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Akazonae Royal Guard

Star Wars Movie Realization
by yo go re

Samurai Vader wasn't the only figure I ordered on Singles Day.

This is a strong bit of coincidence. The box identifies this figure as the Akazonae Royal Guard, which is likely not a term you're familiar with. Akazonae (赤備え) translates as "red troops" and refers to an elite unit formed by the Takeda Clan; the Akazonae samurai were outfitted completely in red armor, which stood out on the battlefield and made them a fearsome force. That's a real historical thing.

Star Wars, meanwhile, has is own set of elite soldiers wearing red. No, not the "Sith Troopers" of Rise of Skywalker (in their 3D-printed armor), the Emperor's Royal Guard. Their armor and equipment was all painted red, and they were the baddest of the badasses. The Guards were based on designs by Nilo Rodis-Jamero, a Filipino artist who did a lot of work on Return of the Jedi; the specific design went through a lot of variations before it was finalized, but the bright red was a constant feature. Bandai took advantage of this little synchronicity for their Movie Realization line, bringing us the Akazonae Royal Guard.

The Royal Guard are most known for their distinctive helmets, those tall, sloping domes that cover the wearer from the top of the head down to the middle of the chest - great for aesthetics, bad for articulation. The Akazonae Guard adopts this by turning it into a fairly normal small helmet, with a bit of layered armor on the neck and a visor over the eyes, then a faceplate that hangs way down below the chin, fitting into a notch in the middle of a large collar. This keeps the overall feeling of the Star Wars armor, but makes it more mobile and more "realistic," wink-wink.

Unlike the SW Royal Guards, this one is not fully hidden behind a robe, and he's not a uniform shade of red all over. He does have a robe, hanging down the front and back from the collar mentioned above, but it leaves the sides open, so we can see the samurai armor beneath. (Yes, we know there are sources showing Royal Guards' armor beneath their robes, but we're talking about the film, specifically.) The armor is bright gloss red, with the cloth parts are darker. The front robe has airbrushed shadows and sculpted lines that may be meant to be decorative hems or something; the rear robe hangs like a cape, and is even slightly tattered at the lower edge.

Despite that making the Movie Realization figure look more like the movie character, he's not packaged wearing the front part of the robe - it's off to the side in the tray. So what do we see instead? A cool breastplate with a large, stylized Imperial crest done in black. It's impressive. The crest is a separate piece, its edge hidden masterfully by the black paint. You have to remove it to plug the robe into place, but unless you check the instructions, you might never realize it, since it fits in so seamlessly.

Without the robe on, you can really appreciate the armor he's wearing. Some of it is the same seen on the various Movie Realization Stormtroopers - the han kote (gauntlets), uwa-obi (belt), kusazuri (faulds), and suneate (shin guards) - but then the sode (shoulder plates) and the haidate (thigh armor) are new molds, unique to the Royal Guard. The thigh armor is particularly appropriate, with its extra length and curved lower edge making it look more like a robe than armor.

The figure includes your choice of six hands: two fists, two holding loosely, and two holding tightly. He has a katana (because samurai) in a glossy red scabbard (because Imperial Guard) that can fit into a clip hanging from his belt. He also get a golden staff that stands in for the regular Guard's Force pike - the looser hands are meant to cradle the end of it.

Articulation is even better than we get on Black Series figures. The Guard moves at the head, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips, knees, and ankles. The wrists and ankles are Revoltech-style, and the shoulder armor is attached to its own small balljoint on a separate ring within the shoulder joint so that it can move around without blocking the arms at all. There is a bit of an odd gap there if you remove both front and back capes. Plus, his pants are so big and baggy that you really can't put the legs straight down, so he's always got a wide stance, and will require the ankles to be adjusted to keep the feet flat.

The Movie Realization Akazonae Royal Guard was a Tamashii web exclusive released in 2016 - of course, everything is a "web exclusive" if no brick and mortar stores near you carry it. It originally retailed for around $90, which is a high price for what you get, no doubt. But it's a great design and complements Vader beautifully. But now Bandai really needs to make a version of the Emperor for these guys to guard.

-- 02/23/20

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