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Super Mario Diorama Playset B

SH Figuarts
by yo go re

It's time to warp back into the Mushroom Kingdom! We've already reviewed Mario and Diorama Playset A, so you can probably guess what today's review is going to be.

Diorama Playset B (that's right, you nailed it) adds more scenery and enemies to your display. Technically it includes more pieces than Playset A (14 vs. 12), but it doesn't quite seem like it: the set includes two white gloves, a turtle shell, a coin and two display stands, three warp pipe pieces, a Goomba, and four small, clear posts.

The gloves are for Mario, of course - if you got the actual figure, you can pop his fists off and replace them with these fully open hands. Maybe it's just an effect of seeing the fingers splayed rather than balled up, but the hands look slightly too large for the body. Granted, Mario doesn't quite have human proportions (his head is a full ⅓ of his total height), but they'd blend better if they were just a bit smaller.

The design of the new hands is nice. They've still got the three raised lines on the back and the rolled cuff at the end, but the arms go into the gloves at an angle, so the hands do not stick unnaturally straight off those bright red limbs. The real reason for this is that, just as some boots are made for walking, these hands were made for carrying. Specifically, to carry the included turtle shell.

Soldier of the Turtle Empire, his orders are to find and destroy Mario. Jump on him and he stops moving for a while.

In the original Japanese version of the game, the turtle enemies were known as Noko-Noko - a term for doing something lackadaisically that definitely suits the way they wander about aimlessly (that it's also similar to kinoko, the Japanese word for a mushroom, is just a handy bonus). This one has already been stomped once, because it's just a shell with no body sticking out.

The sculpt is very good. The hexagonal scutes on the carapace and the horizontal stripes on the plastron are etched in, and separated by a thick white roll as in the game. The neck, arm, leg, and tail holes are all sunken in and painted black. The bottom of the shell has a small flat area, so it will rest securely on the ground.

If you want Mario to carry the shell, that's where the four clear posts come into play. There are two each of two kinds: straight, or bent. The posts plug into square holes in Mario's gloves, and the other end into holes hidden inside the shell. Why two styles? The straight ones allow Mario to hold the shell sideways, while the bent ones have him hold it straight forward. Why? Isn't holding it one way enough? Is there really some difference made by the direction he holds it? Maybe there is, I haven't played many of the recent games. One of the pegs in the set I bought is cracked almost all the way through, but so far has not broken off.

Just as the Super Mushroom is based on fly amanita, the Goombas are based on shittake mushrooms - you can tell by the brown body and white stalk. Of course, the game's programmer thought the ambulatory enemies looked like chestnuts, which is why their Japanese name is "Kuribo" (クリボー) - the word for a chestnut is kuri (栗) and in this context, bo (which usually refers to either the thing that shoots arrows or the thing that makes a violin work - yes, it's an Anglicism/gairaigo) is meant to sound like "boy," so what we call a Goomba, Japan calls Chestnut Boy.

The coin and display stands here are the same that came with Diorama Playset A: the coin is 1⅜" in diameter, slightly more than ¼" thick, and fully vac metallized in gold. There's a hole in the bottom so the included display stands can hold it up. One stand is designed to hold it at "ground" level, while the other lifts it slightly into the air, as though it's just been ejected from a brick.

The Warp Pipes are a holdover from the original, non-"Super" Mario Bros. game, where Mario and Luigi were clearing the New York City sewers of strange creatures (this is also where the turtles first appeared, though they were called Shellcreepers back then). The pipes were colored green because that allowed them to stand out nicely in the game's limited color palette.

At a glance, the set seems to include two pipes: one 3¾" tall, and the other just over 1½". This is nice, because it adds a little bit of "height variety" to the display, or even allows you to fake a side-entry pipe by leaning the short pipe against its bigger brother. And that's all fun, but it's not what's really going on.

The "short" pipe is not a pipe at all - it's just the upper rim of one. The top of the tall pipe is removable, and can be replaced with the short one. What's the point of this? Depth. The standard pipe cap has a solid black surface a little more than ¼" below the upper edge, while the second one is 1½" deep. So with the shallow cap in place, the Goomba can stand on top of the pipe and be fairly visible, while the deeper one affords Mario the same opportunity. The tripartite design of this piece adds a lot of display options to the set.

But since we've gotten a pipe now, I really wish this set had come with a Piranha Plant to come out of it. The different heights of pipe would even have allowed it to hide, or be sticking all the way out. Of course, I also think Diorama Playset A should have come with a "dead" block (ie, a Question Mark block that's already been hit and given up its contents), but hey, maybe they're holding some things back to include with future SMB releases.

Mario by himself was a really good toy, but adding Diorama Playset A and B gives you a lot more play value. It's clear why Bandai opted to split these offerings into three sets, rather than charging $65 for a single, massive box - if nothing else, it lets you buy them in instalments, rather than having to drop all the money at once. I got mine through my local comicshop, but Amazon has them, too. These are all good offerings, and we hope to see more Figuarts Super Mario releases in the future.

-- 07/06/14

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