I’m a sucker for anything that could be considered “slightly obscure”. For example, I love Paul McGann’s Eighth Doctor. I’d watched all of 90’s Rider (ignoring the Masked variety) before any Showa. I’m great at Pointless, a fun British show that you should all check out, which is all about getting obscure answers. So, when I went to pick up a representation for the first ever Kamen Rider to display on my growing SHODO shelf, did I go with his first ever suit, that started it all? No. Did I go for the Shin Ichigo suit, which has been a symbol of justice for close to 50 years now? Also no. Did I go for the Powered Ichigo suit from the recent 2016 movie that we’ll never see again? Sadly, that doesn’t have a SHODO yet. It should, though. It’s awesome.
I’m not sure why I bothered with the questions – it says up top that we’re looking at the Sakurajima form for Takeshi Hongo. This isn't a form change in the modern sense of Kamen Rider, though. Backstory time – the original Kamen Rider suit was used up until episode 13, when Hongo was written out following a motorcycle stunt-gone-wrong by actor Hiroshi Fujioka, which shattered his leg and left him unable to work. Following his recovery, Fujioka returned for Episode 40, but the suit was damaged during filming. They patched it up with some black spray paint, and thus the Ichigo got an upgrade. Well, a new set of colours, at least. The change was explained in-universe to be from the constant effects of fighting on his body from his adventures fighting Shocker in Europe, as well as his acceptance of his cybernetic form. As much of tthe debut took place in Sakurajima, the form was named “Sakurajima Version” by fans. In what Alanis Morisette would call irony, the suit was retired itself by Episode 53, where Hongo would take on his iconic “Shin Ichigo” form for his permanent return.
History lesson aside, Sakurajima Ichigo hasn’t been used since in any televised media, and it's understandable. The suit lasted just over 10 episodes, and everyone’s used to Shin Ichigo by now. Which makes it all the more surprising that, when SHODO releases Ichigo (and Nigo) figures, the Shin versions always come along later. Whether it be SHODO VS, or the semi-reboot SHODO-X, the old, rarely seen versions are released first. I’m not gonna question their motives, I’m just gonna be happy with the Ichigo I got.
|Sakurajima, as it turns out, is a realy active volcano.|
|So hopefully Hongo took out some lava insurance.|
|Not a joke, I just love the insect wings on his back. They're such a good design!|
Sakurajima Ichigo is notable for his black helmet, paired with dark green mouthplate and armour, with the design being broken up by the silver on his Typhoon belt. Unlike Super-1, the turbine in the centre is painted, and this certainly makes the figure look nice. Annoyingly, the colour balance on this guy looks wonderful in hand, but my camera struggled to pick up on it – I had to scrap some photos because the entire helmet looked washed out to the same shade of black. It’s a shame, as the green looks really good. The red eyes look fantastic, as well, holding the right kind of menace you’d expect for a creation of Shocker. Of course, Ichigo is nothing but heroic. Finally, the scarf this time sits nicely round the front, and doesn't really have any mobility, but it wouldn't be Ichigo without it.
|Ichigosize never quite captured the public's imagination in the same way as IXA-cise, but Hongo still gets the occasional royalties check.|
|"RIDER... *SWOOSH*... HENSHIN!"|
Being a Showa rider, Ichigo doesn’t have much in the way of extraneous armour, so his articulation is pretty unrestricted, with a couple of caveats. He can’t lift his arms much above 90 degrees, so pulling off his henshin pose is just about do-able, while his legs are pretty free, designed to be able to ride the Cyclone bike released at the same. The only thing odd with mine is that his hips have disconected somewhere inside his torso, so he rattles. He poses just fine, but you try to move him, and he rattles. He didn’t when I got him, so I think he must have been attacked by Shocker on the move from my home to Uni accommodation. Only explanation.
|Looks like Ichigo could use... a hand!|
|This is what plagues the nightmares of Ambassador Hell and you know it.|
|There's a reason it took 36 years for the Dynamic Chop to make a comeback|
|I'm at uni and using a slightly kitbashed set-up, please ignore the physics in the corner. It's something to do with fluid dynamics, not biochemistry, so I can't even pretend Hongo wrote it.|
As you’d expect by now, he comes with a set of hands, as well as the lego brick hand tree. He doesn’t have as many as Super-1, but he’s better off than ZO, with three pairs. Firstly, a pair of fists, for all your dramatic “Shocker, this is unforgivable!” moments, as well as the famous Rider Punch. Secondly, a pair of “karate” hands, for recreating the not-so-famous Rider Chop, as well as his henshin poses. Finally, a pair of grasping hands, for all your poses where you want Ichigo to look relaxed, and not a killing machine of Shocker Kaijin.
|Actual photogrophers have effect parts. Students make do. Also:|
Ichigo can certainly pull off some good poses, but I forgot to bring one thing to Uni - my motivation. Wait, no, two things – I also forgot a Tamashii stand, so no flying kick today. Also no Daleks. I’m working on fixing those two. Nonetheless, he can still give a good standing kick, as well as all manner of punches. Once I find a stand, expect an update.
|"Hmm, strange. Usually they explode before they go out of shot."|
Like I said at the beginning, I love niche. But I also love iconic, and Sakurajima Ichigo combines those two things into a great design, which translates into a fun little figure. He was released fairly recently (Late 2018), so if you like the look of him, he’s not hard to come by. There’s probably some unwritten law that requires all collectors to at least own something OG related, and here’s mine. There's a few releases in this colour scheme over the years - the obligatory SH Figuarts, as well as an upcoming SS update, but I'll stick with 4 inches for now. I might pick up the other forms down the line, but if I don't, I'll ba happy. This Ichigo works for me. He’s been fighting evil for 48 years, and may he fight it for many more.
|"I can't believe you called me Ichigo the whole time, and not #1. What a weeb."|
How are you even talking to me?