64.24 (33,52€ — 74,80€). The prices are definitely higher than for the two other lines. Is the price justified though, for what they have to offer? I would say, they should go more with prices like the S.H. Figuarts ones for their named characters considering the difference in quality. It makes it less justifiable but considering the range of accessories they are offering with their figures, you can understand it has a cost.
Winner: MAFEX definitely isn’t the winner in this category. Hasbro may have the cheapest prices (only if you’re in the UK) but in terms of price-quality ratio S.H. Figuarts is the best without any doubts.
So now the final verdict, which line of six inch figures is the very best?
On my assessment S.H. Figuarts has won most of the categories, and have proven to be almost flawless. Plus, they have the best quality and articulations, which are the most important things for a collector. Both Hasbro and MAFEX have their strengths and are great lines as well but they can’t reach the level of Figuarts. In the end, despite being aimed at collectors, the 6 inch done by Hasbro remain more like toy quality rather than collector quality like MAFEX and S.H. Figuarts.