Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I happened to wander down an aisle at Toys R Us this week that I usually don't bother with. It's between NECA aisle and the TMNT aisle, and it's made up of all this random stuff (mostly military) that I don't care much about, so I never bother. Well, I happened to glance over and saw a box of Orcs, called simply "Orcs", so I went and checked it out. Turns out, it's a fairly awesome set, so I thought I'd spread the word...

Orcs is from a True Legends line and seems to be made by Toys R Us. The True Legends line includes a variety of topics from Ninjas to Military, Wild West and Pirates, amongst others. The Legends title seems to be the Fantasy theme catch-all.

The Orcs come packaged in a window box that features come pretty cool artwork and a simple backdrop that uses bright colors against a dark base to set the figures off. They are all clearly visible, as are their accessories. The part under the artwork is empty, wasted space, but the picture is so cool that I don't care.

The box back gives a quick little generic narrative about warring Elves and Orcs, along with pictures of 2 other sets: Elves and Orc Raiding Party (which comes with 2 2-headed Wargs...I mean dogs..., 2 Orcs and a stone arch). It looks pretty awesome, as well. The elf set is kind of blah, but I'm thinking they might be necessary if only for to have someone for these guys to fight!

The package is remarkably attractive, efficient and well-designed. I only bring up that point because (and keep this in mind from here-on-in) this set sells for $9.99. Yep, it's cheap. And usually, you get what you pay for (and at Toys R Us, especially, you usually get less than what you pay for, since you're paying 20% more for the same item than you would anywhere else).

The set includes 4 Orcs. Each is uniquely designed, from sculpt to articulation, paint and accessories. There are 2 "big guys"(a "Chief", with the fanged helmet, and a pale "Brute", who reminds me a bit of Gothmog from "The Return of the King"), a wiry "Lizard Guy", who actually has a lizard wrapped around his arm, and comes with a detachable lizard to wear around his neck, and finally the "Ponytail Guy". The sculpts are dynamite, with tons of intricate detail, from the armband of tiny skulls on Brute, to the dinged armor shoulder pads on Ponytail. With a little more paint, these would REALLY pop!
The paint itself is a mixed bag. There some slop around teeth, but the eyes are mostly pretty good, and there's even a bit of drybrushing on the armor that works well. That said, these would all benefit from someone with a steady hand and a fine brush.

Personally, I think the work on the Chief is my favorite, despite some poor coverage on one of the helmet tusks.

In terms of articulation, these guys are all pretty simple. Just keep in mind that they run $2.50 apiece!
You'll find cut shoulders and a cut waist and neck on all of them, and Lizard guy has T-hips. That's it. The other guys don't move at the legs, but they're sculpted with knees bent and one foot slightly in front of the other, so it works. No problems with falling over, or loose joints. Nor with breakage, and they seem to be made of a very durable, rubbery-type plastic.

Speaking of rubbery plastic, they come with a decent assortment of weapons/ accessories that are very rubbery (so expect bent handles, etc.- again, forgivable at this price point). You'll get a small hammer, Orc sword, battle axe, rocks tied together with a rope, a lizard, and another small-handled axe. One of the figures even has a notch in his back armor where a weapon can be plugged in for storage!

In case you can't tell, I really like this set. These Orcs are fun little figures (they are done in a 4" scale, by the way). They feature terrific, detailed sculpts, decent enough paint, some cool accessories, and they are pretty sturdy for play. They look great together, and (best of all) they are priced right! I'll definitely be picking up the beast sets (there's a second beast set  that comes with a couple of Elves and a pair of Griffins) and maybe even the giant Castle Tower playset, which comes complete with a battering ram, catapult, 2 Orcs, 2 Elves, and a Dragon! They might even be fun for the kids to play with...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

MILLENNIUM GODZILLA - Bandai Vinyl Classic Godzilla

Millennium Godzilla is part of the current 3-figure release of Bandai vinyl Classic Godzilla figures available at Toys R Us. Other releases in the series include Rainbow Mothra and Burning Godzilla. Each can be found for about $13 retail.

Bandai vinyl Godzilla figures come in an open package, meaning that the figure is strapped to a cardboard backing/base with 3 plastic ties. On the upside, this means you can see very clearly exactly what you're getting. On the downside, the packaging does nothing to protect the contents.

These vinyl figures are fairly simple in design- I'm not sure I'd call them action figures, so much as slightly poseable statues. Millennium Godzilla measures between 6 and 7" in height, and a little over 10" long from snout to curled tail-tip. He features a nicely detailed sculpt and a fairly sloppy paint job. The face (eyes and teeth) has some incomplete coverage, and there's a bit of overage around the claws both on the feet and hands. The enormous spines along his back are highlighted with a thick edging of day-glo purple paint. Air bubble holes are visible, and there's a good amount of run-off where the spines meet the body. His arms are molded in a glossy vinyl while the rest of the body is matte.

Millennium Godzilla is a fierce version, complete with a nasty snarl and enormously oversized spines. He sculpted hunched forward in a pre-posed crouch. His limited 4 points of articulation (swivels at the shoulders allow in/out rotation, and the cut hips allow for some slight adjustment of the legs) and the sculpt of his feet (with the right one bent mid-step) really make this a one-pose guy.

My figure's right leg is considerably shorter than the left, so he needed a hot-water bath to prevent a serious lean.
Godzilla does a fine job of "being what it is". He's solid for kids to play with, is relatively cheap to buy, and looks pretty good. I'd imagine he could perform well in any knock-down, drag-out battle, much more so than the expensive S.H. MonsterArts series would, and he's priced to allow for a decent-sized collection without breaking the bank. This is a kid's toy, and for that it's good enough. As a collector's display piece, it's pretty lacking, but then again, you get what you pay for. I'm glad to have a Millennium version Godzilla, but if I want a Burning Godzilla, I'll probably spring for the MonsterArts version. My son, on the other hand, would probably be happy enough to give the vinyl line a go...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Play Arts Kai CATWOMAN - Batman Arkham City Wave 1

Play Arts Kai figures are highly detailed and articulated Japanese imports done in an approximate 9" scale. They typically focus on video game characters, though the line is beginning to branch out into movie figures (Dark Knight Trilogy figures are currently available for pre-order). The first wave of Arkham City Batman figures have just shipped, with Figure 1 being Batman and Figure 2 Catwoman.

First Impressions
Unfortunately, I'm usually disappointed when I first get my hands on a Play Arts Kai figure, and Catwoman is no exception to that pattern. However, once I unpack the figures they tend to grow on me- the articulation really makes these figures. Let's see how Catwoman fared...

The packaging on this line has evolved. Earlier Arkham Asylum releases were done in an attractive window box. This first Arkham City wave adds in a front panel which velcros shut over the window. There's some nice narration about Catwoman, the game and Robin (the Batman figure contains text about Dark Knight Returns Batman- these are the next figures scheduled to be released). The flap is sturdy, but keeps MIB collectors from displaying in a way that allows the figure to be easily seen. The inner trays form a sandwich around the product parts and keep them from rattling around. The trays pop together at the corners and do a fine job.

There are a nice assortment of accessories included with Catwoman. She gets 3 pairs of hands, a whip and (best of all) an alternate "goggles-down" head. I think the goggles-down head is quite well-done, with her lips painted fuller on my figure than on the "goggles-up" head.

Catwoman's outfit is very highly detailed and extremely well-painted. There are so many fine lines, zippers and folds, and they are all painted with a minimum of bleed. The textured sections provide a nice contrast to the smoother leather sections, and there's a nice blue airbrushing of highlights in places.

The articulation is terrific, and Play Arts seems to be getting better and better at hiding the joints, while keeping them functional. There's even an added mid-foot swivel that's new to this figure! The head has a tremendous range of motion for adding plenty of tilt and personality to most any pose.

Let's begin with the head-sculpt. Despite the great overall sculpt, Catwoman's head strikes me as a bit small for her body. It's more evident in the "vanilla" pose than in action poses, but compared to Mattel's Arkham City Catwoman, the difference is striking. This may be a result of the Kai style that combines twig-like arms, long legs with thick thighs, a miniscule waist and a ballooning chest. The whole thing just seems "off" to my eyes. Harley's skirt set the waistline out a little more, but Catwoman's skintight suit doesn't do the same.

Worst of all, my Catwoman's "goggles-up" face is a painting mess- I think this is where my initial disappointment stemmed from. Keep in mind that I'm being VERY picky here, but at $60 a pop I feel I should be. Every Play Arts Kai female figure I've ever gotten (Sheva Alomar, Cammy White, Chun-Li, Harley Quinn) has had a stray paint mark on the face. Catwoman is even worse. The hairline is so sloppy that it looks like someone took a pencil and colored in her forehead between the bangs. There's also a stray paint streak down through the inside of her eye on the right side. Her eyes, though painted in a lovely color, are also a little mis-aligned (something I've seen mentioned in other reviews). The "goggles-down" head shouldn't have this problem, and it doesn't, so I actually like it a little more, except that the black paint connecting the lenses isn't painted in completely, so (again) I'm going to have to perform some touch-up work to get it right. Should I be needing to do this for an expensive import piece? I'm paying $60-plus for figures which are consistently blemished in their most important part? You may not want to buy "blind" online, but wait til you can see a figure in-hand before purchasing.

The other "grimace" is around Catwoman's head, as well . Right out of package it sat very high on the ball, with a big gap where the head meets the neck (you can see this in all of the "goggles-up" pictures I took). I could actually slide her head off her neck while keeping it facing forward and completely attached. Add that to a really long sculpted neck and she looked a bit like a lollipop. I discovered the problem when I went to switch out heads and couldn't get the goggles-down one on. At all. I soaked it it hot water and it popped into place much lower than the other one had. It looks MUCH better, and I'm guessing that the ball inside the head is just a little bigger than the holes they drilled out at the factory.

Parting Thoughts
Catwoman has a lot going for her- scads of articulation, a highly detailed sculpt and a few neat accessories. It's blemished by a shoddy paint job on the face, which is unfortunate. Would I recommend her? Not wholeheartedly. If you love the game or the character, I think you'll be quite happy. But for a casual collector her high price tag probably just doesn't make her worth it. As it stands, this figure costs double what it's worth, in my book.

I've gotten into a pattern with these Play Arts Kai figures: I pre-order them based on the preliminary photos, and when they arrive my initial reaction is one of indifference, which then grows into disappointment once I've got the figure opened. I really want to love them, I do, but it just ain't happening so far. Needless to say, I'm more than a little apprehensive about the Dark Knight Trilogy figures I have on pre-order, and I'll be passing on Poison Ivy and the City Harley Quinn...